Somethings To Say, Before the Sun Sets

Last sunset

So, I’m home. My one year work assignment in Tonga has come to an end. I made several monthly posts during my experience, but feel I should do one last post to properly see this chapter of my life closed. (You can read all the posts I wrote while away here)

If you haven’t been following my story, here is the gist of it: I moved into a new place, started a new job, hated it, but I went through the motions of working and saving. I booked a 1 month holiday to the USA, but eventually got fired first. I tried finding a job I’d actually enjoy, came very close in a few interviews, discovered an international development / capacity building program, thought why not, applied, got accepted, refunded my planned holiday, moved out, and then spent 2014 overseas.

I was as shocked as everyone else. Having spent my whole life in the one city, it’s something I never considered or saw coming… which was why I believed it was so important to ‘just go with it’ before it got away.

Since leaving childhood, I’ve learned that card tricks, control, and certainty are all illusions.

life-is-what-happens-to-you-while-youre-busy-making-5

It turned out that what appeared to be a sunny tropical island was actually the furtherest from my comfort zone that I’ve ever been.

island

I’ve heard it before; you’ve heard it before: sometimes, you’ve got to get uncomfortable. I get it now, I really do. Once we’re past puberty, the only growth we get is voluntary (with the exception of toenails and unwanted hairs.) It’s also excluding physical workouts. I’ve done a lot of those. Lifting twice your bodyweight is uncomfortable, but there is still an element of control: we know we’ll either be successful in the lift or we won’t – and we’re familiar with both outcomes either way.

Real growth is more than just physical; it’s a deeper change than that. And really being uncomfortable means giving up all perceived control and certainty over the situation. Simply put, it means not knowing.

comfort-zone-300x214

There was a lot I didn’t know: Where I’d live, what work would be like, who my friends would be, what I’d eat, and what I’d spend my spare time doing. These are all common questions to which I now know the answers; but what really makes going away such an experience is the things that you learn … that you didn’t expect or know you needed to learn.

There was a lot that happened over the year; there is a lot to write about, and there is a lot I already did write about.  Looking back, here are the main things I want you to know… and that I want myself to remember.


1) HAPPINESS IS AN OUTLOOK

I arrived in Tonga feeling sorry for people, but I returned home feeling sorry for myself. I realised I had been sold a dream. I had been told by a combination of my peers, upbringing, and culture – that there were set requirements for being happy. There aren’t. Despite being classed as a ‘developing country,’ people in Tonga smiled, laughed and seemed openly happier. How? Isn’t that the point of all the luxuries and privileges of the the western world? Well, I learned that it’s all about perception.

You can’t enjoy the taste of what you’ve got when you’re sniffing the fumes of what you don’t have.

I coined the above term, but I’m just as guilty of the offence as anyone else. With less disparity between wealth and status, and hardly any mass advertising, people in Tonga can devote their full attention to what they do have – and tend to be happier as the result.

I’d be lying to claim I’ve dropped all my desires since coming back to the western world. Desire and ambition definitely has its place. But given what I’ve learned, I’m definitely trying to remember that

there’s satisfaction in simplicity, and a blessing behind every breath.


2) THE SLOWER YOU GO, THE MORE YOU SEE

Tonga has Tonga Time, Fiji has Fiji Time, and so on. It’s a fact; time moves slower in the South Pacific. As a ‘city rat,’ getting used to a slower pace of life definitely required some adjusting. There were also withdrawals from what I call ‘stimulation addiction,’ to which mobile phones and modern technology are the most common perpetrating paraphernalia. With less internet access, less happening in my environment, and overall, less urgency – I eventually found myself slowing down. And that’s when it happened.

I started to notice more things – rather peculiar things: the positions of the stars, the sound of the sea, the weight of the breeze, the variations of trees and flowers, the way animals behaved, and many other minute details. Of course, in the west, this approach would result in a lot of missed busses, pissed of people, and possibly accusations of staring in public. It’s also not humanly possible or healthy to consciously process everything; but it is worth paying a little bit more attention every now and then. You never know what you may notice.


3) FAITH HAS ITS PLACE

I’ve never been religious. Sure, kinda Buddhist and strangely spiritual; but not religious.  I’ve always respected peoples’ rights to make their own decisions; but it wasn’t until going to Tonga that I actually began to understand why some people choose to believe.

