Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Beginning of the Expedition for the Essence of Immortality

Readers have given me mixed responses as to my adventures from my last post.  It seems people are genuinely interested in my hunt for the Elixir of Life, the main component to form it being the Essence of Immortality.  I think it might help to add water from the Lake the Lady lives in because the water has an ancient secret in it.  So - let me help you reconstruct the chronology of what's happened in Russia.  This reminds me of my law school days - when the professors told us to live and die by the "chron" (short for chronology).  This should help reorient you as to where I am now.

1.  Flew from LAX to Berlin
2.  Flew from Berlin to Moscow
3.  Waited hours in Moscow and met a Tunisian.  We took the train into the City.
4.  Stayed in Moscow for about 36 hours.  Met an American guy, a French girl, and a Singaporean guy.
5.  Flew from Moscow to Siberia
6.  Met Svet, Sasha, and Zachil.  Explained my mission for the Elixir.
7.  Was told that expedition had to begin a week later.  [Thus, had time to kill for a week.]
8.  Instead of waiting around all day in a Siberian apartment, took a 33 hour train ride into a crystal Lake.
9.  Had an excursion, had visions, and met with Lady of the Lake there.
10.  Took the train back West.
11.  In Central-Eastern Siberia, met Tanya and Maks, my hosts there.
12.  Took the train ride back into Central Siberia.  Along the way I met the crazy Russian, who conceded defeat with a peace offering of beer to me.
13.  Stayed all day in Svet's apartment - dreaming of my future.

Now - point 14 starts in the morning.  At 6 am, we live for the expedition for the main ingredient of the Elixir of Life: the Essence of Immortality.  We will enter the Siberian forest called the Taiga ("Tai-gah").  A famous Russian poet once wrote that, "Where the Taiga ends, only the migratory birds know."  

The Taiga feels, seems, and looks endless.  You see it scene after scene in the tiny window during the train ride.  When I was with Tanya and Maks, they took me to their part of the Taiga.  The leaves were turning gold and crimson; therefore, the trees looked more like shapes of triangular gems of rubies and topazes strung across the endless backdrop of emerald green.  The contrasts of these harmonious colors stretched further than anything we could imagine and then, even further than that.  As was said, "Where it ends, only the migratory birds know."

Tomorrow morning, we will head into a special part to start the expedition.  Yet, when I returned into Central Siberia, Sasha informed me that our guide dropped out of the expedition.  I was a bit annoyed - but not panicked.  He was the one who knew where the Essence was and where the entrance to Shamballa existed.  Yet, I already had a feeling he would drop out.  He was the kind of guy that wouldn't want to share the deepest secrets of the Taiga with anyone - not even his own family.

When I re-met Svet, she said I need not worry.  She found another "medicine man."  He lives in the Taiga, and if we're lucky he'll help us locate the Essence.  With it, I'll be able to create the Elixir of Life, and I believe it can heal any disease, including HIV or cancer.  Yet, you need enough of it - and the limiting factors - as we know is the Essence.  

In some ways, I feel like it's a bit of dejavu.  Yes - for even when King Arthur and the Knights of the Roundtable hunted for the Holy Grail, it also led them into some forest.  But unlike Arthur, I refused to accept help from the Lady of the Lake.  Unlike him, I flatly rejected and angered her.  

Why am I interested in it so much?  I'm healthy: super healthy, actually.  I need to give it to someone in the States and make my trade.  That's why.  It's an item steeped in mysticism and no amount of money could buy it.

Finally, I feel alleviated that my homesickness is diminishing and being replaced with the realization that the mission is actually materializing.  I do think about my children - my duckling, chicken, African tropical fish, and the mystery pet.  I shall see them soon enough though.

Where we're going, Svet says, will not rain for three days.  Hence, for me, a native Angelino, I shall be seeing the mystical phenemenon of Fall.  I look forward to seeing endless stretches of the gems of the forest: the falling leaves of rubies and golden foil.  If I'm lucky, I shall be able to call my Korean family crest to us: the tiger, in this case - a Siberian one.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

A Siberian Train Ride

I had to go back to Central Siberia.  Once again: Siberia is huge.  From the Lake, I took the train into the Central-East.  My hosts there was a Russian couple in their late 20's.  The guy was a microbiologist and had a PhD in biophysics.  The girl was a dancer and an entreprenuer as well.  What I found most interesting about her was her cheeriness and vibrant spirit.  She sang whenever she did anything.  And in her - even though she did not know it - I found someone who had the power to cast out sadness with a simple song.

I'll talk more about these two later, but when I left them, I took my Siberian train ride in.  So far, I've had three train rides in Russia, all spanning overnight stays - all bunking me in a sardine cart.  This is about my train ride back into Central Siberia.

You have to book train tickets early if you want a lower bunk.  Lower bunks are the way to go on a Siberian train ride because the upper bunk is more crammed for space and it's harder to access your gear.  Each cart had six beds four on one side of the isle (two on the bottom and two on the top) and on the other side of the isle there was one on the bottom and one on the top.  Somehow, by luck, I finally got a lower bunk with a table.  I didn't know it would turn into a battle for space.

I sat down and across from me was an elderly Russian couple.  On the other side of the Isle was a Central Asian.  At one of the stops, came two more Russians.  One sat on the other side of the isle.  He reminded me of a dorky looky teenager with glasses - only now he was probably in his 30's.  The guy who had the upper bunk had a build of a washed up boxer.  He had shaved blonde hair and icy blue eyes.  He had the upper bunk

He took a look at the upper bunk, and he took a look at me.  He took a look once again at the size of the upper bunk, and he took a look at my small body.  He sat next to me and started blabbering Russian.

I just said in Russian, "I don't understand.  I don't speak Russian."

He then said, "Well, you speak something and understand some things."

I replied, "Very little."

