Here now and now here or nowhere

The title of this blog comes from a play on words that "now here" is also the same letters as "nowhere" just with a space added in the middle. I am always trying to get better at being in the here and now, and I've always been a bit of a joker so that is why I chose this name.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Au Revoir, again

To readers of this blog you may know me as different things. Traveler, food lover, explorer,  photo journalist (of a sort.)  But I'm also a yogi.   I'll be leaving the US on August  31st to spend three weeks in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia to go deeper into my yoga studies and practice.  After that I'll be heading back to Bhutan for 3 months to teach yoga. I'm also hoping to be able to practice more of the meditation knowledge that I learned in Burma in the rich clean and untapped nature of the ancient kingdom.

I will do my best to update this blog with stories, photos, stream of conscious ramblings, and decent content aimed to add a smile to your days.

Thank you to all who made the first 2.5 years on the road so memorable and happy. Thanks for all those who welcomed me back to the US with open arms, open couches/beds, full plates and giant hugs. Your love and kindness has filled me up with more than you can know. Every day I am amazed at how lucky I am to have such good people in my life. I genuinely feel like the luckiest man in the world.  I am excited and nervous to get back on the road and though I plan to come back soon and ideally "root" down here in the US I can't say so or when for one can never really know what future has lying ahead for them.

Many blessings, thanks and so much love from all of me (and more) to all of you (and more)

peace peace peace


Under African Skies and US Homes

"This is the story of how we begin to remember
This is the powerful pulsing of love in the vein
After the dream of falling and calling your name out
These are the roots of rhythm
And the roots of rhythm remain"

I listened to "Graceland" by Paul Simon for much of my cross country trip. 25 years after its inception and it still sounds so poignant and beautiful. "Under African Skies" in particular was really ringing in my head. Besides a funky African bass line and cool upbeat guitar rhythms it also has lyrics that stick in your mind. Ever the poet, Simon has a way of capturing feelings, thoughts and moments in lyrics and song. As I drove and discovered a new (to me) America I truly felt a connection to my roots and of beginning to remember what I may never have even known.

I'm on a bus to NYC today and tomorrow will fly to Bali to start a training course. I stopped by my moms work to say goodbye and made sure to give her a hug. The last one for a while. Being a "real man", I tried to suppress my sadness and emotions but it was an disheartening moment . I will be stepping from the comfort of my roots where the flow of love surrounds me into a void of unknown. While I know that I'll be safe and fine, it is still hard to say goodbye to your parents. Harder more when you've just come back from 2.5 years of not seeing them and don't know how long it will be this time. But I have no fear or worries about it. I look forward to the next hug but move onwards into the null sea of unknown, only knowing that my roots remain.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Americana - Road Trippin'

I recently spent 8 days in a car driving across the country. I was fortunate enough to find a lovely couple on craigslist who needed a car driven from my part of the Boston area to San Francisco, where I was planning to visit.  Some people were surprised to hear that I didn't charge for the services offered but for me it seemed like a fair win/win situation. I wanted to see the country, visiting friends along the way and drive through areas I've never been to. They needed a car from here to there. Why not just help each other out, make the world a better place? Right?  So they paid for the gas and I drove across my beautiful country.  

Below are some pictures from the road. It was touch to take photos or videos as I was driving almost all the time.  You'll notice a wide variety of scenery as America is very large diverse.  

I was fortunate to spend time with friends from college, burning man, my travels, family of family, my time living in SF, as well as meeting new friends.  I wish I had more time to see everyone and to eat ever more unhealthy.. but I'm fortunate for what I did get. And I got a lot.  

My time on the road as well as the 5 days in San Fran reminded me of how amazing my friends are. Of how loving and caring they are. And of how lucky I am to have them in my life.  I'm beyond fortunate and grateful for all them, and all of you (the readers). 

Tomorrow I will take a bus to NYC and then the day after I fly to Bali to start another journey. It hasn't fully sunken in and it probably won't till I'm in the air (again).  Alas, whenever it does.. I am ready for whatever it shall bring.

