Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Winner Winner Chicken Dinner

(So pretend it's this past Saturday) I woke up this morning, stumbled sleepily out of bed like I normally do, went into the bathroom to try and wake up a bit, when I heard my host mother call out to me, "Courtney! Courtney!  You're up?!  I want to show you something!"  Curious, I quickly I finished up in the bathroom, changed out of my pj's and followed her outside to the back of the house.  I peeked around to the back yard, not expecting anything too exciting, as it was still pretty early in the morning, but instead, there I stood, still half-asleep, face to face with my future dinner.

Picture this with more feathers.

Oh yes, they were in the back yard slaughtering chickens.  Don't get me wrong, I knew the chickens were there, and I knew what they were for, and I even asked to see what happens to them after 6 weeks of plumping up...but I don't think I was really prepared to see what was happening.  By no means was it gruesome or brutal, but it was something I could not expect, nor was it something I wished to take part in at that moment.  It's hard to explain the weird feeling I got, almost chills throughout my body.  I stood around and watched for a while, trying to be more interested and less disturbed-looking, even though I was very grateful for the experience, but I had to go back inside after about 10 minutes.

For those of you who want more detail into how it's done exactly.  First you need some sort of hanging funnel-type contraption hanging from a tree.  In this case, it was a bag with a small hole at the bottom.  Then you put the chicken in upside down (after it stops flapping it's wings from all the manhandling).  The head has to go down to the bottom through the hole, so just it's little face is poking out.  Then in a hopefully fast and swift motion, you simplly free it's body of it's chicken head.  It's not too messy, the head falls on the ground but only to be picked up and put in a bag for saving and I think to be cleaned off later and used for something. (Chicken beak soup anyone?)  Then the bodies, again after it stops flopping and moving around, (yes, the term running around like a chicken with your head cut off is very true) are removed from the bag and dunked into boiling water so the pores can open up and the feathers can be removed easily.  It was an enlightening experience. 

Where you goin'? NOWHERE!

I know, I'm a hypocrite.  I eat meat, I enjoy eating it, I have no remorse when eating it.  So why can't I do it?  Even more, why can't I be around others when doing it?  Perhaps it's just another one of those things I'll have to warm up to.  But for now, I will gladly accept that label - a hypocrite.

I came, I saw, I chickened out.

What am I thankful for today?
Trip to the beach this weekend - I love acting like a tourist on occasion
The chance to see how chickens are "prepared"
Kids at camp
Rediscovering Shel Silverstein poems
Mail works well here - I've sent and received letters successfully!
My host mom
My Maine mom
Curry shrimp and curry in general
Avocados - so big and good and free from the back yard!
Just watched "Bad Teacher" with Cameron Diaz - way funnier than expected
Listening to great music - I'm currently obsessed with Cold War Kids
Being here!
Being alive!
Thank you for today!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Be Here Now - and other cliché quotes!

Do you live in the moment?

If you truly know how to do it and and live it, consider yourself a lucky one, I do.  Ask me that 2 months ago, and I would say "Sure, of course!  I know what that means, I cherish each day...I even have a blog about it, duh."  So, maybe I wouldn't say that last part, but I sincerely did believe that I was taking in each moment and appreciating life as much as I could.  I even quit my job a couple years ago when I was miserable and didn't know what I wanted to do, but I knew I was unhappy and it wasn't worth any amount of money to stay and be unhappy.  I didn't have another job lined up, and everyone thought I was mad, but in the end it was one of the best things I could have done.  That was my way of seizing the day, and I did for a while, to an extent...

Although my life improved a lot, I still worried all the time, stressed about the smallest things, and always rushed around to get to the next place.  And in between all that chaos I would occasionally make the conscious effort to take in some deep breaths, perhaps a long, lingering glace around and think how lucky I am to be alive...but then back to the frenzy.

 I appreciate you, Tree.

And if you couldn't remember to take in life to its fullest, there were a lot of reminders.  It's in your face everywhere, quotes, posters, magnets...how many times have you seen this in someone's Facebook profile or (back in the old days) their AIM away message:

"You've gotta dance like there's nobody watching,
Love like you'll never be hurt,
Sing like there's nobody listening,
And live like it's heaven on earth."

or seen these (which I happen to love, I would buy them all if I could):

But no matter how many magnets you buy, or how many "live in the moment" quotes you put in your facebook profile, who is actually doing this?  Am I?  What is it?  How!?! 

