Tag Archives: New Orleans

Reiki Break

16 Jan

It’s a quiet day at English Village.  Winter is here, but it’s not making a big fuss. Sure, it’s blowing around some icy cold air. Whispering, “you might want to think twice about that walk outside.”  Overall, it’s being generally well-behaved….but still winter, nonetheless.

The program I have been teaching these past couple of months at English Village is nearing an end.  It’s a book club targeted to blossoming English readers as young as 3 to as old as 8 or 9.  The students are grouped into small classes by age and reading ability and spend some of their time here reading different character stories including Clifford, Nate the Great and Arthur.  There are weekday and Saturday classes but after January 24, the weekday classes will exist no more.  My book club co-teacher and I will likely be relocated to new (or old) pastures, teaching somewhere else in the Gyeonggi English Village landscape.

With the polite, but still cold weather my motivation for venturing out and about continues to slide.  Lately I am doing my best to engage and entertain myself mostly at the home front.  I have started training once a week at the on-campus weight room with one of our English teachers who is also an experienced trainer.  As it’s been perhaps 20 years since I have been in a weight room, mostly occupied with the gentle work of yoga in the interim, it is a bit of an adjustment to my mind, body and being.  While reacquainting myself with the various exercises, I do my best to maintain the balanced attitude and physical stature of yoga while still responding adequately to the heavy (to me!) weights descending upon my body. The intention is to build some strength… but my desire is to do so in a moderate way.

I continue to lead a weekly yoga class for interested teachers at English Village.  This week there was a little twist in the routine as I led a yoga class for elementary and middle school students studying and living here for a month-long program.  Leading yoga for younger people continues to be a new experience for me.  I am still finding my feet or perhaps my wings when teaching yoga to kids. Overall, the class went really well.  While they weren’t exactly hoisting me onto their shoulders and chanting “yoga!  yoga!” when it was finished, I would call it a success.  There were 31 pre-adolescent Korean girls tightly packed in a very cold room at 4pm in the afternoon. They were generally quiet and mostly engaged throughout the entire class.  I say, “Bravo!”

Recently I began offering Reiki treatments to teachers here at English Village. Reiki, as you may know, is a spiritual practice of mine for nearly ten years.  It is a simple but powerful spiritual tool and healing art that originated in Japan.  An intrigued collection of teachers have responded to the call and received a hands on Reiki-treatment.  For some, they share it is their first time trying something “like this…”  It seems their reasons to try Reiki are many – curiosity, health and healing, a need for restoration and relaxation.  I am really grateful to be able to offer to those who are interested here.  Often there is nothing like a Reiki treatment to turn over a new leaf, get past a cold, regain some balance, or just really let go if even for a little bit.

I have heard my Reiki teacher compare taking a Reiki class, typically a two or three-day commitment, to going on a Hawaiian vacation. Indeed, it is truly a restorative break to bask extensively in the practice and energy of Reiki.

I can recall, over 5 years ago, when I traveled to an annual Reiki gathering at a retreat center in the pristine forests of Oregon. Collectively as Reiki students, practitioners and teachers, we spent the whole weekend giving each other Reiki treatments, sharing, and listening to stories from some of the leaders of our Reiki tradition.  After that time away from the city and dipping in Reiki for days, I was amazed to see that a problem that was persistently on my mind prior to the gathering was completely resolved within me.  I felt at ease and wholeheartedly clear as to what I needed to do.  I returned to New Orleans, my home at the time, and fearlessly and easily took action on that insight. Good things naturally flowed afterwards. Self-Reiki-Badge

While I am here with quiet time at English Village, my Reiki practice is one of the things I lean on.  At the foundation of my practice is daily self-treatments.  Part of the beauty of Reiki is that you can easily give it to yourself.  We are taught in classes that Reiki is for self first.  After nearly ten years of practice, daily self-treatments are almost like breathing to me. It’s hard to imagine a day without them.  Reiki Master Pamela Miles has created a badge to bring to light and honor the importance of daily Reiki self-treatments.  Click on the red badge to learn more.

In addition to self-treatment and giving hands-on treatments to people here,  I also send Reiki daily to friends and family all over the world.  As a second degree practitioner, I can do what is known as a distance Reiki treatment and send Reiki to people, places and situations anywhere and at any point in time. An interesting benefit of Reiki is that sending it to others it is actually a way to care for myself. As I send daily to the needs and requests of others, I just feel better.  It’s amazing how while sending Reiki the thoughts and entanglements of the day begin to dismantle.

As a traveler, how lucky I am that no matter where I am in the world, I have Reiki with me.  All I need to do is give myself a treatment to begin to melt away whatever it is… a cold or flu, anxiety, fatigue.

Are you curious about Reiki or perhaps a Reiki practitioner yourself?  Do you have your own Reiki story to share? It would be fun to hear from you!  I am also happy to answer any questions about Reiki.  Ask away. If you’d like to experience Reiki for yourself, you can always request a distant Reiki treatment.  If you are in South Korea, a hands-on treatment may also be an option.  Visit my Services page to learn more.

Here is a simple video introducing Reiki presented by Reiki Master Pamela Miles.  If you would like to learn Reiki for yourself, there are teachers all over the world!  Here is a database of teachers and classes in the Usui Shiki Ryoho system, the traditional system that I know and trust.  I can also recommend my teacher, Elizabeth Ohmer Pellegrin, located in New Orleans but willing to travel for classes anywhere on the planet.

Thanks for reading!  And remember, it’s always great to hear from you!

