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Good Morning ElephantsWorld

Volunteering at ElephantsWorld
Kanchanaburi, Thailand

Humans need ElephantsWorld. Let me explain:

I volunteered at ElephantsWorld (EW) because a friend told me I had to. I casually told her that I was planning a trip to Thailand and before I had finished my sentence she told me I had no option of not going to ElephantsWorld on my travels. She told me it was one of the most amazing things she had ever experienced and the best part of her travels in Thailand; turns out her sentiments were well founded and shared by myself.

I was fortunate that just as I had planned to be in the Bangkok area ElephantsWorld had a spot open for a volunteer. I had emailed the admin staff a few times back and forth and once the timeline worked and they said I could come I was on the first train from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi, and then on the EW morning bus out to the sanctuary. My previous experience with Elephants had been similar to most: I had gone to the zoo, and had seen their Elephants off in the distance, separated by a large fence, then a ditch, and then another large fence. As anyone knows that has visited EW within your first 20 minutes not only are you standing next to an Elephant, you are feeding them and hanging out with them, and being overwhelmed by them. It is an incredible experience that is a one of a kind memory for tourists, and only gets better as a volunteer. The first day I spent as a visitor, I went through the program not quite understanding yet that everything I saw I would soon become an integral part of.

Volunteer crew

Volunteer crew

Volunteering at EW is not an experience, it is a lifestyle change. At many places when you volunteer you will help out on the periphery if there are extra jobs to be done. This is not the case at EW; once you become comfortable with your duties you become a part of the sanctuary, and it won’t run without you. It is at first a daunting thing but very quickly becomes a fulfilling one. As you get more comfortable you can accept more responsibility and you really do feel like you are making a contribution to the welfare of the giant Elephants wandering around you. It can be hard work, and long days, and at times you will be tired…but it also can be amazing, and life-altering, and can help you develop yourself and your connection with the natural world around you.

Lunch

Lunch

The duties change from volunteer to volunteer and from day-to-day. In the morning often you will be packaging food for the Elephants (which includes trying to convince 77-year-old Aum Pan that she should wait until her food is ready….and should not simply help herself in the food shed). Then during the day you’re either guiding visitors, which I will talk about in more detail, or will be helping with day-to-day operations like social media, managerial stuff, or if everything is done means you can just hang out and watch the Elephants. At nighttime you make sure everything is squared away, and then you just hang out with the other volunteers and mahouts. I should also mention that the food is fantastic. Some of my best meals in Thailand came from the kitchen ladies at EW, every meal was highly anticipated by this guy. There are also other non volunteer things that pop up and are awesome; the Sunday local market in Lad-Ya, the going away parties, the local festivals. I wont go into any of these in detail, so you can have the fresh experience all to yourself when you get there.

Caught this lady trying to sneak into the food shop...again

Caught this lady trying to sneak into the food shop…again

Volunteering here gave me memories I can guarantee I could not hold otherwise; I was playfully chased by one of our teenagers Kam Kaew while I tried to sneak past her with food. I was picked to feed our blind Elephant Lam Duan at night-time. Lets just say she is lightning fast and once she smells you and her food; she wants to get close right away, in the dark. I had countless tug of wars with our little guy Johnny, his record stands yet undefeated. I also had some surreal moments just watching all of them go about their daily business; oblivious to the Canadian guy sitting awestruck 50 feet away.  I met a great group of people; all with their own personal strengths that they brought with them as volunteers. It was also my fortune to stay for 5 weeks and spend 4 of them as the head volunteer; which helped me progress my own leadership skills in a very real way. The mahouts always kept things lively: mahouts are the Elephant cowboys. They each work individually with an Elephant and some have been with them for 3+ years. They all live on-site with you; and so you’re living with them. You’ll get to learn a lot about their culture and their style of life. You will also get to have a ton of fun with them during the day and after the sanctuary closes. I met some great guys and girls who live and work there that I am looking forward to seeing when I return.

My buddies - the littlest Mahouts

My buddies – the littlest Mahouts

The visitors to ElephantsWorld are also a rewarding part of the experience. One great thing about EW is that tourists who come to it, fully knowing it is a sanctuary and not a tourist trap, are all good people. They get it.  They are so keen to learn about the Elephants and are so exuberant in their desire to help out. It was such a cool feeling to learn all about Elephants as a species, and then to pass that knowledge on to people who are really stoked to learn about it. When you volunteer at EW you’ll be amazed at how much you learn, and how fast you learn it. Often people in the tours would laugh when I mentioned I had zero background in Zoology or Elephant welfare; because I had been answering their random questions about Elephants all day.  I would usually offer a free water bottle to whoever could stump me first. No mention that water bottles are provided to all the tourists…free of charge.

Giving Aim Pan some love with a visitor from my group. This is 'working' as a volunteer...

Giving Aum Pan some love with a visitor from my group. This is ‘working’ as a volunteer…

You don’t just learn facts about the Elephants, you learn about the Elephants themselves. They are not a separate attraction like in a zoo; they are as much your friends and colleagues as the Mahouts are. You get to learn which Elephants have no problem with a group of strangers being brought up close to them; and which would rather not. By the end of 5 weeks I could usually tell if one Elephant was just having a bad day, and would just steer the tour away from them to give them some peace. You get to feel that some of them like you, and some of them could care less, and some don’t like you at all. I think Aum Pan liked me, Kammoon would acknowledge my existence from time to time, and Wasana was not my biggest fan haha. Lam Duan was more than happy to have me as a mobile feeder during the night-time. I can’t tell you how cool a feeling it is to know an Elephant. That is something a volunteer has to experience for them self.

Feeding Songkran

Feeding Songkran

I started this by saying humans need ElephantsWorld and that I would explain what I meant, well I am a man of my word. Later in my stay I had a morning off to do whatever I wanted. So I did whatever I wanted. Part of that included finding a secluded bench overlooking the river and letting my thoughts wander as they wished. Bear with me here, there is a point. I was watching this giant butterfly float from flower to flower and I started thinking about the difference between it and myself. Namely how it operated with zero care that I was watching it, but how I was sitting there captured in what it was up to. This led me to a realization: that of every species on the earth, the only one that has the power to be benevolent and go out of its way to help all the others is humans. We have the ability to pick any species, and make it’s life easier if we choose. We’re alone in this ability: A dolphin can’t wake up and decide he’s going to plant trees for monkeys, an ant can’t stroll out and give medicine to a stray dog, and that butterfly can’t make sure a lake is clean for fish to live in. Humans can, we are the only ones….and so far, we’ve blown it. Almost every species, maybe every species, has been affected in a negative way because of us. We are the only ones who can make a difference, and we are the only ones who haven’t. I then however, looked around me, at where I was sitting and what was going on around me. I was on a bench, at a sanctuary for old and abused Elephants, a place that lives each breath with the intent to help out another species that should never have been subjugated in the first place. When you get to know Elephants personally as a volunteer, you’ll know what I mean. ElephantsWorld is like a huge billboard to nature saying “I’m sorry, we’re sorry, and we’re trying to make it better.” It is going out of its way to correct the mistakes that history has made before its existence. Our species needs places like ElephantsWorld, it needs beacons of hope that show that somewhere, someone is trying to do the right thing. That our species can indeed, wake up in the morning and be a positive inhabitant on the planet, not one that the planet would be better off without. The world needs to become a sanctuary for itself, and it needs human beings to build it, and it needs places like ElephantsWorld to show us how. Humans need ElephantsWorld.

