A Passion for Peace

Responsibility, respect and a loving connection with all beings and for this Earth we share.

La Pura Vida in Costa Rica

San Jose certainly is a different pace to Lima, and we're enjoying it a lot. Once again we're living in a studio apartment, but this time with an epic view of city in the valley below on a mountainside. Like growing up in a big family I imagine, this is our way of practicing creative ways to carve out personal space and accept the spectrum of moods humans can express. There's no place to hide! Here's a photo of Luke's "office set-up" to show the view a bit. Often we find hummingbirds and butterflies flitting around the foliage, squirrels that appear to be a mixture of brown and gray with varying color schemes such as gray body and brown tail, or brown head and gray body, colors in large swatches only, not calico like a cat or patched like a pup. (Photo by Luke)

Being tropical, Costa Rica is full of amazing flowers and trees and animals and insects we are becoming better acquainted with. This week upon opening up the wardrobe, Luke was greeted by an army of ants surging out from amongst his clothes. "You need to stop listening to Marc Maron and come help me immediately!" he screamed. The specificity of his request caught me off-guard and I turned around to see him standing in front of the clothes' closet with an army of ants surging out towards him and into our apartment. I grabbed his flip flops and together we set about eliminating them one by one, resulting in quite an ant Holocaust. One flew into my eye, some escaped under the bed and had to be chased down, and in the end we felt terrible for all the deaths, but the boundary had to be set. I put some garlic on the shelves to keep them away and burned sage as a peace offering to the ants while listening to the rest of the Marc Maron podcast. (He, along with Louie CK and Bill Burr are our favorite comedians at the moment.) (Photo by Luke)

Last week we were at the beach, the Caribbean coast in a place called Puerto Viejo. It was beautiful, calm, and slow. I enjoyed it immensely, and also find such environments a bit confronting because they highlight my ever-present opportunity to learn the art of relaxing. I feel such a strong pull to be working and doing, it can drive me crazy and be hard to balance with letting go. I'm practicing deeply, though, and back in San Jose in addition to quilting, writing, meditating, cooking, shopping and keeping house, yoga, being with Luke & making some friends here, dancing, reading spiritual texts, keeping up with friends & family, and future planning work, I am volunteering on an organic farm in the suburb where we live, an hour's walk across town from our place. Here is a picture from their facebook page which shows a bed and a bit of a much bigger project. Three young friends started planting on a lot owned by one of their uncles who's in a legal battle at the moment so the only allowable use of the land is organic farming as luck would have it. At the moment there's lots of lettuce and kale, radish, cucumber, herbs, green onion, hot pepper, and eggs from the chickens. I meditate to the sound of the chickens clucking with my hands in the earth. I love it. (Photo by Slow Farms Escazu)

From our perch we watch the clouds drift across the city bringing afternoon showers this rainy season. The drip of rain and Luke's guitar-playing fill my ears as I click away at the keys. I've been wondering why we didn't come here first instead of a big city like Lima, but then we wouldn't appreciate this as much if we hadn't done that first. So I'll just love where we're at and dream of moving up even more when we move to the US later this year. Thanks for reading this, sending lots of tropical love to you. <3 br="">

Posted byValerie at 11:45 PM 0 comments  

And now we are here.

So now we're in Australia. After physically arriving it tends to take me a week to feel my mind and body are back in sync and gather what I need around me and feel settled in. I found a salt lamp shop in Sydney and for me that is immensely necessary in a small room with a 60-inch TV. Before the lamp, it felt like a wave of energy attacking me such that I couldn't even have it on in the room. Ah, the life of a canary. Lots of sage-burning, sleeping with crystals, spending time with trees and animals also helps me. Last week to find the spot for our Engagement Party we walked through the largest park in the city and saw an orange-bellied bat colony amid a grove of paperbark trees. It was so heavenly! (Bark from a gum tree, looks scribbles to me)
I have grown pretty tired of cities. Of course there are exciting things such as our symphony visit at the famous Sydney Opera House, finding dosas in a South Indian restaurant, a funky old-school-style dress while op-shopping (thrifting) and looking forward this week to visiting a contemporary art museum, but mostly I prefer the company of trees to buildings. My favorite visits in most cities are to their parks. This past weekend we took a trip to the Blue Mountains a few hours outside the city where we hiked, did some canyoning and rappelling led by Luke's outdoorsy brother, and successfully searched for kangaroos and wallabies so I could see some in the wild finally. (Which also means I saw wallaby roadkill for the first time too.) (Photo: kangaroo sighting!)

