Sunday, November 30, 2008

The road forked on the way to the islands

I'm doing a Buddhist (with Tao & Zen influences) retreat for the next ten days at Suan Mokkh Monastery near Chaiya. There will be some posts that will continue while I'm away but no narratives for a while. Just so you do not worry. I am not dead. I am just enjoying (hopefully) the calm and nature and trying out my first long retreat. Should be an experience and I will surely share with you all on December 11th, at which point I will be off to the islands...

I'd planned to go to the islands today, but after looking weather forecasting seven days of thunderstorms last night, I decided I should look for alternate plans. It just so happened that there was a ten day retreat starting the first of the month and the only pre-registration requirement was to show up the day before (on which I'd already had a train booked- just had to get off one stop early.) It just seemed to line up. So here I go...

Typical day schedule:
04:00 Rise & Shine
04:30 Reading
04:44 Sitting meditation
05:15 Yoga / Exercise
07:00 Morning Talk & Sitting meditation
08:00 Breakfast & Chores
10:00 Dhamma Talk
11:00 Walking or Standing meditation
11:45 Sitting meditation
12:30 Lunch & Chores
14:30 Meditation Instruction & Sitting
15:30 Walking or Standing meditation
16:15 Sitting meditation
17:00 Chanting & Loving Kindness Meditation
18:00 Tea & Hot spring
19:30 Sitting meditation
20:00 Walking or Standing or Sitting meditation
21:00 Bedtime Goodnight ... (the gate will be closed at 21:30)

Saturday, November 29, 2008


Adversity has the effect of eliciting talents, which,
in prosperous circumstances, would have lain dormant.

Phetchburi II

"She was the sort of curious child... who is transformed by school. These children become adults too soon, but seemingly happy ones, and content." - Kaye Gibbons, Charms for the Easy Life

That quote suits me. I just finished my third book of the trip. I could get used to this life of leisure.

This morning, I woke up at 7:10AM. Still have not used earplugs, despite the loud traffic outside my room that starts at about 5-something. After packing up my little bag, I started wandering through town passing street food vendors, parents driving their kids to work on scooters, and general hustle. People smiled and helloed as I walked by.

At 9:30, I met up with Ben and Steph (the UK couple) in our hotel restaurant for breakfast before we headed off to the caves north of town where they'd built a giant Buddha underground. After looking around, we parked ourselves on some benches in the cave to read, and I fell asleep, dreaming quickly. I wonder how it is that I can sleep anywhere now, where I used to never be like this. I guess it is a new talent of mine, along with living out of a mini bag.

I fear this lifestyle of wandering could be corrupting me for life. The enjoyment of waking without a plan or urgency to get certain things done is so freeing and not knowing the end to this adventure. It's like having a blank journal each day. I love it.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

"Song of the Open Road"

From this hour I ordain myself loos'd of limits and imaginary lines,
Going where I list, my own master total and absolute,
Listening to others, considering well what they say,
Pausing, searching, receiving, contemplating,
Gently, but with undeniable will divesting myself of the holds that would hold me.

-Walt Whitman

Alive and Kickin'

Well y'all...

Last night I managed to stay up until 9PM Thailand time, and slept until 6PM, so I've made it here without suffering jet lag. My occupation really should be world traveler. I'm building my resume as we speak.

After packing my bags in the hostel bathroom this morning, I sat down for my fried rice and coffee breakfast and then subwayed it to the main train station. I've ventured to Phetchburi, a small "historic" town about 3 hours by train south of Bangkok. The ride on the commuter train (simple seating without air-con) was 34 Baht (about one US dollar). I was the only white person who got off at Phetchburi, so I was wondering whether I should have stayed on the train. But after asking directions to town, I set off to find my guesthouse, which is a small wooden building with a simple bed and green mosquito net for 120Bhat. I signed my name in the lined-paper register and was given a little sweet by one of the ladies behind the counter before I set off to wander town.

This is definitely off the beaten path, as most all signs are only in Thai and no one really speaks English. But with gestures, my phrasebook and help from random locals, I am getting by just fine. A couple hours into my walking tour of town, I met a couple from London, who appear to be the other tourists in town. We are all blonde and get a lot of looks.