I met people who lived in tin sheds and without access to basic necessities – yet they clutched their bibles as if it was their most vital resource. I met youths who were surround by bad influences and dangerous temptations – yet God was an authority figure they wouldn’t dare to disobey. I met people who made massive sacrifices in their own lives in order to help others – yet they were modest in their contributions and efforts, acknowledging Jesus as their inspiration and mentor.

Across these different circumstances, there was the one how – and the one why: God.

I’ve read The God Delusion, find Sam Harris fascinating, and am aware of the ways religion is exploited as a tool of manipulation – but I can’t disregard the way that religion and faith has proved to be a solid foundation in lives that are otherwise crumbling; the way way it provides clarity to those conflicted between choices; and they way it widely opens the hearts of those in the position to help others.

Religion doesn’t have a place in my life, and it may not have one in yours; but there’s no doubting it has its place in the world. 


4) TALENT CAN FLOURISH ANYWHERE

I had the privilege of meeting some amazingly talented individuals. At 17yrs of age, Paul is a perfect example. This video showcases his talent as a self-taught dancer and choreographer. And he certainly isn’t the only example. It seemed that Tongans had the natural ability to dance, sing, draw, and play sport. This is without the many learning opportunities and resources available in the west. I mean, despite having access to dance schools, video tutorials, and large body-sized mirrors, I definitely got put in my place by the dancers I met in Tonga. Here is a recent video of all of them in action.

Another example is a young woman who went from driving around in a car without windows to modelling in Europe, living a life she didn’t even dream about before. I’m sure there are similar stories emerging from other parts of the world. I’ve also seen similar things on Youtube, but there was something different about encountering this phenomenon in person.

Needless to say, as a person who tends to be quick to place limitations on himself, I left feeling inspired, now knowing what can be achieved with not much more than just passion and dedication.


5) WE’RE ALL UNDER THE SAME STARS

As this was my first extended period of time spent in another culture, I noticed a lot of differences. After enough time, I noticed many underlying similarities: Children cry when they fall over, people smile when they see each other, women like dressing up, and guys give each other crap because they care.

On a deeper level, I realised how we all just want to feel safe, to belong, to care for those close to us, and to feel loved ourselves.  We go about it in different ways, but our motives are the same, as with the emotions we feel. Different continents, countries and cultures don’t change the fact that we’re all people, trying to get by on the sample planet, under the same stars.

This is a great video on the topic.


6) TIME FLIES

I was packing my suitcase to leave, and then unpacking it – what felt like – shortly after. In reality, a whole year had passed. Just like that. I regret the time I initially wasted on deliberating on wether my decision to come to Tonga was the right thing to do because…

time doesn’t cease or slow for our uncertainty; it goes on, taking with it, another opportunity.

We all worry and wonder at times, but it’s important to remember that we won’t be where we are for long, and that we won’t be around for long either.  This fact will motive us all in different ways, but..

we all stand to miss something by standing around.

I was on a tiny island where I felt time moved so slowly, but eventually, it was up. I’ve come home to find people getting married and having children, and myself, once again, at a crossroads. I don’t know what’s next, but I know it will be over before I know it.


I’ve got one years worth of daily journal entries, so I’m sure there is more I could add, but I’m happy to close it off here. The experience taught me a lot, I saw another country but also another side to myself. It stretched my imagination and also made me that much more sturdy, mentally. It’s given me a lot to think about, write about, and share.

To you, the reader: I hope you’ve enjoyed this insight into my adventure. Maybe you’ll look at your own life differently… or like I did, have the courage to change yours drasictally.

To Tonga:  malo (thank you) and hopefully toki sio (see you later).

It’s going to be all ripe

DSC01990

 

The post that started this blog had something to do with a banana.

I was sitting on a park bench during my lunch break, sunny as it’s ever been, yet as grey as I’ve ever felt. Tears rolled off my cheeks as I stared into emptiness, weighed down by a sense of hopelessness. Dramatic or truthful, the feeling was real – real enough for me to seek professional help for the first time.

I did a few sessions with a psychologist which consisted of breathing and visualisation exercises. What scared me the most was the future and the uncertainty surrounding it – but for some reason I clearly saw myself overseas working with a group of youths. Somehow, I was right. I was offered a one-year position at an educational institute in Tonga a few months later. While it was a wonderful and unexpected opportunity and experience, it eventually passed.

1.5 years later, I’m again in the same boat, on the same bench.. scared, doubting myself, comparing myself to others or how ‘it should be’: all the same shit.

