Lola Bites Back: And Other Inspirational Tidbits

Location: Bissingen an der Teck, Baden Wuerttemberg, Germany

Laughing all the way...

Sunday, August 24, 2008

My Soul is Hungry

France, India, Tunisia?  India, Pakistan, France, Tunisia?  Syria, Jordan, Israel?? 

The permutations swirl and flight shopping is my drug.  A quick search of flight possibilities on the internets brings at least temporary relief from the - is it restlessness?

As I explained to the Swiss Contingent earlier this morning, The East-West cultural divide is a big one, each resting at opposite ends of a vast spectrum of philosophies and viewpoints.  After thirty years of viewing the world from one extreme, my soul craves balance.  And it's not enough for me to take a yoga class or teach survival English to immigrants.  I need to be the immigrant.  I need complete immersion and the East is my swan song.  

Since I became aware of it in 2001, my soul has shown a strong and consistent enthusiasm for jumping right into the fire.  Immersion is my proven strategy; a hyper-efficient method for learning, if not always a comfortable, easy or fun approach.   The immersion strategy is about incentive structures, and necessity is the mother of all incentives.  A starving person is motivated to eat all manner of things.

It's sad that the concept of necessity has been so twisted and manipulated in our western societies.  What would happen to our economy if we didn't need - and consume - so much?

If and when I ever suffer from something like hunger pangs, then maybe I will have an idea of what it is to be in need.  Until then it remains for me an abstract concept only, and my leisurely contemplation of it just another privilege of my western roots...

But I digress.

Lucky for me, my many guardian angels have decided to take action and help me rein in the madness.  Tomorrow is my first day of painting daycare in the suburbs, where I will live and work for at least one month.   It's everything I needed and more; a comfortable place to stay with good people and a good family environment with plenty of nature and daily physical labor to ease the juggernaut in my head.  It's almost like I am being rewarded for something, a bit of encouragement for being on the right track.  An opportunity to relax a bit and put the endless ideas on the back burner.

One thing I adore about my life is that with so many doors open - and new ones opening all the time - it's impossible to guess where I might be or what I might do in the near future.  It's a real-life choose-your-own-adventure series.  Chapter three.

until the next time,

your eternally optimistic ambassador in training,


Wednesday, August 20, 2008

There Are Places I'll Remember...

A bit of nostalgia for the people, lessons and adventures of 2007...que disfruten!

What is my Responsibility to God?

For the last weeks I have carried around a small green post-it note with this question written on it, and I think it's finally beginning to penetrate the overgrown jungle that is my mind.

Sometimes my mind wonders why I continue to live from my suitcase, and whether I will find a place of my own anytime soon.  I wouldn't call it anxiety - but it's not shantih, shantih either.  My mind can be a beastly tormentor even while the countenance is cool..

I start to realize that God is teaching me something very important by keeping me suspended in perpetual uncertainty.  That is, there is a Lesson to be learned.

I simply must learn to be happy with conditions as they are, and whatever they are.   Whether I live on Norb's pull-out sofa or in a spacious 61/2 flat, my own fluffy, queen-sized feather-bed spectacle or a stained mat on the floor, it's just not relevant.  Statistically insignificant, if you prefer; an illusion of western programming...

I can learn to be happy everywhere.  I can - we can - create and maintain a happy equilibrium on the inside.  It amounts to taking a simple decision, really.

It means deciding to be content with anything and everything.  Unfazed by gain or loss.  Easy come, easy go.  It is the simple acceptance of what God has given me at any given time, whatever it is.  Unless I manifest this happy equilibrium, I am destined to float around like an amoeba, drifting here and there and wondering why I can't find "my place."  

In other words, "settled down" is a state of mind.  Hah!  Like all great glimpses of truth, it is magnificent in its simplicity; "my place" is actually everywhere because it comes from me and not meaningless externalities...

but as we all know by now, simplicity is not synonymous with ease..!

So, the goal posts have shifted once again, my friends.  I am reminded of my neighbor Konrad's wise words of advice; "You need some short-term goals."

Current short-term goals: be happy, speak French, wax armpits.

Thank you dear friends and family, for sharing in and tolerating my eternal musings with patience and good humour!  I love you all so very much,

gros bisoux,


Monday, August 18, 2008

Golden Nuggets

A dear friend from my Russian company recently discovered my blahg, and his comments inspired me to go back and have a look myself.  I was surprised to realize that Lola has been biting back for more than three years now!  

A golden nugget from 13 July, 2005;

Things to do before I’m dead; PART 1

Defect from the United States.

Learn at least three more languages.

Do humanitarian work in the third world.

Become a teacher (English, then yoga).

