Monday, February 28, 2011

Rolling with Resistance

Brian and I have been traveling for over two months now. It feels longer than that. Most every day feels rich and full and different. I still feel like this experience is too good to be true, but I think recently I had a breakthrough of sorts.

Lately we have been spending a lot of time in the ocean, and have been body surfing a lot. Most recently at Bondi Beach in Sydney, Manly Beach outside of Sydney and Newcastle beach in Newcastle. Brian is brilliant at this and a good teacher. I love watching him happily play in the waves for hours, come back to our spot on the beach and tell me he is going back in for more. I love seeing the joy in his eyes.

When I was a kid, my family would go to the beach almost every fall in Mexico and sometimes go to the beach in San Diego. I LOVED being in that water. I can remember swimming and body surfing for hours catching wave after wave, with my dad particularly. He is an excellent body surfer too. I was fearless, strong and graceful in the water, in my mind.

On this trip, I have noticed that I feel a bit more anxious in the water than I ever have. I haven’t been able to let go of stories of stinging jellyfish, deadly riptides and sharks in Australian waters. I have been a bit jumpy, a bit anxious.

I think deep down I am waiting for a disaster to strike. Maybe it is that Brian and I could have easily been in the massive earthquake last week in Christchurch. Or maybe it is the stories I am reading every day in the papers about Libya, Egypt, Iraq, Iran, Tunisia, etc. Sometimes our world seems to hang together by a thread.

Or maybe it is my own limiting belief that we cannot take this amazing trip and have this experience without some catastrophe befalling us. How can two people so in love and so blessed deserve to live happy long lives together? Surely we must pay for our blessings. Is that a sick mentality? I think so. Why am I having such trouble giving in to all of this? Why are these fears bubbling up inside of me?

So yesterday Brian and I went swimming in the morning at Newcastle beach. The current was quite strong and the waves powerful. Even so, I was trying to let go and enjoy the swimming with everyone else in the water. There were a couple of huge waves that I tried to go for, but I was a little hesitant so my timing was terrible and I was picked up and smashed onto the ocean floor, swallowing a bunch of sea water and skinning my knees on the sandy bottom. I left the water and watched Brian successfully catch wave after wave from the shore.

Later in the afternoon, we walked to another beach at around 5 PM. Along the walk the sky started turning beautiful shades of pink and powder blue. We passed this large public saltwater pool next to the ocean. I loved seeing the children play in it and thought, what a good idea! Now parents don’t have to worry about their children being carried out to sea! We got to our beach and there weren’t too many folks swimming. The waves looked straight and a nice size and we jumped in. The cool water was so soothing and the sky was just beautiful. I felt so at peace. We again tried to catch some waves and I again had some near misses. Brian said, “I think you don’t want to catch a wave.” I was aghast; of course I wanted to catch a wave! But then I thought about it. And then I noticed the current wasn’t so strong where we were and the waves were nice. And there were a lot of young girls around us laughing and playing. And the sky was so beautiful and the water so lovely and Brian’s smile so big. So that next wave, I let go and really went with it. Strong, graceful and smooth. And I rode almost all the way into shore. It was exhilarating. After that I felt so playful in the water. Free, unencumbered, childlike. I did flips, handstands, and cartwheels. It felt incredible.

So I think I am moving through resistance into acceptance. And it is a relief. And I know this will be a challenge for me my whole life, but I am grateful for the times when I feel like I can dominate my fears. The hard part is, I never thought I would get more afraid as I got older. I don’t know why, but I just thought I would get more and more enlightened and fear would become less of a player in my scope of experience. My family has in the past described me as fearless, and I think I internalized that deeply. I never imagined I would have to manage fear in the way I do now. And in this example you might say that I had a right to be afraid of the ocean, that there ARE deadly riptides and jellyfish and so on, but the thing is, I know in the past it would not have fazed me as much. Something is different inside of me that I am trying to sort out. I am making a little progress, which makes me happy.

Thanks for sharing my little victory with me :)

Newcastle Beach


Friday, February 25, 2011

Sydney

Well we have been spending the last couple of days in the mighty Sydney. We are couchsurfing with a lovely couple from Palo Alto in their high rise apartment here, this is the view! It is our first couchsurfing experience so far and it has been fantastic :)

We are staying near Hyde Park where there is a food and wine festival today that we will be sampling...

