Thursday, October 22, 2015

Month 3...

every word

every word i feel for you
love songs do speak my thoughts
a quest i’ve had to search for you
and I just connected the dots

no doubts, no tears, fear disappears
when my hands do reach your chest
my certainty, as i speak loud and clear
is incredible to express

for miles and miles i’ve traveled
without you by my side
now each second you are near me
my heart, it beats with pride

so may the mighty ocean
unleash salt water in our eyes
we’ll wipe our faces and unwavering
look up at stormy skies

when you speak you’re building
a house ill call my home
and i will always be with you
no matter how far we roam

we’ll live a thousand lifetimes
with each and every blink
and ill love you more each second
than you could hope or think

every word i feel for you
love songs do speak my thoughts
a quest i’ve had to search for you
and I just connected the dots

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Two months in the land down under...

The honeymoon period between me and Australia come to an end over the past 3 weeks. I'm not kicking her out of bed by any means, but the novelty of being in a new place has worn off and I had to remind myself that marching around with a group on nuns is NOT normal.


Cabin Fever
  This one hit me hard and fast one weekday afternoon. I had been cooped up writing papers, reading and doing typical temple things when it dawned on me that I hadn't been my full self in a while.
By this I mean that as a human being with a range of emotions I felt like the solitude within which I was conducting my studies didn't let me get my weird on, a part of daily life I truly cherish. Whether it was trying to get Kevin to sing the National Anthem with me and Nguyen at work, waking up next to Katrina after staying up past 9pm due to our sugary cupcake intake or going to a poetry slam with Kamelya and Ryan only to try our hand at it in the privacy of our judge-free abodes, I had quite a community to explore life with in LA...and those are just examples of people who's name start with a K!

   I quickly remedied the situation with Facebook phone calls to friends so I could word vomit onto my dearly beloved. The frustrating thing is that I am tired of the pixel images; non- moving, non-breathing, non-responsive. This highlighted my reliance on non-verbal cues to read a person as I talk with them and really experience a conversation in 3D. A long term solution of course is to form strong bonds with people here and there are certainly some contenders! I ventured to Sydney to get some real person contact with people. It was great! I walked the Bondi to Coogee trail with a German friend I met in Fiji. We did a little sprechen auf Deutsch and grabbed food. He also got a beer while I drank a delicious sparkling water, my first experience "going out" while not consuming alcohol in Sydney. My body has already formed a new habit of not drinking, so I knew that wasn't an issue but I had reservations about hanging out at a bar but not partaking and how that would effect the mood, conversation, etc. I'm happy to report that I was still hilarious and no one was thrown off by my lack of intoxication. Later that evening I hung out with Shadie at her beautiful place on Manly Beach. Conversation flowed between rehashing events from the past month and planning future adventures. Also worth a mention, big props were given to TFA for setting us up in the world. The following morning I met up with British girl who I also met in Fiji and we had a lovely brunch next to the Opera House. Then, we explored the Botanical Gardens and went into my favorite Art Museum. After a scrumptious pumpkin quesadilla I headed back to the temple in good spirits.

   My second class took place over two weekends and it was much smaller in size than the first one I had taken. Some of the classes are "one offs" that anyone can take and others are more specialized for each major and have pre-requisites. Thus, the Wellness through Leisure and Recreation was more tailored to people who are going for the full masters. The class was also more practice based instead of content heavy. We practiced Tai Chi and meditation and I even got to lead a meditation session, complete with the meditation bell borrowed from the temple, very exciting! My presentation was about deep sea scuba divers and the psychological impact the sport has on them. I learned a lot about the sport as well as the reasons for why people take on extreme risks in the name of fun, some self reflection upon this topic was also required.

   One of the best parts of my week is going to schools on Wednesday and Thursday mornings to teach kids Buddhism with Venerable Chun (aka Nun or Reverend). She lets me have full control of the class and only directs me about what topics to cover. Through these trips I realized how much I love (and certainly missed) teaching. When I was a bright eyed and bushy tailed 21 year old in charge of my own classroom I didn't care for lesson planning nor did I enjoy having to behavior manage. I am clearly at a different point in my life because typing out page long instructions gives me joy, I love to set procedures and practice them until the kids become well behaved little Buddhas and I plan out curriculum in utter bliss. Nothing beats actually being live in front of the classroom though and watching those little brains work. It's funny how quickly I tapped into that same feeling that I had when I was coaching the dream team with Lianne (there should be a post about it somewhere, so so many years ago) or the excellent 6th grade class I had in Korea that was the best thing ever ever ever (pretty sure I wrote them an open love letter way back in the day as well).

