Ode to Judes

Ode to Judes

1503812_10203498881819678_527266679_n

Dear Mom,

Today marks 11 years since you left this realm. So many little things remind me of you. I miss you mom. I am forever grateful for what you taught me by just being yourself. I try to emulate your teachings:

  • being kind to everyone
  • loving all animals, especially dogs
  • making the ordinary special
  • not passing judgement
  • keeping a clean and tidy house
  • welcoming my friends
  • delighting in taking care of flowers and the garden
  • doubling over in laughter at our stories
  • letting me be me
  • always making time to care for your children
  • knowing how my relationships would turn out before I would
  • smiling sincerely
  • having a positive disposition
  • understanding that I was safe, happy, and at home in Thailand
  • trying to make the world a little bit nicer place
  • letting us know how much you loved us
  • our long telephone conversations form all over the world
  • understanding that ‘I march to the beat of a different drummer’ even though you didn’t always like it, you supported my decisions
  • encouraging me to be a teacher
  • seeing the beauty in things even when you were sick
  • patience
  • gratitude
  • love

Words cannot express how grateful I am for the love you gave to me. The best way to show you how much I love you is to be the person you knew I could be and live by your examples.

Love, Bethy

Justice vs Forgiveness

Justice vs Forgiveness

I recently attended a women’s circle in Chiang Mai at Wild Rose where we drew questions revolving around a theme. One of the questions I drew was: ‘What is more important, justice or forgiveness?’

Which one is it justice or forgiveness? Not the horrible injustices in the world, but the day to day ones we all feel. When someone has ‘wronged’ us, so often we want retribution. We’re angry. We want vindication. I realized that I’ve wanted that. Then I thought about it with a little more compassion.

I have been focusing on wise speech, and had shared this with my students:

Just think about it

Just think about it

It felt hypocritical to ask this of them, and yet, not live up to it myself. I’d said some things out of anger that didn’t make me feel good on the inside. I needed to let go of anger.

What we don’t always realize is that hanging on to anger keeps us away from joy.

A few days later, Phra Ajarn Jayasaro gave a dhamma talk at Panyaden about anger. He explained that anger is frustrated desire. He continued by saying, “Anger can only arise through a lack of understanding of the way things are.” In anger we deliberately turn away from some elements of truth.

I am paraphrasing some of what Ajarn Jayasaro said here: Every time we act on an angry impulse, we feed that anger. Every indulgence makes it more a part of us. We can’t just decide not to be angry, but we can decide not to abuse physically or verbally. We need to feed mindfulness. If we’re mindful, irritation gets nipped in the bud. If we consciously decide to use metta (loving kindness), that is what will grow.

His dhamma talk is available here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZdXd–FRjSA

Seeing things the way they are isn’t always easy. Meditation helps, but it takes so much practice. We all make mistakes.

I just started reading a book called, Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline by Becky A. Bailey. She wrote, “Each moment is as it is because the entire universe is as it is. When you struggle against the moment…you are struggling against the universe. No wonder you feel tired!” 

I was tired. It is now time to try and see things as they are. 

The antidote to anger is love and metta. The more I focus on being loving, the more I feel loved. We get more of what we focus on.

I was pondering this while riding my bike home and stopped to take this picture. What do you notice? Where is your focus? The palm trees? The cloudy sky? The wires? The elephant? The tree with the orange blossoms?  Whatever you notice, how does it make you feel?

You get more of what you focus on

You get more of what you focus on

So, is it justice or forgiveness? For me, it’s forgiveness. Forgive others for the mistakes they’ve made. Forgive yourself for the mistakes you’ve made. Forgive and let it go.

Nothing like a little Chiang Mai graffiti to remind us what's most important: All your need is love.

Nothing like a little Chiang Mai graffiti to remind us what’s most important: All your need is love 

Forgiveness is a step toward love.

