New York City and Veganism

Making the decision to take a side trip to New York City when I was visiting Philadelphia was a rather hard one to make. I came to Philly to attend the CreatureKind Christian Vegan Retreat. I couldn’t fathom flying in and out of Philadelphia just for the retreat.

I had visited this amazing city about 5 years previous when I visited the Simple Way Community while I was visiting Christian intentional communities, and I sensed that God was encouraging me to take the risk and discover the divine appointments He had arranged for me.

I really don’t understand how this all works, except for that if I can really trust in God and be able to hear His guidance, miraculous encounters take place.

During my week in Philly five years ago, I found out that I could go to New York City on the Megabus For a very low rate, and just stay a day. I was so tight on money then and although I really wanted to take this trip, I was unable to do so.

This time, my focus was on doing things that would help me promote Jesus Vegans community and to make connections with the vegan community on the east coast.

So when I decided to go to New York City, I only had one connection. Jamie Gioe, a woman who I met at the Ozark Area Community Congress, spends the cold weather months living in the Big Apple–a stark contrast to the super simple life she lives on her land where she lives off the grid in a tent. We hadn’t had a lot of time to connect at the weekend gathering, and I wanted to learn more about her and her lifestyle.

I really respect how Jamie is restoring the land and able to live very much in alignment with nature.  When I told her I was thinking about visiting NYC, she invited me to eat lunch with her, and thus I felt encouraged to take the plunge and spend the amazingly small amount–$25 round trip–to take the five hour (there and back) journey.

When I finally decided to go, there was only one day available in my schedule. I had made 3 appointments with very inspiring people on Wednesday. Monday I did my work exchange trade–making vegan food all day so my housemates would have a week’s worth of food.  Tuesday was the day.

 Jamie was not available to meet me on that day, and even though I was disappointed not to have anything scheduled, I decided that maybe sightseeing was okay. People gave me advice for things to do, including Central Park, Metropoltan Museum of Art, the High Line. 

I met a microbiologist from Colombia who had been attending a conference in Philadelphia. We struck up a friendly conversation while waiting for the Megabus at 8am. While on the bus, I put out the word through Facebook, “I need a recommendation for a place to go where I might meet some vegan animal rights activists. I really didn’t expect that someone would be able to help me. I had put out some feelers for connections in Philly on a few Facebook pages with only one result. And this was really last minute.

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The woman from Columbia seemed to want some company on her sightseeing experience. I was reluctant to join her, because for the most part, traveling alone lets me be flexible and more open to divine appointments. Not wanting to hurt her feelings, and also thinking, “Maybe I can be of service. After all, I don’t have any specific plans,” I agreed to join her and explore the city together.

When we got to Time Square, I noticed 4 large steps leading nowhere. I asked a man who had just descended the stairs, “Do you think that is a kind of soapbox where you can make speeches?”  With a very charming Irish accent, he said, “I don’t know–what would you give a speech about?”

“Veganism,” I quickly said.

“Oh, my girlfriend, who is in the shop over there, wants to be vegan. She is vegetarian. I eat the food she makes–but I still eat meat,” he said.

He seemed curious and willing to talk. Soon, his girlfriend joined us. I really  enjoyed all aspects of our conversation, which actually went pretty deep very quickly. We even talked about their spiritual walk–they had left the Catholic Church because of their corruption, and yet still wanted to follow Jesus.

After talking about 20 minutes, it seemed like it was time for us to depart. I love how the conversation flowed–and we all became Facebook friends. They had no idea that there might be some support for them in Ireland, where they did not know any vegans or vegetarians, so when I did a google search and found the Vegan Society of Ireland, they were delighted.

My new friend who wanted to tour New York City with me had now disappeared. I was rather relieved, because I knew that these kinds of encounters were not ones she would be excited about. But I also felt disappointed, because I would have liked to have told her honestly that I realized I just needed to be free to have these kinds of conversations and going to varoius tourist destination would not really work for me.

Next I saw a man who had a big sign that said, “Need money for weed. Why lie.” I was so intrigued, and I took a picture. I realized that I wanted to reward him for his honesty, and he did seem like an interesting character.  So I gave him some coins, and we had a rather uplifting conversation. I broached the topic of veganism, and he wanted to talk about how children on the average eat 85 pounds of sugar a year.  I enjoyed our connection, and felt inspired to empty my change purse of change and give it to him.

Next I saw a policeman standing on the sidewalk talking to someone.

“Can you tell me where the nearest vegan restaurant is,” I asked gaily.

Although the cop did not know of any vegan restaurants, we had an interesting talk about how he commutes 2 1/2 hours each way from his ranch where he raises cows and other animals. “But I don’t eat any of the animals I raise,” he said. “They are my friends.”