We took the gorgeous Manly ferry to Manly and swam and bodysurfed all afternoon. We got some gorgeous shots of the Opera house and Bridge on the way back.



More to come tomorrow!

Monday, February 21, 2011

This is Really Happening

Lately I can't seem to get the environment off of my mind. And I can't seem to get off of my mind my impact on it and our impact on it and how dangerous our actions, our every day choices are for the future of the earth, for future generations.

I've been furiously reading about it, visiting lots of websites on how to save the earth, etc...Why have I become so obsessed? Maybe it is the first time in my life I have the time to really explore this issue, really reflect on it in a deep way? Or maybe it is that here in Melbourne there are reminders everywhere how your choices affect the planet? I just attended the Sustainability festival here and all around the city are these black spray painted cats that say "Stop Climate Change".

I've been ruminating for a while about how best to describe what I have taken away from this festival. I came away from it so inspired, scared, and overwhelmed. I was very impressed with the set up and content of the festival as well as the large number of diverse people that showed up. There is so much to say, but I think what I would really like to do is share the most shocking/informative things I learned that might be of interest to all of you. Here goes:

Climate Change - I saw Clive Hamilton speak to hundreds of people about why we have taken so long to act on climate change. He talked about how climate change and many other important environmental issues have become so politicized that currently knowledge and power are in direct opposition to each other. Science is being argued by political figures with no understanding of complex climate science issues and climate scientists are being bullied and threatened all over the world to repeal their findings or face consequences because their work is in direct opposition to the interests of fossil fuel corporations and the far right. He talked about Fox news, the Tea Party, the Tucson shooting, all in relation to this frightening rise of the far right in the U.S. and how it is a major blow to environmental responsibility and action that is necessary to sustain life on our planet. Very interesting stuff.

Population Growth - Ooh this was a controversial session! But so informative. It's clear that the more people there are, the less resources there are, right? Did you know it takes 400 gallons of oil to feed one person every year based on our current system? Mark O'Connor, the speaker, quoted someone (I forget) by saying "Population growth in the face of resource depletion is suicide". Australia's oil reserves are calculated to be gone by 2020. There is a lot of speculation about when our oil reserves will hit their peak and then just continually decline. Oil is a finite resource that was created millions of years ago, so it is impossible for it to sustain itself forever.

So - there is a net increase of about 200,000 people each day (400,000 are born, 150,000 die approximately). Our current way of calculating our "carbon footprint" is missing one major element, whether or not a human procreates. Mark gave a statistic that 80 years of recycling does not create enough energy to cover the addition of one human life on our planet (I'm not sure where this statistic came from). And in the past 90% of the population were farmers, and now only 3% are - growing food for the entire world. So, ok, with less or no oil there will be no more nitrate fertilizers which help to grow this massive amount of food on large farms for everyone. There are going to be more and more people that need to be fed with less and less land, water and energy to do so. This discussion then got really intense here in talking about abortions, reproductive rights, what is the ethical number of children for each woman to have, etc etc etc. It really made me think. If you start to think of the earth and all of its resources as everyone's, not just your or your country's for the taking, you start to realize that a HUGE shift is needed to ensure that life will be sustained on this planet.

Food - I learned that an organic vegan diet produces 94% less greenhouse gas emissions than the average meat diet. Or that a vegan driving a hummer contributes less emissions than a meat eater riding a bicycle. The amount of water, land and energy required to raise all of the meat and dairy necessary to quell the Western world's thirst for it is massive. For example:

- It takes 50,000 - 100,000 liters of water to produce 1 kilogram of beef compared to 2,500 liters to produce 1 kilogram of rice, and much less for fruits and vegetables

- We grow enough edible grain to provide 50% more than is required for every human being on the planet. The problem is that most of this grain is used to feed animals for meat, dairy and egg production. So currently over 790 million people in the world are chronically undernourished and 27,000 children under 5 die from poverty and starvation every day. This will continue to get worse as water, land and energy resources dwindle unless more people switch to a plant based diet.

My mother taught me when I was young about this after she read Diet for a New America which is still completely relevant and even more important today. We ate vegetarian for much of my childhood and I have moved in and out of vegetarianism and veganism for much of my adult life.