“Love is stronger than justice, love is thicker than blood. Love, love, love is stronger than justice, love is a big fat river in flood.” – Sting

It’s the Little Things That Make Me Smile…Like Purple Dogs สุนัขสีม่วง

It’s the Little Things That Make Me Smile…Like Purple Dogs สุนัขสีม่วง

That’s right, purple dogs. Are they purple because the owner is feeling festive? No. In Thailand there are street dogs everywhere. They are referred to as soi dogs because the alley-like streets in Thailand are called sois. Who takes care of these dogs? Well, many Thai people will feed these dogs on a regular basis, but otherwise they’re on the street.

Purple soi dog in action on the soi near my house

Purple soi dog in action on the soi near my house

So, why are they purple? The color is from a medication that people put on the dogs for mange. Since there are so many soi dogs, there are also a lot of mangy dogs. Mange is a skin disease caused in some mammals (not humans) by mites. It’s very itchy and makes them lose fur.

This little guy I met in Burma, was so cute and friendly, but he already had some mange on his head

This poor little guy I met in Burma was so cute and friendly, but he already had some mange on his head. I don’t know if they use the purple medicine there.

Sometimes if people don’t want dogs, they take them to the local temple to be looked after there. I want to adopt one from a temple or a dog shelter.

Here a woman is applying the purple mange medicine to some dogs at Wat Chang Man.

Here a kind woman is applying the purple mange medicine to some dogs at Wat Chang Man.

Dogs in clothes at Wat Chang Man - some with purple on them.

Dogs in clothes at Wat Chang Man – some with purple on them

Slightly purple dog in clothes

Slightly purple dog in clothes

I spotted this guy on my local soi while riding my bicycle

I spotted this guy on my local soi while riding my bicycle

He walked over toward me and neither of us was sure what to make of each other

He walked over toward me, but neither one of us was sure what to make of each other. He obviously had an owner based on the amount of purple on him.

In the end he seemed friendly enough, and as interested in me as I was him.

In the end he seemed friendly enough, though I wasn’t 100% sure. He very interested in why I was taking pictures of him.

The only reason I haven’t adopted a dog yet is because I’m at work all day and the dog would be left alone. Now having a housemate who likes dogs with a different schedule from mine, there may be a dog in the not so far away future. Maybe soon I can have my very own purple dog! Two of my favorite things in one: dogs and the color purple.

Visaka Bucha Day วันวิสาขบูชา

Visaka Bucha Day วันวิสาขบูชา

Visaka Bucha Day celebrates the birth, enlightenment and passing away of the Buddha. It is said that all three events happened on the same day of the year – the full moon day of the sixth Indian lunar month of Visaka. This year it was celebrated on June 1.

Going to wian tian at Wat Chedi Luang

Going to wian tian at Wat Chedi Luang with my lotus flower, candle, and three sticks of incense.

If the idea of these three events happening on the same day sounds like a mythological mystery, try looking at it from a different point of view.

One of my students asked the monk Phra Ajarn Jiew why they were on the same day. His answer was enlightening. He explained that the Buddha was born as a man – Siddhartha. When he became a Buddha, it was like the birthday of the Buddha. When he reached enlightenment, it was like reaching nibbana, which is the ultimate state passing from one lifetime to the next. All three on the same day.

 

On the evening of Visaka Bucha I joined other Buddhists walking around the main shrine of Wat Chedi Luang three times, in honor of the triple gem of Buddhism: the Buddha, his teachings (dhamma), and the community of followers (sangha). This circumambulation is called wian tian.

Full moon and Wat Chedi Luang

Full moon and Wat Chedi Luang

Lighting the candles and incense and giving the flower offerings after wian tian.

Lighting the candles and incense and giving the flower offerings after wian tian.

The full moon and big tree at Wat Chedi Luang

The full moon and big tree at Wat Chedi Luang

Wat Chedi Luang is significant to me because it’s where I celebrated my birthday 15 years ago by lighting off a komloy (paper lantern). It’s one of the oldest temples in Chiang Mai and there is something definitively sacred about it.

Meanwhile, next door at Wat Phan Tao this magical scene unfolded.

Meanwhile, next door at Wat Phantao this magical scene unfolded.

At Wat Phantao a group of young monks sitting in meditation with candles lit on the water and all around them. (Sorry for the blurry pictures – they were taken with my iPod)

Beautiful!

Beautiful!