I am more than proud that I was a part of it for five weeks, and it was an honour to do my best to help EW breathe a little easier, and to be a part of something truly good. I wish any prospective volunteer all the same life-enhancing experiences I had while I was there.

Cheers,

Chris Hetke
ElephantsWorld Volunteer 2013

Wat Ram Poeng

Wat Ram Poeng

I recently undertook a two week meditation course at Wat Ram Poeng. I thought I would write a summary of what I experienced there, as I have had a few people ask me how it was and I really haven’t given a good answer yet! The experience was, to be honest…hard to describe. It’s something that needs to be undertaken to be understood. At times it was brutal and I wanted nothing more than for it to be over. At other times it was surreal, inspiring, and made me feel like I was really starting to understand myself, and how I fit in as this tiny speck in the world. I am a better man for doing it.

We weren’t allowed to write or keep a journal, but around day 5 I started jotting down main points anyways so I wouldn’t forget them. My Monk teacher (Namaskan Phra Max) was giving out some real gems of life changing information, and I was starting to make some sense of it…I didn’t want to lose that so I bent…well, broke the rules a bit…well, completely broke them haha.  So this is my post-recollection of a two week journey.

It is important to know that for anyone who wants to do this themself: this was my experience, and it will probably be very different from yours so read it knowing as much. I would to hate to influence anyone else’s experience as a result of them expecting what happened to me. So get your own experience! this one is mine haha. I also won’t be writing about any personal struggles, because they are…well…personal. Though if you buy me a beer sometime I might share them, if you buy me two I might even tell you the truth!

I had intended this to be short. but obviously failed haha.  After 14 days of silence one has much to say! I learned a lot though, much of which I tried to explain as this post goes on…so if you get to the end, hopefully some of it is useful and makes sense!

Guidelines / Rules

The guidelines are there to ensure you live by Buddhist precepts, and also to ensure your day is focused entirely on meditation with no distractions. I am writing this off memory, so I may(will) miss a few things!

  • No socializing, gossiping, or discussing meditation practice with others. It is intended to be silent.
  • No coffee, 1 cup of tea per day. To avoid false mental stimulation.
  • Do not sit and rest for more than 5 minutes to avoid laziness.
  • No visiting other meditators rooms, females and males are to stay out of each others living areas.
  • Be mindful all day, when you walk, practice meditation..when you look at a butterfly, practice meditation…etc.
  • No killing living things.
  • Eat your meal in silence, and clean your own dishes after.
  • No food in your room, your area must be kept clean. This includes sweeping the grounds etc.
  • You hand in all electronics at the start: no reading, no writing, no music, no external distractions.

Daily Schedule: Pretty basic.

4 am: Bell rings to wake up. Loudly. No one knocks on your door or checks on you; it is up to you to get up and start your day.
4 – 630 am: Meditation.
630 – 700 am: Breakfast. Eating is preceded by prayers and blessings from the Monks, Nuns, and laypeople. Then you eat focusing on being mindful of the food.
700 – 1030 am: Meditation / cleaning
1030 – 11 am: Lunch, again preceded by blessings, and again eating in silence with mindfulness.
11 – ~430 pm: Meditation / cleaning
~ 430 – 530 pm: Meeting with meditation teacher. This is where you explain to him your experience(s) that day meditating, he then gives you insights, advice, and a prescription for the next day. The prescription was usually how many minutes total you should practice (6-12 hours), and how long your sessions should be (starts at 15 minutes walking/15 minutes sitting, goes up to 60 minutes each). This was the most amazing part of the day; my teacher, Namaskan Phra Max, was one of the most amazing people I have met. Teaching is his gift.
530 – 10 pm: Meditation
10 pm: Sleep, lights out.

First thing you hear every morning is this bell, 4 am sharp.

First thing you hear every morning is this bell, 4 am sharp.

Daily Record

Jan 16: Orientation/confusion…ACCEPT

  • I got there at 930 am. Things seemed hectic and crazy and confusing. The other 5 people in my group and I really had no idea what was going on. The Monk who was in charge of orienting us – Phra Chaibodin – seemed to be running all over the place, doing everything but telling us what was going on. It turns out there was a 5 day celebration being planned for the opening of a new temple, and Phra Chaibodin was in charge of some of it, so he was stretched thin. He did, however, continuously spout off 4 lines, all of which would be pretty important the next 2 weeks:
    • Learning by DOING
    • Don’t cry before you are hurt
    • Knowing, knowing, knowing
    • ACCEPT
  • Walked around most of the day silently. Eventually around 730 PM we had our opening ceremony , which was run by the Abbot Phra Ajahn Suphan. Then we were all taught the basic meditation methods. We learned the proper way to sit down, stand up, sit, start meditation, and walk (the walking was a prescribed gait pattern that changed as one progressed)
  • I ended up with a roommate as many of the rooms were filled with visiting Monks for the opening of the new temple. So I was lucky enough to sleep on the floor! haha, with a thin mat. But after doing nothing but being confused all day, sleep was easy.

Jan 17. Day 1: 9 hours…of meditating! previous life record…30 minutes
Prescription: 15 minutes walking/sitting – 6 hours. Actual – 9 hours

  • I misunderstood the Abbot’s prescriptions. I had no clue I was supposed to do only 6 hours, so I just went as hard as I could all day and got to 9. Yep, all star meditator, at least I thought so until I saw the guy doing 14 hours, and then learned what a determination was!
  • Super sore, I had no clue how much soreness comes in the back and hips from sitting for 4.5 hours. But no pain, no gain right?
  • First meeting with Phra Max, seems like a cool guy, gave me a surprised look when I told him I did 9 hours, and he responded by looking at the 6 on the prescription page…and asking me to do 9 again the next day.
  • The only insight I had to tell him was that I was completely confused about what I was supposed to be doing for the 10 hours I sat or walked. I had only ever repeated mantrams while meditating before, but there were no mantrams here, just focusing on….what exactly?
    • Max’s response was that I am just an observer, my only job is to observe my thoughts and just be aware of them. No more, no less. Meditation is not about forcing clarity, but by just being present. Thoughts come whether you control them or not, all you can do is notice them coming, and then let them go with no residual effect.

