Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Dissolution of the Mandala

This is something that I've been meaning to post about for quite a while now but at the time, I was going through some turmoil in personal life and didn't have the motivation to really sit down and write until now.  Better late than never, right?

As you may know (if you happen to be someone who knows me personally), I spent the entire week of this past New Year's Eve (Dec. 27, 2011 to Jan. 3, 2012) attending the Woodford Folk Festival in Woodford, Queensland.  I could spend about a week straight writing about all of the amazing things I experienced in Woodfordia but today I want to talk about one particular experience that made me ponder.

On New Year's day, the last official day of the festival, the resident group of Tibetan Monks performed a dissolution ceremony for the sand mandala that they had spent the past six days carefully constructing.  Now before I tell you about the ceremony, let me tell you a little bit of what I know about mandalas.

'Mandala' is a Sanskrit word which can be translated to 'circle'.  Mandalas are usually either square or circular and contain four gates.  They are also usually symmetrical and concentric in design.  Here is another excerpt from Wikipedia because they do a better job of explaining things than I do:

"A kyil khor (Tibetanདཀྱིལ་འཁོརWyliedkyil 'khor), Tibetan for mandala in Vajrayana Buddhism usually depicts a landscape of the "Buddha-land", or the enlightened vision of a Buddha, which inevitably represents the nature of experience and the intricacies of both the enlightened and confused mind, or "a microcosm representing various divine powers at work in the universe."[5] Such mandalas consist of an outer circular mandala and an inner square (or sometimes circular) mandala with an ornately decorated mandala "palace"[12] placed at the center. Any part of the inner mandala can be occupied by Buddhist glyphs and symbols,[13] as well as by images of its associated deities, which "symbolise different stages in the process of the realisation of the truth."

If you would like to read more about the symbolism and meaning behind mandalas, please visit the Wikipedia page by clicking here.  I am by no means an expert on religion of any sort and it doesn't seem appropriate to copy and paste an entire article into my blog.

Anyways, here is a close up photo of a sand mandala that looks very similar to the one that the monks made at Woodford.  This photo was also found on Wikipedia.  You can see how intricate and beautiful these designs are.  You can also tell that I'm a big fan of doing my research on Wikipedia.  Mostly because I'm lazy.

The dissolution ceremony, like the one performed at the festival, is a meditation on the impermanence of life. At Woodford, the monks gathered in one of the performance venues along with all of the many spectators.  After some speeches and other ceremonial tidbits, the monks swept their days of hard work into a big, brightly colored pile and placed it in a container.  They then carried the sand through the festival streets in a procession that involved plenty of horn blowing and cymbal crashing (if anyone happens to know the names of these instruments or the container that the sand is carried in, please let me know).  

Here is a crude video of the procession that I took while I followed the monks to the river.  The person that I'm talking to in the background is my good friend James, who I met on the first day of the festival.

The dissolution of the mandala was a very poignant event and got me to pondering over the impermanence of life just as it was intended to do.  People, especially those who live in developed countries spend their whole lives carefully crafting their own little world, their own intricate, colorful mandala.  They gather around them their possessions, the people that they love, and create their own identity hoping to somehow distinguish themselves from the billions of other people who are out there doing the exact same thing.  They decorate their homes, their cars, and their bodies with the things that define them as an individual.  But, when all is said and done, every person must eventually pass from this world and on to whatever exists or doesn't exist beyond it.  In the end, each person's carefully crafted 'mandala' is swept away like the sands of the mandala and gently disappears from existence.  

Now I know that this makes it sound like I have a rather bleak view of things but I really don't mean it that way at all.  The dissolution ceremony presented the ephemeral nature of the human life not as something to be mourned and dreaded, but as something that is made all the more lovely and sacred because it is so temporary.  To me, this ceremony is telling us as a human race that we should cherish the time that we have and never waste as single 'grain' of it because all too soon it will all be gone.  

Now, on that note, here are some photos that I took of the actual ceremony and mandala.  Sorry that most of them are not very clear.  I had to stand on a chair to see over all the people and also had to zoom in very close to capture the details.

Isn't it a beautiful thing?  It's another cold, gray day here today.  I'm about to go for a jog and then do some holiday planning before I have to report for duty at the Dingo Beach Pub.  I hope that you are happy and well, wherever in the world you may be.



Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Travel Bucket List: The Burj Al Arab

Hi there!

Before I get started talking about one of my many dream travel destinations, I want to share something funny that happened to me today.  Last night, I had a little bonfire beach party with a couple of my coworkers and some other Dingo Beach locals.  Once the boys decided that they were tired of sitting around and staring at the fire, we all headed back to Trent's house to continue the party at an indoor location (Trent is one of the few young-ish locals who frequents the Dingo Beach pub).  I may or may not have put on a nice little table dancing show for my friends and then I ended up sleeping on Trent's couch because I couldn't be bothered walking all the way back to my place at night.  

(I'll add a photo of the bonfire here when I get around to uploading all the new ones)

This morning, I woke up to sunshine streaming through the window and a fully swollen upper lip.  It turns out that some sort of insect bit my lip while I was sleeping and turned me into a semi-permanent duck face!  Luckily, the swelling went down pretty quickly and was all but unnoticeable by the time I had to go to work.  While it lasted, though, my friend Luke (he's the head chef at the Dingo Beach Hotel) kept saying things like "your lip has a lip on it" and then laughing a whole lot.  

Now that I've bored you all to tears with my idiotic ramblings, let's move on to the good stuff shall we?

Ever wanted to stay in the world's only seven star hotel ever created?  Yep, that's what I thought.  Well then, let me introduce you to the Burj Al Arab; the world's only seven star hotel.  The video that I posted below pretty much tells you everything you need to know about it but just in case you can't watch it or don't feel like watching it, let me tell you a little bit about it myself.

The following is a quote from Wikipedia because I'm feeling too lazy to put all this stuff into my own words.  Why make the effort when it's so easy to just plagiarize it all? Just kidding.  Kinda. Wikipedia probably does a better job of describing things than I could anyways:

"Burj Al Arab (Arabicبرج العرب‎,Tower of the Arabs) is a luxury hotel located in DubaiUnited Arab Emirates. At 321 m (1,053 ft), it is the fourth tallest hotel in the world. Burj Al Arab stands on an artificial island 280 m (920 ft) out from Jumeirah beach, and is connected to the mainland by a private curving bridge. The shape of the structure is designed to mimic the sail of a ship. Sometimes incorrectly referred to as "the world's only seven-Star hotel", its star rating has been often debated."

The hotel houses two restaurants, one of which contains an aquarium which holds 9,900,000 liters of water.  Those of you who actually know me will know how much I love fish and aquariums.  I would probably go to that restaurant and spend hours just staring at that aquarium.  You'd better be a rock star or a member of the British Royal Family if you want to stay here, however.  The rooms range from $1000 to $27,000 per night.  The Burj has been referred to by one critic as "a theater of opulence".  It better be at that price range! It's ok, though.  My daddy says that I'm a princess so I'm just gonna go ahead and book the Royal Suite for my next holiday weekend!  

Here are some photos to tickle your fancy:

Al Mahara Restaurant

Al Muntaha Restaurant

A view of the Burj at night

A truly opulent hallway

The Luxury Suite

Seriously though, if you really want to see what the Burj al Arab is all about, just watch that video that I have so conveniently posted right up there on this very web page.

Still not impressed?  Well I'm sorry to have to give you the bad news over the internet like this, but you are certified crazy and need to be thrown straight into the loony bin!

What's on your travel bucket list?  I'd love to hear about the places that you hope to visit before you kick the bucket!

Note: It's not actually clear to me whether the seven-star rating claim has been self-granted by the managers of the hotel or if it was just the result of some clever wording in a review written by a critic.  Either way, it has proven itself to be a very successful marketing strategy.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Always Been Like a Hummingbird

I love the Weepies and I love this song.  I know that people say this all the time and that every time they do it just ends up making them sound really stupid and cliche but I'm gonna say it anyways: I really feel like this song describes me.  Yes, really.

"Always been like a hummingbird and I can't keep still.  Listen up, lover listen up, I never will."  

