Saturday, May 31, 2008

topic from a meeting

picture by Ryan Sawhill

This evening I was reminded of one of my old beliefs, one that I had nurtured and stroked most of my life. I say old with a sense of hope...because I have found beliefs that I thought I had discarded somehow back in my mind and actions without ever seeing it return.

The belief is: that I cannot learn from others; their mistakes, experience, advice, etc...That I have to make the mistakes myself. This had always been my m.o., from the earliest time I can remember. Of course, as children there is a phase where we do this simply to form our own identity, to separate ourselves from our parents, and I definitely did that. Rebelliousness fit like a tailored suit, and the admonitions from others always came couched with an off-handed praise in my early years.

"Now you're very smart, but _______ is going to cause you problems if you keep it up."

A hundred different variations of that warning were hurled my way, starting in my elementary school days, and I rarely remember taking a single one seriously. I was constantly falling down, constantly running into walls. Repeatedly, as I look back now, exactly what others predicted would happen did-and I just continued right on with my attitude of disregard. This attitude was enforced by a firm sense of entitlement, a belief that the world owed me something, and so I found a thousand scapegoats for my actions and failures without ever fully recognizing the prophetic warnings that were constantly leveled at me.

By the time I was aware enough to see my behavior with some sort of honest (I use that term VERY loosely) self-appraisal. I came up with the above stated belief to explain it. I just couldn't learn from others. It was how I had always been. Just the way it was. Just the way I was. I even tried to justify it by saying that I was "questioning truths" and not just taking everything that was told me without finding out for myself. My mind was playing tricks on itself.

I gave so much credence to that belief, as I said I coddled it and nursed it, reinforced as it was by so many other people around me who said the same thing about themselves, that I was a little surprsied when one day it was challenged. Someone just said "Bull___. Quit using that as an excuse for your behavior and laziness."

Ouch. But he continued, pointing out countless instances in my life that showed me grasping a concept that I only vaguely had experienced for myself, based upon what other people had told me. "Do you know what that is called?" he asked me, hesitating as I screwed up my face and honestly tried to think of the answer. I couldn't, and he told me. "Maturity."

There is so much that could be said along this topic...but I am just postulating the idea, the mere possibility, that an idea such as "I have to experience it myself to learn/understand/believe it" is extremely self-limiting. And I found for myself that it was an extremely easy (because they don't always go quietly!) belief to discard.

I DO learn from others mistakes. I listen to what those who appear to have gone before me share. I try to limit my use of the expression "I know"---because I don't know. But today I am open to the possibility that somebody does know, and I like to look for that experience when facing my life.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Oh my...

(written in July 2007)

Paulo Coelho's Warrior of the Light - Twenty Years Later

Warrior Of Light
Issue n°151 - Twenty Years Later

Next week we commemorate Santiago de Compostela day (25th July). Last year, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of my first Santiago Walk, I made the pilgrimage again, by car, in the company of my wife.

I remember one afternoon sitting in a garden in Leon, looking at the river flowing by.

Beside me, Christina – my wife – is reading a book. Spring is beginning in Europe, so now we can put away our thick winter clothes. We have been traveling by car all these days, passing through certain places that have marked our lives (Christina traveled the Road to Santiago in 1990). Though not in any hurry, we have covered 500 kilometers in less than a week.

Mineral water. Coffee.

People talking, people walking.

People also having their coffee and mineral water.

Then I go back twenty years in time, to one afternoon in July or August 1986, a coffee, a mineral water, people talking and walking – except this time the scenario is the plain that stretches out beyond Castrojeriz. My birthday draws near; I left Saint Jean Pied-de-Port some time ago and have covered just over half the journey to Santiago de Compostela.

Walking speed: 20 kilometers a day.

I look ahead, the monotonous landscape, the guide also having his coffee in a bar that seems to have appeared out of nowhere. I look behind; the same monotonous landscape, the only difference being that the dust on the ground bears the marks of the soles of my shoes – but that is temporary, and the wind will sweep them away before night falls.

Everything seems unreal to me.

What am I doing here? This question goes on pursuing me, although several weeks have already gone by.

I am looking for a sword. I am performing a ritual of RAM, a small order within the Catholic Church without any secrets or mysteries besides trying to understand the symbolic language of the world. I am thinking that I have been fooled, that the spiritual quest is just something with no sense or logic and that I would be better off in Brazil, caring about what I always cared about.

I am doubting my own sincerity in this quest, because it is hard work looking for a God who never shows Himself, praying at specific times, traveling strange roads, being disciplined, accepting orders that seem absurd.

That’s it: I doubt my sincerity. During all these days, Petrus has said that the road belongs to everyone, the common folk, which makes me very disappointed. I thought that all this effort would ensure me a special place among the few chosen who approach the great archetypes of the universe. I thought that I was finally going to discover that it was all true, all those stories about secret governments of wise men in Tibet, magic potions capable of provoking love where there is no attraction, and rituals where all of a sudden the gates of Paradise open up, was all true.

But what Petrus tells me is exactly the opposite: there are no chosen. We are all chosen, if instead of wondering “what am I doing here?” we decide to do something that fills our hearts with enthusiasm. Working with enthusiasm, love that transforms, the choice that leads us to God, that is where the gates of Paradise are to be found.

And this enthusiasm connects us to the Holy Spirit, not the hundreds and thousands of readings of the classic texts. It is wanting to believe that life is a miracle that enables miracles to happen, not the so-called “secret rituals” or “initiatory orders”. In short, it is man’s decision to comply with his destiny that really makes him a man – not the theories that he develops around the mystery of existence.

And here I am. A little beyond halfway on the road to Santiago de Compostela. If everything is as simple as Petrus says, why all this useless adventure?
On that afternoon in León in the far-off year of 1986, I still do not know that in six or seven years’ time I will write a book on this experience of mine, which is already in my soul - the shepherd Santiago in quest of a treasure - that a woman called Veronika had prepared to swallow some pills and try to commit suicide, and that Pilar will stand on the banks of the river Piedra and write her diary in tears.

All I know is that I am on this absurd and monotonous walk. There is no fax, no cellular phone, the shelters are few and far between, my guide seems irritated the whole time, and I have no way of knowing what is going on in Brazil.

All I know at this very moment is that I am tense, nervous, incapable of talking with Petrus because I have just realized that I can no longer go on doing what I have been doing – even if this means giving up a reasonable amount of money at the end of the month, a certain emotional stability, a job that I know well and some techniques that I master. I need to change, follow in the direction of my dream, a dream that seems to me childish, ridiculous and impossible to make come true: to become the writer that I have secretly always wanted to be, but have never had the courage to admit.

Petrus finishes his coffee and mineral water, asks me to get the check and for us to start walking again, because there are still some kilometers to the next town. People go on passing by and talking, looking out of the corner of their eye at these two middle-aged pilgrims, wondering about the strange people in this world who are always ready to try and relive a past that is already dead (*). The temperature must be around 27o C because it is late afternoon and for the thousandth time I ask myself whether I have made the wrong decision.

Did I want to change? I don’t think so, but after all, this road is changing me. Did I want to know the mysteries? I think so, but the road is teaching me that there are no mysteries, that – as Jesus Christ said – nothing is hidden that has not been revealed. In other words, everything is happening in exactly the opposite way from what I expected.

We rose and started to walk in silence. I am engrossed in my thoughts, in my insecurity, and I imagine Petrus must be thinking about his job in Milan. He is here because somehow he was obliged by Tradition, but perhaps he hopes that the walk will soon come to an end so that he can get back to doing what he likes.

We walk for almost all of what remains of the afternoon without talking. We are isolated in our forced companionship. Santiago de Compostela lies ahead and I cannot imagine that this road leads me not only to this city, but also to many other cities in the world. Neither I nor Petrus know that this afternoon on the plain of León I am also walking to Milan, his city, which I shall reach almost ten years from now, with a book called “The Alchemist”. I am walking towards my destiny, dreamed of so many times and so many times denied.

In a few days I shall arrive at exactly the place where today, twenty years down the track, I write these lines. I am walking in the direction of what I always wanted, and I have neither faith nor hope that my life will be changed.

Yet I push ahead. In some distant future, in one of the bars which I shall pass by a few days from now, my wife is already sitting reading a book, and there am I, writing this text on a computer that in a few minutes will send it by Internet to the newspaper where it will be published.

I am walking towards that future – on this August afternoon in 1986.
(*) in the year I made the pilgrimage, only 400 people had taken the Road to Santiago. In 2005, according to non-official statistics, 400 people passed every day in front of the bar mentioned in the text.

