28 December, 2007

fear fear?

Karin and I took a walk one night. We had caught a mouse and didn’t want the little critter to be in a tiny prison all night until the morning. We bundled up and headed out the door. The moon was somewhat full, so we didn’t need a flashlight, but I brought one anyway. As we were walking, we both started to get jumpy and well, scared. We started talking about what we were afraid of and our differences were interesting as well as educational. I was scared of a “bad man” coming after us with a knife and Karin was scared of wild animals attacking us. I began to tell her how dumb that thought was…that a wild animal would attack us. Wild animals do not attack, they are actually more scared of us and anyway, there weren’t any wild animals in this area. She then proceeded to tell me how dumb my thoughts were…how the chances of a person attacking us are even less than a wild animal. We were in the middle of a beautiful area far away from a nearest town or even a road. We traced our fears back to television and the movies and stories we had heard. Too many Friday the 13th movies from my past! We ended up walking further and released the fears we had and I really wasn’t scared anymore.

Last week, after a seminar outside, Peter asked me if I had checked to see if the rather oversized fire we had lit outside was really out. I told him no, but that I would go look. The seminar and fire pit was not near the house and once I got all dressed for the cold, I headed outside only to realize that “shit, I am all alone”. There was a full moon this night so it was really bright outside, but that kind of made it worse, since there were shadows all around. My first thought as the distance grew between me and “safety” was, “no one would hear me if I screamed”. But then I wondered “why would I scream”? It has already been confirmed that there are no bad people or animals around, so what was I scared of. I straightened up and walked on with a clearer mind. I got to the fire and put some more snow on it just to be sure and then went inside the lone Tee Pee there. I forced myself to go inside and walk around and then out and around another structure all the while telling myself that nothing can hurt me here. I made it safely and securely back to the house and into the comforts of my bedroom with a renewed confidence level.

I know the dangers of unintelligent television programs, scary movies, racist/sexist song and other garbage that we put into our minds every waking hour of the day. I have been television and radio free for almost 2 years now and continuously have to reconstruct or undo the myths, fears, or other negative energies that have previously entered my brain. I still have to stop myself from thinking about the boogie man hiding under my bed waiting to grab my ankle (I have my sister to thank for that one!) and something biting my ass while I go to the toilet in the night (origins of which are unknown), but others I am breaking down. I now sleep with one curtain open to erase the stupid fear that someone is watching me. I mean come on, I am really in the middle of nowhere and it is about 5 degrees Fahrenheit outside. If there is some man desperate enough to endure a long hike and the freezing cold, then by gosh, let him watch me while I sleep all bundled up under the covers!

16 December, 2007


My new thesis and I are doing great and are enjoying our quick but wonderful relationship. I will be turning in the draft hopefully on Tues. the 18th...two days ahead of my previously sought after deadline.

I have been happy with the new content, although I do believe that there are signs that maybe, just maybe I have been spending too much time typing on my computer. While taking giveing my tired computer a much needed break, I took to reading one of the books jotting down quotes on an actual paper with a pen. A random thought popped into my mind and i started scribbling rapidly as the thoughts were coming faster than I could write. I then picked up my pen and made a move to hit [Ctrl + S] in order to save the document that I was physically writing. I looked up at my computer which was about 3 yards away from me and realized that I will be happy when my life is back to a normal...of course we all have ideas of normality.

I also found out that you cannot die from excessive amounts of coffee!

03 December, 2007

I have amicably divorced my thesis.

My former-thesis, (previously known as my thesis) is garbage. In it I was writing about nutrition, obesity and its affect globally. Well it was stocked plum full of worldwide information on statistics, nutritional regulations including what the US and United Nations deem fat by measuring Body Mass and how these are different in other countries because people have different genetic make-ups, blah blah blah. I also had charts leading to diseases from food and preventative measures. After meeting with my thesis advisor, I realized that I do not support governmental regulations (especially in the country on my passport) so why am I promoting this form of structural violence in my thesis. By supporting what a government entity such as the USDA says, I am actually promoting stereotypical control and conformity. The USDA is paid to promote food products, or else they would not logically officially classify frozen French fries as a “fresh vegetable”, which they did in I think 2004. Who in the hell do you think paid for that, hmmm….

My revelation caused a couple of spontaneous things to happen, namely that my former-thesis is just that, former. I can use a little of the 57 pages of information that I had already written in my former thesis in my new and improved thesis (N&IT), but most of it is regulatory bull-shit which no one should listen to. My N&IT will base eating and lifestyle on feelings and energy produced by the way you live. Not energy in terms of physical exertion, but more as an energetic field. If you have ever been around someone that just wears you out after being around him/her for a couple of minutes or someone who has the attitude “if I am not happy, no one will be” then you have experienced negative energy. Sit in a room with a Shaman or a Swami, or anyone at peace within themselves and you will have experienced positive energy.

This can be directly related to food in the way that if you put an organic carrot grown in a environmentally conscientious way in your body you will have a different energy (feeling) than if you put a piece of factory farmed meat in your stomach. ALL Factory farms pack tens of thousands of animals into small amounts of spaces, which the US has the most horrendous lax regulations about than any country in the world (this is a fact, not just my biased judgment). My thesis will include the absolutely inhumane, cruel and abusive treatment given to animals in the human food chain. It will also include my thoughts that there is absolutely NO justification for anyone to purchase such products. Saving money is not an excuse. Meat consumption in the US has doubled since the 1950s and in the 50s no one was mal-nourished. Eat less of the ethical (more expensive) meat instead. See how it makes you feel by spending a few dollars more for organic, humanely raised animal and animal products. See how it makes you feel knowing that you just fought the system that creates such animal suffrage. Factory farming runs on supply and demand just like most things. If the demand for organic humanely treated animal products goes up, the amount of animals factory farmed will go down.