Looking Back

19 Dec

It’s hard to believe it… but its been a year since I first arrived at Gyeonggi English Village!  It was July of 2012 when I first saw the posting for the job on Dave’s ESL Cafe.  I was in France at the time doing a work exchange at a bed and breakfast.  I knew that I wanted to keep traveling. A friend encouraged me to explore jobs teaching ESL (English as a Second Language).  I perused many jobs on the internet and I applied for one. The job here at English Village.  And here I am.

After I applied, it was a month or so until I heard from them.  I happily had a brief Skype interview at 4am my time. Shortly after I was offered the job and then began the quick rearranging of my world and life in the direction of South Korea.  This needed to include a return to the States for the lengthy Korean visa process. I quickly needed a new place to go as my current arrangement in France was nearing the end.  Thankfully and luckily, I made plans to do a work exchange with a family in the States through the website helpx.net.  I booked a cheap last minute flight with a German airline called Condor and within what seemed like the blink of an eye I was back in the States.  And so began the process of getting a Korean visa, which took me in total nearly 4 months.

When the visa finally came through it was almost a shock… so many months of preparation and planning and then… suddenly… I actually needed to BOOK a ticket to Korea!  I was exhilarated and nervous all at the same time!  As some friends and family know, I am not one of those laid back, calm, cool and collected travelers.  I get nervous. Really nervous.  And while my heart, mind and spirit truly love the excitement, adventure and experience of going to new places… the journey for me often comes with good helping of anxiety.

I can still remember the night before I was to leave for Korea.  I was at my parent’s house where I had been visiting for a few days prior to my departure.  Suddenly I had this thought that going to Korea was just a crazy notion.  I called my friend, Reiki teacher and often co-pilot on this journey and asked… “am I crazy?  Is this a crazy idea?” Her response, as it often is, was, “what does you gut say” and truth be told… my gut was really okay with it.  And so the next day I got on a plane and flew to Korea.

When I arrived I was also really nervous.  Happily for me the school arranged for me to be picked up by taxi at the airport to drive me the hour or so journey to English Village in Paju City.  At the airport the taxi driver held a sign with my name on it and took my hand as he led me to the taxi.  He was a friendly older man and I was grateful for his parent-like support.

My beginning at English Village was cold and  a little rocky.  My first day of work there was a major ice storm and I spent my day carefully walking up and down icy steps waiting for the HR staff to return to the office and direct me where to go.  But in time, slowly, I began to find my way and collect the people, places and things I needed to be warmer and more at home.

As I began teaching in the classroom I was also… really nervous.  With a background in higher education and professional experience leading students and workshops, I knew I was a good teacher.  But it had been over ten years since I had done that.  In the wake of that was a decade of personal challenges that had my confidence and nerves more than a little shaky.  In the beginning I did my best, I showed up, and I did the work even though I was scared.

In a short amount of time my confidence increased and I felt more satisfied and capable in the classroom.  I did my best to pay attention to the teachers I thought were good and adapted my technique accordingly.  In time I took on some additional projects creating curriculum for the program and continued to develop myself personally and professionally.

This past year has also been a big year for me in my spiritual development.  About three years ago I became a member of a Buddhist organization called SGI (Soka Gakkai International).  I discovered the practice when I still lived in New Orleans.  A Buddhist friend there introduced me to the practice and suggested that I explore chanting “nam myoho renge kyo” for things that I wanted.  Surprisingly, as I began to chant I found the things I was chanting for gently appeared in my life.  When I became a member, my life began to change quickly and within a few months I left New Orleans and had a ticket to Europe. I took this new practice with me on the road living in Germany and France.  I connected with a few local SGI groups while in Europe, but it wasn’t until I came to South Korea that I found an SGI group where I became a regular member.

With the support of English-speaking expat leaders in South Korea, I have learned a great deal more about the practice and about myself.  I have been inspired to increase my regular chanting, the foundation of the practice.  I see now more clearly that regular chanting is a bedrock I can rest on to continue to meet and overcome challenges in my life and to usher in new and good things for myself.  In my life as it is, with so much opportunity but also challenges and uncertainty, the foundation of a good spiritual practice makes all the difference in the world.  It makes the impossible… possible.

Here are a few photos from the year:

And so, a year has come and gone.  And now the question that beckons is… what’s next?  Well, as you can see, I am still at English Village!  I have learned on this journey that it is best to be open to and take action for new possibilities and then be prepared… for the unexpected.  Sometimes things stay the same but sometimes when you least expect it they have a way of changing on a dime.

Thanks for being a part of this journey in whatever way you may be… a friend or a family member, a curious reader or fellow traveler.

I am writing from my cold office in English Village, hesitant to take off my gloves to type on the keys as there is an icy cold lingering in the room. The snowy weather has quieted down the campus with fewer teachers, fewer students and less activity.  As the holidays grow closer, they will nearly be missed at English Village.  We will be working through it all.

Good bye for now from the cold and frozen land of Paju English Village.  Sending warm holiday thoughts your way!

Featured image at top, a snowy bouquet of flowers outside a Seoul subway station.

Joyous

25 Aug

It’s a Sunday morning here at English Village.  I am listening to Krishna Das on Pandora.com trying my best to sooth my soul.  The sun is shining outside and it is a warm summer day.

This Friday was a benchmark of sorts at English Village.  It was the end of our month of special programming.  The end of the month-long program for middle school students, the end of the visiting programs from Japan and Russia, and the end of the two-week program I was teaching, the Global Leadership Program.

While it was the end of some things, for now there is no break for weary English Village teachers.  In past years we are told there has been a break or slow week following this busy month of special programming.  But not this year.  We return to work on Monday,  the wheels of English Village returning to full spin as we usher in a total of about 500 new students in a handful of different programs.  Recently, we have had a hearty handful of teachers leaving English Village for new opportunities or to return home.  As our staff is depleting, so far our workload is not.

