Saturday, December 26, 2009

And were Off

Hey just wanted to give everyone an update that tomorrow morning around 4 am we are off and headed for El Salvador. We have a tentative plan to stay through the new year, hopefully celebrating on the beach while looking at the full blue moon(its really rare for the moon to be full on new years so you should check it out) and then off to Nicaragua. I should be in Costa Rica on the 10th for three months of teaching in the rainforest. Hope everyone enjoyed their christmas and hopefully you all have a good time on new years!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Meditation Camp: Prying Open My third eye

Twenty minutes in my foot falls asleep. This is the pattern, I have a clear understanding of the time based on when my foot falls asleep. I know that at twenty minutes we are nearing the end and if I can just readjust my legs and get some blood flowing that foot Ill be fine for the homestretch. At this point Ive given up on my focus and Im into survival mode, Im not sure how long your foot can stay asleep but at some point in needs blood, right. I mean what happens if you dont get blood, how long do you have until you lose a toe, all your toes, the whole foot. I need that foot, I use it daily. So i dont mind cheating and sending some blood there in place of positive thoughts. Im not sure this is how the great gurus of history have envisioned their students meditating but it is the reality for me.

Once Ive gotten some blood back to my foot, my mind is lost and my meditation is all but done. I will hold out for the rest of the time repeating over and over "hit that gong" in my head, praying that our teacher realizes we have been in this position for far too long and it is time to give this up. I send my vibes to her trying to beg her to end this session as quickly as possible. I doubt this is how you reach spiritual enlightenment but im sure that ive heard somewhere at somepoint that we all take our own paths and mine just involves some inner complaining.

For some of you, you must be wondering how I got here. How did I get 40 minutes into an hour long meditation inside a pyramid shaped temple with twelve other soul searchers. Well long story short Lindsey and Andy met a couple on one of their travels who told them all about Los Pyramides and they thought it seemed like an interesting place to spend a week, and i having decided to try just about anything people suggest tagged along for the week.

So on sunday we packed up our stuff and headed off for San Marcos, a tiny little laguna town on Lake Atitlan. After a pretty standard shuttle bus trip and a choppy boat ride we ended up in san marcos. We arrived at los pyramides and it was what you could best describe as a ghost town. Everyone was in a silent meditation and the only people that we encountered were people who were in part of a month long silence, and came across as jerks. I would learn that there is a nice way do your silence and the jerkway.

The pyramides looks like your a pretty typical summer camp except that all of the cabins are shaped like pyramids. Other than that you have your communal bathroom and kitchen(vegetarian only) and your cabin is full of spiders, mean disgusting spiders who played extras in Arachnophobia. After an interesting night of sleep we were off to start our week.

Yoga in the morning
Every morning began with Yoga. We were up early and with a pretty solid bedhead going ready to stretch it out with some intense yoga. It was pretty fast that i realized i might be out of place with my basketball shorts and sweatshirt, when the teacher was clad in an all white yoga suit that i thought only existed in movies where they mock yoga teachers. Right off the bat i knew i was in trouble, i have never been able to touch my toes not ever, in the presidential physical fitness test the toe touching was my nightmare and yoga seemed like it would continue. Our first teacher was a relaxed british guy(ithink) who ran you through some intense yoga drills and rolled his eyes at those of us who struggle like the goofy goofy tall bastards we are. The other teacher was great though, super encouraging and positive. She would come over and tell me that i was doing perfect except that you need to fix these 5 things. Im not sure she understands the definition of perfect. Her positive encouragement did help me get through some pretty ridiculous sessions of yoga. One of our final yoga sessions also finished with andy and I giving each other back massages, where andy critiqued my massage style the entire time.

Metaphysics Class
After breakfast of cornflakes, or in my case choco zucaritas(choco frosted flakes, which would also be my dinner several times) we heaeded off to metaphysics class. Coming in the middle of a session(the run a weekly schedule on the moon, wed-wed) we were headfirst into classes on lucid dreaming and astral travel. We spent the week learning techniques on controlling your dreams and using your mind to change your dreams and the locations of your body, in order to have out of body experiences. We learned about traveling outside of your body to other countries or down to the bottom of the lake where you can find a temple and you are more than welcome to come down and pray late at night. Overall the classes were interesting and a little kooky but in the best possible way.
***A special note to those of you who indulge in illegal substances. They are apparently destroying your aura causing rifts and holes to develop that will make you tired and more run down. There is a remedy though, and I will be kind enough to help you all out at this point. You will need to run a hot bath and create a mixture of several natural plants and herbs. You will need rosemary, mint, basil, chamomile, lavender, sage and red roses. If they are fresh and natural you are better off but if you dont have the option you can use any form. The mixture should make up the size of a fist and for god sakes you need to check to see if you have allergies to any of these, you dont want to jump into a tub of aura purifying substances only to learn that you break out from lavender, thats bad news. If it doesnt work the first time, well you are probably a big pothead(you know if im talking to you), and need to do this for a consistent 7 day period every month until you feel invigorated again. Good luck my friends, and youre welcome!***