He went on and on blabbering in Russian loudly but laughing too.  He started pointing to his body, which was massive and getting a bit of pot belly at once.  He pointed to my body, which was lean and small and stressed the difference.  He kept using the Russian word: Look!

"Look!  Look!" he would shout.

So I shouted back, "Look!  Look!"  and pointed at my train ticket.

At this point, the elderly couple and the two in the isle started laughing.  I think the elderly couple knew then who was going to win this battle.

So - he started up and begged and pleaded to switch beds.  I asked for money.  He pulled out $12 and $24.  I refused them all and said, "Not enough."  They all started laughing again.  Perhaps - if money was a main driver of my heart - he would have won then.

I said I would trade him my bed though if he bought me four liters of vodka.  At that, the passengers started laughing.

I acknowledge he was big and persistent and loud but jovial.  Yet, it was still like a fierce wind blowing against a small statute.  I didn't move.

So - he gave up.  He finally started asking about me.  I told him I was a recent law graduate from Los Angeles.  He then grabbed my right hand without even asking me.  He placed it in his left hand and traced my palm with the index finger of his right.  I felt like a doll's hand was being placed in a bear's paw.  He had rough palms, and I later found out he worked at a Siberian oil rig.

He was reading my palm.  But I had no idea what he was saying.  I did finally understand that he thought I'd only live until 38, unless I gave him my bed.  I said, "That's ok.  Good age to die."  And the passengers again started laughing.  I felt like I was in some old I Love Lucy comedy.  He also said I'd have a beautiful wife, and made tongue movements and kissing movements like a snake.  I understood.  The passengers started laughing again.

So - he gave up.  He went and bought me a beer, conceding his defeat.  I taught him how to say cheers, and he then pointed to a pretty girl in the cart behind us.  He started rambling again.  I understood one word and said it - kind of loud, "VAGINA?!"

At this point, my Russian said, "SHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!"

It was too late; the grandmother started laughing and so did the grandfather and the rest of the passengers.  The people in the other cart looked at us and wondered what was so funny.

I said, "You like her vagina?!"

And he said, "SHHHHHHHHH!!!!"  And in his broken English, he only said, "You!  Girl for you!  Not me!  You!"

I smiled and said, "Pasha (Paul) thinks your crazy."

And with this line, we just kept drinking more beer.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Meeting the Lady of the Lake

I made it to Olkhon Island.  The island is in the center of the largest freshwater lake in the world - Lake Baikal.

For six days, I felt like it was just non-stop traveling.  I flew in from LAX - Berlin - Moscow.  I laid over in Moscow for about 36 hours.  I then took a long flight into Siberia.  I then took a 33 hour train into Eastern Siberia.  Siberia is huge - like I said before.  Then I took a six hour bus ride from Eastern Siberia to Lake Baikal.  This was my first place, in which I would spend some considerable time: 4 days.

The island is supposed to be a mystical place, inhabited by all kinds of spirits.  My host Kataya told me that she had many visions of the world there and that spirits spoke to her.  I kept thinking about this in my van ride.  Behind me sat three Polish girls.  They were incredible with language, as they spoke Polish, English, and Russian.  I joined them temporarily.  They were all very kind - as they kept feeding me chocolates and bread.

One girl offered me a cigarette.   Although I don't smoke, I decided to take the offer, sealing our new found friendship.

But going to the island was not pleasant at all for me.  Kataya was right; there are spirits there.  I could felt my nostrils become inflamed.  Breathing became much harder.  The upper part of my lungs felt tight.  It felt - as if - a fluid was tightening in my lungs.  It was becoming more and more labored to breath.  My asthma was flaring up, but why now?  I reached into my backpack and took out some zinc pills.  Zinc produces steroids, which in turn clear the lungs.  It worked - at least well enough where I could breath again.  Throughout most of this journey, I was getting homesick.  It's the first time that I got homesick so early in my travel.  But I wanted to see my children: my new duck, chicken, aquarium, and mystery pet were all waiting at home.  Yet, I had to continue - yes, with these Polish girls.

When I came to the edge of Lake Baikal, I was astonished at how clear the water was.  Everyone told me it would be crystal clear.  It indeed looked like blue liquid glass.  You could see every rock underneath.  Kataya told me that if you made a wish at the Lake, it would come true.  Only ask the spirits.  I performed the water ritual, as she told me to.

I went to the edge of the clear lake.  I cupped my hands and drank it.  The water tasted cold, quenching, and slightly metallic.  I then cupped my hands and poured the water over my head.  The water ran off my head and fell back down into the edge of the Lake.  I wished for one thing: I would like to see my God.  Now, I hope that doesn't mean I die early.

I could write much and much about this island.  I was there four days and saw many things.  For my audience, mainly in the US and NZ, one thing I would like to stress before I move onto the main story is that I walked 1,000 years back in time.  The island only had electricity installed 7 years ago.  There is no plumbing.  There are no paved roads - only dirt ones like you would think of when you think of India or Africa (no offense to those places).  Abandoned dogs roam the street, along with their enemies, ferrel cats.  Cows and horses often cross.  I literally went way, way back into time.  And though these people, I can imagine live through a bitter winter and have very little, I know that they lived in direct contrast to the people of Los Angeles.  They're still happy - while my people are full of stress, drink too much, do too many drugs, and then have to see a psychotherapist to fix their problems.  This thought, made me reflect for quite awhile.

Back to the main story.  The Polish girls and I went on an excursion on a four wheel drive all over the island.  At on point, I climbed a cliff.  The picture is above.  The point is called the Three Brothers.  I scaled the Second Brother.  This could have been a dangerous feat as the cliff stood about 10 stories away from the water below.  If I fell, I definitely would have died or been seriously injured.  Nonetheless, I went up because I had a feeling inside of me that I should go up.  With skill and upper body strength, I managed to climb to the top of that mountain.