Copyright @ 2007 by Paulo Coelho
Warrior of the Light, a publication


I am a giant vibrator...

What I mean is, my entire body feels as if it is vibrating right now, like a high-octane race fuel is pumping through my veins and I am being held in check at the starting line. Like any moment I will explode into some action or state of raucousness. (Wow, I spelled that word correctly first try.) And it has been going on all day. And maybe yesterday too. I have nervous energy...I am not working, a state of being which I haven't experienced for this much time in over seven years. And then I was using drugs and alcohol to fill up my time. But even then I would get restless after an extended period without work-without a purpose.

Relax and enjoy it, someone advised me today, laughing at my discomfort. I know that I should. I am trying not to struggle with this. Paradise? Oh no, I will find something to complain about, or else my name's not Complainy McPlainPants. Can't enjoy myself on this beautiful tropical island because I'm not working. Geez. But it's not just that. I have bills and debits mounting up, and although I am not in immediate danger, I am somewhere near a fork in the road that says financial stability-to the left. And to the right-what the heck are you doing? At least that's what my map looks like to me right now.

I want to solve major problems. I want to experience freedom from limiting beliefs. I am trying to expand my mind and grasp some greater truth. I feel the need to devote myself to some worthwhile cause. Repeatedly I am seeing families and thinking about my past decisions, which always leads to comparing myself to others-a fruit-less endeavor. I want to teach. To share. What good is this intellect with no one to converse with. Why does everyone go have a drink in the evening? Why can't someone speak up and say, "Gee, I sure would like some good conversation tonight-let's go get some food and talk." It doesn't happen. No response when I offer it. I am sooooo impatient.

p.s. the caffeine probably isn't helping. but that is not it. this feeling has been growing ever since this weekend in Guam. there is so much emotion bubbling just below the surface of me-there is precious little that i can talk about with tears beginning to slide down my cheeks and dampen my "beard" (i use that term loosely!). Talk about job possibilities? Crying. Working with kids? Cry. teach the Faith? tears. Love? cry. Life? cry.

What am I mourning? Is it what I think? Cuz something already told me what it was, and I don't like it. Fear? Definitely. Always. Sometimes I hate %$^& crying. and sensitivity. bunch o' horse....i'm going to chew some tobacco or something manly like that. this blows.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008


i typed a lot last night.

it was funny and going great.

then i lost my connection.

and it didn't save.

and i don't feel funny at all right now.


Monday, May 26, 2008


I am learning that it helps my readers if I can convey a message in fewer words, and while I am pretty sure this is possible, I do so like to hear myself, err, type...

I hope you have had the experience of revitalization at some point in your lives. What I mean when I say that is the experience of re-learning, or having beliefs re-affirmed by others through some indirect form of communication. I don't simply speak of "mob thinking", where the sentiments and energies of a large group of people can influence one's own thinking, but the actual realization of truth, deep inside, not from the outside, which confirms something that has always been there-albeit often forgotten.

Sharing the Word of God with others brings great joy.

No matter how sure I am of my path, there is always room for improvement.

My tests are nothing compared to the tests of some people on this planet-and I should always be grateful for my hardships-because they are mine-they are me.

I am here to be of service to my fellow man.

Everyone is doing the best they can at this time.

I was so overcome this weekend by so many emotions, but mostly by the love and sense of community that I was drawn into by a group of folks who know nothing of me. I was awed by people who had left their homes in America decades ago to spread the faith that they believed in. They came to the Marianas when there was no comfort of modern America as there is today...and they have stayed and raised families, and built a loving community. And despite the current situation, they have continued to teach and spread their love, even as they see their efforts bear only little fruit. For my entire life I have heard this message of brotherly love, this promise of God that there is more than And I feel now how deeply others must have felt when it blazed in their own hearts...I must share this with you. With her and him. With them. Not because your salvation depends upon it. Not because I get anything from it.

Because it fills my heart with joy to do so. No matter whether you accept or reject it. And I will follow that joy wherever it takes me. I love you all.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Off island

For a little while.

Going to Guam, which is only a 50 minute flight from Saipan.

Everyone describes it as a much more commercialized, fast-paced version of this island. It's economy is actually doing pretty well at the moment, and the general opinion seems to be that jobs are available there, if I want them.

I don't really want a fast-paced, commercialized life style at the moment. It sounds like there is "more" of everything on Guam.

More jobs.
More expenses.
More tourists.
More US military personnel.
More american businesses.

But I don't know yet if I'll have many chances to be online...this weekend is the Baha'i National Convention of the Marianas-so through Sunday I'll be pretty busy. I will also get to check out some meetings on the island, more people means more fellowship. Looking forward to it!

Thursday, May 22, 2008


I am moved by music. It causes my limbs to move in time with its rhythm, foot tapping and head nodding-sometimes in anticipation, sometimes in ecstasy, sometimes to the tips of my extremities, and sometimes a pulsing that moves through my body with no outward sign that my heart beats

You cannot tell me how this music makes me feel. You can watch from the outside as my face softens and my lips spread and my eyelids droop, as I slide into a alternate universe where everything moves in time with the beat in my head. Cars pass by, or slow down to turn; cyclists pedal along the path, weaving around pedestrians and joggers; dogs trot alongside their owners; children run towards the water’s edge; and the clouds flow across the sky, covering the heaven’s light momentarily and casting their shadows on the ground all around me-it all is in time to the instruments that are pounding out a tune inside my skull, coloring my vision.

Evoking memories seems to be my iPods current specialty. As it shuffles through its mix of songs, it drops songs into my consciousness that trigger remembrances of loved ones, of life events and of feelings and emotions that surround them. The amazing lesson I am learning from this small device, an iPod shuffle-which btw has no screen, so that you cannot see your song list to pick what is next, hence the name-is to feel my emotions fully and completely. Acceptance, perhaps? Maybe-so often I have railed against my feelings-I fight, I run, I cover them up, sedate and try to alter them; so rarely have I ever felt the feeling coming and relaxed into it, consciously let go, un-tensed my muscles-mental and physical-and allowed the emotion to wash over me.

Especially now, with so many new feelings-loss, separation, joy, accomplishment-this iPod lets me experience a huge range of emotions, and I can just let them flow. I can ride and listen, smiling and crying, and it is a freedom that is new to me. Sometimes I don’t want the feeling, and often I change a song for that reason, or just because I don’t feel the song at that particular moment. Occasionally I replay songs, if their feeling is so poignant that I don’t finish feeling it with one song. Sometimes I just feel like wallowing-Coldplay is a great band for that particular feeling.

Give it a try. Pick a song you know touches you. Put it in you ear. Put your face under the sun. Walk. Sit. Wear a pair of sunglasses so that you can cry if you need to. Love yourself and acknowledge that feelings or all true, and they are all ok. That’s just what I have been doing…but do whatever you want. Because I cannot tell you how this music makes you feel.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

To Tell The Truth...Or Not

Most of us would agree that telling the truth is a good thing. At least, that's what we would say. Whether or not we were being just kidding. It seems that even today, amidst a culture that breeds mistrust and manipulation, most people would agree that lying is bad.

I had a conversation with a friend today and he was lamenting something he had told his boss. He is in his 50's, and is working at a relatively new job, after spending quite some time as a teacher in foreign countries. He loved that work, but has recently noticed some old learning handicaps surfacing as he has attempted to learn everything necessary in his new position. Realizing it was causing him some problems, he shared with his boss his history of learning disability as it related to his present situation. She considered it and asked him if she could share that information with others in the company if they asked. He acquiesced, but it immediately set him to worrying about the possible ramifications of what he had done. As he confessed to me, he was afraid he had shot himself in the foot.

I have encountered similar situations in regards to my past criminal record as it relates to, well, just about anything. Applying for jobs, school, and my certification as a massage therapist and bodyworker all were impeded by telling the truth about my history. Being honest on my entry permit into Japan got my pulled out of line and seated in a side office for an extra 25 minutes, as I maligned myself for being so stupid and truthful. But the truth was, although no one in Japan would probably ever have known that I lied on that entry form...what if???? I knew it, and it's what caused me to change my answer as I neared the immigration kiosk. I have had to face a few boards and committees and individuals to explain myself and my record...but I have faced them on the front end, almost always (I'm not perfect ya' know) instead of having to explain a lie after the fact. When I do have to explain lies after the fact, I still have often been given second and even third chances, not always, but often-but think of all the damage and mistrust I have caused. How much easier could it have been? How many referrals and recommendations did I not get because of my dishonesty? There is no comparison to being honest up front and coming clean after a ruse has been discovered.

