scared thrilled scared thrill scared thrilled

I find most things in life both scary and thrilling. I suppose I should hope it's always this way, but sometimes it feels like an awful lot of work.

Friday, February 22, 2008

A Bad Buddhist

I'm not a Buddhist, but there have been a few moments in my life so far where i tried to be one. I don't know much about buddhism, but from what i've heard one of the things to do as a buddhist is to dissasociate yourself from the needs and wants of your physical body. To be able to detach in a way, and to watch yourself experiencing rather than experiencing yourself. Ok, I just displayed my ignorance of Buddhism. There.
1. 14 years old. Deep in a labyrinthine system of caves in a damp Belizean jungle. I was lying on my back shuffling through a tiny passage into a large room below. The bats from below, annoyed at my attempt to enter their guano-filled resting grounds, decided to vacate the premises en masse, using the only way out, my way, as their route of escape. The passage was so tight there was not room for them to fly past my prone body, rather, they formed neat rows and, starting from my toes, scurried with their little clawed feet all the way up my legs, over my torso, over my face and onto my head from where they were free to flap flap flap away. I think there were a million of them or something like that.
2. Twenty something years old. lying prone on the floor with my cousin Jonah covering my nearly nude body with papièr maché, piece by sticky wet piece. He covered my from head to toe. Over eyes and mouth and nose. I head two straws jammed up my nostrils for breathing.
In both cases I had successful dissassociation experiences. Both times I felt myself bginning to stress, the pressure and anxiety building and threatening to burst. And in both instances I chose instead to watch the experience rather than feel it. And it totally worked! I hear the US Marines (hooo ahhh or something like that) also do this kind of pain is your friend stuff... is that right?
Last night I tried again with... pretty poor results. I went last night to a Hammam, just a block down the street from the home of my gracious hosts, here in the old Medina of Marrakech, Morocco. This was not your package tour spa-type Hammam. Rather it serves the community as their regular bath. Few local homes in the Medina have baths or showers, so people go regularly to the Hammam. Essentially a Hammam is a series of typically three tiled rooms filled with steam and buckets of water, each room hotter than the next. Men and women go to Hammam at different hours of course, so when I went it was filled with men and boys of all ages. I went with a friend of my hosts, Abdu Raheem, who spent an hour scraping, and beating, massaging and pulling me in all directions. He had help from a bunch of little boys too and there were times where I had no less than four people yanking and slapping and kicking and standing on me, making kissy noises when the moves were most intense. I felt like I was melting away onto the tile floor, floating in rivulets through the griddled grout and into the gutters. And that was all great. But then came the Berber acid. As I laid on my stomache AR spread some kind of foul smelling powder all over my back and arms. The pain was instant. Like a scorching fire, or a bush of nettles or seriously some kind of acid, like the kind that gave the joker his smile. I actually wondered if he had grabbed the wrong bottle from under the kitchen sink and considered asking him if he could see my bones through my skin yet, when the real pain began. I have always believed that I have a high pain tolerance. Granted I've only really heard this from my mum and I have a sneaking suspicion this may be a mother's trick to create a self-fulfilling prophecy of toughness in their winiest kids... but my belief in my own tolerance plus my wonderful success as a Buddhist Jedininja in the two occasions above had me convinced I could dissasociate from any reasonable amount of pain. Either the pain of scalding water poured on that crazy Acid de Berber was unreasonable or I am a big wimp because in that moment pain and I were as associated as... French people and baguettes... or choose your own other close association. No matte how intently I tried to concentrate on removing myself from the situation, on watching the pain rather than feeling it, I was forced back with each splash into the present. Soon the only thing I could think was that I'd gone to hell and Lucifer himself was poking me in the back with that three pronged stick pitchfork he's always carying... It was inTENSE.
Of course I totally love the experience. Thanks to Abdu Raheem for not taking it easy on me... or at least making me think that he wasn't (scary thought). I kept wishing my brother the chiropractor to be had been there to see the beating. He would've freaked.

Time to go. I need to hit the souk to pick up food for supper. Take care out there.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

ho boy

Is there such a thing as a "Ho Boy"? Probably. Anyways, what I meant to say was more like, "oh geez, here we go again".
I left Seattle yesterday, washed down the jetway in a flood of tears and hand-wringing. The flight from Copenhagen to Paris was one of those great ones where you sit down, buckle up, close your eyes and don't wake till the thump of the landing.
And here we are in the city of lights and it's just beautiful.
I had a wonderful time back in the NW, and I'll have to tell you about that in a bit. For now though, I'll just introduce you to the idea of the next chapter in the life of Marty:
I'll be here in Paris for a few days or maybe a week. There's a bit of fuzziness in the plans, as I had intended to go down to Grenoble to visit a friend, then to Geneva since it's close to Grenoble. As it turns out the friend from Grenoble is coming to Paris tomorrow, so I feel less of a need to go there, which means I won't be as close to Geneva. I may instead be just flying straight out of Paris for Morocco. Of course, Grenoble, Geneva and all the places in between are, I'm sure, worthy of visits, but I've got Africa on the brain and am anxious to get there.
The plan for Africa is to start in Morocco and head south down the western coast, with trips to inland Mauritania, Mali and other spots along the way. I'm hoping to get an understand of the transition from Arab to Black Africa, in both rural and urban settings. I'm also hoping to develop more clearly this idea of "how" I want to live. I'd like to make it as far as the DRC and maybe CAF as well. On May 15th I'll be returning from... wherever I am at that point to Paris. I've somehow convinced Humanity in Action to allow me to be the intern for their summer program here, and I'm really looking forward to that. I like this city, I like the issues being discussed and there are dear friends for me here. What more could I ask for, besides some hand-crafted Northwest micro-brews?
I'll likely be heading back to the Northwest in mid-late July and from there...
It's an exciting time. But as always I feel a bit anxious and kind of more tired than usual. Maybe this detox tea will help.
Sorry for the lack of pictures lately. I'm having trouble with my computer. Also, I won't be taking the Mac(daddy) to Africa, so posts could look a bit different for a while. It's important for me to keep sharing with you through this site. Thanks for reading and commenting. It was great to be back in the NW and to hear from people who had tuned in once in a while.
Here we go. I cast my self on the water and hope I will return back... ha! Take care chickens.