So mostly what it seems I can do for now do is ride this crazy English Village ride and try my best not to lose my balance in the process. Even better, perhaps there is a place to be joyous.  There was a quote I liked on the Art of Living facebook page today.  It said, “Just wake up and see that you are beautiful. The innocence in you is so beautiful.”  What a good reminder! This isn’t a fake pretend to be happy when you’re really upset with the world kind of beauty and joy, but a truth that radiates from within.  I know that place.   It is something that is never lost, but sometimes just needs some extra attention.

The truth is there are many things about English Village that are really great and make it a good place to work.  We teach non-traditional subjects (cooking, media and entertainment, arts and culture) and often create our own content that we teach.  We see a variety of students which keeps things interesting – students from Russia, Japan, Thailand, and all over Korea.  Mostly we teach middle school students, but sometimes we teach elementary students, high school students, university students and even adults.  The variety is appealing to me as I see benefits to teaching all of these age groups.  We have a lot of flexibility and autonomy in the classroom. We don’t have papers to grade.  We don’t have daily lesson plans to create. But sometimes, after a week upon week of riding the English Village wave…truthfully I feel dizzy and I just want to get off.  As said by one of the more senior and respected members of our staff, “You just need a break from those crazy kids.”

The Global Leadership Program that I just completed had its highlights and challenges.  Overall a good group of kids.  They ranged from about age 9 to age 13 with English-speaking skills spanning from virtually no English to good basic English communication.  I worked with three other teachers and we taught curriculum that we outlined and created ourselves. With my interest and experience, I was teaching lessons like leadership, yoga and meditation.  But after last weeks yoga class (see last weeks blog for more about this!), I decided meditation may not be the right thing for this group at the end of a long busy day.  We opted for frisbee instead.  A good choice.

I did teach them a relaxation breathing technique in homeroom class the other day.  Its called alternate nostril breathing.  And that is essentially what it is… using your fingers to cover up alternate nostrils to breath and relax the body and mind.  It’s a great technique and works well.  I am still growing in my confidence in teaching these types of things to moderately interested children and adolescents.  Many of these techniques look a bit strange and I am sure they think I am at least a little weird for teaching them.  I told them this was good to use when you were nervous as they were all going to give a presentation on stage for their parents later that day.  That afternoon when they were standing in line a few of them tried out the breathing technique which makes me think perhaps the lesson wasn’t totally lost. In the end of GLP, one of the students looked up at me wide-eyed and said “Oh, teacher I am sad.  It is the end.  I am sad to leave.  I will come back again next year.”  Little jewels like this help to balance things out.

And for now my Sunday continues.  My plan for the day is to do my best to rest on my own and recharge my batteries before we start rolling for a new week.  And tune into and explore within me that which is joyous.

It seems that summer may be winding down as the day is more often greeted with a cool breeze in the air.  While it is still a bit hot, I am grateful for the heat of the sun penetrating through my body.  Perhaps it comes from all those years spent in the balmy lands of New Orleans.  I am not ready for summer to slip away too soon.

And so with that I will say good-bye for now.  If you like, please share how the final weeks of your summer are rolling.  It’s always good to hear from you!

Image at top, a beautiful bouquet of flowers gifted to me by one of the students (courtesy of their parents) from the Global Leadership Program this week.

Adjustments

30 Jun

It’s been over two years now since I left New Orleans and took a leap and headed for Germany.  Who knew that original six week adventure would extend into a transformative journey… first in Germany, next in France and now nestled in the hills of South Korea.  You know what they say, wherever you go… there you are.  And here I am!  In Paju now for over 6 months! As my international escapade continues, with all the new people and experiences, new food, and new languages, the one common character cast in this odyssey is… me.  So it seems for my own good I had better pay attention and learn my lessons as I travel the road of this “Grosse Lebenscchule”, German for “big school of life”.

I went to the chiropractor yesterday.  My typical weekly appointment in the ebb and flow of healing my injured ankle.  But this week there was something a little different.  My neck… it was so tight!  I generally have a habit of holding my stress in my shoulders and my neck, but this was something a bit over the top.  I could feel myself holding on so tightly in my neck and feeling like I just couldn’t relax or let it go.  My chiropractor dug his hands into my neck, made a few adjustments and then expediently shot some sort of gun into my neck a few times.  He instructed me to put an icepack on my neck when I got home and then sent me on my way.

Immediately after I met a friend from my Buddhist group in Seoul for lunch.  I was still reeling a bit from my chiropractor appointment and preceding 30 minute massage.  As she asked how I was I found I couldn’t offer a cheery smile and say “great”.  My body wouldn’t allow it.  As we began to talk tears started to flow down my face.  You know the kind – the tears that are going to come out no matter what you do, the ones you can no longer hold back and that a fake smile just can’t hide.  How fortunate for me I was met by her kindness and compassion.  We continued to chat as we ordered the much-loved food at a local Mediterranean restaurant in Itaewon, Seoul.

As we talked the day continued to pour open.  We were joined by two other members of our group, both women, all of us about the same age.  We departed shortly from the restaurant and went to our local SGI community center.  We chanted together for about an hour and then gathered to practice a dance routine for an upcoming retreat.  Afterwards we sat and collected and talked.  It was all light-spirited conversation, but in light of my earlier tears and the tight kink in my neck it was also informative.

At the end of the day it was clear to me that I was in need of a little life adjustment.  On this journey of mine, it seems there are times of rapid growth, times of challenge, and times of relief and new territory.  There are also times when something needs to be done just a little bit different to continue the journey and take things, myself and my life to the next level.  After listening to the conversation mingled throughout the afternoon, I could see clearly that it was time for some change in my life and I could see what it was… I needed to get more exercise and I needed to chant more.

