This person started out at Dharma Farms thinking well of it.
adjusting to surroundings...
08.19.04 I realize that my initial impression of everything was definitely clouded by my extreme lack of sleep and by my sheer frustration that I was expected to work the second I got here. Some have suggested that it might have been a test to let me know that I came here for work and that they don't want anyone who wants a free ride. Still, I think that before I leave here (whenever that will be), I might mention to Shankar that the way I was treated on my first day is a great way to scare off otherwise well intentioned volunteers.
I met a few more of the people who live and work here. There is a young couple, Matthew and Kaitlyn, who are actually from Austin and who are a year younger than me. They just arrived a couple of days before I did, so it's nice not to be the only newbie around here. Matthew and I instantly felt like we had either met or seen each other somewhere before, but we're not sure where. They are living out at one of the farms, so I don't see them as often, and they are actually already talking about moving on to another place because this wasn't what they had in mind. I hope they stick around though. I also met Tommy, a guy who has been living here since October. The three of us ended up doing some work together around the house, cleaning up a bit, making a batch of homemade noni juice that will be ready in a few weeks (and that I'll have to try, even though the smell of it makes me sick), taking out the compost, and feeding old cardboard to the banana patches. Here at the house baby nonis are raised to be planted elsewhere. I overheard Gopal, Shankar's business partner, talking on the phone in the office and it turns out there has been an overproduction of the noni juice and they are trying to unload bottles on people as the demand decreses. I don't think this will mean that the work will be getting much slower though.
There are about eight to ten people living here at the house (or houses -- there are about three or four adjoining buildings on the property) and about 3 - 5 people living at various farming properties. People are apparently coming and going all of the time, but most people here have been here from about 4 - 7 months. We cleaned out an upstairs room and so now I have my own room with a little piece of foam and a sheet on it as my bed, and a little blanket that I used to do yoga this morning. It's nice to have my own space and feel more settled in.
Tommy and Anton (a man from South Africa) made lunches for everyone and at around 2:30 we all climbed into the back of the truck to get to work. We headed out to another farm that I hadn't seen yet and we were all given machetes and set to work weeding the noni trees and pulling off excess leaves. The first hour or so was really hard on me and I felt confused about being here. I was drenced in sweat and the mosquitoes were eating me alive. I had an intense appreciation for all of the organic food that I have eaten, and I don't mind paying the extra price for it because I know now how much work goes into raising foods without the use of pesticides. By the time the truck came around, I felt great. I was exhausted from the work, but I felt good that I had worked so hard and done such a good job, and I was, of course, happy that it was over for the day. We drove back to the warehouse where we quiclky showered and got ready to go to a nearby ashram for dinner. I used an outdoor shower -- a square wooden platform that you stand on with two large wooden planks on each side, so as I was standing there, using a bowl to pour clean water on myself, I was able to look out over the trees and I see the ocean in the distance. I even used a gingerfruit plant that Matthew and Tommy showed me could be used as soap/shampoo.
We headed off to Guruda's ashram and as we approached we could hear devotional songs. I was familiar with kirtan (songs of devotion) from Austin, but i wasn't familiar with this intense Krshna worship. There was an altar in the front of the room and everyone was bowing down before pictures of Krshna intermittently in the singing. I prefer thinking of God as infinite consciousness and universal love intstad of picturing it in the form of an actual depicted god and worshipping it, so I felt out of my element a little bit. I was happy that the people there have found something that means so much to them and they take so seriously, but I don't see myself getting into it like that. It's just not what I'm looking for. I was really looking forward to a group meditation, but there wasn't one, which was disappointing. Still, the meal was great and I met some people and I was given my first lei there, which is now hanging up in my new room.
I have no idea what will be happening in the days ahead, but I am feeling much more comfortable in the meantime. I am still feeling very alone, even though everyone has been very friendly lately, and I tear up when talking to family or when reading your emails. But I am very proud of myself and what I am doing.
it's getting better all the time...
08.20.04 This morning, Gopal woke me up at around 7 and invited me to go surfing with him and Shankar and Anton. We got to Honolii Point at around 7:30ish and the beach was already packed with surfers. I was given a boogie board and a fin and sent out into the ocean. It was really hard, but really fun. Shankar had to keep coming over to me and telling me to come in a little closer so I wouldn't get in the way of the major tidal waves. The current is very strong and it was hard to find my way around, but I was able to catch a couple small waves. Even if I hadn't, it was fun just to be in the Ocean. Gopal surfs every morning and Shankar goes about 3-4 times a week with him. I told them I want to keep going with them so I can get better at it. Shankar says it takes about 30-40 times before you actually get the hang of it, but I hope I can learn faster than that.