12 These pictures don’t really capture the magnificence…so let’s try a little video. So appreciative that I got to experience this celebration.

So appreciative that I got to experience this celebration. mo

Daily Bits of Joy ประจำวันปิติ

Daily Bits of Joy ประจำวันปิติ

Living in Chiang Mai gives me a dose of elation on a daily basis. In the morning, this is the beauty I see:

This tree greets me everyday as I walk into school.

This tree greets me everyday as I walk into work at Panyaden School.

Walking to the office includes bananas and Bodhi trees.

On my way to the office includes bananas and Bodhi trees.

My new classroom

My new classroom

The beginning of the rainy season viewed from my classroom. Ahh, a relief from the heat.

The beginning of the rainy season viewed from my classroom. Ahh, a relief from the heat.

Jubilant children running through puddles.

Jubilant children running through puddles.

Blooming lotus in my backyard. บัวบาน

Blooming lotus in my backyard. บัวบาน

Buddha image delighting in the lotus

Buddha image delighting in the lotus

All of nature reminding us to be mindful of each moment. Everything is temporary. Notice beauty.

ดอกบัว

ดอกบัว

Road Trip to Chiang Rai – The White Temple เชียงราย – วัดร่องขุ่น

Road Trip to Chiang Rai – The White Temple เชียงราย – วัดร่องขุ่น

Four-day weekends are not common in Thailand, but are a perfect reason for a road trip. Why not Chiang Rai?

Chiang Mai is hot this time of year, so it was a good time to get away.

Chiang Mai is hot this time of year, so it was a good time to get away.

We were headed to the White Temple or วัดร่องขุ่น, but would stop along the way if we saw something interesting…

We were quite surprised to see Chiangraiwinery.

… and to our surprise stumbled upon Chiangraiwinery. Yes, one word. There aren’t spaces between Thai words. We couldn’t have a tour, but we did have a tasting.

It looks like red and white wine...

It looks like red and white wine…

...but is actually made from lychee, pomegranate, mangosteen, and some Thai herb.

…but is actually made from lychee, pomegranate, mangosteen, and some Thai herbs.

Not being a fan of sweet wines, they weren't for me, though they were better than I thought they'd be.

Not being a fan of sweet wines, they weren’t for me, though they were better than I thought they’d be. Yuki liked the sweet Thai herbal one, Marco preferred the lychee, I enjoyed the mangosteen, and Kozue was driving so didn’t try any.

It's in a picturesque spot, and well worth the stop.

Chiang Rai Winery is in a picturesque spot, and well worth the stop.

Next stop…

Next stop, the White Temple

The White Temple

Chalermchai Kositpipat or เฉลิมชัย โฆษิตพิพัฒน์ is the extremely prolific designer of the White Temple.

While Buddhist imagery is the main theme...

While Buddhist imagery is the main theme…

...there is also imagery dealing with death.

…there is also imagery dealing with death.

Part of the temple was damaged in an eathquake that struck last in May 2014.

Part of the temple was damaged in an earthquake that struck in May 2014, though most is still completely intact.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Thai astrological animals

Thai astrological animals

Tree of offerings

Tree of offerings

While most of its imagery is white and tiny mirrors...

While most of the buildings are white and silver with tiny mirrors…

...some is gold, like this wishing well

…some parts are gold, like this wishing well…

...and the elaborate golden building for the toilets.

…and the elaborate golden building for the toilets.

Yuki and Marco as "Woman and Man"

Yuki and Marco as “Woman and Man”

Hollywood?

Hollywood?

Life

Life

Death

Death

A bit of both

Both

Chalermchai Kositpipat and Marco

Life sized Chalermchai Kositpipat and Marco

Kozue and bell

Kozue and bell

Yuki and reminders of death

Yuki and reminders of death

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

My favourite anti-smoking sculpture...