After metaphysics we were given several hours to hang out and do whatever we want. So I spent the week reading way too many books ranging from the motorcycle diaries and tom sawyer to books on coping with death and a guidebook on lucid dreaming. At 5 though we headed back to the temple for our meditation class.

*quick note on the temple here. The temple is a giant pyramid that is actually really awesome once you are inside. You need to crawl down a staircase and tunnel before you can enter the temple. In the hall of the tunnel there are pictures of different religious figures from ancient pharaohs to buddah and jesus. Andy felt like the jesus picture looked like a dad who knew his son had done something wrong but was letting the son explain himself and weave a tail of lies even though daddy jesus knew the truth, so in reality jesus was wearing one of those give me a break, oh really faces. My view was that jesus was a tv or radio talk show host listening to a particular messed up story, and he was making front of being concerned when really he was thinking "good lord thats awful, good luck with all that," face. The debate rages on. The temple inside has a giant pyramid in the center with a crystal globe that represents the world and they put a silk sheet over it when we are not meditating or focusing on it. other than that we all sit on mats or wooden blocks for our meditation or classes.*

Most of the meditations were painful exercises. I already described the process of pain a little but let me tell you it flat out killed. When we finished and had to change positions i had to manually move my legs with my hands and struggle through the pain to get them straight.

Guided meditation had to be my favorite part of the week though. The first night we worked on an exercise where we visualized a garden, a pond, a house, animals a boat and other things. All were metaphoric and represented something in your house. The garden was how complicated your life is the pond represented how you approach new situations(i only dipped my toes and sat on the edge so reading into that its pretty accurate, im a toe dipper in social situations), the animals represented my fears and though i saw giraffes, polar bears and dogs i totally approached them and tried to pet them all. My biggest issues came with the house and the boat. My house was the lake house from the bodyguard with kevin costner, the house represents my soul so i have no idea what that says about me. I was afraid to get on the boat because i am afraid of boats in general, the boat represented my future so i guess either im going to die or im really afraid of my future, great.
Other exercises involved thanking our loved ones and friends, so thank you if you didnt get the message on tuesday, visualizing points in our past and focusing on our life mission. If youd like to know more about my life mission feel free to ask, its long detailed and still a little cloudy.

Closing thoughts
I went into the week with a precaution but interest. Many people were skeptical of me going to meditation camp, not taking my interest in the spiritual world seriously, they didnt realize that i once made my mom buy me incense and a tape on Gregorian chants to practice relaxation and meditation(the outcome being that i realized i was allergic to incense and just sneezed alot), and my interest in spiritual matters has always been deep. This week solidified that i have an interest but im not willing to fully commit to any one belief and need to keep working on making my perfect spiritual practices.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Schools OUt!!!

This Friday signified the last day of my spanish school and the last day of volunteering at Los Patojos. I'll do a little recap of the experiences and my overall impressions from them.

Spanish School- COINED
From my first day until my last learning spanish was a struggle. I remember before i left and everyone told me within two weeks ill be fluent, how little they understand the complexities of the spanish language and the limited nature of my brain.

I was able to have some really great teachers at the spanish school. I loved the rapid fire intense energetic nature of my teacher Francisco and the long discussions on politics history and social issues where we both practiced our spanish and learned that we are not nearly doing enough to improve the world. The lessons with Diego where i had to use my spanish to say what i would do if i met Shakira and to discuss who i would rather date Jennifer Aniston or Angelina Jolie, as well as the discussions we had on syracuse basketball and district 13. Antonio and his perpetual and hysterical use of the word jesus and his love for rasheed wallace as well as his mild temper tantrums and the week where we drove him mildly insane with our lack of progress. These were probably my favorite teachers though down the stretch I became hated by one or two teachers because i was very much a wise ass and contradicted them constantly. Live and learn i guess.

