Monday, January 31, 2011

Acceptance and American pride

I just finished reading Siddhartha by Herman Hesse. I had not read it since college and I remember it making quite an impression on me then. Reading it again, a passage stood out to me that I found quite comforting. Siddhartha is an old man by this point, and is trying to impart to his longtime friend Govinda what he felt like he learned about the world that finally helped him to find peace within himself and some sort of enlightenment. He says to him:

“Therefore it seems to me that everything that exists is good – death as well as life, sin as well as holiness, wisdom as well as folly. Everything is necessary, everything needs only my agreement, my assent, my loving understanding; then all is well with me and nothing can harm me. I learned through my body and soul that it was necessary for me to sin, that I needed lust, that I had to strive for property and experience nausea and the depths of despair in order to learn not to resist them, in order to learn to love the world, and no longer compare it with some kind of desired imaginary world, some imaginary vision of perfection, but to leave it as it is, to love it and be glad to belong to it.”

Sometimes it is really really hard to love the world as it is. There seems to me to be so many wrong, fundamentally twisted, unrecoverable, sick and devastating things about the earth we live on right now. I watched the new Zeitgeist film last night and had these feelings over and over again. But then I thought of this passage. And I asked myself, what if I decided to accept and love the world for what it was, instead of continually brooding about everything that seems to have gone wrong? And what if loving the world as it is, actually helps me more to make a difference in it because I can work and live from a place of peace and acceptance for what is, as I try and change what might be?

I have been surprised by the times I have felt surges of American pride as we are traveling. It is a nice feeling and I am grateful for it. When I hear really good American music on the radio, or see an amazing American film, or describe all of the diverse and beautiful geography of our country to others, it makes me feel proud. And helps me take one more step forward to accepting and loving the world (and my country) for what it is. Not that I need to ignore what is wrong with our country to find peace, but I need to start accepting and loving it as it is first, in order to believe in its potential to heal and evolve.

On a walk today in Christchurch, I went to the banks of the Avon river where a number of ducks were sleeping with their beaks in their feathers. I saw the river flow continually, but stay as a river in front of my eyes - always moving, always staying.Thinking about Siddhartha's own revelation when finally listening to what the river had to say, understanding that time wasn't real, that everything is one thing.... We are all of the same cloth, the same substance, and all go to and come from the same place... I felt peace too. When we realize that ourselves are not separate from everything else we see and experience in this world, acceptance seems to come much more easily. I would like to work on this more.

We Live a Charmed Life

So, um, Brian and I are living a charmed life... We have no jobs and each day is our own to make of it what we like. We are seeing and experiencing things I had only dreamed of, and have no deadlines, pressures, expectations, or obligations.....It has been nice wwoofing though because we feel like we are contributing in our wwoofing work, helping families with their needs, giving back in even just a little way. And through our busking and music playing we are giving in a different way maybe as well. I just keep saying out loud how grateful I am for this experience, and how much I am cherishing every day of it.

There were many events that seemed serendipitous in their nature to help propel us to take this trip. I feel like the universe's push is still behind us. When we took out a bunch of retirement money to enable us to go, we were required to pay a hefty penalty. In an ironic twist of fate, we completed our taxes and are getting a tax return that is almost exactly the same amount....

Thank you universal forces, I feel like we're jiving together quite nicely lately. I am trying to listen more closely to the little hints you are trying to give me....

Brian and I on the Trans Alpine train from Greymouth to Christchurch

Friday, January 28, 2011

Scenic Travel and Christchurch

Well lots has happened in a short time, here is a quick recap!

Brian and I took the Transalpine train from Greymouth to Christchurch and it was stunning! It was also Brian's birthday so we had a nice lunch and bottle of wine with us for the beautiful journey. There were these great observation decks where you could stand out in the open air and watch scenery roll past, and drink your wine!

We arrived in Christchurch and the gardens and parks reminded me much of London. So beautifully manicured, colorful and sweet smelling. The following morning we felt our first earthquake! We were at a little cafe, and felt this intense rumbling. When the waitress came back we asked her if it was indeed one. She said, oh yeah they get a few each morning! This one was a bit larger then normal though she said. After the large quake that happened here last September, they have been getting regular small quakes almost daily. In general, New Zealand gets around 4,000 earthquakes a year, though they are quite small. The magnitude of the one we felt was about 4.0

We are at a new wwoofing location in North Beach about 1 block away from the beach. It is so soothing to hear the roar of the surf so close by.