Now if you are actually still reading this and were able to stomach what I have written so far I commend you. I know it doesn't feel good. This whole environmentalism thing - waking up to the reality of our situation is tough. Clive Hamilton was saying during his talk that getting people to start caring about the environment and our earth's sustainability is hard because it requires the individual to be emotionally affected. It requires the person to be so emotionally affected that they become quite worried about the future, and the role they play in that future, that it drives the individual to start making large changes to the way they live their life in order to make a difference in the world. But it requires you to get concerned and worried about something that has not happened yet. This is hard for us. Even though science and simple math have proven that we can't sustain our current way of life, our hearts and minds want to shut off, shut down, turn away and not really accept the reality that is coming down the pike. It is uncomfortable, scary, overwhelming, and daunting. The problem is, if we don't start making HUGE changes NOW, we will never catch up to the problem.

So, is there any good news? YES! Yes there is :) There are an enormous amount of things each of us can do to make a difference. Like:

- eating less meat and dairy and eating locally
- driving a car less, biking walking and taking public transit more
- Growing as much of our own food as we can
- Voting for leaders that support sustainable policy
- Educating those we know and love about environmental issues

If you would like some more ideas, here are some great websites:

this is pretty cool

Thank you for reading.

Christchurch Massive Earthquake

We were here only 2 weeks ago... Just devastating...

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The lens

The more we travel and the more we experience a number of different places, I am realizing that our impressions of place are largely defined by the people we happen to interact with. That people and place are so intertwined in my mind when trying to categorize how I "feel" about a place that I don't often realize that is how my opinion is being defined. The short time we spend in each place then becomes a not very accurate representation of the place itself. But that is ok. I can share with all of you my small observations and feelings and you all know that it is entirely subjective, right? Good :)

Right now we have really gotten settled into our apartment in Melbourne. It feels like we live here, and maybe that is why I have been struggling with the feeling that I need to be "doing something" important with this gift of time I have been given. I am doing yoga almost every day, writing at the cafe, meditating, reading, working on some songs, yet I still feel like I am not "contributing" enough to the world around me. That I am take take taking and not giving in return.

When you travel, it is hard not to feel like a lazy voyeur. You can develop rationales for yourself like, "I'm taking in all of these experiences so I can grow as a person due to the exposure to other cultures" or "I'm spending money in these other locations, that is how I am giving back" or "This is my opportunity in life to just BE. It is an enormous blessing to observe, feel, think, experience without any schedules, responsibilities, or commitments hanging over my head. I deserve it after working non-stop for 18 years." Hmmm. I thought I would be much better at this point on our trip with just "being". Why does the guilt creep in? Don't I deserve to have this experience? And why waste time feeling like this, this is a once in a lifetime thing here, don't blow it Katie! I think part of what is going on is that we are settled in this large city and there is a buzz all around us and it is like a chorus I want to join in. The good thing is, I don't feel like this all the time, but I am trying to work on the times I do.

So some updates:

The other day Brian and I did a cool alleyways tourist walk throughout Melbourne. We must have walked down 10 or 12 hidden little alleyways full of cafes, bars, and cute little nooky type places.


I also had my first Spontaneous Broadway show with the company here. It was really fun, and for part of the show, David Bridie, a famous Australian musician, was called onstage to perform on the piano one of the songs in the first act. I had never heard of him, but absolutely loved singing to his moody, dissonant, beautiful piece.



We also had a music show at the Chandelier Room here on a Sunday afternoon which was really nice. It is family oriented so parents can bring their children to see live music during the day, and there is a play room in back for the kids too. What a great idea! If Brian and I ever open a music venue this is a must do....

We are off to see a number of lectures at the Sustainability Festival today. Environmental issues have really been on my brain a lot lately, I'm working on another post about that.

I hope you all are well out there!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Why I am really falling in love with Melbourne/Australia - Part Two

Ok, so my first post on Melbourne didn't nearly do it justice. As I have spent more time here, the reasons why I am enamored with this city are growing and growing. Here goes:

- Universal health insurance: The population's health needs are just taken care of. Done and done. And when a woman has a child, they have this cool system here of all sorts of supports including "mother's groups" which are run by maternal health nurses. They provide a forum for new mothers to get together, get out of the house and talk to each other about issues/fears/problems they are having as new moms and usually these groups flourish into strong friendships that last a lifetime.

- Retirement (superannuation): It is mandatory for every employer to pay 9% of an employee's salary (this is in addition to their salary) into a retirement fund. This includes all employees, even waitresses, etc. There are some contentions with it because it cannot be accessed until the individual is 65 - and there are different life expectancies for non-Aboriginal vs. Aboriginal populations, but nevertheless, that all employers put this money aside for all working individuals seems pretty cool.