I loved the anti-smoking sculpture

scary

scary

Wat style no smoking sign

Thai wat style no smoking sign

Not sure why umbrellas aren't allowed

Not sure why umbrellas aren’t allowed

Although the outside was truly amazing, I also thoroughly enjoyed seeing Chalermchai Kositpipat’s art in the museum on the grounds. No cameras are allowed, so here are a few pictures of post cards of the paintings:

IMG_4674

IMG_4675

IMG_4673

Glad we visitied

Glad we visited

See you later sparkly White Temple

See you later sparkly White Temple

See you later sparkly White Temple

 

 

Athens, Greece. Bhaktapur, Nepal. Goddesses and Perseverance of Spirit

Athens, Greece. Bhaktapur, Nepal. Goddesses and Perseverance of Spirit

Having just visited Greece, people asked if it was noticeable that the country is in a financial crisis. On the islands and in the villages life appeared to be the same as it has probably been for hundreds of years, but in Athens things were different.

Athens was named after the goddess Athena. Civilizations have lived there for more than 3000 years. Here shows some of Athens’ ancient past and how it’s survived:

The Parthenon, in the Acropolis

The Parthenon, in the Acropolis

Detail at the Acropolis

Detail of goddesses at the Acropolis

The Theatre of Dionysus at the Acropolis

The Theatre of Dionysus at the Acropolis

Ancient Greek

Ancient Greek inscribed in marble

The Acropolis was built in honor of Athena when Ancient Greece was a thriving civilization. Greece has gone through its ups and downs for several thousand years. As recently as 2004, Athens hosted the Olympics. Now Greece is deep in debt and can’t afford to pay it back. Despite having marble curbs on the street, and some nice neighborhoods like Plaka, Athens has other areas full of abandoned buildings. The thing that struck me most was the graffiti everywhere.

IMG_4371

At least some of it has a sense of humor

At least some graffiti has a sense of humor

That said, daily life in Athens goes on and looked more like this:

Olives at a local markt

Olives at a local market

Inside a Greek Orthodox church

Inside a Greek Orthodox church

Ancient buildings in a modern city

Ancient buildings in a modern city

Changing of the guard

Changing of the guard

The Acropolis up on the hillside

The under construction restoration of the Acropolis up on the hillside

Interesting graffiti

Interesting graffiti

Monastiraki Square

Monastiraki Square with the Acropolis looking down upon it

Street musicians at Monastiraki Square

Street musicians at Monastiraki Square

More graffiti

More graffiti in an abandoned building

Roasted peppers, pita, taramotsalata, salad, saganaki, souvlaki, Fix beer, and a little bit of lemon

Roasted peppers, pita, taramotsalata, salad, saganaki, souvlaki, Fix beer, and some lemon

Sheep heads.  10 year old Julian said he didn't want to eat these because he didn't want to think like a sheep.

Roasted sheep heads.
10 year old Julian said he didn’t want to eat these because he didn’t want to think like a sheep. I don’t blame him. I didn’t want to either.

Airing out the tanks on a rainy Greek Independence Day - March 25, 2015.

Airing out the tanks on a rainy Greek Independence Day – March 25, 2015.

On the way up to the Acropolis I noticed these caterpillars.

On the way up to the Acropolis I noticed these caterpillars doing something interesting…

They formed together for safety and made themselves look like a snake.

They formed together and made themselves look like a snake to fool would be predators

Athena is the goddess of wisdom, courage, inspiration, civilization, law and justice, strength, and the arts. In spite of the current financial crisis in Greece, with the aforementioned goddess power at its back, and 3000+ years of history, the beautiful country and its hospitable people will survive.

 

Flying over the Himalayas

Flying over the Himalayas

On my recent flight from Chiang Mai to Athens, I took in this view of the Himalayas and was reminded of my trip to Nepal 15 years ago.

In October 2000, I landed in Kathmandu at midnight and was met at the airport by my dear friends Megan and Jeremy (the same friends who I was just with in Greece). We headed directly to Bhaktapur where we stayed for a week before going to Pokhara for our trek on the Annapurna Circuit.

In Bhaktapur, I have the distinct memory of waking up the morning after I arrived and looking out my guest house window. It felt like being in a living museum. The women were doing their morning puja in vibrant saris, amongst the ancient temples – it was awe inspiring.

Bhaktapur is an ancient city, that was founded in the 1200s, and is full of beautiful old temples. The three of us wandered around that small city and ate ‘king curd’ at the rooftop cafes in Durbar Square, while watching the local people prepare for the Dashain Festival.