So, cut to the obvious, I have an epiphany: I was not really living in the moment.  Somehow in the last month, my brain or body or subconscious or something clicked for me and figured out how this works.  And in all honestly, it was not a conscious change that I made.  I don't think it's something you can simply decided one day to do, or something that can be taught, or you can't really even try to do everyday, like I was trying before.  It's simply a feeling.

Like running into the ocean on a hot day, I'm so happy to say this feeling has washed over me.  At first I couldn't describe it.  As I settled into my new Jamaican life, I started to feel happy, a different kind of happy, a happy that I hadn't felt in a long time.  Almost like a child, I feel like a new person, because everything is new and everything is there for me to explore.  It's so cheesy, but I feel reborn at times.

I also feel like a great weight has been lifted off my shoulders.  I got to leave my normal life of bills, insurance, bank accounts, taxes, and all that other adult stuff.  I'm feel so light compared to right before I left when my brain was practically mush because (and if you ask any of my friends they might have some other words to add here) I was completely stressed out and the smallest details would push me out-of-control.  It was so wonderful be able to let those feelings go, to release all the anxiety, because I was here!  I accepted that there was nothing more I could do to prepare, I must go forward or breakdown. (And I did not spend the last two years of my life preparing for Peace Corps to stop now.)

So now, here I am, a month later, and for the first time in my adult life, I feel completely free.  I do not think about the next day or the next week, or even care what I'm going to do this afternoon.  I just live.

I started to realize this feeling when I was waking up each day at 6am not even a bit cranky (if you know me, this is quite a feat).  Then when we got our schedule for 5 weeks in advance, I glanced at it, but didn't really think about it after that. (Some might just call this lazy, which could be true).  It wasn't that I didn't care what we were doing the next 5 weeks, but that I was much more interested in the moment I was in.  I rarely even look at what time we have to be at training the next day until that morning! (It varies each day)  I wake up feeling happy and excited to be.

How I wish I could take credit for this picture

I don't have to worry or wonder.  I just enjoy what's going on now.  I don't try to just "make it through the day" or "get through this week".  I'm not living for my weekends, as I had done miserably for so many years.  I'm in the moment, not looking forward or backward.

I know this seems a bit too easy and obvious for me being a Peace Corps Trainee, living in a new place, a new country, new people, new culture, new everything.  Where my schedule is set for me, and there is always someone there helping me along, letting me know what comes next.  So, okay, it's taken a bit of the stress out of life and I do have a lot of extra excitement each day, but I guess that's what it took for me.  It wasn't easy to get here, so this makes it all worth it and more.  Plus, it doesn't matter to me how I got here, because I'm here now.

Here's me, slowly learning how to use photo shop.

I apologize for my ramblings; I wish I could explain it better.  I had been thinking about this blog post for a while, trying to find the right words, but in the end, I just had to post something even though I don't think it's complete.  It's hard to find the right way to express my emotions, which is a little frustrating for me.  However, I'm not allowing myself to get too frustrated because I accept that a lot of great feelings are indescribable.

Also, it's not much like me to blog about philosophical ideas or sound preachy to others or try to tell people how to live, or go into big concepts that so many others have already done (and much better, I must say), but this has been a big part of my life right now and I felt the need to share it, and blah, blah, blah. 

I may have been inspired by an experienced, older PCT here.  Who, early in our training, shared with us one way that he lives his life, which is: There is no Past, there is no Future, there is only Now.  I don't know if it's this carefree Peace Corps lifestyle, or if what he said (which has clearly resonated with me) has set something off in me, but regardless of how, I'm grateful to be living in the moment.

So, what advice do I have?  Pretty much none at all.  Because no one could have told me how to feel this way or how to live like this, we've all heard it a million times before already.  Lucky for me, it's just something that happened through the choices I made.  All I will say to you is: choose wisely and be happy.

Finally, I will leave you with some more quotes that I enjoy and say it much better than I can:

"To change one's life:  Start immediately.  Do it flamboyantly.  No exceptions."
~William James

"You live longer once you realize that any time spent being unhappy is wasted."
~Ruth E. Renkl
"Spend the afternoon.  You can't take it with you." 
~Annie Dillard

"Enjoy yourself.  It's later than you think."
~Chinese Proverb
"You may delay, but time will not."
~Benjamin Franklin

"Fear not that life shall come to an end, but rather fear that it shall never have a beginning." 

~John Henry Cardinal Newman

"We are here and it is now. Further than that all human knowledge is moonshine." 
~H. L. Mencken

"The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now."
~Chinese Proverb

What I'm thankful for today: