The desert extends until the horizon. A straight road crossing through it. There are a few houses on the side of the road, two or three delis. The morning light penetrates my closed eye lids. It’s day ten and we can now talk. Tomorrow the meditation course will be over. The three of us: Mike, Yazmin and I feel renewed after spending three days isolated from the world. It’s as if everything had changed... although maybe is just our perception what changed. I feel I have recovered the ability to see, as if I would never again need glasses. I see everything more clearly. The three of us feel shaken. Tomorrow Mikey will fly back to England. Yazmin and I decide to stay two more weeks in the center to serve. The course is free and sustains itself only with donations, so we volunteer our time and energy to pay back.
What is Vipassana? I can’t explain it. It can only be understood by experience. Each person must do their own investigation and discovery of this adventure. I can only say one thing: If you feel confused or lost, if you’re looking for a way to find yourself, Vipassana is an ideal way to walk away from distractions and learn about yourself. It is a journey inside of your own self.
Our service ends on the first day of the year. We can’t imagine a better way to start 2012. We make really good new friends and they take us to Los Angeles. Yvonne, a Taiwanese woman, invites us to her house. After working for 10 years in a construction company she decided to quit her job and take some time to try to find her path.
She is now 35 and she has been trying to find that path for a year and a half now. She is moved by our journey and philosophy. She feels fully identified. The return to civilization is intense: heavy traffic, omnipresent stress. Some call this “the real world”, but this kind of life never seemed as unreal as today. Los Angeles seems even crazier... A city design to consume, drive, spend and waste.
In Vipassana we also met Shiva, a 37 year old Persian woman who came to the US with her mother when she was 19. She is heading out to San Francisco and she offers us a ride. She spent ten years of her life climbing the corporate ladder to become an exceptional businesswoman... just to realize that kind of life didn’t make her happy. So she quit her job some months ago and she is looking for a change, an opportunity to do something exciting, something that she feels moved by. She is charismatic, beautiful, rich and successful. But she feels lost and confused... She feels slaved and what is worse, she feels self-slaved. She drops us off at Palo Alto, a rich town in the middle of Silicon Valley.
We stay with Yazmin’s aunt, who inherited a house there. She treats us as her children. After such a long time in Vipassana, it’s been a month since we last recycled food. This is the perfect chance to take some distance. A pause in the trip... To convince ourselves even more that our system is condemned to failure and that it’s urgent to find new alternatives.
We hitchhike to San Francisco. Aicha, a moroccan man, picks us up and reminds me of the kindness I found in Morocco in the past. In San Francisco we are welcomed by Wally’s generosity. We also met her in Vipassana. She is a charming 60 year old woman who spoils us and gives us all her love. San Francisco is a fascinating city where the Freegan movement started. Freeganism is an alternative movement that tries to rescue society’s waste and to build an alternative culture. Since the beginning we connected with Food Not Bombs, a movement that recycles food, cooks it and serves in the street to whoever is hungry. The main objective is not so much to feed the homeless as to raise awareness about the need to share nowadays. The need to eat together, to occupy the public space and to give away all which is left over. Of course a lot of homeless people are fed this way, but many others also enjoy the food from FNB, which is also 100% vegetarian. We help serving and we find out that many homeless here have chosen to live this way, on the edge. They sacrifice comfort for freedom.
While we visit the city, we participate giving different services and we meet tons of interesting people. There is a huge underground culture that works hard keep this movement afloat and to walk away from the system. In general, San Francisco is also more of an “ecological” city: they recycle, they compost and many stores and restaurants sell organic products. Rainbow Groceries is an example. A supermarket with no bosses or managers, where the employees are their own employers. Everything there is organic, vegetarian, and at night, when closing time comes, they give away their left overs.
Then we hitchhike to Oakland, 15 km from San Francisco. There we meet Marissa, who comes back to the adventure with a new video camera. She is decided to make a documentary about the trip and more particularly about what drives people like us to get out of the system and find alternative ways. Oakland is an amazing city some times overshadowed by SF. It’s the home to all the rejected and the ones who chose to live on the edge. We find out the Occupy Oakland is a active movement and dozens of permanent squats give life to the cultural scene of the city. An entire generation of revolutionaries, coming from all corners of the USA, come together in Oakland. Every day more vagabonds arrive, hopping trains or hitchhiking. This culture is enthralling: squatting, dumpsterdiving, writing anarchist magazines and occupying the public spaces.
Such a lively movement excites us. This vibration allows us to believe in a change. Yeah, they are still a minority, but they work hard, deeply committed. They are not trying to destroy the system (the system has destroy itself in the past and will do it again at some point), but to build a subculture or alternative society that will be able to grow and shine once the capitalism collapses. We help them in the big manifestation of January 20th. We all congregate in San Francisco’s Financial District to block the entrances to the banks. We help the “Food Bank of America” to serve some food because... There can’t be a revolution with empty stomachs!!!
We leave the Bay Area full of enthusiasm and energy, convinced more than ever that the world is changing, that people are changing. We just have to be patient and we confirm this while trying to hitchhike out of San Francisco. We get stuck in a Chinese suburb. No one stops and we have to take refuge at a mall’s parking lot, where we spend the night. We have a tent and, sleeping the three together, we create enough human heat to bravely pass the night.
Next morning, a light but constant rain follows us as we attempt to hitchhike again... We wait two hours and finally at car stops. It’s the police. Someone who disapproved of our hitchhiking attempt called them. Luckily, the officer is a nice woman and she allows us to stay for a little longer. Half an hour later Vincent stops and he takes us farther! Just a few kilometers, but the first ride of the day is always the most important. Luck smiles at us again and we keep moving towards Santa Cruz. The beach is incredible. The ocean is very agitated. Huge waves continuously break on the fine sand. The water is intense gray and the landscape magnificent. We arrive to Santa Cruz to visit Andres, a friend from Mexico. We recycle a lot of food with him. People in Santa Cruz are very open minded, there is a huge hippie community that came here on the 70’s. There is also an anarchist group that runs a cafe-book shop, a bike church, a computer kitchen and “La Fabrica,” where you can learn to fix, alter or even make your own clothes. Every one of these places allows people to have tools and space to learn and fix their stuff.
We don’t stay long. We hurry out to confront the road again, with no fear of going back to Los Angeles before heading out to Utah. The three of us feel motivated. Marissa, Yazmin and I feel our hearts swollen by the change that is shaking the North American society. We are not alone. A huge underground pacifist army is getting ready in all corners of the world. The evolution is still going and the revolution has already started.