The Dashain festival is celebrated for 15 days in September-October all over Nepal to honor the goddess Durga. She is worshiped with offerings, pujas, and many animal sacrifices – from which the blood bathes her statues everywhere. Durga has many manifestations, and her name can be translated as ‘the one who eliminates sufferings’. 

My pictures from that time were taken with film, not a digital camera, so I cannot show you the vibrant images that are forever etched in my mind. Bhaktapur, Nepal is a UNESCO World Heritage site, so there are loads of pictures online. It is one of my favourite places I’ve ever visited.

This is more or less how I remember Bhaktapur. Image from google images.

This is more or less how I remember Bhaktapur. Image from google images.

On April 25, 2015 Nepal was struck by a 7.9 earthquake.

And now...

And now…this is some of the damage in the Kathmandu Valley.

According to the BBC, “In Bhaktapur, which had been the country’s best preserved old city, initial reports claim half of all buildings have been destroyed and 80% of temples damaged.”

Thousands of people have died, or are homeless. It’s unimaginably tragic. Then I read that in 1934 there had been an earthquake there that had destroyed a third of the temples. Bhaktapur was still incredible in 2000, perhaps all is not lost.

Nepal has the goddesses Durga ‘the one who eliminates sufferings’, and Annapurna, which means ‘full of food’ in Sanskrit, watching over her. Nepal and its kindhearted people will survive, but now they need help. 

I thought about those caterpillars that formed together to make themselves appear to be a snake for protection. When people, or animals, group together, they can gain strength, support, and safety. Now is the time to join together and support Nepal.

Click to find organizations of where to donate. Click Charity Navigator: Your Guide to Intelligent Giving to check out those organizations.

I will be forever grateful to the kindness of strangers I have met on my travels around the globe. It’s time for me to take action and give back to the country whose acrostic is:

NeverIMG_4527

Ending

Peace

And

Love

Itty Bitty Frogs and Toads

Itty Bitty Frogs and Toads

After the smoky and hot season in Chiang Mai comes to an end each year, starts the magic of the rainy season. While those who ride motorbikes might find it slightly inconvenient, we all love how it cools things down. That said, my favourite part is that the frogs and toads begin their nighttime serenade.

This is my backyard:

backyard from the second floor porch

View of the backyard from the second floor porch

View of the backyard from the guest room

View of the backyard from the guest room

Right outside the kitchen lies...

Right outside the kitchen lies…

...the fish pond

…the fish pond. I mean, the fish and tadpole pond

This fish pond is actually home to hundreds, possibly thousands, of tadpoles. This time of year they start turning into the tiniest frogs and toads imaginable.

Here is a frog next to a one baht coin. This coin is somewhere between the size of a penny and dime or  about the size of a two cent Euro coin. This means it's small...

Here is a frog next to a one baht coin. This coin is somewhere between the size of a penny and dime, or about the size of a two cent Euro coin. This means it’s small. Very very small.

...so that gives you an idea how very miniature these little toads are.

That gives you an idea how very miniature these little toads are.

When I water the plants in my garden, I fear stepping on them as they are smaller than houseflies. Usually, they let me know they’re there and hop away. I’m pretty sure they are prey for the fish in my pond.

It’s funny to say it, especially after living in Portland, Oregon, but I welcome the rain. Ahh, cooler temperatures (this means going from highs being around 40C {104F} to highs around 34C {93F}. It also means seeing and hearing the baby frogs and toads.

Today, while I was at school, one of my students showed me a frog hanging out in a drain. She knew I would appreciate it. Anyone who grew up with me could tell you that frogs are one of my very favourite animals. I’m so glad I get to see and hear them on a daily basis.

The delights of living in the tropics. The wind is starting to blow and I hear some thunder in the distance right now…singing frogs are not far behind.

A New Version of Sheep Dog

A New Version of Sheep Dog

On my penultimate day in Greece, after the farming was done, I took a long walk around the island of Lipsi with my fellow WWOOFer Laura Rose.

