Before reading this post, please watch this TedTalk and use whatever adjectives you want to use to describe it because it’s absolutely ________ and ________!
Traveling for 10 months is a good chunk of time that can bring you both friends and not-so-harmful-enemies (aka the people who care most about you – your family). Friends, it’s been a pleasure meeting and spending time with you. How my family has become the imaginary Asian Koel on my shoulder, squawking in my ear, is because of their concern for my life’s current trajectory which does not have any kind of security whatsoever aside from the nice little New MacBook that can hook up to Wifi, connecting me to the world, and the not one but two pairs of Vivobarefoot shoes I’ve decided to take on this journey. These are some sweet shoes and some ladies behind me in the immigration line in China even made a comment about them, “Those look like some comfy looking shoes!”
A big part of life here on Kiyuna Farm is sweeping grass into big piles for the cows. If the grass stays spread out, it will not be noticed and therefore delay the feeding schedule. Using time here wisely can determine if you’re ready for lunch at 12:00pm and you hope to be since you’re starving after 1.5 hours of pumping esa up and down in a giant green $500 container. As I sweep, I wonder if I am spending my time wisely. Not just in the immediate sense (is the rice soaking for the esa?) but also in the long-term sense (how is sweeping grass for hours a day going to help me in the long-run, help me contribute to the world). Some days the Asian Koel is there squawking warnings on my shoulder. Other days are so busy running around the farm the Asian Koel is chasing me to land back on my shoulder.
One such day of chase happened a few days ago. I was notified, “Jiro-san, Wednesday we have 35 children coming. Butter workshop, milking. You teach. Americans.” I have been through this before. Back in January 100 elementary school kids (4th graders maybe?) came to the farm to see the animals, milk a cow and make butter. Americans did she say? ‘Sweet, I can actually speak in free-flowing English rather than broken Japenglish,’ I thought.
The kids were great. I fielded what felt like 100 plus questions from the boys and girls and their Moms. (The Dads were working on base somewhere. There’s an impressive American military presence here in Okinawa.) Okaasan would talk to me in her elementary Japanese/English and I would project what she said in English to the crowd and anything else I felt was pertinent to the topic. I demonstrated to the children how to pretend their left thumb was an udder and we practiced milking it with our right hands. After spraying their hands with rubbing alcohol, one-by-one they came to me and kneeled beneath the cow to squirt milk into the cup and all over my hand – we were focusing on ejection not accuracy. After success with one hand, I told them to try their other hand – it’s good to develop ambidexterity while they’re young and to prevent Federer forearms early. I received compliments on my ‘way with kids’ and encouragement to keep doing what I am doing (I told this Mom my traveling story and also, without a single ounce of jealousy, that I was kind of the Un-American American, that at my age I didn’t have a house, a car, or a girlfriend.). “You’ll know how to take care of a girlfriend when you have one” were her words of wisdom. Amen. But I don’t think she understood my tone of voice which was meant to convey the freedom I felt to not have to be responsible in the traditional sense. …Yet.
Highlights from the families tour on Kiyuna Farm:
Laura-Lee’s two little girls, one 7 or 8, the other 4,coming up to me and giving me a high-five and saying,”Thank you, Mr.!”
Getting business for Kiyuna Farm – Jenny was interested in getting fresh, raw milk for her young baby boy. What if she reads my ‘Relationshits’ post? (Sales is in my blood too.)
Connecting with a young 12-year-old telling him that in maybe 10 years he too could be a wwoofer her on Kiyuna, fresh from college graduation. “Heck, maybe you could skip college.” —- “Now you’re speaking his language!” replied his Mom.
Encouraging little 4 year-old-Lucy up the mini-mountain rope climb. Adorable.
Asian Koel is chirping in my ear right now – “Get to the point of this post.” The personal lesson of this whole wwoofing experience came from Okaasan in the form of a compliment at lunch following the families’ departure. “Jiro-san! I think you, teacher! GOOD! *Thumbs up* No, doctor. Teacher!” I once told her I studied pre-med in college. I took the comment with a smile and continued eating. It was also a few days before that a wwoofer was leaving Okinawa and met Okaasan returning from Tokyo. The wwoofer had complimented me on my teaching ability to Okaasan.
This wwoofing experience has been more than just shifting cow poop from one place to another and planting potatoes and cutting grass and chasing chickens back into the chicken coop, running around like a chicken myself. It’s been more than just getting some really good exercise (this is a weird word the more that I think about it). It’s been about discovering that I have the capacity to become a great teacher even with an Asian Koel on my shoulder asking me, “Who works for no money?” All this time here on Kiyuna, 3.5 months in total, was not for naught.
