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Giving Thanks, my pledge

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Given what's going on all around my own country...and the world, I pledge:

An original Dharma Comic by Leah Pearlman

-- Brother David Steindl-Rast

In thanksgiving for life, I pledge
to overcome the illusion of entitlement
by reminding myself that everything is gift
and, thus, to live gratefully.

In thanksgiving for life, I pledge
to overcome my greed,
that confuses wants with needs,
by trusting that enough for all our needs is given to us
and to share generously
what i so generously receive.

In thanksgiving for life, I pledge
to overcome apathy
by waking up to the opportunities
that a given moment offers me
and so to respond creatively to every situation.

In thanksgiving for life, I pledge
to overcome violence
by observing that fighting violence by violence
leads to more violence and death
and, thus, to foster life by acting non-violently.

In thanksgiving to life, i pledge
to overcome fear which is the root of all violence
by looking at whatever i fear as an opportunity
and, thus, courageously to lay the foundation
for a peaceful future.


The joy and satisfaction of Simple Gifts --

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

GOANNA2 12/14/2014 3:42AM

    This is awesome Maha. I am going to share it too!
Thank you my friend. emoticon

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HIPPICHICK1 12/1/2014 1:18PM

    That is simply awesome! I'm going to share this with others. :-)

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READYRISA 11/28/2014 2:17PM

    Beautiful! Thank you for sharing and Happy Thanksgiving to you!!!!

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SNOWYOGA 11/27/2014 3:36AM

    Thank you! and Happy Thanks Giving emoticon

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BILL60 11/26/2014 7:55AM

    Very nice. Thank you for sharing.

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DDOORN 11/25/2014 3:00PM

    Such true, true words!

It makes far more sense to move from the gratitude of Thanksgiving to savoring the joys of what we already have on Buy Nothing Day than to pull a 180 into the materialism of Black Friday.


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SUBMOM2 11/25/2014 1:35PM

    This is beautiful, Maha. Thank you for sharing, and Happy Thanksgiving to you!

emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon

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Part II, Days-in-the-life in Ecuador, #19, 2014-15 Trip

Monday, November 17, 2014

Thay, as Thich Nhat Hanh is affectionately known

As I move through the days, the importance of the counsel from many of my teachers was forcefully brought home last week with the news of beloved Thich Nhat Hanh's critical health condition.

As it is taught, our human birth is very rare and precious. Vipassana teacher Kamala Masters wrote, "If this is so -- and even if it isn’t -- I ask myself this question: Am I taking care to live my life in a way that honors this precious human birth and makes the best use of it?"

My intention is to be mindful -- with each moment, each person acknowledged, each occasion lived fully. With this awareness, I share more of the simple daily moments and events as I live it out here in this lovely part of the earth plane.


Bus transportation -- the essential mode, besides walking, for getting around locally and long-distance.

One of the many helpful bus drivers on my routes

Every bus has an assistant to collect fares

On our way to Quiroga


I was thrilled one day to see a camper similar in size and type to mine in "el centro" of Otavalo. OF COURSE, after noticing that there were people in it, I HAD to knock and talk to them.

Here are Lionel, Nelly, Anna, and Nils, a lovely French family who are traveling from Uruguay to the USA via the Pan-American highway over a year's period. They shipped their camper to Uruguay and thus began their life-changing and inspiring journey! (OH! between Lionel and Nelly is "mi comadre" (the mother of my god son, Santiago -- but that's a story for the next blog)!


Meet Nayibe, a lovely Colombian woman who has lived in Ecuador for almost a year. She worked at a stationary/internet store in Cotacachi, where I met her. Talkative me, I inquired one day about her particular busy-ness. She said this was her last day at work, that she had been granted asylum in Canada (because of an abusive husband in Colombia) and she was trying to find a suitcase because she and her 17-yr. old son were leaving in FIVE DAYS. I said I had one she could have, and so our acquaintance began deepening to a friendship.

