2014 Travel~Living Update

Yo.
Well, I have been getting some periodic requests to post an update as now some friends and followers know I am traveling abroad again. To me though, it’s just living. I have this dance with life, and the floor I dance on isn’t limited to the corner~
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There has been a whirlwind of movement this past month, and it’s not normally how I have moved in the past. These years, I enjoy finding a special beautiful place and setting up shop there for a month, where I can enjoy community, do my work and eat new exotic foods. Well, for the Month of May, my travel has been~ USA-Netherlands-Belgium-Qatar-India and now Nepal. Tomorrow it’s Jordan and Israel.
Map of 2014 tirp

I’m used to it, and can manage and adapt myself at the drop of a mango. Yet, it does take some energy. Currently, I am writing from the town of Nagarkot, Nepal. From this mountain village, one can see 360 degrees of Himalayas. I am in the “Ganesh Cottage,” my little house for a few days. It has nice views from the cottage, and has some prayer flags sprinkled through it along with fabrics. My hotel is called “Hotel at the End of The Universe.” With a name as such, I had to stay there ~ It’s owned by a Nepali / Dutch couple and it’s a tranquil place.
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Some friends have asked me, “Why India?” And, the simple answer is, I felt the pull of my spirit to go there again. I had gone there ten years ago in 2004 serving with as a volunteer for 3 months. That time was life changing for me, and I was curious to see how this vibrant and massive country called India has changed and continue my experience with it.

One the Worlds largest Banyan tree, India 2004
One the Worlds largest Banyan tree, India 2004

As an American citizen, I was able to obtain a 5 year multiple entry visa, and so I can move in and out of this vast and rich land as much as I want for the next few years, so this trip was not about “seeing it all.” I sort of used to move that way when I was 18-20, but now I just like picking a few spots and “soaking” it. So I flew to Mumbai, stayed a few days there. Flew to Kolkata (formerly Calcutta) and stayed there a couple days too. Then it a train up to Siliguri, there I caught a land rover to Darjeeling, the mountainous town famous the world over for its tea.
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It was a diverse town, with a mix of Tibetans, Gorkhas, Nepalis and Indians. The entire town is built on a steep incline of a mountain, and my guesthouse sat right on the top. I worked on my writings there, and took a 5 day trek through the Singalila National Park/Ridge. I hired a Sherpa named Tsering and together we hiked about 10-11 miles a day, stopping in very little Himalayan villages for tea and meals. The highlight for me was the opportunity to see with my own eyes the highest mountain in the world: Mount Everest.

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Another highlight so far for me has been to reconnect in person with a friend I made ten years ago in Calcutta. His name is Brother Francois, and he is a Franciscan priest serving the poor in the city. Most of his work revolves around addressing the needs of orphans living in the train station and also visiting those in the hospital who need support of any kind.
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When I volunteered with him ten years ago, it became the most intense day of my life as I saw the reality of a broken hospital system. I saw people who could have survived with available care, die and witnessed also the reality of young boys living on their own in a harsh environment.

Since then, Brother Francois has been doing this work EVERYDAY. To me, he is one of the most courageous and kindest humans I have met on this planet. When I surprised him, he was overjoyed to see me. And I came to a realization that I had not been aware of. As I talked with Francois, he made it clear to me that one of the main reasons he continued with his work in Calcutta in 2004, was because of my willingness to go volunteer with him when he asked me in the Mother House (Where the sisters of Mother Teresas order, Missionaries of Charity, live). At that time, he was still exploring the idea, since he was from France. The funny thing is, is on that particular day in 2004, I felt a strong pull in my spirit to go the Mother House. I was serving in an orphanage far away, and even though all the international volunteers met there each morning for breakfast before volunteering, I would not go because I needed to ride the bus for 45 minutes to get to the orphanage I was serving at. Nonetheless, I felt a pull early that morning to go. And that morning I met Brother Francois.

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I knew then I would have a friend for life, and through these past ten years my family and I have sent clothes to the children he serves. And, for the short couple days I had to spend with him in Hot Calcutta a couple weeks ago, I was blessed and also reminded of realities. I was reminded, because I went back to a hospital with him where he serves. There, I had flashbacks of the lack of cleanliness and care available. The elevator had dried blood in all the corners, the casualty ward had used gauze, urine and dust on the floors. The beds were simple and each patient, was just sitting up, basically getting what care they could from their family members, and an occasional checkup from a physician. I actually didn’t see any there, but it was towards the evening. What I did see, was a young man named Sambath. He was extremely thin and only had his Mother to offer what little care she could. Sambath had rectal cancer, and it was terminal. For a man who was 22 years old and was just in med school the year before, it was a difficult site to see. This is something a normal citizen of my home country just doesn’t get to see. Untreated cancer in your face.

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I was stronger to accept the reality than my last time ten years ago, but it reminded me of the fragility of life and how life is valued in other places. I gave Sambath a postcard from Hawaii that had a couple Hibiscus flowers on it. I hoped he would find peace until he moves on..