If you saw your neighbor's pet confined day after day to a concrete and metal cage not even big enough to turn around in, most people would be outraged and demand that the animal be released. Why then, do most people turn a blind eye on cows, chickens, fish and pigs (among other animals) that are raised that way? I am not here to judge, but to ask questions.

Okay, that is what my new thesis will be on: the ethics of food consumption! I do not try to preach that my ethics are somehow better than someone else’s, no that is what governments do, but I do believe that a vast majority of populations would agree that abusing an animal is “ethically” wrong, regardless of the reasoning behind it.

As Alanis Morisette put it so gracefully "These R the thoughts (that go through my head)".

23 November, 2007


Now, I have blogged about trusting those little voices in my head…not the ones that secretly tell me to do evil things like eat another luscious homemade treat or enjoy my 4th cup of coffee, but the ones that cause a nagging feeling to do or not to do something…my intuition. I recently found a website http://www.pisces.com/... while doing, ahem, “research for my thesis". Well if there was a better way to describe my personality, I have yet to find it. The one thing it did say is that Pisces have a unique sense of intuition, which I have been working on trusting for the past 6 months or so and I do believe it is becoming really defined.

Today, I was trying to order about 5 books on Amazon.de (from Germany). The one specific book that was first on my list was called Food for Life, The Spirituality and Ethics of Eating. I reeeeeeeally wanted it and was even contemplating whether to have it over-nighted to me as it was “calling” to me to read it. I finally got an account on the german website which was a challenge in itself. I went through the whole 5 step process to purchase the books and then came the most hated sentences of any internet user “INTERNET EXPLORER CANNOT DISPLAY THIS PAGE!” I thought no biggy, I just refreshed the screen and to my dismay, it put me back to the beginning log-in page. Well I did this about 3 more times before I was ready to scream. At that time Karin walked in and I had her look over the page, maybe there was something in German stating that my order could not be processed. That was not the case so with her guiding me this time, I started the process yet another time. When the same damn page popped up, I exclaimed ‘Son of a Gun’, which brought her extreme laughter since she had never heard that phrase. Not in the least bit ready to expel laughter, I said that I was giving up. She said, no, try it one more time….

It of course happened again and I suddenly said. “There is a reason that I am not supposed to order the books today.” I will do it tomorrow. Something told me about 3 tries back to stop, but I didn’t listen to ‘it’. Well, that was about 4 hours ago and I had been diligently working on my thesis (55 pages now!) when Peter walked in with a package that was in the mailbox addressed to Karin. Since she is gone, I said that ‘for some reason’ I think it is for me and I opened it. Inside the package was the super-duper-can’t live without-book that I so desperately was trying to order. I had forgotten that I had already ordered the book when Karin and I ordered a bunch of books about a month ago. All of the other book came in the same week we ordered them, but for some reason this one was delayed. It had been ‘calling’ to me from the mailbox the whole time I was trying to order its replacement! hmmm…..

22 November, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

I am currently proof-reading my fellow Peace Students dissertation for his PhD degree. It is about the growing epidemic of orphans in Africa (specifically Uganda) because of the rise of AIDS/HIV causing their parents death. It is so interesting that of course, I now want to go to Uganda and open an orphanage! Actually that is my “retirement” desire some day…to live out my life surrounded by orphaned children. Mmmmm just the thought makes me smile!

Anyway, because of my reading his 232+ page dissertation, I now realize that I could conceivably write my own, thus someday acquiring my own doctorate degree….Dr. Melinda Lies! Of course I am proofing Paul’s paper instead of writing my own thesis at the moment, so maybe I should concentrate on finishing my own measly 80 page paper before I set my sights on a couple hundred.

Oh and yes, this is how I am going to spend my entire Thanksgiving...thankful that I have eyes to see, fingers to type and a brain to comprehend it all!

15 November, 2007

Art…it’s in the eye of the beholder!

My new friend Marcel wanted to get together and since I only know exactly 4 people in the area, I gladly accepted his invitation. He picked me up and we drove to a home depot-ish store because he wanted my opinion on wood flooring that he is going to put in his bedroom. After going to a couple of stores, he said we needed to buy some paint brushes because “we” were going to paint on these canvases that he had bought the day before. I told him that my brother got all the skills in my family in regards to art and that the only painting I am good at is slathering a whole wall or room with one color. He said he had never done it either, but he wanted some art for his wall and didn’t want to buy any.

We got to his place and there on the floor was 2 large blank canvases and 1 smaller one, 6 tubes of paint ranging from light yellow to orange to bright red. We got started and I realized quickly that I actually have a little talent in the art department and so did Marcel; although we had very different styles. I finished mine first and was starving! He said that; oops, he had forgotten that he was going to make some soup for us to eat. I said not to worry, that I would throw together something….this was a greater challenge than I thought, as his kitchen was not quite as equipped as his painting supplies. I still had my creative juices flowing so I found some rice and lentils as well as a semi-equipped spice drawer and a pantry with some fresh veggies. I ended up making curried lentils with carrots over rice, yum! The funny thing was that when we sat down to eat, the food looked like the paintings as the lentils were orange as well as the carrots and with the brown rice (which had a yellowy tint) and red fruit tea it was the perfect meal to accompany the completion of our masterpiece!

