01 December 2007

Settling In or Just Settling

I’ve been here half a year.

And it has been nearly 3 months since I have posted anything of substance about my life here. In that time, I have shifted houses, lost my step-mother, given up vegan-ism again, taken up running, gained and lost numerous friends and decided to come to terms with having no plans.


I shifted houses just two weeks ago. I joked with a close neighbor that I was migrating (like every other neighbor it seems) but in reality, I was just moving down the same street to a new and smaller flat. This flat does not have any of the high maintenance needs that the other one did. Its is a quaint 1 bedroom flat attached to a house with a kind elderly couple. The husband and wife just lost their daughter to marriage and are really missing her. I am not trying to be their daughter, I do not need the heavy and demanding expectations (I have enough of those thank you very much). But, this relationship does help me a great deal, as I now have a close connection with a family here. They need help with their English, which is a blessing for my Hindi studies and they love to share their abundant and delicious Indian food. When, I went away recently for a week-long conference, they happily fed and looked after Choti for me. All in all, I am happier here than I was at my last home. I’m still settling in though.

Losing Friends, Gaining Friends

The last few months, I have had a flux of friendships with varying qualities.

My fellow Massachusetts PCV in FRE-5 (my training group) departed back to America. I understand all of her reasons and I’m glad she was able to discover what she needed to while she was here. Still, I was sorry to see her go.

I met another Rhianon, who was Buddhist and working in Fiji as a international volunteer. Odd, huh? She was great company the few times we were able to casually hang out in Lautoka. She finished her contract and moved back home to Australia.

I also had the pleasure of getting to know Angelina, a young lawyer, who had come on contract to work in Fiji. She is a brilliant, genuine person with a passion for music composition and cute little cartoons from children’s books. She’s also vegan. Sadly, her contract also ended and she returned to a hopeful future in Australia.

Socialization in a foreign country is not the same as it is in America. I seem to have an easy-going and friendly relationship with most people I meet here. I network without being conscious of doing so (most of the time). And I am generally well liked and received by my neighbors and colleagues. This has not always been the case at home.

There are drawbacks. Balancing social obligations (spoken and unspoken) with my own need for quiet reflective time can be difficult some days. But I also lack a local relationship with the intensity and trust that I look for in those friends I confide in. There are so many things I know its unwise to share about myself. I understand my liberal views and sometimes strong opinions are better left unsaid but at times that filter feels like a barrier to emotional empathy with those around me.

My Work

Ba Methodist High School
My work with the school has slowed to a halt with the closing of the school year. As it was, schedule conflicts and a lack of investment from some community members was making it difficult to conduct the programs.

Ba Senior Citizen Community Centre
My work with the Senior Centre has been slowly building towards a definitive direction. I currently work with developing new sources of funding, train in IT skills, and work on program planning and design. I also, spend time with the seniors either as a workshop facilitator or just another person sitting and chatting over morning tea.

Youth Theater Program
I’m currently developing a diversity oriented youth theater group which will explore social issues and the development of personal life skills.

Family Ties

As I noted, my step-mother Marilyn passed away last month. I truly am sorry for the loss. She was a wonderful woman with boundless enthusiasm and understanding for those around her. She has given me the gift of a second family, for which I could never repay her. Going to Canada to be with my father and step-brothers allowed me to see just how much we are family, even if our time together has been short.


While I was in Canada, my family saw to it that I was able to travel back with my father to Boston to visit friends and family while I was in that hemisphere. It was amazing to see everyone I have thought about for the last 6 months. I spent the time watching horror films in good company, tromping about Cambridge, buying too much at health food stores, stocking up on books, having lunch with my mum, and reconnecting with everyone at faire. What whirlwind and bittersweet trip! It was such a blessing to spend my favorite season with my favorite people, doing the activities I enjoy most.

Art and Expression

I’m finding my inner artist once more. Creative solutions are coming easily but more importantly, I am interested in creating art for art’s sake. It has been a few good years since I was able to participate in an act of creation without practicality coming into play. I have a few pieces in mind... Mostly digital photography collage. Its the easiest medium at the moment.

I had previously thought about becoming a minister. I had let the thought fall into a neat plan for a future lifestyle. I let the thought shape and blind me to very basic truths about myself. Just because I am a person who feels a need to contemplate our existence here on a daily basis and I am spiritually inclined, does not automatically make ministry, even interfaith ministry a good choice.