I remember my father telling me that all a man really has is his reputation in this world-his good name. Whether or not that's all we have-it has taken me a looong time to rebuild that name. I was 15 when I first began to mar it...I am 29 now and I am still not totally out of the woods as far as the government and some other agencies are concerned. But I feel as if I have more than regained the trust of family and friends, even complete strangers who are told of my past, most of the time through continued contact come to trust me. Not all of them. But then again I don't trust everyone I meet either. None of that could have happened if I had peppered my daily business and personal relationships with repeated dishonesties, or even simply omissions. There are families I have worked with who would never have checked...but since they were trusting me in their homes, with their children, I felt it necessary that I trust them with my past wrong-doings, so that they knew all of me. Not that it was always easy, or even that it always worked out the way I wanted it to, but I always left the situation feeling unashamed and knowing that I was hiding nothing.

Unfortunately, there are people who will slander us, use our admissions against us, whether intentionally, out of irrational fear, or simply because they feel as if they are doing the right thing. Through my associations with recovering alcoholics and addicts, I've learned that there is a time to keep some things to ourselves. We definitely needn't rush around proclaiming our wrongs for all to hear, nor make them public knowledge in all situations. Where do we draw the line? Should we hide things about ourselves, if we think that we would be harmed by others finding out?

Although I have no family to support, I would say that the only instance where I recommend this would be if that was the case. And even then, I would hope that I would be able to consult with my wife, and together we could make a decision that upheld our values of integrity, but did not put us and our family into harms way.

As I have read somewhere, we must be ready and willing to admit everything, to go to whatever lengths necessary, to retain our self-respect and sense of integrity. Not that we should cower or confess before our fellow man, but that we should always be honest. And trust that although we may not see it, we cannot do wrong by telling the truth on ourselves, no matter what the consequences. Nothing...absolutely nothing happens in God's world by mistake.

what post?

so at some point in the past week i felt-for the first time since i started this blog-that i didn't have anything to write about. and i cast about a little bit, found something, and then the weekend came with the soccer tournament and so i wrote about that. but i am online for the third time today, and i have avoided posting a blog because i just wasn't feeling it.

I was telling someone the other day that I expected of myself some great and profound literary work, each time I put something up. But I haven't felt funny or satirical, and although I have had a couple thoughts about posts I haven't been able to make more than a paragraph out of any of them. And somehow I twisted that into being resentful at the people I love who are reading if it was their fault that I had such a high expectation of myself and didn't feel like I could meet it.

So this is my post about NOT posting...because I don't know what the hell to write, and I don't need any comment or assurance just needed to write it. Love you all and thanks for everything.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

3-on3 Tournament

I mentioned that I would be playing in a soccer tournament on Sunday...which I did, it was great fun and I'm happy to say that I was on the winning team at the end of the day!

The event was held at P.I.C. (Pacific Islands Club), which is the resort that my friend Carmen worked at when she was in Saipan years ago. She and I stayed here for one night and got to enjoy the water park and we ate the Magellan restaurant, which has an amazing buffet-probably some of the best food on the island. Anyways, registration was at 8:30 to 9 am, and it was a $10 entry fee, which also got you a water park admission for the entire day (a $30 value). There were 54 players, split up by skill level into 18 pretty well-balanced teams. Just from what I saw, the organizers, who also played, did a very good job of making it a fair, anyone-can-win-it day. Our team was by no means the best, but lots of luck and a few good plays made us the winners.

We started off in the first of four brackets, and we played three games in that bracket, all closely together, two in a row at one point. We played both of the first two matches to a draw, and we won the third to get us into the playoffs. Since we played our entire bracket first, which took a little over an hour, we then had over 3 and a half hours to enjoy the park, goof off and watch the others. When we finally got back on the field in the afternoon, we just had a good match up in the quarterfinals, out of the possible opponents. The games were 6 minutes straight through (no halftime), with a three (i think) minute over-time and after that was a 2 minute sudden death overtime, then a penalty kick shootout if no one scored a golden goal. The fields were smaller even than a basketball court, and during the shootout there s no goalie, in fact there is no goalie at all during any of the game, but the shooter must take the PK from the opposite side of the field...about 50 or 60 feet. Our first playoff game went to a shootout, as well as the final. The semifinal game was won by the crowd arguing an uncalled goal, eventually the other team conceded it, and a last minute goal right before overtime ended. The final went into overtime, then sudden death overtime. Then we all did terrible in the shootout, with only one player from each team making their shot. But keeping it tied like that sent it into a sudden death shootout. And they missed their first shot. Our captain Jessie, (or Jetsada) didn't. It was a little unbelievable, but he and I, along with a Korean high-schooler named Joshua, kept insisting that we should just have fun the entire day, and we did.

So anyways, we won a little money, a soccer ball made for playing on black top (street soccer), and a free pass to the waterpark and restaurant. Then we all got to enjoy the waterpark for as long as we wanted. It also was a wonderful way to get my ego-fix! Haha, seriously, it always feels good to win something, especially in front of lots of people. And it makes the whole integration process a lot easier because everyone got my name from the announcer, and all I had to do was answer the same questions over and over again!

I am sore. Yes, I will use the Arnica-ointment and pills. Yes, I stretched, and I will ice the sore spots too. And I am relaxing. And using reiki. And I will probably go get a massage from someone too. You can't beat $25 for an hour massage! But I will be sure to tip generously!

Saturday, May 17, 2008


I went to my first one in...oh, about 8, 9, maybe 10 years today.

I got a little teary-eyed for a second as the readings were being passed around towards me.

We read from the Advent of Divine Justice, I'm not exactly sure what about, although it referred to "this day" a lot...

It also referred to a needle's eye...just like the Emmet Fox/bible reference i talked about earlier...

I swear by God! So great are the things ordained for the steadfast that were they, so much as the eye of a needle, to be disclosed, all who are in heaven and on earth would be dumbfounded, except such as God, the Lord of all worlds, hath willed to exempt.

That's what I found online, although without the context and on its own it sounds a little incorrect. But either way...i think he (Baha'u'llah) is referring to an actual needle's eye in this quote...yes?

So I'm incredibly touched and gladdened by all the love I get back from everyone regarding...well, re: everything. Thanks for your help and support.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Football Club

No, not that kind of football you stinkin' Americans! The kind where the ball is maneuvered by a players foot. I can't remember if I mentioned it but a few weeks ago Saipan hosted the 2008 Marianas Cup, in which the men's and women's national teams played against their rivals from Guam. The women's teams played on Saturday, and Saipan avenged their 9-0 trouncing from last year by keeping the match a scoreless draw through two overtime periods, despite an amazing offensive effort by Guam. The men's team was also out to avenge a loss from their last match-up, and it was an exciting game, with goals going back and forth. Saipan tied the score 3-3 and regulation play ended that way, but in the final seconds of the second overtime period Guam hit a strike from about 25 yards out, and with almost no time left to reply, Saipan was defeated.

The interesting part of some of these matches were the age of some of the players. The women's player who I was most impressed with turned out to be a 15 year old middle school student! On the women's national team! As soon as I met the coach of the teams, he pointed out the possibility of being a national team player. "Where else could you just move to and become a player on the National Team?" he asked me with a smile. Intriguing, for sure.

So I went out and played in a pick-up game tonight. The bulk of the players were Korean, but there were a few others there, and it was a really good time. I had just bought brand new cleats, so it was a good chance to try them out, break them in and get a few touches on a ball in traffic. There is a 3 on 3 tournament this Sunday, with cash prizes for the winners in three divisions. So it was good to handle the ball a little bit.

About the only other thing I did was ride the bike today, I'd guess I rode about 16 to 20 miles back and forth around the island today, and I still have a half-mile to go to get home, up-hill, in the dark, and the snow, barefoot...Plus the running around during the soccer match, so now I'm good and worn out...

and looking forward to some more football playing soon...

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Unload That Camel

Liz gave me a Daily Meditations book by Emmet Fox...on May 13th he explains a saying that I believe most of us misunderstand...