On the top of the mountain, I saw a Shaman alter built to the gods.  It was comprised of three stones, representing the Eye of Horus, the Masonic Foundation, and the Stone of Illumination.  I felt the evil in these stones, and so, I threw each of them into the blue lake.  The Eye of Horus hit the side of the cilff then cracked in half.  The Masonic Foundation smashed against the jagged rocks below and cracked into five pieces.  The Stone of Illumination sank deep down into the bottom of the deepest lake in the world.

Instead, I inscribed in the sand the mysterious symbol of the resurrection.  I filled the imprinted dirt with white sand and said a prayer.  In my mind, I saw the white sand turn into a golden liquid that looked like glowing, amber honey.  The golden symbol floated upward into the air, and the photons of the liquid dispersed into tiny pollens of light that parachuted with the wind.  The photons of light went in every direction and blew around the Lake like a million pieces of golden confetti, swirling around the three rock monuments. 

I then looked from above - ten stories above - into the deep blue lake and saw how clear it was.  I knew the mystery and secret of Lake Baikal.  I smiled.  I whispered in the wind, "I know your secret."  The wind blew in my face.  I said it again, "I know your secret."  The wind swashed against my face, and I knew why the Lake was so clear and what made it so special.

On the fourth day, I was alone.  The Polish girls left the day before.  Because I was alone and bored (and reading more Steinbeck), my Russian host took pity on me.  He, his friend, and I rode on dirt bike across the hills and forest of the island.  I knew I bonded with my host on that dirt bike though, because we both shared a love for toys (as men should).  They had brought their fishing supplies to catch a unique fish called Umal.  There I was, with two Russians, who I could barely communicate with.

My host was a man only a little taller than me with a medium build and a bit of pot belly.  He had light blue eyes and the tip of his nose was red as was his lips.  Underneath his aging face, he still kept a sense of adventure and an ultimate spirit of hospitality.  His friend was a bit more gruff and lived to fish.  He too offered me a cigarette; I took it and smoked it.  It had no flavor.

Along the coast, I could see cliffs that went as far as eye could see.  On the shoreline of the Lake, they took out an inflatable rubber raft.  I used a foot pump and pumped it up, as the other two smoked and waited.  They were wearing thick jackets, beanies, and gum boots.  After I inflated the raft, I watched the two friends launch the raft into the violent water.  The wind was soaring now and blowing chaos into the lake.

As I watched them go a distance from the shore, I couldn't but help to see how they really just looked like toy soldiers in a raft.  Lake Baikal was much more extraordinary and fierce.  In one instance, it could smoother these men - who took the chance to catch her fish.

I waited on the shore and finally - the Lady of the Lake spoke to me.  It was a Spirit with a lady's voice, entrancing and phantasmic at the same time.

 She said, "So - you found my secret - son of Adam, and Boy of Science."

"I did.  I know it now."  I replied.

"But you gave me nothing in exchange for this secret," said the Lake.

"I don't need to.  It's not yours to keep.  Therefore, it's not yours to give."

She hissed.  "I will take from you then.  I will take from your life."

I said, "You can't do that.  My God gives you permission to live here.  It's his secret.  Not yours.  This place belongs to him."

"Son of Adam and Boy of Science, you will pay for desecrating my alter.  You will pay for coming to this island."

"No, you got it all wrong.  I've been paid for resurrecting the alter.  I've been paid for coming to this island.  Now leave me."

It was then, I noticed the men rowing inland.  I saw dark clouds brewing over the horizon.  Eventually, they walked upon the shore and came towards me.

When I saw them, I asked in my poor Russian, "Fish?"

"No," my host said.  He rambled in some Russian, of which my understanding was poor.  Yet, I could still understand what he was saying.

My host said, "We have to leave.  The storm is coming."

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The 33 Hour Train Ride to East Siberia

I took a 33 hour train ride into East Siberia.  I felt like a sardine in a can.  I had one mattress on the upper bunk, but below me was two Russian grandmothers were their own beds.  Across from me was their Russian granddaughter.  She dressed in hot shorts and was beautiful, but in a playboyish way - and not a debutante type of way.

I was lucky that Svet packed me a day's worth of food.  The Russians were so unfriendly towards me on the train, until about the eighth hour.  Then they accepted I was here to stay, and they opened up and started talking to me.

Most of the time, I either read Steinbeck, ate Russian food, or slept.  I mean - what else can you do on such a long train ride?

When I got off at my stop, I stooped down to tie my shoes.  A Russian woman tapped my shoulder and said, "Paul?"

I said, "Da."

Here was my next contact.  She helped me secure the next part of my voyage.  Since I would not depart for a few hours, she took me to her home.  I started taking a shower and realized, this is strange.  I'm taking a shower at a complete stranger's house.  I've known her for less than an hour.

She makes me lunch: Russian soup and cold cut meat.  I meet her son.  She tells me about the mystical experiences she had.  She tells me, "You know - you go to the powerhouse of spiritual energy?"

I wonder what I'll see there.  Will it prepare me for the expedition to come?  After East Siberia, I'm going to even further East - there another contact will meet me.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Divine Appointments in Moscow

I'm in Svet's apartment right now watching the Siberian sunset.  I've been locked in here for two days.  Yesterday, I recovered from my long journey from Los Angeles to Siberia.  I also used the time to finish a journal publication coming out this month.

Today, however, I just did research and reflected.  I leave tonight to Lake Bikal.  It's a 25M yo lake, which is the clearest lake in the world.  It also is alleged to have silver deposits inside.  The journey will be a two day train ride from here.  When I return, we will begin our expedition into the entrance of Shamballa.  In the meantime, I'm meant to take a two day train ride there and back and see what exactly the lake is like.