I didn’t push the issue of how animals that were not his friends were suffering because he did eat meat, although I encouraged him to rethink his thinking! He was very friendly and I really enjoyed our 5 minute connection.

I decided to do a search for a vegan restaurant, and the nearest one was called the Little Beet. As is often the case, I could not find it and needed to ask directions.  I was standing on the sidewalk, looking confused, and a security guard standing in front of an impressive looking building said,

“Can I help you find something, miss?”

I was very touched by his offer of help. He told me where the restaurant was and he asked me where I was from. When I said the Arkansas Ozarks, he said, “Ah, Clinton country.” He proceeded to tell me that he sees Bill Clinton every day because he works in the office building that he works for.

He was very supportive of me being vegan, and said that he wished he could stay on a vegan diet–and that he had done a long fast which gave him a lot of energy. He was interested in living in the country and being self-sufficient, and was intrigued by Jesus Vegans Community which I told him about.

I gave him my card and told him to connect with me if he felt drawn to do so.

The Little Beet was just a few shops down. I really liked the vibe, and was glad to see a giant map on the wall of urban farms and all the local places that they got their food. I was disappointed that they served various meat dishes. This was NOT a vegan restaurant. But hey, google can’t always be right, and they had a large selection of vegan food.

I ordered some butternut squash soup and found one of the few tables that had an electric outlet. I was disappointed that already my battery was low on my phone, but happy to find an outlet!

I found it rather entertaining just to watch people and soak in the atmosphere of a busy self-serve restaurant during lunch. I felt happy to be there.

I looked at my phone while waiting for it to charge, and found that someone had answered my request for a recommendation! Deborah Prost was a Facebook friend who I had never connected with, and I found out later she was home sick from work and thus had the time to share some great vegan places to go to, including the Orchard Grocers on the East side of Manhattan.

Hopping on a subway and finding the vegan deli was extremely easy. As is my usual habit, I needed to talk to about 10 people in order to get there. One person actually lead me astray and I went on the wrong subway train. But everything worked out, and I arrived at my destination happy to be finding vegan connections.

After chatting with the cashier at the Orchard Grocers, I went next door to the Moo Shoes, a vegan shoe store. “The first cruelty-free store of its kind in NYC, MooShoes was founded in 2001 by sisters and Queens natives, Erica and Sara Kubersky,” is how it is described on their website.

I enjoyed a friendly talk with the shoe sales woman. I’m not interested in being fashionable, but I was glad that there was a vegan option for those who are. When I asked if I could take her picture, the sales woman demurred, but said I could take a picture of the very large cat who contently lay on the counter.  This cat had been hanging out in the store for 17 years!

I went back into the grocery store, thinking I might buy a sandwich. I’m not eating much bread these days, and even though the sandwiches all looked delicous. I decided to buy a green juice.

I noticed a man sitting at the 3 person counter, and decided to strike up a conversation. He was friendly and willing to talk. I immediately asked if he was a vegan, and the answer was “yes.”

Jeremy was a very inspiring and interesting person, having been a vegan for 19 years and having some connection with the Animal Liberation Front.  He shared some stories of how he engaged in some activism and we really connected on a deep level in many ways, including talking about spirituality. He was glad to hear that there was progress being made in Christian circles around the issue of raising awareness about animal rights from a Biblical perspective.

He told me about his neighborhood where many people from the Carribean live–people who were very low income. Many of them were vegan, and able to be vegan even though they had little money. He said that he was really glad to experience this first hand because he didn’t want veganism to be seen as something that only rich people could afford.

I really liked how our conversation flowed with both of us being good listeners. I wish I had taken notes immediately afterwards because I just learned so much from him. But the fact that my heart’s desire of meeting a vegan activist had been fulfilled. He happily gave me his email address–he has never been on Facebook–and I am sure we will stay connected.

Jeremy recommended that I visit the Buddha Bodhi Vegetarian Restaurant, which was conveniently within about twenty minute’s walking distance. Our conversation came to an ende because of a business appointment he needed to get to, and after exchanging hugs, I headed for the next adventure.

I want to pause right here and say that even if what happened up until now was all that transpired, I would have been happy! But there were more treats to come forth.

Looking at the menu, which was actually all vegan, was an interesting experience because such dishes as jellyfish and tripe (vegan, of course) were offered. I was able to chat with the owner’s son, who was proud that they had been in existence for thirteen years! He said that all the food was made with traditional spices and tasted very much like something that you would eat in a regular restaurant where the dishes contained meat.

I ordered a few items, and actually was not all that inspired. But then, I am really going in the direction of eating more raw and fresh. But it was an interesting experience–and the coconut pudding was delicious. The server and the owner’s son were quite friendly.

