On rekindling friendships and impact-fulness

My deepest apologies for not posting for the last three weeks! I’ve been a little bit side-tracked (read: OVERWHELMED) from attempting to learn the Japanese language. I’m running into an issue with my brain where the other languages that I kinda speak are getting mixed up and only gibberish is coming out. I know that in the linguistics world this phenomenon has been actively researched and there’s an actual name for it. So, my language scholars, what is that called? I’m curious! But, in posting this, I really want to show what Japan looks like right now because it’s beautiful, but I also want to ramble a little about people in our lives. Japan's Ashikaga range

I cannot count the number of times that I’ve been told ‘people enter our lives for a reason’. Yes, this is true and it’s been proven to me over and over again. But ultimately I think the greater lessons come from when people leave our lives. When someone is participating in your everyday life, you often do not fully appreciate them. Yes, you might be grateful and extremely happy during the times with them. But, It is only when they are gone or unreachable that you realize just how much of an impact that they had on your life. Particularly the gaps that their leaving left in your heart and soul; double that when you were especially close.

A little bit like forgotten temples where people once worshipped

 

During the de-thawing process that is my third cup of coffee, I’ve lately been thinking quite a bit about people in my life. Do I make an impact upon them? Have they made an impact upon me? What was it that I made them question...was it who they are? Where they have gone or been? Do people think about me and wonder where I am? I asked a few people this question and I got mixed answers. I didn’t ask them if they missed me, that’d be kinda awkward (but I do think it!).

Many people are not sure if they’ve changed someone’s lives for the better or for the worse and I am no different. I am a teacher. I interact with individuals who are looking for answers every single day of my life and often ask them questions that make them consider who they are. Why? Because I had amazing teachers in my own life that asked me those same questions. It transformed me from being an arrogant, self-adsorbed person into who I am today, or at the very least got me on the right path. Even to this moment, I am always asking myself where I am, what I’m doing, and who I am doing it with. It’s a bit of a dichotomy in that I am actively living in the present, breathing in each moment, but I also have an eye to the past and the future. It’s difficult not to in our current world.

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Ask yourself this. Do you have an impact on the people in your life? If you do, what is that impact? Have you ever been impacted by someone, even if you only knew them for a short amount of time? How did they impact you? 

     I think that you’ll find looking back at people in your life, you’ll remember individuals who, for only a short moment, burned like dying out stars and lit up our world for just that briefest of moments. Recently, I’ve taken to talking those people in my life. Or trying to. Staying in touch is difficult when you are on the other side of the world but I try my hardest. It’s sometimes disheartening attempting to rekindle a friendship through something like Facebook, because it’s not often that someone is on at the same time as you. But, I try nonetheless.

With some people, I picked up the relationship like nothing ever happened. Despite the 3 or 4 year gap in between our conversations. With others, it’s like pulling teeth trying to get a real conversation that doesn’t involve asking ‘How are you?’ and leaving it at that. I am not one for small talk. I can chat about the weather like anyone else, but if you have me for more then five or ten minutes, I’m going to ask a harder question. One that I might not know the answer to. It’s the people that readily have these conversations that I anxiously await talking to. These are the people that, despite years of silence, continue to inspire and influence where I am going and how I am viewing life. They make me remember those tiny memories that I forgot. Sitting outside watching stars, listening to a piano being played late into the night or remembering a moment of shared silence and understanding. Chances are you think about these moments and the people you shared them with often. Nostalgia is a powerful thing, but it doesn’t have to be a sad one.

Nostalgia can be as lovely as the explosion of colors. It's gone now, but I will remember how it made me feel

Go on, talk to that long lost friend or lover. Don’t just ask them how they are. Ask them who they are and what life has taught them since you last spoke. Let them know that you think about them. Even if they don’t respond, at some point they will read that and know that someone appreciates them. It will make their life all the better for it.

 

Share some long lost love and if you can..rekindle those friendships. It's never too late to say 'Hello'.

On the virtue of Facebook

Disclaimer: 

This post is not for anyone but myself if you don't care to read more about me and my past then I highly suggest you wait until my next posting. I will be teaching you how to make fresh pita bread from scratch but until then…you've been warned.

Secondary Disclaimer: 

Indeed, I am praising Facebook. But only because of what it CAN do…not what it DOES do. Want a reality check? Go look through you Facebook photos from start to finish. Come back to me and tell that you didn't just have new perspective on your life. That is what Facebook should do, reconnect you with life, family and friends. Not tell me to like your silly personality test from Buzzredtwitgawk.com

I have lived an amazing and wonderful life. As you well know I just went through a pretty major breakup and I needed a change. That change was Japan. Was it the right choice? I don't know, but here I am now and I've been asked to tell the Ashikaga Board of Education about my life, what I like and what I have done, etc. That is a seriously hard question to answer and I've been thinking about it pretty heavily lately. Even without the added incentive to divulge my life in front of very well dressed people drinking tea.