No artistic talent? I just let go of that rope!

14 November, 2007

Sandy visits again!!!

Yea, my faithful traveling friend once again treked across the ocean to Europe. She had almost 2 weeks here and if she thought she was in for a relaxing vacation, boy was she wrong! ha ha

She had about a 2 hour nap and then she was put to work in the kitchen. We had a group of 16 here and it was dinner time! AFter about 3 hours in the kitchen we had an American dinner on the table (in her honor)...quinoa salad, veggie burgers and oven baked french fries! I had miscalculated how long it would take to prepare the food so an additional hand in the kitchen was a much needed gift! You cannot tell in the photo, but between Sandy and Karin are about 2 layers of pots, pans and dishes on the floor (no cabinet space left). We had pretty much used up every cooking thing in the kitchen!

I did 'allow' her to relax a bit...we tried to make it outside for part of the 3 hours of sun we got. It rises over one mountain around 11.30 only to fall behind another around 2.30. She is sitting in my 'Sun Place', which is one of my favorite places on the property. It is really nice to sit there when the sun shines and read, do yoga or just take a little snooze.

The next day we took a nice walk along the Via Claudia Trail which runs by the Schalklhof and is an old road used during the Roman Empire. It was a dual purpose walk as we had humanely caught 2 mice the night before (Sandy is holding them in their little cages) and had to take them far away so they can live in the forest instead of in our walls. It is actually kind of a fruitless venture as some joke that the mice make it back to the house before we do. Regardless if there is any truth in that statement, catching the mice does get me out of the house and down the trail most days.

Luckily we did get a chance to enjoy all the great weather for 3 days as it started to snow soon after her arrival and did not stop!

hello to Michael

This is the little snowman Sandy made outside the kitchen window. He was completely covered by more snow in 24 hours, but then 2 days later the snow was almost melted and all that was left of poor Michael was 3 black beans, some ribbon and wilted flowers...oh well, I loved him while he was with us.


It snowed about 5 inches in one day. Luckily it was not really that cold (no Kansas wind!). This is the Inn River which runs past (in the 'backyard' of) the Schalklhof.

Looking out at at the Tee Pee's. They have little ovens in them and Sandy and I wanted to stay overnight in them one evening (the night before it snowed), but that idea got shot down by the others quickly...Unfortunately, that night was our only chance and we missed it. I will just have to do it myself!

04 November, 2007

My Nemesis is a Rope.

A simple rope redefined my life. It all started a couple of weeks ago when I, as an unsuspecting pawn, trailed along behind Peter, Paul and Guenter…and no Guenter is not to be mistaken for Mary. Peter and Paul had a class of kids from Switzerland coming to Native Spirit the following day just for one day. They were going to have the kids cross the Inn River in a large inflatable boat to the other side where they would then hike up to a flat spot, cook out and do nature things. What Peter needed was for the boat to be paddled across the Inn with one end of a rope while he hung on to the other. Once the rope was tied off on both sides then the kids would be able to safely make their way across with limited paddling. Another reason was that it had rained recently and the river was rushing very very fast and they may not be able to make it across before getting expelled further down the way.

Well, instead of going into town to rent a movie Guenter and I joined, Paul in the raft and I tried not to let the freezing cold water touch me. By this time, it was around 6 PM and the sun had sunk behind the mountain hours ago. Peter pushed us off and we were catapulted downstream. We were paddling as hard as we could and almost made it to the other side but we were so far downstream that we had run out of rope and Peter had to let go of his end. We got back to our side of the river and pulled the boat back to the starting point. This time, I suggested that since Peter is about 1000 times stronger than me AND is a certified river guide, that maybe he should be the one in the boat while I stayed dry on shore holding the rope.

It was agreed upon and with the 3 men on board they made it to the other side, but not without a struggle and having me run along the tree tangled rocky cliff-like shoreline down stream as not to loose my end of the rope. By this time it was getting darker and the rope was getting heavy from the force of the water. Paul had one end of the rope on one side of the river and it was so hard to keep it taunt that every time it plunged into the water it would practically pull me in. I finally wrapped it around my waist once because my strength was giving out. The men then decided that they needed the rope further up creek at the original starting point, SO with Paul on one side and me on the other we slowly made our way back. On both sides were rocky ledges leading into the water with knarled trees jutting out here and there, so in the quickly fading light it was very hard to maneuver my way back.

At one point the rope plunged into the river pulling me off my feet and into the Inn. The water was freezing as it soaked me to my knees and I quickly jumped back on shore. By that time it was dark and I could hear the men yelling on the other side, but the river was so loud that I could not hear them. Then I heard Paul say the words that would have caused me to kill him if he was standing next to me. He said “Melinda, keep the rope out of the water.” I held my tongue and kept plodding slowly forward over trees and rocks grasping for any kind of support I could hold onto. As Paul informed loudly over the sound of the river of the importance of keeping the rope taunt, I really wished that he had not learned the English language. After the 3rd time, I screamed back at him my reply…something like “no kidding”….or maybe it was a bit more harsh with some words thrown in that would have gotten my mouth washed out with soap had I been young. We finally made it back to the original starting point which was a bit wider than where we were and I suddenly realized that my end of the rope would not reach any tree strong enough to tie onto. I yelled at the men to give me more slack. They were deliberating about something so I hung on and waited. At this point I was cold, tired and wet but really feeling proud of myself that I had made it all the way to where I was without letting go of my end.

