April 24, 2009

Right Speech

Right Speech is one of the elements of the Buddhist Eightfold Path and deals with a person making the best use of their words. It is amazing what power our words have, to hurt or heal, to upset or inspire, or to break us apart or bring us together. Right Speech is about taking care to always speak the truth and to make sure what you have to say is beneficial to everyone who hears it. Here are some pointers that I think are helpful:

  • Abandon false speech : Speak the truth, hold to the truth, be firm, reliable, and deceive no one
  • Abandon divisive speech : Do not tell what you have heard to break apart people. Reconcile those who have broken apart and cement those who are united, speak things that create concord
  • Abandon abusive speech : Speak words that are soothing to the ear, that are affectionate, that go to the heart, that are polite, appealing and pleasing to people at large
  • Abandon idle chatter : Speak in season, speak what is factual, what is worth treasuring, and what is reasonable
  • If your words are unfactual, untrue, unbeneficial, unendearing and disagreeable to others, don't say them.
  • If your words are factual, true, unbeneficial, unendearing and disagreeable to others, don't say them.
  • If your words are factual, true, beneficial, but unendearing and disagreeable to others, have a sense of the proper time for saying them.
  • If your words are unfactual, untrue, unbeneficial, but endearing and agreeable to others, don't say them.
  • If your words are factual, true, unbeneficial, but endearing and agreeable to others, don't say them.
  • If your words are factual, true, beneficial, and endearing and agreeable to others, have a sense of the proper time for saying them

April 16, 2009

Wall Painting

In an effort to further my experiences with painting, as well as cover up some bad spots on my wall, we decided to get creative with the west wall of my bedroom this past weekend. A lot of ideas floated around in our heads including painting an earth, throwing water balloons of paint, towels covered in paint, and blowing paint out of straws to makes splats on the wall. We tried the straws (and even substituted a spray bottle), but they didn't work. We also threw a towel covered in water at the wall and that worked great, except water went all over the room...so we decided not to try it with paint. In the end, Tunga inspired us all by dragging a paint-covered sponge across the wall in a nice curve. Alex, our official Style Advisor, loved it and told Tunga and I to keep doing the same thing all across the wall. So we did. What resulted is something we have all lovingly named Dreams of Bamboo Forest Fireworks at Midnight. And so ended the story of painting my walls, or might this be a never ending story? Only time will tell...

April 14, 2009


Do you know that I have never once, in all this time in Mongolia, been bored? It shocked me when I thought about it, but it's true. In America I thought or said out loud that I was bored quite often. Even around my best friends I would be bored, which now just seems ridiculous. How could I have been bored when I was around my favorite people in the entire world?

I think it has a lot to do with our distractions, our saturation with stimulus in America. We have a never-ending amount of things to fill our senses and we hope that they will make us happier. Video games fill our screens, food fills our stomachs, and maybe most of all random people fill our ears with nonsense: celebrities, pundits, experts, professionals, whoever. Even though our lives are incredible, many media sources would have us believe that our lives are unremarkable. When characters on the screen have such interesting lives how can we compare? We don't compare. We shouldn't. The comparison is unreasonable. Reality is far different, much deeper, and more full than all of that. A simple life of love, friends, family, and adventures is enough to fill many wonderful years, months, weeks, days, hours and minutes. It might just be that the moment we realize that is the moment we stop being bored.

One can dream of something more terrible than a hell where one suffers;
it's a hell where one would get bored.
Victor Hugo