They were looking for tourist info, so I decided to join them. This took several tries. Once we located the place, it turned out to be just a map on a sign. As we were staring in wonder, I felt my bag of mandarins suddenly snatched from my hand. A little scream escaped as I saw an "aggressive monkey" take off with my treat. I had just been warning my friends that I'd read in the guidebook not to trust the monkeys. It was funny anyway.

No worries about my safety. The Thai people are kind and it's peaceful. I'm headed next to the islands, where I think I will park myself for two weeks. I need to force myself to slow down. It's a bit of an adjustment, knowing that there is no definite end to this since I'm unemployed and there's not a hurry to get somewhere. It's the American way to be rushing, and that's hard to shake off. I really want to settle into a different pace of life and see how it feels.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Rioting Protesters close Bangkok Airport

Not kidding! (I linked the article above on the title.)

"International flights to and from Thailand's main airport were halted last night after rampaging anti-government protesters surged through police cordons and stormed the sprawling terminal."

I am fine. I'm sitting in an internet cafe in Bangkok without any shoes on; ate fried rice and coffee for breakfast. All the flights incoming after mine were diverted or cancelled. I took a taximeter to the hostel and everything was good.

I'm planning to head south towards the beaches and out of Bangkok in a couple days, as Carrie wants to see the city when she arrives.

Monday, November 24, 2008

This is my Bon Voyage Prayer

Lead me along, free as a dandelion seed,
Floating in the world, drifting along.
Watching. Waiting. Learning. Loving.
Living as we were meant to live.
Breathing in
The sights and sounds and smells.
Questioning my beliefs.
Opening, again and again
To what wonder surrounds me.

I'm thankful for this life experience. On the day of my departure...
Thank you for your support and love, my friends, my family, my fellow beings.

I'll keep posting... With love, Sara Bean

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Baggage, I have lots of it!

Ok, I'm panicking about the amount of stuff I have to store. I had a last minute waffle, after one of my hostel roommates (cute French surfer/musician dude with dreads) suggested that I try to get in all into one bag. Mind you, I have THREE bags now, and they are not small. Of course, I came from a three bedroom house into two bags to get here, so I should be able to get it back into two. But that's not really the point, as I might be working PROFESSIONALLY (good excuse, no?) in Melbourne, which requires more than just surfer/musician clothing I guess. I dug around in my bags and removed a few items that I've not worn much and some books that I didn't even know I'd packed. But I couldn't very well remove the SLR camera, the optometry equipment, my brown leather boots, this computer (which obviously is not yet in the bag!) and countless other items (like journals, tax stuff, etc). So in the end, I still have THREE bags. But they are lighter. C'est la vie, Mr. Hot French Guy!

Ursula is due to pick me up in about an hour. I'm not sure what to do in the meantime, but pace around and worry about my kilos packed and wonder if I need to take more or less to Thailand.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Final days, cont.

I'm writing like crazy because I feel like I won't be able to write as much very soon... and it's been a pretty exciting two weeks.

Last night, I met friends for dancing downtown. I'd found stick-on mustaches (thanks to Molly & Josh's visit) and silver glitter in the cleaning of my flat, so stuffed them in my purse and headed out on the town. We bounced on the dance floor until 3AM, at which time I hopped in a taxi after hugging everyone goodbye. It's good to have a return ticket to New Zealand because nothing feels final. I don't know where my life is headed (who does?) but I feel like it goes in circles in a good way, and nothing is really the end. (Until you die, and even then I'm not sure.)

I've been enjoying the hostel life for the last few days. It's been a good transition as I prepare to be a nomad long-term. A few overly friendly hostel guys remind me that I should be friendly, but watch myself. My roommates have all been sweet as: French surfer dude with dreads, a Czech skateboarder boy, a red-headed Aussie girl picking up her sister.

I must have a very bright aura surrounding me as people have been overly friendly for the last two weeks especially, even perfect strangers. However, this could be that leaving thing again and the fact that I have a smile on my face and a twinkle in my eye all hours of the day.

