Villa Nirvana!

Villa Nirvana! It\'s got doves!

What the hell is this? It doesn’t look like Bali-style architecture to me. It looks like more of that hideous faux-tuscan crap – now with Buddha! And doves of peace!

The horror is, these guys aren’t the first ones to come up with a Villa in the Pure Land (or perhaps, a villa that is the Pure Land).

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Tammy’s Wedding

I haven’t seen Tammy for ages. Distances separate us, and neither of us seem to try hard enough to bridge those gaps. She did invite me to her wedding though, but it’s telling that I hadn’t met the groom until the big day — 10 March, 2007.

Tammy looked exceptional, as brides generally do. It’s something about the whole energy of the event of a wedding. People are happy and excited and thrilled for the couple, and they just soak up all that positive energy and radiate it back out at everyone.

Tammy and Nic leaving the church

Tammy lives in Polokwane, in the Limpopo Province. I’m not entirely sure I’ve been to Limpopo before, but I really think I should’ve made an effort to get there before. It really is beautiful.

Limpopo had this whole marketing thing going down in Gauteng about “Limpopo — Africa’s Eden.” Sounds like the usual exaggerated marketing in your pants. Well, where we went for the wedding and reception, it seemed a reasonable assessment of the situation.

Africa’s Eden

Of course, the thing about a wedding is that you never really get an opportunity to speak at much length with the bride and groom. Things were no different in this case.

The cool thing was that a bunch of people who I knew from university travelled up from Cape Town for the wedding. Did some catching up with the UCT, predominantly chemical engineering, crowd.

Surprising things were discovered — Lisa is married. Sam is in a serious (I think) relationship he didn’t appear to be in the last time I saw him (which was quite a while back when I was torturing myself with post-graduate studies). Mareike is back in the country!

Egads!

Everyone — except MareikeAngie and Mareike

If only the first picture had Mareike in it! I really need to try to be a little less adverse to orchestrating the occasional posed, group photograph.

The Wedding Photograph Taker

Over a week has passed since Rob and Louise rammed shut the deadbolt, and threw away the key. The only way out now is the hacksaw of divorce, but I’m not expecting them to take such drastic measures. Those two were incredibly cheerful newly-weds.

There is more to this other than the fact that Rob and Louise are good friends, and Angie and I were pleased to be part of their wedding. Louise got a silly notion into her head that I know how to take photographs. Sure, everyone does.

  1. Point lens at subject.
  2. Press shutter-release button.
  3. Rinse and Repeat.

Louise, however, figured I do the above so well, that I should be the official wedding photographer. Who needs professionals, when you’ve got Neil?

How Neil was Tricked
I agreed to take photographs at the wedding some months before it was due to take place. It wasn’t clear at the time that I would be the photographer. Sneaky Louise. Sneaky.

Although I’m certainly no professional photographer, I do offer value for money. I didn’t charge for my time, and Louise and Rob still got some half-decent photos. Considering I took over 300, I suppose the stats were on my side that I’d get at least one good one.
Rob and Louise pulled the wedding off spectacularly on just a shoestring budget, so it’s understandable that they weren’t too keen to shell out 1000s of rands for a pro. That would’ve snapped the string.

How Neil Tricked the People into Thinking He Knew What He Was Doing
Normally, wedding photographers have big cameras. The bigger the camera, the more hardcore you appear to be. It’s kind of like porn-stars.
You see, it actually has absolutely nothing to do with talent or skill. It’s all in the impression you give.

Unfortunately, I’ve got a small lens.
So I borrowed Quinn’s. His is big.

This had the desired effect. Many people described my scurrying around the church and taking photos as very professional. People kept referring to me as “The Photographer.”
Even when I tried to insist that, no, I’m just the “photograph taker” and that the big camera was a deceptive device to hide my incompetence, the perception of my professionalism remained.

So, thanks again to Quinn for lending me his camera.
Curses to him too, because now I’m shopping for a DSLR, and they don’t come cheap. But they’re so much better, I just can’t go back to using a compact camera. Looks like I’m paying to enhance my assets, so the porn analogy holds.

So I Took The Photos, and Here are A Few

The bride and groom

Louise and Rob — the bride and groom.

The Dress and the Designer
Roman, who designed and made the dress, and Louise, who wore the dress

leaving church

After signing the registry, Rob and Louise left the church.

Of Namesakes and McBuddhas

For some reason I decided to once again Google my name. I found a link that actually referred to me on the 3rd page of 66,800 results. So, clearly I’m not the most popular, or at least well known, Neil Robinson out there. And damn there’s a lot of us.

Still, this isn’t really the point. I went on to search only blogs for “Neil Robinson” and a turned up this little gem. A namesake touring Thailand and encountering Ronald McDonald.