After coffee in a local cafe the Saturday before her departure we went to an internet shop so that she was able to video chat with family and friends in Colombia before her departure. I'm so happy to have had the opportunity to get to know this wonderful person, and now to follow her progress in her new environment!


There's a small organic farmers' market each Saturday in my neighborhood. Here are some photos from one shopping day:

Going clockwise--bananas, two big bunches of chard, mandarins, lemons, apples, peaches and one big papaya in the middle -- all for under $7.


My morning kitchen ritual ALWAYS includes...grinding some Intag, Ecuador dark beans and brewing a cupa' cupa' in my stainless steel Italian coffee maker that I carted here

Sometimes I drink it black and sometimes with some "panela" which looks like brown sugar, but is actually unrefined whole cane sugar that I either buy in a brick and grate, or buy already grated and packaged.


Now off to the central plaza on a beautiful Sunday, Parque Simon Bolivar, where the church, Iglesia San Luis is located (as well as the main municipal building), where families stroll and gather.

An Otavalan Indian couple out for a Sunday stroll

"Rico coco! Rico coco!" A fellow from the coast peddling fresh coconut juice

A young Ecuadorian family posing for me, the children enjoying ice cream

Peddling fresh sugar cane to suck on

Members of an Otavalan Indian family enjoying the day

The uibiquitous single braid of the male Otavalan Indian, typically done each morning by wife or mother


Later on Sunday I visited Zulinda in her lovely home and we went out for lunch to "Rincon Otavalito" --

Zulinda giving the young Otavalan Indian her order

Afternoon entertainment too -- folk music from the Andes, with dad and three brothers playing and singing


Kamala Masters has written a beautifully articulated piece about the preciousness of our human birth:


  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

SLASALLE 11/20/2014 4:39PM

    As always, I so love to read your blogs and see your pictures! Thanks for sharing.

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ABURRIS2 11/20/2014 12:54PM

    As always, thanks for the glimpse of life as you know it! I love how your interactions happen. Those of us that cross your path are so fortunate! emoticon

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SNOWYOGA 11/20/2014 1:00AM

    What a trip! Neat

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    You must be having a blast!

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HIPPICHICK1 11/19/2014 1:08AM

    Absolutely lovely! I'm living vicariously thru you!

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INBRAZILFORNOW 11/18/2014 5:02PM

    So very beautiful. I know you are enjoying every minute.

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JOANNANOW 11/18/2014 10:48AM

    Great photos. Thanks for such an interesting blog! emoticon emoticon

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2WHEELEDSHARON 11/18/2014 8:03AM

    your blogs! Beautiful, rich, sweet, thank you for sharing.

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GOANNA2 11/18/2014 5:10AM

    Maha, loved the poem and your beautiful blog.
You are very lucky to be able to buy such beautiful
fresh produce. I hope the lady who is going to Canada
has a good free life.
Namaste. emoticon

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SUBMOM2 11/18/2014 12:13AM

    What a beautiful post. Thank you for sharing!!

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BILLB000 11/17/2014 11:56PM

    Nice Maha. I see all the love, gratitude and mindfulness in your photos and blog. Tich Nhat Hanh would be as pleased and I am to enjoy your blog.

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DDOORN 11/17/2014 10:13PM

    So many full-hearted connections and such precious your time must be down there!


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Days-in-the-Life in Ecuador (in photos) #18, 2014-5 Trip

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Here is the home of Adelaida and Amrita, out in the country between Otavalo and Quiroga -- ALL three (including the house!) welcoming me to this new adventure. I spent my first month here after my September 25th arrival.