All of a sudden I heard Peter yell something that sounded like “let go of the rope”. I thought for sure I misunderstood him so I yelled back “WHAT?” and this time it was unmistakable “Melinda, let go of the rope.” I was dumbfounded! Let it go?? I had just dragged the damn thing for a half an hour or more upstream in the dark by myself; I was certainly not going to let it go now. I yelled back that just give me a little more rope and I can make it to something that I can tie it to. Once again came the reply of leeeeeet iiiiiit goooooo. I screamed at the top of my lungs “NOOOOOOOOO!” and then the reply, “Melinda, LEEEEEEET IIIIIIIIIIT GOOOOOOOOO!” I yelled some more mouth-washing-quality words and with all the strength I had left, I heaved my end into the river. I was so angry at that point that I started to cry, I figured what the hell; they can’t see or hear me so I will just vent my frustration the way my female hormones dictate. I laid down on the rocks and sobbed as I looked up into the night sky. I do not remember the last time when I had been so physically and emotionally spent. My whole body was hurting as well as my pride. I kind of felt like a failure although I knew what I had accomplished was a difficult feat. I could hear the guys yelling to each other across the river and knew they were probably as frustrated as I was, but that really didn’t comfort me like it could have.

As I laid there feeling sorry for myself, I suddenly realized that the rope had enormous symbolism. It stood for the parts of my life that I need to “let go of”. Even though I have relaxed about 100% in regards to control issues, I still had things that I contemplate too much and search for answers when only time can tell. In letting go of the rope I was in fact releasing the fears I carry around. I did not appreciate the way the lesson had to be learned, but of course life lessons are rarely all peaches and cream.

I made a bracelet of a small old piece of rope that I had found when I first arrived in September. I had kept the rope in my room and used it for numerous things whenever the MacGyver in me surfaced. It was currently not being used because its former job as a curtain tie had been eradicated. I twisted it into a braid like figure and tied it onto my wrist. I now wear it as constant reminder that whatever life throws at me, I can handle and I can carry uncertainty with me for awhile, but then there will come the time when I have to let go and allow the higher powers that be take over.

30 September, 2007

more Austrian Army photo's

Negotiating with "bloody fox" in the Austrian Army.
Trying to get the group organized...
Nice ready made military meals, don't let the smile fool you, it tasted like shit. yuk.
After being awakened at 4AM for an evacuation and sitting...waiting for the 'bombing-shooting' to stop so we could leave this cold ugly bunker.

Spending the night in the mountains

Hiking up to our resting place.
We were divided into 3 groups and then had to find our place to camp, make a shelter, fire, cook food, get comfortable and sleep!
Making the shelter.
Gathering wood for the fire.
"my" group! We were the last group to finally make fire (we were not allowed to bring matches or lighters) and by that time we were so hungry and it was dark and we were starting to eat the food raw. Finally it worked and we had so much fun the rest of the evening.

Jumping into the Inn River!

WAHOO! Into the river I go!
Floating down the Inn to our next jump!
bye bye...
Where the 2 rivers meet, we had to swim across the rushing water which was very difficult.
We all made it safely across!

27 September, 2007

2007 peace photo´s

Getting debriefed on our 'mission' in the Austrian Army..

Getting ready to head out!

Major Rott helping me relax when I was going crazy with stress!
An unfortunate downpour with hail.

new ideas.

One night the kids had a BBQ over the open fire and because of the massive supervision needed to cook real meat, we gave them hotdogs and this other partially-pre-cooked processed meat to cook, kind of like spam, gross! After seeing that there was no way the city kids could even cook the fake meat, I took over. I was laughing to myself because I would call out “hey, so and so, your guts and brains are ready”, or “these mashed internal organs are done”. Because of their limited knowledge of English, they would just smile and gather up the processed-not-fit-for-human-consumption-product and say “thank you, Melinda”. HA HA gotta love it.

The one really cool thing they do on an open fire is cook bread and apples. It’s fantastic! You take bread dough and wrap it around the end of a stick so it forms the shape of a hotdog. You then hold it over the heat of the ash (not the flame) until it is done, It takes awhile but the thinner the dough on your stick the quicker it cooks. For the apples, you just puncture them with a stick and again hold it over the hot ash turning from side to side. It cooks quickly and tastes like baked apples but with a smokey flavor and you eat it right off the stick. I can’t wait to do both of these in Kansas….whenever I find myself back home…

new duties....

Thursday, 20 September

I am being trained…trained to take over the cooking for the next 3 months. Since Katushia is going to Africa and there Peter has found no one to take her place permanently, I have now been given the duty of cooking for the groups that come to the camp. This week, we got up at 6:00 to prepare breakfast for the class. Luckily this class consists of young teenagers so breakfast consists of cereal, bread and milk. Unlike adult classes we didn’t have to make tons of coffee and also adult breakfast includes yogurt, fruit and different Austrian breads. A new thing for me is that in Austria they like hot milk with their cereal and their eggs only soft-boiled so timing is everything.