My time in Moscow was just eh.  I really disliked Moscow.  I didn't enjoy how my first ten minutes into the city, a policeman asked the only Asian guy for a passport.  Here, in Russia, if you give them your passport, they ask for money to get it back.  Apparently, the reason is that civil servants are paid poorly.  When the policeman saw that it was an American Passport, he backed off immediately.  I was also made to pay a ludicrous $75 fine at the airport for nothing.  It's alright though.  I put it on my credit card; so, I'll ask for it to be reversed when I come home.  But all in all, I disliked Moscow.

The people of the city feel like they carry a heart of lead in them.  They never smile.  They walk like they're robots and have these eyes that show no hope.  Although I thought communism ended in Russia, everywhere I go I see the emblems of the hammer and sickle or statues of women carrying rifles.

But, for breakfast I met a French girl at the hostel.  Together, before her flight, we walked in a vast park.  I kind of lost sight of the first impression I had of Moscow.  There, we sat on a bench and looked at fountain of water that erupted short bursts of jets of water, like a geyser.  The rhythm of the splashes resonated with the music.  In the background, a Russian waltz was playing, and I began telling her a story.

I said, "There once was a Norweigian city in the Fjords, locked deep in the heart of an ice river.  There, two beautiful sisters lived.  It was said that one's beauty was like never-ending dry snow softly falling.  The other had beauty that could only be rivaled by a fruit tree, flowering with blosoms in the spring.

But it was also during the time of the French Revolution.  One day, the religious sisters had a French stranger turn up at their door."  At the mention of France, she smiled.  I went on, "She had just lost all her family members during the revolution.  She was freightened like a wild doe being hunted.  She, however, carried a letter from a friend of the sisters that said she would be the best servant.

The French servant lived with them in their austere lifestyle.  She never took of luxury and cooked the bland foods of the village.  Yet, because of her service, the sisters made more money than ever.  She served them for 12 years, and one day won the lottery in France.  So, she begged the sisters for one favor.  She would cook the two sisters a meal.  The sisters agreed.

The French servant then prepared her ingredient list and went to Paris to bring them back.  But when the sisters saw that she was brining a live turtle and pheasants, they were in shock.  They believed it was a pagan meal.  They had already made their promise though.  A dinner they promised.  A dinner she would make.

Thus, the guests and the sisters all made a promise to never, ever speak of this dinner or to not talk of how delicious it was.  There was one guest, however, that came from abroad and did not know of this vow of silence.

So - the French cook made her feast.  The guest from abroad critiqued each dish and explained how riveting and complex it was.  The abroad guest commented that he only ate like this once by the best Chef in Paris, called the Cafe Anglais.  Soon - the guests all forgot about their vow of silence.  Old wounds were healed between feuding friends and family.  Eventually, they sang and laughed and talked of the great memories they all had together.  And when the guests left, for a brief moment, the snow stopped falling in Fjords.

The sisters went to thank the French servant and said to her good bye.  They were very sad as they were sure she was leavnig to Paris.  Why would anyone stay in such a small village?

But the French servant replied, "I'm not going back to Paris.  I've lost everything.  I lost my relationships with the princes, generals, and dukes.  Besides, I have no more money."

One of the sisters exclaimed, "No more money!  How could that be?  You just won the lotterry?"

The French servant replied, "Let me tell you a secret.  I was the Chef of the Cafe Anglais.  A dinner for 12 costs 10,000 Frances, the amount I won for the lottery."

The sisters gasped.  How could she spend so much money on them?

One of the sisters remembered the rumors of the Cafe Anglais, as her fame and reputation even made it to the Fjord.  She said, "But those princes, and generals, and dukes murdered the only son of the Chef of the Cafe Anglais."

"Yes, this is true," said the Chef, "But, I still served them the best meal of their lives at my restaurant.  And even though they took away what was most precious to me, I gave to them what they could never have: perfect happiness.  It's what a true artist can give to others."

And the sisters then realized that they had lived only in truth but had no beauty or mercy in their lives until today.  It was then they had experienced the moment when bliss and truth kissed each other.  The other sister said, "I know there is no artist like you.  And when you are in Heaven, even the angels will acknowledge this amongst themselves."

I don't know why I chose to tell this girl this story.  But it led to other conversations, in which secrets of the world were spoken of and unlocked like the one you read today.

That was how I will remember a moment of beauty that shined in Moscow.

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Forming of the Expedition Team: The Gathering of the Four

It was time to begin the drawing of the four.  I needed an expedition team, and I thought it would be me who needed to do the organizing.  My host, Svet would do it all.  

Let’s name the players.  There’s Svet, the entrepreneur.  She’s my host.  Street smart, ambitious, extroverted and playful.

There’s Sasha.  He’s 36, extremely tall, introverted and a quite thinker.  He has a PhD in engineering and his father is a famous physicist in Russia.

There’s me.  You know me.  Somehow I located the Elixir’s base in Siberia. 
We were going to meet number four.

Svet drives her car, picking Sasha up along the way.  On a rainy Sunday, the three of us enter a modern café on the outskirts of town.  It could have been a café from anywhere in the Western World.  In other words, it didn’t feel that Russian.

The man was sitting down.  He was a thick man, who surmised all of us.  He must have been in his late 40’s to early 50’s.  He had a round face and was Central Asian in origin. 

We sit with him and each of us orders.  I order my usual: a small cappuccino.  The others order their coffees and cakes.  At first, there’s small talk with the Central Asian.  He tells us of his background.

I said, “Yes, but you know, I’m here for the Essence of Immortality.”

Svet translates between us.

He says, “There’s a better ingredient for the Elixir.  It’s the Spirit of Life.”

I said, “Yes, I believe you that the Spirit of Life can be better, but I need the Essence.  The Spirit won’t do what I need it to do.”

He said, “It’s located in the wild mountains, near the entrance of Shamballa.  The Shamans live there.”

