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Are You Military?

Ember, August 2019

After stopping in Washington for a while, Alaska is our third location in three and a half years. Chugiak, to be accurate, which is about 25 miles from a military base north of Anchorage. Our proximity to the base might be why everyone we’ve met has asked if we are a military family — because no one ever assumes people volunteer the time and cost of moving.

Retrieval

Aftermath, December 2018

Although we were sure of his intent, Vassar was half-joking on the stories we just read about the more serious customs of other cultures. To him, killing a rooster at twelve was pretty tame compared to puncturing your scrotum and bleeding to honor the menstruation of tribal women, and his joke acknowledged it. But, he wasn’t really hiding his nervousness from us.

Our experience home schooling Vassar has educated all of us. Between the academic lessons and the reading, we like to find opportunities to show him the pragmatic side of life so, as a happy adult, he will have had enough experience to survive independently. Most of the time that means teaching him chores, buying groceries, or making dinner, but often the lesson comes from people like Tracy who have a different lifestyle than us.

Life.

Like death, time is a paradox because as we get older, our mind does not. Its only awareness of chronology is through the sensory connections to the body, because without these inputs, we do not age; consciousness simply is.

Tourists

Hindu Monuments, September 2017

Before leaving to explore Ubud we had the opportunity to sit and speak with Gusde, the villa’s owner. I’m curious about how people in other cultures decide, aside from the money, to host tourists who dilute and often abuse the local areas, so I usually have a similar conversation where ever we land. The story was familiar, his family are part of a religious caste that allowed him to lead a privileged life, so about thirty years ago he studied abroad in Europe where his father traded with the import company he ran in Bali.

Death.

Self-Portrait With IPhone, September 2018

Most of our current dogma says consciousness is borne outside us. But what if my construction is closer to the reality of it, and human awareness is only a product of our mind?

Aussies

Padang Padang beach is such a tourist trap. Normally we avoid these kind of places, but it is beautiful enough to tolerate all the fair-skinned Aussies browning themselves in stylish swimwear and drinking beverages from coconut shells, which I thought was imaginary until today. The urchins, eels and crabs keep us entertained — tourists “swim” in the tidal pools and surf on the six meter waves while their shore-bound compatriots take selfies and fend off the monkeys under the cliffs. Locals are not around.

Batur

Batur

This morning almost a thousand tourists paid 450,000 rupees each for the privilege of the 1000 meter ascent to summit Batur before sunrise, and only a few were prepared. It took two full hours for even the fittest of the group of sightseers to climb over the igneous rocks, broken lava, and sand, often using their hands and sometimes with almost no traction. The few who were totally unprepared arrived at the summit an hour after the first few strong climbers. Few were strong.

The Ritual

Not that I understand how they’re used, but there are three altars visible from my seat on this veranda. Each one has a small stone statue of something like a Buddha, with candles and flowers nearby. One of the girls on the staff is visiting them with incense and little food offerings wrapped in banana leaf while I sit, lounging on the veranda and catching up with writing. She changed into a sarong before praying, which fascinates me since I don’t understand anything about the ritual. Or Hindus in general. But I am sure of one thing, they are not the heathens I learned about in church.

Mopeds Everywhere

There has been an unspoken progression in our relationship. Since the beginning we’ve had a focus on self-improvement, and the way we live has evolved in both geography and scope of possessions because of it. After we moved away from home to Washington, we started working on our personal inventories — both emotional and tangible — to make our lives lighter. Now we continue doing this because it makes our life easier since we plan to be mobile in the long term.

The Taxi From Denpasar

The random squalor in Denpasar was not unexpected. We could barely stay awake as we crept through traffic to Ubud after the nine hour flight from Tokyo (plus a five hour layover), but we still noticed the details from the taxi. In Indonesia the general living conditions are primitive compared to Japan and most western countries, so the scene on the route north from the airport was an incredible contrast to yesterday.

Travel Day

We didn’t want to leave Tokyo, but we were also looking forward to being in the southern hemisphere for the first time. The ana flight that got us there was impressive, with attention to detail that’s virtually nonexistent on American carriers: complimentary whiskey and an allergy-free menu for the boy made for a great transition to Indonesia.

Getting Comfortable With Local Life

The brief education we received today on superficial details of Japanese life it made it seem dumb to learn about Japanese society like a clinical experiment. Now we’re even more interested in remaining here to both learn more about the lifestyle and continue our spiritual experience, but we know there is a limit to what we can possibly understand since we don’t live here and the Japanese culture does not incorporate visitors. Eventually we have to leave.