April 11, 2009

How Good I Want To Be

Playing sports with local kids here has given me a totally new outlook on how good an older person should be at sports. After some reflection, I've realized these are also things I learned from my dad. I think older people should be good enough in sports to:
  • Throw a ball and make kids say, "Wow, look at that!" In Mongolian kids say, "Yaaa, yamar goy!" ("Yaaa, how nice/beautiful!") This isn't complicated. Sometimes it means throwing a football with a nice spiral, or shooting a basketball with good form, or tossing a frisbee right where you want it to go. Play well enough that kids look good when imitate you (and they will trust me).
  • Have enough energy to keep up with kids for as long as they want to play. This means you say "yes" when kids ask if you can play, no matter how tired or busy you are. It means you keep playing even when you would normally give up, and it means you smile even when you can't believe you are being outrun by a kid one third your size.
  • Play hard enough that it makes kids want to play that much harder. Chase them to the ball, but let them beat you to it right at the end. Run when you could jog. Jog when you could walk. Go get the ball when it goes out of bounds. And hustle because hustling is more important than talent. Kids need to hear about it but more importantly they need to see it; you need to show them what hustling is.
  • Play every sport well enough that you can teach it to a kid. Soccer, football, frisbee, basketball, volleyball, golf, tennis, ping pong, swimming, baseball, everything. Learn it, play it, practice it. You don't have to be great at it, it doesn't matter. Kids will think you are great. And when you play with them, you will be great.
  • Always throw the ball to every kid. The kids standing nearby watching you play wanna play too. Toss them the ball, softly right to their chest so they can't miss it, and tell them to come play. Constantly change up teams and include every kid you can. Pass to the small kids the same as the big kids, the girls as often as the boys, and keep teams even. Step out when you need to and let the kids play together.
  • Congratulate kids infrequently enough to make it special and consistently enough that kids know when they can expect it. Clap when someone makes a good play (no matter which team they are on), pat kids on the shoulder, give them high fives, smile at them, give them a hand when they fall, say "good job!" in whatever language they love the most and tell them thank you for playing hard and giving their best. My favorite thing to do is clap for a kid who gave their all - ran as hard as possible, dove for it, did everything they could. If they missed, that doesn't matter. If they keep playing like that throughout their whole life, they will always get better.
  • Do things that will amaze kids. You can do this many different ways: you can bounce a golf ball on your club like Tiger, dribble a ball between your legs, throw a frisbee across a football field, spin a basketball on your finger, or do something special like my dad...

I already thought my dad was special when I was a kid. He could play everything, his spirals were perfect, his placement was always spot on, and he never seemed to make a mistake. But as I got older, I noticed I would challenge him sometimes. Occasionally he would miss a shot, I would steal the ball from him, or I would have to jump to catch a throw of his that was just a little off. I thought I might getting better, but that wasn't the whole story. I'm not sure how old I was when I finally figured it out, but I was much older than I care to admit...

One day when we were playing football, I noticed he switched hands while he was throwing with me and I saw the prettiest spiral I had ever seen. Later when we were playing basketball, he switched hands halfway through a game and he never missed another shot. Much later, completely beat, I asked him what hand he had been using. "Usually I use my left hand," he told me. I knew he was right-handed, not left-handed. "You're right," he said, "but I like the challenge of playing with both." My whole life he had been beating me, in basketball, in football, in ping pong, in tennis, in everything, with his left hand. I thought I was getting better and I was. I had just learned I was now good enough to play against his right hand.

As I get older, I am starting to enjoy the challenge of playing with both hands too. Hopefully one day I'll be good enough to play with my own kids and break the same news to them, as they stand there staring back at me with their mouths gaping wide open. When it comes down to it, I guess that's really how good I want to be, as good as my dad.

April 10, 2009

Simply Nervous

As I come back to America for the month of May, one thing that is making me very nervous is losing sight of simplicity. My life and the lives of those around me here in Mongolia are not complicated and I think that makes things so much easier. Desires are few (food variety is a perfect example), people feel satisfied with what they have and they focus on relationships almost every hour of every day. Sometimes this means shopkeepers play cards with other shopkeepers or maybe health department workers get together to take a hike into the countryside or play basketball on Tuesday nights. It's nice.

I'm nervous about seeing ads everywhere telling me what I should buy, what I should wear, drink, eat, say, look like, do. I'm nervous about the high speed of American life and commerce and the fact that society back home can be based on the idea that people need to consume new things regularly, regardless of how good the things are that they already have ("We know you just bought a new computer yesterday, but look, it's already outdated by this new one..."). I like the fact that all the vehicles here are old enough that I don't know when they were made, the fact that I haven't seen a magazine advertisement, heard a radio spot, seen a billboard, watched a commercial or seen trademarks or brand names in almost a year. My stuff, all my clothes and electronics and shoes and whatever, are all just fine. If I saw more ads, maybe it would be harder to believe that.

Not worrying about keeping up with the pace of society allows me a lot of extra time to focus on relationships with people, working on my own personal fitness, and taking up new hobbies like cooking and painting. These are things I have wanted to do my entire life. My life is more simple here and I have never been less bored in my life.