But this time I have a sense of optimism that I didn’t have before. I know such sharp variations in feelings and experiences are as commonly experienced as the heat of summer and the chills of winter. Like a loose leaf, this realisation that “I’m not the only one” fell upon me while sitting in the waiting room before my first psychologist appointment in 2013. The fact was always there, I just hadn’t noticed.

This time, I also have a sense of confidence in myself and in the world that I didn’t have before. I’ve made it through many tough times and I will do so again. My recent travels have allowed me to see more of the world and understand how vast life and its possibilities can be.

Looking back, I understand how tunnel vision can be exceptionally dangerous – especially when we think of any light at the end as an oncoming train. A correction of our own train of thought can allow us to rather see it as an opportunity – and to notice all the wonderful things we’re passing on a second-to-second basis. These things are unfortunately often hidden behind walls that we’ve built or had built around us – but thankfully, they’re also walls that can break, and there are a range of tools to help us do the job.

I guess the whole point of this post is just share one simple thing that I’ve learned since I first accepted something wasn’t right:

We’re all in our own cages, tunnels, cells. Regardless what the circumstance that makes us feel like a prisoner is, getting out all starts with the same thing… thinking knowing that it’s going to be all ripe right.

Month 10 in Tonga

Screen Shot 2014-12-04 at 11.46.44 am

Rather than tasting the batter, let me first describe how I beat this post out.

  1. I flip open my journal (not to be confused with a diary).
  2. I find the start of the month just past, and read my way to the current day.
  3. I make all sorts of facial expressions and sounds (not to be confused with my coming toilet break).
  4. I experience an array of thoughts flavoured from, “I’ll always remember that” to “f*** that sucked.”
  5. I close the lock on my journal with its matching glittering plastic pink key, snort four crushed up valium tablets and fall asleep to Jamie Oliver’s audio cookbook (not to be confused with a serious statement).

But on a serious note, the process can either be hectic, easy, or a well-suited challenge. But I still do it, regardless. I do it because, to understand the world, you have to first understand the filter which you perceive it through: yourself. I do it because, when all I see is pieces, writing helps me put the puzzle together – to form and gain clarity on the bigger picture – which is my life.

As Hemingway said, “Writing is a lonely existence.” So as much as I would like company, it’s not expected. But when I come back to this page in a few months, finding another set of fingerprints in the digital dust, and maybe a kindly left comment, certainly wouldn’t deter me from the habit.

So, let’s get into the month, starting with the little things.

I rode close to 50km on a trip (a lot for me). I volunteered at Tonga’s only international school, answering the many questions eight-year-olds have. I organised a fashion show for my institute’s students at a popular local bar. And I also joined another fashion committee which is hosting an upcoming show. I’m not particularly a ‘fashion’ person, but I’ve enjoyed the insight into their challenge of introducing contemporary clothes into traditionally conservative culture. To illustrate, one of the girls had her family say that they felt ashamed after seeing a photo of her posing in a bikini on a beach.

I had an experience of freakish serendipity. I went to the local flea market and just happened to find the exact book I was looking to download a few days ago; a book of famous poems, which I also wanted; and a jumper of a favourite band, where I only needed something to keep me warm in my upcoming trip to New Zealand.

I got a few postcards from home and had a great Skype call with someone I hadn’t seen in over 1 year. Someone who I only met in person once before I left for Tonga. Someone who I only met because of this blog. It was great to hear about his travels to Asia and tell him about my journey so far. Both experiences reminding me of the value and importance of longstanding relationships as well as like-minded company.

Now, the bigger things.

I had an early farewell at the technical institute where I volunteer, crying more than they did. I’m not sure why. Possibly from a volatile mixture of emotions, from missing people back home, the anxiety of returning, to my own doubt in my effectiveness of being here. So when a particular teacher said that I’ve made a “dream come true” for them by organising their cruise ship tours, it was enough to catch my manly mannerisms off guard, and to tip the ‘tea’rs that I knew were filling, but I was trying not to spill.

The farewell also helped me accept that I won’t have the same kind of impact as some of the other volunteers, it still doesn’t take away from the fact that I’ve had an impact.

Now, the biggest thing.

I finally completed by first video project! After standing at the cliff for a while, eyes shut, using my imagination to visualise the possibility of what I could create – I dove… well, I was pushed. Attending a recent community film festival where new video makers were showing   their creations, was the push I needed. It’s true what they say about inspiration: it’s contagious.