During these three separate trips to Kiyuna, I spent a lot of time ensuring a healthy diet. At times, that meant waking up at 4:30am just to get some time in the office to cook breakfast for myself before herding the cows at 6:00. I figured, if I can stay on top of my diet no matter where I am, I’m buying time for myself in the future. I am buying time outside of the doctor’s office. With the Kiyuna family, I’ve developed a reputation for not eating processed foods or sweets. No cakes, no pies. Of course I’ve tried homemade goodies, but I’ve come to realize sugar is sugar no matter where you are in the world. Sweets are good because our brains are designed to light up once it hits our tastebuds. Check out this article about rats and their option to choose sugar or cocaine: http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2007/08/23/is-sugar-more-addictive-than-cocaine.aspx
How is sugar a legal substance? Because it drives business and makes money =]
*** Anyone caught with possession of a Family-Size pack of Double-Filling Oreos without having more than two family members in their company at time of purchase will be charged with self-inflicted assault and battery with a potentially deadly addiction and will be placed on grocery store and supermarket arrest. They will be forbidden to enter aforementioned premises without the supervision of a class of school children (25 students or more) to ensure the Double-Filled Oreos are consumed in a serving-size fashion. This law was enacted to protect the nucleus accumbens of individuals and reduce the use of antidepressants such as Zoloft.***
Feeling depressed? And do you like to eat sweets? Cut out sugar for two weeks and give your nucleus accumbens and dopamine system a breather. Wwoofers have asked me, “you don’t like sweets?” My answer, “Of course I like the taste of sweets. But just because I like something doesn’t mean I want any.”
It’s kind of like eating a home-cooked meal with an Italian or Chinese family:
“You don’t like my food?” Italian/Chinese Grandma.
“Yes, I love the food. I am just so full!”
“Well if you like it, have some more! Mangiare, mangiare!” *She heaps another helping onto your plate. You loosen your belt and undo the button to your pants.
I grew up eating as much candy as I wanted – I had the silver teeth to prove it and I wonder if the tooth fairy still has the evidence. We had the freedom to have a can of Sprite or Coke every night with dinner. We ate a ton of fast food – loved those packets of ketchup from Wendy’s and McDonald’s. My diet gave me a High Fructose Corn Syrup transfusion and my heart pumped the stuff through my body. I’ve had my fill of sugar for a long time.
It was scary to see neon green bottles of Mountain Dew hanging in the windows of wooden convenience shops high up in the mountains of Nepal. Anyone have PEPsiCo stock? Maybe double-down on your shares, especially with their recent launch of LIFEWTR, a competitor to CocoCola’s SmartWater, to ride this American sugar wave. It’s interesting to see the trickle down effect of American culture as it permeates the rest of the world and into developing and developed countries. Nepal may not have complete infrastructure like paved roads and access to healthcare but they sure dew have the Dew and Wifi connection. Sam Smith is big right now in South Korea – the dude hit the States a few years ago. Maybe I could have made a couple bucks singing “I’m Not the Only One (that doesn’t drink Mountain Dew)” and “Latch (onto my liver, sweet sugar)” on the streets of Seoul. Speaking with a local Korean helped bring to light the time delay for American culture to hit Korean culture.
Bringing down soda bottles with Netra from Astam to Pokhara via rooftop of jeep
Bus ride to Kathmandu after 10-day Vipassana course in Lumbini
And with alcohol, I had my experiences in college and a few years post-. ….Not that I was ever a heavy drinker (for fear that drinking culture could quickly grab hold of me and wring you upside down, drying your pockets dry of any change you wished to spend on hoops at the arcade). And no need to mention the health benefits of abstaining from the toxic compound. It doesn’t make sense how college kids party hard on the weekends and expect to retain anything they learn from class Monday morning. ‘Alcohol’ and ‘learning’ should never be used in the same sentence unless the sentence reads something along the lines of, “Alcohol is not helping me learn.” But if college kids are drinking away their stress and sorrows, different story. Do I smell a negative feedback loop here? *Out partying instead of studying, bad test scores, time to drink, learning impairment. More bad grades, drink x 2, etc.
If I am to be the teacher/coach/mentor I am capable of being in the future, then I need to be in learning mode right now. My college roommate and good friend said it best, “delayed gratification, long-term optimization.” Sure, life is short and I could die tomorrow. But I’ma be dyin’ happy knowin’ I was driving down discipline road, destination greatness.
Some questions to reflect on:
- How are you managing yourself logically and emotionally as time keeps ticking by?
- What significance do the youtube videos you watch and the time you spend in the gym have in your life and how is your life having a significance to the world?
- Can the time you spend working out be of more significance?
- Can you ‘workout/exercise’ without having to pay someone for the opportunity to? (Pssss – here’s a secret: that’s what a gym membership is. **Asian Koel squawking in the ear “Who pays money to work? Aren’t you supposed to get paid if you work?”)
A story to persuade you that temporary abstinence and restriction lead to euphoria:
Following the soccer season of Sophomore year I went to The Cheesecake Factory with my Mom, Aunt and Cousin. I had spent the entire season – almost 4 months – abstaining from any kind of added fat and added sugars. My diet was high carb and high protein. I looked anorexic. That night I walked out of the restaurant higher than a hot air balloon after finishing my ordinary bowl of pasta and single slice of cheesecake. It was bliss. It was as if all thinking in my brain had ceased, leaving only pure hedonistic, sensation.
When I am 115 years old and when I’m ready to learn how to ‘live a little,’ maybe I’ll indulge in some Cinnamon Toast Crunch, my favorite cereal growing up (ain’t nothing like that leftover sugary, sweet milk) and some Irish Coffee which Paw Paw introduced to me. Maybe even the two together for breakfast. Hopefully (and not) Cinnamon Toast Crunch will still be around by then. A good thing about Trump (no, I am not implying anything else) is he doesn’t drink – he’s never touched the stuff. Guess he’s in learning mode too.
**A few songs listened to while writing up this post:
Yes, I have issues. Be honest with yourself. We all do.
Yes, I will treat you better than he can (once I’m done traveling).