Lunch and dinner took a bit more preparation and attention on my part since I have never cooked for 30 people before. I was writing down the recipes (roughly) as Katushia prepared the food. She had planned on making a huge pot of soup and simple salad but first she said we must make these things (she called tortillas) first as they would take a couple hours to make. I intently wrote down the mixture which we stirred in a large tub. As she greased two pans and poured the mixture inside I suddenly said, hey these aren’t called tortillas in English, they are called pancakes! I cracked up because I should have realized the mixture we had put together. The difference with these pancakes is that they eat them after lunch or dinner with butter or jam. They are made bigger than an American pancake and thinner, like a cross between a crepe and a pancake. Used as a kind of a dessert, the kids love them. When I told her that we make them for breakfast she laughed at the thought. She then said we should make 2 per person and with only 2 pans going I understood why she said it would take 2 hours. As she started the soup and salad, I continued on with the pancakes.80+ pancakes later I was finished! I had stacked them in the oven to keep warm and it was the biggest stack of large pancakes I have ever seen not to mention ever made. I was so sick of making them that I could barely eat one, but starvation lured me to them.

For dinner one evening we made a very Austrian dish called Knudel. I had eaten it previously while in the Peace Program and had thought many times that I would like to know how they are made and I soon got the chance. It’s a mixture of bread crumb squares kind of like croutons and you add to that some milk, eggs, cheese, flour and any thing else you want, like spinach or other finely chopped vegetables and multiple spices. Once you mix it all together you form it into balls and drop them into boiling water for about 15 minutes. They are really good and usually you put a couple in a bowl and add some soup or cream sauce. Well, 75 ‘balls’ later we were finished and I was really getting tired of Knudel!

My first official ‘working’ day!

Monday, 17 September, 2007

Katushia, Peter and I left the house at 8 AM sharp to head to the market. We stopped for coffee and a quick breakfast and then headed to the Hofah (a supermarket but not American size) 1.5 hours and 2.5 shopping carts later we loaded the truck up and headed back to the house. Later that day a school group (28 young teenage kids and 2 teachers) were to arrive.

After cleaning out the disgusting smelly food from the deep freeze which we then found out had stopped working sometime earlier in the week, we put the groceries away (enough to feed the group for 4 days).

At 1:00 Peter and I left the house and went to pick up the safety climbing gear and a guy named Martin. We then met the busload of city kids and proceeded to lead them climbing over the rocks and through the canyon reaching the Schalklhof 2 hours later. They then got settled into their tee pee’s which will be their home for the next 4 days.

At 5:00 we briefed them on their duties (fire starting, wood cutting, cleaning up, recycling, etc) before they had dinner. At 9:00 we all met in one of the tee pee’s for a little story telling, survival necessities, drum beating and more native spirit stuff. I finally fell exhausted into bed around 10 very satisfied about my new place of existence.

21 September, 2007

day spent in Imst

Friday, 14 September 2007

Today Peter and I went into Imst which is the town he is from. We didn’t really have any plans other than to bring Katushia to the Train station so she could visit her boyfriend before she leaves for Africa on the 23rd. After realizing the beautiful warm weather may not last much longer this year, we hiked a bit in Imst and then went into an area that in the winter is a ski resort kind of place.

There is a ride of sorts used year round which propels you down the mountain on little carts. We bought tickets and then rode the ski lift close to the top of the small mountain. Once at the top we were strapped into the little cart things; hands placed on the only control (pole levers on both sides of the cart) and told to push the lever forward to go and pull back to stop.

I thought “oh cool” and proceeded to go slowly down after testing the stopping mechanism. I rounded a bend in the track and to my joy, picked up speed. All was fine until a hair pin turn in the track caused a rather girlish yelpish scream escape my lips! Previous experience of dropping expensive things has given me the knowledge to always wrap the little strap on my camera around my wrist which saved the life of the precious electronic devise as I slammed on the brakes. I took a glance behind me; Peter’s cart was not in sight, whew…

I then checked the belts around my shoulders and lap secured my camera and headed down again at full speed. It was such a head rush to go so fast and tested my control issue; as I was completely at the mercy of the mechanics of the ride. I rounded another curve at full speed letting my lungs release sounds of joyful fright and almost slammed into the sightseeing cart in front of me. The look on the couple’s faces as they turned their heads to see just what in the hell was coming at them made me bust up laughing. I again slammed on the brakes and called my apologies to the young man and woman who (relieved to have escaped death) smiled nicely and made their way down the tracks a little faster this time. I waited for them to get out of sight only to hear Peter coming up behind me. We chatted for a minute and then we were both off again… At the bottom we sat with some people Peter knew and then headed back to the Schalklhof; another fine day in Austria.

vague memory....

Thursday, 13 September 2007

I have a vague memory of being chased by a cow at one point in my life. I was with one or both of my sisters and we were crossing a field and then a cow or maybe a bull came at us and we fled to safety over a fence, after being scared shitless. This memory came back to me as I was walking down to the area where we throw the leftover food. There are 5 cows here roaming around the same area and I had to pass through them. As I walked in their area, one of them stopped eating and just looked at me. I gathered up my mental strength (as I estimated how long it would take me to make a mad dash to safety) and said “hi cow, how’s the grass this morning”. She just looked at me and then continued eating. I jumped over the fence to continue on to the bio-refuse. I then realized that there were a lot of old apples in the bucket I was carrying, so behind the safety of the fence, I tossed an apple to one of the cows. She just stared at me and then after careful inspection, she ate the fruit.