Write something that gets published.

Live on a farm with a goat named Chuck.

Learn to dance.

Spend three months camping on an island with my Swiss Contingent.

Travel across Northern Africa.

Let's see...I'm an English teacher now, so I guess I can go ahead and check that one off.  As for the other things; I'm working on my French, I guess I'm "publishing" my blahg, and if I haven't actually "defected" from the good ol' US of A (ahhh the hyperbole..), then I've at least managed to locate myself outside of it for an extended period of time.  As for my dreams about that goat named Chuck and travelling across North Africa, neither one has diminished in the slightest and both even made recent appearances in the blahg!  If overall progress is slow, at least I'm consistent in my desires!

A quick update on my prospects for gainful employment:

Looks like I may have a TWO WEEKS painting contract coming up!  I was starting to think maybe I didn't have as much painting skill as I thought, but Uncle Frank has come through for me, and I am ready to get down and dirty.

A friend of a friend has offered to cart me around all day tomorrow introducing me to all his contacts at the Lester B. Pearson School Board in North Montreal.  He says they are desperate for teachers and "Integration Aides," people who help kids with disabilities integrate into regular classes.  Cross those fingers, my friends, it's a long shot, but this work would be a dream come true..

After a week of thoughtful consideration, I finally finished my cover letter for a teaching job in France.  Now I have only to send it...

What else?  I continue to clean Norb's condo for him, meeting and greeting the peoples who parade in and out on a weekly basis.  The work has given me new appreciation for maids and housecleaners.  Now that I've cleaned the place a few times, I wonder only this: why do people leave toenails all around?  It's one thing to clip them off in the living room, okay, but why just leave them there when there's a waste basket less than five meters away?  Can anyone explain to me why people don't throw away their own toenails???

love and kisses,

Lola Marie

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Unbalanced and Uncertain, maybe, but never Undeterred

I'm still trying to wrap my brain around the whole "money/necessity connection."  Of course I recognize that there is real need for money, but I'm not sure what to make of it.  That is, I don't see any obvious conclusion following from that fact alone.

My general feeling is that I don't have time to think about money.  So I guess that's what makes "operating in the red" so unpleasant.  In the east I've got a long shelf-life, but here I'm the brown bananas on special.  I won't last long if I don't find proper work, no doubt about that.  So why does it all still seem like a riddle?

I don't have all the specifics, but I'm clearly in the middle of something critical.  My soul's needs and desires are somehow imminent.  And yet they don't seem to jive with the unrelenting tide of fear and uncertainty created in my mind.  My uncomprehending, fearful, human mind.  It's a battle that rages on, even as I sit here now.  The day of my death will reveal the victor.  For now I have only to exhale my fears and hold on tight.  If only it were as easy as it is simple...

My heart and soul crave India, but "the right" thing to do is take proper work and...well, address that money/necessity thing, right?  Hah!  Am I really just another cliche backpacker?  If I heard it once I heard it a thousand times: I want to travel but I have to work and save money.  

Enough of my musings!  Are you people as tired of my brain as I am?  I need sleep!  I need moderation!  I need to tame the beast that is my mind!  

.    .    .    .    .    .    .    .

The weather here is crazy, with three weeks now of swirling clouds, rain and thunderstorms.  (For those back home, I first tried the whole "three weeks of rain thing" last summer in Nepal.  At that time I felt strongly that the rain was having a negative effect on my state of mind.)  As I write this now the sky is dark and the rain - nearly vertical and pounding the ground - sounds like a standing ovation with thunder claps and sirens as accompaniment.  A propos maybe for my swirling state of mind.

For those who are stuck in a hole, take heart.  Just as Mr. Ben Harper so softly and sweetly assures us all again and again, there will be a light...

all my love,


Monday, August 11, 2008

What if that goat named Chuck is really a camel named Carl? ..And Other Thoughts of the Day

The waters deep inside are churning.  I moved again on Saturday and will stay in my current locale for the next two weeks (a reminder for those with a land-line number from the last locale: please discard).

I believe I have accepted my gypsy-like existence remarkably well, considering how much I long for my own place again.  A place with my very own kitchen.  My very own bed.  And dare I dream...of a small garden with tomatoes, lettuces, basilic and menthe?  A lemon tree?  A goat named Chuck?

The suspicion that I might need to properly settle down has evolved into a priority since my arrival home in California almost five months ago.  But the meaning of the words "settle down" remains unclear.

My western education - saveur a Southern California - has shaped my perspective.  I thought (think?) I needed to live in the west, in one place with proper work and saving and with all my needs met.  But the many western accoutrements I have distained for years - the pervasive car culture, the huge supermarkets that don't sell food, the credit cards and shopping and massive amounts of packaging, slaughterhouses, insane amounts of waste and stress - these things are even more unpalatable today than they were five years ago...  