My goals for the next section of life are simple:
To sleep without earplugs
To eat no packaged food
To laugh every day

Friday, November 21, 2008

T-3 days and counting

I'm in bed, emailing, etc. What a lame-o, no? Perhaps. But I woke up with a hacking cough now. The Gods are trying to drive me batty with this month-long cold (since before the marathon). I will just have to go and relax on the beach in Thailand and recuperate.

I did a load of business yesterday: updated my resume, repacked (sort of) two of my large-in-charge duffel bags, walked to the top of nearby volcano Mount Eden, laid on the trampoline with Grace, fended off scary hostel guy (one of those conspiracy theorist Americans from San Diego), took a shower (just threw that one in there to see if you were paying attention). Heh!

Crazy picture lady is at it again:
(I didn't notice the camera was set on "color accent." Normally the water is aqua blue... oops!)
Cows at the top of Mt Eden
Mt Eden volcano cone
Auckland from Mt Eden

Thursday, November 20, 2008

This was on a card from Carrie (my baby sis)

May your life be like a wild flower,
growing freely in the beauty and joy of each day.
(Native American Proverb)

Happy "end of the year" pics (ya, it's been a while since I've posted photos...)

End of the year party for part 4s (New optometrists!)

Lake Kai Iwi Camping with all students

Your high maintenence hosteler

I've just returned from a few days of camping up north of Auckland at the Kai Iwi Lakes. The weather was hit and miss, but overall decent (meaning I wasn't totally freezing my butt off). I did spend one day sleeping in the tent... the second day. I suppose the 3 week long sinus/chest cold along with staying up till the butt crack of dawn contributed to that somewhat. I think I might still need a parent to tell me when enough is enough. Or maybe a reverse alarm. When it goes off, I should run to bed. It was a good time anyway. Nice to hang out with students when they are no longer my students and some are now my colleagues! It's a good feeling.

This afternoon, I settled into my hostel in Auckland, just across from Mt Eden. Grace dropped me off. We got some strange looks as we hauled in my two large duffel bags, one large backpack and a few various small bags. It was befitting to my name, Sara (it means "princess" in Hebrew).

Tonight I met Ursula for coffee after having just lounged around the rest of the day. I'm just planning to lay in the grass and enjoy myself these last few days and get a few things sorted out for the Asia trip.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

New occupation: Nomad

I'm thriving in my joblessness, all two days of it. I walked around in the sunshine today, having a coffee, reading the Sunday paper, getting a few items for my trip. Every once in a while the thought pops into my head, "You're unemployed." Then I laugh. What freedom. What whimsy! "I'll have to watch my finances," I think. But my mom raised us right and we all save even if we're not trying.

The last few days have been a flourish of activity, with barbeques, parties, coffees and the packing up of my miniature household in the midst of it all. Tomorrow is move-out day and I'm off to camp with my students (I mean colleagues!) for a few days up north by a lake. When I return to Auckland, I'll have about days to relax before I fly off to Thailand.


He ate and drank the precious words,
His spirit grew robust;
He knew no more that he was poor,
Nor that his frame was dust.
He danced along the dingy days,
And this bequest of wings.
Was but a book, what liberty
A loosened spirit brings!

-Emily Dickinson

Friday, November 14, 2008


...So get out there and mess around with your friends, ramble out yonder and explore the forests, encounter the grizz, climb the mountains. Run the rivers, breath deep of that yet sweet and lucid air, sit quietly for a while and contemplate the precious stillness, that lovely, mysterious and awesome space. Enjoy yourselves, keep your brain in your head and your head firmly attached to your body, the body active and alive, and I promise you this much: I promise you this one sweet victory over our enemies, over those deskbound people with their hearts in a safe deposit box and their eyes hypnotized by desk calculators. I promise you this: you will out live the bastards. --Edward Abbey

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Last day

My final year students had their going away party last night in the cafe at the basement of the optometry school. A simple buffet and small speech from the head of department was the extent of the festivities. (Their formal graduation ceremony is not actually until May 2009.) We all walked over to a nearby bar afterward for a few more hours the Mustang Saloon (the same bar where I watched the televised Obama debates and election results).