Jan 18. Day 2: The middle way, just practice
Prescription: 20 minutes walking/sitting – 9 hours……. Actual – 9 hours

  • The night after meeting with Phra Max I had 2 hours of phenomenal clear meditation. I felt like a million bucks. I felt like I got it, I had found what I was looking for! I was going to be the Canadian meditation Guru in no time….. Then the next morning I crumbled, it sucked. I had no focus, no clarity, nothing was going right. I knew I was doing something wrong, but I had no clue why it had been so great the night before, and so bad the morning after…what had happened? I asked Phra Max about this:
    • His response – Meditating is neither good nor bad, there are no good meditators. All you need to do is practice. Do not worry about being good at meditating….only worry about being present and putting effort in. He was right, once I let go of trying to have ‘good’ meditations it made a huge difference, and I had no ‘bad’ meditations from then on, only confusing ones.

Jan 19. Day 3: Pain and Ruby
Prescription: 25 minutes walking/sitting – 10 hours……. Actual - 9 hours

  • The word of the day….pain. So much pain. My left knee was swollen from all the sitting, no clue why because it’s a good knee. Hips hurt from all the slow-mo walking. Low back was sore from trying to force my back straight while sitting cross legged. But worst of all, a long forgotten right shoulder injury kicked up, from when I separated it during rugby a few years ago. The back, hips and knees I expected, but the shoulder pain was not. It came from keeping my arm still while seated, and it was brutally annoying. It felt like someone was holding a blow torch to my shoulder. It was impossible to ignore, and I knew I couldn’t do another 10 days with it.
    • Max had no insightful wisdom. He basically said, but in Bhuddist Monk terms….toughen up
  • I decided I wasn’t going to let it stop me, so I went to the library and decided I was going to overcome this pain, if I had to sit there for 10 more days thinking of nothing but pain all day, I was going to do it. Now Wat Ram Poeng had this uncanny way of tossing in things almost every day that revolutionized the experience…for better and for worse. It was like a clock, every day I knew something meaningful would happen; just never what it was until it happened: So…first one: meet Ruby

    My little pregnant cat friend

    Ruby – My little pregnant cat friend

  • I met Ruby on my first day. She was very, very, pregnant. She hung out around the library all day mewing to be stroked, likely to take her mind off the pain of being so huge! Of course, those who know me know a cat does not walk by that I don’t lean down to pet. I named her Ruby (not sure of her real Thai name) because she was so tiny and fragile..reminded me of an old lady named Ruby.
    • I mentioned my intense shoulder pain, it didn’t get better, despite me trying to let it go. I decided to go sit outside the library for a bit on the marble stone and collect my thoughts, do a sitting meditation. I had to decide if just absorbing this pain was worthwhile…or if I needed to call this meditation retreat quits the following morning. I sat down, started meditating…and little Ruby comes right up and lays down on my lap. So now I am doing my 25 minute meditation with a pregnant cat on my lap….cool. It was pretty fantastic actually, not only was she super warm, but every now and then I could feel a little kitten kick in her belly while she slept…that was a new experience! The pain however, did not change…my shoulder was aching, the burning feeling was getting worse. Then my timer went off, 25 minutes was up but Ruby was still on my lap. I couldn’t wake her up! It was cold out, she was warm where she was, and very asleep!…so I clicked my timer..25 more minutes, no problem…..and then when it went off again……clicked it again…..and one more time after that. There was no way I could wake this poor little pregnant cat up and I did 110 minutes straight of seated meditation! When before I was having trouble fighting the pain of just 25!. But, the pain actually got better. It hurt like hell at first, but I just accepted it, and moved on..I was not gonna wake up Ruby just because I was a little uncomfortable. So I got past the pain, it never left for the rest of the meditation, but I never really noticed it anymore, I had moved past where it affected me, and mentally it did nothing to me anymore….thanks Ruby.

Jan 20. Day 4: Tree Garden
Prescription: 30 minutes walking/sitting – 10 hours……. Actual – 10 hours

  • Finally hit 10 hours! took a few tries.
  • Started to notice my mind clearing up. It didn’t scamper around near as much as when I started, and the thoughts that were coming to my mind were starting to be repeated ones, as Max told me a few days later was a normal thing.
  • Nothing crazy, but switched at night from the library to the tree Garden.  Had an amazing night there, was alone with this giant tree all night, lit up. I’ll attach a picture but it will sadly do no justice, my Iphone sucks at night photos so here is the tree in daylight. It was an amazing time to focus and meditate.

    You will have to imagine this at night, lit up all around

    You will have to imagine this at night, lit up

Jan 21. Day 5: French Monk
Prescription: 35 minutes walking/sitting – 10 hours……. Actual – 10.5 hours

  • Brutal morning. I was frustrated, zero clarity. Hated almost all of it. Likely leftovers from being so attached to the previous night at the tree. Many times had thoughts of not being able to handle this, it was too much. Again though, Wat Ram Poeng tossed something my way.
    • I randomly met a French Monk who had traveled to Wat Ram Poeng for the ceremony starting Jan 22 celebrating the new temple. He asked how my meditation was going and I was honest with him….it was not a good day. My mind was lost, I wasn’t sure where it was and had failed all morning looking for it. He gave me some words of wisdom about when he had learned and gave me a little tool to use when I was acknowledging my thoughts…he also gave me a ton of energy I did not have. Many of the Monks I met have ‘it’…you meet them, talk to them, and feel uplifted…they have incredible energy about them. I used this little tool of acknowledging and it completely reversed my day and perception of why I was there. I had a great day after, didn’t want to leave anymore.

Jan 22. Day 6: Thai temple openings are amazing
Prescription: 40 minutes walking/sitting – 11 hours……. Actual - 11 hours

  • Festival Started. It was a very cool thing to witness. When Thai people open a temple, it is a true celebration. All day local restaurants set up food stalls, and make large amounts of one item…which they give for free to anyone. That’s right, I said free. You walk up and they give you delicious food! It was incredible and I think fosters such a great sense of community; I certainly felt it. I spent an hour just walking around the foodstalls taking everything in, all the noises, smells, people. One thing that the 5 days of meditation seemed to do was sharpen my senses and my ability to focus on them. When I heard something it was more clear, food tasted better, conversations (rare as they were) were more interesting; and I listened more, talked less in them. I started noticing big changes in these things around this time.
    • One great thing, the temple staff had one stall where they made Pad Thai. I waited in line, got my plate…and was recognized by the Nun handing out food….she waved me over, and gave me an extra helping….I felt like a temple resident at that moment!

