14 December 2013

Life in Vrksasana (Tree Pose)

I've been attempting to create a better sense of balance in my life in order to get rid of the clutter (material clutter as well as mental clutter) and move towards a direction that is beneficial and promotes growth, happiness and well-being.

This past year has been one of reflection. Being unemployed (awaiting a residency/work visa) left me with more free time than I would like/I'm used to. It also cropped up a myriad of unwanted emotions, mostly the sense of uselessness. While there was nothing that could be done about the delay in visa processing, I allowed it to get the better of me. I could not help but to feel restless, in constant search of something to do. 

Although I could not work in the traditional sense, I took on several "projects" this year in an attempt at gaining more valuable work experience on the one hand but more honestly, because I did not want to have to account for gaps in my CV. 

Living in a new country, there are more opportunities and less opportunities. More opportunities because there are different companies and organisations from the ones you know and less opportunities because of the language and cultural barrier. 

Having worked in the non-profit sector before and being passionate about human rights and development, I looked for organisations that worked in these areas. I was happy to know that an Amnesty International branch existed in Prague, as I had always been interested in the work they do. I decided to start attending their English letter-writing meetings and it soon became a fairly regular thing. 

However, I still felt incomplete. I decided to try to earn some money by doing some private English lessons. The pay was good and the kids were surprisingly clever and analytical. They were a joy to work with though I didn't feel a great sense of passion towards teaching. 

A few years back, I had contemplated getting certified as a teacher and had taken the California exams for them. Somehow though, that got a bit sidetracked and I ended up teaching English in Japan for 2 years. My excuse was that I wanted to see how I would like teaching as a career but mostly, I had this great nomadic itch. 

Though I thought that teaching could be my career path, I soon realised that I'm more passionate about education as an institution for change and growth than actually teaching. I wasn't a bad teacher but in retrospect, the students deserved someone who could connect with them beyond a mere informational level. I have a great respect for teachers because the good ones not only teach you math, science, history, English etc. but also inspire students to aspire. 

Finding out that it wasn't the right job for me was a bit disappointing but eye-opening. So then why did I decide to search for teaching jobs when I first came to Prague and why did I take on the private tutoring? Sometimes necessity triumphs over desire. I was forcing myself to do it because I felt like I should be doing something. And as an a native English-speaking expat, it's the easiest opportunity to find. But easiness, the path most taken, I realise, is marked with a sense of longing. It may be a short path but you miss the wonderful scenery. 

This sense of needing to do something never left me this entire year. I kept adding more and more to the plate, unnecessarily increasing stress on myself because I needed to feel a sense of accomplishment. 

Not long after I began tutoring, I joined an environmental non-profit organisation as a Media Intern. I felt that it would be an enriching experience because I was interested in environmental policies and how governments spend money on energy projects. However, to be completely honest, the projects I was assigned to were mind-numbing and I felt that my full-potential was not realised. I tried to be positive and sugarcoat what I was doing to make it sound more important but alas, for me at least, it was absolutely boring. I really thought I would have more passion for the work since it was for a cause I supported. However, looking back at my past work experience, this seems to be untrue. 

What is the correlation with work and passion? How is it that you can be passionate about a cause and not enjoy working on it? I thought, being politically-minded and aware would automatically draw me into a career in the NGO or government sector but thus far, my experiences working with NGOs have been personally unfulfilling despite my enthusiastic support of the organisation's work. Every non-profit I have worked for thus far does poignant and necessary work that needs to recognised and I sincerely believe in all their objectives. However, as I am writing this, maybe I am beginning to realise that this is not the sector for me. 

This saddens me incredibly as I had always thought that this would be my career path. I have always argued passionately about these causes...it would only seem natural to want to get involved in a more profound way. I think I have forced myself to try again and again because in my mind, this was the right way. But maybe it's time to rethink my path.

I don't think the right path is one without struggle and stress but I think it will be one where I recognise that I am doing something and going somewhere and want to work harder towards it. 

Was it better to force myself to do these things that weren't quite satisfying or to have done nothing at all (which is never really nothing...inaction is action in it of itself)? I can't really say but at least I know what I don't want to do (I feel like I need constant reminders of this...stubborn much?).

I've always made my life seem so put together so when it's all unraveling now, it's a big shock to my ego. After reading this, you are probably thinking that I am inconsistent and that I don't know what I want or what I am going to do with my life. You're right. I am lost but I am going to continue to try new things/paths until I find one that works for me.