There’s also a truth about the creative process: its possessive. In his book The War of Art, Steven Pressfield explores the Ancient Greek myth of The Muses. In summary, there were nine daughters of Zeus who each governed a specific creative art form. And when a mortal set out to create something in one of these forms, he would be guided and inspired by its Muse. Truth aside,  I think it’s beautiful. It also reflects my experience of writing my ebook so I was glad to be under a kind of ‘creative spell’ once again.

“The Muse takes note of our dedication. She approves. We have earned favor in her sight. When we sit down and work, we become like a magnetized rod that attracts iron filings. Ideas come. Insights accrete.” – Steven Pressfield

Once I just started my video project – even without a set plan – everything just fell into place. Editing and filming over 3 days, I couldn’t slow down nor stop until I had finished it. And finished it I did.

Like the short films I had watched at the festival I attended, my goal was to capture and share a certain unseen side of Tonga. I also chose a subject that really resonated with me personally – and I did it in a way that reflected my personality. The feedback has been great: many current volunteers have used it to show their friends and families back home what Tonga is like; the soon to arrive volunteers have been thankful for a chance to see what their new home is going to be like; and other people around the world now know about this tiny island they never knew exited. My favourite remark however, was, “I can’t help but smiling the whole way through it.” As such was my goal..

“Creative work is not a selfish act or a bid for attention on the part of the actor. It’s a gift to the world and every being in it.” – Steven Pressfield

Then came the worst thing: man down.

Out of nowhere, my enthusiasm’s gone – like someone tripped on the cord, pulling it out and taking all my energy with it. Everything’s a drag, I even consider deleting this blog. I won’t elaborate like I did in this post – but this particular time, it was bad enough for me to seriously consider how these seasonal states effect the quality of my life, what triggers them, and most importantly, what I’m going to do about them when I return home.

“You loathe yourself, and yet you’re consumed by grandiose ideas you have about your own importance. You’re up too high and down too low. Neither is a place where you’ll get any work done.” – Cheryl Strayed

I guess, there is a lot on my mind. There are a lot of forks in the road, and the uncertainty is as threatening as a knife.  But to quote Strayed again, “Self-pity is a dead-end road.” So here is something more optimistic out of my own mouth..

“Life may not be a piece of cake, but you’ve still got to bare your teeth and take a bite.”

So I’m going to spend my last 2 months here chewing: doing what I have to do. There are also still many experiences to taste: people to meet, things to learn, sights to snorkel, coconuts to drink.

– Boy out.

PS – Neat song

Writing My First Book – My Experience

Book editing

“I don’t know what the soul is, but I’m pouring it into this book”

Something I had written in my journal six months ago. In contrast to now, it was back when I was losing sleep out of excitement. Back when I was springing out of bed with energy. I was in the process of writing my first book.

I’m not sure what I exactly wanted or expected. It was like I was consciously in the backseat and a mysterious creative impulse of mine was driving. Despite all warnings about getting into cars with strangers – I never questioned it or asked ‘if we’re there yet’ because I was too busy enjoying the ride. I was bettering my writing ability, and becoming an author. Regardless of the context, these are two truly worthwhile human experiences.

Becoming viral or even obtaining a single sale definitely wasn’t on my mind. But success was. That’s because success is subjective. Beyond the sole personal achievement of writing a book, the other metrics I wanted to measure were based around “meaning”… and maybes.

Maybe the people I know will take the time to read it and understand who I really am. Maybe someone I don’t know will read it and want to get to know me. Maybe they’re going through a difficult time, and my book will tell them the kinds of things that I once so desperately needed to hear.

When you give with less expectations to get, sometimes life surprises you. And this is what my ‘may’ came to ‘be’.

My book not only brought current friends closer to me, it brought new people into my life.. founding new friendships. From both sources, I’ve received plenty of kind comments which i’ve treasured. True to Jim Carrey’s 2014 MUM Graduation Speech where he states

 

“The effect you have on people is the most valuable currency there is.”

 

Just like Jim also describes his discovery of comedy as ‘something worth his time’, I’ve realised that writing is worth mine. I never would have considered myself the type to give advice since I’ve got so far to go personally and professionally. But the way I see it now, is that writing and sharing gives new meaning and value to every experience I go through. Particularly my f*** ups. People also say that I have a ‘gift’. If I do, then it’s only good manners to unwrap it.

Here I am still going on that. Surrounded by crumpled paper like a kid on Christmas – months after Christmas morning. I’ve learned that gifts also don’t always come easily.