As you may know, chanting is the basic practice of SGI Buddhism.  Members chant sections from the Lotus Sutra and also chant “nam myoho renge kyo“.  Anyone can do it.  I was first introduced to it by a friend in New Orleans just over two years ago.  At the time I was selling organic mushrooms at the local outdoor farmers market.  She said “Chant for your mushroom sales”… so I did and you know what… my sales doubled quite easily and unexpectedly with no additional effort on my part. I began chanting regularly and shortly after my life set sail on this journey.

That afternoon in Seoul, I was so inspired to hear about the challenges of these women and fellow SGI members and how chanting has ushered them through it.  I heard stories of amazing growth and transformation in their lives and families. I saw living proof in front of me of obstacles overcome in the bright spirits and faces I saw.  The afternoon of sharing wasn’t directed towards me or intended to convince me of any correct action.  As I listened and rode the tide of its wisdom I was happy to go to its gentle conclusion.  It was time for a little adjustment for me, recognizing that little changes now in time can lead to big changes.

And so it continues… this journey of a thousand steps and little adjustments.  What about you and your life? Are there any adjustments that you need to make, big or small, as you continue on your way?  Any tiny shifts in your daily way that could add up to a big difference in your life?  If you like, please write and share!  It’s always great to hear from you!

Photos at top: A sea  of umbrellas at a local mall in Seoul.

Taking Time to Smell the Flowers

13 Apr

Its been another full week of teaching here at English Village in South Korea. Once again we have hosted hundreds of middle school S. Korean students. Once again we have spun in a maze of  English classes ranging from “Survival English” to Badminton (a favorite with Korean girl students, but not so much English taught here) to classes about Movies, Science, Drama, Culture.  I have handed out more stickers (a tool we use to increase student participation) than I can count.  And now it’s the weekend.

Teaching at English Village is a good challenge for me with the practice of being a good, interesting and compassionate teacher in the face of  many and varied new Korean students.  Some days, some classes I think… I am a pretty good teacher… and other classes with more challenging behavior… I feel less confident.

The volume dial of our work week has been turned up with the steady flow of hundreds of South Korean students. Generally we receive groups of good kids here at English Village but the fact remains that they are young adolescents (a phenomenon that has no cultural boundaries), they outnumber the teachers, we don’t speak the same language, and they are here at English Village as a field trip to have some fun… which is sometimes fun for the teachers, sometimes not.

As Friday drops in I find myself depleted from the week.  Once again, I find myself receiving the thank-you letters from the students at the end of the week which automatically lifts my spirits.  In the spin of so many students and the mixed behavior and challenges throughout the week, it makes a difference to be acknowledged and to be seen by the students as a “good and kind teacher.”

In the midst of the blessings and challenges of this week, I find it is important to return to the basics and take time to smell the metaphorical flowers.  For me that begins with gratitude. As I write from the chilly Winter-like Spring of Paju, South Korea pretty darn close to N. Korea, here is my ode to gratitude… and the simple things in life that I will now give my attention and thanks…  I am grateful for…

1.  Chocolate “pudding” made with greek yogurt.  This may sound a bit callous and overly simply, but as someone who is sensitive to sugar and must stay away from it, chocolate has typically been something I have to go without. Lately I have been purchasing homemade Greek yogurt from a local business in Seoul.  Their website is medfoodinkorea.com.  I recently acquired a new treasure from the local “foreigners” market… unsweetened Hershey’s cocoa for the bargain price of about 7.50 USD. The other night relaxing after work a new idea popped in… Greek yogurt, Hershey’s cocoa… Greek yogurt, Hershey’s cocoa… is it possible there is a place where the two can come harmoniously together?  And so I googled… and found a simple recipe of just Greek yogurt, cocoa, and a little natural sweetener (I used just a touch of honey).  Without hesitation, I went for it and easily created a simple and satisfying chocolate snack.  Did I mention I added fresh strawberries?  Ah, delish!

2.  Veggiehill.com.  I have mentioned them in my blog before.  They are a recent find that sources organic foods grown not far outside of Seoul.  What a treat it is to easily order my food online and have it shipped to my door.  Not only does this free up a little more time in my life, but it provides me with chemical-free vegetables that you just can’t find in the grocery store. The vegetables I receive look ten times better than what I see in the stores and taste great.  Hooray!!

3.  Quiet Relaxing Evenings.  I’m a sensitive soul and after the big energy of teaching dynamic middle school kids during the day it is highly needed and satisfying to have some quiet and private down time in the evenings.  I often treat myself to a good meal, an extended Reiki treatment, a little yoga.  Ah, just what the doctor ordered!  And before I go to bed?  Usually, a little shameless video watching… my recent pleasure is watching old episodes of House then some chanting before bed.  How grateful I am for this time and my spiritual practices to balance my being and my day and prepare me for the day to come.

4.  I am teaching a yoga class!  Wow, it is amazing to me that I am teaching a yoga class at English Village.  As someone who has practiced yoga for over 8 years, relying on it as a spiritual tool to move my body, mind and spirit through many challenging circumstances, it is a real treat to share it with others.  The situation sort of found me…it began with one of the head teachers at English Village asking if I would teach one yoga classes during the work week for teachers.  After that many teachers asked when the next yoga class would be… so we planned it.  Our first weekly yoga class was this past Monday evening.  We had a great turnout!  So many teachers were there that we almost need a bigger room.  Fabulous.

5.  I am at home.  This may sound overly simple, and isn’t necessarily referring to S. Korea or English Village… but it’s a growing sense in me that no matter where I am or what I am doing, I am at home.  Not that I don’t sometimes feel “homesick” or  long for a life that might be more rooted…  But the challenges and blessings of life – losing all of my belongings to Hurricane Katrina, being dramatically uprooted, deciding to travel and the challenges and blessings of that life, have supported the development of my home within. It’s a spiritual place really and even thought I still feel and experiences successes and challenges daily, it is ever apparent in my life.