- Public housing: Public housing usually consists of tall towers of apartments. They are purposely placed all around the city to have one in almost every neighborhood to prevent the development of ghettos. This provides residents of public housing to have access to nice parks and other amenities that wealthier individuals do, and the diversification of neighborhoods.

-Voting: Voting is mandatory. You can choose to select "none of the above" in any election, but you must vote. It is supposed to help reduce apathy when it comes to national issues. I think this makes sense.

- This next point is hard to describe. Please understand my observations are entirely subjective, and are based on hanging out in specific regions of the city and interacting with a small sect of the population for one week. Regardless, I feel like there is a lack of a general neuroses in Australians. And by that I mean, I feel like they are quite comfortable with themselves/self-assured, accept others readily, judge others less, are less pretentious, and express themselves more open and freely because of this. I feel like there aren't often hidden agendas, or lots of defenses when you speak to them. They are warm and open and real. There is a sort of lack of fear... All of this combines to create this absence of the sort of American "neurosis" that I am used to, that I also possess ands that I would like to work to reduce.

I wonder if there is a sense of peace and acceptance in a society where financially everyone is taking care of each other (i.e. the higher taxes cover the needs of everyone). In this state, there is less fear of suffering (everyone can go to the doctor when sick, most everyone has food, shelter, etc.) and maybe that also translates to a comfort with one's self. If a culture is in essence "all in it together" maybe that creates less factions, less judgement, less greed, less hate.... Am I scaring you with my socialist speak? Hah! I have been thinking a lot about this, I wonder if I am on to something here.

-Culture: The arts are a fundamental part of this society. They are valued and respected and available to all. There are lots of free festivals and shows and opportunities to see a wealth of creative passions. The musicians I have seen already at open mics, festivals, shows, etc. have already blown me away with their immense talent. I know that that is a result of being in a large city, but still, I can't help but wonder if again this is a result of the society design.

Brian and I had to attend a training to receive our busking permit for Mebourne. the meeting was packed and we learned what regions were permitted and the rules of busking. It is actually a person's job to coordinate street performers. Um, that is cool. There are over 1400 licensed buskers in Melbourne alone. We have seen many very talented ones and are still trying to find our place in the city. Here is a lovely place we played the other day along the river.


Friday, February 11, 2011

Maybe the best New Zealand moment....

So this post is a little out of order, but a great one for my last New Zealand post. Brian and I decided to rent a car and go for a nice hike at Peak Hill outside of Christchurch before we headed to Akaroa.

It was a pretty tough hike, basically straight up the side of a mountain!

It was also very windy at the top, we felt like we were going to get blown straight off the mountain...
On our way back to Christchurch, we had a lovely encounter:

Watch the video here...

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Melbourne

So we are in the big city! It feels huge compared to the cities we visited in New Zealand. We are getting settled into our little apartment and starting to know our way around the city. First impressions:

- Melbourne feels like a combination of Montreal, Chicago and San Francisco to me. It is a huge bustling city, but not overwhelming or threatening. I feel very safe here and find the architecture and layout of the city very beautiful and aesthetically pleasing.

- Much like New Zealand, Australia has a much stronger middle class here. The minimum wage is about $15 an hour and the richest citizens are taxed up to 45% of their income. The unemployment wages amount to about $750 a week! What this amounts to is a large city with very little crime and homelessness. A city with lots of amenities for its residents and everyone is very well taken care of. Of course I like this. In my mind, no one needs millions and millions of dollars. The gap between the poor and the rich is so outrageous now in the U.S. that this enormous cultural difference here, to me, seems like a miracle. When everyone has what they need to live: food, shelter, security, etc. they are less likely to sell drugs, commit crimes and violent acts. That's that.

- Australians are extremely friendly and warm people. It seems like it is so easy to strike up conversations here and get to know folks. Also, Melbourne is very cosmopolitan. It seems there are people from every country in the world here, I like that too.

- The weather is just lovely!

- There is an energy here, a creative and cultural buzz that is resonating with me. I feel alive, inspired to create and produce. It's a similar feeling I've had in LA...

- They don't eat many fried foods! Fried foods are just a rare occurrence here. Late night snacks are souvlaki places for the most part which are just damn delicious and much healthier.