Then her big cow friends wanted one as qwll so I threw the apples to them one by one…as they moved closer to me. Finally the apples were gone and I was ready to walk back to the house but the cows were standing firm begging for more. I thought, shit, now they will attack me…why didn’t I leave a couple for the way back! I walked around one of the teepees and waited for them to forget about me and the apples. Since they are cows after all, they soon forgot why they were standing there and started walking the other way and I made my way back to the house. I hope they don’t remember the apple girl and chase me down the next time I come out. Maybe I will have to start scouring the area for wild apples…

beautiful Fall Day

Wednesday, 12 September, 2007

My dear father you would be so proud of me; today I dug potatoes. Since I spent the better part of the day yesterday inside cleaning I wanted to spend today outside. I went into the garden and began to clean up a bit; as the house the poor garden had been neglected for awhile. I started pulling weeds in the carrots and when boredom took over, I moved along to the tomatoes. I had such wonderful thoughts of my beautiful 91 year old grandmother and her perfect tomato plants as I proceeded to tie them all upright to reveal their luscious fruit which were beginning to rot on the ground. Peter then came out and we began on the potatoes. As I started digging, I became a little girl again, but thing time instead of grudgingly gathering the potatoes, I felt excited to cook them later. I ate carrots that I plucked from the ground (except the one with worm marks, I’m not THAT into nature). Such a simple task, such wonderful pleasures.

I am starting to see life all around me; a garden full of food and herbs; little critters that will do me no harm; amazing energy coming from the mountains surrounding me, everything…

I am living in a valley surrounded by mountains. To the right is Switzerland, to the left Austria and directly ahead Italy. I feel so much history here! I am in my room waiting for it to warm up from the wood stove I just lit. My first fire in my room! I got it lit and then went to discuss the upcoming schedules with Peter. I had a funny feeling that something might be wrong, but after glancing downstairs a couple times, I let it slide and proceeded to plan the adventures to come. When I went down to my room 30 minutes later, I opened the door and my room was totally engulfed in smoke! I quickly shut the door behind me and opened both my big windows and desperately tried to get all the smoke out before Peter came down. I was laughing about the fact that he was just telling me how much assistance I can give with the next group and he was confident in my abilities to help in many ways and then to find me trying not to start the house on fire! I found the knob that opens the flu (or what ever it is called) and the smoke quit pouring out of the lid and then with the windy day, it quickly left my room…just as I heard footsteps outside my door. Whew…safe this time…

9 11

Tuesday, 11 September, 2007

Today I woke up lazily around 10 and then proceeded to clean for the next 5 hours and it was pure joy. I realized that when I clean, it’s not a compulsive thing, it’s actually relaxes me. The house here is about 100 years old and has 4 floors, lots of wood and lots of windows. The summers are extremely busy with one group after another coming through, so the ‘living quarters’ of the house were in dire need of some TLC, which I was happy to provide. Originally I was settled up on the 4th floor in a little attic bedroom which was so cute, but then after 2 nights there I knew I would not be able to stay there in the winter. It was really cold already and the heat does not make it up to that floor. I was given the choice of a room on the 1st floor which is the only room used as a bedroom on this floor. It’s perfect; I am on the same floor as the kitchen, toilet and living room and front door. Hiking up 2 floors to my room would have gotten old real fast! I cleaned my new room which had been shut up for many months. It was really dirty and I spent the greater part of the day in there. Once it was spotless and most of the spiders chased away (I left 3 of them because we agreed that if I don’t bother them they won’t bother me and also they have to keep in my sight so I know they didn’t sneak into my bed).

Because I have been in school non-stop and on Sat. and Sun. also, I really never knew what the date was or even which day it was…so it was well into the afternoon when Katushia told me it was Sept. 11th. I took a moment to think about what I was feeling at that moment. The sad thing was that I only felt anger. My first thought wasn’t compassion for those who lost their life on this day; my first thought was about pres. g.w. sending over 3000 US men and women to their death in a foreign country. I swallowed my negative thoughts and remembered what a beautiful place I am in and how fortunate I am that the ones I know and love are safe.

´home´at last...

I am not able to get online often here, so my posts will be in spurts!

Monday, 10 September

I am settled here at Schalklhof! K and I arrived on Saturday via train from Innsbruck. We took the train to Landeck and then a bus to Schalklhof…well, the bus actually dropped us off along the highway and then we walked along the highway until we saw the dirt road that would take us to our new home. We were cracking up along the highway since we both had big “backpacking” backpacks but then K was pulling a suitcase on wheels and I had a big duffle strung over one shoulder and we both had larger bags with our laptops in them. It must have been a sight for passing cars…two women overloaded with luggage walking along the highway. We finally made it to the turn off and we were both so exhausted and ready to ditch our things. I kept thinking that I could just leave one bag along the road and come back for it, and then my mind would think…just a couple more steps. We passed a house and K said she would ask the people if we could leave our big bags there and we could come back for them...but then we walked by in silence, both thinking about how we wouldn’t want to return later to get the bags left behind...so we trudged on.

Finally the Schalklhof was in sight and we were so excited! When we reached the porch we dropped everything and just ran inside. It was prearranged that whoever got there first (Katuschia and Andreas were in town buying food) would make coffee, so we did that and just sat outside in the garden to wait for their return. There was a group of adult students on a vision quest in the mountains with the owner Peter and they were returning after 4 days in the mountains so K and I were put directly to work. As we were making a large wreath of leaves and ribbon (as a welcome back token) I was amazed that it had only been 1.5 hours since my arrival. It felt like I had been here for years and I had forgotten that my things were still outside on the sidewalk and I hadn’t even unpacked a single thing.