The other benefit is that I get to discuss the topics with the nun and get more clarification and insight into each item we cover so my learning is also extended. I'm truly bummed that next week is the last time I have class and then they go on break and my hectic schedule of marathon classes and 10 day meditation retreats begins in October.

All the nuns went to a conference in Taiwan and so my daily meditation in the meditation hall as well as early morning Tai Chi is on temporary hiatus. I was able to borrow some 2kg weights from a classmate and now make my daily walks around the lotus pond while doing various arm exercises. I sometimes wear shorts (scandalous) and the tourist almost always stare but a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do...


Sunday, August 16, 2015

First 4 weeks in the Land of Oz

It’s been 4 weeks since I left the states. I wanted to give myself a settling in period before I began writing my experiences so that first impressions could be vetted, a necessary action because things seemed a little too good to be true. The good news- they still are!

There is something wholesome and good natured about every aspect of my surrounding. First and foremost- the people. I have met the nuns- called Venerables as well as the volunteers and employees who work here and all of them have been kind and welcoming. I do not have a roommate, I originally anticipated having one, but the other international student is a nun and she cannot share a room with a layperson. One thing I really enjoy is watching people greet each other by pressing their palms together and saying “O Mi To Fu” as they pass by. It translates to blessing someone with Endless Light and Wisdom. Just imagine if each person you met you blessed with wishes of wellbeing and endless light…I think everyone would be happier. 

The place. I live at the lodge in a single bed room. Nothing too fancy but very cozy and comfortable. I have my own bathroom in suite  and there is a tea room and a meditation room down the hall. The complex is large and nested at the base of a hill. Sometimes Venerable Xian Xing and I climb the hill after breakfast to look out at the ocean and another nearby hill where a heard of sheep hangs out. We have seen a bunny before, no kangaroo to report however. There are two shrines, a museum, an art gallery and a reading room at the temple. There is also a meditation and Tai Chi room and a cafeteria. The institute I go to is a 4 minute walk down the street. The university is an architectural marvel. I feel like I am in a space ship when I walk around there and the meditation room looks out at the temple which is a nice meeting of east and west. It was designed to have the same color scheme as the temple but with a very modern shape so the blend of the two is very symbolic.

The food. Oh the wonderful wonderful carbs. Not a day goes by that I don’t have enormous platefuls of pasta, noodles or rice with a variety of fresh and steamed veggies. There are curries and mock meats (the only somewhat questionable part of the diet) and salads and we even had flan once! Meal times are regimented. Breakfast at 7:30 (this is immediately after 40 minutes of chanting and 20 minutes of Tai Chi) and if you get there even 3 minutes late all the good tater tots will be gone. Lunch is from 11:30 until 2pm but I usually try to get there at noon as to avoid the crowds. This meal varies the least from day to day because the majority of visitors eat in the cafeteria during this time and they provide more standard fare (rice or noodles) to appease the masses. Dinner is anything from communal hot pot (yay!) to lunch leftovers (less yay! but still delicious) and each meal is always served with some type of fruit. They have a green house in the back of the property as well as some fruit trees so oranges are fresh picked! 
We eat together at tables, sometimes in silence, and there is a blessing that is said before each meal. The blessing is one of loving kindness to all beings and it has become such a routine that I almost did it when I was sitting down to eat in Fiji. Same goes for eating with chop sticks, I often get comments about how I am the only Western person in the room and also usually the only one using chop sticks.

Class. So much to say. There were 15 people in my first class. There is a small cluster of people aged 30-ish (I consider myself part of this cohort) and then another group in the later 40s to 50s and rounding us off there was one sweet man who was retired and could school us all with his knowledge of Sutras. The class was a week long intensive course, starting at 9am and getting off at 5pm with a break for lunch. I learned 2 things: that most of what I had thought of to be “Buddhist” was wrong and that the more I understood the more mysteries there were to resolve. Before the course we were assigned with writing a one page response to a pre-class reading and I foolishly tried to argue that Buddhism refrains from mysticism and it is a rational religion that would not allow for a thing like Immaculate Conception into it’s teachings only to find out that Buddha was reportedly conceive when a small elephant walked into his mother’s right rib cage. My paper got a C. I also didn't do a great job on my citation. One thing that I really appreciated about the Intro to Buddhism class is that we did, just like the Buddha prescribed, practice as well as learn. So each day included a 10 to 30 minute mediation. The Triple Gem is the idea that the Buddha, the teachings (Dharma) and the monks and nuns doing the practice (Sangha) are the way to enlightenment. Thus, we must not only learn and discover, we must also practice these things through meditation. Lot’s more to say about this topic, but I will give it a rest for now. 