Jan 23: Day 7: One of the most important things I learned
Prescription: 45 minutes walking/sitting – 11 hours……. Actual - 9 hours

  • The previous night my roommate Inigo told me had had achieved a milestone, he had sat without moving for 40 full minutes! No stretching, no shifting weight…just accepted the pain and did it. (trust me when I tell you sitting cross legged for 6 hours a day hurts a lot). This inspired me as I hadn’t done anywhere near that without having to straighten my legs, lean against a wall etc. So I did the same that night. I let the pain go, and sat for 40 minutes with only one quick stretch at around 30!. It was incredible, my back and legs were literally shaking with pain for the last 5 minutes but I told myself I was not giving up…finished and felt incredible. I would have hi-fived anyone in attendance but I was alone at the tree haha. I smiled at the fish in the pond instead. But again, crashed big time….no focus the rest of the night, nothing the next day. I asked Max why the drop off and he taught me about attachment:
    • When you like or dislike something you develop an attachment to it. This is bad because an attachment leads to a preference….all is well and good as long as you always get what you prefer…but we all know life is not conducive to that, you can’t always get what you want. So when you are attached to a feeling (say the amazing feeling of struggling through pain and succeeding) your mind wants it, so when you next sit and meditate and it’s just normal…your mind doesn’t get what it wants….so it gives you a feeling of disappointment and sadness, which leads to misery in the long term. Preference really can apply to anything; from the food you like, to studying, to it being nice outside. He taught me it is important to recognize when I become attached to things, and to then let that attachment go. In this way I would never have the pitfalls of desiring something that was impossible to always achieve. He said when you master this, it is life changing…but it is very, very hard to master. It is a simple concept that is very complex to realize.
  • At night they had a jazz band playing, meditating in the tree garden listening to Jazz music was beautiful. I stopped focusing on my thoughts and focused intently on the music instead. With the clarity I now had jazz had never sounded so amazing.

Jan 24: Day 8: Noise, noise, noise
Prescription: 45 minutes walking/sitting – 11 hours……. Actual – 9.5 hours

  • Today was difficult. The festival was too loud. Plan and simple, too loud. At times they had a live feed of the speeches inside (all in Thai), they had a band playing on the stage, and often a second band being piped in from the audio guys. All this piped in at speakers all over the temple grounds, at a level that was probably 2-3x louder than it needed to be. It was brutal trying to focus and concentrate. I tried, but it was mentally draining to move past and I felt like I was making very little progress.
    • My lesson from Max was to not have expectations. Do not go into meditation expecting to be clear or focused. Just go into it with an open mind, and then let the future come without preference.
The bane of my existence...so much noise

The bane of my existence…so much volume

  • One cool thing: During lunch I got a pancake/sugar thing from a foodstall, and started to unwrap it when an old lady said loudly “NO”, and grabbed it from my hands. I was confused……she then proceeded to explain to me how I was supposed to open it, so that it could be best eaten. Random acts of kindness haha, the Thai people at the temple were nothing short of friendly and amazing.

Jan 25: Day 9: Who is that voice in my head?
Prescription: 60 minutes walking/sitting – 11 hours……. Actual – 11 hours

  • I really noticed my mind being clear today. When I closed my eyes, nothing happened. I would wait, and wait, and still no random thoughts came. When I wanted to think of something, it came instantly, and my focus is absolute. It’s quite an amazing feeling.
  • I asked Max what the voice in my head was, who was it that brought up random thoughts that I really didn’t want.
    • I expected a metaphysical answer, like…it’s your ego….or, it’s a demon….Max’s response was prefect. I had not anticipated it, and it was exactly what I had wanted his answer to be: Those thoughts are yours, they are no strange external being’s thoughts. They are not a little guy on your shoulder whispering in your ear, or an ego residing in the back of your mind. They are your habits that you have created over your lifetime, and those habits come up because you have always allowed them to and given them attention, even invited them. So when you can’t stop thinking about something positive or negative…you are continuously building that habit mentally…so it will come again, and stronger, and more frequently. To have thoughts coming into your head with reckless abandon is damaging, because they can lead you to focusing on things that in the long or short term can be detrimental to you. That is why meditation is important, it is not about forcing clarity, it is about breaking those habits until clarity is all that is left.
  • One of the nuns has a Dog that has two amazing qualities…1: Every time the bell rings he howls…which is hilarious. 2:He can recognize a farang (tourist) from a mile away and hates them with every ounce of being. If he saw me anywhere he barked at me until I was out of view haha.
    He hates me

    He hates me

    Jan 26: Day 10: Silencio
    Prescription:
    50 minutes walking/sitting – 11 hours……. Actual - 11 hours

  • Today my entire group except for a guy from Switzerland who usually keeps to himself left as they were staying for only 10 days. Even though I barely talked to them it was still nice having people around who I knew were going through the same things as me. I knew that others had moments they hated it…like I had, and also moments of peace and bliss…like I had. From this point on I spoke only to Max, which was tough but necessary.
  • So all day I was alone, and bored. Extremely bored, and extremely frustrated. I was questioning the purpose of sitting on my arse for 5 hours, then walking in slow motion for 6 hours, when my mind was already clear. I wasn’t having random thoughts unless I really focused on them, and they only came like once every 30 seconds. Max to the rescue:
    • One thing about Max, he had a gift for perception. It was like he knew what your problem was before you did, and he knew the answer before you even had the question. Today I told Max I was mentally tired all day, and whenever I was tired my focus waned and I got bored and restless, and I asked for advice. His response was unsatisfactory. He gave me no tips, no hints, only told me how to deal with emotions like frustration….by recognizing them, then exploring why they are there, and then moving past them. Great advice, but not what I asked for….I hadn’t mentioned frustration at all….thanks tips.
    • He also gave me the maximum prescription. 60 minutes walking and sitting, 12 hours. Which is basically meditating every waking moment. I was not ready, but knew enough by now to just accept it, and not expect to fail or succeed, only to practice and see what happens, learning by doing.