Shamballa is the mythical, mystical city of perfection.  Some call it Utopia.  Others just call it the Heavenly City.  I’m not surprised that my elixir is near the entrance of Shamballa.

He goes on, “When you grab the elixir, you must have a Shaman do the ritual.  Otherwise, you will become a slave to the Spirit of the Elixir.  It will never release you.  There is a powerful energy in it that will enslave you.  You must beg it to serve you.

Once, a group of friends and I obtained the Elixir.  We did not do the ritual.  And we brought it back for my father and his friends.  But because they drank too much of it, it made them ill instead of better.  But I do not believe it’s because we did not do the ritual, I believe it’s just because my father didn’t know of the Elixir’s property.”

I said, “Don’t worry about this.  I have a ritual.  It’s called the blood ritual.  It will cleanse the Elixir of the spirits.”

He nodded.

Svet looked up the properties of the Essence of Immortality.  She said, “It says here, whoever finds the Essence will be granted infinite luck and will live 200 years.  It also says the Chinese Emperors sent expeditions for the Essence.”

Sasha listens attentively to what we’re talking about.

I said, “Tell me more about Shamballa.  Have you ever been?”

He smiles and says, “No.  I wish.  But I’ve heard the Heavenly Choir play in Shamballa.”

“What does it sound like?”

“Like church organs.”

“To enter Shamballa, you must be of the highest spiritual level.  I’m not there yet.  Also, during the Communism era, the Soviets destroyed the caves that lead into Shamballa.  I still know where the caves are.”

“Once you enter Shamballa, can you leave it?”

He says, “Yes, you can.  But people who leave tend to become mystics and live much longer than man.  500-1,500 years is what I’ve heard.”

Interesting, I think.  Sasha mentions later his father believes one can live this long.

Svet and him begin to talk about their own destinies, and I take a back seat.  He promises to take the three of us on this expedition. 

Everyone who sat around the table knew felt like we were treasure hunters in a movie.  Yet, all of us were embarking on a spiritual journey that was uniquely made for each of us.  Svet said, "I never knew that you would be coming for this.  I would've never imagined we would all go too." I said, "Yes, we must.  It's important."  

Like you the reader, I don't know if I'm chasing a windmill, or an illusive Holy Grail.  But even if I fail, at least I know I tried and am having fun.  My usual travels were getting boring without a strong sense of purpose.  Now, I have one.  I believe I will be successful because I believe God honors the faithful.

I found out today, he’ll take us next week.  Svet is coming.  I believe Sasha will be too.  Get this: we have to rent a SUV to enter to the entrance of Shamballa.  There are no roads or path into the Mystic Mountains.

I get an email this morning from my best friend from New Zealand.  He has an indirect connection with Svet.  He writes, “I heard you guys are going to look for some magic sh** in the mountains.”  

I guess word is getting around.  I laugh and write back, “Why else would I go to Siberia?”

“I thought you wanted to see Polar Bears.”
“Well, maybe that too.”

Sunday, September 16, 2012

In Siberia: In Search for the Elixir of Life

I flew from Moscow into Siberia yesterday.  For those of you who don't know, Russia spans both Europe and Asia.  It's huge.  I'm only a little passed the midpoint of Russia, and that flight alone took me five hours to fly into Sibiera.  From the midpoint to Vladivostok it would be another 9 hour flight.  So, it takes about 13-14 hours to fly from one end of Russia to the next.  I bet you didn't know it's the largest country out there!

For those of you who don't know, I didn't really know at the time, I go to Siberia on a mystical journey.  The word mystic has the same base word as mystery.  Both essentially appear in the English text a few centuries after Jesus' cruxifiction.  Essentially, it means a spiritual connection or union with God.  A mystical journey is one where you're search for the truth, the meaning of life, and a connection with my God.  I look for all these things.

I made the decision to go to Siberia right after I took the California bar.  I wasn't sure why I was to go.  I just knew it was where I was meant to go.  A month later, I discovered a valuable item needed for the Elixir is located in Siberia.

But where was I going to find it?  Siberia is huge.  It's probably larger than all of the United States itself.  Even on my flight, I wasn't really sure where to find the elixir.  I just knew I had to go.

I flew out of Moscow at 12:30am.  I red eyed in at 7am.  A girl was meeting me there.  What American has friends in Siberia?  Before I left the plane, I wondered would she be strange, old, obese, or homely.  Would she want to meet me to try to marry me?  Who knew?  She was a friend of my best friend's sister in New Zealand.

When I left the airport, a blonde, fit, girl with blue eyes gave me a hug.  She was gorgeous and young.  The only problem with this story is that to make it feel more like a movie, she needed to have been driving a sports car.  She's a sharp entrepreneur, who even arranged the first TED Conference in Siberia!  =)

I took her out to breakfast for her kind hospitality.  After the chit chat she asks why I'm in Siberia.  I tell her I need the mystical artifact for the Elixir.  She doesn't look at me like I'm crazy.  She says, "I've heard this item is in Siberia.  It's in the mountains two days from here, but the range is enormous.  You cannot go by yourself.  There are also dangerous people that live there.  Once, when I led a tour group there, a band of wild tribespeople, drunk, attempted to attack us with chains on horseback."

I just said, "Hmmmm.  Well, can we find someone to take us?"

She said, "This is interesting.  I would like to help you find this artifact."

I said, "Yes, it is a precious, rare item.  I need it."

I go back to her place and crash on the couch.  I haven't slept well in days because it's a hard journey into Siberia from Los Angeles.  

After a few hours of sleep, she wakes me up and says, "Come on, we got to go.  I posted on my facebook about your Elixir.  Someone, I never even heard of responded.  He says he knows where to get your Elixir in the mountains.  He says that it's guarded by Shamans, but he knows.  We have to meet this guy in 30 minutes on the outskirt of town."

I said, "You never heard of this guy?"

