I’m in California!

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First of all: there was a spike in viewership of my blog today when I visited it twice.  It has now had two views today!  I should do this every day!

A couple of weeks ago the Bikkhu community in Upper Hamlet gave me the OK to come back to the states to take care of my visa paperwork and visit my family.  Wahoo!  That was on a Saturday, and the following Wednesday I was off to the train station with Pham Hanh and brother Pele.  Pham Hanh has received the new nickname “Ferment”, owing to his recent mastery of tempeh making.  If you’ve never had fried tempeh, all you need to know is that it’s totally vegan and TASTES LIKE FRIED SHRIMP.  Naturally this development has played a big role in my life lately.  Anyway, afraid that I’d starve on my journey across the wide Atlantic, Pham Hanh made me a couple sandwiches.  And he made them Pham Hanh style, which means they looked something like this:

Screenshot from 2013-05-10 10:02:27

Image courtesy of Reading Rainbow.  Season 15, episode 3, in which Levar tells us, “It’s fun to imagine how things would look if you were really small”. Also brought to you by Reading Rainbow: everything good in life.

When Ferment prepares for an outing, he always factors in the possibility that the apocalypse might happen partway through.  As a result I didn’t have to spend much on food while traveling, though I had to ditch the leftover sandwich when airport security informed me that, “Sir, this sandwich exceeds the maximum dimensions for a carry-on or personal item.  And to be sure that there are no potential threats hidden in the cucumber slices, we’re going to have to ask you to eat the entire thing.  Right now.”

Ok that didn’t happen.

Is there a point to all this?  Not really.  I’m here in Deer Park monastery, enjoying the California sun and beautiful scenery.  Yesterday morning, a coyote was wandering around the meditation hall during sitting meditation.  We’re on a wildlife refuge so the animals aren’t too scared of hunting.  Lots of rabbits, ground squirrels, and hummingbirds.  The monks and nuns don’t live too far apart from each other so there are lots of opportunities to work together and get to know one another.  Last night we had a barbecue and I treated myself to a variety of fake meats.  A couple of the American-Vietnamese sisters showed up and started clowning on my burger-construction strategy.  I knew right away that we’d be friends.  The night was a lot of fun.  There were about thirty monastics sitting around, singing and drinking tea.  Mostly sitting around and drinking tea.  Despite several song sheets and a guitar, there seemed to be general disagreement on the lyrics, rhythm, and melody of most of the songs we tried to produce.  Well, we’re not a choir that’s for sure.

But I don’t have any pictures of any of that!  I did borrow the sangha camera here, noting that it leaves something to be desired when compared with the one I use in Upper Hamlet.  Snobbery aside, here are some pictures of the nature around here!