I know what I can do, I know what I am good at (for the most part) and what I enjoy (usually) - but life and career choice is not some simple equation to be calculated like a budget in Excel. So I have decided not to decide. I’m going to continue to serve those around me as best I can, while working to relax a little and enjoy myself. But I am beginning to recognize my life long needs for tangible results and visual accomplishments. I wonder at how how much of an artist I am... and what that will mean for my future pursuits.

Random Thoughts from an Overactive Mind

Some days, I have the knack of being absorbed into the flow of the Universe. I trust my fate to the winds and I live. Other days, I couldn’t be farther from contentment. Very few days, do I sit in the middle. There was a time in the beginning of this journey when I had gained a sense of purpose and fulfillment. That bright buoyant light has fled me temporarily. That's not to say that I am in a pit of despair... I merely do not feel that connection to my larger goals at the moment.

I’ve been thinking lately of my teen years. Those years were very difficult for me in many ways but I still had a soft heart...and it seems as though over the last few years I’ve become somewhat impenetrable - forcing those I know and those I love to climb numerous fences of trust, slowly breaking down hidden and nameless boundaries.

I don’t have answers for the “big” questions that I ask myself. And I don’t need to. (Maybe I’ll believe that if I say it often enough)

Is it appropriate to act without having full knowledge or control of a situation? Isn’t this something we do everyday and an unavoidable part of living? Then where does one draw the line on mindfulness, when does it become impractical? What about deliberate actions? In the case of this perfectionist, I am often paralyzed by indecision for fear of taking a wrong step.

Samsara. I understand intellectually that Samsara is a fool’s dream and logically speaking, it is a vain pursuit. But emotionally, I relish even the ups and downs of it. So long as this is true, I will not full renounce my earthly attachments and I will struggle in my meditation. But the heart of Buddhism lies with practicing active non-attachment not renouncing attachment altogether. Right?

Stepping Out of Me

I seem to have little control (its an illusion.. I know) over my ability to remain in the moment as a mindful observer. I often flit between an acceptance of now and being enmeshed in the daily struggle with my mind creating more boundaries than it destroys.
This is true in the bigger sense and also, the minute details. I have trouble seeing from others perspectives some days. All my cross-cultural understandings leave me and I just want to be productive in some quantitative way. I desire something I can point to and say “look, I created that. And its clever/effective/innovative...”
I can be drawn into my work so much that I forget to leave it behind. I forget to leave office talk in the office. I forget to leave Ba to visit other PCVs. I forget that one of the most important lessons I can take away from this experience is to learn to adopt some of the positive tendencies of another culture.

  • I enjoy gardening
  • I have a love of simplicity and minimalism. In some ways this tendency can resemble a Puritanical need to cleanse my self and my surroundings and at other times, its an appreciation for everyday tasks and objects.
  • I do not work well with a lack of structure... nor do I work well in an imposed structure that I find confining.
  • I enjoy time to myself to clean and organize my space, to return things to an aetically pleasing state
  • I have great difficulty meditating in the morning without falling off to sleep
  • I can be dyslexic when learning a new (or just fourth) language. I shift letters frequently. To solve this: I learn similar words as pairings.
  • I am a bit of a glutton when it comes to sleep.
  • I have difficulty in dealing with anxiety relating to personal standards but I handle dramatic life changes well.
  • I like to live in smallish spaces with lots of “out of sight” storage space.
  • I like containers. I appreciate the cleverness in the way things can be stored.
  • I lose patience with animals and other dependent beings. I’m working on this trait, but it can be difficult when Choti finds the worse place to relieve herself at the worst time. I have trouble not feeling upset with her even though I know she doesn’t know any better.

New Personal Goals

I would like to....

* Run at least 6 days a week for the next 3 months
* Fully learn the Shiva Bharatnatyam dance
* Learn 1 Kirtan
* Memorize all of the basic verb conjugations in Hindi (Pure and Fiji)
* Memorize 5 new vocabulary words a day in Hindi

My 26th Birthday

On My 26th Birthday, I...

  • Took a bucket bath complete with cockroaches
  • Made fresh pineapple & passionfruit juice
  • Had a short meditation session
  • Started eating Indian Diwali sweets at 7am and didn’t cease until after 11pm
  • Started packing my life back into boxes
  • Made a lovely no-egg dark chocolate cake with rum and coffee in it.
  • Had tea with my neighbor, Veena
  • Spent half the day at my friend, Hemi’s house preparing Diwali prasad
  • In the evening, I went to Sunita’s house and had a puja and a splendid birthday cake
  • Toured the Diwali light show in Ba