Zach O'Brien
Zach O'Brien
India 2013-2014
Namaste! I am a native Californian with a love for new experiences, meditation, and asking questions. I'm traveling to an Indian ashram called Amritapuri to join an environmental conservation project and study Sanskrit and yoga. Read More About Zach →

Settling in

Now that I feel fully settled into working in the ecovillage and living at the ashram, I’d like to pick up my story where I left off with my last post.

When I arrived at Amritapuri ashram, the staff decided to pack me into a room with two other men–one of whom turned out to be a very quiet, nonviolent Frenchman named Bernard and the other of whom turned out to be a very loud German named Weiland.  I immediately began to wonder if the ashram staff was secretly trying to run a small scale simulation of the battle of Normandy.

Luckily we are all getting along swimmingly so far.   I feel I have a lot to learn from Bernard.  He goes through his day very focused, aware, and at peace.  And Weiland is so entertaining to have around–I find myself constantly laughing when he’s present.

Weiland has lived an incredibly interesting life.  To cut to the quick, he’s sort of a German new age hippy mountain man and hitchhiker who possibly consumed a few too many hallucinogenic drugs in his day.  This is not to say Weiland is crazy–he might be a little but but he’s highly intelligent. Besides German, he speaks almost perfect English, and is fluent in Portuguese, French, Spanish, as well as who knows how many other languages.

I’ll tell you a story to give you a better impression of his vivid personality.  The day after Weiland arrived, he and I were groggily sitting on the porch. We’d both just awoken, and I was reading while he was listening to music through his headphones.  It was very tranquil.

Suddenly out of nowhere Weiland started humming along with his music really loudly and out of tune.  Things proceeded this way for a few minutes, then with no warning he raced into the dorm room, then jumped back onto the porch, and SHOUTED off into the distance “I want you to feel what I am feeling right now”.  Thoroughly taken aback, I looked out over the porch to see if he was trying to communicate with a passerby, but I saw no one.  I began to wonder if this was what an acid flashback looked like.  Then I began to wonder if he had been actually talking to ME.  Suddenly he handed me a pair of headphones, and wordlessly I put them on and began listening to his music.  Picture  Phantom of the Opera-esque organ music fused with jungle/tribal noises.  It was epic. We listened for a few minutes then headed off to our daily work at the ecovillage.

I work in the ecovillage about thirty hours a week.  We generate and sell compost, clean up around the village, sell recycled goods to the government, and even have our own shop where you can buy ecologically friendly goods such as eucalyptus oil mosquito repellent (I go through like a bottle a week).  All the proceeds of the ecovillage go to the Amritapuri organization, which as I understand has three arms:  an ashram, a university, and a humanitarian org that provides disaster relief all over the world.

Anyway.  Currently I’m working in the composting area.  Everything I do is incredibly physical–sometimes I’ll spend hours just turning over heaps and heaps of decomposing food and manure. Other times I’ll have easier tasks like riding around in a truck picking up biodegradable waste items for composting.

A few days ago we opened up a new worm composting facility in a nearby village.  I’m hoping to maybe spend some time at one of Amritapuri’s dozens of sister organizations that are looking to start their own ecologically responsible waste management facilities.  It would be fun to spend some time in another section of India, even though I’m making some amazing friends at the ashram. Fingers crossed!

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