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Friday, April 28, 2006

Seven Days in Trinidad

"Girl with a Backpack" by Kate, writing from Toronto, Canada

March 23, 2006
I arrived at Trinidad yesterday and began my whole week of spiritual search. The Ashram is such a peaceful place. I liked it almost immediately. Every part of this place has such serenity to it. I know I have come to a little paradise on earth.

Coconut Stall in Trinidad/Kate YuanThis morning, fresh and new, I was eager to check out the town. Fortunately enough, I got our next door neighbor Frank to take me on a tour. I was on a mission to taste the coconut water my friend Larysa had praised so much. She raised my expectations. It's dangerous.

Coconuts in Trinidad/Kate YuanBut it's still something you would crave for under the hot sun. The vendor put them in the fridge so it's ice cool when it gets to your mouth. There are some sweet ones, they are to die for. It's delicious and mouth watering. It is such a refreshing drink, better than any thing I've tasted so far. I learned that not only do they taste good; they are also highly nutritious, very good for the kidneys.

The vendor next to the coconut stall was selling a snack called Double. Frank told me this is another thing I must try in Trinidad. It's made of two small pieces of pita bread stuffed with chickpeas. The chickpeas are cooked with a special spice. It just melted in my mouth. They are quite filling. I am surprised something this simple can taste so good. I became addicted right away. I wish it could be made common in North America.

March 24, 2006
Atrium in Trinidad/Kate YuanI sat in the atrium this morning after the meditation. I felt the need to be silent and just be with the surroundings. Time seems to slow down. I realized I wasn't bored at all as I was afraid I would be. I looked around until my eye sight caught a half built house to the far left. It had always been there, but somehow it caught my attention today. I found out that there are people living in these houses. Although it's not proper buildings, the locals that live there do so because they need a roof over their heads. The rest is taken care by Mother Nature. The island temperature is enough to keep them warm and the breeze enough to keep them cool.

The good weather also breeds a lay back attitude of life. They enjoy themselves and their surroundings. Small details are overlooked. Overall they look much younger than their real age. Sometimes they can even get away with not showing up at work if they feel like a day off. As I was sitting in the atrium this morning, their way of life started to make more sense to me somehow.

March 25, 2006
Ashram, Trinidad/Kate YuanFor the past few afternoons, I have noticed smoke arising from the distance. It lasts for an hour or two then the air clears up again. I could see the fire burning far away from the Ashram. I asked Silvee, who shared the same dorm with me, what the smoke was. She told me, they are burning the sugarcane field. The sugarcane has very thick skin, and its leaves are usually rough for the hands during harvesting. When the leaf gets burned off, it makes the harvesting easier. The sugarcane stick is then sent to the factory to be pressed for sugar. This is the old way of making the sugar.

There are wild dogs around the campus. It's very common in Trinidad. People don't care much for animals. They are left on their own to survive. The rule is you don't feed them because more will come. The bigger problem is they carry diseases. But there is this puppy I just can't turn my back on. Every time he comes to campus we are asked to chase him away. He is skinny and hungry, yet very affectionate. I know he is not only here for food. Sometimes I bend down to be a little closer to him. He looks at me and wishes for more. I couldn't resist so I let him sniff and touch my toe. It's the same thing for Larysa. She is trying to feed another big dog with leftovers in the kitchen.

A few days ago when we went into the town we bought dog food and shampoo for both of them. We wish could take care of them after we leave. Later on Larysa told me she wanted to stir up some positive energy. This will somehow create reaction in people. They become aware. They start to inquire and question the situation. Only then can a resolution take place.*

March 26, 2006
Yellow Flowers/Kate YuanI have fallen more in love with this place. Besides the spiritual growth from this trip, there is so much beauty around that I didn't feel the need to go out much, spending most of my time enjoying the campus instead. Especially the yellow flowers. Everyday, the breeze blows leaves and flowers to the ground. They are everywhere and they are exquisite. I couldn't stop admiring them. They are swept away, but their life does not end there. They are taken to the organic garden to breed other plants. I watch the whole cycle continue day in and day out. I am totally amazed about nature. It's all give and take. It's so simple and yet very profound. The flowers don't hold back as we humans do. They bloom to their fullest when life permits to, and then die gracefully to give life to others. Just standing there looking at them really takes my breath away.

March 27, 2006
Buildings in Trinidad/Kate YuanLife goes back to the basics in the Ashram. There is nothing fancy. You find everything delightful and lifts your spirit. You hear the birds chirping, and roosters calling every morning. I'm able to get up every day at 5am to join the chanting now as well as the meditation. We start the day when it's still dark, then the sun rises by the time you finish. You feel that God has welcomed you to another new day. The food was delicious, I have no complaints at all. Granted that I am a meat lover, but I thoroughly enjoyed the vegetarian food. A lady called Lucia was the chef. She said all the food was cooked with love. This is such a new concept to me. It adds so much to the taste buds. I looked forward to every meal. I wonder do I get hungry so quickly because the food is so delicious?

March 28, 2006
My flight is in the afternoon. I have been feeling weird since the morning. I opened my eyes after meditation and saw my teacher Guruji Vasudeva there. My eyes start to moisten. I know it is happening as Silvee predicted yesterday. In her most loving voice, she told me I would be crying like a baby. That's exactly what happened. Throughout the morning I kept crying. It's not just sadness I know. My heart chakra is opening. No one is really disturbed by my tears. They all look at me with acceptance and understanding. Larysa even joked with me. I laughed so hard with her through my tears. I hugged everybody as I said goodbye. I know we will meet again...

Poem by Kate Yuan

Poem and all photos are the property of Kate Yuan.

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* And this is exactly what happened. A few weeks after we were back to Toronto, Larysa got the news from Ashram. Susana, the biologist is taking over the responsibility to look after the big dog. She also managed to find a family to adopt the little one.

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