Someone asked me yesterday what kind of career I am looking for. It is a simple question and before, I probably would have had a better answer but I simply said, "I'm open". It's not very satisfying but it's the truth. 

As I contemplate times when I have been happy or have felt accomplished, I think of working at the Santa Barbara Film Festival. Although I was an intern, I felt useful and involved and was proud to represent the organisation. It didn't feel like work although it was a lot of work. When the film festival started, interacting with the guests (film festival goers and more high-profile invited guests) was riveting. I was constantly on my feet but I felt an actual sense of purpose.

More recently, I was happy as a graduate student. It was not so much the professors or the institution but the diverse members of my program helped me refine my perspective on world affairs in some ways and redefine them in other ways. The discussions in class gave me new insights on politics as well as global development. I felt truly blessed to be in the company of such inspired minds.

So where do we go from here? Who knows?

The end of the year is a good time to reflect and rid yourself of clutter in preparation for the new year. I need to get rid of things that are not nourishing me anymore and find things that will! I love challenges but I feel that things shouldn't feel like a constant uphill battle. 

The Art of Balance

Ayurveda is an ancient system of natural healing that has a very modern application. Native to the Indian subcontinent, "Ayurveda" translates to the knowledge/science of life and incorporates specific diets, routines and awareness to promote self-healing and self-actualisation. 

There is a wide range of literature on this topic but this article (Intro to Ayurveda) provides the essentials. 

According to Ayurveda, we are made up of different energies, or doshas, known as vata, pitta and kapha. Though each person encompasses all three energies, most people tend to have more of one or the other. This unique combination makes up who you are and helps explain your tendencies. 

Find out what dosha(s) you are here:

I am a mix of Vata-Pitta. Out of balance Vata can lead to:
  • nervousness, anxiety, panic, fear
  • twitches, tics, tremors, spasms
  • dry or chapped skin
  • constipation, gas, bloating, dry, hard stools
  • low body weight
  • dislike of cold and wind
  • difficulty tolerating loud noises
  • light, interrupted sleep
  • spacey, scattered feeling
  • excess thinking or worrying

Additionally, out of balance Pitta can lead to:
  • red, inflamed rash, acne, cold sores
  • acute inflammation in body or joints
  • acid reflux, gastric or peptic ulcers, heartburn
  • nausea or discomfort upon missing meals
  • loose stools
  • uncomfortable feeling of heat in the body
  • frustration, anger, irritability
  • judgment, impatience, criticism, intolerance
  • red, inflamed or light-sensitive eyes
  • excessive perfectionist tendencies
Source: (Banyan Botanicals)

Once you know your dosha, you can work on balancing it. "Balance" means eating a variety of foods appropriate for your body type, exercise that is suitable for your dosha and being mindful and present in your daily life. 

To happiness, balance and beauty!

31 March 2013

Café v Praze a další

I have a lot of free time now as I am waiting for my work permit so what better what
to spend it than to explore more of the city? You could say that I am a sucker for a good coffee shop with a nice atmosphere and interesting decor. That said, here are some of my choices from Prague:

Been to:

Kavárna Friends Coffee House -

Centrally located, it is a good place to come and chat with your friends or study. It is not too crowded or loud and the inside room has a nice intimate atmosphere. 

The Globe Bookstore & Café -

Nice bookshop with a good selection of English books. Atmosphere of the place is comfortable and welcoming and the breakfast menu is good. I had the huevos rancheros which were delicious and came in a huge portion. Many expats come here so all staff members speak English. 

Malostranske Namesti | Starbucks Coffee Company 

Always packed and noisy so it might be difficult to get a seat. I much prefer the downstairs section as it is more chilled out and quiet. Staff all speak English as there are lots of tourists. 

Kavárna Velryba -

Good place to go to chat with friends or study. It is a bit hidden but it's worth the find. Extensive food and drink menu as well as desserts. I had the hot apple cider and apple pie, both of which were fairly good, though not amazing. I will go back and try their other menu items. 
Really nice atmosphere for after work drinks and chatting with your friends or a date with your boyfriend. It is quiet and has a nice outdoor section for when the weather warms up. 