"Jesus said, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God (Mark 10:25)
The simile used by Jesus is a graphic one for his listeners. In those days every important city was surrounded by a wall for defense. There would be a large gate in the wall and this would be closed at sunset and placed under an armed guard. There was usually, however, a low wicket gate known as the needle's eye, set in the big door. When a laden camel arrived after sunset the only way it could get in was to be unloaded of all merchandise, whereupon it would squirm on its knees through the needle's eye.
Unload your camel if you want to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. You do this, of course, not by getting rid of conditions in themselves, but by getting rid of your sense of dependency on them. Very often you will find yourself so glad to be without a lot of that merchandise that you will never put it back."

If you are the least bit open to the spiritual ideas and interpretations of great thinkers, I urge you to get a copy of Emmet Fox's Sermon on the Mount. Likewise, if like me, you harbor prejudices against Christians or the faith itself, this book may help you as it did me. I tried to have a dictionary present while I was reading it.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


As a follow-up to the other day...I went to the Aqua Resort Club (kinda redundant huh?) and shared my lie with the Front Manager whom I had interviewed with. Once she understood what I was saying she laughed at me and told me not to worry about it. Nothing else I said mattered to her, she just kept going letting me know that it was ok and that someone would call me soon, which they did. Unfortunately, I haven't caught the call coming in and my return calls always end up in messages, so I'm not sure what the result is yet...

I read a great book yesterday, and I want to recommend it to any and all of ya'll. It's called Peter and the Starcatchers, and is co-authored by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearce. It is the story of Peter Pan, before he became Peter Pan-basically a prequel...great for kids and grown folk.

I also was reading some more of Eric Clapton's autobiography, which was developing slowly, not nearly as easy to read as Steve Martin's autobiography, which was quite entertaining, when I came to a paragraph that slapped me in the face.

“I left the club with June, who instantly became my one of my best friends. We did not become lovers, however; I really enjoyed her company as a friend and didn’t want to spoil it. I’m pretty sure she wanted to go down that road but at that point I hadn’t figured out that it was possible to fancy a girl and also be friends with her. Sex was still a matter of conquest rather than the result of a loving relationship. The idea simply never occurred to me that you could have an intelligent conversation with a girl and then sleep with her.”

I am not going to go into details about any specific person or relationship. This is not so true in my life recently as it was a part of my belief for years. The conquest of sexual relations was the precise thing that caused dissatisfaction-aka as the grass is greener on the other side-and kept me searching and running. Even writing this I realize that this is a belief that has many layers underneath it, ideas of my value and how deserving I am of happiness, so this is by no means a root or core belief. Some of you may be saying, "Duh!" but as I keep re-learning...there's a big difference between the mind grasping and accepting an idea, and the heart/soul part of me understanding that same thing. So the question I asked myself after reading this a few times:

How do I turn off the urge to conquer?


I remember my father and I leaving the Target at Independence near Idlewild some years ago, before it was vacated and refurbished as a BJ's Warehouse. We were approached by a man who asked for money, but not without a long story about being from a far away place, Texas I think, and trying to get to another far away place; I think there was some sick family involved somewhere as well. My dad shook his head no and said that he couldn't help him. I was all but ready to fork over my life savings to the guy, or at least to give him the little bit of money I had.
I remember asking my dad why he hadn't given him anything, especially since he was from Texas-which, in case you don't know, is actually not only NOT just another state, but actually an entirely different universe where people are still polite, and yes, everything IS bigger. My dad's reply was that you couldn't believe everything people told you. I persisted in my questioning, because I had seen my father give money to beggars before, and he elaborated on his rationalization. You have to use your own instincts he told me. He also pointed out that sometimes a story can be too elaborate.

I have come up with my fair share of rationalizations as well, when approached by panhandlers. I have also given away my fair share of my hard earned money to people with good stories. I have gone and bought food for those who say they are hungry, given cigarettes (and lighters) when I smoked and had nothing else, done u-turns and gone back to share what I had. I remember in a similar Target parking lot, I had just bought food for my dog, and upon leaving I came across a panhandler with a beautiful rottewiller. I stopped and gave him half the food (Purina Moist & Meaty in the plastic pouches--NOT good food btw) and some dog treats. We talked a little and he assured me that the dog always ate, often better than him. You could tell it too.

I was asked for some money the other night so that someone could drive home, they weren't sure they were gonna make it. We were only across the street from a gas station, so I went over with them and put $5 in their tank, which, with gas at $4.42 a gallon on Saipan, wasn't a whole lot. It was a couple, and that was on Wednesday night. Sunday afternoon, when i got out to the surfing spot at Sugar Dock, the female half of that couple spotted me and walked over as I was standing there eying the surf. She asked me some questions in broken English, they didn't make a whole lot of sense to me, but she eventually got to the point of asking me for help again.

I told her no. I don't know where this instinct came from, because she was asking for money to eat with. And I was getting ready to walk around the corner to get food. I was busy trying to make a long distance phone call as well, and I definitely had the thought that I didn't want to set a precedent for being a banker for this woman every time she saw me. I told her no. Then I went and got food, and when I came back, with Taco Bell, she walked over to me and asked me again. Standing in front of her with food in my hand I told her that I wasn't going to help her at that moment. That I had before. That I might again some day. But not right then. She was a little agitated and tried to convince me, and then she just seemed to become calm and she looked at me and said okay, then walked away.

Yes we do have to use our instincts. Sometimes I do feel as if I have been taken advantage of. If I see the same person over and over again, and my help is not being used or accepted, then I may be enabling...but looking at what i've done before, or might do again-I think I was a little off on that idea. Because as my friend says, right now is all we've got. I don't think I should have given her any money, but I could've offered her food. I could have offered her reiki for the lame arm that she keeps covered and cradled at all times. I could have offered her a few minutes of time and not just instinctively brushed her aside and tried to get away from her as quickly as I could. So what-I've done good deeds before, but that's no consolation to her. I don't know why I didn't even offer to help her. I thank my dad for that valuable lesson, just like I thank her for another one. Somehow, they're both right.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008


What a great weekend I had...surfing, meeting new people, lots of good in fact that it overflowed into Monday!
Although I am pretty relaxed and more or less keeping the faith that everything relating to my job/financial situation will work out, I just received some news that I am processing under the "cause for alarm" tabs in my mind's file cabinet. Add to that a job interview (the 3rd one) at the Hyatt scheduled for an hour from now, and a meeting with a 47 year old Korean man who wants me to help him improve his English...compounded by the fact that I am dressed up, well, dressed up for ME, in a flowery button up shirt with khakis and I shaved his morning so I although I am sitting in an air conditioned coffee shop at the moment, I am still uncomfortable. Might be the caffeine, who knows.
I tend to doubt myself in spite of all indications to the contrary, and the simple knowledge of this does not usually give me any more confidence in my own ability to meet the challenge at hand. In fact, it almost seems as if I grab onto any fact that seems to support my lack of competency and enlarge it in my head, trying to prove to myself that I am unfit for the impending tests. I guess I am talking about ego and higher self here, the ego being the detractor and my higher self "knowing" things but still being swayed by the insistent voice of the ego that decries my best efforts, and has done so since the days of my childhood.

Only on rare occasions has that voice ever metamorphasized into multiple voices, a condition that I used to listen to others describe with skepticism. But having experienced it, I realize that there is nothing anyone can ever experience that I can shake my head at and say, "Not me" without adding the necessary follow-up of "yet". How insistent and incomprehensible must these many voices be inside of someone's head, that they would risk the label of "lunatic" to share this malady with others. It reminds me of the spiritual experience I underwent as a result of an aura clearing and reiki session last year. Although I knew how personal and insane it might sound to others, it was so real that I had to share it regardless of what they thought.

All this runs together and comes out as a singular instruction for relief...just do it. In spite of the fear and doubt, just go do the things that are do-able. So I'm off to another interview, and hopefully it will be a good one.

Monday, May 12, 2008

More of my weekend

So the waves were plentiful today as well. After finishing up children's classes, I once again headed down to the beach, only this time I biked toward an area called Sugar Dock, which seems to be the main surf spot on the island, as far as a beach break goes. There were plenty of people there, and I ended up meeting new folks, recognizing others whom I'd been introduced to, and doing a little more surfing. It was another great day, and hopefully there will be some surfable waves still coming in for the better part of the day tomorrow. Since I'm without a job, I might as well focus on something!

The Taste of the Marianas food festival is every Saturday night in the month of May, and I went out there with Mark's family last night. I ran into many familiar faces, and ate some great food. It wasn't as lonely an experience as the Flame Tree festival, even though I was at a table of about five couples, because I'm starting to get to know people. The island is small enough that as I am introduced to people, and then meet more people, I am already starting to run into the same folks more than once a day. Appearances are deceiving though, when I first got here it seemed as if there was a very large population of white people, because I saw them out and about everywhere. Whites are actually quite a minority, making up less than 2% of the island's population--approximately 1,500 people. Those are pretty rough numbers, plus a lot of people are leaving, but I realized it as I witnessed how segregated a lot of this group of people is.