When we were in Santiago I felt so at ease compared to the rest of our initial landings in the cities of central and South America. It is much more similar to the US in my estimation, and looking around at friendly, overweight people, streets full of shopping, McDonald's and Pizza Hut's and people fiddling with their fancy PDA's all around me, I felt simultaneously comfortable and at ease, and also uncomfortable that this was what felt comfortable to me. Soon after arriving I did my first Vipassana meditation retreat: 10 days without speaking, two vegetarian meals daily (a bit hard for gluten- and dairy-free especially when people act out a bit of a group dynamic feeding frenzy), and 10-14 hours a day of meditating, or at least sitting still with yourself and just being. It was certainly challenging, useful, at times incredibly full of pain, at other moments full of bliss, mind and body heavy and full and busy in periods, and clear and light and quiet in others...a grab-bag. The idea of sitting still and not becoming overwhelmed or scared by your pain or attached to or chasing your pleasure but just being with whatever is there is very appealing as a practice and a life philosophy. Very restorative-sounding, and restoring is exactly what I need lately before additional South America adventuring and US visa waiting... (Photo: drawing of a tiger I made)

Posted byValerie at 6:38 PM 0 comments  

Life in Lima

We've been living in Lima since mid-December now, and I've been very delinquent about writing here, so it's time to catch up a bit.

In addition to Spanish, our main adventures have been a crash course in living in a tiny space together and learning about and accepting challenging aspects of Peruvian culture. Living is going smoothly now for the most part, an occasional 'ahh! this stupid tiny kitchen!' outburst from one of us notwithstanding. And yes, it is challenging to live in a studio without a kitchen sink, but we are managing very beautifully lately. The cultural aspects most challenging for us are two-fold: people lacking the ability to say no (and so promising things they do not follow through on and taking personally our holding them accountable for this), and lacking respect for timing (a meeting scheduled for 2pm could easily begin at 3:30pm with no phone call to say anyone is running late). But knowledge is power, and we are accepting more and learning to plan according to the norms here. And we have met so many wonderful people we are enjoying making friends here immensely.

Our apartment is on a (relatively) quiet street in arguably the safest/easiest to live as a Westerner part of Lima, called Miraflores ('look at flowers' is literally the meaning of the name). I say "relatively" quiet because the construction everywhere screams out as Luke said yesterday, 'Look at me, I'm Peru, I'm growing at 7% a year'! I walk around the city often with earplugs, or at least earbuds, in. There is a lot of noise pollution here.

Air pollution too, potentially, but I suspect it may also be pollen we are not used to, and the fact that Lima is the second-largest desert city in the world after Cairo, but you'd have a hard time realizing it looking around because there is so much vegetation. I adore the parks here, and we live near quite a few. It is such a blessing to have trees to snuggle up to and grass to plop down upon, especially compared to other South American cities where aspects of nature were sorely lacking (Photo: Parque del Amor in Miraflores)

We've gone a few times to the beaches south of the city where LimeƱans like to play in the sand and sea in the summertime. The water is cold and refreshing, the sun strong, and the sunsets amazing. It's nice to be on the west coast and yet in the Eastern US time zone. (Photo: pebbly beach near our house better for surfing than lounging)

I have found work with an interesting project here called 'The Institute of Latin American Restorative Practices' affiliated with a program in the US. Two weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending a training in restorative practices in Spanish, and am now working on helping improve the training even more and integrating opinions of participants. The main thrust of the work at the moment is the creation of a 'restorative zone' in a challenging neighborhood in inner-city Lima, based on an ongoing and successful project in Hull, England. It is certainly an ambitious undertaking, and every person who is trained in restorative practices and begins implementing aspects of them into their lives, whether in schools, homes, or wherever, is already contributing to improving communication and community in my estimation, and so the project has already been a great success 2 years in.

Physically I have become a bit thin but feel healthy, if not incredibly strong and robust at the moment. I am easing into a regular yoga practice again and enjoying long walks through the city and the parks here. I am going easier on myself lately and still sifting through a lot of intense emotional energies that require self-care and attention. But in general, life is unfolding and opening up more beautifully, realistically and peacefully from the inside out, and I very much enjoy and feel fulfilled and supported living this way here and being with Luke.

We may not be experts yet by any stretch, but our Spanish is definitely improving, and our confidence increasing too so that we are planning a trip to the jungle to get off the beaten path a bit soon. We've also had a couple visiting friends of mine pass through Lima, and it has been a real treat to see them too. (Photo: courtesy of Colette since my camera died, a bar in Barranco called 'Ayahuasca')

I have been noticing for some time people often saying to me they hope I am happy. I used to wonder why, and lately I am finding it easier to be. Isn't that lovely!

Posted byValerie at 11:23 PM 0 comments