In Greece there are plenty of sheep and goats. Most of the time when you approach them they run away. Much to my surprise, this little guy came running toward me.

The sheep that just wanted a little love

The sheep that just wanted a little love

She seemed to want some attention, so I stuck my hand through the fence and started to pet her. She loved it!

Sheepy love

Sheepy love

She didn’t want to leave, and neither did I. She was so soft and loved the attention. It was my own personal petting zoo. Did this sheep know that by being a vegetarian I supposedly spared another sheep its life?

This is basically how it went down – this sheep seemed to be a dog.

I need to get either a sheep or a dog soon.

WWOOFing in Lovely Lipsi – Working on an Organic Farm in Greece

WWOOFing in Lovely Lipsi – Working on an Organic Farm in Greece

After a few weeks on holiday in Greece, it was time to get down and dirty on the farm. When I told someone I went WWOOFing (Willing Workers On Organic Farms) over my holiday, the response was, “I did that when I was about 20.” I ignored this comment because I love getting my hands in the dirt especially when it doesn’t involve any nasty herbicides or pesticides. It feels good to grow your own food no matter what your age.

This was the little farm where I worked weeding the vineyard.

This was the little farm where I worked weeding the vineyard.

I WWOOFed at Dmitris Farm on Lipsi Island in Greece. The island is home to about 700 inhabitants and in the low season in April, the WWOOFers on this farm are about the only non-residents.

When I arrived it was bright and sunny, but still cold.

When I arrived it was bright and sunny, but still cold.

7/4 – Arriving in Lipsi

The ferry to Lipsi was quite uppy downy. Upon arrival I felt a bit nauseous and woozy when Kostas met me a the pier. “Elizabeth? Kostas,” in a perfect midwestern American accent, “I spent many years in the states.” I boarded the back of the motorbike with my big backpack and we were off the the farm.

The island is full of small vineyards

The island is full of small vineyards

This beach was about 200 meters from the farm

This beach was about 200 meters from the farm

Lipsi is a very tiny island, only 8 kilometers in length. We drove through the little port town, then past goats, sheep, vineyards, and olive trees with an occasional coastal view. We were to the house in about 4 minutes. At the house in the small basic kitchen were two other WWOOFers, both Canadian, named Monica and Laura. They were eating a stir fry lunch and Kostas made pasta for my not-quite-off-the-boat and hungry self.

Preparing dinner with Monica and Laura Rose

Preparing dinner with Monica and Laura Rose

This needed weeding

This needed weeding

Kostas showed us that we’d be using sickles to cut the knee-high grass around the vines. We had to do it by hand because the buds on the 200 year-old vines are very delicate and if we knocked them off, the vine won’t produce grapes. After eating, I joined the women working for about 2 hours in the afternoon. It was sunny and pleasant, but not warm. They wanted to go swimming. Gotta love Canadians. I humoured myself and put on my bathing suit under my clothes anyway. We walked the three minutes it took to get to the gorgeous beach with its pellucid waters. Rocks, not sand made up the shore. Both girls swam, but upon dipping my foot in to the frigid water, I stayed out.

I thought it was cold, and the Canadians went swimming.

I thought it was cold, and the Canadians went swimming.

After the swim we walked about 25 minutes to the town. Not a whole lot was going on there. The bakery is the happening place to be in Lipsi, and its free wifi was useful, as there was none at the house. The sun doesn’t set until about 7:30 in April – a bit discombobulating for my early sunset equatorial lifestyle.

Monica, a 26 year-old nurse who lives in a farmhouse in Nova Scotia, was curious about Buddhism. She asked me questions for me and listened intently to my experiences with Buddhism in Thailand. Her sense of humor and openness was very endearing.

We headed back to the farm where we were instructed to pick some wild dandelion greens called horta to be boiled along with the fish and lentils for dinner. I realise more and more that I am suited to being a vegetarian; I just couldn’t clean the fish guts.

After dinner we drank beers and played cards. Monica’s sense of humor, Kostas’ gruffness and chain smoking, and Laura’s one-liners provided plenty of entertainment for the evening.

