Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Waiting to connect

I have always been terrible about writing and that's why blogging has always been difficult for me. I would much rather spend my time reading, who wants to read about my life anyway, why take the time to write it out? And I agonize over writing, making sure I choose the right words. Am in the correct tense? Wondering if I sound too passive.... I also want order to things, making sure I cover certain topics in the correct order that they occurred. Well, today I am saying screw that! This is all in an effort to make sure I write again, period, because according to my mental calendar I should have written at least three other entries by now and this one isn't even on the books. So, let's go!

Eight hundred and eight. That's how many miles I drove on Monday, August 23rd. According to google maps the drive should have taken me 13 hours and 26 minutes. I think I hit that somewhere in there. My destination was Camden, NJ. According to Wikipedia, Camden suffers from urban dysfunction. I like how that is put, it makes it sound more pleasant. Granted I really don't think Camden is as scary as everyone who I know from Philly makes it sound, but the city is not a bustling center of growth. There are people who do not do anything all day except sit on our front steps (well they aren't suppose to). When I feel lead, I am suppose to ask them to please find some where else to sit.

As I keep that in mind, I have moved onto other things, like combating the resident mice population. Right now there is debate on how many there are, but I am convinced that this is the last one! My project of completely cleaning and organizing the kitchen is almost done and I hope that this sends a message that mice are no longer welcome! The kitchen is just the start of what I hope becomes a whole sweep of cleaning and throwing out things in the house. It's hard when dozens and dozens of people have come and gone through those doors the past seven years.

Why did I move to Camden? The obvious reason is for school, I am sure as time unfolds there maybe other reasons that reveal themselves. Oh and school starts tomorrow. It still feels very imaginary (just like getting on a plane to HI was a month ago). I am sure it will begin to feel very real very soon... I will be attending Rutgers University and pursuing a Masters in Public Administration focusing on International Development. I will end my year of classes in the Peace Corps. So there you have it folks...the next three years of my life as far as I can see it, but for right now I am going to help water the empty lot next door. When I was here in June we planted flowers in it to make it look nicer. Then I am going to run over (yes really RUN) to my first yoga class at my new studio - Yogawood. Wish me luck and positive thoughts!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Hawaii in Review

Well, I've been back from Hawaii for over a week now and I just finished compiling my pictures from the camera and iPhone. I have a couple hundred and unfortunately not all of them are located on the Internet for viewing, but here are a few sites where you can find the ones I have posted:

My Flickr


Though I was there during a 30% drought you would have fooled me! I still cannot get over how lush and green the landscape was and almost every night it rained like crazy. I guess Hawaii is used to even more rain. I am a little glad that it held off during my visit. I love the fact that I could walk out and eat avocados, pineapples, papayas, mangoes and bananas from the surrounding gardens. The lettuce for the salads I ate were also from the nearby gardens.

found Polestar through WWOOF - World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. I was excited to do some farming again and Katherine was interested in the yoga aspect of the community. When you WWOOF, you agree to work in exchange for a place to stay and maybe a few other things depending on the farm. All of the meals at Polestar are included for a minimal cost and there are a handful of sights to see nearby for entertainment and exploration. Let's just say that the "farming" was not as intensive as the farming I had done at Arugula's Star, more like gardening. Mainly I made sure the greenhouse was well watered and then there was a lot of weeding to do, specifically near some pineapples and in the lower vegetable garden.

On Wednesday nights we would have a community kirtan, a time of chanting and song. I went to two different kitans while I was there and the service reminded me of church, a time for worship and meditation. The kirtans hosted at Polestar are always followed by a community potluck, it's a great time to meet other people who live on the island.

Swimming was almost a daily activity. After my first full day of work, I was introduced to the warm ponds, which were heated from beneath the ground by volcanic activity. This swimming hole was a popular place for locals to unwind at the end of the day. One of the most picturesque swimming areas was called champagne ponds. A wonderful lady named Radiance, took Katherine and I to these ponds, along with her dog. You can never get enough swimming in Hawaii.

I also got to visit Volcano National State Park. At the park you could see the volcano that produces lava which still flows beneath the island's surface. As I walked along the trail I could see steam rising from cracks in the ground. The trail leads towards a preserved lava tube. This was a tunnel in the ground that the lava originally traveled through. The tube is cave-like, but it is also tall and I could not imagine that at one point the whole space had been filled with quick flowing lava. I was able to go closer to one of the larger volcanic openings and stand in one of the steam vents. It was so hot that I could only stand there for a few seconds. It felt like being in the sauna at the gym but smelled of earth and sulfur.