Jan 27: Day 11: Max is smart
Prescription: 60 minutes walking/sitting – 12 hours……. Actual - 12 hours

  • Happy moment: New temple ceremony ends, noise goes away. I watched as one speaker was carried from the stage…never been so excited to see the end of a concert.
  • Other happy moment: I hit 12 hours!!! Just told myself I would, and did.
  • The night before Max had not helped, or so I thought. It turns out he knew the answer to a question I hadn’t asked. I was not really mentally tired, I was frustrated. Things were not going my way, and my mind was controlled by that emotion. I used his advice, and felt instant relief. Once I moved past frustration all my other emotions were lessened, I still felt things like boredom; but I could see it and then move past it. It was a game-changer.
  • Maybe my most insightful moment came randomly as I walked in the tree garden this night after my meeting with Max and had dealt with my frustration. I realized that I had now been living inside of my head for over 100 hours now, and that I knew my mind. Like I KNEW my mind. I knew what it liked to think about, I knew what it never brought up at all. I had never recognized up to this moment how powerful this was. I had gone through life just listening to and being controlled by my thoughts, I never really knew them. This retreat had shown me what direction my mind took when it was left to its own devices, and also taught me that these thoughts, while my own creation, were not me. They were just little habits I had created. So I spent a good 2 hours diving into this and recognizing the thoughts that came most frequently and if they were good or bad in my life. Some were things that in reality I have no control over, so I recognized that and planned how I could move past them in the future. Some of the thoughts I realized I had complete control over in reality, and I made plans to increase the good things and to eliminate the bad ones. This night was important.
Sunset from the roof of the library

Sunset from the roof of the library

Jan 28: Day 12: Falkbeards Lair! & Max is smart…again
Prescription: 60 minutes walking/sitting – 12 hours……. Actual - 12 hours

  • As far as solo meditation spots go, there is a mecca at Wat Ram Poeng. It is a small corridor in the library, and it only has room for 1 person to walk and meditate. No distractions, no one else will get in your way, and you can just focus on what you’re trying to accomplish. It had always been occupied by a man I called Falkbeard (I picked this name because he resembled a guy from a video game who had a red beard…his real name was Luke, turned out to be a cool guy) He never left, he was doing 12-15 hours of meditation a day!, and I think he knew what a good spot it was, he wasn’t giving it up. I bring this up because today 16 new meditators arrived, and the tree spot I had been meditating went from being just me….to 10 people! It had changed and it was time for me to move on. I went back into the library……and…….Falkbeard was gone! and his spot was open! After quickly making sure I was not forming an attachment to the spot I took it, and spent the next 3 days there. The trick to getting it is you have to get there right at 4 am, and leave right at 10 pm…which is easy when you get up to the 12 hour mark haha.

    Doesn't look like much, but if you want a place to be alone to meditate...this is it.

    Doesn’t look like much, but if you want a place to be alone to meditate…this is it.

  • Today I found that while meditating I wasn’t having really any progress anymore. I was just stuck. I had learned not to be angry or frustrated, I just accepted it. But it seemed all I was doing was focusing on a clear mind, and nothing else was going on. I had figured maybe it was time to go. The new 16 people were everywhere, and I had learned what I wanted to. I was a bit torn, part of me knew I committed myself to 14 days, and wanted to stick it out, no matter how long a day 12 hours was….but another, weaker part of me thought, its time to go. You are not progressing, there are meditators everywhere now from the new group…tell Max you’re leaving. It was an enticing thought as I was tiring of the 12 hour days. I resolved to wait until I had met with Max to decide, but secretly I had started leaning towards leaving and I knew it.
    • Max somehow was right where I needed him to be…again. I sat down, somewhat defeated by the realization I was leaving early. Out of nowhere he just started asking me about Canada, and told me about when he had visited it years earlier. We just had a conversation…no insights, no lessons, just a good conversation. I realized it was exactly what I needed, just a little normalcy to get myself back up to facing another 12 hour day. Again he knew what the answer was without me even asking the question.

Jan 29: Day 13: Live in the now
Prescription: 60 minutes walking/sitting – 12 hours……. Actual – 12.5! hours

  • First thing, saw Ruby again! Since the festival she had been gone, and I was a bit worried. She turned up sans giant preggo belly. So she had kittens somewhere! I gave her 30 minutes and got back to meditating.
  • Another thing, I realized how crazy it was that I was watering flowers in January….when my usual is shoveling snow in January. weird.
  • Finally, my last major insight. Max really hadn’t told me anything about why my meditating felt stagnant, and why nothing was progressing. Maybe he knew I was about to figure it out myself?
    • In my first hour of walking I had an epiphany. I realized that the previous week of meditation I had been going about it incorrectly. What I had been doing was waiting for thoughts. I thought I had been aware and had just been acknowledging them, but I was waiting for them. Five days earlier Max had warned me about waiting for thoughts to arise, as waiting is the same as expecting, and is a thougth based on the future, and not the present. To be truly clear is to be truly in the present, with no worry about what has happened, and with no energy trying to control the future things that haven’t happened yet (Don’t cry before you are hurt). I thought about it, interanalized it, and  completely changed the way I was approaching meditation. The rest of that day I had complete clarity, not the somewhat forced,  precieved clarity I had been having the previous week.
  • My final lesson was a re-hash of remembering not to make attachments. All day I was stoked to meet Max for my final report , I wanted to tell him about the realization I had and how it had changed everything! Then I got to report and saw Max was occupied, and the Abbot was back, and his translator was there waving me over. This was not the plan! I was going to tell Max all about my insight! and that I had actually broken the 12 hour barrier! I was momentarily choked!!! But the lessons by that time had hit their mark. I realized I had created an attachment to our lessons, I really enjoyed them every time, and it was this attachment that would cause me nothing but sadness and frustration. I explored it for a second, then let it go. And enjoyed my first time getting to talk to the Abbot, while accepting without reservation that my eureka moment would go unexplained to my teacher. And I was actually completely okay with it.
  • As luck would have it I ran into Max later on, but had no need to explain my epiphany anymore…it was in the past; and in the present he had some final words of advice.
    • You are not your emotions. If given a choice, would you ever choose to feel depressed, or nervous, or frustrated? No, no one would. So who then is choosing to feel that way? It’s not you right? so who is it? It also isn’t someone else, as your emotions are only felt by you, and no one else. In fact, you are above your emotions…they happen, but they only control you if you choose to be controlled by them. Those who acknowledge and move past them give them no power, and then they cannot affect you.
    • He also gave an analogy for meditation like a giant tree (there was one such tree he pointed at). When a tree is planted and starts growing, like a seed into a sapling…it is like a person learning to meditate. It can be broken and bent by all sorts of things, and can very easily be done away with altogether. As it grows, and as one continues to meditate…the tree  becomes less fragile. The winds don’t sway it as much, the people leaning on it dont bend it as much, it has started to become strong and unnafected by things around it. When a tree is old, and huge; it is affected by nothing, rain…no problem, intense heat, no worries, someone leans on it…not an inch of sway. The same with someone who meditates. When you start to achieve complete clarity, you are like the old tree…things happen around you and to you, but you are already big enough that they can’t move you. They can’t make you sad, and they can’t take your happiness. I thought this were good words to end my meditation here.

