Blog

Back in Texas

My flight home took about 36 hours. I had a 19 hour layover in Atlanta. Atlanta is spacious. Things are big. The environment seems accommodating but with a sense of old energy. The metro made traveling to the city center easy. The metro had a 70s retro design, with large beige seats. The people were courteous. I stopped by to have lunch at Mary Mac’s, a southern dining restaurant, where the dishes where smothered in butter, cheese, and gluten. It was good but my body felt regret after leaving.

I arrived in San Antonio a few days after Hurricane Harvey hit Houston. It was an odd atmosphere upon arrival. Things are always kind of weird in Texas. Soon after arriving in San Antonio, I headed south to the valley. My landing in Texas didn’t fully hit me till I made it down to the valley. This is the land of cheap gas, open roads, parking lots, strip malls, churches posting religious propaganda, and beautiful sunsets.

It was all a bit surreal to be back here after the past 5 months and planning the new chapter of my life here using the tools/ knowledge I brought back with me. I have to say, with each return back to Texas I dislike it less and less. I feel fortunate to have this as my working ground. I feel like being here is a worthy challenge. Like this is the bag of lemons life gave me, and now I have a large recipe book on what to do with a lot of lemons. Well actually, lemons are quite nice, I’d say its more like a bag of GMO key limes, with lots of seeds and hardly any juice.  Never-the-less, it’s a new day… Tally-ho!

The Final Countdown- Europe

After England, I was on the last leg of my travels. I stopped by Bordeaux to meet with two Sangha friends, Sophie and Melissa. They had just come out of an intensive 3 week retreat. It was so good to meet up with Sangha. We have a particular way of understanding each other is that is unique amongst people.

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We explored the sea nearby and the city, visiting the Cathédrale-Primatiale Saint-André, the Miroir d’eau (water mirror), and had lunch in the public gardens.

Before I left France, I stopped by a huge supermarket and saw 3 employees getting around in rollerskates.

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That was fun.

I really loved my time in France. I feel like France is the genuine world leader. It is an innovator for permaculture. Resources are readily available for those wanting to pursue a greener way of living. Gardening is thing there.  The social welfare system is good. People are nice (as long as you say “bonjour” and attempt to speak french). The food is great. The towns/ cities are well planned for public transportation, community spaces, and pedestrian traffic.

After France, I headed to Italy (Veneto region) once again, to catch my flight back to the US.

The evening I arrived, I was picked up by Elena, my Italian host mother from 10 years ago, who hosted me as I was teaching in an english city camp for kids. It is always a joy meeting with Elena. Her house is beautiful and reminds me of what is possible with a disciplined studious lifestyle. She and her partner are both specialized physicians.

The rest of the time in Italy, I was staying with Roberta. We went out one evening to a “color party” festival that included over paying for colored baby powder and then throwing it on each other.

I really appreciated my last days in Montebelluna, spending time alone in the city park, reflecting on all the previous events that had led me to that point, and socializing at small get togethers with friends.  I am overwhelmed with gratitude and found a renewed sense of joy, at the end of this chapter of life.

I also have to make mention of an amazing vegan ice cream my friend Francesco serves at his gelato store, made from the Lupin bean. Its the taste of joy, and it has protein!

Seriously, its like crack (really good crack).

England

After France, I headed to England to visit some old friends.

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I took a boat across the English Channel and landed/ stayed in Plymouth for 2 days. The day I traveled was pretty hectic. It was an all day venture that included buses,  a boat, and short times to get from one place to another. Upon landing in Plymouth, I hurried to be the first one through customs, so I could hit the ATM, buy something at a convenience store, in order to have change for the bus, which I needed to meet shortly after my boat landed. I was late to meet at the designated pick up time, but luckily so was the bus driver. It was rainy and the next bus wasn’t for another 2.5 hours so I was relieved when I saw the bus coming, breathing heavily at the bus stop. I arrived at a dark bus stop down in the outskirts of town. There seemed to be no sidewalks here! As soon as I got off the bus, a girl in a neon safety vest greeted  me. It was my couchsurfing host, Paula, who was cheerful with a timely arrival.

It was really lovely meeting Paula and sharing meals and stories together. Although we stayed together only 2 days, I felt like it was a solid connection. She is a recently new yoga teacher too.

While in Plymouth, I met up with an old couchsurfing host I had met about 8 year previous, Harry. We went over to Dartmoor, a nearby moor. It was lovely to catch up. Dartmoor is amazing. It looks like something out of a fairy tale. A wild horse came up to us looking for food.

After Plymouth, I headed over to Hereford to see/ stay with an old couchsurfing friend/ host, Will. This part of my trip was much anticipated. As the bus pulled in closer to Hereford, the sun’s rays illuminated the clouds in 360 degrees.

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The last I visited him, pasted a life changing experience that sent me home after having traveled around the world for 3 years. It was ultimately the catalyst that placed me at the entrance to the path of meditation.

