Saturday, September 15, 2012

Hello again!

Well...hello there!  

Yes it's been a while, but I'm tentatively re-dipping my little toe into the bloggersphere; I'm going to try a small post and see how I go. 

My excuse?  I would like to say the internet was broken at my house and I just got it mended, but unfortunately it was my body that failed me - yet again.  Blerg.  I'm pretty sure you all know how that story goes, so I won't go into detail about it. 

Instead, I'm going to re-post a little travel report that I recently wrote for another blog I have (which  my family sees).  I'm in Malaysia at the moment, lying on a couch in my sister Maz's apartment, looking out over the sea to the island of Penang.  The view from here is AWESOME! 

This photo was taken from her lounge-room.  At any time there are usually 3 or 4 large tankers lined up to go into the docks, so we're also planning on getting some binoculars so we can spy on some sailors.
We are looking right out over the Penang island.  If we had this view coming the other way (from the island to the mainland) it would cost about $2000 a month, but because we are in scruffy Butterworth, it is a bit cheaper than that.  (Ok, it's about 80% cheaper than that.  It really is scruffy over here).

We are definitely NOT in a tourist zone here, I haven't seen another 'westerner' since I've been here.  The locals are a mix of Malaysian, Indian-Malaysian and Chinese-Malaysian. 
I was going to say it's a melting pot, but actually, it's the opposite because the 3 groups are quite distinct and even after they've been here 3 or 4 generations they don't mix that much.  Intermarriage  isn't common, and they all speak different languages and are different religions, so the differences between the 3 groups are quite obvious. 
They all seem equally prejudiced against each other - a Chinese person told us to be careful to lock the apartment because there were hordes of Indian youth delinquents around, then an Indian person told Maz to lock up her bike because 'those naughty Malaysian boys' would steal it.  So, everyone seems to think that everyone else is out to get them - which explains why this apartment building is guarded like fort-Knox.  They have 24 hour security guards, and everyone has these hideous grills in front of their doors...
Hideous grills - apparently you just shake them if you want to 'knock'.
The apartment building - looks quite good from a distance...

..but not quite as classy close up!
The food here is AMAZING, and ridiculously cheap - I ate for the whole day yesterday for $2.50.  And, it's just so tasty, they use fresh spices in everything and it all tastes quite different. 
OK, here's Mazzy signing off, Malaysian-style. Peace out. 

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Howdy from Oregon!

Yes, I am no longer in Australia but in beautiful central Oregon.  My silence over the past month has been due to the fact that I’ve been on an epic voyage (well, epic for someone with CFS!) 

I was a university student a Kansas University 15 years ago, and it’s where I got sick.  I never thought I’d be able to come back to the US but a few opportunities opened up, and the trip planned itself in about 30 mins. (It’s always a good sign when things fall together as easily as that.) 

Firstly, Centrelink (the Australia Govt body that gives me my disability pension) allowed me to go to stay in a number of countries around the world, mostly 1st world countries, for as long as I liked.  Then, the Australian dollar reached parity with the US dollar – so I could afford to stay here.  Then, a friend of mine moved to the little town of Sisters, in central Oregon, and said, ‘come on over…I think you’d like it.’ 

So I came – and I do like it!

I didn’t write anything about the on my blog before I left because the lead-up to the trip was stressful.  A lot of feelings that I’d blocked from the time I first got sick started to re-surface.  It was emotionally and physically draining, I felt like I could only take one day at a time, and was never entirely confident I would make it onto the plane. 

I had hoped I would have had all my crying out of the way before getting on the plane (that was my plan anyway. Plans, schmans!  I don’t know why I bother making them!)  So, I cried on every flight I was on, then cried in the airport, in the supermarket, in the cafĂ©, in the… well, you get the idea.  I single-handedly (or single-nosedly) bumped Kleenex’s sales up 10% over the past month. 

I broke my flight up in Hawaii, which was so beautiful.  I even had a good energy day and the woman I was staying with grabbed me and said, ‘get in the car…you need to see at least SOME of Hawaii!’ So she got her big plastic cup  of rum and coke and we jumped into her jalopy and drove around the island with the rum sloshing around and Christian music blaring from the radio.  The coast-line was spectacular…I can see why tourism is their biggest industry.

Then I flew straight to Oregon, and am in Sisters which is a small town on the edge of the high desert, with beautiful mountains in the background.  Here are some photos taken just down the end of my street.  Lucky me! 

