30 October 2012

Living in the Before

Walking toward the new and the strange.
Sometimes I manufacture a brand new set of circumstances that is guaranteed to shock my life into a dramatic change. Circumstances that will make things "never the same again" and will define all of the time that precedes it as "BEFORE." For other people, these are things like getting married, or deciding to have a baby. For me, it's moving to Nepal and leaving everyone and everything I care about behind (except my hair straightener. I will be bringing that).

I often don't have any notice or control over when these moments are about to happen - things like accidents or deaths or job loss sneak up behind me and catch me by surprise,  so it is a strange feeling indeed to know in advance that everything is about to get weird.

Right now I am sitting on a precipice and my toes are dangling just over the edge of big scary unknown. And while I know that in the past, these seemingly dramatic changes eventually mellow out and become a part of the tapestry of random shit that makes up who I am, it's a bit disconcerting to be able to see that EVERYTHING IS ABOUT TO GET DIFFERENT. And to not know exactly how that will look,  just that I won't ever be the same. It's also a bit crazy-making. While I am completely and totally not ready - financially, physically or emotionally - in some ways I am raring to go. I want to get into it. I am sick of the "before." I want the "during."

First, a few days in Singapore to eat and hang out with my pal Tanya, and then on to Kuala Lumpur for one night only. I have only a few hours in the afternoon, so of course I will be spending those hours eating - I am going to take a street food tasting tour.

When I arrive in Kathmandu, I start with a month in a monastery where I will study Dharma and be silent and meditate and detach and fumble my way toward enlightenment. This stay is bound to tighten - or pry loose - some screws in my head. And then 6 months working with children who have nothing - literally nothing - but who are well behaved, funny and sweet. I have a lot to learn from them.

I will not be the same person at all when I am done. It's exciting. And terrifying.

AND OK ONE MORE THING - I promise that this is the last "before" post. The rest will be "during." And maybe even some "after."

See you in Singapore -
xoxoViolet Dear
We sail tonight (or Sunday night) for Singapore....

24 October 2012

"And So I'll Do It" - Looking Ahead to the Beauty

Admittedly, things have been a little doom and gloom around here over the past week. Between some pretty serious Joy Division-fuelled moping and a spell of rehashing the past, I think I have been giving the impression to you - and myself - that I am somewhere on the scale between 'apprehensive' and 'filled with dread'  about my upcoming move.

In reality, you all know how much I love Nepal and how much I love getting out of my comfort zone and into the strange. Last night after drinking a bourbon cocktail (or two) I walked down East 11th and started giggling like a mad woman, thinking about all of the wonderful moments ahead of me. I was simply giddy imagining my next eight months and relishing the promise of things I will experience on a daily basis.

I will eat all of them. ALL OF THEM.
Things like walking through the streets of Thamel and being able to buy big frothy glasses of fresh pomegranate juice made fresh on the side of the road for about 25 cents a glass, a price that shouldn't even cover the cost of the labour to seed the thing, but it does and it is wonderful.

Like the little shops that line the labyrinthine streets near Boudha that waft the smell of temple incense and blast recordings of Om Mani Padme Hum in an attempt to sell relics to tourists and how this creates an atmosphere that is equal parts ethereal and ersatz.

Like the path of tealight candles that line the streets of Thamel during electrical black-outs and that lead you down alleys and up stairs and into bars where Tibetan coverbands play classic rock and reggae as you lounge on cushions on the floor and smoke shisha and drink warm lager from 750 mL bottles. 
This is the best photo of children I have ever taken. They're all perfect.

Like the frantic, joyful interactions with children as they run from their homes and schools to ask you questions about your parentage, marital status, income, age and ethnicity, and the hugs and kisses they shower upon you as they treat you like a human junglegym.

Like the strange shiver-y feeling that creeps up my spine when I confront thousands-year old statues and deities in courtyards between clotheslines and parked motorcycles.

Like the taste of mango pickle and momos and lassi and thukpa and butter tea and dahl bhaat and hippie food from Freak Street and tulsi tea and raita and cornbread and goat curry and yak cheese (ok, maybe not that last one).

And like the sheer fucking joy of seeing guys like this on a daily basis:
Sir. You look fucking fabulous.
 So, ok. I'm kind of excited. I know I will be cold and homesick and at times lonely and ALWAYS craving poutine, but this isn't just the "best thing for me" or "the right thing to do." It's what I want to do. It's really, really what I want to do.

And so I'll do it.

20 October 2012

The what, the real, the check (the wank).

Some days, like today, I want to take a deep breath and pause and have time stop for a few minutes. Or days. Or maybe a year.

