In the Winds of Change We Always Find Our Direction
Perspectives of a Journey
This entry was written on a warm, lazy afternoon in the small Ecuadorian village of Vilcabamba when we, as a family, were discussing the effects of different perspectives in any given situation. In an effort to try a small experiment on how our own perspectives play out, my dad and I each wrote a blog post focused on the day we arrived here in The Valley Of Longevity and our different views on how we perceived the experiences of the day.
As we stepped outside of the busy bakery we are now living above, I was struck by a change in the air. It was so quite outside. Vilcabamba seemed like a dead quiet country town, whereas the day before it was bustling with life.
We walked slowly around the town square, heated by the Sunday afternoon sun, which had been shining on it consistently throughout the day and was giving off what seemed to be an intolerable heat. As we walked, I was starting to get a little dizzy. Due to our itinerant lifestyle, the day had us traveling constantly and before we knew it was late afternoon. The only challenge had been, that I hadn’t eaten at all since the night before and the effects of the heat and my perceived hunger were taking their toll on me.
We were walking out of town, where it was even quieter, as we needed to investigate having an internet connection installed in our new residence for the next six weeks. I sat on the stairs waiting for my Dad to check whether the place was open. My vision started to blur and things started to go very dark. I tried to open my eyes wider and grab something to support my weight. I regained my composure after a few short breaths, but yet again, I felt annoyed at the same time. I was hungry! Mum and Dad were considering shopping for food, but I had to eat RIGHT NOW! Then I lost it. I snapped at Mum and Dad quite ferociously and was very upset. My Stomach was eating itself, screaming out to be fed! It didn’t help that the Sun was so bright, shining its incandescent heat on me as if there were a 1000 suns burning me up. I stormed out of the food store we had walked to, steaming hot and very angry.
I found a shady tree and sat under it. Then I closed my eyes, I took a deep breath and I had a stroke – a stroke of realisation came over me. I had realised that I had gone a little over the top. As the shade of the tree literally and figuratively cooled me down, I thought over what had just happened. I had been quite rude and for a silly reason….my perceived hunger. In that moment an awareness came to me. I was upset, because I was certain I saw something that was not there. It made perfect sense, the sensation of hunger was suddenly lifted and along with it the perception of pain ceased. I was no longer ruled by my emotions. I understood that Dad would cook us something that was both delicious and fulfilling. I also realised later that by the time dinner was served at 7:30pm, another two hours had gone by and I had not even noticed them. I had been reading Little Women, enjoying the company of one of my favourite stories. Dinner was the only meal of the day for me and yet I felt fine. Nothing was wrong with me!
After a delicious home-cooked meal of mediterranean stir-fried vegetables with mozzarella steamed rice, I felt enlightened and joyful for my discovery and experience. Now I felt so happy, I was finishing the day with a new perspective, not to mention some ice-cream and fun!
The moment had finally arrived for us to explore the place that was to be our new home for the next 6 weeks. An excitement filled us all as we walked down the stairs from our apartments to the alfresco courtyard restaurant that was below us.
If I didn’t know that we were in South America, I would have sworn that we were about to walk onto one of the busy circuit streets of Budapest. While I knew in my mind that we were not, my expectations of a quiet town were broken immediately by the frenetic reality of a town that was so busy, it resembled New York City. In one corner of the square there was a funeral going on with hundreds of people crowding outside of the church just to get a look in, as the service progressed. This in one sense seemed rather ironic to me, as Vilcabamba is known as the “Valley of Longevity”, boasting more centenarians than any other place in the world. I found out later that it was the funeral of a 30 year old man, who in the region had been a shining light of help and assistance to everyone and was loved by many. At the other corner of the square was an Australian tourist woman making the effort in Spanish to thank the sales attendant of the local hippie bazaar type shop, from where she had made her purchase by saying in her best Australian accent “Grassy Arse”. In the centre of the town square were what seemed to be a group of Ecuadorian Hare Krishnas attending their stand, with wonderful devotional music playing in the background as they handed out the traditional Hare Krishna pamphlets and yummy cookbooks, printed in Spanish. The irony of this was not lost on me again, being that it was a stark 180 degree contrast to the voracious “Carne” (meat) consumers that nearly all Ecuadorians are.