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The conclusion that I came up with is that my life is astoundingly good and I have been blessed with so many amazing experiences and even more fantastic people. I can honestly say I have grown into far more then I ever imagined possible. There are times in your life when you are sad and lonely; wondering what happened to all the happiness that you used to have. Honestly, I'm going through that right now and, though I rarely do this, I'm looking at my old Facebook photos from when I first began Facebook. Something like 8 years ago, maybe 9..10 (How old is Facebook?), I'm not really sure. What I am sure of is that there is nothing for me to be sad about and the experiences that I've gained and the lessons I've learned... well some people travel their entire lives and don't learn them. I've been blessed to learned them at the ripe age of 27.

Upon looking back, I started tearing up and crying with a giant huge smile and thousands of warm memories wrapping me in the embrace that only years of life can bring. Years of life in where you are truly given the freedom to be who you are. Not a year has gone by that I haven't challenged myself and grown into more then I am. I didn't even realize it upon looking back on Facebook. I'm striving unconsciously to discover even more facets of what I can do and where I belong in the world. So looking back I found myself reminiscing just a little bit about what I've done in each of these years. More as a reminder that I am somebody in the world and I have made an impact. So here it goes...the virtues of Facebook.

It will remind of just how much life you have lived and how far you've grown: 

Oh man, look at that punk high school kid fresh out of school and in a big college up on Lake Erie. Damn, I thought I was something. Little did i know that I am not an artist, at least definitely not a good one, and there were plenty of other actors/artists/musicians out there that were far far better then me. But you know what? I had something to prove and I worked hard at getting better.

Alas, to no avail. This was really a year of discovery for me; just like it is for most people in their first years of college. I tried acting, arts and sports but nothing really helped me to find out who I was, what was my mark and how was I going to make it. In fact, this year is pretty much summed up by putting on a facade and pretending to be someone else. The relationships that I had and the friends that I made are mirror images of this fact; gone and never heard from again. A distant and fleeting shadow in my blur of college. Callous...but true. Then I found these photos again...

It reminds you of the best moments of life and the people that made it that way:

 

Awesome, now we're getting somewhere. This is the beginning of me figuring out who I am and what I have done. My life just rammed into full stop and a reality check was waiting for me in the form of Outdoor Odyssey. I'm not going to explain what that organization is. It is far to complicated and the tangents that I would go on will make this the longest post in the history of Wordpress. But here, this place...here is where I learned that I could impact lives.

Here is where I found the friends who I firmly believe are unmatched in the world. The family that will follow me and support me, still, to this very day. This place is where I discovered who I was and what I was meant to do. This is where I learned that I wanted to be a teacher and this is where I found my spot in the world.

The days in between those times just aren't even worth mentioning. It was college and shit happened. ODO, that was real, that was life and just thinking about it and all the experiences that I had makes everything bad in the world seem so small and all the good things just jump out. Putting how the next 3 years of life felt for me is rather hard and I don't really think I can do it justice…also it won't mean anything to my readers that aren't from Outdoor Odyssey, plus honestly I don't care if you get it because this post is mine and mine alone. I'm actually quite surprised you're reading this sentence. Kudos!

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It forces nostalgia upon you and challenges you to remember when you thrived:

And then Cheley happened. This took what ODO taught me and put it the test. I was placed in charge of a massively huge program and put into the higher echelons of staff at a camp that barely new me and only saw me on paper before meeting me. I showed up 2 weeks early and wandered around the mountains of Colorado in the winter time, took some awesome photos and generally twiddled my thumbs and ate ramen.

 

 

But then the thaw came and I was ready to unleash a new torrent of life into people all around me and unleash I did. Everything that I was and everything that I new about art, teaching management, lessons, inspiration and how to keep people in the loop was firmly pressed into my initial surge of energy. I met some fantastic people from all over the world and I am pleased to say that I have friends from almost every major country, I'm quite sure every state in America, and that's pretty cool.

Because to me that means that I’ve grown out of my box and that is success in this life. Cheley, you are an amazing place, you change lives.

You changed mine and gave me the courage and confidence to know that I can take control and I can make something better then what it was and leave it primed and ready for the next visionary to come.

It gently (read: VIOLENTLY) nudges you into being productive about life goals: 

After my brief stint in the Colorado Rockies, I ventured over to the beautiful redwood forests of California and lived for a time as a naturalist. Gained the name 'Zephyr' or 'Zeph Zeph' and learned even more about myself. I gained another family that I never suspected I would have.

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Just like the amazing support that I receive from ODO, I now receive equal support from the SMOE natties. My time there not only firmly grounded my beliefs in education, but it also deeply rooted the idea of change and revolution into my mind.

It has always been my dream to open my own school. At first, I was basing it on other existing systems but then after living in a system with no system, except for the one that the teacher creates, and that allows you to engage with all intelligence types and age groups…whew! I found that I wasn’t just dissatisfied with the education in the world today...I HATE it and I want to change it. To bring it closer to the experiences that I’ve had at Cheley, at SMOE, and at ODO.

Power should be returned back to the teacher. Tests should abolished, grades should be kept but they should be…informal evaluations and talks about how you're doing. Administrations should not do anything but keep the school running smoothly and there should be little to no crossover between the two parties. In fact, administration SHOULD be teachers and should also be rotated on a regular basis. Nothing gets stale that way and new ideas are always flowing. Each should simply trust the other to help out when it’s needed and to do the job that is given to them. By this, and only by this, will you allow a teacher to open up to their lessons and truly be educators, not simply instructors. You can't teach from a book.You teach from life.