The highlight of my Hawaii experience was our early morning hike to see the lava flow. The hike was early enough to see the sunrise, which was beautiful! I got some great pictures. I could see the steam rising from the ocean water as I moved nearer and nearer. The lava was flowing underground and breaking out right near the water's surface. Since the lava was so HOT and the water was cold, a large amount of steam was created when the lava hit the water. Being that close to lava made me realize how much power and wonder there is in the earth. It started misting rain as we were heading back and a rainbow formed, which provided another picture taking opportunity.

Every weekend we would go to various markets. There was one called Space, which was run by acrobatic performers. Hilo also had a big farmer and craft market on Saturdays. In the end I think I made three visits to the one in Pahoa. All the markets had fresh produce, prepared food and handmade collectibles. My favorite vendor was Filthy Farmgirl Soap.

There were still so many adventures, from snorkeling, biking into town, hitch hiking after dark, and cliff diving. My last afternoon I finally caught a glimpse of a sea turtle which was one thing I was still hoping to do.

I loved my time in Hawaii and had a hard time leaving. I hope to make it back one day and see other islands. I am thankful for all the wonderful people I met and how well we functioned as a group. I say good-bye to Hawaii until another time and hello to Camden, NJ where my future awaits!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Cast of Characters

Polestar is a communal living experience, which means every one living and visiting Polestar lives in the same general area. Right now there is an anomaly due to the fact that there are many more people here than they normally have visiting at one time and it's all very random. There are ten of us who are visiting and throw in the ones who live here year round and our number is fifteen! Normally at any other time there may be only three to four people visiting. About half of the visitors are staying for a month and the rest of us for two weeks. Also, no one new is coming for about two weeks, so the group of people that are here is a unique preserved group, getting to experience each other on a much fuller level.

Not only do we live in close quarters, but we also eat every meal together and most mornings we work on a group project together. For example, this morning we worked on riding the land of some invasive plant life that is taking over the wooded area. There is also a rotating schedule of who cooks meals and cleans up after meals. All of these experiences will be good practice for my upcoming year of living in community.

At Polestar you can choose to sleep inside, there are two private rooms and one larger room that has four beds, or outside in covered tent rows. Katherine and I started inside, but we have now moved out to a large tent. I think we both wanted to mix in a little camp feeling to our stay. I am glad we moved out, it's a little more peaceful.

Here is a run down of just a few of the personalities here (names have been with-held):

The Renaissance Man: Call him "Captain" as he prefers, this man has done it all! We here at Polestar are trying to get him to tell us enough stories so we can write his biography. So far I've heard the story where he delivers his daughter's third child, waged war on the open sea as a captain of a ship and at one point worked as a fully licenced and practiced masseuse! I am sure there is much more to learn from his life. The Captain resides in his motor home wherever it takes him which is currently Phoenix.

The Pregnant Couple: This couple wins the award for most adorable, not only are they British, but they are also expecting. She is quite the cook and has made lunch for us twice so far (today was butternut squash soup) and he wears the best hats and has the greatest facial expressions. They both bring a light to the house and a giving nature that is beautiful to behold.

Medicine Man: He is our wise food health man, letting us know the benefits of eating whole foods and drinking water, which we all need to be reminded of on a daily basis. Macrobiotics is his game and let me tell you the night he cooked for us was amazing, a feast in fact. He works at a macrobiotic food clinic and is working towards starting his own health and food counseling business. In a former life he owned a few salons and did hair styling himself.

The Couple Who is Not Pregnant and is VERY Smart: He will be starting on his PhD at MIT (wow) and she just finished her Masters in Library Science. They are also a very cute and well-suited couple. I hope all the best for them as they start a new life outside of Boston, moving from Allentown, PA.

Book Cover: Do not judge him by his cover. At first you may not think he is the outdoors type, but you would be wrong. Traveling alone, he is a pioneer and now a machete welding fool, watch out! Just like the rest of us, he's chosen an a-typical way to take a break from normal life. He is the deep sea swimmer and has no fear when it comes to picking up things from the bottom of the ocean, such as a HUGE sea slug.

The Residents: What a band of individuals who call this place home...there is the Russian who is bubbly and has a deep love for flowing lava. She is here until she can figure out what she wants to do in life, which so far has almost been a year. Then there is the studious agriculturist, who I feel practically runs the place. He's putting down roots by starting community college here in two weeks. He also loves to cut the grass. One of the more long time residents reminds me of a nature loving Mary Poppins, guiding us along. She is also the master gardener here and a midwife. She helps to weave all of us together in harmony.