Er, sorry. Wrong link. Rather click “McDonald’s – Thailand”

Seen the picture. Good. I suspect, that of my readership, only Quinn will fully appreciate the humour in this.
I’d try to explain it, but I fear that I’d fail miserably. Instead, it will have to suffice to say that now that I have a better understanding of the meaning behind the Ronald’s gesture in the picture, the fact that the figurehead for McDonald’s is gesturing in such a way is patently ridiculous.

The Other Waffle Group

When ‘p’ comes before ‘s,’ you don’t get blogspot, you get blogpsot.

And theye shall hurl ye olde Bible towarde yonder noggin.

I should chat to Sam in Hong Kong more. Perhaps this kind of amusement will happen again.

The transcript from our MSN chat:

(03:51:18 PM) Neil: Angie is very very well. Have you checked out my blog lately? it has details regarding my life that you may or may not find interesting. http://thewafflegroup.blogpsot.com
(03:51:37 PM) Neil: Some of the details include things about Angie
(03:51:53 PM) Neil: She’s working for an NPO now
(03:52:56 PM) Neil: How is your wife? Not sure you’ve even ever told me her name, you secretive sneaky man
(03:53:27 PM) Neil: Do you have a blog by any chance? (one that I’ll be able to understand)
(03:56:14 PM) Samuel: bible study???
(03:56:22 PM) Samuel: huh?
(03:56:45 PM) Neil: Bible study? WTF?
(03:57:22 PM) Neil: Are you referring to the meditation?
(03:57:51 PM) Samuel: what’s that all about? amazing bible study??? your website’s got attacked?
(03:59:10 PM) Neil: Oh. Uh, typo: Should be: http://thewafflegroup.blogspot.com/
(03:59:24 PM) Neil: But that’s really funny
(04:00:04 PM) Samuel: 😀

 

Om

Ok. There wasn’t actually any omming, but we were guided through some Buddhist meditation techniques yesterday evening.

Angie, Quinn, and I joined forces to go to the meditation class. We were planning to go last week, but Quinn couldn’t make it and Angie was late and I was too nervous to go alone. By all expecting one another to be there this week, we carefully prevented ourselves from chickening out.

We went in to discover that the only seats still available were the front-row seats. Usually, people who arrive late get the seats at the back, but things here appeared to operate outside my realm of experience.

Then we were asked to all stand up, and Gen Kelsang Legden entered the room.
He really had incredible presence. He was simultaneously the most intense and most chilled-out person I’ve ever encountered.

He guided us through meditation, and then spoke to us about the importance of concentration. Concentration and focusing one’s mind. He spoke about a lot of things relating to this. He was captivating, fascinating, entertaining, and wise. A holy man with a sense of humour.
As Quinn said afterwards, ‘The drugs are free and the dealer is funny.’

It was a really incredible experience. I’m so glad I went, and I’m so glad that Angie and Quinn are also happy they attended. We’re so going back for more.

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The Waffle Master finds his happiness through Buddhist MeditationTM.
Shouldn’t you?

Johnny Karma and the Fundamentalist Buddhists

I’ve never considered myself a particularly spiritual person, so I have surprised myself in the last week by finding something deep within myself that was previously unexposed.
I’ve changed my diet.
I’ve changed my attitude to what makes me happy.
I’ve changed my approach to how I deal with other people.
I’ve changed my approach to life.
I’ve changed my underwear.

I think it came about from my obsession with having enough money. I’ve been struggling with this since I can remember. I’ve never wanted to be outrageously wealthy, but I’ve always been concerned about running out of money or losing the things that I possess.
I stumbled upon this thread about Buddhism on the forum of The Ornery American. Adam Masterman is clearly a practising Buddhist, and his posts made a lot of sense. In particular he says that the Buddhist attitude towards wealth is: “If it comes, that’s fine. If it goes, that’s fine.”
My problem is that I’ve never believed that before. My perception has always been, “If it comes, that’s fine. If it goes, that sucks.” But the Adam explained things so well that I was inspired to do a little more digging. I found an introductory course on Buddhism and eagerly devoured the information.

There’s a lot of gobbledy-gook. A whole bunch of the stuff just doesn’t make much sense to me at the moment. What I like about the philosophy is that it doesn’t matter if you don’t get it all or don’t want to buy into the teachings. A skeptical and critical attitude is actively encouraged. Buddhists don’t want you to take anything on faith and just believe that what they say goes. Instead they say, this is how it is — experiment using logic and see whether or not you agree. Even if you don’t agree, keep experimenting.

If only I’d realised how scientific Buddhism was, I’d have been more spiritual a long time ago. It’s a pseudo-scientific philosophy! Kind of like Intelligent Design (ID) is pseudo-scientific. Uh…
ID is certainly not logical though. If an intelligent designer designed everything, then who designed the intelligent designer? (I much prefered the word “god,” because that’s only three letters to type when debating online).

Ok, so there are unresolved problems. Still, Buddhism really is one kick-ass way to live because you don’t kick-ass, and that’s kick-ass.
Ask Johnny Karma if you don’t believe me.