Now here I am in what I consider to be the best city in North America.  People here can have a high-quality life where the unpalatable accoutrements listed above can be greatly minimized if not eliminated altogether.  And yet, after months of looking for my place here, I feel less inclined than ever to find it!  Something about this lifestyle remains stubbornly and fundamentally unsettling to my soul.  

We are so comfortable.  We have a remarkable abundance of everything, so much so that we throw away mass amounts of it without a second thought.  But all of it, every bit, is earned on the backs of others.  What about Paco, the guy earning 25 cents an hour to make that plastic thing you bought at Walmart for $2.99 last week and threw out yesterday?  I've never met Paco, but I've seen these people so I know they're out there.  And I know they are suffering things we don't dare to imagine...

To make my life here in North America I must accept and be complicit in our long-term, systematic and comprehensive suppression and exploitation of people - people all over the world, people with real souls and real fears and real needs, not western needs.  People who desire and deserve quality of life just like we do.  How can we care about these people if we live in a comfortable denial of their existence?  It's a cultural perpetration of the worst sort, one that can't be overstated.  And all of it brutally, crassly delivered with the hearty assurance that "we're here to help."   Who is going to own this? 

For me, to live comfortably in North America is analogous to swallowing the soma.*  North America is simply not the place to sensitize myself to the real needs of people all over the world.  In India I learned that in order to evolve I must cultivate my compassion.  How is this possible if I am comfortably shielded from the misery and suffering of others?  

I have struggled to integrate the elements battling inside me since my return to California, and the battle continues.   I don't know where my path will lead and I don't have lofty plans to save the world.  My life will involve service of some kind, but all I know for sure is that my intuition is guiding the way.  I have only to be open and ready for what comes.  I am here to evolve, not enjoy; there is work to be done and there are difficult lessons to be learned.

All said and done, it's still a great life here in Montreal and I am fortunate to be able to appreciate and enjoy the time I am here...I am a truly blessed soul indeed.

All my love and gratitude to friends, family and my many, many guardian angels,


*soma is the happy pill that everyone takes in Huxley's classic novel Brave New World, described in the book as "all the advantages of Christianity and alcohol, none of their defects."  I highly recommend this one as it's as relevant today as it was eighty years ago.

PS:  I absolutely love my new beginning English class; I have two students, one from Morocco and one from Romania.  We have the best discussions in class with plenty of laughing...I can't believe I get paid to do this!!

PPS:  Thank you Katya and Dima for your notes!   I miss you and love you!

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Time to Walk the Walk

I have learned much since my "rebirth" in 2001, tackling a number of challenges with childlike enthusiasm and confidence. From Mexico to India to Europe, from network administrator to waitress to Congressional representative to ESL Teacher. More than once during this wild ride I have crash-burned.

All of my adventures came with price tags. Some were relatively easy to pay (like learning to live with bugs and dirt), but others exacted a much higher toll. Adapting to life in D.C. was like adapting to a toxic oil spill in my mind and soul. It challenged my very will to survive.

Rishikesh was my daycare, the hard-earned reward for my time served in D.C. In my simple ashram in Rishikesh, I had teachers and fellow students around me at all times. We shared activities (Ganga swimming, chai shop singing, yogasana and other studies), took thali together and had regulated sleeping times (curfew at 10!).

But the time came for me to return to Anaheim and reconnect with family and home. I became aware of a need to settle down. And this, my friends, is the frightening new plateau in my journey.

Perhaps the biggest challenge yet sits just before me now. Responsibility is the word of the day, the month, the life. Along with increased awareness comes increased responsibility. I have learned so much in the last years and now is the time to integrate what I know. In other words, it's time to walk the walk.

Indeed, my fear is greater now than I have ever felt it before. But strength and courage is not the absence of fear, it's the mastery of fear. Never can nor will my fear keep me from forging ahead in my quest for a quality life.

Miscellaneous Learnings and Other Signs of Progress:

Three days of cold nepali-style bathing seriously revived my appreciation for the little things (let's hear it for hot water! Yeah!!!)...

I realized that I almost never feel the urge to steal toilet paper in public places anymore...

I have new awareness about bicycles and busses, and how sometimes busses can be dangerous...

I'm a substitute English teacher every day for the next two weeks!...

I am proud to announce the continued existence of a bright, kinky silver hair emerging directly from the top of my head...and...

I am officially not complaining about the weather.

All my love and good vibrations are coming your way...can you feel it?!
hanging in for the ride,