Australia, Australia, Australia

It’s getting closer and closer. It’s insane. Every day it seems more and more real, but every day it seems to slip further away from my grasp.

The other day I went to  Mount Wachusett Community College, my old school. It was a really nice experience. I took out 3 books on Australia and got to catch up with some of the staff/faculty members. I was able to really tell them about the trip and find out how they were doing. The first woman I saw, Ellen, works as a research librarian.

After she helped me find my books, she asked if it was the Wiluna walk. She started typing on the computer and pulled up an article. “Oh, is it this one?” she asked.

There, on her computer screen was an article about the walk through Western Australia. There was the same picture that KA has on her facebook of she and Marcus in those biohazard suits in the desert with a the huge handprint sign on a banner. I was so excited to see that other people have heard about the walk.


“Yeah.” She said. “I saw it and thought, ‘that’s the walk Vanessa is going on.’ ” she laughed. It was a proud moment for me.

I left the library inspired, and went to visit Greg. He’s the Assistant Dean of Student Services and the heart of the school. He runs the Campus Activities Team for Students and is an advisor for the Student Government Association. MWCC owes a lot to Greg.

Luckily he was in his office. He gave me a big hug and we had a refreshingly frank conversation about my educational future inside and out of the Mount. I think at this point getting my GED would be faster than finishing up classes for a diploma. And for a long time, I was really adamantly opposed to the idea of anything other than getting my diploma. And I have all these ideas that if I try and get in to a college with just a GED they are going to look down on it and potentially reject me.

Everyone tells me this idea is crazy, but it was good to actually talk to someone who works in world of academia and knows what he’s talking about. Basically, since I already have a decent amount of college credits, when I get a GED I will be eligible for financial aid and able to transfer out to (wherever) I want to go.

It was a really exciting conversation.

I had these really rigid ideas about a diploma vs a GED but looking back I think that’s all just pretentious bullshit.

If I have a GED it will just make it faster for me to get into a college. It’s kind of perfect. And I feel like a bit of an ass for waiting so long just to take the test.

I wrote him down the link for the peace walk blog and told him to stay in touch. It was a really exciting conversation. And for the first time in a long time school is looking like even more of a reality.

I won’t lie, I’m kind of excited. I have definitely enjoyed the traveling, and hate the idea of settling down and dealing with ignorant, racist people again but I’m realizing that just because the little corner of the world I live in is terrible doesn’t mean the rest of it is.

I also saw Gaurav and gave him the link to the peace walk blog. On the way out I saw Ana and (another woman whose name I forgot D:) and talked to them about the trip. They were sweet and really excited for me. Ana asked if I already had the money, and I told her my whole “300 people 10 dollars” thing and she pulled out 5 dollars right there.

“You’re going to get there.” she said, “Pray. God will get you there.”

I had a really nice time at the Mount. I went over to Tom Matsuda’s office, but it was closed. I think he was gone. I had so many people I wanted to visit, but I had to get back home.

There have been a lot of conversations recently about my school.

The other night after we heard Kwajmal play, Palmer and Christian had a long discussion in the car about my future as a student. It was kind of hilarious.

They were arguing about what kind of learning atmosphere would best suit me. Palmer was suggesting somewhere like Hampshire, where I could fly in on the heels of Sister Clare’s yellow robes and instantly awe the entire school. Christian argued that they were too rich, and I should go to Smith or UMASS Amherst where I could be with more people. Palmer said in a place like Hampshire where I could make my own major, I could get credits for the walk through Australia. And on they went.

It’s hard for me to actually imagine all of these things happening, but I’m making the steps to turn my plans into reality.

“We all have self-doubt. And you with that spiritual aspect, you know what they say. There are two opposing forces inside you. It’s which one you feed, right?” (G.C.)

Palmer said to me the fact that I’m doing all of this without a diploma “will just make me more intriguing”.

It’s been an interesting week. I continue telling people about the walk, every day it seems. I don’t know how I’m supposed to feel about it.

Excited. I definitely am.

But there’s a huge part of me that wants to completely lose my mind. There are so many obstacles, it feels like.

I want to help finish building the temple. It’s an important job that needs to be completed. It’s something I really believe in.

I feel like it’s true, I could be working at some department store or fast food restaurant and all the upstanding citizens of proper society would nod their heads in approval of my money earning skills.

But forreal forreals?

I’m helping to build a temple at the first peace Pagoda in North America. I am helping build a permanent home/place of worship/living breathing community for Buddhist monks. When this Temple is finished, people from all over the world will come and stay here, peace walks will be started from here, it will be a monastery, an interfaith capital, a place for peace and serious political activism for years to come.

Why can’t people understand this?

