Saturday, October 30, 2010

what if this was my last day?

Today, feeling the way I do, I needed some sort of corner-turning.  In the middle of cup number two and a half-awake dredging of the net, I came upon this:

It was a nice random sign, pointing to a past path forgotten.

While in university, I had the curiosity, but not the stamina to go the distance in one subject, so I tended to select classes from a broad palette.  During one spell of curiosity,  I took several philosophy courses.  For that academic moment, I was enthralled by all the past voices that offered up explanations and method for what was my daily toil.   I went through the course, directing me to thoughts and thinkers until, given the time point and stage of life,  I got to Existentialism.  Starting with Kierkegaard and and Nietzsche, and following to Sartre and Camus, I read the thinkers and the writers of the movement.  I found what spoke to me and became uninterested in the rest.

Fast forward to today.  My mind has been in turmoil these last few weeks (overloaded by various stresses and negative thoughts), and so I have been thinking about some sort of framework that I could use to help support my state of mind.  I have been thinking about doing some coursework in Buddhism while I am in India/Nepal, figuring it best to take a little look while at the source, as it can't hurt.

Enter the above article.  Stoicism.  It holds many similarities to Buddhism, but also offers some practical techniques to help in the appreciation of our present, as well as how to lessen the impact of loss.  One such technique is negative visualization.  An exercise in which one contemplates a negative outcome so as to stress how one's present isn't so bad.  For example, if you are in a situation that is bringing you pleasure, quickly think about it being taken away.  The goal is that these negative visualizations take the form of a fleeting thought, which is meant to remind us, when it is gone, how lucky we are and to enjoy positive things in our life.

This little exercise has put me in a better head space today so that I have decided to explore it further.  But also, while in India/Nepal I shall also take advantage of the opportunities on offer as far as yoga, meditation and the exploration of the Buddhist worldview.  I need some new insights on the dealing with the heaviness of stress in this life.  I want to feel light again.


Monday, October 25, 2010

becoming (a) regular: haircuts 1

Life's little tasks, the forgettable moments that fill our day, are taken for granted.

And for me living abroad, they have been no different.  But, given a second glance, they contain some truth of our day-to-day, as much as the larger events of our days.  One such task is the haircut.  I have been lucky in my time abroad to have found many a great friend in my barber/hair stylist.  This post is a tribute to the people that have cut my hair and the positivity they all gave to my experience abroad.

Taka; Bloom Salon, Nagaoka, Japan
My first time living abroad, I was placed in a small village (7000 people) called Nishiyama.  So small that we had a 7-11, ramen shop and grocery store, but no barber shop.  I think I hit a run of random hair cuts until meeting Taka through a mutual friend.  He fit the part of the expat-returnee to the inaka, with his shock of hair and style.  My Japanese was horrible at the time, but Taka, whom had just returned from London to open his salon, spoke excellent English.  He was a great stylist, and it was my first introduction to the Japanese two hour cut, with several stages including a head massage.  It was a great way to learn about the culture and language.  He helped me through the confusion of what is Japan in your first year.  Taka and I became friends and would go and shoot billiards, drink beers and teach each other language.  A good guy that I hope is well.  久しぶりですね?

Saturday, October 16, 2010

memento / oblivisci 1

Things I want to remember, things I need to forget.
driving solo (through the desert getting caught in sand storms, driving by herds of hundreds of camels, desert lightning) the call to Magreb prayer during an extra colorful sunset, Laksman and Utakumar days when i could set my own agenda at work, traveling on holidays with no budget, the haj buses, the Ballad district in Jeddah, the old 'church', the kind Ethiopian guy that helped me with the cops when I was purposefully hit, the Little India/Pakistan area of Jeddah and all the lovely regional food, being recognized at my favorite South Indian restaurant....