That is just a run down of a few of the people here and some of the things I have learned about them. I am sure there are more stories to come. With a crew like this how could there not be?

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Lessons Learned

This week I have learned how God provides for my daily need before I am even needy. It amazes me how I will read his word and then those are the words that sustain me through the day.

I am working through a book called Jesus Calling by Sarah Young, which was suggested to me by a friend. So far it's been great and I am so glad she pushed me to bring it on my trip! The book is broken up into small, daily devotionals. August 2nd, the day I traveled to Hawaii, the book talked about sacrificing time and taking the time to sit quietly in his presence. I have daily opportunities to do so on this trip and I have been taking advantage of those moments!

For you make him most blessed forever; you make him joyful with your presence. Psalm 21:6

Being here at Polestar, has given me the opportunity to see what my daily life can be like when it is centered upon Christ. Though the members here do not share my exact view on spirituality, I have relied on God to show me ways that I can still use the time given me to worship and honor him.

One magnificently huge lesson that I am reminded of this week and will continue to work through my entire life is the power that words posses. That next day, Jesus Calling spoke to that very situation.

There is one who speaks rashly like the thrusts of a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. Proverbs 12:18 and Ephesians 4:29

God reminds me of my daily, hourly need of him. All I can really do is say help, help me to speak less and when I do let it be words that glorify you and build up your children.

These are just a couple of the things that God has reminded me of these past few days. Here in Hawaii there is also the daily reminder of God's beauty in the earth and how he daily provides for the land and my physical needs. The land here is so gorgeous and awe inspiring. He provides daily rains which keeps the land lush and the fruits plenty. There is also great power in the fire of the lava and the heat that rises through the water. You can see the endless galaxies every night in the sky above.

Recently I have had the opportunity to see lava as it flows out from its heated center into the raging waves of the ocean. What a great experience, to feel the power and heat and watch the steam rise as the lava hits the waves. The power of the lava is amazing and frightening as the same time, just like the love of the Father. I have also walked to where the lava starts at the volcano. Though, the lava that is flowing now travels mostly underground towards the ocean, I jumped at the opportunity to go see the volcano where it all begins. There was a great amount of steam that was rising from the area. The steam was very warm and kinda smelled like ramen noodles. I've swam in the ocean three times now, in a heated pool, a crystal clear cove and at a calm entrance to a rough area of waves down the coast.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Flow

Namaste and aloha from Hilo, Hawaii! This is my second full day at Polestar and I am so glad that I followed Katherine here, really though she didn't have to twist my arm. Though not your normal vacation, coming to Polestar is right up my alley. It is a community house that is a spiritual and yoga retreat.

My days have been as follows:

Wake 5:45am

Yoga 6:00am: This takes place in the temple starting with energizing movements and breathing. Following that is yoga (not quite as vigorous as I look for but still good for early mornings) and the morning hour ends with meditation. I normally skip out of meditation half way through in order to run for 20 to 30 minutes. I plan on sitting through all of meditation at least one morning a week and maybe even two.

Breakfast 7:30am (vegetarian meals made by individuals on a rotating cooking shift)

Circle Time 8:10am: The conch sell is blown and we all gather in a circle in front of the house. We have a reading and a time of affirmation. Then tasks for the day are assigned. The past two days Katerine and I have worked outside in the gardens - watering and weeding. Working out in the soil really makes me feel at peace and just delight in my surroundings.

Meditation 12:15

Lunch 12:30: Normally after lunch people have free time till 2pm. I've spent this time reading in the hammock mostly. My first day I attempted to hike to the ocean and never made it because I didn't realize it was so far away. I did find alot of papaya groves and a few horse farms.

Free time 3:30pm: After 3:30 people are free to do what they would like. Today I did some more exercises and read and then showered.

Dinner 6:30pm: We eat our meals together and since there is an unusually high number of guests right now there are certain people who cook the various meals. Last night we went to the hot springs and had a cook out because it was some one's birthday. We ended the night with music and dancing. Every Wednesday night is community night. We had a church/meditation type service and then a potluck afterward. People from the community came and participated.

Bed time 9:30pm: By 9:30 most people are getting ready for bed and it becomes a time of quiet. Which everyone agrees to since our day starts so early.

This is the flow of the days here at Polestar, the format that I choose to live out as my vacation. I cannot wait to do the things that await us - the planetarium and lava hike. Katherine and I hope to bike into town maybe on Sunday.

I believe that the two weeks I will be spending here is just the right amount of time...a perfect time to learn new practices and change the pace of life that I have left. This is a time to prepare for the new pace of life that awaits me.