Yoga Festival and More (February 20th – February 27th)

I feel like I’ve been a little bit M-I-A on my blog for a while.  But I haven’t been doing too much adventure-y stuff that should be shared.  I’ve been doing more work-exchange so that I’m not spending a fortune on accommodation.  But that’s not a complaint because I love my host! 🙂

February 20th

I caught a bus from Taupo up to Auckland. About a week before though, my host had one of her previous HelpX helpers come back to spend a few days here. Her name is Olga and she’s a young architect from Poland. Trish said I would get along really well with Olga and she was right. We really became fast friends. Olga was catching a flight home from Auckland and we were able meet up the evening before she left. When I get to Poland, I will go visit Olga in Warsaw. 🙂

Me (Left), Trish our host (center), and Olga (right).

There are a few Facebook groups for New Zealand backpackers where people are always posting about wanting to buy or sell camping gear items. I’ve been keeping my eye out for a nice small and light one-person tent and I finally found one! So I nabbed it so that I could camp at the upcoming yoga festival as well as use it for the Tongariro Northern Circuit Great Walk and not have to pay too much for bunk bed in one of the huts. So, I got a tent. I had to pick it up from my friend in Auckland.

February 21st

I woke up, packed up my stuff, and went out first to find breakfast, second to find a new tank-top from one of the many tempting outdoor stores on Queen Street, and thirdly to mail out some postcards I had written and needed to get stamps for. Missions accomplished, I heaved my backpacks on and went to find the bus stop for the Northern Express (NEX). I only had about a 20-minute ride to the Albany Station and then a short walk up the road to the entrance to Kuwai Purapura. They were holding the New Zealand International Yoga Festival and I was a volunteer to help set up, run, and breakdown the festival.

I got there, checked in at reception, and was shown the retreat area and where the volunteers would be camping; an old tennis court. However, my only has two tent poles and requires stakes being driving into the dirt to set the tent up properly. There were a couple of guys setting up tents in the area and I mentioned to them my little predicament. I saw another tent set up outside the tennis court in the adjacent woods area. I asked them if I should ask someone (I was thinking the volunteer coordinator that had shown me the area and had just left to go back to reception) but the guy said “just do it!” So I went and found a sweet little nook for my tiny tent. 🙂

My tent!

That was about 11am or so. The volunteer coordination meeting was at 1pm so I used that time to get my tent and camping gear all set up and prepared and then I just walked around a little bit. At 1pm, all the volunteers met in the common area. There were volunteers from all over the world: Brazil, US, Canada, New Zealand, India, and probably a few others. We basically had the rest of the day off. We had a volunteer dinner at 5 or 6pm which was absolutely delicious: a really nice (not spicy) curry with rice, salad, and a neat dessert which I’m not exactly sure what it was, but it was good. This place has a vegan chef so all the meals were vegetarian and lovely….well, the first dinner was the best. The volunteer dinners went a little bit downhill from there, but I won’t complain too much.

February 22nd

Today was the day that all the vendors would arrive and want to set their displays up. They were supposed to arrive beginning at 2pm, but the craziness started happening around 10am or so. I ended up helping coordinate traffic in addition to guiding vendors to their setup-site, showing campers to the main festival camping area, asking owners of offending parked vehicles to please move them out of other vendors setup-sites so that they could set up…. it was a lot of running around. But I loved it. The people I was working with were great. Later in the day, I went down to the main “gate” tent to help start checking people in. The official opening ceremony of the festival was at 6pm and so people started arriving in droves. Technical difficulties were being had with technology and scanning in tickets, but it worked out and once I got the hang of things, it wasn’t too bad. I had had PB&J for breakfast which lasted me all day but by dinner, I was starving.

One of the volunteers was a talented artist!

A view of just a few of the vendor tents.

The deck off the kitchen/dining area.

The “plains” with vendors and the main tent.

A cool tent with a food vendor.

February 23rd

I think I was supposed to have the morning off and work in the Bedouin Tent later in the afternoon selling Indian food. But the volunteer coordinator came while I was eating breakfast and said they needed help in the Prema Cafe. Nobody else was jumping up to help so of course I did. I said I just needed 15 minutes to brush my teeth, hair, and get dressed. Fine! See you there.