If one’s life is simple, contentment has to come. Simplicity is extremely important for happiness. Having few desires, feeling satisfied with what you have, is very vital: satisfaction with just enough food, clothing, and shelter to protect yourself from the elements. And finally, there is an intense delight in abandoning faulty state of mind and in cultivating helpful ones in meditation. The Dalai Lama

April 8, 2009


I have been told that my tragic downfall will be my desire to be great. I could see that. If I wanted to be special so much so that I forgot how special everyone else is, then I would not be great. If I wanted to be successful so much so that I forgot that we should all help one another succeed together, then I would not be great. If I wanted to be respected so much so that I forgot to love and understand the people around me, then I would not be great.

However if I live every day and treat everyone that I meet special just like I like to be treated, if I spend my time helping other people become successful so we can all accomplish our hopes and dreams, and if I always stay mindful of my commitment to loving and understanding my family, friends and neighbors, then I think greatness will find me.

If you want to be important—wonderful. If you want to be recognized—wonderful. If you want to be great—wonderful. But, recognize that he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. That's a new definition of greatness. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

April 5, 2009

Obama and Peace Corps

I am proud of my man Obama and I know the job he has before him right now is an incredibly difficult one. He has to not only do what is right for our country, but also do what is right right now. That includes helping our economy, finishing the war in Iraq, mending our health care system, improving our education system and, one particular issue which is very close to my heart, expanding the Peace Corps. If it seems like Peace Corps is less important than those other issues right now, that's because it is. Obama will increase the budget of Peace Corps and I am working hard to encourage that, but doing what's right right now means Obama also has to focus on this year's budget, stimulating our economy first.

Obama said, "To restore America's standing, I will call on our greatest resource not our bombs, guns or dollars - I will call upon our people. We will double the size of the Peace Corps by its 50th Anniversary in 2011. And we will reach out to other nations to engage their young people in similar programs, so that we work side by side to take on the common challenges that confront all humanity...we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourid and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds."

I have always felt like Obama was my Lincoln and my Kennedy; I have been behind him for years and I will support him for years to come. I have faith that he will take care of Peace Corps and usher in a new era of service within our nation. I think this organization's time for renewal has come, and I believe I will still be in Peace Corps to watch it happen, but I think it will require hardwork, letters to our representatives and patience from us.

April 2, 2009

The Chase Vaughan Foundation Responds

For Immediate Press Release

Thawing Eastern Steppe, Mongolia
April 2nd, 2009

This past Monday at 7:05PM Eastern Standard Time, a stunning artisan-pressed mint-grade platinum plaque on Ebony African Blackwood was commissioned and placed at the entrance to the Hellstrom Foundation headquarters to thank the philanthropist and friend of the Foundation for his generous donation of the Chase Vaughan Wireless Connection to the Travis Hellstrom Experience. This response comes directly from the desk of the Chase Vaughan Foundation:

I am happy to hear that wireless has at last come to the Travis Hellstrom Experience! I believe, in the end, that it was hope and change that finally made internet stream magically through the air like the flowing waters of the staff-stricken boulders of Moses. Now, with your new no-strings-attached approach to surfing the web, I believe it will be possible to bring the internet to brand new levels, such as the level of your bed, or the level of the floor, or even the occasional level of the bathroom with the door shut. I wish the press to know that I bestow this invaluable contribution with magnanimous humility and steadfast character. Like the frowning visage of the also great George Washington, carved in pure patriotic resolve, I hold this truth to be self evident: that all love was created wireless. In our lifetimes, we have witnessed many great human achievements such as Youtube, Crocs, and the McGriddle. But these all pale under the presence of the proud CVWC, which sits on a podium above history's greatest commissions. Never have I received anything with such personal gratification as the historic launch of the Chase Vaughan Wireless Connection and the commission of its stunning artisan-pressed mint-grade platinum plaque on Ebony African Blackwood chronicling Chase Vaughan's inspiring struggle as an attractive upper middle-class white male fighting against all odds to make his way in America. This may be the honor that finally qualifies Chase Vaughan to refer to himself in the third person. And so it is Chase Vaughan's great honor to accept your sufficient accolades and adoration for a revolution well done.

May your loins be fruitful in the belly of your women.
Pretentiously Yours,
~His Wirelessness, Chase A. Vaughan

"Love is Always Wireless."