So now after 2 minor life crisis, a hiatus to the desert, an extended backpacking trip to run from society, a failed attempted at grad school, a journey halfway across the world and a crushing blow to my happy face...I’m ready to trust in education and life again. So bring it Japan. Let’s see what you got.

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And there you have it…just by looking at Facebook photos I was reminded of life and all the great things it's given me. Go on, go look back…see what you've forgotten. Maybe you'll find new perspective too.

Jesse get down!

So here I am again at a crossroads. There's a lot of paths that are being offered to me and it's difficult to choose which ones I want to walk. I've found that often times in life we are bottle-necked into only seeing 2 or 3 choices that can be made, when in reality there are so many more. Granted, some of those choices are just awful life decisions, but the others? They open up even more doors that reveal entire corridors to get lost in. Life is not a straight road, or even a divergence of many roads. It's a maze with hidden places, elaborate candelabras, and a chute filled with snakes that takes you right back to the beginning...or the wine cellar. Every good maze should have a wine cellar. The true challenge is seeing the bookcase swing open when you pulled on that candlestick.

 Except…every now and then our paths look a bit like this:

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There's just so many ways to go that there is NO definate path to take. You need to forge your own. But having the courage to handle that, which is a daunting task, is perhaps the most difficult thing any person faces. When we make a decision, our roads narrow. But until that decision is made I hope you enjoy vast plains of opportunity.

Kurt Vonnegut said the following, “It's an author's right to change the words of their story. They can either re-write what is written or erase those words and start fresh.”

        So here's the stories I can write and the paths I can take:

    A well-worn super highway in which 70% of my peers are traveling. Go back home to America, live with my parents and struggle to find a teaching job. Upon failing that, I'll accept a minimum wage position despite a triple certification in education and multi-faceted experiences that grant me a very well rounded expertise. This is America's roundabout that so many other teachers are driving in similar cars. We all have advanced degrees, multiple certifications and diverse work experience, that doesn't set us apart anymore. So the great circle continues.

It's not necessarily a bad thing to have hope on this highway. When I travelled it I was often disappointed about jobs that I didn't receive, perceived opportunities that I missed and ultimately no schools recognizing the experience that I held. But, like I mentioned, every other teacher (or other profession) has the exact same problem. There's nothing that truly sets each applicant apart and the sheer amount of resumes that employers get is staggering, thus it's more about who you know before you're resume is even reviewed and those differences are seen. To me? This road is luck of the draw and often the winning hand goes to family friends or acquaintances of the hirer. No, thank you.

     A back-country rural road that holds about 25% of the other teachers in the great roundabout. Go back home to America, refuse to live with my parents and struggle to find a teaching job or any job. Compound this by now adding the normal living expenses associated with having rent or a mortgage and moving to an area that I want to live in. Get right back on the roundabout and join that other 70% going in circles. There's is an alternative path to this one though. Seasonal jobs. I personally consider seasonal positions to be the BEST way to see the country and meet people that have similar world views. The pay is never that great, but it's more about the experience. Unfortunately, good things come to an end and that season is no different. Once it has ended, you are right back in Death Valley up there.  But hey, I'm different. I'm an independent, motivated person who is forging his own path. Do I live my parents? No. What's that? You want to hire me? Fantastic! Oh...ah yes, I can make coffee. Yeah, $7.25/hr sounds great. I can totally do that.

Don't get me wrong, I have meet AMAZING people and have had truly life changing experiences with this road. But every job that I've had on it has only been seasonal. I've lived in quite a few different places in America, bolstered by the experiences I was having and the people I interacted with. I lived this life for about 5 years. Within those years I have broaden my views, studied different forms of education, worked with people from all over the world and generally improved my soul. I like this road, and the people that walk it are just awesome. But in terms of finical stability, it's simply not a viable option unless you are extremely talented and even more lucky that someone notices your skills. Would I walk this again? Hell yes. But it doesn't solve anything in the long run.

     The known of, but challenging, hiking trail that many 'sub-culture' teachers walk. Stay abroad, continue teaching in a foreign country make a wage that is less then the American minimum, but quite generous in regards to that country (disclaimer: I make approximately $3.00/hr in Thailand). Experience a different culture, see the world and beautiful scenery. Damage my chances of getting a job in America because most schools don't enjoy Skype interviews and are very suspicious of an international teacher as well as generally look for consecutive years in a single district. A point of fact that I just do not comprehend. But it's true, so this trails leads to continuing applying for jobs in America in hopes that a school recognizes my experiences and qualifications.

But that's the negative. The positive? The individuals you meet wandering about the forest that this trail goes through are going to become life long friends. Not might. Will. These are the people that not only understand what is important in life and how little money matters, they are not afraid to be real with you and more so…themselves. It doesn't matter what they do, the sparkling factor here is that they know who they are. Read that again. They are people who have struggled, risen, fallen and then got right back up with a smile. They aren't people who are simply going through the motions. These are the ones who dance to their own songs, absorb the world and return that happiness tenfold. They will give you a hug when you least expect it and need it most; because they've been there and know what your far off gaze really is. Cherish them. They are rare in this world and often times are forced onto that super highway riding a single speed bicycle with a basket on the front. Give them a ride and you'll make a friend who will support you no matter what you do.

     A trail that is no trail and is only walked by those willing to go with the wind. I am a teacher. This thing I know. This is the life I have chosen regardless of the path that I take. I made a significant life decision by coming overseas and it's going to shape the rest of my life. Not only because of the aforementioned other ways that I could have taken, but also the experience. Both the heavily positive and the crushingly negative have, in essence, changed me for the better. I have a broader view of the world, I speak another language (poorly) I never thought I'd learn and I now have close friends from every continent of the world and quite a few in-between. In a nutshell, that's awesome. I like this path. I love it. Culture shock and miscommunications abound, but the good outweighs the bad and the personal growth tips the scales. I'm going to continue skipping down it and pretending the ground is lava because my head is in the clouds.

From here I go to there. From the balmy jungles of Thailand to the ancient mountains of Ashikaga, Japan…how can I be so sure of myself? I'm not. I have no idea what I'm doing. But I have support from all those people up there. That's all I need.

Walk your own road.

Primordial Beauty

Rugged beauty. It's a rare trait to give to a location that is so frequently destroyed by the machinations of man. Primordial, pristine, "pieces of it will stay with you", I heard every one of those phrases used to describe the beauty that is Koh Mook. It's been a while since I went to this island and I have been intending to write this blog for a some time, but as always life intervened. So here it is, Koh Mook. DSC_3385Mook is an island that is heavily affected by the tides. Massive stone cliffs line the waters island where it meets the Adaman sea and at certain points during the low tide, it leaves every boat stranded upon the coastal sands. It's a pretty amazing sight and really brings to mind being stranded. Because of this dramatic effect around the island, the coral here is especially spectacular and you can find the ocean life that prefers deeper waters as the tides recede to the point of being able to dive down deep enough. This exposes awesome critters like this jellyfish, which I believe is a box jelly, but I didn't want to get close enough to properly identify it.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThese guys were everywhere in the water. Actually, I shouldn't say that. Their babies were everywhere, the big ones were luckily few and far between. Although the littlest ones were almost impossible to see. This itty harbinger of pain reminded me that the ocean was not kind to the unwary. Attempting to get back to my kayak  and not stung proved to be an uphill battle.

It was not all for nothing though. The little guys looked like galaxies from underneath, and if I didn't say, "This is a jellyfish." Many people have assumed they are some kind of nebula. But not so! Just a helpful reminder to your nerve endings to let you know when you're somewhere you should not be.

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I learned my lesson pretty quickly after this encounter though. A few stings made me change my plan of snorkeling to a quick recon before diving in. Just look at that tan line. AMAZING! I make all the other severely burned white people jealous. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Another really fantastic aspects of the dynamic coast here is that the cliffs are subjected to some serious erosions. More so then many of the other rock walls in the area.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAJust look at how stunning that is. Seeing that, I agree with primordial and rugged. Koh Mook did indeed leave a lasting impression. These beautifully eroded cliffs have left underwater caves that can be accessed at low tide and one even leads to a hidden beach. Unfortunately, that beach is not so hidden and it's flocked by very very eager tourists every day. The vast majority of them have no idea that all around them are potentially deadly OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAjellyfish. I do not enjoy tour groups, they strike me as a way to see something instead of experience it. So, I spent my time diving in and around Emerald Cave attempting to not get kicked, drowned or stung by the multitude of legs there. There is great delight to be found in breaking the surface of the water right next to someone and seeing their face. Emerald cave was highly worth the potential visit to Davey Jones. Being in an underwater cave in total darkness and seeing the light at the entrance? Awesome.

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Alas, after being given such a beautiful traverse in the cave, I ran headlong into where all the tour groups were going. Which…well..a photo will tell you exactly why I didn't find this as beautiful as it should be. There was easily over 200 hundred people crammed into a very small beach that just ruined the moment. Tourism is a good thing. It shares the world with people that don't know what is there. However…a beach, only accessible though an underwater cave filled with jellyfish, that is only above water during a small window of time which is compounded by the required low tide mark...OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

that should not be a tourist hotspot. Instead, it should be a well guarded secret only revealed to those who respect the  uniqueness of that wonder. This…this is simply unacceptable. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Like I said, tourism is an important part of Thailand's finical situation. But, they do not have an awareness yet of how the exploitation of their environment is dramatically affecting the health of beautiful places like this. Granted, this is an old problem that exists in almost every country. This minor gripe doesn't detract too much from Koh Mook's natural scene and in the end…this is an island that I will very gladly revisit.

Check out the gallery for more images of Koh Mook's awesome scenery and  and a look at some of the dishes offered especially on the island!

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Seizing Life.

      On a rare occasion, while stumbling blindly across the internet in search of time killing, we discover a random website or out of context quote posted by a friend of a friend on Facebook. This seemly random stumbling is, in my opinion, not random at all. Rather, it is a machination of life that was put into our view for a specific purpose. Likely that post, quote, picture, whatever, totally justifies an action or series of events that you've placed into motion and still have doubts about. I stumbled across one such thing that is worth sharing…which I do not do often. This is part of the Holstee Manifesto:

There it is. Simple, clean, and I'm sure there's a countless numbers of images that look exactly the same. But this precise arrangement of words tweaked something deep down in me. A lovely little thing called 'confirmation'.

     Some of you might know, some of you may be learning just now, but I have been offered a job in Dalian, China at the Dalian Medical University, one of China's best medical universities, to teach english to the students there. For the past month or so I have feverishly been applying to jobs in whatever country is giving them. A few responded, mostly agencies looking to snag another certified teacher for their ranks, but no real job offers for a month. Then I applied to Dalian. Within 4 days I was given an interview and a job offer. This is normally highly suspicious in my mind and throws up an enormous amount of red flags. But during the interview I noticed that they were actually looking at my resume…which is rare. How many job interviews have you had that actually read your history? They didn't even ask any interview questions…most are, after all, answered on my resume, a fact that I'm sure many of you share and the asking of any 'previous experience' in the field tends to denote that the interviewer isn't even looking at your background. This interviewer was so well prepared that he acknowledged my partial master's degree and numerous wilderness therapy positions as 'alternative education'. Very cool.

Any way, back to the my initial reason for sharing that picture up there. There's quite a few quotes I can snag but I'm going to take this one...

Some opportunities only come once, seize them.

I'm going to be honest, I'm really torn over this. I accepted, I do so knowing that it will be at least June 2015 till I'm back in America. I don't mind that. I miss friends, family, and my kitty but I know that I am loved, appreciated and those things will not leave me. I have an astounding support group of people all around me cheering on my adventures. But the thing I will miss? Well…a lot of things. Actually to many to mention, but as I'm writing this, I came across another bit of life throwing wonderful at me. Wonderful words by Marc Chernoff that also bear sharing:

  1. Breathe in the future, breathe out the past.  No matter where you are or what you’re going through, always believe that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.  Never expect, assume, or demand.  Just do your best, control the elements you can control, and then let it be.  Because once you have done what you can, if it is meant to be, it will happen, or it will show you the next step that needs to be taken.
  2. Life CAN be simple again.  Just choose to focus on one thing at a time.  You don’t have to do it all, and you don’t have to do it all right now.  Breathe, be present, and do your best with what’s in front of you.  What you put into life, life will eventually give you back many times over.
  3. Let others take you as you are, or not at all.  Speak your truth even if your voice shakes.  By being yourself, you put something beautiful intothe world that was not there before.  So walk your path confidently and don’t expect anyone else to understand your journey, especially if they have not been exactly where you are going.
  4. You are not who you used to be, and that’s OK.  You’ve been hurt; you’ve gone through numerous ups and downs that have made you who you are today.  Over the years, so many things have happened – things that have changed your perspective, taught you lessons, and forced your spirit to grow.  As time passes, nobody stays the same, but some people will still tell you that you have changed.  Respond to them by saying, “Of course I’ve changed.  That’s what life is all about.  But I’m still the same person, just a little stronger than I ever was before.”
  5. Everything that happens helps you grow, even if it’s hard to see right now.  Circumstances will direct you, correct you, and perfect you over time.  So whatever you do, hold on to hope.  The tiniest thread will twist into an unbreakable cord.  Let hope anchor you in the possibility that this is not the end of your story – that the change in the tides will eventually bring you to peaceful shores.
  6. Do not educate yourself to be rich, educate yourself to be happy.  That way when you get older you’ll know the value of things, not the price.  In the end, you will come to realize that the best days are the days when you don’t need anything extreme or special to happen to make you smile.  You simply appreciate the moments and feel gratitude, seeking nothing else, nothing more.  That is what true happiness is all about.  
  7. Be determined to be positive.  Understand that the greater part of your misery or unhappiness is determined not by your circumstances, but by your attitude.  So smile at those who often try to begrudge or hurt you, show them what’s missing in their life and what they can’t take away from you.
  8. Pay close attention to those you care about.  Sometimes when a loved one says, “I’m okay,” they need you to look them in the eyes, hug them tight, and reply, “I know you’re not.”  And don’t be too upset if some people only seem to remember you when they need you.  Feel privileged that you are like a beacon of light that comes to their minds when there is darkness in their lives.
  9. Sometimes you have to let a person go so they can grow.  Because, over the course of their lives, it is not what you do for them, but what you have taught them to do for themselves that will make them a successful human being.
  10. Sometimes getting the results you crave means stripping yourself of people that don’t serve your best interests.  This allows you to make space for those who support you in being the absolute best version of yourself.  It happens gradually as you grow.  You find out who you are and what you want, and then you realize that people you’ve known forever don’t see things the way you do.  So you keep the wonderful memories, but find yourself moving on.
  11. It’s better to look back on life and say, “I can’t believe I did that,” than to look back and say, “I wish I did that.”  In the end, people will judge you in some way anyway.  So don’t live your life trying to impress others.  Instead live your life impressing yourself.  Love yourself enough to never lower your standards for anyone. 
  12. If youre looking for a happy ending and cant seem to find one, maybe it’s time to start looking for a new beginning.  Brush yourself off and accept that you have to fail from time to time.  That’s how you learn.  The strongest people out there – the ones who laugh the hardest with a genuine smile – are the same people who have fought the toughest battles.  They’re smiling because they’ve decided that they’re not going to let anything hold them down, they’re moving on to a new beginning.

Expect a few more of theses posts as I make some more life changes in the coming months. Eventually I'll get about to posting photos of Koh Mook and the jelly fish, but this posting simply couldn't be held off. Read it, think about it, make a change.

20 days, 20 paths, and 5 realizations

       20 days. It seems like such a small little drop of time. What can happen in that tiny ripple? Some people might profess that life does not move that quickly. Others have mentioned that nothing in life is permanent and things ebb and flow like water. Both beautiful words to be sure. But what do they actually mean? It is a simple answer really.

Your life is your choice.

     Go read that line again. Good. Now read it one more time. Get it really stuck in your mind, chew on it, wring it out until all those wonderful memories that you have tucked away inside come rising to the surface. But do not let them sink back down. Instead I want you to remember that insignificant choice you made that inevitably altered the direction you were going. It can be a simple decision, choosing what kind of car to buy, or a more complex decision, like choosing a career. Those questions are often based in materialistic need in the present, but they can lead to non-materialistic consequences. Asking yourself questions like that lead to the most difficult decisions; ones that do not involve material possessions. The ones that sit in the corners of our hearts and minds, consuming our thoughts and subtly dictating our decisions. Think on it.

Do you accept that high salary and move to a place that denies who you are, working a job that doesn't satisfy you?

Do you make a short term compromise to delay a long term consequence? Afterwards, do you compromise the compromise?

Do you stay in a relationship that is failing in hopes that it can be saved, despite red flags that show otherwise, just to not deal with the emotional pain of ending it?

     But Jesse, you might say, those are not insignificant choices! In saying that you are incorrect. One of the hardest skills to master in life is listening to your own heart. A tiny thought becomes an insignificant choice that leads to a major change. It is the 'Butterfly Effect' on life. The moment of doubt, an inkling of a second guess…that is your heart saying a major change is coming. I will not pursue convincing you that I am correct, you have either experienced this or you have not. Simply allow my words to set the stage for the next few paragraphs.

     So what can happen in 20 days? All of the above. Within that time period, I grew rather tired of the inconsistencies of Thailand's educational system and the managerial aspects involving such organizations. Thus, I began to look elsewhere. In the past week, I have had four different interviews in three different countries. Japan, South Korea and China. All have expressed interest in my experiences as an educator and all have stated that they tell would be willing to hire me as a teacher. It feels good to be in demand, but at the same time..what am I giving up to do these things? How is my life going to change? What do I give up and what do I receive in return? The wonderful Aaron Carpenter said something that rings true:

Everyone thinks they know what is best for you. Only you know what is truly best for you. Open the curtain and let yourself live. 

Oh how those words ring out. Obviously I'm going through a moment in life that is difficult and will significantly impact my life and ideally help me grow as a person. I've given a lot of thought into where I'm heading with life and I've come to five realizations that, while cliche, definitely shine with just as much truth as Aaron's quote up there. Many are from conversations I've had with loved ones in my life.

     OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA paraphrase from a certain man in life that has knocked sense into me more then once, on stage and off. Do not, under any circumstance, go against who you are. Regret is a strong emotion and lying to yourself for the sake of another's happiness is a great way to start down the rocky slopes of a life crisis. Be happy with who you are and embrace the people that embrace you for it.

     DSC_2950     Stop allowing everyone else to tell you what is right for you. As Uncle Grubby said... "Do what you love and the rest will fall into place.". If climbing the waterfall makes you happy and you are the only one who wants to climb the waterfall, then you are the only one climbing the waterfall and the others can just watch. Be happy with you.

     DSC_3264Treat the problem, not the symptoms. Stop being so focused on unhappiness and figure out why you are unhappy in the first place.

DSC_3293Do you know where that road leads? You know, the one that you pass everyday and have yet to go down? Take a drive, take a walk, run, bike, skip, whatever you want. Just go down that road. I did. I found a turtle hatchery that is not on the map, what will you find?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYou cannot make someone else happy if you are not happy yourself. If that means going down the river alone for awhile, that is what you have to do. This is true for careers, relationships, school..pretty much anything. That's from my mommy. Yep, I still call her mommy…or momma loch.

Think about it. Rant over.

Where Chacos Take Me - A Trilogy of Adventures

DSC_2554There's just so much that I want to say about this photo. So many beautiful things. But I'll get to this moment in a little bit. In the mean time, I'd like to talk about changing your perspective and revisiting things that you think have been throughly explored in life. So often I find myself wandering down a path or a road that I've travelled many times before. Both in Thailand and my many residences across America. I've learned that if I do not slow down and actually see where I am at that I'll miss all those little easter eggs that make life that much more rewarding. Such was the case with a visit again to Monkey Mountain (Khao Ling). First off..the monkeys are, as always, adorably mischievous. DSC_2610This one stole some poor soul's mango sticky-rice. Which is, like it sounds, astoundingly delicious. I had assumed the monkeys were all that was to be seen at Monkey Mountain. The name says it all right? But upon further inspection and the random chance of once again being chased by monkeys. I discovered that in actuality, Khao Ling is also Khao Ling…and Tham. Monkey Mountain and caves! Caves!! Not just any cave though, these are a beautiful combination of keyhole and cavern style caves. Regrettably, I was not planning on this discovery and so I couldn't fully explore them. But the caves promise to be at least a day's worth of exploration. The few areas that I was able to get to showed some very interesting aspects that I haven't see in other caves.

The first would be skylights formed by the erosion and plant life in the mountain.DSC_2574 There are sections of the cave where roots have literally forced their way through cracks and caused sunlight to filter through by creating rockfalls.DSC_2584The rock type here is also highly erosion friendly and often forms deep pools from rain and natural rivulets for water to travel. Untitled_Panorama2 Roots and trees in Thailand simply do not play games when trying to find water that runs off cliff faces. The erosion and sediment buildup that results makes for really interesting  stalagmites and stalactites.DSC_2564 DSC_2595

The second feature is that there are man-made pathways through the bigger parts of the cave. It's very obvious that at some point in the history of Satun, Monkey Mountain was considered a holy place as is evidenced by the numerous amount of shrines outside the area. The inside has man-made pools of water and what I assume is a created stream for water to prevent erosion. Heavily impacted..but pretty nonetheless. But as I didn't have the proper clothing for a full exploration I couldn't travel very far in. As I mentioned I will be doing a through exploration of the cave sections once I find the time to goand also work up the courage to get past this guy:DSC_2592

*NOTE* I'm far more terrified of that smaller red spider in the background then the one the size of my hand…*

Other things of interest is that Thailand has a particular penchant for creating beautiful places. Truly, there revere beauty almost to an obsession.  Throughout Thailand there are destinations that are stunning and this is mirrored in their culture in regards to people as well. DSC_2666However, after the creation it seems like all interest in lost in maintaining the beauty.  It's rare that I find a place that is not littered with trash and fallen into to disarray, granted I've only seen a small selection but I have a strong feeling that bias is based upon national truth. But this day, not only did I discover another place of interest, but it's 'almost' in pristine condition. DSC_2645After all, bird sanctuaries should be relatively clean.

After wandering about aimlessly trying to get a good photo of a bird, I surrendered and wandered down to the beach. The following needs little to explain.

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Chacos…Long Live Life.

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Where Chacos Take Me pt. 2

Dirty, stench ridden and falling apart. These things are the status of my 6th pair of Chacos. Sure, they might look pristine, they might exude love and good vibes, they may even create rainbows and sunshine on a cloudy day. But stick your nose a little closer and you'll experience the rancor of miles. The last week has added a significant amount of wear and tear on my beloved Jesus sandals. Ironically enough, it happened to be on holy ground that I tread this time as well. IMG_0636Behold. Wat Tham Khao Chin. In English that means Temple Cave of Khao Chin. Many Buddhist monks find caves to meditate at and to seek enlightenment. This temple was once heavily used. However, over time, parts of it have fallen into disuse and become neglected. It's proximity to a monastery where monks train and learn the inner workings of Buddhism have allowed it to still be in use, but once you've left these areas, it is beautifully sad.

IMG_0639 Stone steps leading up to a disregarded statue are overgrown and show little signs of being reclaimed.

The temple itself is built into the side of a mountain, thus, the vast majority of it is inside a network of caverns and passageways. The outside facade is fading though. But the evidence remains of what was once a spectacular place of learning and discovery. IMG_0647The continued use of the temple is obvious. But just image what this place once looked like..

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Small homes and figurines that represent spirits, ancestors and beings of nature are littered throughout the grounds. Thai Buddhism features aspects of Animism. Animism encompasses the belief that there is no separation between the spiritual and physical world, and souls or spirits exist, not only in humans, but also in some other animals, plants, rocks, geographic features such as mountains or rivers, or other entities of the natural environment, including thunder, wind, and shadows.

IMG_0670The figures here easily number close to a hundred or more.

There are very few repeated figurines, almost as if each on was carefully chosen and left for a specific type of spirit.IMG_0669

The shrines of once famous monks are also visible, as well as their homes. But ultimately, the most interesting parts of the temple were the areas that are still in use.

IMG_0650An intrepid adventurer needs to crawl through small cave holes and poke about to stumble upon golden Buddha statues that are lovingly preserved from the ravages of time. The example you see above was at the top of a pair of stone steps that are crumbled and dangerous. But getting to this point was highly worth it. IMG_0705To get an appropriate idea of the scale of this Buddha, please look at the buckets at the base of it. This is easily a 20 to 30 foot long reclining Buddha. Beautiful, stunning and highly inspirational. There are other sections of this temple that I've documented as well, but I feel like the most interesting part is at the top of the mountain and the way to get there. Steps…hundreds of steps.

IMG_0700These are not your ordinary run of the mill steps either. There is potential death on these things. Not only are they not anchored into the mountain side, they are also rusted and in some cases warped. As if mountain itself got angry at the neglect of a holy place and tried to shrug off the iron ring surrounding it.

IMG_0709Once you've safely made it past that imploded part, the steps go from being steps to being a ladder disguised as steps. IMG_0707Those roots of doom and dread are just waiting to upheave the person that doesn't respect them.

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Note the broken section…wayyyy down below. These put Stairmaster to shame. Like crawling through spider ridden caves, slipping on bat guano and being attacked by angry wasps has its perks. So too does 600 ft. of vertical stairs. Once we made it to the top, I truly saw where I live now for the first time…it's a sight worth climbing for that a photo simply cannot do justice.