On the other hand we were faced with an even greater task and that was to feed the ravenous herbivores that are our children. We had started the day out quite late and in the process of packing and striving to get to the bus, we had defaulted eating until we arrived. The moment had arrived however where we were starting to get panicked cries of hunger from our little birdies cheeping away. It started out reasonably enough, but it soon became quite frustrating. Before finding a place to eat, we decided to walk back to the bus terminal as we had to enquire about the installation of the internet before they potentially closed. Having arrived there noticing that they were not open on weekends, we spotted a restaurant that looked attractive and reasonable enough. However, when we walked in, we seemed to be purposefully ignored as everyone behind the counter put their heads down. We waited patiently, only to have Réka start to complain again that she was hungry and for some unexplained reason, an intuition led her to be convinced that this was not the place for us to eat. Again we were ignored by the owner as she walked by us. I had to go directly up to her and in a mindful manner ask in my best Spanish “Buenas tardes. Hay Comidas Vegetarianas Señora?” (Are there Vegetarian meals here?) She looked at me perplexed. I got the immediate energy and intuition that she was sick to death of Gringos that were asking for Vegetarian food. Her response was “No Hay” (There is not), even though I knew from experience that almost every Ecuadorian restaurant had a combination of either rice, beans, plantains, chips, a basic lettuce and tomato salad, often with an inadvertently cooked vegetarian soup of the day option. When I asked whether she had any of these, she said only rice and plantains. I could tell immediately that she was just sick of the day and wanted to go home. She told us unceremoniously to go to the square to get these foods. Summarily dismissed, we walked out frustrated, and only getting further complaints of the hunger pangs that our dear children were now so evidently feeling.
This seemed only to be the beginning. As we continued our journey, the restaurant that we had eaten at only the day before, when asked what it had on the Vegetarian menu, only gave us the blow off again. It was only when I told the server in Spanish that we had eaten there the day before and had a Sopa del Dia (Soup of the Day) which was vegetarian, she admitted that they did have some vegetarian meals, but that this day, their Soup of the Day was meat filled. I was starting to get the distinct feeling that Sundays was “Anti Gringo Day” at the places where locals usually eat. This however only increased my level of frustration as the restaurants that they were trying to push us along to were ridiculously overpriced for Ecuador. This was matched by my perception of dystopia at the manner in which many Ecuadorian businesses assume that any foreign traveller is flush with cash. Being part of a group dedicated to trying to bring about a new economic paradigm, cash is something that at this moment we have very little of. This, matched with the fact that rice in Ecuador is 60 cents a kilo, a dozen eggs about $1, flour 70 cents a kilo, tomatoes 50 cents a kilo, a huge Croissant is 15 cents and rent for an average place in a town like Vilcabama about $150 a week, meant that for the life of me, I could not understand how they could justify asking $18 for a family size vegetarian pizza, when all told it would cost about $3 to make. The profit equation of 600% set my levels of annoyance to overflow, particularly as my daughter was now at a level of behaviour so incredibly rude, that I blew my lid, like Tungurahua (The Baños volcano) did a couple of weeks ago and declared unilaterally that we were not going to eat out anywhere!
I was looking at all the tourists around me literally in a swathe of sickly red, thinking on their incredible stupidity and mindlessness in perpetuating an economy of exploitation that they were creating, simply out of their own desire to eat the food that they were used to eating at home.
My mind was going ballistic about them being so oblivious to the fact that they were in Latin America and not even making the effort to learn one sentence in Spanish, other than “Grassy Arse”, and in their economic ignorance, spreading their consumeristic disease to every corner of the planet, including this haven of beauty.
And then it dawned on me. I was seeing something that wasn’t even there. I was projecting a perceived reality that was merely an illusion and adding to it judgmental thoughts of disproportionate magnitude. It was this realisation that helped me to awaken immediately to my mistake. That is to say, what it is we are doing when we look upon each other in judgment. Judgment assumes that your perspective is righteous, and yet it is completely fallible, for it takes only one perspective into consideration. Ask yourself though, how many times do we do this in one day? I can think back to those moments when I was working as a software executive and I can honestly say that I did it at least fifty times an hour without even being consciously aware of it, many of the times to ridicule people, just so that I could provide my colleagues with a laugh. To me, this is what conscious awakening is. It is coming to the realisation and awareness that what we are doing is mistaken, whereas previously we did it all without even thinking.
So today gave me the perspective and insight that all mistakes are forgivable. True forgiveness is required for all of us to come to understanding and awareness. Judgement dulls the senses and quietens the mind’s awareness of our behaviours. It blinds us to the living connection we all share. More so, I realised that I was the cause and not the effect of my situation. It was my actions and the choices that I made which caused the situation. For me this was a powerful enough realisation for one day, one that I will not forget on the journey ahead.
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