I met some neat people: A medical doctor who is also a naturopathic doctor, and his wife and daughter. He also is an avid surfer, paddler, kite boarder, snow boarder, and I don't know what else but I'm sure it involves a board. Actually I don't really feel like describing everyone I met.

I lied last week. In a job interview no less. I told a stupid, inconsequential, meaningless lie and now I am going to have to go back to the resort and tell the manager that I lied to her. During our interview I had mentioned that I just came from Japan, and at one point she asked me how long I had lived there...and my answer of "8 months" just came out. Of course I was trying to impress her with my worldliness, and of course the next thing she said was, "where did you live in Tokyo?" since I had described that as my home--I've never really been anywhere else in Japan so it was a no-brainer. Again, we know where this is going, as she responded with, "I am from Tokyo." and I just died. To make it worse, I realized she has my application, and with a minimal amount of thinking, she can look at my employment history and realize that I haven't been anywhere except the US for quite some time.

I really hate when that happens. It has been a little while since I did something that blatantly deceitful. And I have to go tell her. For a million little reasons I have to man up and admit my lie. And for the main one...lying is wrong. I can still remember that lesson learned at the age of four or five, as I wrote a note to my mom and signed it from my dad. It commandingly suggested that she let me watch Airwolf, the television program I had been told was not allowed. It was quite a good bit of penmanship for a pre-schooler, but my mom wasn't convinced. And lying was explained to be destructive to my soul. I got it, although I had to learn for myself the truth of that statement. Lying is destructive to your soul. Whether it is a silly little lie like mine, or a twist of the truth to a police officer to save you from some inconvenience that you brought on yourself, or a fib that gets given to a co-worker to explain some lapse of mind on your part...whether it's the biggest of big ones or the smallest possible...

it hurts you. It usually hurts someone else too. It might even undermine a friends faith in you, as you describe to them how you were able to yet again manipulate your way around the truth. I realize that my own past dishonesty has made me acutely aware of the same in other people. And although everyone can-and will-change, it is something that once I read in another person's character, it is a hard view to let go of. I know this first-hand, since I have to prove my character all the time as a result of my past. And not everyone is willing to give me another chance at it. But that's a whole 'nother story.

If you would lie a tiny lie like that to that person...what would stop you from telling me a tiny lie? I don't want people that tell tiny lies in my life...just like I don't want to be someone telling tiny lies to others. So tomorrow morning I will ask for my HP's assistance, and go set the record straight. Because if I want honest people in my life, I have to BE an honest person.


There is a storm somewhere. Somewhere near Saipan. Actually I have a better idea where it is but it means nothing to most of the people reading this except that you know it is not anywhere near me and there is no cause for alarm. If you want to know exactly where it is-west by southwest from Saipan-check it out on the net. But I haven't written in a day and a lot has happened. Let me start at the beginning.

Fortuitously I ran into a man named Mark on Friday evening when I was sitting watching Nuri's swim practice. I first met Mark on the beach on the day before my flight was scheduled to take me back to Tokyo. He was kite-boarding (again google it if you wanna know-it looks awesome!) and ended up getting blown up onto the beach right next to me. I was reading and lying on the beach and I watched him get untangled from the strings and fold his kite up for awhile before I ventured some questions at him. He ended up being extremely friendly, and asked, as everyone does, why I was on Saipan. I shared with him my story, and finished with the information that I was actually trying to make a decision at that very time about should I stay or should I go. (heh heh) We talked some more and he gave me his number and told me to call him if I stayed. Less than two hours later I made the decision to stay here for the next six months.

And so here I was, three weeks later, and seeing him again. We struck up conversation, and he was once again very easy to talk to, and I got a very gentle, easy-going vibe from him. In a few, quick words I will try to describe him. Married with a 13 year old son. Tall, lanky, surfer, yoga practicer/instructor, special-ed (autism!) teacher/educator, previous participation in a Ruhi study circle here...His son and wife were as kind and welcoming when I met them. He told me about the possibility of surf on Saturday and told me to call him.

So after children's classes Saturday morning I did. I rode the bike down to the track to meet the whole family at Kai's track meet. On the way, I stopped and stared out over the usually calm lagoon. Having never seen anything besides the normal beaches of the U.S., it had taken me a little while to realize what I was looking at here in Saipan. There is coral reef all round the island, but on the west side, the reef forms in an almost continuous line at varying distances from the shore, which creates the beautiful lagoons. It also creates a line where the waves break, and for my entire time here, it had been a very gentle break out there, with a minimal amount of white water showing at any time. Much different from a beach on which the waves break at all different times and locations, I was standing at the beach path looking at one solid line of breaking waves, as far as my eyes could see to the North and South. The swells produced by the storm were crashing into the reef, creating an amazing sight, unlike anything i had seen before. I could not keep m face from breaking out into a grin, and I hopped back onto the bike after a few moments of taking it in to hurry on to my rendezvous with Mark, Patty and Kai.

I met them and we went back to their house for the afternoon, because the waves at the surf spots hadn't materialized yet as forecast. Mark and I talked about a lot of things, family, history, beliefs, while sitting outside in his hammocks. Around 3 o'clock we checked the waves again and he made the call to head out to the island of Managaha, a small uninhabited island about a mile away from the beach on the west side of the island at the edge of the lagoon. Some of you may recall, I attempted to walk to it during my first week on Saipan, unsuccessfully. We packed up three boards, and the four of us hipped in the Rav4-which may be the most popular car on the island; they have two of them-and headed to their boat.

The boat was a very small boat, with just enough room for the four of us and the boards. Since there was no promise of anything staying dry I left the camera in the car, unfortunately, because I would have had some amazing, close to magazine quality pictures. At least the magazines I've been seeing around here! Before we ever made it to the island, Kai (the son) spotted a reef break and we headed towards it. They are even bigger up close, and I had more than one moment of trepidation as we idled nearer and nearer to the break. After everyone agreed on the safety of the situation, Kai was the first one out of the boat with his board, paddling toward the waves. I donned scuba fins and a mask with snorkel, which was fine with me because I had no plans on practicing my surf skills over a reef on waves the size of which I was facing.

I won't bore you by describing too much, but if you have ever seen surf videos or even pictures, you have seen the shot taken as a wave crests and starts to create a pipe for the surfers to attempt to shoot. Although there was no pipe, simply being on the face of a wave watching a surfer take off from that type of was so awesome. Even in trying to describe it, I see why surfers talk as they do...because I can't think of a much better word than awesome to describe it. This wave was crashing onto exposed rocks less than 100 yards from us, there was a reef nearby, and we were at least a mile from land. These people were standing up on water and using it...anyways it was awesome.

We got back in the boat and motored over to the break near to the island. This time I was out of the boat and in the water, paddling towards the break. I don't have that much surfing experience. This was probably the fifth or sixth time I've been on a surf board. I stood up on my first wave, and was immediately reminded of the feeling that I got the last time I did that...indescribable elation, tempered with a feeling of peace and ease. We surfed at that break for about half an hour, as the sun set behind the clouds, before the darkness brought an end to the trip. I paddled back to the boat thoroughly exhausted, sore, and anticipating the waves that were to come when the sun rose the next day.

Friday, May 9, 2008

A Baha'i Prayer

The first time I read this, I was blown away, for a few reasons. Originally because it was in a chapter with the heading 'Instructions', and I know it isn't a universal feeling, but by broad generalization, myself and the people who share some of my past experiences often express the feeling from an early age that we missed out somehow on the instructions to life. I specifically remember thinking that somehow everyone else had gotten the manual, and it was all just a big, cosmic joke on Rio. Religious and spiritual teachers have been passing on instructions as long as man has been thinking, but I myself can only claim to have been thinking for a very short time, and even a shorter time has my thinking been sensible or clear enough to follow said instructions. So I can just say that for some reason, I was ready to heed them and excited to have found some instructions I could follow.

The main reason I was so moved by these words from God (aka Higher Power, or for short HP) is the way this eloquent language not only confirms, but elaborates on the virtues and necessities of happiness and good living that I am coming to recognize as an essential part of my life because of a fellowship and program that shall remain nameless. They are in agreement. One does not negate or argue the other. Sure, as a person I can always try to pick points of dissension, but as a human being with the fundamental truth of a HP inside of me, the instructions laid forth here are in no way contrasting with the instructions that I have learned to give myself to stay sober and serene on a daily basis.