Lovely Lipsi

Lovely Lipsi

8/4 – WWOOFing in the Vineyard

The next morning at 7 we made coffee, hot water and fresh from the tree lemon, and ate muesli before going to sickle the weeds in the vineyards. We worked all morning, made lunch and then went back to the field again. We stopped around 3:30. Clouds hung in the sky throughout the day with a slight chill in the air, which made pleasant working temperatures. It began to rain as I went to gather more wild greens. After dinner I was sad to see Monica leave on her 11:55pm ferry. My arms were sore, but I felt as if I’d done a hard day’s work.

One of many vines weeded

One of many vines weeded

9/4 – The Day Greece Supposedly Runs Out of Money and also Holy Thursday.

After a restless sleep, I went to work with Kostas at 8am weeding a garden. It was so full of weeds it was difficult to see where the garden was. After several hours it looked significantly better, but it was testament to how much work a farm is. While weeding, I was accompanied by the soundtrack of goat bells in the distance.

I also helped Kostas decant olive oil from a barrel and washed brined olives of their muck. My hands were delightfully oily afterwards. The wind was picking up and the temperature dropping. I made a delicious pasta lunch with the olives and lemons fresh oregano and tomato sauce. 

Kostas and his Greek friend with an Australian accent had loads of stereotypical questions about Thailand: sex tourism, eating snakes and insects, is it like Chinese? etc. It was disappointing to hear that these are the things some people perceive about Thailand.

We tilled, raked, weeded and sowed a field of potatoes and onions. It was beginning to rain and the wind was blowing like mad. It must have been about 10 degrees, but felt like about 0 to my sensitive tropical living self. I put on all my warm clothes. I read in bed under many blankets in the unheated house while listening to a static-filled radio broadcast of Greek Orthodox chanting for Holy Thursday. Kostas talked about going to the neighboring island Patmos for our day off on Good Friday, but we found out the boats wouldn’t be leaving because of the winds. 

Windy but gorgeous

Windy but gorgeous

10/4 – Still Crazy Winds and Cold on the Good Friday Day Off

I slept late (meaning 8:30) because I just can’t handle these cold winds. Laura and took a long exploration of an amazingly beautiful small island. Let the pictures tell the story:

Nature is amazing

Nature is amazing

Goats and sheep-o-plenty

Goats and sheep-o-plenty

Not exactly sure what this means, except when it's at the end of a sentence.

Not exactly sure what this means, except when it’s at the end of a sentence.

The sheep I supposedly saved by being vegetarian.

The  black-faced sheep that I supposedly saved by being vegetarian. We called him Lucky.

Me too!

Me too!

11/4 – Windy Weeding

We cut grass by hand with a sickle, then weeded a stone garden on this sunny, windy and cold day. After farming I walked to the nearby beach.

At the beach I listened. The question: “What is my life supposed to be?” appeared. An answer followed: “Living without fear.” Outwardly it appears that I already do that for the most part, but do I? That gorgeous water at the beach made me think, as the sun beamed on my face while the chilly winds blew.

I walked home feeling content reflecting upon the fact that my life is in fact quite extraordinary. I have not followed the common path and I’m glad. Sometimes I wonder why I don’t have a partner, but then I see just how wonderful things are in the present moment. At times it appears that I am just a tumbling tumbleweed blowing wherever the wind blows. In retrospect, it’s clear that that isn’t the case.

What is my next chapter? Well goodness me, I sure hope there is a wonderful man involved. Perhaps there is a book in this life. It’s not the life for everyone, but it’s worthy of a ‘wow!’ Sometimes one has to pause and just say, “Wow, life is beautiful.”

After listening to the radio that plays Vangelis’ (a Greek) Chariots of Fire and then Play That Funky Music White Boy (for reasons I can’t quite comprehend), Laura and I walked to church in the freezing wind for Easter service at 11pm. Chaos reigned with dynamite blasting off. Inside everyone lit candles. One (at least one) girl’s hair caught on fire. The high heels, bright lipstick and very short skirts made me feel substantially underdressed, but it was so cold I just couldn’t worry about fashion. Although I didn’t understand it, it was an experience to be in Greek Orthodox church for Easter Sunday.