    Jan 30: Day 14: Internal accomplishments can’t be taken from you
    Self meditation

  • Last day. Walked around bittersweet. Sad to leave behind the life I had lived for two weeks and grown a bit attached to, even the 4 am wakeup calls! But happy to get out into the real world and see how the new lessons I had learned would play out. I knew full well that much of it would wash away, but with effort some of it could be held onto. So time will tell. All in all a life-moving experience, one that I would tell everyone who thinks they are ready for it to do. I am a better man for having done it, and I have no way of knowing….but I feel like 60 years from now these 2 weeks will be some of the most formative ones of my life.
How I spent half of my waking hours

How I spent half of my waking hours

So I haven’t updated this for a few days, and I have been putting it off daily because it seems there is way too much to talk about, and I have not really been sure how to summarize it all. I am convinced this is a problem I should always strive to have.

The first highlight since my last foray onto this travel blog was our journey all the way south to San Diego, which was bittersweet as it meant we had pretty much finished up the west coast part of our trip. We got in late so the first night was pretty calm, but the second day started off visiting a decommissioned aircraft carrier in the docks. For 2 guys who grew up idolizing things like fighter jets, aircraft carriers, and all things military..especially in the tiny plastic form…this was an awesome part of the trip. You really have to see one of them and walk up on the deck to understand how huge they are….then go under into all the rooms below to re-inforce the point. It was pretty cool to go in and imagine working on one of those for months at a time, and some of the written first hand experiences gave a pretty good glimmer of how interesting a life it would have been. Personally I would have gone for the pilot gig, Dave I think would have taken the captain’s post….because the captain had  2 separate beds and a private chef and tv room. Very ritzy.

The rest of that day was spent wandering San Diego and meeting some of the finest people at our hostel. We roomed with a well traveled guy named Cam fresh off his tour of Coachella and later grabbed another Aussie guy named Tom before we went out. Well, I am skipping over a fairly large chunk of time spent having some beverages in the common room. Dave was incredibly stoked that no one minded him putting the hockey game on the TV while we all traded stories before heading out. The night was pretty awesome, those of you who know me know that I do not as a rule dance until my feet are sufficiently warmed up….aka….until I forget (due to a few drinks) the fact that I should not be allowed on a dance floor. As I remember it, the large majority of the night was me teaching many a California girl how ridiculously good Canadian prairie boys are at 2-stepping and all other forms of dancing….what more likely happened was I demonstrated some rendition of the tasmanian devil meets a 1 year old learning to walk…one of the two…. To end off, some very gracious quasi-locals took me and Dave out to Denny’s for some 4 am post partying breakfast…I guess some local customs are truly international, as long as a Denny’s is in the area.

With heavy hearts, and moreso in Dave’s than in my case…some heavy headaches as well…(I think the true cure for a hangover is absolutely loving waking up in the morning, I haven’t felt hardly anything the whole trip)…..we left San Diego, but it has to be one of my favorite places now. I have to go back to see some more of it sometime in the future.
Next up is Vegas, we spent the morning just wandering around, had a couple local drinks (Guinness in my case) and watched a bit of a few hockey games at some sports bar..then wandered around some more. Pretty much everyone I know aside from myself has already been to Vegas, in most cases more than once, so I won’t talk at all about the scenery aside from it is as advertised. It’s huge, surreal, and filled with an incredibly diverse set of people. One of the best things we have done on the trip so far was checking into a hostel just at the end of the strip near the stratosphere. From the moment we wandered down to the common area in the parking lot next to the pool we were greeted warmly and from then on it was just hanging with people from all over…Brazil, Japan, Switzerland, Poland, Germany, France, Ireland, etc. etc……it was a United Nations of travelers. Of course I was in new person heaven and had an unreal time. Dave finally had an opportunity to prove his “beer pong legend” t-shirt was more than just wordplay and he helped get a game going sometime in the afternoon….or night….or whenever….Remember when I said I thought I was doing an amazing job with the 2 step in San Diego? I have no such qualms about my beer pong skills. I was horrible, I gave up after eventually switching off Daves team to go with the then undefeated French girl…I showed her the proper way to lose……..Dave did not lose another game after he ditched the dead weight. That whole time at the hostel was one of my fondest memories of the trip so far, and I even had a souvenir this morning when I randomly found an 8 minute voice memo on my cell phone from that night. One of those times the right button is pressed at just the right time, and yeah, it re-inforced how great a time I had; just as much as it re-inforced to me how ridiculous some of things I say out loud are haha. Anyways at the end of the night me and Dave split up, I took a hummer limo with a bunch of the guys to hit up a very stellar party; and Dave went over to teach Vegas a thing or two about blackjack. At last count he won $300, but like any good story the fish will be much bigger by the time we get back to all you fine folks in Canada.

Again with a heavy heart and maybe a little bit of a wave we left Vegas, it was as advertised: an unreal party town. I don’t see how anyone could not walk away from there with out at least some sort of ridiculous smile on their face.

We slept in Flagstaff the night after and then made our way early to the Grand Canyon. I could go on about the wonder and beauty of that place…you all know I could….but I’ll let Dave write about it later tonight when get to where we’re sleeping tonight, in the one and only…….Beaver, Utah. Some of you will run with that comment, don’t stray too far. I should maybe ask Dave if he wants me to drive now….

Prost (cheers)
Chris

California

So it has been awhile since I wrote on this so I’ll try to update all of this blog’s readers to what me and Dave have been up to. Both of you will be happy to know it has been a lot of driving, so this shouldn’t take long.

We stopped off Eureka, California which wasn’t really anything special. The drive along the coast was and has been pretty stellar. California is such a random state when it comes to scenery. At one point its like being back on the west coast trail on Vancouver Island with nothing but striking views of trees and vegetation all around you then an hour later you’re in wine country and it looks like a picture you’d see out of the Italian countryside. I tried to capture how beautiful that area was with some pictures but I know I didn’t do it justice.

After Eureka we drove in to San Fransisco, came across the golden bridge which was surreal. It was really foggy and covered the bridge about 200 ft in front of us so it was like we were pealing back layers of the bridge as we drove across it. It was really awesome to see something that everyone knows about and has seen pictures of with our own sets of eyes.

I should mention that by this point wearing anything but shorts and a t-shirt was definitely not an option. I think it goes without saying that California weather is unreal. I have been earnestly looking for a local to marry so I can get dual citizenship to be able to winter here.