And with that… gratitude in the midst of challenges, growth and new opportunities in South Korea, I will say good bye for now.

In the meantime I am curious, what are you grateful for in your life?  I’d love to hear from you!

Photo above is a snapshot taken in Seoul of a road barrier… that has planters on it  filled with flowers.  Finding beauty in the most unexpected of places.

The Road to South Korea Just Got Shorter

5 Dec

The scenery is starting to change.  The bright leaves of fall have given way to naked trees.  My laundry that has been scattered all over my room is now finding its way in an organized fashion to my suitcase.  And my Passport, previously mostly barren except for a stamp here are there from Germany and England, now has a Korean Visa in it.  Funny, it seems I am going to Korea…

I am in that busy hazy phase prior to making a life-altering shift.  You know the one, where you tend to the immediate details at hand preparing you for something that… hasn’t fully consciously hit you yet.  Yep, that’s me.  Although it’s starting to hit me… waves of excitement and anxiety are finding their way to my body.  I wake up before the sun rises, before the busy little bodies in the home where I stay rise.  I get up and I start to work… on whatever I can think of to do next to make sure I have everything cared for before I leave.

Bye the way, did I mention that I am leaving on Tuesday?  As in less than a week from today?  I was patiently riding on the slow visa train to Korea when all of a sudden, I switched tracks and landed on the express.  And here I am wandering in everything I want to make sure is complete and wondering about the little things I am not thinking about that still need to get done.

Last week it suddenly dawned on me… that I needed to buy a plane ticket.  I felt sort of like an expectant mother who had gotten so comfortable in the process of pregnancy that I almost forgot about giving birth.  And then one day, the alarms sounded… it is time!  It is time NOW!

So here I am bustling in the wake and energy of my plane ticket purchase preparing for my imminent trip to Korea.  My new place of employment, the Gyeonggi English Village (GEV),  is ready for me to arrive and to begin training for their new program.  I will be teaching English at a hands-on-learning campus created to immerse Korean and international students in the English Language.

Happily I will be making a brief stop in the mid-west to visit with my family – my parents and my sister and her family.  My gut says its important to spend some time with them before I leave, even for just a few days.  I will leave for Korea from there.

This is not something that happens for me every day – preparing to travel to Asia!  It’s my first time there.  I am grateful for a few little tokens of comfort like knowing that I will be picked up at the Seoul airport by a taxi driver sent just for me who will be holding a sign with my name on it.  It’s funny I have always seen that scene played out in the movies, but it has never happened in my own life… until now.  I get butterflies in my stomach just thinking about it!  From there I will be taken to my apartment on the GEV campus.  Yes, my own apartment – a luxury that I have not had the pleasure of since I have been traveling.

I am wrapping up my time here at the family residence in Philadelphia that I have called “home” for the past 3 months.  The youngest boy has been feeding me a steady diet of hand-made presents, since I won’t be here for Christmas.  Practically speaking, this home has been a perfect place for me to be at this time of transition and visa making.  I have been just a stones throw away from the post office, UPS office and other “city needs”.  Additionally I have been most fortunate to have use of a happy, thriving, macintosh laptop computer.  It’s a lovely toy, if even for the short-term, and especially with the expected death of my slow but well-loved PC laptop… hanging in there for now, but… it doesn’t look good.

I am trying to make the most of these last few days here… preparing the family as best as I can to transition to life without an extra set of hands.  I did my best to stock up on groceries and even cooked a few casseroles to put in the freezer for a little added comfort and joy when I leave.

And now, well,  I keep walking the walk of “what is there for me to do next?” on my road to South Korea… getting shorter and shorter as the days go by.  A busy and expectant time!

If you’d like to learn a bit more about my journey and trip to Korea, I invite you to view the video I created.  It’s on my Indiegogo campaign at www.indiegogo.com/southkorea.  And while you’re there please consider a contribution of any amount to support the continuation of this long lovely journey and big school of life.

Thanks for joining me from time to time on the road.  Much more to come!


Photo of Forbidden Road, my favorite “getaway” in near-bye Wissahickon Park in Philadelphia, PA.

Birthday Eve

21 Nov

It’s about 10:30 pm Eastern Standard Time here in the US. I am (mostly) shamelessly listening to the Carpenters (among other tunes) on my Pandora radio.  I have my space heater cranking in my brisk third floor room and am reveling in the simple joys of some time alone… you know, organizing and throwing away old papers, doing a little yoga, drinking hot tea.  Ah, the good life!  In a few hours I will usher in the day of my birth, less formally known as my Birthday.  This year I celebrate 42 years of living.  I am thrilled.  It’s a good time to be alive.

About three hours ago I took my Reiki teacher, Elizabeth Ohmer Pellegrin, to the Philadelphia airport for her flight home to New Orleans.  She came to teach a First Degree Reiki class here in Philly and for a visit. Elizabeth first came to Philadelphia to teach about 6 month ago.  She has some family ties to the area.  She also has another Reiki student who lives full time in Philadelphia and coordinated a class for Elizabeth in June 2012.  She coordinated this most recent class as well.  There is now a budding community of Reiki students in the Usui Shiki Ryoho tradition initiated by Elizabeth blooming and growing in Philadelphia.