My whole life, I've always felt restless, always wanting to flit from place to place, never satisfied with where I am and always looking for something bigger.  A sweeter or more vibrant flower, if you want to continue on with the hummingbird simile.  Or perhaps it's more that I don't want to stop until I've visited every flower in the garden.  I know it's not always a good way to be and I do try to enjoy the present and live in the moment and all that good stuff. But perhaps it's not all bad.  My restless nature means I'm always moving, never sitting still.  Hence my blog's website name, "at least she isn't standing still".  I know that I can never be happy if my life is too stagnant.  It keeps things interesting, that's for sure.

Anyways, here's a picture of the adorable couple that calls themselves The Weepies:

If you've never heard of the Weepies, be sure to check em out.  They're kind of like a mix between indie and easy listening I think and they're one of my favorite things to listen to when I just want to sit back, relax and be lighthearted.

The Most Mentionable Unmentionables

So I have another confession to make and this may seem a little bit strange, but I have recently become completely obsessed with buying pretty lingerie.  Is that weird?  Or do most girls obsess over having perfectly matched bras and panties (blech I hate that word) like I do?  

Anyways, after having worn the same five ugly, worn-out bras over and over again for the past year straight (ya know, because I'm a backpacker and didn't exactly have the luggage space pack a bra for every occasion), I decided that it was time to invest in some new ones.  Given that I currently live in a rather remote location, and also that the closest physical shops selling lingerie are either Target or ones that cater to teenagers, I opted for a little online shopping.  Don't get me wrong, I'm not bashing Target, I think Target is great.  I was just after something with a little more sex appeal.  

Also, out of curiosity, I tried to use the internet to find out what kind of lingerie guys actually like since I know that a lot of the times the things that I think are sexy may not actually be all that sexy.  It turns out that every guy is different (go figure).  Some guys like little lacy things, some like basic cotton, some prefer garters and stockings, and some guys prefer you to wear nothing at all.  The conclusion that I finally came to after all of this intensive research is that, ladies, you should just wear whatever the hell makes you feel good because there is no way you can possibly please 'em all.

Now I guess you're probably hoping that I'll eventually get to the point of this post.  Ok, here it is:  I love La Senza lingerie.  Now I bet you are thinking "why the %$&*# couldn't you have just said that and saved me the trouble of reading all that other crap?"  Because that's just not how I roll.  So get over it.  

La Senza is an Australian lingerie line that has physical shops all over the country, but also has a pretty nifty online store that you can visit by clicking here.  I know that it can be pretty intimidating trying to buy bras that you can't actually try on but I guarantee you that if you use La Senza's bra measuring guide and fitting chart, you will end up with a perfect fit every time.  Their lingerie is super sexy, high quality, great fitting, and most importantly, AFFORDABLE!  

Check out some of these super mentionable unmentionables that you can score at La Senza:


Like 'em?  Here're some more:



I highly recommend the No-Show Brazilian, the black lace one pictured underneath the aqua blue bra.  It's comfortable, sexy, and definitely lives up to its no-show promise.  I definitely recommend investing in some pretty underpinnings.  As frivolous as it may sound, wearing something fierce underneath your work clothes can make a woman feel a little bit more fierce all that way through.

In other news, it was nice and sunny today in Dingo Beach but it was still cold.  I don't particularly like the cold weather because it severely limits my choice of activities to do on my days off.  But I guess it's good practice for the chilliness that I'm in for when I head over to New Zealand in a couple weeks, right?  Optimism is good.

I hope you all are having a lovely day, where ever in the world you are!



Friday, May 25, 2012

Things Backpackers Do

Throughout the course of my travels, especially over the past few months since I left Sippy Downs, I've noticed some funny things about backpackers.  Much like college freshmen, young travelers on a budget often do things or find themselves in circumstances that would be socially unacceptable, or at least frowned upon (not to mention frequently illegal) by most of modernized society.  The following is a list of things that backpackers do to save or make a few bucks (yes, I'm including myself here) that they would probably never dream of doing on their home turf.  If you ever get caught doing one of these things, It's probably best to use one of the following phrases to explain your actions: "I'm a backpacker" or "I just wanted to remember the good old days when I was backpacking around (insert continent here)"

Ready to board the train at Nambour Station.  Maybe I should call myself a suitcaser.

Ok here goes...

When you are backpacking, it is perfectly acceptable to:

  • Earn travel money by doing back-breaking physical labor, no matter what qualifications or previous job experience you may have.  Even better if it's on a farm or involves 'housekeeping', a.k.a. cleaning hotel rooms.