Want to try:

Mama Café :: Fairtrade kavárna ve Vodičkově ulici v Praze

Kaaba kavárna trafika

Favorite coffee shops around the world:
Cafe Bleu - Matsuyama, Japan
mori cafe モリカフェ - Matsuyama, Japan
Cafe Crema - Matsuyama, Japan
Tic Toc Cafe - Brighton, UK
The Marwood Coffee Shop - Brighton, UK
Harlem Belfast - Belfast, UK
Zocalo Coffeehouse - San Leandro, California
The Natural Cafe - Santa Barbara, California

Čau. Next blog will be about my favorite places in Prague. I hope to explore this city more and more and really get to know my new home.

25 March 2013

"Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don't mind, it doesn't matter."

Mark Twain said it. I am 27 years old today, neither old or young. In this past year, I have had the most amazing experiences and learned many life lessons. I travelled to many places and had many 24-hour friendships. Many of the people that you meet on your travels are people you will never see again in your life but for the time you are there and they are there, you have a shared experience. And every shared experience, long or short, enriches your life. I hunger to see more, experience more and LIVE more. 

Then there was studying for and completing my MA degree which more than a piece of paper signifying accomplishment has showed me how little I know about the world, which I am the most grateful for. I learned so much and realize I have so much more to learn and that politics is just a reflection of human nature when it all comes down to it. It is the insecurity that we feel about ourselves multiplied onto a grand scale and reflected in policy-making. Now that is insane. 

And finally, when you have no expectations, the most unexpected and wonderful things can happen. And when they do, it is so embedded in us to channel our pragmatism and say that it can't be but if you let yourself dream, maybe dreams do come true. The best thing about 26 was meeting Honza, the sweet Czech boy who made my fairytales a reality. But once that reality sets in, so do other realities and complications. We fought and continue fighting for us. He showed me my strength and bravery and I realize that if I wanted something, I would have to fight. I am here now, home. Home with my love, my everything...the one who dared to dream big. I want to continue my adventures this year and now, I have the perfect companion for it. 


18 March 2013

chapter one of an untitled tale

We had both always kind of felt that we were born in the wrong decade...two lost dreamers in a post-dream world. Perhaps it was nothing more than mere romanticism...this idea so deeply ingrained in our minds that those were the times. When we first met the sweet Mary Jane and all of us fell in love with her instantly and really, how could we not? Her perfume lingered in our thoughts endlessly. And the girl sure had a lot of personality.

And those tunes that helped us pass the days. It was all about the six-string and lyrics that meant more than words on a page. It was all about those greats we still talk about and sing along with. It’s 1969 and someone hands you a Led Zeppelin record and says, “hey, you have got to check this out”. Fuck................that’s really got to blow your mind. 

“Well, could you imagine it?” he said, as he passed me the joint.

“Suck it into your lungs”. I breathed it in with all intention and let out a slow exhale.

That was the time of Vietnam...massive protests and talks of revolution. Thousands claimed the streets and made a declaration for peace, humming the sounds of Jimi Hendrix and Bob Dylan, reciting their anthems like a broken record player.

And we are the time of Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran and countless other shit storms we had managed to get ourselves involved in. The protests now seemed quieter or perhaps the world had just evolved into a highly functioning remote controller with a powerful “mute” button. But in actual fact, we both weren’t quite convinced that the world was so highly functioning to begin with. 
I was just a natural nomad who constantly found excuses to move about. By 26, I had lived in Kuala Lumpur, the San Francisco Bay Area, Santa Barbara, Matsuyama (Japan), Sussex (England) and now Prague. Of course nomadism comes at a price and quite literally at that. This reinvention of the hippy lifestyle is nothing short of a luxury afforded to middle-class folks with a little too much cash. I was lucky in that sense but I am hardly delusional about it. I see it for what it is. 

And he, who was known as “Prague boy” by my parents for the longest time, was born, grew up and has lived in Prague all his life. His parents and those of their generation were witnesses and participants in the Velvet Revolution, a revolution which led to the overthrow of the one-party Communist government. He was too young to remember it but it no doubt changed everything about the way he lived. 

Jan (or Hans or Honza or Honzik) and Joan. That was us, “gracious gifts of God”, which still has to be the most ironic meaning for our names seeing as we are atheist and I would hardly describe either of us as particularly gracious, though he certainly is a gift. 

Jan and Joan. We are the dreamers of dreams.