It was a real pleasure to have Elizabeth here.  It was like a wonderful burst of “home.” Much of our time together was spent in the Reiki class that she taught all day on Saturday and Sunday.  It is typical for me to sit on Elizabeth’s Reiki class.  Elizabeth is a wonderful teacher and after practicing Reiki for about 8 years, I always find it rewarding and beneficial to sit in on a class.  It’s also fun to be able to contribute in small ways… sharing my experience with Reiki, answering a few student’s questions, and giving assistance as they are learning to give treatments.  It is also a gift to be a in a Reiki class because I get to bathe in the healing energy of Reiki all weekend long.  It feels sort of like taking a vacation … without having to leave the city.  Also Elizabeth is a great caretaker and, when she is not busy teaching or tending to her new students, she always seems to have time to give a little extra TLC my way and make me feel like I am cared for, which is a lovely feeling.

Elizabeth has been my friend and mentor since I first became her student 8 years ago.  She has been there for me persistently and with great care.  We went through the great challenge and new adventures of hurricane Katrina when we were both uprooted from our home for an extended period of time. She has been there to support me through hundreds of big and little triumphs and challenges, including many of the joys and challenge of my latest adventures in travel.  As she went on her way back to New Orleans I felt grateful to have spent time with her and also strong in my on two feet to continue on my journey.

Elizabeth suggested once that I celebrate my birthday one day for each year I have been alive.  I have adopted that philosophy, exploring little ways to celebrate each day.  Tomorrow I will begin my birthday celebration by attending a yoga class and listening to my body and being and see what else my heart desires on this day.

Thanksgiving will likely be a quiet respite for me.  My host family here is traveling to be with their family in New York State.  I was wholeheartedly invited to join them but I have opted for a few juicy days with some time to myself.

And so, on this Birthday Eve and nearly Thanksgiving Eve, I will leave with the spirit of thanks and gratitude… for all the lessons I have learned on this amazing journey I have been on, all of the people I have met along the way and those who have loved and supported me in taking risks and having new experiences of myself… that I would have never had if I hadn’t taken a risk and bought a ticket to Europe a year and a half ago.  Yes I am grateful for the simplicity of living out of a suitcase, taking it one day at a time, and exploring the possibility of new adventures.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Photo of stunning Fall Colors in my Mt. Airy neighborhood.

Adventures in Babysitting

10 Nov

It’s a cool Fall afternoon in Philly – threatening to act like winter.  Once again we had another prediction of a great storm this week and once again Philadelphia was left practically untouched.  We had just a few snow flurries earlier this week on Wednesday and by Thursday, while it was still chilly outside, the weather had us wondering what all the fuss was about.  And so, no snow and no great winter storm for the Philadelphia area.

It’s felt like a busy week for me.  This is a high energy household and often it feels like once I climb on board the wave of  activities for the day, it’s a wild ride.  I continue my new-found happiness… much to my surprise… in cooking and preparing evening meals for the family.  Last night I made homemade burritos served with fresh guacamole with organic cooked carrots on the side.  I have to say it was all really yummy!

I had some new adventures in babysitting earlier this week with the four-year-old, the  youngest of the two boys here.  He had the day off from school on election day so he and I took off for the afternoon to give the work-from-home parents some refuge to get their work done.  We went to what must be the “latest” in parenting… a cafe-like place set up just for kids and parents (or parent-like folks).  You enter with a simple entrance fee and once inside the “gate” there is an indoor playground with an amazing spread of toys and indoor activities.. a slide, a clubhouse, and toy grocery store… you get the picture.  The other half of the place is a parent friendly cafe where one can lounge, do a little reading or computer work while the kids happily make a mess in the room created for the purpose of making messes!  Ah what a difference that makes!  Additionally they have kid-friendly meals and organic and healthy snacks.  You run a “tab” while you are there… so both child and in my case babysitter are free to snack and play and work and then pay the bill on the way out.

I have been somewhat hesitant with taking on childcare in the ensemble of services I offer within the agreement of my exchange here.  But I know full well that often this household really just needs someone willing to take the kids out of the house and give them some space to have a little fun.  The youngest when out of the house and on his own is really quite good and I know he gets a kick out the time and attention.  We had a fair amount of fun at our cafe outing.  I watched him play and when he seemed a bit sheepish on his own I joined him in playing.  We read a book together in the clubhouse and played tag in the tumbling room downstairs filled with mats and basic gymnastic equipment –  a room that it seems no matter how old you are invites you to play! At the very least I got to be a voyeur into contemporary motherhood for an afternoon and my hosts got a quiet afternoon to work.

The youngest and I took another little outing yesterday afternoon.  After the threat of the storm it was a gift to have a bright sunny blue-skied day that was brisk but still inviting to be outdoors.  The youngest gets home early from school on Fridays so I took him for a little outing that was a real treat – a trip to the Morris Arboretum.  It’s just up the street from their home and a favorite of the family’s to visit.  This was my first trip there.

The little one was my enthusiastic tour guide giving me clear directions once we pulled in past the ticket guard.  He let me know to follow the cars in front of me, that the cow-shaped creatures off in the hills were in fact not REAL cows, and led me safely to the parking lot.  It was such a beautiful day the hills just called to us.  He was off and I was not far behind him.

First stop was the tree house.  Wow, what a magical construction with fun inviting places to visit – like a giant bird’s nest and netted pavilion high up in trees.  Of course I did feel the panic of my fear of heights which I greeted lightly and tried not to take too seriously.  Luckily for me he didn’t want to stay up there too long and soon we were off.  We wandered next to the fernery, a steamy room filled with lush plants and fish.  Then to the log cabin and playing and visiting with the nearby stream.  His enthusiasm to be there leapt and peaked until… it was gone and the next question from him was… “can we go home now?”  Of course we can… although my spirit could have wandered through the Arboretum for hours!  Still, my first visit would not have been the same without him as my guide!