She said, "No, he's a random facebook friend.  He used to be a geologist.  Then he became a lawyer.  And now, he's an investment banker."

I thought, that sounds a bit like my life.  I studied biology only to become a lawyer.

She continues, "We need to get my friend, Sasha.  He's interested in the journey.  I told him a random American looks for the Elixir."

She pauses and adds, "He also says he knows the mountain entrance to Shambala. . ."

Picture Courtesy of Google's depiction of Shambala.

Friday, September 14, 2012

The First Person to Help Me in Moscow

The first person to help in Moscow was a North African university student who believed in Islam.  He was very kind, and he helped me get into the city.  He spoke fair English, and I gave him my skype information.

Now, you need to read this story that just happened today.

The guy was from Tunisia as well and was going to work for their government.

What a small world.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Long Wait to Moscow

The good news is I finally made it to Moscow, Russia.  The journey getting there though was long, and I feel exhausted.  I think in total, the journey took over 24 hours including wait time.

Besides the wait, the journey was a pleasant one.  It just wore down my body.

For instance, when I got to the airport, I had a whole full row of three seats all booked to myself.  Someone had an awesome sleep into Berlin.

Yet, in Berlin I had to wait 6 hours to transfer to Moscow.  So, I had a complimentary lounge pass.  I used it to eat some salami and crackers.  Not very good, but at least they had French Cognac and champagne.  That was nice.

The flight to Berlin to Moscow was about another 3.5-4 hours.  I arrived into the Russian Capital at 2:05am.  No buses running.  No trains running.  They're were just hawker taxi people who wanted to charge me a $100 USD to take me into the City.  I decided to wait for the morning train and skip on the hotel.  Why pay a full fee for just a few hours?

I instead went upstairs and ate an Indian meal and had sparkling water and a beer.  The price of the water was unbelievable at $6 USD.  It was a small glass too.  The beer was $6 USD too.  Everything is just way overpriced (more than a usual airport) in Moscow.  But I was already warned.

I already experienced racism.  I was targeted by a police officer, who wanted to randomly check my passport.  They do this, and extort a bribe from you to get it back.  When he saw, however, it was an American one he backed off pretty quickly.  Racism is really overt in Moscow.  Tomorrow night, I fly out into Siberia.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Missing a Flight

As the title suggests, I did miss my flight to Russia.  As a friend already asked, "Why?"

I quote two axioms to explain what happened.  Murphy's Law states, "If it can go wrong, it will go wrong."  Cook's inverse law states, "If there's a way to make it go right, finesse can make it go right."  Let's remember those two things.

Today, a package that it was supposed to deliver my Russian travel book was lost by the Hollywood United States Postal Service.  I called at 9:01am because they had my package.  I told the lady on the phone please hold my package.  She said, "Don't worry, we'll hold it."  I said, "Can you please make sure it's back there because I'm driving from Baldwin Park [an hour drive]."  She replied, "I said 'It'll be here.'"

I should've known then I was dealing with a lazy excuse for a human being.  I go to the Post Office (PO), and the supervisor says, "Sorry, we don't know which package you're talking about.  Go get your slip."  So, I drive back to my house.  I find the slip.  I return. 

This is the second time to the PO.  I ask the African-American male, I mention his race and sex because he was the only one there like this, and I'm copying and pasting this story to USPS.Com.  Therefore, it's not racially charged.  I ask him to get the supervisor.  He says, "I'm busy; I can't."  I said, "I want to see him now.  This is my second return."  He goes and gets the supervisor.

He comes out.  Looks at the slip.  Says, let me call your post-lady.  He does and says, "Hey she's out sick today.  Your package already went out for delivery."  I sigh. 

"Ok, I reply.  This wasn't supposed to happen."  I flash my phone in front of him and show the call log to 9:01am.  I said, "Whoever answered that phone said my package would be here." 

He says, "And who was that?"

I said, "I didn't get her name."  I didn't know we were moving towards the Big-Brother State, where government officials need to be threatened by asking for their name all the time.  Now, I know. 

He says, "I'm sorry.  Your package went out."

I said, "Let me find the carrier.  What's her route."

He gives me the route.

I go and follow the route and there's nobody.  I follow it again, and still no postal truck.  This sucks, I think!  I find a distant mail carrier, who tells me her route in more detail.  I follow his route twice.  This sucks again, I think.

Finally, I met up with the kind mail carrier.  He's an Asian guy with long hair.  (Again, I want him to get credit for doing the right job.)  He calls up, whoever he has to at headquarters and the voice on the line says, "There's no substitute for the route today.  We've split it."  A split is where they divided up a person's load amongst two or three carriers and it's delivered at the end of the carrier's normal shift.  In short, I was sent on a wild goose chase!  There was no carrier that day doing that route.  How P(*&)(*&) annoying I think to myself?  I am really not happy, but I'm controlling myself.

The kind post carrier says, "What's your name?"  I said, "Paul Cook."  The phone on the other end says, "Hey, his package is still at headquarters."

When I hear that, I want to blow my top!  HOW COULD IT STILL BE THERE?!  That supervisor said it wasn't there.

I thank him and said, "Just know you really did the right thing today."  I went back to Headquarters.  I park at a meter and feed it.  I ask the staff to get the supervisor.  The same lazy man says, "I'm busy."  Why are all the people at the headquarters so lazy?  It tells me that whoever is in charge is some lazy guy.  You always know.  Because if I was in charge, I know I wouldn't tolerate such behavior.  Anyone who's worked with me knows that.

They make me wait.  I go again and say, "Where's the supervisor?  This is the third time I've been here for a package you've always had!"

The staff said, "You just have to wait."