Explorations have been limited because I was studying. I did go up to Sydney for a few days and saw the famous Opera House and looked out at the Ocean from Shadi’s Manly Beach apartment! The weather has been pretty cold though, I now know why they make UGGS here! It was so cold in fact that I jetted off to warm up in Fiji. I wanted to get my PADI license because the perk of being in Australia is that it is so close to all of these exotic destination for diving! The diving experience was more challenging than I thought and I loathe taking my mask off 30ft below the surface. The cool part is that once I got over water jetting into my nostrils I saw a shark on my very first dive! A pretty big one about 20 ft away, just chillin. The good thing about Fiji is that since the sea life is so abundant the sharks have plenty of fish to feed on and so they don't go for humans. They called them tame sharks. I also saw a large sea turtle swimming along and it came up to us to give us a "Good'ay mate".

That's it for now. 


Monday, January 6, 2014

Day 6- 6 word story

Inspired by Hemingway's poem:

For sale; baby shoes, never worn.

I came up with this:

Mug shots soon replaced yearbook pictures.


Thursday, January 2, 2014

Poem Day 2

Brick and mortar
Stick and stone
Clay and rock
Blood and bone
Why spend time to build
Prepare and fret
For things that haven’t
Happened yet?

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Poem Day 1

In an effort to be more creative I'm going to try and write more this year. Here we go.

Her branches extend towards the sea
the wind does not forget
in every hour there are times
that haven't happened yet

The mist erupts in vibrant color
Spoils of passing tides
her branches struggle onward
right before his eyes

Torn between the waiting
and what was done before
her branches dip into the sea
For they can grow no more

Sunday, April 28, 2013

It LOOKS like a Ukrainian duck, it WALKS like a Ukrainian duck but it doesn't TALK like a Ukrainian duck

You say "Goodbye" I say a word that sort of sounds like "Hello" but my accent tells you I'm probably not from around these parts was never a Beatles' hit, but it is the story of my life in Kiev. Much more here, than in my hometown of Lviv, it is as if every time I open my mouth a banner illuminates my forehead reading "banyak" which is a not so friendly word to describe those Ukrainians who have left the mother-country and thus developed different language patterns. Though this is a truth about me, it was not a pleasant revelation and I have spent the last 24-48 hours coming to terms with this fact. Here is my rant:

During my stay I have been called out on not being "from here", mostly by restaurant staff, on several distinct occasions. Once, the waiter after hearing my accent ridden Ukrainian, simply switched to English. Another girl, after taking my order without a hint of suspicion proceeded to ask later if I was going to be paying in "cash or credit" in English, as if I had not made attempts to use the local language.

Today, things got better. I ordered a beer and the young lad asked if I was from Kiev. I said no. He proceeded to tell me how pure my Ukrainian was and how he figured I was from the western sphere of the country. After a short discussion and the revelation that I had come all the way from America he jokingly said that he could not detect any Arizona-ish influence on my Ukrainian at all.

Though sometimes I do feel like I just bust out of a time capsule that makes me articulate more like an antique from yesterday year rather than a properly modernized slang slinging young lady and I can understand how that coupled with near Ukrainian speaking isolation has turned out a person who walks and looks like one of Ukraine's own, but as soon as I begin speaking ears strain to understand me. I am coming to terms with this.

I feel like I give it a solid go at speaking Ukrainian. Whatever accent or annotation oddness I throw down in my speech is not a shameful sign. Even though I no longer reside on the soil I was born on I continue to speak my mother tongue and most importantly come back with a desire to practice and improve my grasp of the language.

Furthermore, since when is diversity bad? Since when does an accent make one less appealing? Has anyone heard of British people? They are basically riding that accent train from dry humor boring town to conversation glory. Indisputably, their adorable accent is the engine on that locomotive.

But back to this semi-heart broken semi-Ukrainian girl… I was seriously saddened by the strange looks and language switching when I tried to speak Ukrainian. But each day is a new chapter and each interaction is a new beginning so today instead of shying away and switching to English when it was obvious that I was not a Kiev native I held on to the Ukrainian that I can deliver and used it to converse with several waiters. Never having to switch languages and their curiosity rather than disdain for the way I speak made it a very pleasant instead of uncomfortable experience.

The feeling of being understood, validated and accepted transcends any language and I really appreciate being treated like a unique rather than odd member of the Ukrainian speaking population.