When I was in my masters program working on childhood obesity, Australia was the front runner in obesity research (particularly in relation to the built environment) and was at one time the fattest country in the world. The U.S. surpassed them a while ago, and as I look at the sea of people here I see very very little overweight/obesity issues. It is a very active lifestyle here, biking, walking, swimming, etc.

I worked with this group on Tuesday and just loved them. They are all very very talented and I will have the good fortune of being able to perform with them on Monday here!

I have a music show on Sunday here, unfortunately it is the same day as this huge St. Kilda festival and most likely won't get too many folks, but I'm still really looking forward to it :)

There is also this awesome Sustainable Living Festival from the 12-27 that I'm hoping to attend a number of lectures at. I like the dedication to environmental issues here. We've noticed that there are often no paper towels in bathrooms, and often no one uses napkins (serviettes). Also there seem to be fewer street lights possibly? And all trains and trams are electric.

Brian and I both really love it here and could see ourselves living in Melbourne. It's a possibility :) Brian has a meeting with the public library to interview them for his research paper. I'm sure he will charm the pants off of them :)

Hope all of you are well out there!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Possibly best New Zealand moment

So this post is a little out of order, but a great one for my last New Zealand post. Brian and I decided to rent a car and go for a nice hike at Peak Hill outside of Christchurch before we headed to Akaroa. It was a pretty tough hike, basically straight up the side of a mountain! It was also very windy at the top, we felt like we were going to get blown straight off the mountain... On our way back to Christchurch, we had a lovely encounter:

Watch the video here...

Friday, February 4, 2011

Akaroa


Well we are loving our time here in Akaroa. We are wwoofing at the Tree Crop Farm (thanks Shannon!) which is truly a paradise.
I have been doing a lot of housekeeping for the "love shacks" which has been really fun :) Cutting and arranging flowers, changing satiny sheets, trying to make each hut as romantic and special as possible :) The gardens here are spectacular and are based on Renoir's... We have already seen a porcupine, a possum and gecko lizards. One night I opened our little hut door where we are staying and saw a HUGE possum with his arms wrapped around a tree staring right at me! It was pretty startling!

I am so enjoying the physical work here. Hiking to each hut, carrying heavy things, down on the floor cleaning, feeling tired and sore at the end of the day and being able to see the fruits of my labor. There is something so satisfying about a days physical work, especially when it is to provide someone else with pleasure. I have never had this sort of satisfaction when I work in an office, it is so completely different. It really suits me.

Last night Brian and I indulged in an outdoor heated bath in the back of the little hut we are sta. We built a fire under the golden steel tub and gazed at the stars together in a hot spa. We for the first time saw clearly the milky way and it was truly astonishing. I think we both saw last night more stars than we have ever seen in a night sky before.


I have started working more intensively on writing my plays and it has been really enjoyable. I have realized I have to be pretty organized about getting the time and place to do creative work. It's hard when you are in a new place, especially when your schedule is not your own. We will be in one apartment for 2 weeks in Melbourne starting tomorrow (thanks Jason!) so I am looking forward to getting into more of a routine.

We leave for Australia tomorrow and it will be a bit sad to leave New Zealand. What a special, magical, unique and beautiful country. If we had to come home tomorrow, this trip would have been entirely worth it....We may very well never see this island again, I want to soak it all in...

Melbourne - here we come :)

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Tough stuff going on out there...

Lately a lot of tough stuff has been coming down on many people we love that are very far away. A ridiculous amount of snow and ice, relationship issues, personal issues, professional issues, health issues, spiritual issues.... I feel like many people we love right now are really having a tough time. It is hard to be helpful and supportive with spotty internet and few words over a telephone. When those I love are hurting or struggling, I always want to try and fix what is wrong, create an action plan, help DO something, discover some sort of helpful solution. I am almost being forced not to do that out here. Just observe, console and see what happens.

There is a guilt inside me about this, but I think it is a lesson for me to learn. We all have our struggles and our challenges in our own lives. And they are all different because I believe we are all working on different issues to overcome in our own lifetimes. I can't "fix" what is wrong for someone because the point is for the person themselves to work out their own solution, find their own strength, endure their own pain. I can love and comfort, but not fix.

The funny thing is, when things seem to be going really well for me I also feel guilty when others around me are struggling so much, it doesn't seem fair. But I too have had struggles and challenges, and still will again and again. So, I don't need to feel guilty or ashamed I got to run away from the worst winter ever, right?