I stopped in on a little neighborhood Kirtan chanting session last night.  Led by a local man at the near-by Unitarian Church, it was a cozy and intimate event with just a few of us there to sing and chant.  His chants were beautiful and simple and he had an assortment of instruments for us to use.  It was fun for me to grab the tambourine or the rattle and join in.  Kirtan is a call and response style singing… so the leader sings and then the group responds.  With such a small group my voice was often the only one I heard when it was time to respond.  Sometimes it was fun to actually hear my voice in the midst of singing with others and other times it was daunting and I was sure nothing was going to come out when I opened my mouth.

Today is a laid back Saturday.  I have had a lazy extended morning and have taken advantage of not having much to do.  Tonight we go to a lantern ceremony for the oldest son, age 7,  who goes to the local Waldorf school.  All the kids make their own lanterns in school and tonight they will light them and do a silent procession on the school grounds.

My Reiki teacher, Elizabeth Ohmer Pellegrin, will be arriving next week to teach a first degree Reiki class here in Philadelphia.  How excited I am!  My friend and mentor and great guide on my journey, it will be wonderful to see her!  I haven’t seen her or anyone else “familiar” to me since I left to travel a year and a half ago.  If you are interested in being in the class or have questions you can contact me.

And for now, more of an extended laid back Saturday.  “Thriller” by Michael Jackson has made it’s way onto my Pandora station. Perhaps in a bit I will take a walk in the park.  It’s good to have some time on my own and time to the enjoy the brisk fall air.

Photo of the ever energetic blue-hooded boy and youngest son here in the home where I stay, skipping blissfully through the Arboretum on a beautiful Fall day.

Being at Home Anywhere in the World

18 Sep

It was recently the 7th Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina as we were reminded with the arrival of Hurricane Isaac.  I lived in New Orleans for thirteen years and like so many others was uprooted by the flooding of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.  That was the beginning it seems of my Gypsy training.

I was in Houston, TX attending the Landmark Forum for “just the weekend” when Hurricane Katrina hit. From there I traveled to Austin, TX where I lived for about 18 months before returning home to New Orleans.  With my former apartment flooded and rents on the rise because of increased insurance costs for homeowners, I was lucky to find an affordable place to live when returning.  I rented out two private back rooms and a bathroom in a comfortable Mid-City home.  It wasn’t quite the “home” I imagined for myself, but I was grateful for an affordable place to land. Time flew and I was there for 3 years.  When my landlord’s daughter was to return home and she would need my space, it was my time to leave.  As I no longer had my affordable place to live, I started taking some creative leaps.

I stayed for one month in a private home that used to be a bed and breakfast in exchange for graphic design work.  Next a friend wanted me to house sit while he was out-of-town and his home was for sale.  Six months later I left that home when it sold and moved to another home for sale until, six months later it too sold.  It was from there that I flew the coop and headed to Europe.

These years of transition and travel have accentuated the necessity and importance of creating and cultivating an inner home.  I began to rely on and develop an inner sanctuary and place of respite.  This is a place I can turn to no matter where I am in the world and no matter what may be happening in my world, inside or out.  It isn’t always easy moving from place to place, in foreign environments with life handing unexpected twists and turns.  Here are some ways that I have come to rely on to support myself and the cultivation of an inner home as my world around me shifts and moves.

Spiritual Practice
For me, connection to spirit is a place that I go to for comfort and ease when life around me is constantly changing or when life seems chaotic.  A spiritual practice is like a daily (or more) taste of the divine.  It is like visiting that greater place we call home no matter where I am or what is up in the world.  I find the more I visit that place through daily practice, the more it surprises me with visits during my regular ordinary life.

Some of my favorite spiritual practices are:

Time in Nature.
There is nothing that satisfies my spirit or soothes my soul more than spending time in the outdoors.  The feel of a gentle cool breeze, the bright colors of a blossoming flower, or the warmth of the sun on my skin are core experiences that bring me joy and that I have come to rely on for peace and comfort like a tender, loving parent.  Every day, no matter where I am, I take a little time for nature.  Sometimes it’s been a stroll along a farmers road between potato fields in Germany.  Other times its been a walk along a near-by river or park.  I am usually alone and it is often quiet as I am greeted by whatever that day has to offer.

Dance.  I love to dance.  I am not a professional dancer or anything, but for me there is nothing like listening to some music that makes me want to shake my booty and just moving and dancing for a bit.  Nearly every day in the privacy of whatever room I might be in at the time, wherever I am in the world, I put on a little music from my iTunes on my computer and I dance!  Sometimes mellow, sometimes not.  But it always feels good to just move!

Practice being in the Present Moment
We all know the phrase… “wherever you go… there you are…” and so it is true that no matter what has happened or what is to happened what is always there is the present moment.  I am no different from anyone else… with my mind wandering at times hastily to what has been or to what will be.  But I take the time to practice… being where I am… in the moment.  Sometimes it may be as simple as calling my attention to my fingers and the feel of the iron and the sheets as I was ironing at Les Battees, feeling my feet in my shoes as they meet the ground.  Sometimes it is noticing my breath… sometimes breathing easily, sometimes not… When I remind myself to slow down and pay attention to just the present moment I am often awakened to expanded perception in that moment… and expanded joy.

Eating Well
A simple healthy diet is the cornerstone of well-being for me and makes a big difference in my well-being and feeling at “home”.  As lately I have been living in other peoples homes and kitchens, I do my best to be a fair and good communicator to ensure that my new home can provide the basic foods for my health and well-being.  This includes no refined sugar in anything that I eat and access to whole grains and fresh veggies and proteins.  A little good food goes a long way!