So, from about 8am until at least 11am, I was working in the cafe with two lovely people making smoothies, washing dishes, and learning how to run “the till” (i.e., the cash register). That was fun. After that, I went to the volunteer coordinator to figure out where else I was needed for the day.

February 24th

Volunteers were given free passes to festival, and free food and accommodation for their work. So, I’ve been wanting to give yoga a try… mostly to stretch my muscles. I went to my first yoga class which was led by a guy; a New Zealand Army veteran who had taken up yoga as a way to manage the effects of his time in combat. He told us about his work with other military veterans in the USA and teaching them how to manage post-traumatic stress with yoga. It was pretty interesting. After his little talk, he led the class in a yoga-meditation type exercise. Let me back up a little bit…

A long time ago, I realized that I always felt like I was really getting somewhere (on the highway) if was driving 80 miles per hour. Yea, 70mph is law abiding, 75 is right on the edge, but 80 is the sweet spot. I felt the same way at work and in my brain in general. So, this thought crossed my mind a long time ago that I live my life at 80mph. Yea, there is no real way to gauge the speed that my mind runs at, but on a full and busy day, I guarantee it’s more like 100mph; well, it FEELS like it anyway.

Back to current day at the festival. Yoga: it’s definition should be “opposite of speed.” While we’re sitting in this meditation pose, I always get frustrated how uncomfortable I become by sitting there, undoubtedly slouching because trying to sit with good posture is even more uncomfortable. My ankles bones (well, one of them at least) is getting pressed into the hard floor. I try to change position which breaks what little focus I may or may not have achieved in the last-minute or two. He says to tell ourselves that “I am perfect” and earlier in the class he had said to just let whatever emotions happen. Well, they did happen. What? I’m perfect? No, I am absolutely NOT PERFECT! In more ways than he can fathom I am not perfect. I am not perfect. I don’t have a perfect body, I don’t have perfect fitness, I don’t have a perfect spiritual life, I don’t do perfect work, I make mistakes…. I AM NOT PERFECT! No, I am absolutely not telling myself “I’m perfect.” Screw you yoga teacher.

I was happy when the class was finished so I could quickly get back to my 80mph life, walking fast like I usually do, I went and returned my borrowed yoga mat. After that, my first yoga class, I wanted to run to the nearest gym, find a personal trainer, and have him put me through a tough high-intensity workout. That relieves stress more effectively for me than yoga. I’ve seen advertisements on Instagram for T-shirts that say stuff like “I climb…” or “I ride” or “I run to burn off the crazy.” Well, I think high-intensity burns off the crazy for me.

I never did end up selling Indian food in the Bedouin tent.

I did try the raw, vegan, moca cheesecake from one of the food trucks at the festival. It was sooooooo yummy! I also tried the pies from another food truck. I had their tomato lentil pie and couple others over the course of the festival. All were yummy, but I think the tomato lentil was my favorite.

This moca cheesecake was so good.

I can totally make these.  I’m definitely going to try when I get home and back to my cooking and baking escapades.

Later in the day, I was supposed to work in the kitchen during the dinner shift. But, I didn’t want to be in the kitchen so I sort of worked my way into working in the cafe instead of the kitchen. I was able to continue helping make smoothies, chop carrots and apples and beetroot to make their fresh juices, wash dishes, and run the cash register. I worked until they closed the cafe that night. I really do enjoy working in a cafe.

February 25th

Today, I had the morning off as I was again going to work the dinner shift. So, I decided to try another yoga class led by a woman who is a student of a yogi in some far-out place in the Himalayas of Nepal (just another little sting in my side that I’m not going to Nepal on this trip 😦 ). She was from Denmark I believe. It was a deep breathing and meditation class. I thought I should give this another try. She was a little bit more effective, but I also think it was mostly that it was in one of the yoga barns further away from the main area and so was quieter and therefore easier to focus.