I'm starting to feel like less of a stranger. Yesterday I got a chance to talk to a lot of the people here one-on-one and I feel like I'm getting to carve out a place for myself here. After we got home from work last night, I even cooked for everyone and they loved it, so that was cool. When I got back from surfing, I saw Tommy and he told me that we would hitch to the Farm together to meet up with Matthew and Kaitlyn. It was Matthew's birthday and we all met up and hitched down to Kehena beach together. This is the beach where there is a big drum circle every Sunday night. The beach was gorgeous. Black sand, HUGE waves (with no reef or sandbar - and supposedly dolphins swim not too far away from shore), big black cliffs, coconut trees, and a lot of naked hippies. We hung out there for the afternoon until we had to go back to the farm for work.
I plan on staying out at the farm tonight, so we'll see how that goes. There isn't much out there in terms of facilities, but Sunday is our day off and Matthew and Kaitlyn and I want to hang out and check out the drum circle, so it'll be easier to coordinate all of that if we start out at the same place. Hitch hiking seems to be safe here - we've already done it a few times - but I don't feel comfortable doing it by myself, and I don't want to have to try to convince anyone to come with me each time I want to go somewhere.
After about 6 hours at the beach, we caught a ride to Guruda's for the kirtan. Sunday night is their huge night, where they make about 36 pizzas and everyone from the area crowds into the tiny room. They had a huge jam session with drums and guitars and tambourines. Everyone was dancing around singing Hare Krshna, Hare Rama, Hare Hare and it was a great time. I sort of gave myself an attitude adjustment while I was there. I had been feeling really estranged from the entire Krshna worship aspect of living here at Dharma Farms. The people at the house are so into it, almost to the point where they cannot mesh with the "real world" anymore and they have no desire to do so. Two of the youngest people (25 and 31) who are here seem the most devoted and I found out that neither one of them has a close relationship with their families and they don't have any other ties outside of this community. Whenever we go to kirtan, I am asked about my beliefs and I am encouraged to listen to Guruda's talks and watch Jagad Guru's lectures on video and basically get into it. It was making me uncomfortable, but last night I was able to get into it. I basically realized that whether you pray to Allah or Elohim or Krshna, it's the same basic concept but with a different name and a different way of making the connection. I will chant at the kirtans and use the same ideation I do in my meditation - of connecting and being one with infinite consciousness - but ouside of that, I'm still doing my own thing.
I will have been here a week as of tomorrow. I'm glad that I've been able to see a bit of this area in the short time I've been here, but I'm nervous that when Kaitlyn and Matthew leave I won't be able to do as much because of the fear of hitching alone. I'm sure I'll figure something out, and if I do hitch, I'll do it carefully. You don't have to take every ride that is offered, so I can pass up the freaks and hopefully get picked up by some nice women drivers or something, we'll see. Caren gets out here in early September, and I'm psyched to show her all that I've been able to see. I'm also excited to explore more of the island with her. I am hoping that I can find out about some farms in the Kona area to work at after I leave Dharma Farms (probably close to October) so I can be on the sunny side while it is the major rainy season in Puna. This is all very exciting though in the meantime.
If any of you are actually reading these, please email me, I'd love to hear from you. I have a lot more computer access than I thought I would. I probably won't be updating the site as often as I have been unless there is something especially cool to write about, but I will be emailing. It's nice to feel connections from home while I'm here. Take care and be well and know that I'm thinking of you all.
08.25.04 So I realize that some family members are concerned that I will renounce Judaism and become a Krshna worshipper and never see them ever again. This is far far far from the truth. I did not come out here looking for a new religion, and just because I have found myself on a farm where spirituality is the main thing, it doens't mean they will convert me. My earlier attitude adjustment that I spoke of simply means that I am trying not to be so negative about being around this type of thought all of the time. I am trying to be understanding and respectful of their beliefs and as non judgemental as I can be (which has been more of a challenge than I had thought) while not adhering to it myself. I am trying to feel comfortable with it enough to feel ok living and working here, but not so comfortable as to start bowing down before images of Krshna and chanting using japa beads. So, for the sake of my family, I repeat: I am not being converted, and I am not worshipping some strange God. I still consider myself to be Jewish, and that will not change.
In addition, some family members have expressed concern about hitching alone. Matthew and Kaitlyn are talking about leaving on Sunday or Monday, so I won't have "buddies" around to get around town. This means I will have limited mobility because the Krshna's don't seem interested in going anywhere else. This will be very frustrating, and I was trying to talk myself into the idea of hitching safely so that I can get around. But when it comes down to the thought of actually going out and doing it, I am too much of a chicken to feel comfortable, so don't worry, I'm not going to hitch alone.
I will write again when some exciting things are happening. For now, I just wanted to ease the nerves a little bit. (And I wonder where I get my anxious tendencies from...)
i've gotta get out of this place...
08.31.04 The last week has been absolutely crazy. I've realized that when you volunteer to work on organic farms, you are volunteering to step into someone else's life in progress. You are pretty much at their mercy because you are reliant on them for food, shelter, and work. You can take it or leave it, and after the events of the past week, I feel like I need to be leaving it.