So please, take a moment to calm your mind, because even though it is written like a to do list, it is a prayer revealed by the son of a messenger from God (my beliefs!). These are not my words nor am I in any way responsible for how you feel when you read them. I hope it resonates with some of you like it did with my lovely Liz when I shared it with her. I hope you are filled with joy at reading the word of a Higher Power.

TO LIVE THE LIFE IS: To be of no cause of grief to anyone.

To be kind to all people and to love them with a pure spirit.

Should opposition or injury happen to us, to bear it, to be as kind as ever we can be, and through all, to love the people. Should calamity exist in the greatest degree, to rejoice, for these things are the gifts and favors of God.

To be silent concerning the faults of others, to pray for them; and to help them, through kindness, to correct their faults.

To look always at the good and not at the bad. If a man has ten good qualities and one bad one, look at the ten and forget the one. And if a man has ten bad qualities and one good one, to look at the one and forget the ten.

Never to allow ourselves to speak one unkind word about another, even though that other be our enemy.

To do all our deeds in kindness.

To sever our hearts from ourselves and from the world.

To be humble.

To be servants of each other, and to know that we are less than anyone else.

To be as one soul in many bodies; for the more we love each other, the nearer we shall be to God; but to know that our love, our unity, our obedience must not be by confession, but of reality.

To act with cautiousness and wisdom.

To be truthful.

To be hospitable.

To be reverent.

To be a cause of healing for every sick one, a comforter of every sorrowing one, a pleasant water for every thirsty one, a heavenly table for every hungry one, a star to every horizon, a light for every lamp, a herald to everyone who yearns for the kingdom of God.


(Who is pictured above)

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

good days

My first tutoring client is finished up...his parents decided that we were going to take away too much playtime doing it during the week, and she did assure me that it wasn't because of anything i did, but she wants to wait until the summer to start with him. She promised to give me a call once he got out of school in a month.

One of the neighbors got a little boonie puppy. Very cute. Very big responsibility. Crying outside my door at 3 am. The landlord just got rif of all the I got a crying puppy.

The other neighbors are moving soon, and so he has been offering me a look at his possessions pre-garage sale. Which is cool I need some basic stuff like pots, pans, sillverware, etc...

Ants have invaded my bread. Tossed it out. They already got my berry surprise cereal. Hopefully the Cheerios are still ok since I hadn't opened them yet...but that's no guarantee.

I had an interview the other day at another resort. It was for a massage position. I am currently the only applicant, they are waiting a few more days and hoping they'll get at least one more. If I get the job, I'll be the only non-Filipino, non-woman working as a masseuse. Minimum wage (4.05 as of May 28th) but benefits and free meals when on the clock. 36 hours a week guaranteed, possibly more depending, plus I guess we get tips. The work load is distributed over 6 days though, 6 hours per day. Only thing is, that 6 hours can be spread out anyway over the day from the hours of 10 am till midnight. So I could have to go in at noon for two hours, then come back at 8 for the last 4. Hmmmm....

Anyways I felt really great and fulfilled after working with Nathaniel. It is that wonderful feeling of doing something for someone else, plus "going to work" always can make me feel useful.

Okay I'm out of time at the internet cafe. Love the person next to you.

P.S. The LSA of Charlotte just contacted me via e-mail to let me know that the NSA restored my administrative rights!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

English Tutor

A lot has happened since the middle of the day yesterday when I wrote my last blog. I met with a mother of two, who works at an eye clinic where the first baha'i/contact I met on Saipan practices, and we talked about me tutoring her son, Nathaniel. She had actually dismissed me as a possibility and even told me that she was going to use someone else, before I mentioned that I knew Dr. Khorram. Her son also attends Brilliant Star school, a Montessori school I believe, founded by Dr. Khorram and his wife (again more hearsay). So the little bit of validation of my character went a long ways toward making her comfortable with considering me for a tutor. That, plus I re-thought my original rate quote of $20 and hour, and dropped it to $10, taking a cue from my mother, I realized that in this initial start-up phase I will be learning as I go and my rates should reflect that curve.

Meanwhile, right before meeting her I received a phone call from my friend Brian (see blog/picture below for more on him), telling me that Liz was in the hospital. That she had passed out and stopped breathing and her heart had stopped. They revived her and she was extremley sick, but in the hospital currently. Then my pre-paid minutes ran out on my phone. And it died. By the time I got a new card and Brian's phone number it had been an hour...of wondering and worrying. I had already done the mental inventory of the necessary steps to catch a plane back to Charlotte, even though that would be a twenty hour trip, and I can't imagine being able to sleep while being that worried. Helpless.

Once I got Brian to answer my call, he told me that she was being released from the hospital. She was alive. It was after midnight Charlotte time, so I never spoke to Liz, but I did talk with Brian for a good while. He filled me in on the various happenings and it was very enjoyable. We ended our conversation and I found the home of Nathaniel for my first meeting with him. I had stopped by the library and picked up a couple easy reader books. I arrived at the house prior to his mother returning home from work, but the housekeeper let me in and introduced me to Nathaniel and his sister Abbey. I sat and talked with them for about five minutes just trying to get an idea of what he liked. At first he was so shy and soft-spoken that I could hardly understand a word he said. He tended to look away as he was talking, something I know I do often. But he spoke English reasonably well, for a seven year old, and his sister, who at eleven, was apparently the one really worried about him, was obviously very intelligent as well. So he and I took a seat at the table and I pulled out The Ugly Duckling and asked him to read it to me.

He just needs someone to read with him on a consistent basis. He has trouble pronouncing "r" and "l", almost like Chinese people do, only he is Filipino. His "r" sounds like mine did when I was near his age. As he read, he continuously guessed what the next word was based upon the context of the sentence, the letters he saw first, and the pictures. One sentence read something like: "...all his brothers and sisters." but when Nathaniel read it he said: "...all his [pause] siblings!" That was the most profound expression of his intelligence, but he repeatedly pulled words out of a seemingly large vocabulary, even though they weren't usually relevant to the story. I was impressed and surprised by his smarts.

His mother talked with me a little bit about what was fair to me and affordable to her. I'm going to see him on Monday, Wednesday & Friday at 5 pm for approximately an hour each time. It should be a whole lot of fun. And maybe more students will present themselves to me as time goes on.

I spoke with Liz finally late night for me, early morning for her. If you know her, and feel like it, call her and wish her well, I know some of you already have. Don't call her and ask her questions that make her tell the story again...she doesn't need that. If any of you have ever come close to death, or had an experience that was near-death, you may have an idea of they after effects and change in your thinking that follow such an event. It can be quite an upheaval. Thank you to all my friends who continue to love each other and support each other. If we don't have that real love and charity, what do we really have to give?

Sunday, May 4, 2008

The Beach

The interesting part of these blogs is the time delay. Even though I have informed Google that I am in the Northern Marian Islands, and that my time zone is GMT +10, they still post these as Western US Time. Case in point, it is is noon on Monday, May 5th here. My post time says that it is 7 pm on May 4th. So I am technically a day behind on my posting, but if i change it then the program schedules it ahead rather than posting it with the correct time. Interesting. I guess I've had to face bigger problems than outwitting a server's time clock.

Sunday was HOT! I went to children's classes at Jamal & Regula's, but the only older child was Nuri, their son, and so he and I sort of deviated from the lesson. As in, we didn't do any of it. I'm sure he probably will think back to that day, and tag it as the beginning of his moral decline. Fortunately, after classes, he went with his mother to do a home visit to Isabel and Joe, a nice Filipino couple who were at the Ridvan celebration and are very receptive to talk of the Faith. I offered Joe some reiki, because he had a growth removed from his nostrils right around the time I got here, and it still is bleeding and hasn't healed yet. I told him to just ask me and I would be glad to do it. His response was positive, in that he understood what I was describing as a type of "spiritual healing", and "what's the harm in that?" was his thought on it. But he never actually asked me to do it for him, and so when Regula was leaving to go over to their hosue, I declined to come, telling her that I was going to do other things. She really wanted me to come, and tried to explain to me that it isn't culturally acceptable to ask for things like that here. We went back and forth a little, and I stuck to my point that it was offered, and that was as far as I was willing to go with it right now. Maybe I'll change my mind as time passes. I did find out that there is another Reiki Master on the island, and she is having a level one class very soon. She is charging the students $60 and I think it is a six hour class. Interesting...