Will is the most intriguing person. He sparks inspiration in the people around him to take closer looks at the designs in nature around. He also makes wind sculptors. He lives on a farm and has an eclectically designed welding workshop. I was able to learn some welding basics and make a cup shelf!

If I’ve ever wandered through a God realm, this would have been it. However, I felt like the visit here was invaluable.

I also had the chance to look around Hereford. It was good. There’s a big Cathedral in the center.

 

 

 

Quemeneven

After La Gree Suzanne, I headed for Quemeneven, a village north of Quimper, in West France, to do another workaway.

My host was Camilla is a young and accomplished lady. Her two kids, Chun and Artus, and her partner, Gildas, live with her.

She is a landscaper by trade. She has a company, paysagesvivants,  that specializes in installing pools that clean the house wastewater. The waste-water is ejected into these pools and through the use of sand, clay, and various plants, the water is cleaned and able to be recycled.

She also makes natural swimming pools using the same plants and collected rain water.

Her house is amazing. Camilla built it herself with natural elements like straw, wood, and a pulverized rock resembling concrete. The house has a green house, a large garden, an orchard, a bamboo forest, and a japanese garden. There are a variety of animals on the property including chickens, a sheep, and a new kitten. The house uses solar panels to create its electricity, rainwater, for all non-potable water uses, and my favorite, dry toilets. I LOVE dry toilets. I think the use of our standard toilets is such an irresponsible waste of water that introduces complexity for how we deal with our shit. Furthermore, it makes the individual understand the necessity of permaculture, closing the loop on how we make use of our waste in the self-sustaining loop.

There is an element of community about the house. The house was built with help from friends and other ´workaway´type people. There are often people in the house. While there, I met other members of her family, some airbnb-ers, family friends, and another workaway-type person, Sandra.

One weekend, Sandra took me to this magical hobbit housing commity, Kerterre, in a village by sea, to the south of here named, Plomeur. This place hosts workshops that show people how to make their own dome-houses using natural materials. It was a surreal weekend.

I also had a look around Quimper for a few hours.

These two weeks, I worked mostly in the garden. I worked a lot with bamboo, which I absolutely love. I was thinking about one of my favorite Ted talks about bamboo houses.

Themes of community and permaculture were highlighted in these past two weeks. While doing my workaway, I was interviewed by a newspaper reporter from Quimper on these subjects and how they relate to workaway.

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Check out a short clip on projections from our friends at the Awake Network:

 

La Gree Suzanne

After Paris, I did a workaway, in Brittany, (west france) on an old farm called La Gree Suzanne. The nearest village is a 15-minute bike ride down the road called Erce-en-Lamee.

First, I arrived in Rennes, the nearest city, where I awaited my host, Stephane. I had a look around a local park while waiting.

I also read the passage below from the book I’m currently reading, Crazy Wisdom.

The teaching of the non-existence of self and phenomena is a foundation in Buddhism. It has popped up again in my readings and was in the backdrop of my experience at La Gree Suzanne.

The property is serene. The view of the surrounding country is vast and open.

In the house is Stephane and Dominque, my workaway hosts, Eloan, Noa, and Mayleine, their visiting grandkids, David, a fellow workawayer (Swiss), and Cecile, a girl that is camping out in Stephane’s yard through a French website that allows for shorter communtes to work by connecting you with a host who you can stay with during the work week (gamping.fr). Later came Elynn, Eway, and Vivian, 3 fellow workawayers (Malaysian),  Leo and Lucy, 2 more grandkids, and Lily and Christine, Dominque’s sister and niece. It was a full house to say the least.

I am just amazed when I meet these maha-hosts like Stephane who embrace community living and live by this idea of the more people, the merrier. He is an accommodating, generous host and is full of knowledge concerning gardening and DIY projects around the house, as well as life wisdom.

One of the first things he told me in the car ride home, in response to my question about what projects he had lined up, was something along the lines of, “The primary objective is to live together in peace.” In all my interactions with him, I could always see that, the function of the work, always took a back seat to the interaction and communication that took place before and during the work. Such an inspiring example of goodwill and patience.

Sometimes, Stephane would show animated films on projector from directors like Isao Takahata and Hayao Miyazaki. I love animations like this, where the story plot has a good message behind it and there is space built into the story to simply observe the climate of the plot.

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One day, Cecile and I took a bike ride to Erce-en-Lamee.

The food has been amazing! Dominque is an amazing cook. I love that the French end their meals with bread and cheese.

Many of my days were spent working in the garden.

The sunsets are late, so we get light until around 10pm. On a few occasions, we’ve had campfires and I’ve been able to do a few fire shows. On one special occasion, we burned loads of juniper. Juniper is used in Tibetan Buddhist ceremonies and special occasions to call down “Drala”, auspicious uplifted elemental energy that rides down from above on juniper’s smoke. I found the occasion of having juniper as primary burning fuel at one of the fires to be incredibly fortuitous.

One of the greatest delights of being here has been to play with the kids. Its great to reconnect with play.