Reading from inspiring books and texts
Nearly daily I lean on and rely on books and texts that lift and inspire me.  For me these are often of a spiritual nature.  Even just a quote or paragraph that reminds me I am of something greater than myself gives me perspective on whatever opportunity or challenge I may be facing at the moment.  My favorite book to lean on is currently A Course in Miracles , but I also have enjoyed books by Catherine Ponder and Gary Renard’s Disappearance of the Universe.

Goofing Off
I also find it is important to have time just to goof off – to just do that silly unsophisticated thing for a little bit each day that nurtures the little child in me and brings me comfort.  Sometimes it may be reading a light novel or magazine.  Lately it has been watching old episodes of the show Medium on the internet.  Just a little something, often “brainless” and fun, to take a “break” from whatever I may need a break from that day!

These are my basics for cultivating my inner home, wherever I may be, whoever I am with.  I am grateful to have the time and experience of cultivating an inner home as I currently travel from place to place, some plans known… some still unfolding…

Photo from the gardens of Les Battees.

Chalon Dans La Rue

23 Jul

It feels like a beautiful fall day here in Dennevy, France.  Except, of course, that it is the middle of summer.  I am not complaining mind you.  The sun is shining and there is fresh cool breeze in the air.  I remain, after living in New Orleans for over ten years, a tropical climate body and I have to laugh at myself as I walk around in France in July wearing fleece and… I hesitantly admit.. a scarf.  It feels good to be tucked up and warm.

I took an outing away from the land of Les Battees last week.  My first excursion on my own since arriving in France.  It wasn’t totally on my own as I “hitched” a ride with my host and his girlfriend to Chalon sur Saone for the street theater festival, Chalon Dan La Rue.  After months in the shelter of the mostly English speaking Les Battees and the company and companionship of Roy’s mum, Marina and Roy as well… I was, shall we say, hesitant to strike out in the land of French on my own.  I was like a little baby bird being kicked out of the next.  It was time.

The three of us arrived in Chalon and I was escorted to the tourists office.  I was armed with a map, a bus schedule and a schedule of the events for the street theater.  I looked at Roy with the eyes of an abandoned child and left to allow them some privacy for their date.  I jokingly said in departure… “If I never see you again… it was nice knowing you…”  Sometimes my nervousness strikes in me without my permission, and there it was as I left on my own for the day.  The best cure for that?  Practice.  So I set out to enjoy my day in Chalon.

Listening to Roy’s advice I headed towards the center of town and followed the people.  It was a coolish rainy day as I wandered around a bit seeking the best direction.  I saw a few colorful characters that reminded me of my days and times living in New Orleans.  And then, while walking around in the center of the city square it seemed that someone was following me… It was a woman… and when I moved to the left… she moved to the left.  When I moved to the right… she moved to the right.  Yes, she is following me, I thought with my suspicions protective lens.  So I decided to test her and made a sudden u-turn in the square only to greet her friendly french face and discover… that she was… part of the festival…a mime of sorts.  And she was following me.  She handed me a harmless red foam square and did her best to explain her project to me in her modest English.  It seemed they were handing out the red squares to people and inviting them to leave them in a public space… anywhere… and take a picture of it and then send the picture and why they placed it there  to their website.  Harmless.

Following my nose and the crowds led me to a small stage just outside of the center of town.  A band was setting up so I settled in, ate a little lunch and waited for them to perform.  They were a “young” group, likely in their early twenties, all dressed up in funky band uniforms.  They called themselves the Pullup Orchestra and when they started playing my mind, my body and my spirit were met with some relief.  Their funky sounds and playful performance put some of my nervousness at rest.  They were from Switzerland and surprisingly fun.  They had a brass band sound but also added kind of a hip-hop feel.   Here is a little sample of what I heard!

Using what I now see are basically remnants of French from my studies in High School, I was able to handle the basics in French in my day.  I got directions to the bank.  I bought myself some food and I found a bathroom!

Walking through the streets, I stumbled to the next “act” driving down the road on a coach of sorts pedaled by one of the lovely performers.  It was three women dressed in costume, the woman at the lead was singing opera with a beautiful comical air.  It was in French so I did not understand what they were saying, but watching I was entertained just the same.  They brought their carriage to a halt and engaged in an amusing display.  The lead was singing and taunting, with their “cyclist” dismounting the carriage to apparently select men for the lead actress.  It was a quite a routine, the men being sprayed with what I can only assume was some sort of “love potion” by the woman fetching men while the men were serenaded and seduced by the lead on the carriage.  When their business was done, they saddled back up and peddled away to their new destination and I went to look for mine.

I had a schedule for the day which was in French, but I was able to fend my way through it.  I caught a show on the other side of town that just blew me away!  The group was called Urbaphonix. It was such great street theater, a collection of youngish men arriving in suits with some urgency, exploring the landscape around them until finding a perfect spot.  They attached some sort of electrical device to that and other spots… and began to play.  Balconies, bicycles and street signs were transformed into music instruments.  It was so “smart” and their performance so engaging, it was really a fresh experience.  Here is a little sample.

I stumbled upon a few more acts for the day, all of which were really excellent in a way that impressed me, and then began to make my way to the bus station.  Relying on my map to point me in the right direction, I easily found the station and my bus back to Les Battees.  One Euro fifty cents later, I was on the bus and on my way.

I arrived back at Les Battees with the house to myself for a little bit, enjoyed a dinner of leftovers and a movie accompanied by the companionship of Picsou the dog and the day was complete.

For today it looks like a fresh easy day at Les Battees.  We have guests upstairs at the Chambres d’Hotes staying for a few days, which means we can rest a bit.  I am hanging out in my room newly accompanied by my venus flytrap plant… an offering from Roy to aid in reducing the number of flies wandering around my room.  It is a good day for just chilling out and listening to the roar of the fall-like summer wind.

Photo of the traveling serenading carriage at Chalon Dans La Rue.

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