But after the morning classes, it was getting close to mid-day, and the bike ride back to my apartment was uphill. Wow! I made it, but not without getting off the bike and walking at one point. The sweat made it hard to keep my hands on the handlebars at times, and the driving on this island doesn't always make for the most encouraging bike riding experience. So once I got back to the apartment, I was ready to take a break. I had received two calls regarding English tutoring fliers that I posted two weeks ago, and I tried to call both numbers, but nobody answered at either. So I decided to take a hike down to the bay.

The night before, a new acquaintance had divulged the location of a secret beach, not far from my apartment. I wasn't sure of the terrain, so I decided against allowing Thunder to come along; taking just a towel and wearing board shorts and flip-flops I set off. It was a short walk to the landmark, a side road climbing into the jungle on my left, and I began to scan the right side of the gravel road for the surveyors flagging. I immediately spotted it, twenty feet up a sheer embankment and across a five foot wide ditch. Maybe it's just my old age, but i decided that there must be an easier way, and kept heading down the road. Eventually the embankment flattened out and I was able to get on the trail that had been described. It was pretty recently cut in some places, with relatively bright pink flagging tied at regular intervals as it wound it's way deeper in to the jungle. The trail wound back and forth and as I clambered over volcanic rocks (read: sharp!) I was glad I'd left Thunder to lay in his shade. I was skirting the base of a sheer cliff, and making turns that would defy the straight lines and angles that surveyors require for long sightings, so I'm not really sure what the trail was for originally, or who marked it. I finally reached an old dirt road, after pushing a peck of wild chickens for a hundred feet or so, I reached some very large rocks. But the breeze couldn't disguise the proximity of the sea, and so I hopped down into the ravine, and in a minute I was standing at the end of the canyon, at the head of a small, coral covered beach.

From cliff to cliff, the beach was about 100 feet wide at the ocean, with foliage and trees covering the tops of the adjacent abutments. It was indeed isolated, and I waded out into the water for a ways, I could see the better known beach far to my left, across the bay. I waded around for a while, but it didn't take me long to cut my foot on something, glass, coral, rock, and so I washed it out an returned to the beach, to lay in the sun. There's something about being on isolated beaches that lends itself to my general attitude of as few clothes as possible, and so pretty soon I was short-less and lying prostrate on the sand. Of course I was aware that this could be disastrous, but only if I stayed out too long, and that was not going to...

You know how you open your eyes, like when you used to be in school, and think, was I asleep?
Well yeah, that's what happened. So I turned over. See, told you I had a plan. Soon something suggested that I reclaim my trunks and head on in. So after a little more splashing around in the sea water, I gathered all my belongings and headed back into the jungle. It took about ten minutes to make my way along the trail back to the main gravel road, and then another five up to the apartment. It will probably be a shoe or boot clad trek next time, the uneven ground makes for an easy sprain or even scrapes on the ankle from the rocks. Thunder was glad to see me, and I spent a minute rubbing his belly, but I could feel the heat starting to radiate off of my body. Mainly the back of my knees and lower legs, and my shoulders. Fortunately, I am used to the cold water showers, and most of the time they feel very good. Of course i used the Melaleuca gel, btw I'm almost out if someone wants to send more, and today it's all good. Now I'm going to meet someone about English tutoring for her son. See if I can win her over, even though I have no education background.

Twelfth Day of Ridvan

Today there was a celebration of the Twelfth Day of Ridvan, a Baha’i holy day which falls on May 2nd. The festival of Ridvan marks the time when Baha’u’llah, the prophet and founder of the Baha’i Faith, proclaimed to all the assembled followers of his fore-runner The Bab that he was the promised one who had been foretold, not only by The Bab, but by other messengers of God as well, like Christ and Muhammad. I’m sharing all this because although I am 100% sure that I knew that already, I feel like I am re-learning a lot of things when I present them to the children I am being blessed to interact with as I help teach children’s classes. It reaffirms my belief that I learn more about a subject as I teach it to others, as opposed to being “schooled” on it myself. I have found this true in other activities, like Reiki. And the steps. The repetition of the knowledge contained within these types of processes releases almost like a timed capsule, letting more and more out as I continue using it.

It was a small group of people, with the children outnumbering the adults. Three families in attendance were Baha’is, out of the five that I have met. The other adults were parents of children in the classes or friends. We also picked up a group of children from the village who come to children’s classes sporadically, as far as I can tell. These kids, as well as a lot of the other ones too, are pretty shy around me. It’s getting a little better with some of them as they see me more than once, and I’m starting to develop relationships with them as I remember their names and talk with them a little. We enjoyed searching for shells and other treasures on the beach. A couple of the children found crab shells. One of the local boys and I searched for skipping stones and spent our time skipping rocks across the relatively calm cove.

Prior to the beach combing, we had a short “play” where the children gave the audience the basic idea of the purpose of Ridvan-which was what the garden was named where Baha’u’llah revealed his purpose, it means paradise-and passed out the tissue paper roses we spent the past few weeks making and sang some songs. And of course, we ate wonderfully. They have a local sweet potato that is purple. Someone made a huge bowl of mashed, purple sweet potatoes…interesting! But a wonderful day!

Since some of you may not now, I rented an apartment this week. It is a spacious two bedroom place with a large living room, kitchen and bathroom. It’s one of three on the second floor of a building, where the bottom floor is actually the home of the owners. Their family owns much of the land around this building, which just happens to be along a wonderful gravel road that has an amazing scenic view as you travel down it. Runners travel from all over the island to use the road for the routes. I drove it partially when Carmen was here, it leads to a beach at Lau Lau Bay, and rightly so since it is named Lau Lau Bay Drive. The map actually shows the bay as Lao Lao, that’s probably right. But I walked a ways down the road on Friday evening when I came home around 5 pm. I had already asked the landlord if I could take their dog with me when I went, and she said that would be great. They have a gangly black dog that looks like a five month old lab puppy. I’m not sure about the age, and it is doubtful that he is fully lab, but he has a sweet demeanor, and does not fit his name yet-Thunder. We set out and although he did a fair amount of going ahead, jumping up on my side and criss-crossing in front and behind of me, I was pretty impressed by his ready acquiescence to my wishes and commands. He walked along side me for the majority of the trip, which turned in to an hour long walk down the road until I found the first definite path to the beach, and then we walked as far along that as we could. I didn’t take him off the chain I was using as a leash, because he spends his time chained up outside, but mainly because I didn’t want to have to explain to my landlord why their Thunder was now a boonie dog when he didn’t obey me. I got the feeling that he is extremely intelligent, with that same eager-to-please quality that I am blessed to see in so many dogs. He just needs a little time to realize that I am one of the people he wants to please, a process that will take some time and lots of walks, especially since I don’t provide the food or water that cements a dog’s loyalty to its master. When we got back, Henry told me that was the first time that Thunder had ever been walked! I have permission to take him whenever I want, and I’m looking forward to getting Thunder to follow me into the ocean soon. There was one very strange thing that I noticed. During our hour long walk, Thunder never peed or pooped once. He’s not fixed, and there was a period where he exhibited the signs of smelling around and circling like he was about to do something, but he never did it. I watched him after I chained him back up, and he did pee eventually. He sometimes pees a little bit from the excitement of seeing a person walk towards him. And although I would do every thing possible to avoid chaining up a dog outside, he has a doghouse, he has owners that care for and nourish him, and now he has me to go for walks with. He sure is a scrawny thing though. I’ll take some pictures of him soon. Pictures of the apartment are already up. I need to get settled in and unpacked (good luck!) so that I can invite some people over and have dinner.

I did something really neat today after the Ridvan celebration, but I think I’ve written enough for now. It’s just past midnight on Saturday, now Sunday morning my time, which by the way is the same as Australia time (GMT+10) which means it is 10:20 am Saturday morning on the east coast. I won’t get to post this until I get up later…thanks for reading.