I've noticed in New Zealand that there seems to be less restrictions on slightly dangerous activities, that the country lets people take more responsibility for themselves instead of placing so many limits on the public. I've never seen an outdoor observation deck like this on a U.S. train, there could be one I'm not aware of though! We see that in a lot of playgrounds there are these cool ziplines, and we went to this local waterpark the other day and there were no lifeguards or staff at the top of the water slides, just a red or green light to let you know when to go down....

The world buskers festival has been going on here in Christchurch and we have been enjoying a number of acts. Particularly the burlesque act and the circus act. There is a college here where you can receive a degree in circus arts, and a number of performers graduated from there with pretty incredible talents. I love watching the aerial dancing in particular. Seeing the strength and grace of these young performers is quite inspiring.

A few more days here and then we are off to Akaroa where I am hoping to swim with some dolphins :) We shall see!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Going Global

I’ve noticed that in the conversations we have been having in New Zealand that they revolve around international and global issues more often than my conversations back in the states. Back home I find that our conversations are more insular, talk more about our own personal issues, our state’s issues and our country’s issues, but less about world issues. Maybe that is my own personal experience. But the Kiwis I have met have such a firm grasp on U.S. history and political structure as well as that of many other countries, and seem to understand the interplay and impact of different governments and economic systems on one another. I do not currently share this wisdom. My mind is being opened to all sorts of ideas I am almost ashamed I was not aware of.

Last night we watched an incredible documentary about this Slovenian man who has swum all of the longest and most polluted rivers in the world to raise awareness about global warming, rainforest deforestation, pollution, and other environmental issues. This movie captured his trek down the entire Amazon River from Peru to Brazil, which took him approximately 70 days. His goal was to raise awareness about the enormous amount of precious rainforest trees that have been cut down to make such things like guitars and high end furniture, as well as the sweeping deforestation to accommodate increasing cattle farms to meet the demand for beef in Western nations. He was willing to risk death for this cause (there were many ways he could have died in the Amazon!) and did very well, but started going mad towards the end, saying he was entering the 4th dimension, etc. When he was finished he was in a catatonic state and could not complete all of the interviews and media performances he was hoping to in order to raise awareness of his journey and mission. At the end of the film, he seemed a defeated and depleted man, and it was a powerful image on screen. All that he did, all that he had accomplished going virtually unnoticed… I feel compelled to share this with all of you, please check out Martin and his work, what a unique and incredible man.

Working on an organic farm with very bright and engaging farmers teaches you many things. But the more I learn, the more I see and understand the devastating environmental destruction that is going on all over the world: polluted waterways from irresponsible animal farming and mining; massive doses of toxins in our foods and products that we consume; abuse and misuse of natural resources….. It is very hard not to get discouraged.

Once our understanding increases from ignorance to awareness of what we have actually done to Mother Earth (the one who has no voice) what then? There are incredible movements that are finally gaining momentum now to change our consumeristic and irresponsible ways, but is it too little too late? Can we all stop consuming way more than we need? Can we all live with less? Can we all become educated about why our behaviors are destroying the planet that we inhabit, the soil that feeds us, the water that hydrates us? But most importantly, can we all get to the point where we CARE about the fact that we are indeed destroying the very home we live in, and decide to DO something about it?

I have only recently come to a heightened awareness of these issues myself through watching these movies and this film, and reading this book as well as this one. I am so grateful for these filmmakers and writers. They have opened my mind and are changing my life. And Martin is no exception. Maybe him most of all. He sacrificed so much for so little, an honorable and outrageous man that inspires me to believe in the human race. In our ability to shift, change, grow, learn and adapt. I’m trying.

The major question on my mind in the last year or so has been relentless: What will I do for work? How can I be most fulfilled? What can I do that makes the most money for the least amount of work so I have more free time to pursue my creative endeavors? Now these questions seem somewhat silly to me and so self-absorbed. Maybe it is a knee-jerk reaction to all that I am experiencing. But I feel like I want to help with this global problem, I don’t know how yet, but that seems like all there is for me to do sometimes. How to change my behavior, and help others to change theirs. And how to find peace along the way so that the weight of the possible future we are creating for ourselves doesn’t bear down too hard and prevent us from trying. I know this all sounds very doomsday but it’s not. It is just the state of things.