Since releasing my book online, I’ve found grammatical errors, fixed them… and despite reading over the same pages many times – I’ve found more.  I’ve set up an automatic email system, then realised that 50% of my subscribers never got the book because the campaign paused itself. I sent out an e-mail apologising .. but so hastily that even it had some embarrassing typos. Uggnnhhhhhhh! That’s not another one – it’s the actual sound I remember making. Much much louder than it was just in your thoughts.

Banging my head against the wall would only break the instrument I need to keep this thing going. The fact that I’m posting this means that I didn’t throw my laptop out of the window either. Perfection is a process. We f*** up – then we get up. But sometimes it’s with our faces in the dirt that we find our lucky nickel, or we ourselves, are picked up as a diamond in the rough.

If I never got fired from my previous job, then I wouldn’t have ended up overseas with the spare time and motivation to write my book in the first place. That was my nickel. As a diamond, I’ve been picked up and polished by the generous friends I’ve recently made.

One is an experienced writer and editor, she’s given me assurance in the worth of my work and assistance in making the required final touches. Another friend, who I actually made through my book, is even willing to help me cover the costs of getting it onto the Amazon Kindle store.

Going from a self setup soap box to a shared stage is a scary thought.

But then I remember that how I was once worried about just uploading my book on my private Facebook profile. The photos of myself half naked and covered in ice cream weren’t my worry. It was how vulnerable and exposed my writing made me. But my experience since has given me faith that fortune does favour the brave. So I’ll definitely be making the strides to share what I’ve created with more people. Maybe it will help more people, or maybe, create the opportunity for more people to help me.

I’m so thankful for the support from everyone who has read my book. And even to those who haven’t, but provide inspiration through their own pursuits. Such as the author Kamal Ravikant, who honestly shares this about his book Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends On It

“[I] published it on Amazon, expecting to sell ten copies, max. It took off and became a success. Word of mouth, blog posts, tweets. The book has a life of its own, spreading around the world.

 

If anything, the book was a gift to me. It made me cross a threshold, showed me that my voice mattered. Sharing my truth mattered. My life mattered.”

My plan is to have it on Amazon’s Kindle store by my birthday (October 27). Maybe I’ll hit ten copies. Maybe more. But it doesn’t matter. Because – I already know I matter.

 

 

 

My Untethered Soul

unthered soul

I recently read The Untethered Soul by Michael A. Singer

I more recently re-read it.

Unfortunately, what  we read can be forgotten as effortlessly as the pages we’re turning. So I’ve tried to put myself into the habit of taking notes or writing summaries about what I’ve learned. I explored this book in my written journal but decided a blog post would have the added benefit of promoting this great read with others. Apologies for the disjointed structure. I’ll try to clear it up as this was originally written for my own perusal only.

My Untethered Soul

You see growth in the mirror. As an avid weight lifter Im used do it. But since putting the dumbbells down and picking up more books, I’ve come to experience a new sensation. That of an expanding mind. Learning. Growing as a person – psychologically.

It’s amazing how diving into a book can make you so much more aware of everything else around and within you, once you re-emerge. This is how I feel after reading The Untethered Soul, and the topic of the below post.

I now understand some of my particular patterns of behaviour and thoughts with more clarity.

I understand what the book refers to as ‘thorns’ in my psyche. Perhaps imbedded long ago. Thorns that I’ve devoted myself to protecting in order to delay the pain of their removal. What I don’t realise is that I’m indadvertedly suffering more this way. The right response is a swift painful removal.

I understand that I’ve spent energy and wasted it fighting and resisting reality and feelings. Feelings that are part of the seasons of humanity. Jealousy, envy, anger, greed, sadness. They should all be expected at some point, and met with compassion, and certainty that they will also pass on their own accord.

Further more on the topic of energy. I understand that there is also a positive source that naturally emendates from within myself. There is no need to be wary, only accepting and appreciative of this force while it’s felt. Meditation is the key to uncovering and unblocking this flow. Actions in the outer world and above the surface will make sure it’s utilised for all the wealth it can bring as creativity, concentration and passion etc.

Resist nothing.

See thoughts with compassion and forgiveness. The book describes our mind as a troublesome room mate that we’re stuck with. In addition that the best way forward is to strive towards a peaceful co-existence rather than emotionally retaliating and furthering an ongoing feud.

Consciousness.

Consciousness is the mirror itself, not the reflection. It’s the empty sky, not the dark clouds passing through. It’s the stillness under the surface, not the impact of an impeding circumstance and the ripples it causes.

Control.