K and I then welcomed back the students and then proceeded to find our rooms. After putting my things away, we went with Andreas to the mountain to gather all the supplies left there. We drove to the site, but then had to hike up a small rocky trail to the campsite. It was quite exhausting going up so high and when we reached the site and saw ALL the things (tarps, canteens, cooking supplies, tools, etc) I knew it was going to be a workout going down. K and I were loaded up with these huge packs on our back that went down past my butt and was higher than my head. If I would not have had a walking stick, I would have fallen over from the weight and size. I also carried a gas tank thing (for cooking) which I kept switching from hand to hand. My knees made it down the trail to the bottom and we unpacked the bags into the van and then headed back up for the second round of things and to clean up the site and make it look like no one had been there. It was such a wonderful feeling to get down the 2nd and final time. I just lay down in the grass on the side of the road and stretched. I knew my muscles would be so sore the next day (and they are!)

It was then back to work at the house helping to bring the food downstairs for the students and cleaning up everything. It was actually a nice welcoming and I felt right at home with no awkward greetings from the others who I really didn’t know. It brought us all together in a way that couldn’t have been done sitting around chit chatting. I am really happy here.

26 August, 2007


I have been offline for about a week now, by choice. I really felt like I was going to explode! I know I have talked about how much this year's group is really connected and there have been no conflicts, unlike last year...Well, even though everything is just hunky dorey, I suddenly felt the need for air. To get away from everyone! I have been living breathing my fellow students since July 9th and I really need some alone time just to think, read, type, cry, or whatever comes to my agitated mind.

On 21 Aug. we started our 5th and final Modular Period of this term and there have been so many thoughts going through my head about everything pertaining to my life. I had been drug through one ‘challenge’ after another and although I really do enjoy it all, after awhile I just needed to be alone. SO when starting this final period, I was overjoyed when I remembered that it was titled “Personal Peace of Mind for Universal Peace” and would be given by Swami Veda Bharati and Stoma Parker. We would be taught the fine art of meditation and I was so looking forward to it, BUT I was not prepared for what was to come! The moment I entered the room and saw Swami Veda up on a table in his meditation position, I was enthralled. I was equally impressed with Stoma, who is from the US, but has been guided by Swami Veda for about 30 years or more.

Stoma and Tejaswini (an assistant of Swami Veda) started everyday by guiding us through some relaxation exercises and then Swami Veda instructed us on proper breathing and posture in order to facilitate meditation. We had class 6 hours a day (with a break for lunch) for 4 days straight and it was the most powerful thing I have ever done. I felt so disappointed when it was over. I have had so many thoughts (some of which I have posted) throughout the year and the relaxation sessions along with the lectures from Swami Veda put so many things into perspective. I also received some encouraging news from the Peace Studies director regarding my thesis and I am confident that I will have it finished (thus GRADUATING!!) in January, 2008. I really feel so blessed to have had this and many opportunities and I am learning not to question “privilege” so much and to accept that the path that I am on is the right one and everything is happening for a reason; so that I can fulfill my purpose in this life before I move on to another.

Of course since I am not CONTROLLING my life anymore, I make tentative plans knowing that they may (and probably will) change at any time. My current plan is to go on to Native Spirit Camp in Sept. after this program and stay there until January and then after graduation, I want to head to India to visit Swami Veda’s Center there. I may have a few leads on NGO’s jobs in India as well, but I am not even going to think about that yet…it’s still 5 months away. I’m taking things 1 day at a time. And tomorrow starts my first 3 days off since…who knows when AND my roommate will be gone so I am sooooo looking forward to some much needed “Melinda Time”.

Swami Veda Bharati

Swami Veda’s website - http://www.bindu.org/ and http://swamiveda.org/index.htm

14 August, 2007

time, time, I got no time.........

YIKES. I have had class non stop since the 27th of July, on the weekends too. Last Saturday and Sunday we were all saying it was Tuesday and Wednesday as not to think about having class on the weekend. The next day off is on Aug. 20th! yep, almost a full month of non-stop studies...How peaceful is that?? Everything has been going well other than the lack of time off.

I have been running again and one of the students from Nepal is guiding those who want to in yoga in the mornings. The exercise is a great break since I feel like all I am doing lately is eating and studying. We finally took a night off of studying and danced like fools till 2 in the morning! It felt really good to release so much energy.

Boogie Nights! Group Shot!

12 August, 2007


When I arrived at Native Spirit Camp, I immediately became calm and like a Zombie. I was so relaxed that if someone would have pushed me over, I would have just fallen onto the ground and laid there. This was in stark contrast to the previous 5 days working with the Austrian Army. “In the Army” I was an overactive machine who couldn’t calm down. I barked orders (in a peaceful way of course) and strangely enough people listened… Because of my initial leadership/Commander position (which was given to me), the image that I actually knew what in the hell was going on was instilled in many of my fellow student's minds. Little did they know that I often felt completely helpless when confronted with a problem. At one point I went to Major Rott and said that I either need to scream at the top of my lungs or run as fast as I can away from this place because of the stress and pressure of the ‘challenges’ bestowed upon me.

Major Rott took me aside and showed me some breathing/visual exercises that I could to do calm down, which I thought worked wonders, but about 3 hours later Major Otis came up to me voicing his concerns that he thought I was stressed out. At the time of his confrontation, I was “on security” sitting in an army jeep along with another student drinking coffee and hot chocolate (it was freezing and raining). I told him that I actually felt really relaxed at that time. He gave me a look that said “you are full of shit”. I of course know that look well because it frequently finds itself forming upon my own face… We talked awhile longer and he said that he has been observing me and he does not understand why I haven’t collapsed because of my high activity level.