Brian and I transplanted a large rhubarb patch yesterday. We prepared the soil with sheep manure, gypsum, blood and bone, reactive phosphate rock, and calcium/magnesium. We turned over the soil. We saw lots of wriggling worms. We dug out carefully at least 40 strong rhubarb plants. We planted them in 4 rows. We admired our work. We learned a lot. We respected and admired the importance of complex and living soil. Maybe it's is a start.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Out there

So we are finishing up our first wwoofing experience the day after tomorrow. We have been in Karamea, New Zealand for about a week and it has been an interesting and eye-opening experience. I have realized so many things about myself that I just didn't know before. Placing yourself in someone else's home, in someone else's country trying to understand how to find your place, how to be the most helpful, how to find time alone amidst chaos, how to open your mind to try and learn as much as possible in the shortest amount of time..... How to manage all of this is new to me and definitely like nothing I have ever done before. Already on our travels we have met so many other seasoned travelers that seem able to handle with ease any situation that comes along. I am not yet that way. I am in a transition period, letting go of my old life, trying to figure out how best to live this new one. Trying to accept accept accept what is, and try not to long for what isn't.

I feel like I miss those I love more out here. It is quite remote and startlingly beautiful, and I think the remoteness reminds me more how far away we are. Brian is quite a comfort to me. I have been unable to integrate the daily yoga and meditation that I was hoping to lean on due to the busyness of our schedules. I miss those things and realize how important they have become to me.

I met a young woman today from Canada who recently completed her yoga teacher training at Kripalu last year. Our animated conversations and the inspiration I have received from my friend's blog as she captures her experience going through her own yoga teacher training in New York, has started me thinking/wondering if I should consider attending a teacher training myself - if not only for the love of the practice to deepen my own. My mind is open to everything.

We leave Monday for Christchurch via a beautiful cross-country train from Greymouth. It will be Brian's birthday and we will be celebrating with a much earned evening out :) Then on to our next wwoofing home on the coast of Christchurch. I will hopefully have more access to internet there where I can post more pictures, video and stories :) Thanks so much to all of you for your comments and for sharing in this process with me!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Our first show

So how is it that I am more busy now that I am traveling than before I left? I feel like each day is chock full and rich and each night I pass out and sleep more soundly then I ever have before for 8-9 hours. My body is a bit out of sorts, I am sunburned, a lot of my body is covered with mosquito bites, I have been badly broken out since we left New York... I feel a bit off.... But I feel a bit more on than I have in a while too. I am much more physical then I have been in a very long time, walking, hiking, everywhere, etc.

So our second busking experience was a success :) We made $20 in about an hour and a half and really enjoyed ourselves. The next night was our first show and it was a special evening. We met some wonderful folks at our hostel up north and they happened to be in Wellington the night of the show so they came down and joined us for dinner and the show. It felt wonderful to perform again. We played to a small audience but it was perfect.

I love how when you are traveling it just seems so much easier to meet people, to connect on a deeper level. I love getting to know folks from different countries, and trying to understand together each other's home. It seems like friendship emerges much more quickly and much more genuinely when you travel for some reason? I like how much I am talking to others on this trip in person - I love getting the opportunity to connect deeply with folks through conversation. I can't tell you how much I have enjoyed not having a cell phone so far. We will be getting one shortly, but i hope to keep it off most of the time....

An update, last night Brian took his drum late at night down to the main street where all the bars were and made $40 playing his drum. He said a lot of folks danced and really enjoyed it :) He doesn't need me anymore!

A VERY windy day today in Wellington. So windy it knocked thick glasses off an outdoor cafe and broke them. It is our last day here... Off tomorrow in the early morning to catch a huge ferry to the south island. Then we are off to our first wwoofing farm in Little Wanganui. We have had such an amazing time here, mainly due to our most excellent hosts Heather and Rosemary.... It is a bit sad to leave, but we are excited to explore more of New Zealand... I think my voice is already starting to change its inflections a bit, ha!

I have been feeling a bit inarticulate on this blog since we've been traveling. I think it is because I am trying to cram in writing sessions and I often feel rushed? I need to work on accepting it is ok to write here only when I am moved to and have time to, otherwise I should be trying to soak in every minute of this experience... We have been abroad for 10 days already, it feels so much longer and that is a good thing :)

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Tongariro Crossing

Well it has been a busy and exciting few days. Brian and Heather and I drove up north and did the 8 hour Tongariro Crossing hike and it was incredible. This spot is where Mordor and Mount Doom were filmed for the Lord of the Rings movies. On our way up, we stopped and bought groceries and Brian enjoyed the local norm of walking barefoot through the store.