Paradoxically, you gain control of your life by giving it up. Dropping internal resistances and defences that govern our behaviour in the outer world. Like a hand automatically retracting from a hot flame, our psyches are equally sensitive. This sensitivity and is a problem we need to devote ourselves to addressing. Easier said than done, and better understood by reading the book.

Growth.

Everyone will interpret different things from reading this book, because life and experience is such. A teacher that is individually guiding us through lessons that we need to learn. Rather than reacting, we can respond with the belief that pain, challenges, and discomfort all teach us something about ourselves and our limits. There is a difference between a reaction and a response. It’s our level of consciousness. I’ve raised mine by thinking about myself in third person if required – e.g. “the boy is annoyed or anxious.”

That’s pretty much it.

Whatever works for you – works for you. Different strokes for different folks. But we can all admit we’ve got the work to do. Call me a wacko, weirdo, or take up my suggestion of reading this book. I want to hear about it either way!

ps. I have the Kindle version so I found the featured photo on another blog which also mentions the book. Check it out https://tialevings.wordpress.com/page/8/

Meditation. My thoughts.

meditation2

It’s like house keeping. Best done daily so things don’t get too messy.

I start by following my breath. Closing my eyes to focus more on the internal environment. Then I let go. I fall. But without the fear…

I reach out for the textures of my fears and anxieties. I can’t find or feel them in this way because they aren’t real.

But I hear a sound. The beating of my heart is more than a reminder of its existence. It says something about my existence. That I’m human, which means I can love. It also means I am loved, because I’m already a miracle. One of such complexity could not be created without the care and appreciation that is love.

I am miracle. I deserve to be here. I whisper it into the breeze hoping it’s caught by the loved ones crossing my mind. I can take comfort in that fact, or contemplate out how miraculous the life I’m in, can be.

This is where illusions are replaced by visions. Illusions are clouds of fear. Visions sparkle with clarity. Made of the same elements of dreams.

This is when the deepest parts of me gets the chance to speak. The voice echoing up to my awareness. These parts are not the biology that make our hearts beat, rather the spirituality we call upon when our biology may fail us.

These instructions are read now, but felt when carried out. As essentially you’re blind, but somehow travel great distances. Even fly. You start by falling, then you’re light enough to elevate..to escape.

Just make sure to return. It’s now time to clean up your life.

 

 

Muddy Mornings

green lessons

Muddy Mornings.

Despite the comparative enormity of the muddy lake spread out in front of me, I take particular notice of what looks like something between a tadpole and a frog. It’s legless, but still trying to make its way onto land.

With the same wonder that I’m casting over at its habitat, it’s looking at mine. The difference isn’t just curiosity, its certainty and confidence. This little critter knows about the life ahead of itself; I’m not sure where the flow I’m following goes, or If I’ll sink or swim.

From the dark depths of the same pool of water, numerous lotus flowers have broken the surface to swallow the warm rays of the sun. With similar persistence this cold and dark morning, I fought my way through the thick blankets of my bed to to bare witness to the birth of this day. Under the same rays, I’m now swallowing mouthfuls of what was once hot green tea.

I got distracted by my surroundings and these following lessons:

Like frogs, we need to believe we can drastically change for the better – evolve and grow beyond old limitations. Not additional legs – but hey, there once was a time when we didn’t even know how to use the ones we do have. It didn’t stop us from trying to climb everything we could as once ‘confident little critters’ ourselves.

Like the lotus flowers, we need to break through our surroundings and seek clarity in our lives. But it’s only in the right environment that we can truly blossom. No doubt, there are many plants that don’t make it to the surface, just as there are many people who tragically don’t reach their full potential.

Unlike the lotus, the right environment for us isn’t defined by the strength of the sun. Sometimes, it’s the strength of a struggle that we need to face. I left the home I knew, the land I loved, because I knew it wasn’t the environment I needed to blossom. In the South Pacific I sought the challenge not the…

Distracted again.

A large discolored leaf falls onto my open notepad. Another lesson.

Death and decay is all around us; every moment is part of a grand melody which is even more beautiful because it is bound to end… Well, it’s us that ends while the song goes on. So what we must do is to sing, dance, string an instrument, or whatever it is that keeps the colour in our lives until it’s our turn to fall. I love to write. I’ve only got a single colour pen; but with words, I can describe colours that even rainbows would love to read about.

9.15

I got a bus in 15 minutes. I better go, as I’d like to skip the lesson on time management.