being a hermit, rarity of seeing my family, gender segregation (practically choking on all the testosterone), working in an all male environment, Saudi racism, Saudi tribalism, Saudi regionalism, driving with certain others, sunrise prayer, waking up early (4:30 am is just too early), the lack of options, the lack of options (needs to be twice said), lack of food choice, social life, lack of work ethic, lack of quality, certain attitudes, the worst version of an expat enclave I ever did see, difficulty in doing things, sid, incompetent bosses/managers/company, doing far too much for a shite company, life in ac, lack of access to the host culture, compound life and all it entails, especially living in a contained prison-like area with people that you work with, my weeks (months) of depression between holidays, sharing Jeddah guest villa, Al-Gham compound house, the ignorance of some, the jagoff that ran into me purposefully in Jeddah, company parties-their drab and hollow festivities with the wraith-like husks of humans wandering about and repeating incestuous gossip, not being able to see Mecca and Medina, the religious zealots on either side of the divide, conversion attempts in the supermarket, the treatment of developing country nationals by Saudis and expats alike, trash thrown out of cars like it was 1959, shite Saudi drivers, selfishness, suppression of opinion when asked, not being able to wear shorts in public, compound meals, difficulty of hiking/access to nature.....

Friday, October 15, 2010

leaving a place: good bye or good riddance?

The result of having an insatiable wanderlust and being exposed to travel at an impressionable age, I have traveled.   

Maybe it was that stealth trip to Lake George and Montreal or maybe it was that first epic journey junior year in high school to Daytona Beach and the Bahamas.  Or was it the early fascination with the Grateful Dead and the touring lifestyle?  What ever exact experience, or culmination of experiences, I have become a person that has moved.

In moving, the positive of saying hello to a place, in all its entirety is one of my favorite parts of the experience.  Discovery, piecing together a place and the slow creep of self-assured familiarity are all things that I can take in large doses.  But of course, to experience this anew, one has to leave a prior place.  The leaving of a place has, up until this point, been a difficult process.  Saying good bye to friends met, recognizable places, familiar ways...and all the people and things that made up the background canvas of your life....has been hard. 

But then I experienced Saudi Arabia.  A difficult place and a difficult existence.  Now before I wax negative, it must be said that my choice in coming here was not an innocent one.  The motivating factor for coming here was the coin.  So here I state at the beginning the driving force of me coming here was unlike any other time in my life, a desire not for culture, but cash.

And I remember, after signing the three year contract, that I felt as though I just signed away three years of my life to a prison-like existence. 

So how has this changed my usual feelings of leaving a place?
For the first time ever, I am leaving a place without the normal melancholia.  In fact, I am overjoyed at the prospect of leaving this desert of a life.  This man is ready to escape this dune.  I temporally submitted to get me through the past three years, but only as a way to survive.  I am ready to shed this place, and carry on.

I am five weeks away free.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

the time, it goes

So I guess I haven't been as prolific as I hoped that I would be.  Sure, I could blame the internet outage at work, or the fact that I am trying to pick up pieces of my life, scattered over the last three years; as well as doing all that you need to do to close up shop.  Sorting, packing, errands....stuff. 

But here I am, staring down the gaze of a week 5.  Down to 5 teaching weeks.  Happy so much about this.  Although, sod's law, I have a great class this final go, wishing I had them last year.  A good group of guys, 8 student (cause of management error), 7/8 progressing and wholly teachable.  There is always one, innit? 

So I juggle the daily prep/teaching with preparations of my departure.  So many things hanging, not yet decided.  The SALT have not yet given me word on who will be handling my processing nor a time table.  I guess I figured that, so I am burdened with the lack of knowledge, but have been faithfully checking to-do lists, trying to do as much as I can so that I can be off on or around the 15th of November.  I really hope before, as Nepal is calling me something fierce, as is the idea of open road/travel.  I am so in need of it, to clear the thoughts and have a chance to recalibrate my psyche and soul.

Once I clear this joint, a promise is to write on this thing every day that I have net access.
Really and truly.

Ciao ciao.