It's funny to be at the end of things. I'm not graduating, but Ursula and I are both finished today along with all the students. I feel like I should have a deep realisation coming, or a firework finish to mark the end of things. But it's simply the end and the beginning for all of us, really.

This class taught me so much- mostly about life. I learned about teaching and optometry too. But more about people- the struggles that students go through to finish their degree - how caring most are underneath it all (despite my previous post).

Everyone's dispersing now. Many I won't ever see again, but I don't dwell on that. I always think you really never know. Goodbyes aren't meant to be sad.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Thoughts during the exam of an unnamed student

It seems rather apparent to me that the main issues remaining to be sorted out by students are communication-related. You cannot teach human interest or empathy- and this is what will separate the rising stars from those who will simple practice optometry as a job.

Very few students actually listen to their patients. This one is treating the patient like a subject to be dealt with rather than a human being. Is this just a small window of a larger issue in society? That people don't take the time to make connections with each other as human beings?

OK Preti's point (see comments) is well taken that in an exam setting I should give them slack for the nervous unnatural setting that they are in... I'm very sorry---

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Super Space Cadet Days

I have a constant deer in the headlights look. I can't hear anything anyone says- it swirls around in front of me and I catch bits and pieces of the conversation. It's like having superactive ADHD and to be floating on air at the same time. It's a general sencse of heightened energy. The twinkle in my eyes is a raging fire of deviousness as I prepare to embark on this next chapter of life.

I'm about to officially jump off the cliff into the unknown world of earth wandering- something I've dreamed of doing for years. Finally it's the moment in time for it. A whirlwind of energy rushes through my body day and night as I prepare to experience life with only a small green pack on my back and my open eyes and mind as my travel companions.

Making reservations for my arrival in Bangkok was unlike any previous trip planning I've done. Rather than a sense of urgency - how to see as much as possible and waste no time- I have a sense of leisure about my travels. It's not a temporary escape from work this time. It's my personal study in cultures and people. I've been longing to return to school for a while. This time I've enrolled full time in the school of life, next may be a Master's in Public Health, but I can't commit to anything, only what I am doing in this moment.

Today I drove to work at our satellite campus then gave Ursula a ride back to the Olympic Pool, not before attempting to plow down three students in the parking lot (unsuccessfully). I drove straight from work to show the car to a few Canadian boys. I'd posted my car for sale yesterday. Within 24 hours, I was walking home with an envelope of cash and a few less keys. Simplification is happening once again. It is good.

There's a factor of fear in setting off on this adventure, which I can talk myself through without much effort. The openness of life is actually a feeling of great peace.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

News Update

This will go down as one of the most exciting weeks in a while.

Ran marathon. Wasn't sore.

Bought ticket to Thailand (finally) leaving 25 November. Plan to spend Christmas and New Years with a friend in Taiwan.

New president elected in the USA.

Went out one or two times each night...

Somewhere in here I have to pack up all my things. I'd had grandiose ideas of getting it all back into my two duffel bags, but I've allotted myself one extra backpack. I plan to store it in NZ and fly off to SE Asia with just my small green waterproof backpack.

Next week is the last week at work here. I finish officially on 14 November.

The following week, I'll be camping for a few days, then will have about five days to prepare myself before I fly off.

Tonight I'm headed to the Nutcracker with Ursula.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Our Brown President

I've got my permagrin on today. I'm so proud to be an American. Proud that we've selected a different type of leader and shown the world that we're an adapable culture and we're not to be written off yet. The years of American influence are not over. We can still be a role model to the world. We can still aspire to greatness. It is within each of us.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Finished! :)

Despite sudden head cold/sinus infection and forecasts of horrible weather (which turned out to be false), I made it through. I enjoyed the first 21KMs, but shortly after the half-marathoners departed the course (like 90% of the people left, I swear!) my left knee started making little pains, which I worked through okay by stretching and walking through the drink stations. The last 6-8KM were quite horrible. I thought I was going to throw up or crap my pants, but luckily neither happened!

I'd chosen to run the Auckland marathon as a personal goal to achieve, but it also coincided with the day my dad died, twenty-five years ago. I knew that would give me a little more motivation to actually pull it off this time. This one's for you, dad, wherever you are...