I’m not sure how often I’ll be writing blog posts from here.  I’m just going to take it easy, and write whenever the urge grabs me, rather than trying to keep to a schedule.

Hope this finds you, my lovely reader, happy and having a day with at least a few sweet things in it.  (I have apple-pie fudge in my fridge, so that will be my sweet-thing.)

Monday, April 25, 2011

Hatred never ceases by hatred

I was just listening to a podcast  talk by Jack Kornfield, a US Buddhist teacher and former monk. In the talk Jack tells the story of working in a Cambodian refugee camp with his teacher Maha Ghosananda.  Maha Ghosananda was a Buddhist monk who became known as Cambodia's Gandhi for his work to bring peace to Cambodia after the Pol Pot holocaust that  decimated its population. 
I transcribed the story becuase I thought it was so profound. Here is is as Jack tells it.
"Mahagosanada got permission from the UNHCR to open this little Buddhist temple in the centre of the camp - which was 50,000 people in these little huts, without hardly any water or shade. And when the Khmer Rouge found out that the temple was being opened they let it be known that anyone who went to the opening would be killed when they returned to Cambodia.
So, it wasn't clear whether people would come at all.  But he was this incredibly good hearted and loving monk.  He was spared being killed - most of his family and monastery were killed - because he was in Thailand for the worst of it.
So he went around ringing this bell once the bamboo temple was made, and in the central square 25,000 people came. Half the camp showed up.  And he sat there, in this dusty camp, looking out over the faces of these people, the faces of people in trauma. There would be one uncle with 2 nieces who had survived, a grandma with 2 grandchildren.  Everone had lost family members, temples burnt, schools destroyed. 
And I thought, 'What is he going to say to these people who have lost so much?' And he put his hands together and just began to chant, sounds in  Cambobdian and Sankskrit that they hadn't heard for 8 years.  In this beutiful chanting tone he began to chant one verse from the Dhammapada  which says, 'Hatred never ceases by hatred but by love alone is healed. This is the ancient and enternal law.' 
And after a while 25,000 people were singing, 'Hatred never ceases by hatred but by love alone is healed. This is the ancient and enternal law.'  
And it was as if he was speaking a truth that was even bigger than their sorrows.  Yes, there's destruction, yes, there's killing and still, there's no end to this without love."

Thursday, April 7, 2011


What is the good of your stars and trees, your sunrise and the wind, if they do not enter into our daily lives?

I woke up early yesterday morning and saw this beautiful, crisp, Autumnal sunrise happening right outside my window.  I grabbed my camera and took a few shots from my front-yard.  How beautiful!  I love EM Forster's novels (Howards End is probably my favorite) and thought his quote was a good match for these photos.

Friday, April 1, 2011

A healing touch

Over the last few days I’ve gone into a fairly regular kind of energy slump where even listening or thinking becomes painfully exhausting. It’s as though my body is so tired that even moving my mental muscles to form a thought makes me ache.

Yesterday, as I was lying in bed I caught myself trying to do a metta (compassion) practice when I was too tired to think straight. I was trying to form kind and caring thoughts about being in pain, but this mental ‘trying’ just increased my pain.  Hmph!  I was stuck. 

Then a section of Toni Bernhard’s book ‘How to be Sick’ (oh, how I love that title!) came to mind. Toni writes about cultivating compassion towards herself in the face of chronic illness by using phrases of care and understanding such as 'My poor body, working so hard to feel better'.  She then writes:  'Whatever words I choose, I often stroke one arm with the hand of the other. This has brought me to tears many times, but tears of compassion are healing tears.'

Following Toni’s suggestion, I stopped trying to think compassionate thoughts and just started stroking the top of my hand with my other hand.  This kind, compassionate touch went beyond all thought, straight into the heart of the matter; ‘Oh, I’m sick.  How sad.’ 

I was transported back in time to when I was very young – 5 and 6 years old – and spent months in hospital with asthma. I was not only isolated from the world, but also cut-off from my immediate surroundings by a thick plastic tent covering my bed.  Asthma medication was pumped into the tent, so I could breathe it in and out. The intention was to heal, and it probably saved my life many times over, but the experience was confusing and so very lonely. 

The simple act of touching my own hand brought me back to this sad time; a time where all I really wanted was kindness and a sense of connection – to hope, life, and the outside world.  It felt as though offering myself this care, even 30 years on, was a kind of healing. This beautiful and simple practice gave me a sense of mothering and caring for myself. 

Thankyou Toni! 

Beautiful Gili Air - Lombok - Indonesia

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