We stayed at a great backpacker hostel and met some incredible people. The next morning we awoke and took the 7 AM shuttle to the start of the hike. The first section felt quite "desert-y" and actually reminded me of Arizona.

Then we got up closer to actual "Mount Doom" and joked, on our New Zealand holiday, we decided to go to MORDOR! You could start smelling the sulfur and we say steamy clouds emanating from the volcano.

But I think the most striking part of the hike was the Emerald Lakes. Out of this dark volcanic rock emerged these brilliant turquoise lakes, I had just never seen anything like it before.
Here is a video a tried to take from the steep descent down, sorry for the shaky hand and the loud wind, I haven't mastered the flip video camera yet :) Its been tough to find the time and place to post on the blog, I have lots more to share, hope to post about our show we had yesterday soon....

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Our first busking experience

So Brian and I busked for the first time last night. We played for about one hour and we actually had this nice Australian guy sit and listen to us play about 5 songs. We made about $14 and were absolutely thrilled with that :) It felt amazing to sing out into the open air free and unencumbered by any audience expectation or self-imposed expectation of the performance. Singing and playing just to sing and play and getting some coins tossed in my case to boot.

My first show is this Thursday. I haven't performed in so long, I am really looking forward to giving it a go again...

Saturday, January 8, 2011

I refuse to accept violence as an American norm

It was a tough and strange morning yesterday. We heard about the shooting in Tucson, were upset, and then moved on to other things. A few hours later I felt so sad and this heaviness on my heart. I didn't know what it was. Then I realized it was the shooting. And then I was so shaken up by the realization that I had so easily dismissed it before. That I had so easily detached from it even though Brian's family lives there. How close to home do these incidents need to be to wake us up from the madness of the violence of our culture? Then my mind started reeling and I couldn't stop crying.

There are so many things I am angry, frustrated and upset about regarding this incident. Acts of violence like these seem to be more and more commonplace in America. The shooting in Binghamton was only last year and Brian knew someone who was killed in that incident.

After watching Bowling for Columbine, the reality of the gun culture in America and how it has made so many suffer just astonished and appalled me. There is such an obvious link between access to guns and outrageous violence, and this violence is so unique to America alone. I couldn't believe the wide discrepancy, even from war torn countries.

I want to believe that an America can exist where we don't shoot each other. Where angry, sick and unstable people don't have access to automatic weapons. Honestly, who in the world needs an automatic weapon? And why do we continue to allow this ludicrous freedom to own one to persist in our country? I wonder, what is the fundamental difference between Americans and Kiwis in that one insists on owning (and using) guns and the other doesn't? Will voracious gun lovers out there ever see the link between their freedom and access to guns, and the senseless violence that occurs in our country? Between guns and children killing each other with guns, etc etc etc?

I think incidents like this up the ante on the fear-based culture we are already living in. More and more people become scared of each other, scared of their neighbors, of strangers and continue to isolate themselves from one another. Look out for each other less. Assume the worst in others. Or maybe I am wrong, I hope I am.

I am starting to believe that shootings like this are not outliers in our culture anymore. They are an indicator, a symptom of a nation-wide disease, a sign pointing to a grave reality that is now - that is hurting inside of many many people that are confused, angry, depressed and alone.

There is really just something fundamentally wrong here that needs to have its underbelly flipped over. Let's really LOOK at this and not dismiss it as just another random act of violence. It is not random. It is pointed, and part of a pattern, and I'm scared that too soon it will be forgotten. Just like Columbine, just like Binghamton. When will these situations ever push our leaders to implement stronger gun control? Encourage pop stars to stop glamorizing guns and violence? I can't tell you how angry I get when I see famous people wearing earrings of guns, donning tatooes of guns. Is this what we value? What we think is cool? And what about video games where children are taught to aim and shoot without any consequences? When I was little my parents would never let my sister and I get play water guns or other toy guns. I remember being so angry about it when I was a little kid, but I really understand now, and I value their choice to do that.