Enjoying morning coffee with Adelaida on the back patio

My god daughter, Amrita, camera-shy these days, let me take this photo a few weeks ago

In the kitchen, with humitas in process (masa harina and corn, slowly steamed in a pot of water, a savory treat)

Adelaida manually grinding the corn

The balcony outside my upstairs room at Adelaida's, the neighbor's greenhouse in the background and the Tibetan prayer flags dear Diana sent to Adelaida in the foreground

Clothes drying on other side of the second floor balcony, which wraps completely around the house

Adelaida's neighbors Hugh and Colette and their lovely home and small hostal; you can see that they are a (very short) stone's throw from Adelaida's; they are AVID gardeners...AND she couldn't ask for better neighbors


From Adelaida's I moved into Otavalo town right next door to the University of Otavalo. Downstairs is the restaurant Hierba Buena and upstairs the four bedroom flat

Martha, the owner, is an experienced restauranter. She designed the house and restaurant to her specifications. Here she is with a traditional Ecuadorian dessert which she made, quimbolitos, a tamale-like steamed sweet cake wrapped in an achira leaf

Martha has four employees in the restaurant; here is Jacqueline, the senior kitchen assistant

Here is Maria Luz (the third kitchen staff, Luis, is new and I haven't gotten a photo of him yet)

(Yes, he is as amicable as he appears!)

Lino Pastor, a Colombian with Ecuadorian residence, has been restaurant administrator for Martha for several years


I asked a passerby to take a photo of me, walking (as usual) through a park to "el pueblo" which, in this case, would be Otavalo; more photos from my walk follow:


My friend Lucho, computer technician and owner of this small shop near the bus terminal in Otavalo where he does maintenance and repair, as well as having computers for public use


I have been going intermittantly to a (Chinese) doctor of Chinese medicine, who speaks halting Spanish and no English:

Poster in the office

Poster outside office listing all the ailments Chinese medicine can help with

Me during a session (I've been bothered by limitation in movement of my right upper arm); you can see some of the needles (with hook-ups on each to send an electrical impulse where the needle is placed)

Sooooooooo...a small glimpse of my life here, a little of this, a little of that. I spent today with my *other* god child, Santiago, a 17-year old Otavalan Indian. I'll treat you to photos of that encounter soon, after one more "days-in-the-life" blog.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

SLASALLE 11/13/2014 8:58AM

    Hi Sweets - Great blog and thanks so much for sharing the pictures and the journey. I'm betting you didn't get my e-mail reply (about a time to Skype last weekend). Same applies this weekend; I'm pretty open. I'm thinking Spark is the best way to reach you? If not, let me know. I know your technology is dodgy there.

Much love,

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BILLB000 11/12/2014 8:50AM

    Love reading about your experiences Maha. I am grateful you are willing to share photos and stories. Your pictures are wonderful!

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SLAYINGDRAGONS 11/12/2014 8:20AM

    emoticon glad to hear more of the adventures of MAHA!

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GOANNA2 11/12/2014 6:25AM

    I'm so glad you have settled in to your new country.
Thank you for sharing the beautiful photos and giving
us a glimpse of life in another culture. I hope your
arm gets better soon. emoticon

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SUBMOM2 11/11/2014 10:16PM

    Looks like you are enjoying the best of the town and the country side. I hope your arm improves. Thanks for the photos and the updates!

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DDOORN 11/11/2014 9:39PM

    Such beautiful people and beautiful country!

Sorry to hear about your movement limitations and hoping the good doc will straighten it out for you!


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MISS_VIV 11/11/2014 9:36PM

    Thank you so much for sharing your experience in Ecuador.. I looked up the recipe for Quimbolitos.. and they sound sooooooooo good. Maybe one of the cooler days this fall I will try making some. It is so good to see the faces of those that you encounter on a daily basis and make your life there really enjoyable. Sorry you are experiencing limited movement in your arm/shoulder, but it looks like you have found the perfect place to obtain relief.

Hugs my friend

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COSMIC_ENERGY 11/11/2014 9:07PM

    Hey Maha! I am privileged to be able to glimpse this wonderful trip--thank you!

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OPTIMIST1948 11/11/2014 8:31PM

    What a delightful adventure you must have had! I'm looking forward to reading the next installment!

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    I love that you can visit this county.

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READYRISA 11/11/2014 7:32PM

    emoticon emoticon Beautiful photos! Again, thank you for taking us to Ecuador, via photos... !

Comment edited on: 11/11/2014 7:33:05 PM

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HIPPICHICK1 11/11/2014 2:23PM

    I love the pic of the guy on the bike with the fruit stand attached to it!
We need more of that in North America!