While the hospital visits were still melancholy, the next day Francois invited me to speak to the boys from the station. He gathered them together and for a couple hours I shared with them lessons of geography, and showed them photos of my travels around the world on my laptop. They were fascinated to see images of massive Redwood trees, European architecture and scenes from the movie “Samsara,” a movie that travels around the world. My intention was to expand their horizons a bit, and by all the smiles and affection after, I think I succeeded.

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There of course, are other highlights, such as traveling in the Netherlands with my Mom, who is Dutch and had not been back for 39 years, and visiting a tea factory in Darjeeling but for now I will sign off. A new adventure awaits, and another dream will be fulfilled: To pilgrimage to Israel.

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Thanks for your encouragement and thoughts, prayers through the journey~ Some more photos below… IMG_0788 IMG_0867 IMG_0756 IMG_0952

West Coastin’ 2013

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Since arriving back from overseas this year, it’s been westside till I die, laying low in my ’64 Impala, cruisin’ wit my homies, sippin’ on gin and juice, layback.

Well, not exactly. But it has been yet another nice summer in the west. It feels like it has been a hotter summer this year, which has set the stage for many adventurous activities to participate in. I love my family and in this season, they need my support as they plan to open new chapters in their life. After 25 years of being in Woodside, my family is looking to move on. And so keeping our property looking nice and show worthy is necessary.

And after 5 years of living in Seattle (with 3 off and on, due to work) I have decided to move on myself from the emerald city. I really do love the communal and casual vibe that Seattle breathes, yet unfortunately for this California boy, I need the sun more. It’s a tradeoff, yet after spending months in sunny South East Asia with warm waters and noticing the significant difference in energy, it sealed the intention it was time to go.

Whynam_view_800x533 When I moved there, I always knew I wouldn’t stay long and that going back to
California as a US base would happen again. So, I went up to Seattle in early August, participated in the SeaFair activities (lots of hydroplane boats, fighter jet demonstrations, and boat parties everywhere) sailed up to the San Juan Islands for a week, then sold my boat after 2 days. I promptly went back down to California to prepare for Burning Man.

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This has been my third year going back to Burning Man, and for all those who have not been there, please do not attempt to define what it is, because you can’t. People try to put it in a box and think they know what it’s all about, but really they don’t. It’s not a bunch of naked hippies tripping on acid, it’s not a huge “burning” event where everything is burned, and no, it’s not a pagan festival or even a music festival. It’s also not for everyone in my opinion. Mostly because some people are just not ready to experience such a dynamic shift from their day-to-day lives. Burning Man will challenge a person and enlighten about what is possible to experience communally between humans. As an anthropologist, I find the Burn to be an amazing social experiment, and actually other anthropologists like myself think so too.

To me, this years burn seemed short. After coming back from Seattle, I jumped straight into preparing (In)Visible, an art installation designed by my cousin Kirsten and her 4th time bringing art to Burning Man. Thus began the 12 hour days, shaping the iridescent panels to the steel frame, grinding, drilling and crimping, and getting ready for the desert itself, picking up necessary items such as hydration packs, baby wipes, and apple cider vinegar (counteracts the alkaline dust that will get on your skin most definitely). After the truck was packed, five of us shot off to Reno where we spent one last night experiencing pressurized water and relaxing before trekking to the desert. This year I gifted two tickets to my old friend Quentin and his wife as a wedding present. They were both very excited and as it happened, we both came to the gate at the same time and were able to enter together.

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In our 125′ x 100′ foot of space, we set up our tents, our campers and geodesic domes. There were hexayurts (created from insulation panels you would find at home depot, once attached with a swamp cooler, it is a nice oasis) and there were our shade structures. In total we would have about 30 people in our camp throughout the week. We had people from Singapore, Oregon, Thailand, California, Washington, Canada, France, UK and New Zealand. It was a fun week as it always is.

Personally for me, being a third year burner and having the opportunities to get acquainted and familiar with the community in various parts of the world, the Burn wasn’t as awe-inspiring of an experience for me. Rather, it was just good to see my friends and to share time with them. One particular person was named Takashi, whom I had met at last years burn. Our interaction only lasted an hour if that, yet we became acquainted on facebook and kept in touch over this past year. At the same event we met  at last year, we saw each other again and were both happy to share life again as our friendship had grown through the conversations we had had via facebook and such. Takashi was from Osaka, Japan and later that day I engaged in a meetup of Japanese burners, of which there were over 50. I also later participated in the red tea ceremony with artist Ken Hamakazi the next day, something Takashi gifts his time to support. It is also a highlight of the week for me.

Back from the Burn and as the dust settles, I am back in the west and am still quite mobile for the remainder of this month. I’m still writing, and I have multiple international friends flying in each week, which I have committed to some degree to host. I am thankful, happy and am now going to go for a walk here in Santa Cruz. Much love~

car (The vehicle makes it to the playa)