Hope you enjoy the photos.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Happiness - A Poem by Anfernee Chansamooth and a diatribe on my week in SF

I feel happy when I am surrounded by and connected to Mother Earth,
When radiant sun embraces me and warms me up from within,
When the sea breeze caresses my cheek and the sound of the ocean carries me with her into the deep blue.
I feel happy when the birds cry “hello” up from their traffic-free sky,
When my feet touches soft, tickling grass beneath me,
When the raindrops fall from the heavens and I taste water drops – the gift of life – on my tongue which reminds me that I am alive.
I feel happy when the trees bless me with shade to keep me cool on a hot Summer’s day,
When I share an embrace with another connected soul, for we are all brothers and sisters and manifestations of love,
When a child giggles and stumbles into the arms of their awaiting parent,
When bubbles surround me and pop on my face – disappearing as quickly as it had appeared.
I feel happy when I share a connection, physical, spiritual and emotional,  with that special someone who loves me for me and all that I bring to this reality,
When the words “you may kiss the bride” are uttered at the chapel and a promise of eternal love is exchanged,
When my skin touches the soft sheets to mark my arrival home.
This is when I feel happy.
- Anfernee Chansamooth (2012)

I received the above poem in an email from my friend Anf while I was having dinner with some dear friends in SF. I was visiting my old stomping grounds and catching up with loved ones still in the area. Sitting next to a former lover and across from my yoga teacher training partner, two people who know me very well and always offer up bounds of love to me and my life choices, I felt the words of his poem radiate inside of me. It wasn't just here too, I felt as if the moment I crossed over the Bay Bridge and came back to San Francisco that the city welcomed me with open arms. I spent 5 days immersed in conversations, meals, walks, yoga, and more with people who I love and truly love me. People who I have not seen in over 2.5 years but with all of them it felt like it had been 2.5 days. No time had passed. Sure we'd gotten older, new restaurants opened and old ones closed. Lots had happened, TONS!! but really nothing had happened. We all shared a connection of some sort with each other and time couldn't break that, nor would we want it to. I've started to learn in the last few years what it means to be a good person, and a huge huge HUGE part of this is the people you surround yourself with. I am so fortunate to be surrounded by amazing, intelligent, caring, loving, wonderful people. I know some of it is what I offer up to them and the world, but a huge part is luck.. and I'll take it without any complaints.

I didn't get to see close to everyone I may have hoped to see but thus is life. I am so glad that I got to spend time with every single person that I was fortunate enough to bask in their lights. Leaving places is never easy, though it's something I've gotten very good at in my travels. I don't view San Francisco as a place I'm leaving, more of a location that I'm taking a hiatus from living in. But I'm pretty sure I'll be back (though always open to the possibility that the universe has another plan for me)

Thank you to all of you who helped make the last week in the bay area so comfortable, and happy for me. It may have been cold weather wise, but I was always basking in the warmth from your love.

Yangon Circle Line

In Yangon one of the most tourist visited sites is the Yangon Circle Line. It is exactly as it sounds, a train line running a circle around Yangon and the surrounding outer area.  It's hyped as a great way to see city and country life in a nice little package.  The Burmese people coming on the train are mostly heading to work of some sort and you'll see various types of people with various types of clothing as well as trains getting filled with "stuff." Stuff is what they put in the aisles between the people. It may be a product to sell or sacks of rice, heaps of produce, hay, and lots of who knows what.  All the while you just sit and absorb it.  While it does offer a nice view of daily life for many Burmese people, for your average traveler it's a bit long clocking in near 3 hours especially when you're sitting on this very hard wooden bench.  My advice to travelers coming to Yangon, skip this and get a train or bus to another town just outside Yangon and you'll see the same sites and be more comfortable and have more control on when to go back.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Day 24 - Golden Rock