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Good bye USA, hello Ecuador! #17, 2014 Trip

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

We now return to our regular programming playing catch-up, so that I can begin sharing with you in the "present tense," here in Ecuador! And I believe this is last in the "catch-up" series -- my lovely, bittersweet stay with sister Dawn in her amazing condo in Pacifica (about 10 minutes from the airport, at least at 5:00am in the morning!)

The packing process was cumbersome and tedious and Dawn and her lovely housemate were long-suffering and generous about the mess. Of course, beyond that, Dawn was over-the-top helpful in too many ways to recount at this point -- counsel, trips for last-minute things in her car, free attendance at her wonderful yoga classes , storage of *stuff* in her garage that wouldn't fit luggage weight requirements, handling the bookkeeping for contributions coming in for Amrita's education, taking me to the airport before dawn (no pun intended), etc.

And did I mention that Dawn was in the midst of chemotherapy for colon cancer...a "small" detail which did not deter this warrior woman from being SO present for me in SO many ways (I am thrilled to say that she has finally completed the chemo and is getting close to 100% "back in the saddle," currently as a senior teacher assisting her teacher with a yoga therapy training program as I write this.

Two days before the September 24 departure was gorgeous and Dawn and I walked down to the village (guess why it's called "Pacifica?") --

This is basically the view from Dawn's front room picture window

Dawn's neighbor and friend, Victor, took a few photos of us as we started the trek down the hill

Dear Dawn in all her glory!

Beauty on the trail

Getting closer to the pier

The day before departure was wearing on, packing and weighing (and re-weighing, ad naseum) of suitcases continued, and suddenly the phone rings. It's Jnani and Annie, announcing that they're heading over from San Francisco with food for dinner. It was a welcome relief, comic relief at that, from the heaviness of the task at-hand!

Dawn in the kitchen grating some cheese, as I recall

Jnani (left) and Annie at the table

These women are surely solving some of the world's problems (a huge wall mirror is at Jnani's back)

What a lovely send-off by three beautiful sisters, in addition to all the love and support and substantial assistance that was offered to me by my Bay Area and Sacramento family. To paraphrase HIPPICHICK , "It takes a village to get Maha ready. My village is pretty groovy!!"

One sister was sorely missed...Diana-in-Maui, who sent me these soft, warm, pretty flannel jammies for Ecuador nights. The amazing trip we had together in the Toyota Dolphin cruising up from San Diego to San Francisco in June *almost* made up for her absence.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

INBRAZILFORNOW 11/7/2014 4:48PM is so joyous!

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MARYJOANNA 11/7/2014 5:40AM

  What a wonderful experience to have!

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    Wonderful. Glad you are having a good time!

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SUBMOM2 11/5/2014 2:14PM

    These are great and your adventure is an inspiration! Can't wait to see what's next!

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BILL60 11/5/2014 7:50AM

    A super send-off. Enjoy your journey.

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GOANNA2 11/5/2014 6:17AM

    Thank you Maha. I am happy for you that you
were able to have such a wonderful time with
your sister Dawn. Packing is quite an art. I feel
as though I was with you help you you choose
what to pack. the jammies will surely keep you
warm. How long will you stay in Equador?
Enjoy your time there. emoticon

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READYRISA 11/4/2014 11:15PM

    Thank you for sharing such beautiful pictures! I feel like I'm there with you!
emoticon emoticon

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DDOORN 11/4/2014 9:49PM

    Beautiful send off for even MORE beautiful times & people!

Thx for sharing so many sweet pics of yourself, your friends and such gorgeous nature!


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JUST_BREATHE08 11/4/2014 9:30PM

    emoticon emoticon emoticon

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KALIGIRL 11/4/2014 8:24PM

    How wonderful!

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Amrita en La Unidad Educativa Las Lomas, #16, 2014 Trip

Sunday, November 02, 2014

We now interrupt regular programming to bring you an out-of-order report because...well, it's TIME! Time to share how things are going with my 14-year old god daughter Amrita (whose quinceañera will be December 30!) in the new private school in Cotacachi, Ecuador, with smaller classes and ostensibly more personalized attention.