On our final week i was given the opportunity to translate one of our final activities, the day of the devil and i was able to stagger through that exercise. On the last friday we gave speeches and mine was a top ten list of things from the school, which was kindly received with what i hope was authentic laughter. To finish the day i was given a giant number one medal for my perfect attendance and all of my hard work, i was genuinely touched by it and they really did not need to do that. I had been bugging them all week to put up a picture of me in the main corridor for other students to admire and aspire to, but the medal was much subtler and made more sense. Though that giant picture would look great.

Overall i think my spanish came along pretty nicely. I still mispronounce a ton of words and can easily get lost in the most basic of conversations and my favorite phrases are all gimicky or only said by idiots(toca madera, tengo frio, en tus zapatos) but hopefully what i have will be just the beginning.

Los Patojos

My volunteer opportunity at Los Patojos ended with two pretty great days. Andy had been working with the kids on different team building challenges throughout the past month and I tagged along on many as well as teaching and playing basketball with the kids on fridays. On our second to last day andy set up an obstacle course with several different challenges for the kids from making a human knot to crossing an acid river and then crossing a mind field blind folded. My team won the race which should be no surprise, my team also won the dancing shapes competition.

After the competition I was pretty blown away when the kids gave a little speech thanking us and giving us some bracelets that they had made for us. They could not have been sweeter and some of the girls snuck off during their art time to make us cards. Im a big softee and had to hold back tears pretty bad especially with Sarai who was probably my favorite kid overall. She came across as abrasive at first but is really one of the sweetest most intelligent kids i have ever come across and she has a great sense of humor, of which i was frequently a target. She also embraced the pound and explode handshake which made my day everytime we did it. (goofy handshakes with the kids kind of became my thing)

The next day we played a game of capture the flag and then headed back to the center. I almost cried again when Mr. Cool Boris realized we weren't going to be at the school anymore and literally started to tear up a little himself. To put it bluntly Boris is the man and is lightyears cooler than i can ever hope to be so the fact that he was disappointed and upset that we were leaving was one of the biggest compliments i have ever received in my life.

When i first walked into the school i was shocked at the chaos, lunacy and seeming ineptness that seemed to be prevalent in the structure of the school but it is really the kids who make this program. They are your typical kids in so many ways, moody sarcastic teenagers who test your limits at every turn but over time we all grew to bond and it seemed to happen so much quicker with them than it should have.They were accepting of our limited spanish and worked on our pronunciation, they joked and teased, and in the end i couldnt have been happier to know them. I hope they all go on to be the things they are dreaming to be, the architects, writers, doctors and lawyers of a future guatemala.

I was also thankful to many of the teachers who embraced our presence and made things easy for us. Diego the persistent and die hard yankees fan who is far more mature than his 17 years and taught me alot about tolerance and what its like to be truly open mind(except about baseball) who claims to have been john wilkes booth in his past life and has a love for gabriel garcia marquez. I hope he goes forward to do a poetry slam, which we discussed at length and he spent hours looking at slam poems on youtube. Or Juan Pablo the passionate head of the school who is realistic about his extreme political views but is the lifeblood of the school. Linda who is the nurturing mother hen for the older group, whose subtle sense of humor always caught me off guard and murio one of the first adults with a rat tail that i found respect for.

It was definitely an interesting experience that i am grateful i got the opportunity to have.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Futbol Americano w/ Los Patojos

Usually we play basketball or soccer every friday but this week we got the opportunity to play a little good old fashioned american tackle football. It was an interesting experience, for the most part the kids got the game pretty easily but they had trouble understanding that you are only allowed to throw the ball once, its easy to make that mistake, and we probably had a more fun game because of it. I think in the end Andy's team defeated my team but thats because Boris has a rocket arm and victor was a sick receiver. My team had many communication issues and our precise route running left something to be desired. I was a yac machine though but really let my boys Eduardo and Frank down with my shabby passing ability. I should have gotten that premonition when on our walk to the field I overthrew frank by ten yards and the ball bounced into the back of a huge truck(im a ridiculously strong person and often have trouble restraining my full power). We had to get permission to climb into this truck and get the ball out, overall a pretty embarrassing experience only saved by Boris' smooth talking with the truck owner.(Sidenote- i did not take any of these pictures they are the courtesy of the kids at Los Patojos)