Night one in San Fran was pretty quiet. We got in late and couldn’t find a hostel anywhere so we did our usual…drove around until we found a hotel that we could steal…I mean….borrow internet from to find the cheapest expedia rate. We ended up at a small downtown hotel in what Dave informed me after some research the next day was called the ‘tenderloin’ district. I will let your imaginations run wild with why they call it the tenderloin but needless to say we should have guessed it with the lengthy “don’t lock anything that looks like electronics in your car overnight” speech from the hotel manager and the lady-man-lady who passed us as we went up to our room. She was very polite though and Dave thought she had a pretty smile. He just beamed a smile back with a mix of something between passion and curiosity. (its awesome being the only one who chooses to write on here)…but yeah…that was  a long night because I don’t think the yelling and screaming and whatnot stopped all night. I got like 2 hours of sleep, Dave slept the whole night, I think due to dreams of his chance encounter with lady fate.

The next day we saddled up and rode off to do as the tourists do in San Fran.We went down to fishermans wharf and wandered around there for most of the morning. We were stoked to go to alvcatraz….but as Dave noted”the only bad thing about going on a  trip with no real plans is the lack of plans when you get there”..or something along those lines. We were in line for Alcatraz when we both saw the sign stating that there were no spots available for 2 more days…so needless to say we didn’t make it to Alcatraz. But we did make it to a hostel we were lucky enough to find some beds available in on the day of. It was right downtown San Fran. We had 2 good roomies, a guy from DC who was hopefully days away from landing a job in SF, and a guy from Thaipei who spoke way better English than I did Thai and was just randomly exploring for a week before heading home. We grabbed a case of beer, then grabbed another as the first one was done in about 6 minutes. I think every hostel should have a liqour store right next door to their entrance don’t you? That night me and Dave wandered some more and found a cool lookout to once again solve the worlds problems, while waving at trolley cars as they passed by. I really liked San Fran and look forward to exploring more of it the next time I run though

San Fran really is a beautiful place, but you definitely see sights that are almost unheard of in cold climate Alberta but often seen more in warmer climates to the South. There are a lot of people living without a home and asking for money to pay for whatever. From the old man who wants a sandwich to the young guy who’s sign read “who am I kidding, I just want a beer”. It’s something personally that has taken some getting used to but is an unfortunate reality of probably every city in North America. Makes guys like me feel pretty fortunate to be able to traverse the lands we’ve gone through, some people will never get an opportunity like the one I have now.

We left San Fran and had a long drive to Los Angeles. It’s kind of funny that we still found an little el cheapo hotel surrounded by all these massive ones..Hyatt….Three trees or whatever its called…giant places with fancy restaurants in them….ours is La Hacienda, and we got a coupon for an Italian place nearby…but the more of these I stay in the more I realize that there really is no difference in hotels…no matter where you go..the front desk person will always be really friendly, and the room will pretty much look exactly the same as the previous one. The only thing that changes is the color of the blanket, with the low cost ones having colorful random patterns, and the rich hotels having dark sullen single colors.

Yesterday we went to Disneyland; Dave had been to Disneyworld when he was 8, and I had been to the California version once before but I was pretty young, probably 11 or so. I think we fit in pretty closely with the excited kids going through the gates…What a great day, you really can’t help but feel happy in that place. It must be something in the water. We spent half the day in the old park doing space mountain, the haunted house, indiana jones etc. Then we went over in the afternoon to check out the California Adventures park and most of the rides there. We didn’t go on the big roller coaster because someone on this trip doesn’t like (aka. is scared of) roller coasters…I shouldn’t name names because that’s not polite. I was completely fine with not going on the coaster though: I thought in my head “Even I was afraid of roller coasters and wouldn’t go on them…………….WHEN I WAS NINE YEARS OLD!!!!”…..but don’t worry everyone I then proceeded to make fun of Dave for a good 10 minutes after I realized I wasn’t going to be able to talk him into riding it. Theres video of that. The day overall was really cool. It was wicked being able to make that a part of our trip. It was also hilarious to watch the poor parents try to keep up with their kids. In the morning everyone was super excited and energetic…..by about 4 PM though you saw some pretty angry looking children. Ones who had not eaten, were tired of walking, and were one wrong word away from a full on meltdown haha. I really felt for their parents who were trying all sorts of things to keep them going for just one more hour until they could get back to the hotel. Dave commented on the Dads that were still around at dusk trying to entertain their kids until the night shows “Look at those poor guys down there, just exhausted….slumped shoulders…barely able to walk”….lol….it was pretty awesome, cheers to parents who take their kids to Disneyland, you all deserve a pat on the back…and a nightcap when you get to the hotel. Finally we ended the day by taking my friend Ashlee’s advice and elbowing our way to a good seat for the World of Color show at the end of the night. I say elbowing our way in jest of course…no one hits other people in Disney minus the lady who grabbed Daves arm in fear during the tower of terror ride…Ashlee was right to tell us to get there and get good seats; it was an awesome display that wove in a lot of old disney movies we all saw growing up. For a few minutes I kind of lost myself and felt like I was 9 years old again, which I am sure was the whole point.

But I should stop writing this lengthy entry now, I think I rememeber saying it was going to be a short one, but I guess more happened than I thought. We’re heading somewhere this morning, but, we haven’t really planned anything yet…Maybe one more trip South to the Mexican border area?

Chris

So me and my raconteur friend have made our way into Portland raincoats in hand. We actually have named our coats (Daves) Green light as we always seem to hit green lights when we’re traversing the city when he has it on (it is also green), and (mine) rain man as it seems as soon as I put it on the rain stops….only to return when I take the coat off…now thats a true water repellant coat;  If you think that it sounds crazy to name raincoats and that we’re losing our sanity here…imagine what the Portland State Uni kids though as we were discussing this yesterday out in the open on their campus.

Anyways…Portland…some really cool things are here in Portland. Starting with this bookstore named Powells that is huge…how huge you ask?….It is pretty much its own city block, with 2-3 floors, a second store across the street, and more books than any person could ever hope to read. It was just awesome. They have books on everything……before apps…there was a book for that..at this place. Dave found a section on raising honeybees, and another on raising goats, I would say its a sign of a future career change but as he would remind me he is retired and thus has no career…freedom 26…we decided to contribute to the local economy and bought a few books, I think we must have spent 2 hours in there. We probably could have stayed the whole day but how cool is it to go back home and say all we did in Portland was browse a bookstore?

Other fun travel fact I learned here; expedia rates are wayyyyy better than rates hotels will give you. When we got into town we pulled up to the shilo hotel parking lot so I could get free internet off them to check other hotel prices. We checked the Shilo expedia rate which was 80…walked in and the guy offered us the room for like 140….I gave him a look like “are you sure thats the best you can do????”….then we walked back out and ordered the room online….then walked back in and told him we just got the same room for 60 bucks less….at his hotel. The guy was cool about it and actually did a wicked job telling us some of the more interesting stuff in town to walk to.