Amrita, who is extremely reticent about having her picture taken, acquiesced recently and let me take a couple shots.

In September, at the suggestion of a friend with whom I had shared a conversation I had with Amrita's mother Adelaida about her quandry in how to find a way for Amrita to go to this recommended institution to begin high school. I sent out an APB (All Points Bulletin -- lol) to many friends about the financial need -- a total, as it turns out, of about $1240+miscellaneous field trips and other costs, for the school year (there have already been many "extra" costs just in the first two months of school).

Extraordinarily, 19 friends gave generously, sending a total of $1538, which miraculously should provide for virtually all the financial needs for the year.

Amrita started out slightly academically challenged at the new school, which is more rigorous than her prior experience in school. But she's bright and is picking up as the semester wears on. I have no doubt that she will succeed, and do it well.

As for the school, both Adelaida and I are a bit disappointed in the quality of instruction, the experience of instructors and the resources available. In any case, it is an improvement over the alternative she was considering.

The sign outside the school says: UELL Unidad Educativa "Las Lomas" -- Bienvenidos -- Welcome -- Alli Shamushka ("Welcome" in Quechua, the native language of the Otavalan Indians); Las Lomas means "the hills" in Spanish

Parents and children heading in for an event on campus; campus building. As is apparent, the school is outside the madness of an urban setting, with space and beauty surrounding it.

Amrita's physics teacher agreed to pose for me, did Amrita's mom, my dear friend Adelaida

Otavalan Indian woman in typical native garb among onlookers

Telltale braid of Otavalan Indian dad sitting in bleachers with daughter

Senior gymnists performing

Adelaida and Amrita join me in sending out a gigantic GRACIAS for the spirit of generosity demonstrated by all the friends who contributed to Amrita's schooling this year!

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

MISS_VIV 11/4/2014 7:56PM

    i NEVER tire of reading your blogs and stories of your adventures.
The pictures complete the story.. They do not quite 'feel' the same as having you in the neighborhood.

Big hugs

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BILL60 11/4/2014 7:36AM

    I wish Amrita the very best. And well done Madrina.

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JUST_BREATHE08 11/3/2014 11:32AM

    emoticon emoticon

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FRECKS96 11/3/2014 8:27AM

    What an amazing community of freinds and loved ones. All the best to everyone!

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SLASALLE 11/3/2014 8:05AM

    Amrita is a beautiful, smart girl. You are a wonderful god mother. This blog arrived on a morning when I really needed it ... amazing how that happens.

I am always so astonished at what the power of numbers can do. Small pieces from many add up big.

And somehow, we usually get what we need.

Much love,

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GOANNA2 11/3/2014 7:58AM

    You are amazing and so are all the friends who
helped towards Amrita's schooling for the year.
I wish her great success. Blessings to you maha.
emoticon Namaste...

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HIPPICHICK1 11/3/2014 7:26AM

    It takes a village to raise a child. Your village is pretty groovy!!

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SUBMOM2 11/2/2014 11:40PM

    Thank you for sharing this inspiring story. I hope Amrita has a great school year!

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DDOORN 11/2/2014 9:59PM

    You are such a catalyst for wonderful efforts and events, 'Maha! VERY impressive fundraising you and your contacts were able to pull off! And so cool that you are able to witness the fruits of your efforts alongside Adelaida's & Amrita's!


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READYRISA 11/2/2014 8:17PM

    I loved learning about your goddaughter Amrita and loved the photos!

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BILLB000 11/2/2014 7:19PM

    Amazing story Maha. I loved reading about Amrita and your role in helping her along. With the better education comes a sense of hope and a sense of empowerment. The photos are wonderful too. Your goddaughter looks bright, alert, and read to learn!

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HOLLYM48 11/2/2014 6:55PM

    That is so awesome that people were so generous. I wish Amrita all the best!!

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