In 20 years, I will be able to come back (not that I’ll be gone for that long) and say, “I helped create this place.”

I will know that because of some thing I have done, others will be able to do things they believe will make the world a healthier place to live in.

What more should I ask for?

And is it terrible to say, I’m actually enjoying my life?

I am getting to live with people who have dedicated their entire lives to selflessness and compassion.

Every day I meet new people in every line of work imaginable, from everywhere.

Every day I learn new skills.

Last weekend I stained valences, put down tiling for the first time, and learned that if you don’t speak Japanese in Japan your Gaijin butt probably shouldn’t be there in the first place.

I chanted with the monks before sunrise and before dinner.

I listened to an incredible jazz band at a benefit concert for the Palestinian House of Friendship.

I learned how to write and say, “Palestinian House of Friendship” in Arabic.

I drank tea on the steps of the new temple and had a talk about life and letting go of anger and the importance of libraries.

I had lunch with a man who has photographed the Gaza strip and a writing teacher at Tufts.

I celebrated someone’s birthday.

I learned how to properly poach eggs.

It’s so frustrating when people ask me if I’m “working”. Why should I have to defend this “unemployment”?

I feel like, if I am calling myself an activist, then I have to stand by my convictions. I don’t feel like I should have to compromise my values. How should I feel when I am saying every day,

“I’m an activist. I want to change the world.”

And then immediately afterwards going to work at a clothes store where everything comes from some tiny sweatshop in Bangladesh or Vietnam, or a gas station?

How can I say, “I work on a farm on food justice issues” and then go to a job at McDonald’s to give out crap food to the masses?

I would be a hypocrite.

I have the utmost respect for my working friends, and am in no position to judge anyone. I realize that without establishments like these, my own local community would be even more economically devastated than it is now, and would leave an enormous demographic unemployed.

I feel very conflicted.

But should I just be like “having faith in the universe” or something? And expect that 300 people will support me and believe in me enough send in the money to help me go on this journey?

Ugh.

I don’t really have a choice.

Someone said to me yesterday, “Well Vanessa. Even if you made 100$ a day every day until you go, you still won’t have enough money.” I suppose that’s true.

That’s okay.

I’m going to do this walk no matter what it takes. And I feel like that’s what the people doubting me don’t understand. And I suppose that’s okay. It’s hard to stay positive when people you love try to discourage you rather than help you.

But it’s alright.

I’ve decided to start writing more.

I keep telling people that I’m going to blog about Australia so I should probably get in the habit…

My life is in such an interesting place. I feel like as I go to each different place I have a different role and identity. It’s all everyone’s perception. When I’m at the farm or Pagoda I’m an Activist and a Volunteer and someone who people listen to and respect.

And I feel like in Gardner I’m just someone who’s not really in school right now.

It’s hard to maintain the excitement I feel about life when people think so little of me.

But.
As Jay-Z once said, “Ladies is pimps too, go on brush your shoulders off.

I’m nervous and excited about speaking at Bruce’s conference. It might be the chance I’ve been waiting for to get my message across to a really large group of people.

Every night on a peace walk, usually after potluck everyone sits down in a circle to talk.

Religious people, non-religious people, people in the community, and us walkers. We talk about the “political climate in the world” and the “dominant social paradigm” and the “military industrial complex”. People talk about the struggles they have in their communities and the work they are doing to create change.

Whether it’s race or class or money or bullying or clean food or healthcare or even the price of gas, everyone has something they are struggling with. The potluck dinner conversations are a chance for us to share information about the walk and the work we are doing, and a chance for us to really listen to people different than us, and try to understand them.

Almost every night I would talk a little bit about life from my perspective. By the time we are all in a circle I am usually exhausted and well fed and sore and somewhere I have never been before. The situation of a peace walk is so incredible because you are learning to almost completely trust people every day that you’ve just met.

On a peace walk there is no room for anything other than complete honesty.

Because the situation is so intense, you learn to trust and really get to know people in a short amount of time.

Every night, you know these people are feeding you and housing you and so that nightly potluck becomes such a real discussion. By the time we’ve finished eating and pull our chairs around to talk, we trust each other. To the extent at least, that we will live together for a few hours.

I find that during these talks, the things I say are from a place of complete honesty. Somehow my jumbled up ideas about life come together to form coherent, somewhat relevant thoughts about the world. Something that might just have been an abstract idea can come out and inspire people to take action.

If I can somehow treat this conference kind of like a peace walk, I’ll have no problem.

I feel like when I talk, generally people listen.

I don’t know.

This is a chance for me to speak my truth and really be heard.

I don’t care how impossible it seems. Impossible is a word people use when they’ve given up.

I refuse to give up.

I am going to Australia in August, and I will do this peace walk.

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