Wednesday, January 19, 2011

10 Glorious days.....Part 2

Day 1 was very hectic. We had to get the breakfast and lunch going and since we only arrived on Day 0 of the course, we did not know the exact location of items in the kitchen and store-room. Fortunately, old-time meditators & servers, Richard & Mr. Gan (both from Malaysia)were at the center and they helped us quite a bit to get going.

I made Indian Dal with vegetables on the first day, following the recipe book to the letter. In addition, I managed to locate a rolling pin and atta ( wheat flour) and quickly made some chappatis for the teachers. I was sure Jayeshji would appreciate that as he was away from home for about 20 days. Indeed, he exclaimed to me that evening after metta session: " Bees din ke baad roti mila khane ko...Saadhu, Saadhu!" ( I got to eat rotis after twenty days! thank you!)

When the other dhamma servers saw me making chappatis it led to a kind of lec-dem on chappati making, with some of the servers trying their hand on it.

Anna, the other kitchen manager, took charge of the Chinese food and by the time we rolled out the lunch, it became evident to us that we need to plan for atleast a day in advance to get things done smoothly.

Alice took ill on Day 1, overwhelmed with the kind of work required to be done ---just listening to the work assigned was enough to make her ill!

Day 2 was Anna's turn to fall ill, having worked hard the previous day without resting. Kitchen work is a huge responsibility and requires hard work which can be physically tiring. Therefore it is essential that all kitchen servers rest during the scheduled 1--2pm to be fit and ready and in good health.

Three of us in the kitchen--the main cooks--Anna, Alice and myself only had experience cooking for our own families--cooking for 100 people was altogether a different experience. The rest of the helpers were all new to serving in a course. All of them, except me, had previously done 1 or 2 ten-day courses and it was their first experience in serving.

Ms. Jennifer Lin explained to me, that a long term meditator like me was essential to serve in the kitchen, because previous experiences with kitchen helpers made her realize that a calm and cool head and a person established on this path would help in maintaining harmony in the kitchen. Harmony was essential, particularly in the kitchen as when servers are happy, the work they do turns out that much better.

This was something I could do easily, and when Alice was alarmed on Day 2 when Anna was not well, I could reassure her that I was there to assist her in any way possible and things would go smoothly.

Day 2, we practically did everything ourselves with minimum help from Richard. I called for a meeting that afternoon to remind servers to take an hour's rest from 1---2pm and not over work and fall ill as we needed all of them everyday. In addition, I addressed the safety issues of keeping the floor dry to avoid accidents. Most of the jobs were allocated by the Malaysia organizing committee with the teacher, Jennifer Lin specifying my role as Kitchen Manager.

Anna returned to the kitchen in the afternoon and we started planning for Day 3. Managing kitchen involved taking stock and placing order for vegetables and other groceries; checking the items when delivered and storing the items. As Anna speaks Mandarin, only she could do this job well, and soon she was getting stressed with this as well as the cooking she was in charge of.

The others in the kitchen were one Swedish gentleman, Axel, a Spanish Tomas, Belinda, Chinese from Singapore, Rie Ishida, Japanese, Iskandar, Indonesian, Tan Abba, Chinese Malaysian, Toh Teck, Chinese Malaysian and Hue.

Axel made great salads--quite an expert at it, regaling us with interesting tales of his experiences in different cultures particularly Thai where he is currently living. Tomas helped in cutting fruits and vegetables and was also assigned the duty of carrying food for the teachers. Both Axel & Tomas helped to clean the grease trap in the kitchen sinks.

In addition to our work in the kitchen, we had 3 one hour meditation sessions in the hall with all students in the course. At night after 9pm we had a metta session with the teachers and a feedback on the progress of the day.

Day 3 went off well, though the stress began to tell on Anna and she was beginning to show signs of being upset. I tried to calm her and soothe her irritation. She felt that some of the servers were not carrying out her requests.

No comments:

Post a Comment