I leave for Nepal in 2 weeks, and I am fully aware that my melodramatic panic is:
 a) a story I'm making up in my own head
 b) an incredibly self indulgent wank
 but that doesn't stop me from laying in bed and listening to Joy Division, now does it?

Some of the panic is in earnest - I still do have a to-do list that is quite daunting (grad school applications, anyone?) but for the most part things are under control. I gave up my apartment last month, I have the required documents and shots and emergency malaria meds.... but something feels unhinged. And when I say something, I mean me.

In my rush to graduate and then secure the perfect position in Nepal and then deal with a series of dramas (ok, and real dramas too) I may have forgotten to do the most important part of travel - the reality check.

The reality check that in 2 weeks I leave Canada for the developing world.

The reality check that in 2 weeks I will once again see dying dogs on the side of the road.

The reality check that in 2 weeks I will once again see dying children on the side of the road.

The reality check that I'm doing this alone for the first time and I'm scared.

That said, I am fine. And I will be fine. It's just that it's all starting to sink in. These plans that I made in June - what was then a thinly veiled excuse to get away from a particularly toxic relationship - are becoming a reality. And realities are pricks. They need checks - those fuckers will run roughshod over you if left unfettered.

So I am trying to feel it, to imagine it and to let it sink in. 2 weeks. Breathe. 2 weeks. Breathe.

Now if only Ian Curtis could've taken that same advice....

11 October 2012

Travel is a hell of a drug - Moving to Kathmandu

Sarita and me in Pokhara, Nepal 2009

Well, I suppose I should start by sheepishly saying hi. I mean, it's been over a year. I'm not sure if you missed me, but I sure as hell did. I've spent the last 2.5 years since I returned to Vancouver completing a long overdue BA in Communication and Dialogue, and now that I am all degree-ed I am ready to go again. Y'know. Into the far - to Nepal.

Sure, in the last few years I have taken trips to Peru and to China, but nothing quite as monumental as the trip through Asia and Australia that many of you accompanied me on 4 years ago. I returned to Vancouver on November 22, 2009. And then everything changed.

Ok, so first things first. I know he was a big reader favourite, but S and I broke up shortly after our trip to Peru. This has been both incredibly liberating and heartshatteringly devastating - sometimes at the same time. I also ended a few very, very close friendships this year, and all of these losses were (and are) painful, but also extremely humbling. I learned a lot, and man, the world is a vast place - sometimes people are in your life for exactly the amount of time that they are meant to be there for.  Which sucks, but is, like, a big adult-y sentiment so I will stick with it. ;)

Second. I am a Buddhist. Weird, right? The sputtering, vitriolic, brash little thing you once knew is now a much calmer, sputtering, vitriolic, brash little thing. Less vitriol, more loving kindness - or so is the goal. I decided to take refuge in Buddhism last year when EVERYTHING in my life fell apart and I was in a dark place - meditation, compassion and kindness were quite literally the only things that got me through an incredibly shitty time. But don't worry, my friends call me "the foul mouthed Buddhist" - I'm still a fuckin' piece of work. 

Third. I am moving to my beloved Kathmandu in three weeks. Surprise! I will be working for an NGO called Next Generation Nepal for 8 months, acting as their Ethical Tourism Advisor and creating a branding and awareness campaign aimed at backpackers that works to end the trafficking of children. I discovered NGN when I read the New York Times bestseller "Little Princes." I knew that I was needed, hell, if I was Catholic and all nun-y I would say I was 'called.' I sent them a funny, sweet and bizarre cover letter that waxed poetic about my love of heritage, ethical tourism, Gramsci, salads and travel. They hired me. ;)

So in 3.5 weeks I leave Vancouver again, this time for 8 months. I leave behind my poor cats (those little fuckers move around a lot), a boy I really like and my friends and family yet again. But, I move toward my career goals, all kinds of Buddhism shizz and many new people: Western expats and Nepalis; old hippies and little children; seekers, destroyers and probably a few drunks. I think we'll all get along well.

This evening I was buzzing with anxiety and my nerves were thrumming at a fever pitch and my head was swimming with financial woes and impending heartbreak, yet somehow writing this helped to assuage it all. The old sarcastic and cheeky Violet Dear is still here, but tonight I needed to write this - something a little less quippy and more matter of fact. More vulnerable.

I hope you still want to come on this journey with me. I am going to post weekly until I leave, and then I will be silent for a month as I enter the Kopan Monastery for an intense retreat. But after that, starting mid December? Oh, you just try to shut me up.

See you soon.
Deep breaths and dahl baht - Violet Dear