I leave here with a renewed perspective of what it means to be; enamored, grateful, and conceptually bewildered with the inner workings of reality… groundless.

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Paris

I did one more fire show the night before I left Montebelluna for Roberta’s parents and a friend.

The time here was really special. I feel like I was able to reconnect with some important intangible quality that was lost or forgotten. There’s a lot here I’ve yet to discover.  I feel like Italy, or this place rather, is like a second home. A homecoming of sorts.  I’m really grateful for Roberta and my friends here.

After Montebelluna, I headed to Paris. I stayed with Jeremy, my classmate from the Thai Massage class I took in Chiang Mai.

When I was in Rishikesh, India, I met a girl, Jennifer, who was headed to Paris shortly after our yoga class ended. I told her she should meet Jeremy because I thought the two of them would get along.

As I arrived in Paris, I headed to a bar to meet Jeremy. As we were catching up, I brought up Jennifer and wanted to know how their interaction had gone. I looked over across the street and saw a girl who resembled Jennifer walking this way. I starred a bit longer and realized it was Jennifer! I was totally disoriented.

What a coincidence that she was walking down the same street in Paris at this particular time! I found out shortly later that she had in fact hooked up with Jeremy and had come back to Paris to spend more time with him.

I was still suspended in disbelief to see these two together in this magical city. It was like something from a cheesy romance comedy.

I was/am glad to see them happy with each other.

Shortly after, we headed to Jeremy’s place for bread, cheese, and wine, then headed over to what Jeremy kept referring to as “the hospital”. It was this property that used to be a hospital that had been closed down and taken over by, I guess squatters, and now the place was filled with bars and art oddities of various sorts.

Not unlike my landing in Italy, I was hit on the head upon arrival with this bat of coincidence, disbelief, and magic. I had to take several moments to check back in with myself that all this was actually happening (again).

The next day, the three of us took a boat tour around Paris. I’ve been here before, but never saw the city by boat. It was really cool to see the art on the bridges that can only be properly seen/ appreciated by boat. There are a lot of bridges here.

I normally intensely dislike big cities, but I didn’t feel this way about Paris. You can see the freshness of the environmental progressiveness throughout the city. There are places to rent electrical cars by the roadside, like bikes. We saw a green energy convention by the river near the tourist attractions. There were informative displays at the subway stops (which are some of the cleanest I’ve ever seen) about climate change.

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I can’t tell you how relieving it was to see that these concerns I hold so close are being addressed and implemented on a large city scale, at least to some degree.

The city doesn’t feel nearly as claustrophobic as other big cities, as there seems to be space built into the city. It doesn’t feel like a chicken cage. There are several beautiful green areas spread throughout the city.

July 14 was French independence day. President Trump visited on that day. There were several military vehicles passing randomly throughout the city. I’m glad the various people I interacted with around that time didn’t break my balls about being American. It feels embarrassing to be from the US in place like this, but I felt like the people I interacted with could differentiate between the individual and the corrupt political system their country entertains.

A popular thing to do on July 14 is to go to a “fireman ball”. These are parties at the fire department that serve as fundraising events. After we went to a nearby bar. I met a local there who told my about the patriotism he felt for France. It was one of those funny moments of disbelief to hear someone talk like this.

Its lovely to be here.

 

 

 

Montebelluna

After India, I headed to Montebelluna in north Italy just outside Venice.

 

It was such a drastic change of scenery and culture. Everyone is well dressed. The lawns and the green spaces are manicured. There is no trash on the floor. People hold themselves with dignity. It was like stepping into a god realm in comparison with where I had just come from.

The first day upon arrival, I met my old friend Roberta who told me that her partner Fiorenzo, a shoe designer for US Polo, was lacking a male model for a show they had the following day and if I was interested in filling that vacancy. After dropping my things and showering up, I went to meet Fiorenzo at his work place and we talked about the arrangements for the following day. That night there was a lovely banquet for all the sales reps and the execs who had flown into town for the show.

 

I was feeling like I was in a dream, being where I was, with all this food in front of me, and in my delirium, had bread, cheese, and alcohol, as though my body had no intolerances.

I was so sick the next 5 days. I still managed to make it to and model at the shoe show the next day. It was a long day.

The following days were transformative. I felt like my body was burning up from the inside. My stomach would spasm when I would lie down.

I also had the chance to digest the past 6 weeks spent in India and on a grander scheme, life. One day Roberta sits me down to have a talk. That was a strong wake up call. I won’t go into details, but it shook me in such a way that forced some deep issues to surface. I can’t tell you the value I got from it and so that in combination with the ending of my fiery sickness, I felt like a phoenix reborn from the ashes.

I celebrated my 35th birthday at her house with friends and was able to spin fire for the first time on my trip. That was fun.

 

 

During the 2 weeks spent in Montebelluna, I visited a lovely park called white springs and a neighboring city, Vicenza.

 

I enjoyed meeting Robert’s son, Tomaso, for the first time.

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