Saturday, May 3, 2008


I did my best to be accepting of the decidedly slower pace that everyone takes here on Saipan. As it has been presented to me, "island time" probably moves at about the same breath-taking shuffle on islands all around the world.
"Relax man, you're on island time now!"
Which is fine by me. I was born on an island. People have always thought I looked like I belonged on an island. I prefer the dressed-down appearance found on islands: board shorts and flip-flops, with shirt optional. I always thought that I would end up on an island. Well looky here! I'm on one. And everything is chill and relaxed, it's great! Except for one thing. I need a job. So go get one you say...yes, that's a good idea. Why didn't I think of that? You're a genius! Now, get ready for my excuses. (Just to warn you, I'm about to sound like a recently released drug addict explaining all the reasons why life is not fair and no one will hire them!)
The minimum wage here is currently $3.55 an hour, and that's an improvement, because they just raised it by fifty cents a few months back. It will go up again at the end of May to $4.05 an hour, which, if your math is a little shabby, translates to a whooping $162 per forty-hour work week, before taxes. Which is another subject, taxes ARE less here, but I don't have figures on that yet so I'm not going to rant on that currently. The issue is further complicated by the fact that the economy is doing so badly, that many businesses are shortening their work weeks, working only 32 hours. But let's say I land a job that wants me there for 40 full hours each week, and let's assume they take somewhere around 15% for taxes (???). This means that my minimum wage job will pay me a grand monthly total of approximately $550. Not an extravagant amount, but not a problem you say, since you're on an island and everything must be cheaper to go along with the lazy service that is always running on island time...RIGHT?
Wrong again sir! It's an ISLAND. Which means, get ready for this, it is surrounded by water. On all sides. Not just a little bit o' water either. So the only things that are cheaper on THIS island, are the coconuts, the betel nuts, the nuts and bolts, and boonie dogs. Especially boonie dogs with nuts. So basically, it's cheaper to rent a home. It's cheaper to get insurance (automobile)--i'm not sure exactly why that is, I think the insurance agents may actually be a native form of fungus that grows in caves, so its plentiful--and it's that's about it. Everything else is AS expensive, or MORE expensive, than everywhere I've ever been. What does any of this have to do with a job you ask?
Obviously not a damn thing. But I am trying to paint a picture here. And like Bob Ross, sometimes I work on the little trees in the distance before I get to the bigger trees in the foreground. So have a little patience!
I have been applying at many places around the island. Let me list them. McDonald's. What the hell is right! That should be the end of the list! I'd like to think that McDonald's was pretty much a guaranteed one to fall back on if ever there was a dire need. Apparently, they've tightened up their hiring policy...and since I don't carry a handgun, I can't work there. No I didn't apply at Mickey D's. I've applied at (almost) all of the resorts on the island. I've been to the Port of Saipan and the docks where the commercial tourist boats go out. I've applied at the airport to be one of those people who searches your bag, for no other purpose than to make it impossible to zip up again. I talked with some people at the public school system and also the biggest water park in the Pacific! They said it, not me. Seems like the Pacific IS the biggest water park, but whatever. I've received calls. I've even had interviews. Starting two weeks ago in fact. I've interviewed with one place twice already, and have a third interview coming up...some day. If that one goes well there will be a fourth interview. Around the time I am unable to afford anything but car insurance, I may actually get hired. I am really looking forward to it. These nuts are getting a little repetitive. So the lesson-it was suggested to me by an objective, well kinda objective, person-is that I need to learn this slow it down island time mentality. It has been a long time since I didn't just go and go. I am, admittedly, in constant motion, rarely taking more than a few moments each day to slow it all down. So I'm going to make island time, rio time. And see what happens.

Friday, May 2, 2008


I tell the assembled that I don’t lapse into depression; that I have never dealt with that incomprehensible enemy so many people are wont to claim. The diagnoses abound, and the description is bantered about among all types of speakers, in so many conversations. Really? Have I never felt this sinking touch in my chest before? It defies description; it is so cold and formless, right here to be felt, yet existing beyond a description that my language has words for. A shape-no, I would have to make one up. Colorless, because blackness is not the essence, although black hole might be true, for it seems to swallow my vision as I try to examine it. The sheer weight of it hangs heavy in my thoracic cavity, and I can point to it, but yet I know that it is not really there. It is precisely my inability to describe it that is so unnerving, for the speechlessness makes me feel as if I don’t know myself, even as I know that is not true. It is haunting; a feeling that can be seen vaguely by those near me, that I know is visible to all, yet when the question is put forth, what am I to say? Nothing can be said that makes the tiniest ounce of sense, in fact the descriptions are more likely to leave others looking at me askance, murmuring their apologies as they excuse themselves, casting glances back at me and the aura which surrounds me. How did it get so big that all in the room can see? Where does it come from…stealthily creeping in unseen, entrenching itself like an enemy soldier in a foxhole, preparing for a battle. Yet it doesn’t sit and wait, it grows. It chokes. It darkens and deadens the air all around. The air I breathe. The air I see. The resonance of my words even sounds hollower. Sunlight becomes harder and harder to bear. Night time is no better, because the dark breeds the dark. An oversized knot never leaves my throat, and no amount of swallowing or spitting can free this passageway from its grasp. I choke down…what? Sadness? Despair? Absolute submission and defeat? How do I make it stop? Can I? Then it takes control of my thoughts and points them towards the darkest reaches of my mind. Maybe it is cancer, and I am dying. Or maybe there is something else wrong with me, something more fundamental…maybe I am crazy. Insane. Feeble-minded and weak of resolve.
All this is extreme, but it is as close as I can come to describing the tiny, brief glimpses I have had into the soul-sickness so commonly referred to as depression. Maybe it is clinical, maybe medicine can help it. I don’t know. I do know that I am so glad that these feelings have always been relatively brief, and have never lasted any significant time, for me. They have come to me in different times of my life, at different junctures, sometimes unexpected, often right on time. I felt it tonight, following, of all things, a study of spiritual writings with a new friend here on the island. It shook tears loose from my eyes, it made me want to curl up in a ball, it made me want to call my father and ask for his help and-god damn it-it made me hate myself. More than anything else it always makes me mad at myself! So all I could think of was sitting down and writing this out. I played some music as I wrote, and at the beginning of this paragraph, a song started which always uplifts me. (It’s #8 on the first cd I made you Liz) and it did not fail this time. I can’t believe how quickly it exposed my spiraling thinking as the perpetuating cause of my own depression.
“when its cold outside, there’s no need to worry, cuz I’m so warm inside, you give me peace, when the storm’s outside, cuz we’re in love I know, it’ll be alright, alright yes alright”
It is the song that touched my soul and gave me that moment of clarity so often alluded to-it’s the song that made me realize I had to change my life. I heard it for the first time on May 7th, 2006.
Regardless, of what did it, it was gone. And I am reminded how amazingly blessed I am to not have to fight this battle on a more regular basis. To all of my friends who face feelings like this, know that YOU ARE NOT ALONE. Thank you for all you’ve ever shared with me about your lives.
Lastly, I am as I should be. Please don’t worry too much. I am just going through a natural process, (i believe) that involves assimilating myself into a new place with new people. I'll be thinking of you all often. And everything WILL be alright.

Thursday, May 1, 2008


i am listening to one of my closest friends, via the wonder of the internet and digital recorders, as I sit in a coffee shop in Saipan. He spoke last Friday evening in North Carolina, and I am just now sitting down and listening to it. He's doing a good job so far.
When did he become such a good friend? I don't know. I do know that I was resentful at him. I do know that I broke the unwritten rule between boys with him. I do know that I visited him daily during a period that would not be described as one of my greatest, and he served me alcohol as a requirement of his job.
I know that he watched as all of his friends in our fellowship as they left him alone. I have stood by him as he tried to be strong for his best friend. We have shared many things, and I don't know that either one of us could tell you when I started calling him one of my closest friends. or why.
how do you end up with the friends you have? why do so many people that you were sure at the time were gonna be with you forever fade off into the mists of our past? why can't the people who I want to stay in touch with want to stay in touch with me? why don't they reciprocate the love i feel for them? why can't i see where the present pain my relationships are causing me today will lead me?
and so i have to embody the virtues of love, friendship, fairness, and every thing that i want in my relationships as i deal with others. ideally, i cannot pick and choose WHO i get to practice these virtues with. I cannot only be a good friend to the ones who are kind to me, i must do it ALL THE TIME, with every one.
because love doesn't cause pain. it doesn't hurt others. so how can i be loving while my actions are DIRECTLY in conflict with the well being of my close friends.
the truth is that i have, and am still today, always been doing my best. and there's always room for improvement. and always room for those friends to come back to me. and always, always a place for me to go to another, and say:
I was wrong.
I know i can do better, and I will.
and then i do...because there is no point in aiming for progress. We aim for perfection, knowing that it WILL be as perfect as we could be at that time.
and that is progress.
thank you for being my friend brian.