What he did not tell/remind me though, is that liquor stores here are almost nonexistant. Last night I asked directions to a liquor store from a random burger joint worker. We followed his directions to what I thought was the right location…Dave would disagree….and did….but we found nothing save for 3 different Mexican restaurants all on the same corner…which don’t get me wrong is a great wonder in itself, but not what we were looking for. I commented to Dave that I hadn’t actually even seen a liquor store since we left Cranbrook…which I thought was really weird because some of the people we have seen obviously had been drinking. We wandered aimlessly until we both remembered hearing that in the States they sell liquor in pretty much every store…we walked into a Walgreens and ridiculously they had a huge beer section, and prices that I haven’t ever seen. We bought a 12 pack of something for 10 bucks, the bought another 12 pack 5 minutes later at the 7/11 when Daves hand lost the battle with the cardboard case handle and the first case fell down and smashed up a bit. The guys sitting on the street assured us most of them were still good and I am sure would have checked it out for us… I bought another one just to be safe…..but a case of beer for 10 bucks….in a 7/11….crazy.

Probably the most awesome thing we have seen so far on the trip was the Kennedy school. Its an old elementary school that was bought by some guys and turned into 5 bars, a restaurant, and a movie theatre with couches. We rambled in after entertaining a bus driver for 30 minutes and I think both were just mesmerized by this place. I know I cant do a good job of explaining how stellar the place is but…….. imagine you walk into your old elementary school….hallways..classrooms…principles office…gymnasium…and it is now one giant eclectic party place. The gym is a convention hall…the classrooms are hotel rooms…I think the restaurant was once the library…and 4 classrooms are now 4 different bars, while the boiler room has also been turned into a fifth bar. Even better you can walk the hallways from bar to bar with a drink in your hand….you can order pizza and then go grab a couch to watch a movie in what must have been the cafeteria or something. We had an unreal time there, ended up closing the school down with a bunch of the employees, and to cap the night off the bartender comped all our drinks…how awesome is that? Very awesome.

Today we are leaving Portland to I think go camping….I’ve been hacking at this laptop  while Dave tries to sleep off last evening. Either he is awake and hating me for typing or he is asleep and dreaming about being sent to the principles office to grab a beer. Either way, Portland was great…many of the worlds problems were discussed and solved at the hands of 2 drunk Canadians last night with the help of some classroom bartenders.But I should get off this thing in time for free breakfast…Dave just got up….and is singing in the shower now through the really thin walls at this hotel…we learned how thin the first night when our neighbor and his lady were obviously jumping up and down on the bed repeatedly…probably excited about the school bar…….I hope our laughing didn’t affect the guys…vertical

Chris

Seattle

We spent 2 days in Seattle, had some pretty cool experiences: Spent one day just wandering around talking each other into buying stuff. Dave won the shopping contest, but it was close. We went to a Mariners game, I am not usually into baseball but thought it’d be a cool experience especially seeing as it was against the Jays. We got right ready for it at the alehouse next door, were stoked to get in there…and I can’t speak for Dave..but before I went to a baseball game I always found the sport pretty slow and painful….it was almost worse live haha. This was compounded by the fact that each beer was $9. If you look up buzzkill in the dictionary it has a budweiser for $9 at a pro baseball game. Crrrazy. So yeah, we lasted until the 4th inning then just wandered around the stadium for another two, I think 4 innings took about 6 hours to play.
It did end on a positive note though; We grabbed a ride home from a guy named Darren on his bike cab. He didn’t really seem to know completely where he was going, and didn’t really have thye cardio to pedal us home….but he was a pretty stellar guy with stories…lots of stories…I think me and Dave knew his family history as well as he did when we finally got near our hotel. We got out then and helped him push the cab up a few streets because as he admitted there was no way in hell he was going to get us up there. Awesome guy…despite the fact he wouldn’t let me pedal for even a few metres.

Seattle was a cool city, both me and Dave agreed on that. Lots of energy in the downtown area..lots of people everywhere. We hit up the space needle, hit up the science fiction museum with the battlestar gallactica museum…neither me nor Dave had ever seen battlestar gallactica before but we are fairly certain now that bears beat it.  The museum also had a sweet Jimi Hendrix section with lots of stuff about his life and music. We missed the Nirvana one by like 4 days. The coolest thing in my view was they had some guitars, bass’s, and drum sets hooked up that you could go in and play on your own….that was awesome, I played my heart out….all 5 chords in my repertoire.
The road trip thus far has been awesome, Dave has been pretty stellar to travel with; and I havent had to throw his cell phone out the window yet Dev….that day may come yet. Right now he’s doing his hungry hippo imitation that he likes to do when he’s driving..it involves 20 second yawns to mark each kilometer we travel….or mile…or whatever…this mile thing is weird, it forces me to speed for some reason.
Today I talked Dave into hitting up the Tacoma Art museum because they have a Norman Rockwell exhibit….got to the front door, and its closed Tuesdays…go figure haha. We’re en route to Portland right now, probably going to spend a day or so there then hit up the coast down to California.
Side note, its been t-shirt and shorts weather for 2 days now….I am incredibly happy about that. It was also awesome at the mariners game that me and Dave were the only ones there who were wearing shorts and t-shirts. Crazy canucks.
Chris

In the beginning,

We started the trip off in Brooks, met up with some of Daves friends and ate some challengingly large and delicious steaks. The family that put us up was awesome, really good people. Somewhere that night ~ 50 beers perished. It doesn’t seem plausible that me, Dave, and Dwayne drank that many between just the three of us; me and Dave put our heads together around 3 am this morning to figure out exactly what happened…surprisingly there was not a good idea between us. My hypothesis is that while we weren’t looking some Brooks beermonster who lives in the aqueduct came and stole at least 20. Another possibility considering how Dave looked this morning is that he was slipping out of the hot tub and shot gunning as many as he could handle when no one was looking. Either way successful foray into the road trip scene.

Today we’re crashing in Cranbrook. On the way here we saw a sign for the worlds biggest truck, I wish I had gotten a picture because it was certainly false advertising. I’m sure it wouldn’t even be the largest truck in Northern Alberta. We were expecting something mountain-esque. Shameful false advertising Alberta..buck up.

Side note: Our first travel argument came up an hour out of Edmonton, about whether barbeque sauce was good with tortilla wraps..I said it wasn’t…he said it was delicious….I was right, he couldn’t even finish the second one he bought.

US tomorrow, gonna eat some potatoes in Idaho…I wonder if they’ll hate us for knowing nothing more about Idaho other than they grow a lot of potatoes. Us naive igloo-dwelling Canucks.

Chris

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