Adriana Ayales answers the question:
What is the nicest thing a non-family member has ever done for you?
Wow, this question I thought of so much. I was really going in and being like, "Wow, there's so many great stories." One in particular came up and it's actually one that happened quite a long time ago. I was a little girl. I was probably eight years old, but it was such a profound story for me because I remember coming out of school late and I was waiting for my mom to pick me up at school; I was just there hanging out, everybody had left, and I was sitting on the sidewalk. And it was kind of a mystical experience. This lady walked by and she had an iguana on her shoulder, and I looked up, and I had this thick science book and my backpack was heavy, and I was all sad that my mom was late or whatever. She wasn't even that late, by the way. But anyway, so I saw the iguana and I'm like, "What's that?" And the lady's like, "You want to come with me? I have more animals in my house."
And I was like, "My mom always told me I can't go anywhere so I can't." So I told her, "No, no, I'm okay. I'm just staying here." So the lady walked by and I just ignored her or whatever, and then I just got this deep desire to start walking home, which was pretty far away. I don't know how many kilometers exactly, but it was very far away. So I decided to just walk without letting my mom know. At that time, there was no cell phones or anything, of course. There was no teachers around. So I just decided to go home on my own with my heavy backpack. And so I started walking for, it was around four hours. An eight-year-old in the streets of Costa Rica, I must say, it's very dangerous at that time. It was in the city of Costa Rica. So I was crossing the main city where there is a lot of really rough neighborhoods and it's just not pleasant to walk. Even as an adult, it's dangerous.
So I walked by and this lady came up again within halfway in my 4-hour journey, and I was like, "What are you doing here?" And she was like, "Oh, look. I wanted to let you know that you can come with me." And I started getting freaked out thinking she was following me. And so I just started walking and charging and charging, and she's like, "No, you know what? You need to go to your grandmother's house." And I got a chill in my spine because I remembered that to get to my grandmother's house, it was a lot easier than to get to my mom's house because that required a whole extra chunk within a road that was very, very sketchy, honestly, and just dark and there was a lot of trash in that road. So I was like, "I'm not going to go down that road. I'm going to go to my grandmother's road." So she read my mind and she helped me go to my grandmother's house and I trusted her.
And I was completely not trusting in her the whole time. I was like, "She's probably going to be a bad person or something." So she walked me all the way there, which was a very far distance, and she dropped me off right at the gate of my grandmother's house. And I immediately rang her doorbell, because I was freaking out thinking I was going to get kidnapped or something. And she's like, "Hey, I just want you to know that I just came to drop you off and I want you to be safe." And I was like, "Didn't you want me to go to your house to go see the rest of your animals?" Because she still had an Iguana on her shoulder, and it was weird; it was not very usual. And she's like, "No, I just wanted to be sure that you're okay." And she immediately left, and then my grandmother rang the doorbell thinking, "You're here." And my mom was already in touch with her thinking somebody had already kidnapped me or something, because it was four hours. It was a long trek.
And so I went in my grandmother's house and, and I was like, "Didn't you see there was somebody right next to me?" And she's like, "No, no. She probably left. I don't know." And I was so happy, and I was freezing and didn't have a sweater so I started drinking a little hot chocolate and my grandmother was consoling me. Then I started crying. And then I realized to this day that that person might have never existed. And to this day it was like an angel that really walked through me in some of the toughest neighborhoods of Costa Rica. And it was like a miracle because most people cannot walk through there without getting mugged or something, or just getting into a big troublesome situation. So it was incredible to know that this angel just appeared and walked me home.
Adriana Ayales is an author, educator, and rainforest herbalist from Costa Rica. She has extensively studied several healing traditions alongside master herbalists and Indigenous medicine peoples for more than a dozen years. From a young age, she was immersed in the fields of healing and herbalism, and devoted herself to learning from different ancient herbal traditions.
Adriana founded Anima Mundi, a successful apothecary and herbal medicine facility in Brooklyn, New York, that crafts medicines sourced from Indigenous peoples, wildcrafters, and honest farmers from around the world. Adriana, who has written two books, Healing Tonics and Adaptogens: Herbs for Longevity and Everyday Wellness, currently resides in Costa Rica where she was born and raised.