Shabbat with Azriel

A day in Chiang MY Part 3: SHABBAT WITH AZRIEL
(In case you care about what I did for dinner tonight)

I hung out with some sweet people tonight. Two nights ago, at one of my favorite cheap vegetarian restaurants where I was enjoying a 100% veg. noodle soup, I met a guy named Azriel. We got to talking about how a sustainable lifestyle and technology go hand-in-hand, and decided to move-on to another spot so I could help him with some Mac stuff & talk some more about eco-villages. 1AM later, we had put in 6 hours! (I did this last week too in Chiang Rai, after chatting up a fellow who had a 3-week new first Mac, I decided to stay another day so we could have a geek session, which went swimmingly and was totally worth it, like I have anything better to be doing!) In both cases, I think I made life-long friends.

Tonight he invited me over for a Shabbat pot-luck at this apartment, a small gathering of just seven, and it was great, especially the warm feeling of community Azriel forged. Also this sweet potato/pumpkin dessert I brought with sticky rice and coconut milk was to die for. And the best part of it was that it was all vegan and cheap, as the restaurant gave me so much of it (closing time special) for only 25 baht ($.70!) I LOVE THAILAND! Don’t get me started about getting hooked-up at the veggie restaurants. (It happens every time, and I largely suspect it’s because the Veg Community are an especially awesome segment of humanity, much like the Mac Community is especially awesome (in general, with exceptions of course) but they never writes viruses! Take that, PC community!

Our dinner host has this tradition of Friday night Shabbat here in Chiang Mai since he arrived 16 months ago, one of his pot-lucks drawing 72 people from 17 countries (and 5 religions too, including 4 Buddhist monks from Cambodia!) Before eating, we said some short Jewish prayers, but more importantly we shared stories with each other that reflected the theme of one prayer, in which, according to a certain Rabbi, real entities (Angels) are said to come join the Shabbat upon the singing of the traditional verses, and that We were, in effect, angels too who had come (as many important biblical figures weren’t even aware that they were indeed sent by God to fulfill a divine purpose), and he prompted us to share Who was your angel in this week? Everyone’s unhurried anecdotes were touching and grounding, of everyday kindness, echoing how we are touched by so many people. Azriel thanked ME for appearing to him in the evening of a day where nothing was going right, to help him through computer issues he’s been grappling with for months. (He was so appreciative at the time, buying me drinks and dessert at A Taste of Heaven, veggie spot Deluxe!) At my turn, I thanked HIM for providing me some community, real people outside of the backpacker ghettos, tourist bars and markets, when it seemed I could use it the most, experiencing for the last day or so that familiar irony of feeling alone in a city with so many people, (also due in part to staying in a guest house for once instead of with a host.) I’m also extremely grateful for him rekindling my interest in volunteering on Eco-villages, as I’ve discerned already that these villages have been the best and most relevant to my interests, going beyond organic farming and really embracing permaculture and green technology. He’s lived on many such farms, taken courses, and knows a lot of people who run them. This was coming to me cosmically, having had two other connections with people in the last 48 hours regarding eco-villages: my Jungle Flight partner Steve who recommended Cinderland in Hawaii, and a Couchsurfer I’ve been conversing with who is currently taking a Permaculture Design Course near Chiang Mai. The sudden clarity in direction is a gift indeed.

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