I woke up and went to start my morning meditation but I was too excited for some reason. I could feel my whole body shaking and I think it was from a plethora of reasons. Mainly, that each day draws nearer to me being home. But I was also ready to see this Golden Rock (Mt Kyaiktiyo).  At breakfast I met Curtis, a nice young American college student spending his summer break traveling SE Asia.  He visited the rock yesterday and gave me his pass for the rock.  When you visit, it costs foreigners $6 to go up to the rock, but it's valid for 30days.  I in turn will give the pass to someone else, providing karma to travelers and not to the military government (where the money goes to).  Having walked most of the way, today was taking the giant truck with benches in the back that fits around 45 people.  It was crowded and not so comfortable and it lasted for longer than I wished. It also started to rain while we were driving up, but rain is just what happens this time of year. I thought of the expression, "Into each life some rain must fall" and they should amend it with "unless you live in Burma in the rainy season and then some thought shitload of rain will pour on you."  The truck drops you off at the base and it's a 45 minute walk up. I was the only foreigner in my truck and no one got off at the base stop and then the truck went higher up. The guide books don't mention it, but the truck will take you nearly all the way to the top. Score!! I didn't have to walk up the steep, wet, slippery path.  At the foreigner booth I was asked to pay and when I showed my ticket he asked my name and country. I said USA and Claude (as I forgot curtis's name).  There was a list and luckily for me the guy couldn't really read and so he saw the C in curtis's name and said, "this you?"  I replied with a yes and then he said "Oh yeah, I remember you. ok you can go."  I thought that I bet he remembered me and left to walk up.  The boulder itself is sort of impressive. I thought it would be bigger (don't you always think this."  But I'm glad to have gone.  I couldn't get a truck down so had to walk and my flip-flops became to wet and slippery so I went barefoot the whole way down.  Burmese people would look at my feet and say "real bamar, real bamar" in reference to burmese people would do a lot of things bare feet (Bamar (sounding like bah-mah, being the name of the main group of people in this country and a derivation of why the English named it Burma.")  At the base, the trucks wouldn't leave till they were full, so I was stuck there for an hour and a half.  

Once back, I packed up, hopped a motorbike and was off to the train station. I have yet to take a train and thought it would be nice to try once in the country. Also, the train station is a 5 minute walk from my guesthouse which is better than the bus which is an hours+ drive. I got to the station at 10minutes to 1 to catch the 1pm train, and was told that it left at 11:20.  I had been told previously that the trains in Burma are unreliable, but this was a bit much. So I headed over to the bus station, which isn't a station but a few vendors selling tickets on the side of the street and they just hail buses driving by down.  The bus was supposed to cost 7000kyat, but as expressed yesterday, it cost less to go from Yangon to the stop after and I didn't understand why. Also, I saw a local man pay and it was only 2500 kyat.  I think I know what the story was. First, the government gets a lot of the money from foreign tickets. Secondly, the vendors are scraping money for themselves because when I said it was too high and said "5000?" they said ok.  I had to catch the second AC bus as the first was full.  I had travel friends hop on the first and it looked so uncomfortable.  Mine was roomy (for me in the back at least) and most importantly for my first time here, they weren't blaring bad soap operas or karaoke videos. They had them on, of course, but at a reasonable volume.  This was amazing, my luck was with me.  When we arrived at the bus station, we pulled into a spot in the front. Usually my buses always go deep into the back so that you're about 10minutes from the road. We were 1 minute. Why does this matter? Most tourist take taxi's to town, costing up to 800kyat (depending how many other ppl you get) I walk to the road and take the 43bus, costing 200-500kyat (depending on if they charge me for my bag to take up space).  The extra 9 minutes of walking can be stressful on my body as my backpack is heavy, so to be close was wonderful.  And when I got to the road, the bus just arrived and had no people on it.  Best of all, they only charged me the actual 200kyat price (first time for this too).  Clearly my luck was with me.  By the way, to give these kyat numbers some meaning.  The whole trip went from costing around 13,000kyat (about 16usd) to 5,200kyat (about 6usd) which is a big difference. and while $10 isn't a super amount of money, it can go far here (it's a nights sleep).

I checked into the hotel, got a little dinner, came back to meditate and then passed out easily.  Tomorrow starts my last few days in Burma and I have some tasks I need to do before leaving.  I may try to also visit some cultural places, though most in Yangon don't interest me too much.