Finally, the same supervisor comes out and says, "I already told you the packages went out for delivery."  I protest and explain they didn't.  Then I see the parking meter lady give my car a ticket.  I run out and try to stop her.  She's African American too.  This is weird.  She says, "I'm just gonna give it to you.  If you were my husband or lover, I wouldn't.  But you drive I nice sports car.  So why not?"

OMG, I think.  Is this real?  Is this really happening to me today of all days when I'm supposed to fly out to Russia?  She gives me my ticket.  I take it off my car.

I go back.  Hallelujah!  There are two packages waiting for me.  An Asian lady courier hands it to me.  I give her the parking ticket and said, "Give this to your manager and ask him to pay for it."  She looks like she's experiencing deep shame.

I said, "Listen.  I came here three times today!  Three!  I called ahead of time, so this wouldn't happen to me.  But it still did."  Now everyone in the PO is listening.  "Let me explain why this is important that I need this today.  See: I'm flying out to Russia today."

In a dramatic way, I rip open one of the packages so it makes a loud tear.  I take out the Russian travel book and show it to her and said, "Now you see why I need it."  The PO people are looking in horror as they're hearing my story.  She looks even sadder.  "Then, you make me wait again for 30 minutes to get my package!  I didn't do anything wrong."  She can't handle the stress.

So - this old hag of a toothless lady comes out.  She has wiry grey hair too and reminds me of the witch that would come out of a Grim's fairy tale and says, "We're just going to throw out your ticket in the trash can.  It's not our fault you're not responsible."  I smiled in slight irony.  I'm irresponsible now?

I didn't say much.  No point in arguing with a foolish witch.  The Witch always thinks she's right.  I just left the parking ticket with them, took my books, looked at all the people who watched me cause a scene, I saw the face of the sad Asian PO worker, and walked into my BMW.

It gets worse though.  As I drive back to my mother's place, I think to myself, let it pass.  Don't think about it.  You have more to do.  You have to pack and get your passport.  As I drive home, I realize the mail is there but the passport isn't there!  I live in Baldwin Park for USPS.

I hunt down my courier and find her post truck.  I ask her, "Don't you have an Express delivery for me?"  She said, "Not for your address.  I was there earlier today."  What?!  Where's my passport.

She says, "Here: call my supervisor at the Baldwin Park PO." 

I do.  He picks up and says, "Sorry, no express mail left here for you."

What the heck is happening?!  I go to Starbucks and trace my passport.  It says it got into Baldwin Park PO in the morning.  What is going on?!  Someone in Baldwin Park has my passport!!!!  Where is it?!!

I go back to the courier and tell her my story.  She says, "Go to the post office."  So, I do.

There, I tell the staff my story.  They try to trace it down and the lady staff comes back and tells me, "Hurry!  Go home!  They're going to try to re-deliver it.  There was a mistake.  It didn't go out when it should have."  What is going on?

I go home.  I try to pack.  Another post man comes at 3pm and gives me my express parcel with the passport inside.  I ask him, "Why is this coming so late?"

He says, "Oh, there were 10 express packages delivered at 1pm today.  Yours was one of them."

I think to myself - you are a damn, filthy liar.  Tracking says it came in at 9am today.  Furthermore, your boss already told me no express packages came in at 1pm today.  You're a filthy, filthy liar.  But I don't show what I'm thinking in my face.  That's a common trait and flaw about me.  Instead, this time, I take in a deep breath of relief, show a grateful smile and said, "Thank you."  All the while, I'm still thinking he's a filthy liar or that supervisor is.  But one of them is lying.  And that package came in at 9am.  So someone screwed up royally with my passport.

Anyways, long story short - under all the stress and lost time, I forgot my passport at home on the way to the airport.  Halfway between the airport and home, I turn around to get it, but it's too late.  I missed my flight.  I didn't mean to forget it.  I don't know if I would've made it anyways had I not because on top of that, my booking had a technical error that checked me in early to Moscow but didn't check me into Germany - my interchange city!

See, as Murphy's Law states, if it could've went wrong today, it royally did.

Cook's law was also in play.  I got my packages.  I got my passport.  I had my flights changed without a fee!  Now, that's amazing.  I had to pay a small fee to rebook into Siberia, but my miles covered it.  At the airport, I bought my mother a Japanese dinner.  She patiently and sometimes impatiently waited as she witnessed her son skillfully manage the problem with each of the managers.  And all in all, it felt good to have someone there by my side while I was going through all this.  I mean, I could've suffered through it alone, but it's always better to have someone that loves you around - even when they're just around and not able to help.  That still means a lot.

Thus, in some ways, these kind of challenges can also bring about the best in human behavior and human connection.

As we drove back home, in my little roadster, through the Los Angeles freeways, my mother asked me, "It's night now.  Do you think the ducks and chickens will be ok?"  We put them away every night so that predators like stray cats won't get at them.

I said, "I'm sure they'll be fine."

When we got back home, I found them sleeping in the vegetable garden.  I grabbed them.  My mother grabbed their cage - and I put them inside.  They're always happier in the cage at night, as they instinctively known the night is a threat to them.   I said, "See: I told you they would be ok." 

Monday, September 10, 2012

Reckless Traveling

As a veteran traveler, I tend to also be a reckless one.  You learn not to get upset when things go wrong.  You stay clam and try to work around the issue.  And when you've traveled around the world enough, you realize something always tends to go wrong.

I didn't make it that clear about how wrong my Russian Visa went.  Not only was it initially rejected on its first round.  It got rejected again because my signature wasn't in ink that was bold enough.  I then had to scan it in, and the lady told me, "It might get rejected again because it's not the original signature."  I asked her if she could trace my signature with a pen.  She said she would not, even though I authorized her to.  In the end, I used a black marker to sign my name and scan it in color.  That way, it's kind of hard to tell a copy with a signature using a black marker versus the original black marker signature.  The worst part was the robbery of the whole visa price: $266!