He then asked me what I do to relax; hmmm...he stumped me. What do I do to relax? I thought of the beach in Spain…but then I never actually sat still on the beach, what with the sea beaconing me in or Mother Nature calling me to pick up stupid people’s trash they have carelessly tossed aside. TV? Nope, don’t have one. Books? YES, books, but now I read to learn so brainless relaxing novels are out of the question; my thesis takes priority. A long hot bath? I’ve only had a shower stall for the past year. I then tried to convince him that I was indeed relaxed at that moment, really!… But then when the jeep door opened suddenly, I jumped, spilling my coffee in my lap; I received ‘the look’ from the Major along with the question “So you’re relaxed, huh?” I didn’t reply, but it did make me think. Can I relax? How? What makes me relax?

After the Army challenges, we went directly to Native Spirit Camp; you know the one who choose me as their “Cover Girl”…During the 7 days at the camp the feeling of relaxation was the focus on my mind. I tried to become as relaxed as I could; which would be an easier task here as there would be no “bombings; gunfire; mines; people with their arms blown off; frantic voices saying “Commander, what do we do”. I did not even 'organize' my things in the teepee; instead I just had piles of clothes on the wood floor. (honestly!) Unlike last year, if someone was not ‘doing their chores’ I really didn’t care. I let others take the ‘mother role’, although Andi contradicts me saying that I still took over more than I should have. I walked around, I meditated, I sat by the river, I relaxed.

The third to the last day, I started wondering if I could come back to this place after the program. It's REALLY expensive to do workshops here (usually lasting only a week at a time), so I knew I couldn't afford to do that. I decided to talk to Peter the owner/director and see if I could stay there and work for room/board/food and no money exchange. As the day grew nearer I started getting cold feet. I didn’t want to seem like I was trying to get something for nothing. Finally the last day (literally the last 2 hours before we left), I pulled Peter aside and said I had a question to ask him. Now his English is not the greatest so I had to make sure I was really clear about my proposition. I had been rehearsing it over and over in my head so I just blurted out, “Peter, do you think I could come back in Sept. after the program ends and do work here without pay.” I then started rambling on about how I can clean the teepee’s; mend the fences; cut firewood for the winter; blah blah blah…he stopped me and looked me straight in the eye and said that he felt like the place needed me. He said he had already had the same feeling that I would be a great asset there and also that I did not need to “sell myself” to him, as he is very much aware of my capabilities.

I suddenly wanted to cry! I felt so overwhelmed with joy! Peter then gave me one of his huge bear hugs and said “the Schalklhof welcomes you”. So….this will be my new home after the program ends on Sept. 7th. How long will I stay? 2 weeks, 2 months, 2 years…Only I will know when it is time to leave...I’ll feel it and then move on.

28 July, 2007

"in the woods"

I leave tomorrow morning for 2 weeks 'in the woods'. questions and concerns??? refer to last year's posts, at this time, to get an idea of what I will be subjected to. During this time I will not have access to phones, email, and any other form of electronics. I will dearly miss my Ipod which has become my means of escape and in the next 2 weeks I will be surrounded by my fellow students 24/7.

25 July, 2007

What better friends that 'Peace Friends'

One of the students mentioned to me that she really feels comfortable with everyone and she is really happy. I knew her birthday was on the 24th so some of us went into town and I bought some 'fimo' clay and had the idea that everyone could make her a bead and we would string it onto a necklace for her. I was a nervous wreck for the past week since I took it upon myself to organize it all...Grant it, organization used to be my passion and as I have mentioned in numerous posts, it tends to rear it's ugly head now and then, BUT after arriving here, I have more or less abandoned my compulsive behavior. My side of the room is totally unorganized and I have clothes thrown all over. The strange thing is that it's really not bothering me. Is it possible to teach an old dog new tricks???

Since it was my idea for the necklace, It was only natural that I take control of the surprise project and had each student sneak into my room at different times to make their bead. We also had a barbecue one day that week and since we have Andi's car (and she still can't drive) I took a group into town to buy all the food, help organize the cookout logistics and then had to collect the money from everyone since I initially paid for the food and on top of that I was trying to keep the beads a secret. Stress was introduced once again into my life and I was not handling it very well. I had more than one person ask me if I was okay because I seemed a little 'out of sorts'.

Me and Nev busily working the grill.

Setting up and mingling before the feast.

Everyone enjoying the meal.

The night before her birthday, we were all feeling so low because no one had mentioned her birthday to her because we had an additional plan in mind. We had decided to wake her at 12 AM and sing happy birthday to her. As Nev walked around that evening, I could feel her disappointment about no one even mentioning her upcoming birthday; it was really hard to keep my mouth shut!

She couldn't sleep so she went into the computer room around 11:30 and at the stroke of Midnight 20 of us marched into the computer room each with a big candle singing 'Happy Birthday'. She was so surprised and it was hard not to cry with the emotions being transferred to one another. She promptly said eveyone must go down to the 'basement' bar area and have a toast, which we did! She did comment later that she really had not realized until much later that she had her PJ's on! The next day 2 of us decorated the doorway to her room so she encountered balloons and streamers as she left for breakfast. At lunch we presented her with the necklace and a birthday cake and she started to cry with happiness; which of course many followed suit. It really is such a close fun group this year and I do believe that it may be a little hard for me to say goodbye to many of them...

Midnight toast for more b-days to come.

The bead 'peace' necklace.