Well I just wanted to let everyone know that I’m safely in the land of kiwis and sheep (..and sheep…and more sheep…In fact on the way to the town of Kaiaua we saw a random sheep running down the sidewalk on the highway…Yea.) I’m in a hostel internet cafe at the moment.
Short bit on San Francisco. It was a good time. Staying at the hostel was the best part of all; I met so many interesting people and got a few emails from the coolest ones. One fellow from Sydney and a chick from Germany are new pen-pals of mine; all over a bottle of plum wine, blue paint, and games of foozeball. Long story short.
The flight was quite plush, I must say but I don’t wanna talk about that. Other than that I watched Hellboy II almost to completion (the fight with the dark fey wielding the spear was made of awesome) and the food was far superior to peanuts and half a can of soda.
My hut (my kuti) is pretty sparse, as I figured. But I think I may upgrade to a trailer parked in the middle of a field cuz possums keep dancing on my roof at night and random spiders like to bite me and leave welts on my ankle. Ajahn Chandako is a bit different than I expected. Reserved, but genuinely warm when he speaks. He’s a tall Caucasian (as the website shows), about 6’3” or so, with a very bright smile and soft voice and mannerisms. And then there’s Mike Marshall, his general helper, whose from Dunedin and is 100% Kiwi. "Alwright…Wrighty-o…Yea…Good on ya…"Compromises most of his vocabulary but he’s a great fellow, real friendly, chatty and has a bit of an Aussie-twang.
It turns out I’m not the only caretaker here however…Ajahn had over 17 applicants via Craigslist, all of them American but myself and a guy named Turner who arrived two days ago were the only ones who followed through with it all. Turner is interesting. He’s from Austin as well, incredibly, only he travels in the proper manner. He’s spent time in Japan and Thailand teaching English and returned to the states for a bit. He’s an Aerospace Engineer, writes for a travel magazine occasionally, and more than a little competitive about his accomplishments…Basically he has the I’m-successful-and-I-know-it attitude. It’s low-key, but combined with the fact that I was mildly jealous of him made it hard for me to like him at first, but I’m warming up to him.
Also there’s a fellow here named Alex, from Vancouver, Canada. He’s a very interesting guy; doesn’t like to talk much about himself but we chatted last night over tea in the sala (main building) about meditation and movies involving mental expansion and he turns out to be pretty chill.
New Years Eve was a good time. We drove to the Auckland Theravada center and I took pictures for them while Ajahn Chandako led some meditation classes and Mike sold some Vietnamese clothing and other articles. Got to talk to a lot of people…Which has become a constant experience for me. See, every day people bring offerings of food to support the monastery, and its a different group each day. Mostly Thai and Sri Lankans, I’ve noticed. The Sri Lankans are some of the friendliest people on the planet though, all warm and full of questions. Food has been no problem; as caretaker I get a decent breakfast, lunch is always plentiful, and if I want, I can save leftovers for dinner, which I have been doing, but I want to lessen since living in their manner is why I’m here.
The work has been about what I expected, and a little unexpectedness as well. For one, who knew my chainsaw skills would come in handy? There’s a few dead trees near one of the forest kutis that are a bit of a hazard, so us and a neighbor rode a tractor up into the hills and started chainsawing/pulling trees down. His neighbor had a Stihl, which heightened my nostalgia since Stihls are standard E-Corps issue heh.
The past few days have been rainy but today was absolutely beautiful. I finished a book my friend Adele from Auckland bought me as a going-away present called "House of Leaves." Wow. Just wow. It’s the best Mystery-Romance-Horror book yet and it’s crazy hard to read near the middle-end. Highly recommended and more than a little spooky to read in a creaky hut during a rainstorm on a hillside.
This is what I needed though. I’m finding direction in both meditation and contemplation on what I want out of life. For one, I now know that I can do things like this. I think the reason why I needed to move so much was to prove that I could fit an ideal that I held, the demon we all hold within ourselves that says "this is what you could be if only you did this." Well now I know my own capabilities. I can backpack halfway across the globe and work for pennies and fulfill lifelong goals. Now I can return to the states and focus a bit more on my future, I think. But it’s a bit early for that sort of talk, eh?
Well I should go; Mike will be back soon and we’re headed to Tauranga to see the shoreline before heading back to Bombay. Tomorrow we start construction on a new kuti. I’ve tons of pics already but I can’t edit them here; I’ll have to get time of the monastery computer (which is business-use only) resizing then saving them, then I can take em into town and upload a few here and elsewhere. Well that the "short" and skinny of it. Hope all is well with you all and see you in a week!
Signing off from Kaiaua, New Zealand, this is Earl wishing all of my friends a Happy New Year! Oh, and just in case you didn’t already figure, my cell doesn’t work in this calling zone. Emails (and snail mail!) work just fine though; check the addy a few posts below!