12/4 – Greek Easter

Laura and I had the day off. After a leisurely breakfast we took a long stroll to a picturesque  beach on the other side of the island. I just couldn’t get over the turquoise and sapphire watersOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMEAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA On the beach I was thinking that it is really my new year. It’s almost Thai new year (Songkran) and with this break, and a new school year about to start, it seems a good time to think about the future. Plans include getting away on the weekends more to local places.  I’d also like to go to Pun Pun and Panya Project to continue in the farming spirit back in Thailand.

We eventually arrived back in town where I had the best chocolate ice cream ever. After leaving the bakery, a couple asked us to come look at homemade products from their house. I bought some sweet lemon.

It had been a very quiet and peaceful Easter day. Just as my thoughts about Greek Easter being a festive occasion were starting to fade away, we spotted a lamb roast, loud music, and drinking party. They waved us in. Laura was hesitant, but I knew it would be a fun cultural experience. We were immediately handed Alfa beer and some lamb. I declined the lamb, so bottoms up!

Drinking Alfa and raki with the locals while avoiding the lamb carcass on Greek Easter

Drinking Alfa and raki with the locals while avoiding the lamb carcass on Greek Easter

The music was the blaring whiny fiddle type with gypsy vocals. A few people were dancing, but it didn’t last. We kept getting handed beer after beer and I kept drinking to avoid eating lamb. To be polite, I had one little bite of Laura’s lamb, which confirmed my vegetarianism. We watched the lamb carcass get devoured and everyone appeared to be having a good time. I drank about 3 1/2 beers in about the span of an hour. Eventually the raki (local moonshine) came out too. Definitely too much alcohol and not enough food for me, but the whole thing was hilarious.

13/4 – Weed the Vineyard in the Sunshine!

After a dream filled sleep, sunshine filled the sky. It was the first day without high winds, and we continued weeding the garden. For lunch, I did my best to make a Thai dish called pad phak boong using the horta and the giant beans from the garden. Surprisingly, there was fish sauce and even chilies at the house, so it worked okay. I had to include a khai dao (fried egg) on top. Although Greek food is delicious, I am starting to miss Thai food. After lunch, I walked to our local beach and read Jitterbug Perfume and thought about how to conduct my life over the next year, and how not to repeat patterns that no longer serve me. 

14/4 – Feeling Energetic and Overdoing It

I woke up after delightful dreams feeling strong, and began swinging the mattock with gusto for weeding from around the vines. It completely wore me out.

guerrila weeding

guerrila weeding

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Laura and I had delicious lunch in town at Manoli’s Tastes – the best meal I had in Greece, and Manoli is a nice guy. At night, Laura and I ‘laughed and toasted to nothing and smashed our empty glasses down’…only quoting Joni Mitchell. (‘Met a redneck on a Grecian isle who did the goat dance very well…’)

15/4 – Feeling Achy from my Bad Ass Gardening Yesterday

My arms were sore after my vigorous weed whacking. Laura and I sang Joni Mitchell and Aretha Franklin while weeding in the grapevines along with the new WWOOFer. After lunch Laura and I invented ‘cheesefakes’  a digestive biscuit and Greek yogurt.

Laura weeding with the attention seeking cat

Laura weeding with the attention seeking cat

We hiked off to the far beach. On the way there a little lamb came running up to me. He was like a dog and wanted me to pet him. The walk was stunning.

Lipsi...

Lipsi…

Insanely gorgeous!

Insanely gorgeous!

Goats too

Goats

donkeys

donkeys

sensational views in every direction

sensational views in every direction

I definitely considered it

I definitely considered it

Sunset over the town

Sunset over the town

Beautiful

Beautiful

Upon arriving home, we found that Kostas had dipped into the wine and had also prepared a smorgasbord of dinner for us. Kostas said goodbye, but indicated that he’d take me to the port. He didn’t. At 11:20pm, thankfully the new WWOOFer walked the 25 minutes in the dark to the port with me. The boat was pulling up as we got there. Whew! Bye bye beautiful Lipsi. Hope to visit you again in the harvest season.

Lovely Lipsi

Lovely Lipsi