  • Sleep on the beach, in your car, on a park bench, in the woods/bush, or on any other surface where you can lay out a sleeping bag or tent.  Hopefully you've been smart enough to avoid well-patrolled areas, otherwise you are likely to get arrested or fined.

  • Sleep in super sketchy hostels that cost $10 per night for a bed in a dorm room that you share with 19 other smelly backpackers.

  • Sleep on couches that belong to random people that you met on the internet.  It's called couch surfing, dude.  It has the word 'surfing' in it.  That makes it cool!

  • Hitch-hike.  I think that one is self-explanatory.

  • Walk really far distances carrying ridiculous amounts of stuff on your back and/or in your arms.

  • Buy a really cheap unregistered car from a complete stranger and hope that it doesn't fall apart before you make it to (insert city or land mark here).

  • Stuff said car full of everything you could possibly need for your trip until it starts to resemble a homeless man's shopping trolley.  Make sure it's so full that you can't actually find anything when you need it.  Also, a real backpacker would never, ever clean their car.  Ever.

  • Heat a tin of beans on a portable camping stove and then eat it straight out of the pan.  For a backpacker, this is a perfectly acceptable and healthy dinner alternative to McDonald's.

  • Go to events or night clubs just because they are offering you free food.

  • Actually eat the sketchy looking free pizza or sausages that they give out at aforementioned events.

  • Get drunk on wine that comes in a silver bag.  This is called goon.  Goon is your friend.  Drink it straight out of the bag, because you most likely won't have any cups around.  It would also be acceptable to pour the wine out of the bag and into a bowl or coffee mug in order to enhance your goon-drinking experience.  Make sure you finish the whole bag of wine in one night.

  • Inflate said empty wine bag and use it as a pillow when you pass out for the night.  On a picnic table in a public park.

  • Not shower for a few days at a time.  Same goes for shaving and tooth-brushing.

  • Find wild-growing fruits, nuts, and veggies and eat them.  Or 'buy' them from unattended produce stands that have been set up along the side of the road.  These stands usually operate on the 'honor system' but we already know that backpackers have no honor, so usually these foods can be procured for free.

  • Hook up with a different person every night.  Even better if they don't speak your language.  Even betterer if you play European country bingo... you know... one from each country in Europe.  Wait, is that slutty?  Oops.

This is all  I can think of for now but feel free to add your own in the comments.  I will keep adding more as I think of them.  Backpacking is awesome.  Yay!  Also, this doesn't mean that I have actually done all of these things... or does it?

In other news, it's rainy and cold in Dingo Beach today.  That makes me an unhappy camper.  After nearly a solid year of non-stop summer, I had almost forgotten what it felt like to be cold.  Me no likey!  Also, it's looking like I will finish working here after the Queen's birthday long weekend, which is the weekend of June 10th.  After that, I will stick around for a few days and hang out with all of the awesome residents of Dingo Beach before I head of on my next adventure.  Hopefully it won't rain the whole time.



Sunday, May 20, 2012

A video tour of the Dingo Beach Hotel

Hi there!

Ever wondered what it would be like to walk through the Dingo Beach pub?  Well if so, you are in luck!  I just happen to have this awesome video here that shows me walking from my apartment, through the pub, and all the way out to the beach!  

It's pretty much the first video I have ever made. Ever.  So I know it's not very professional but I was mostly making for the purpose of showing my family where in the world I've been hanging out lately so go easy on me ok?

I hope you enjoy my little tour!



I have a confession to make...

... When I walk out onto Dingo Beach and I find that there's no one else around, I put in my headphones, turn up my iPod, and dance...

And sometimes I climb rocks and do yoga...

But I definitely don't use my camera's timer function to take silly self portraits.

Yes.  Yes, it was.

In other news, I am still loving life here at Dingo Beach.  It's simple, relaxing, and beautiful in every way.  Sadly, though, my time here is quickly coming to an end.  I will be spending some time this week planning out the 'grand finale' of my crazy roller-coaster year of travel.  I'll be journeying across the big blue to go to New Zealand and experience a little winter wonderland before heading back stateside.  But not to worry, I may be leaving Oz soon but the adventures are far from over.