Some examples of what has been happening that makes me feel strange about being here:
1. At kirtan, Guruda always gives a lecture to his followers. One day, he was talking about how the Christians have gotten off course by worshipping Jesus as a human. They identify so much with this image of man that they have raised Jesus to a demi-god status and have ignored the Supreme. Then he goes on to criticize Judaism, saying that we are so afraid to see God in a personalized form, that our connection to God is impersonal. I'm sitting there thinking "What's wrong with trying to see God in everything instead of always picturing him as a blue dude with a cow (Krshna)?"
2. In another one of Guruda's lectures, he said that anyone who thinks they can create their own path to come close with God are basically fooling themselves because there is only one true path - Bhakti Yoga. He went on to try to explain how the "Science of God" works, and their true, time tested methods will actually bring you closer to God, and all other methods will fail. To me, that sounds like fundamentalist BS. Belief is a personal choice and I don't believe anyone can say there is a right or wrong way to connect with God. The Krshnas claim to love God so much. If you love God and you see someone else following a different path to connect with God, even if it is not one that you see as bona fide, wouldn't you at least be happy that they are attempting to connect with God in a way that is comfortable for them? Why so much criticism of other ways of thought?
3. In his most recent lecture, and the last kirtan I will ever attend, Guruda slipped into his comments that the Jews were in cahoots with the Romans to kill Jesus. Enough said. This guy is a moron -- and a moron with followers who hang on his every word.
4. At the beach, whenever someone finds out that I'm working for Shankar, they start telling me about his shady business practices. Apparently, he steals land out from under people, and he even desecrated ancient Hawaiian burial ground that is on the property that we work on at Kalapana (Lava Land). These things are all hearsay, but enough people have told me about it on separate occasions to make me think there has to be some truth to it. How Shankar can align his spiritual life with screwing people over makes no sense to me. I want nothing to do with this kind of business.
5. Last night in the truck, Shankar asked me what I want to do with my life when I get back to the mainland. I just told him I didn't know (even though I have had some ideas lately), to which he responds, "There really isn't anything you can do. The most important thing you can do is to work on your own spiritual connection with God." I asked him "Isn't there something wrong with giving all of your energy to yourself instead of helping other people out there who are suffering in this world right now?" and he explained that yogis don't start non-profits because helping people find spiritual enlightenment is more effective than giving food to homeless people. Personally, I don't buy into that theory.
6. In the truck on our way back from the farm, we passed a Steam Vent Inn. Shankar snorted "A bunch of faggots own that land." I wasn't sure I heard him right, so I asked him to repeat himself and he was very clear. "Does Krshna consciousness look down on homosexuality?", I asked. And he replied that they do look down on it because it is the ultimate form of materialism. I wanted to say "And what does Krshna consciousness think of bigotry?" but it wasn't worth getting into an argument. So far, I've heard a lot of talk about love for God and hate for everything else. Something tells me this isn't what Krshna had in mind.
I don't know what I wanted out of my traveling experience, but I know this isn't it. I had been trying to convince myself to stay here - partly because Caren will be coming and I wanted it to be easy for her to find me, but largely because I was afraid to move on to another unsure place and have to adjust all over again. This is what traveling alone is all about though - making the right decisions for myself and taking chances. I am going to spend this week making phone calls and looking for another place to stay and hopefully I will have moved on to a better farm by next Monday. I am trying to see every experience - good or bad - as worthwhile for myself. None of this would have happened if I hadn't grown some cojones and gotten myself out on this island on my own, so I'm going to take each experience as a new one that can teach me something. I'm still not sure yet what I learned here though...maybe that is coming with time and a new perspective.
Besides all of the BS, there were a lot of cool things that happened in the last week. Last Thursday after work we went to the natural hot ponds near Kapoho. The hot ponds are these tide pools that are pretty shallow, near some steam vents, so the lava below heats the water. It was like being in a lukewarm salt water bathtub, looking up at the nearly full moon and stars, with silhouettes of palm trees against the sky. It was absolutly gorgeous, and I hope to get there again.
I spent the weekend out at the farm, living in the bus, and hanging out with Matthew and Kaitlyn who just moved on to another farm near South Point. We went back to Kehena Beach and later ended up at a potluck dinner in Pahoa. Matthew was swimming in the ocean and found a $50 bill, and it really was a lucky day for us. The weather was perfect, we met a lot of great people, and had a great time. Hawaii really attracts a lot of crazy characters though, and all of them seemed attracted to us at the beach. We met one older hippie woman, who called herself Dark Girl, who was trying to sell us a book of erotic tips for women called "Tales from the Lingerie" that she wrote. Kaitlyn bought one. Nuts. Then there was this guy who came up to us and was trying to sell us HIS books that he wrote (when I say book, it is more like photocopied pieces of paper stapled together). He was explaining how he is a Breatharian - he lives without eating. One of the books he had, called "Stop Eating", was about that concept. Another was called "Urine" which apparently is about how you should drink your own urine for health benefits. I mentioned all of this to Nicole and Shankar in the truck the other day, telling them how my weekend was, and they BOTH admitted to trying the Urine thing for about a month. I REALLY don't belong here...I'll let you know where I end
(person then left)