I swear I’m missing something there…. this stuff just isn’t effective on me. Maybe I’m just too hyper, my mind too active, too many things racing around. The one and last time I remember actually being able to quiet my mind, to stop the racing, and actually hear what I believe to be God’s voice, was back at a camp meeting in 2006 in South Dakota. It was sunny and quiet afternoon. I had set my mind that I was going to sit in this one spot, actually it was the very small cliff where I got my very first taste of rock climbing with a guy from the Czech Republic, and just concentrate on letting go of all the thoughts in my mind. It took longer than expected but in the end, my mind was quiet in a way I haven’t experienced since then. I was able to hear that Still Small Voice which said “I will take care of you.”

I wasn’t able to work my way out of working in the kitchen for the dinner shift.  There’s various reasons for this but I won’t get into that for now.  I showed up early for my shift and they said please leave and don’t come back until exactly 4pm because we want to show the whole group of volunteers what to do at once. Fine – I guess I can understand that. But I am completely not used to being told to leave and come back on the dot. In my line of work, the earlier you show up, the better. Irk #1.

The food they were cooking for the last dinner smelled incredible. They were making a corn chowder with tomatoes and roasted red peppers which I got to blend into a creamy soup with a little hand-held blender. I really need to try to create that soup….

I helped with that and washing dishes until it was time to serve the dinner. I was supposed to work the cash register but after only a few people came to me with their dinners, I knew I wasn’t right for that spot and so had to go ask someone in the kitchen to replace me because I was just not working fast enough and was afraid that I would be charging too much or too little. It’s not a set menu and the items to match up exactly on the little card that they were supposed to be filling out while getting their food from the servers. It all was just a little too confusing. So, I gladly went back to the kitchen and just started washing dishes.

Later in the dinner, we were told we could take a 15-minute break for our dinner. They brought out some leftovers which were quickly taken by other volunteers. However, we were expressly told that we could help ourselves to the dinner buffet that was being devoured by the festival guests either. So, I went their to just get a very small helping of some of the buffet because it all just looked so delicious. But with a feeling of being watched and willed to stop taking food from the dinner buffet, I just sat down and savored what I had on my plate. I knew not enough to completely satisfy my hunger…but whatever. Irk #2.

Later in the evening though, they did serve the volunteers dinner, said a hearty thankyou for all the help of the volunteers in making the festival a success. What food was left was really good. But that dinner was completely destroyed, first by festival guests and then the volunteers. There really was basically nothing left.

February 26th

Time to pack up my camping stuff and head back to Auckland and Waiheke Island for my next HelpX opportunity. I basically spent a day on the Auckland waterfront waiting for the day to pass in order to meet my new HelpX host at 3:30 at the Waiheke ferry terminal. It was with another older woman. I guess I didn’t read the description very well; I’m not really sure what happened. We just didn’t really “get on” very well. We talked about my tasks that I would be doing, what kind of schedule I would have (basically just a wishy-washy schedule), and such. It just didn’t fit. A couple of things about my room bothered me (I won’t go into specifics).

Breaky on the waterfront with my tramping cup.

I ended up contacting my last HelpX host in Taupo asking if I could come back sooner than anticipated and thankfully (Seriously, thank you Trish) she said yes, please come back!

February 27th

I left Waiheke Island in the morning. I couldn’t sleep; I had woken up at 1:30am, decided I couldn’t stay, and bought a bus ticket to Taupo. I couldn’t go back to sleep on account of the unrelenting buzz of mosquitos around my ears and face. It was a stormy day matching my attitude and mental state. I spent the morning getting myself to and waiting at the SkyCity bus terminal in Auckland for my bus at 12:30pm. I had a really nice chat with my Grandma on Facebook. Thanks for messaging Grandma! Really enjoyed our little chat. 🙂

I got back into Taupo at about 5:45, hopped off the bus, grabbed my bags and happily went to meet Trish who was waiting for me nearby. I was so thankful and happy to be back. I took a lovely outdoor shower and did a load of laundry and had a good night sleep. It was a really long day (1:30am to about 9pm or so). I realized while waiting for the bus back to Taupo that I would be in town for the Ironman Triathlon! Yay!!

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