4 Months Update

4 months

EDIT – I was in a good mood writing this, then someone stole my shoes.

The month of May started with a visit to the Land Bridge. A popular scenic site which consists of a massive cliff face and essentially – a dead end. As the end of the island and country, it’s as far as you can go without changing your means of transportation. The appeal wasn’t just in the view, but in the view point it gave me. I was reminded that I’m just on this block of land in the ocean. Across the vast openness I stared into, were my friends and family on another block. Even further were other people I know in other locations around the world, all carrying on with their individual lives. Almost half the year is up, and life goes on.

Equally humbling was a camping trip at H`aatafu. A western beach on the island which gives a picture perfect view of the sunset, as well as of the night sky. Losing count of the shooting stars I saw, watching the fire dance with the wind, and hearing nothing but the waves slowing playing drums with the shore, I remember thinking to myself “this is what I came here”

Of course, I also have objectives regarding the development of my host organisation and the country. From my original notion of ‘saving the world’, I’ve become more realistic about the challenges and circumstances I’m working with, which has allowed me to see results unfold, not just envision them. An example being in the mentality and motivation of my counterpart.

As a volunteer, I’m understandably enthusiastic and egear to work, but she is just a person with a job, bills to pay, a child to feed, and other things on her mind. Realising this, I had a private discussion with her and stated that I’m aware I’m increasing her workload, but I want her to personally see the value of what I’m doing. The result was the development of a training / certificate system, clearly defining the addition skills and responsibilities she is learning, as well as providing her with a sense of accomplishment – and evidence to request a raise or promotion which I know she wants.

Having passed the period of ‘learning the ropes’, I felt confident to meet with various radio and tv media contacts, and even put forward a proposal to the ANZ and Westpac banks. Initially worried about the lack of work and direction from my supervisor, I’ve realised I have the opportunity to identify existing gaps and create new opportunities.It is what you make of it. I’m definitely seeing the value in my assignment career wise, and am looking forward to seeing what I can accomplish.

I will remember however, there are forces out of my control, and I very well may not be able to accomplish everything I set out to. I’ve had this conversation with some volunteers who face this grim realisation when they return to the country to find their plans and initiatives not being followed.

I’ve found comfort and confidence in the words of Gordon – a previous volunteer who advised that I just “wake up each day and ask yourself what you can give”. Be it by helping someone write a resume, helping teachers use proper english to write exams, or making ID cards for the students, I’m staying optimistic and open minded, remembering it’s not just your accomplishments that count, but you’re attitude.

Socially, things are always great. I had the chance to attend cultural / religious events, an abstract art exhibition, a youth dance / drama performance, drop some freestyle raps in public cypher, and learn that this small island does hide a lot of talented and passionate people. One of the people I did enjoy the company of, was a housemate who has now left.

It is strange how this program serves as a crossroads of sorts, a transitional period where you get to meet and know people from very different walks of life, before suddenly they are gone and most likely never to cross your path again. But I know that as technology keeps me in contact with those back home, it can do the same with anyone I meet here who returns to theirs.

Speaking of which, a thanks to those who have kept in contact, even if it is the odd message now and then. If that isn’t you, well thanks either way for reading this blog post. I’m writing these for more or less, my own benefit. It would be great to look back next year and see how much I have grown and learned.

Of course, it’s also for the benefit for anyone who finds themselves in the position I was in 1 year ago – needing a job, a break, a change of scenery, and undecided about the direction I want to take in my work. There is a road less travelled, and as a good mate said in a Skype call yesterday – I’ve taken it. I’m also just as uncertain and interested as anyone else to see where it leads… Stay tuned.

The Boy turns 1

 

BUB1turns

 

When I opened my blog 1 year ago, I adopted an anonymous identity and opened an expressive outlet. I wanted to figure out the puzzle life is, and with all the peaks and valleys, I wanted to know the destination of the journey it was becoming. I’d been writing in my own journals for a few years, and figured going online would give others the chance to chip into the conversation of one. Honestly speaking, In the back of my mind, I felt nobody would care too much about what a ‘nobody’ has to say.

I chuckled to myself as I wondered “let’s see how long this lasts”. Well, it has lasted. When I got my first comment and had my first conversation with a random girl from the UK, I started to think differently about the potential of this hobby that was originally just for my own benefit and enjoyment.