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Beautiful Contemplation

Theravada Buddhism..words just cannot do such an amazing way of life justice. Last week we visited the Kao Tao Temple (Turtle Mountain), and experienced first hand the supreme impact that Thai buddhism has on their everyday life. It's interwoven into the very fabric of their culture, and it makes the Thai all the better for it. There  is a fatalist viewpoint that is unspoken here, in that you simply accept the life that is given to you and cherish it for the lessons it presents. Be compassionate, kind and welcoming to those around you. Build the light of your karma and be rewarded in the next life…there's so much more to that and I can't quite cover all the wonderful experiences I've had with Buddhists in the past week. Check out the gallery on this post and be inspired. More photos to come at some point of Thai Buddhism.

A different side of the world

Imagine this, if you will, a night that never ends. You step aboard an airplane and rise into a sunset sky, majestic reds and yellows light up the Cascade and Olympic mountains of Washington state, signaling a new adventure and another chapter of, what is quickly becoming, an interesting life. Got that image? DSC_1448 Awesome. Now plunge it into a night so dark and so ominous that all concept of time is shattered. Stomped out by an angry child who didn't get their way and, just to be spiteful, took those pieces and threw them into the ocean. Sprinkle in a touch of Mandarin, Cantonese and what I can only assume was Korean. Let that simmer for 13 hours, quickly brush the dish with a bizarre experience in Beijing, allow to rest for 6 more hours and then promptly transfer the whole concoction into Bangkok. Smell that rich aroma? That lovely blend of cultures? Yes, my friend, you have made it into Thailand! Time changes are a mind boggling thing. I flew from Seattle at 2pm on a Friday, arrived in Bangkok on Sunday at 2am. But only flew for a total of 19 hours, yet when I got there it was roughly 2pm of the previous day back in America. Which roughly translates to “Yep, I'm literally from the future.”. Awesome.

Thailand is not a country that you here about often. Which is strange, because it's one of the fastest growing economies in the world, particularly in Southeast Asia and the people are truly friendly. Even in Bangkok, a city that puts New York to shame for ridiculous drivers and an 'in-your-face lifestyle', people will stop and ask how you are. A smile and a 'wai', which is somewhat akin to a handshake and a bow, instantly gets you a welcoming smile back and a warm greeting. The Thais are very polite and place extreme emphasis on courteousness and appearance. For those of you who know me well, appearance is not always a strong point of mine (though I've very quickly learned to brush my hair in the morning)!!

She's seen a harsh world. Fought in WWII and still manages to be gentle.

The past week has been a bit of a blur of activity. Bangkok was enjoyable, but once you're out of the city, you see Thailand as it really is.I've seen parts of Thailand that aren't in brochures and aspects of it that are amazing and have made me cry with both joy and sadness. Some of the rural areas look truly difficult to stay in. Homes are little more then four bamboo posts with corrugated tin roofs. But still, the Thai people are wonderfully happy and consistently smile. They are simply glad for life, more on that later, but sometimes it's the things that can't help themselves that need help the most. So for the first part of this blog, I'm going to ask for a small donation.

During the course of last week, I visited an elephant reserve through the company I work for. Elephants are AWESOME. We went to a pineapple plantation (also amazing),

We collected pineapples for the elephants and threw them into our truck.

and collected 126kg of pineapples, tossed them onto a truck and proceeded to feed the elephants the pineapples. Elephants are surprisingly gentle when they take things from you.

A blind elephant crushes a pineapple so she can suck the juices with her trunk.

But here's the rub. There's 8 elephants currently at the reserve, but only three have homes that can protect their skin from the strong sun in Thailand. Others have ropes stretched across their encampment, but that really does nothing to protect them from the UV rays. It costs approximately $2000 to buy one elephant a home that will protect them properly. These are peaceful creatures that have seen horrible things. One is blind from mistreatment, another was forced to fight in WWII and clear sections of a railroad with prisoners of war during that conflict. Another had its growth stunted and barely reaches above my head.

Got a hug from an elephant. My life is just a little bit more complete

Her growth has been stunted from mistreatment and malnourishment. She's a full grown elephant that barely reaches our heads.

Yet the handler is trying incredibly hard to provide for them, unfortunately the exposure to the world is limited as the preserve doesn't have a website and most Thai simply don't have the money to spare, despite how much the preserve is respected.

So here's what I'm asking for. $5 or $10 dollars is a lot in Thailand. I have a home here for little over $75 dollars a month, if that is an indication of how far the US dollar goes here. $3 dollars feeds me for a day, $1 dollar can easily buy cat or dog food. If you can spare it, go without a Starbucks double latte frappe with espresso shots for a day and donate instead, it would go a long way towards caring for these elephants.

An elephant whose growth has been stunted, has been trained to play harmonica in attempts to get donations to the preserve.

Don't like elephants? I can talk even more about the amount of stray dogs and cats here that are in horrible condition. They need just as much help. Xplore Asia also runs a dog and cat shelter that could also use the help. Like I said, $1 can buy a dog or cat food for a week or more. $5 can potentially give them veterinarian attention that they critically need.  It won't go to a corrupt government, it won't go to nameless person, it will go directly from my hands to the people running the shelters. It WILL make a difference.Tug your own heartstrings and click this button.

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