I then waited.  The scary part was I booked my flight for the same day I was allegedly going to receive my visa.  What if it didn't come?  Then I'd have an ugly mess on my hands.  I mean, no visa.  How would I rebook my flights when I knew that new flights were already overbooked?  I also knew I had to get to New York in October to meet some friends.  So, I was really letting the Fates decide if I would go to Russia or not.  Not to mention the non-refundable $266 fee.  =(

But my Muse of Wisdom and Creativity, as always, was in my favor.  I received the email today that said that my VISA was processed and that my passport would be mailed out today and received tomorrow.  Yes!!!!  =)

Perhaps that is why one of my favorite quotes states that: "Fortune favors the fearless."  It must be the alliteration in the quote I enjoy.  =)

I'm going to Russia!


Saturday, September 8, 2012

Getting a Russian Visa!

Yup, as you can see from the title, that there must a preceding condition before getting a foreign visa.  That condition is that I have to intend to go to Russia first.  I'm going to Russia - at least I think I am. 

The problem is the visa!  I've never had so many problems with a visa before.  It got rejected the first time because it wasn't typed; it was handwritten.  But it wasn't typed because there website for a pre-populated form was down.  So what was I supposed to do? 

In any event, want to hear something that's crazy.  The visa is supposed to arrive this Tuesday on Sept. 11th.  My flight leaves later in the evening.  I hope I get it in time.  Since I haven't heard more about rejections, it looks very likely that things should be smooth.   I don't know.

I'll let everyone know why I'm going on my next entry.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Assault with a Knife

I'm not sure what's going on with this summer.  Awhile back, I was assaulted with by my idiot-of-a-teenage-delinquent-neighbor, who pulled a rifle against me.  He definitely has anger issues, as his mama just dropped him off one day, not wanting him anymore.  His father's been in jail and may be there again. 

He fears me for whatever reason.  Anyone who's met me knows I'm only 5'3"-5'4".  I'm not very threatening looking at all, but he pulled a gun out on me when I was backing out my Z3.  I guess the symbol of status and power also enraged him; I could see it on his face.  But if I could tell him something, it would be that he needs to work hard and have character to have a good life instead of smoking out and drinking bier everyday. But what do you expect from a kid from such a dysfunctional family?

Oh - then there was the series of hacker attacks against both my gmail accounts and my phone.  I managed to fix all those.

But last Friday, I went to Starbucks in Baldwin Park at Baldwin Park Blvd.  It was 10pm.  I went inside to use my computer to go on the net.  I felt a bit chilly.  I went outside and noticed someone standing near my Z3.  I noticed a too was being used close to the hood.  I ran to it.

I saw a chollo (Mexican gangster) looking guy on a bicycle trying to pry off my hood emblem.  I said, "HEY!  What are you doing?'

He said, "Nothing" with a devilish grin like a kid caught doing something bad.

I said, "What do you mean nothing?!"

He brandished a three inch knife in his left hand and said, "You better back off mother f()*&(*&!"

I look at the knife.  My heartbeat doesn't elevate.  Instead, I think.  I tell myself, Ok Paul, the knife is short.  Not deadly.  If he comes towards you, disarm the left arm.  But first, hold up your hands in surrender and say, "Sorry, sorry" - to trick him.  Bum rush.  Close the gap between him and you and then hammer punch his nose in, get his wrist in a grip, and turn him around and break his elbow.  You know what to do.  (Some basics of a combination of krav maga and training from 3 years of Judo). 

But he says, like a chicken puffing up his feathers, "That's what I thought."  He rides his bicycle towards the East.  He essentially runs off, while I hold my ground. 

I call the police.  The girls in Starbucks are freaking out.  They're saying, "Oh him.  He was bicycling around Starbucks for hours and staring at us."

The Baldwin Park Police, as usual are useless.  They take a report and then the five officers just shoot the breeze and talk about where they can get the best coffee at this time.  I just wanted to tell the police, is this how you would want an officer to behave if I was your son or daughter?  Maybe, I should have said that.  It's like these people forget their basic job duties: protect and serve.

Here's what I found most interesting about the whole ordeal.  Before the police have their coffee chat, they did find a Mexican male with a shaved head on the bicycle.  They ask me to ID him.  I honestly couldn't tell if that was him or not.  They really both looked alike.  Same color bicycle and style too.  He had facial hair in a similar way that the other guy did.  I grew up in a Hispanic Community.  You would think I would be able to do a facial recognition.  But I can't.

I only know that's not the guy because he's wearing jeans and the other guy was wearing shorts.  That, I remember.  He also doesn't have the black jacket on.  But by looking at his face, I can't tell.  And I have a duty to tell the truth, even though a part of me is raging to have this idiot caught by the police.  It's so easy to say, "This is the guy."  I would accuse an innocent person without meaning to and potentially destroy his life.

Previously, I found out difficult to understand how someone could falsely ID someone.  Now, I was in a predicament where I understood.

I tell the officers - "I don't think it's him.  The guy was wearing shorts."  The police let him go and can't be bothered continuing their search.

I'm left with two questions and a scenario I replay in my mind.  The first question is why would someone do something so stupid for a $20 emblem?

 I know I can get flack for saying this, but I'm saying the truth anyways.  Why do Mexicans (yes, I mean from Mexico there is no country called Hispania) in this area have such a similar style?  I mean, if you told the Officer, baggy shorts, shaved head, tattoo (somewhere), and on a bicycle they could apprehend a handful of people in Baldwin Park at that time.  I just don't get why that gangsta look is so popular if it could lead you to be targeted.

The last scenario I replay is me actually bum rushing him, breaking his elbow, and smashing his skull and nose in for his stupidity.  I wonder what would have actually happened had I attempted that.  I won't know, as he ran away.  I do think about it though.  Would that have been the better option?  Would it have been the right thing to do?  Would I have got hurt?  I don't know.