Oddly, she cared about the 40 simple things that I enjoyed. Another person from Melbourne took a keen interest in the 13 lessons 2013 taught me, sharing her own experiences. In between, I’ve had many other comments, emails and private messages from other people from around the world. Most notable is a friend from Hawaii, who shares my middle name, and took an interest in my life because I remind him of a younger version of himself. If you’re worried I’m talking to weirdos of the internet, well I’ve even met someone very like minded in Brisbane before I took of for Tonga and he went his way to Cambodia.

Once I hit 100 posts, I had the idea of taking my favourite 5 and putting them into an ‘ebook’.  But I had come so far, I felt I had keep going in that direction. I had an idea come to me, and I felt I could do better than just writing a typical book. With a lot of hard work, my ebook Living in Cream was completed in April 1st this year. I felt so proud of myself, that the responses to come wouldn’t matter. But once again, its been great to hear from people I know, and many I don’t. In as many ways technology can push people apart, it can bring us together.

I was initially worried about running out of content, but it’s when I run out of days, that I’ll run out of pages. Writing has truly changed my life, and allowed me to help others in the same way, in turn, adding more value to my life.

I’m far from ‘viral’ or making any sort of living of this. Many may wonder why I bother (..maybe the same kind of people that spend their time sharing memes). I’ve often wondered that, but every now and then I get reminded why. Beyond website visitors and Facebook likes, there is something real that you can’t quantify, but you know it when you feel it.  Writing has helped me to find it. I encourage you to do whatever it is that helps you do the same.

We don’t become somebody. We are somebody. We all have a story, and you’ll be surprised who listens when you find the courage to share yours. We’re all in this journey together, and you’ll be surprised at who is heading in your direction. Regardless if you ‘make it’ to the destination, you’ll be glad to have those people by your side.

It’s not the destination, it’s not just the journey, it’s the company.

I’m just getting started, but thank you for the support.

websitehttp://www.boyunderthebridge.com

ebook – http://eepurl.com/RxP5f

3 Months Update

DSC00532Three months

In addition to my first feelings of home sickness, my third month away saw the inventible decline in the novelty of my experience. Situations such as when I found myself far from home at midnight with a flat tyre, or bed ridden and immobile for three days due to a virus, certainly didn’t slow things down. But it was once this novelty had started the wear off, that I got to see things for what they really are. Not what Google Images and the tourist brochures showed.

Doing something like this, sure, there are inconveniences and challenges, but there are also people willing to help every step of the way. Having my boss call to check on me every morning, another volunteer cooking me dinner and others always offering a hand, the concern shown was genuinely touching. My Host Organisation / co-workers made me realise that my assignment objectives are secondary to my wellbeing, and I should hold nothing in greater importance of theirs.

In my other twenty seven days of better health, there were some great times. Including the incident which led to my illness. It started with an early dawn Anzac Service followed by breakfast at the NZ High Commission residence. Then to celebrate the birthday of one of the Tongan teachers I work with, the night was spent camping on an isolated beach, by a fire and under the stars.

The scenery was beautiful, but my personal highlight was joining another volunteer on a walk to check out the surrounding areas, only to take a seat in the sand and have a conversation that saw five hours pass seamlessly. The others were relieved that we had not gone missing, I was relieved that even miles away from home, there were still people I could really relate to.  It’s just a matter of being open and welcoming. Since then I’ve met more Tongans ( including a group that rap and sing)  and even volunteers from other countries such as American Peace Core Unit.

Through technology, I also got the chance to talk to those I am miles away from. Two separate videos calls made a difference to this month that is pretty hard to capture with words. But I’ll say that the contrast of having people in your life and then suddenly removed, makes you realise a lot of things you otherwise would not notice. It’s true, every experience exists through contrast. There is also that saying about only knowing what you got when it’s gone, so I can’t help but sometimes  wonder about the kind of difference that people notice since I’ve been gone.

Either way, life goes on. One mate heads overseas to Europe for 5 weeks today, another moved into a new place, another is busy studying. Had things gone to my original plan, I would have gone on a contiki tour of the USA instead. Spending and consuming, rather than volunteering and giving here in Tonga. As upsetting as it was to cancel my trip, I was hoping I would one day get the chance to say this – “I’m glad it didn’t work out” I can also say that while I was originally hoping to land an assignment in a more prestegious or larger country, “I’m glad I’m here” 

Spending the hours that I do by the waves and the water, you learn things. Not just from my books – such as,  sometimes you just got to go with it. This applies to the times I find myself trying to decide on my next move, will I head to Asia for another assignment, will I return home to work, another state, or will I look to further my education and return to study. Just going with it for now.