Being here in New Zealand, in a place where this sort of violence just doesn't occur, makes this shooting almost more unbearable. Look, if these folks can do it, why can't we? What does it take to change? Will we ever change? And when thinking about the larger picture, where guns is only one issue in a complex cluster of all that needs remedying in America (health care, the loss of the middle class, corporate greed, environmental irresponsibility, and on and on) a sense of dread sometimes overcomes me. It seems there are 2 definitive groups in America that want 2 completely different America's. These groups butt heads over and over because of the exact opposition of their desires. How do we evolve then, how do we "get better" as a country? How do we ever heal ourselves, each other?

It is strange to write this and then look at #2 in the entry below.

I wonder how this shooting has affected all of you?

Why I love New Zealand so far

1) People walk barefoot everywhere: grocery stores, bars, streets, etc.

2) No one really carries guns here, it is really tough to get a license for one

3) There is universal health care

4) When you walk down the street you don't see hardly anyone talking on a cell phone or immersed in smart phones. People are talking to each other, engaging each other, it is damn refreshing

5) People are very physically active here, it is part of the culture

6) All prices include taxes and tip for the most part, there is no guesswork and there are no pennies. Prices are rounded DOWN to the nearest dime :) I was a major tourist in the grocery store when the guy kept saying "It's $13.10" but the screen said "$13.13". I finally figured it out :)

7) The ice cream and cheese here are creamy and dreamy

8) The flora and fauna are exotic and beautiful

9) There is little to no security in airports, traveling here feels more relaxed and less fear based

10) The wine is delicious

11) There is a much much smaller gap between the rich and poor here. And homelessness is scant to non-existant (at least in Wellington)

12) There is a slower pace to life here. No rushing, hustling, pushing, etc.

13) There is this floral/earthy smell that I love that exists in the woods around the city

14) Their "flat white" cappuccino like coffee is delicious! (Even Brian likes it!)

15) There seems to not be an obsession with "celebrity" here like back home

We went to a beautiful botanical garden yesterday via a cable car. Brian was a human sundial and told the time exactly :)

There was one section full of blooming hydrangeas that took my breath away (those were our wedding flowers). So we had to get a shot :)

Today we are off to busk internationally for the first time on Cuba street. We saw some excellent musicians yesterday down there. We don't have a license yet because it is the weekend, so we hope we don't get arrested! I'm pretty excited :) Hope all is well in the states on your Saturday. It is Sunday here!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Windy Wellington!

Well we are down under, and my god is it beautiful. We had a very long travel time, about 48 hours! We were stuck in LA for 4 hours and then missed our Auckland flight, but I was very impressed with our stay cool attitude and our ability to go with the flow in a delirious no sleep state :) And can you believe it, in Auckland as we were getting a new flight to Wellington, we saw
David Hasselhoff! Now how can you beat that! The pictures above are from around the Auckland area as we were landing. The color of the water and the green green of the hills was astounding... Below are some shots as we were landing in Wellington.

My cousin Heather has been a dream, picking us up from the airport, feeding us out of this world cheese and wine from the region, giving us her bed, etc etc etc. Yesterday we took a steep hike up to a gorgeous lookout and Heather explained to us the lay of the land. This morning I am well rested and refreshed and can't wait to explore the city :) Hey, I saw the water go down the sink in the opposite direction! I'm so grateful and blissed out right now. There are some amazing trees and flowers here, I will be taking lots of photos to share with you.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Our last day in America!

Well it has finally come! Our last day here in the states :) Brian and I are at a good friends home and are wrapping up last minute details: laundry, barber shop, purging one last time our backpacks down to the essentials, last phone calls to loved ones before we ship away our cell phones, re-checking our 4 legged flight tomorrow (San Francisco to Los Angeles to Figi to Auckland to Wellington, New Zealand!), and smiling and cuddling just brimming with excitement....

Our month in New Zealand seems pretty laid out at this point. 10 days with my lovely cousin Heather in and around Wellington where we will catch a cricket game, surf, hike, busk and perform at a venue called the Fringe. From there we will be wwoofing at a beautiful farm in Karamea on the Northwest coast of the south island for one week. From there we head to Christchurch where we will be wwoofing at the home of 2 professional musicians for a week and possibly house sitting for them the week after! During this time, the World Buskers Festival will be going on in the city and we are psyched to check it out. From there we will head to Auckland, hopefully via a drive away to save money, and then we fly to Melbourne, Australia on February 7th :)

We have had an incredible time up here in Northern California and are so grateful to all our generous hosts.... I'll be posting on this thing next time from the other side of the world, talk to you soon!