I saw 3 guys eating at a booth, and I asked them if I could take a picture. They willingly agreed. We struck up a conversation about veganism, and I found out that one of the fellows was a strong vegan, and he was attempting to inspire his friends to go vegan. We had a great connection, and I became Facebook friends with Derryl, a young man who is raising his daughter vegan. He even joined my group, Free Thinking Jesus Followers–he is a Christian. One rarely finds Christian vegans while wandering around! But I think Jesus might have somehow arranged this divine appointment.

I wanted to make sure I got to the Megabus stop on time, and even though I had a few more hours left in the city, I decided to try to find a chocolate shop which seemed to be in the direction of my bus stop.

I got totally lost trying to find the chocolate shop, and decided to charge my phone and go to the bathroom at a coffeeshop. I have learned the hard way that if I am in a big city, bathrooms are hard to find and coffee shops usually have them. As I stood in line at the bathroom, I asked the guy who was waiting behind me if I could take an informal poll.

He agreed, and was very pleasant. I asked him if he loved animals. Yes. Did he eat meat. Yes. He admitted that he had to experience cognitive disonance in order to eat meat. He was not defensive at all, and since I know I have cognitive disonance in some areas, I was not about to judge him. I hoped I planted some seeds. I just love to talk about veganism, and find that most people are very receptive.

As I continued walking down the busy street, I was pleasantly surprised to see a chocolate shop–and it was vegan! It was the one I had given up on finding. I went in and checked out the offerings. Very pricey! So I merely bought a rather small sweet which cost $3 and I savored it slowly when I got on the bus. Yummy! I took a picture of the cashier and talked to the person who was sipping on hot chocolate in the very tiny dining area.

I found the Megabus station right on time, and boarded the top level of the double decker bus which was at maximum capacity. I think it might have been like a commuter bus–leaving at 7PM. I had arrived at 10:30 and was leaving 8 1/2 hours later. That doesn’t seem like a huge amount of time to spend for a 5 hour round trip–but it was worth it to me!

The bus ride flew by, as did the one when I came to New York. I caught up on emails, Facebook, texted,  read, and meditated. How can two and a half hours go so fast?!

I arrived at the bus stop at 9:30, and easily caught the high speed rail train to my home stay in the Kensington neighborhood. I was able to do my prayer time and spiritual practices via texting with my friend Kim, and was happy to be soon sleeping soundly.

What a beautiful and rewarding day. I felt grateful as I drifted off to sleep, thinking about how kind Jesus was to me, and how much had happened without any plans at all. I really believe that I was able to tune into guidance and that He helped me to find my way in NYC, where even my mistakes turned out to be something beneficial.

Vegan Adventures In Philadelphia

Miracle after miracle occurred to make my stay in Philadelphia a very satisfying, productive, faith-building, and fun event. I want to share!

The first miracle was getting a place to stay for 8 days. I didn’t know where I was going to stay until the day before I left! I went to Philadelphia to attend the CreatureKind Christian vegan retreat over the weekend of Dec. 1-3. Going all that way just for a weekend didn’t make sense–so I took a chance and booked my flights so I would stay before and after the retreat–which I will describe in another article. It was wonderful!

I am so grateful to Sarah Withrow-King co-director of CreatureKind, who facilitated the retreat. She asked some of her friends if I could stay with them, and they said yes! Coe, one of my hosts, just happened to be the person who I met when I visited the Simple Way Community, founded by Shane Claiborne when I toured Christian communities about 5 years ago.  I feel so grateful to Coe and Sue for opening up their home to me.

Coe became vegan recently.  He and Sue, his roommate, were really happy to accept my vegan cooking and some cleaning as an exchange for their hospitality. I am pleased to say they really liked my food, and I was so happy to serve them. I loved staying in Kensington, which is one of the most poverty-stricken neighborhoods in Philadelphia. But Christians like Coe and Sue have moved there in order to shine some light in the dark places.

More about my experience with the Simple Way and living with Coe and Sue will be written about later.

The biggest miracle of all was that I hurt my back a few days before I left on the trip. Oops–that wasn’t the miracle. It seemed more like some kind of opposition. I actually considered cancelling my trip.

Having back pain is a rare, practically non-existent experience for me, and the timing was terrible. I went to the chiropractor the day before I left, but early the next morning, I was still suffering intensely. When I woke up the morning after arriving in Philly, the pain was worse than ever.

I felt so discouraged because I had a week ahead of me where I wanted to relax at the retreat, and be walking and having adventures–and I was afraid I would not be so uncomfortable at the retreat that I couldn’t concentrate, and physically unable to do walk as I just love to do.

But instead of giving in to discouragement,  I did some intense laughter prayer, and lamenting prayer (weeping loudly) and crying out to God for healing. I also did a live Facebook spiritual practice session and people prayed for me right then and there. I asked for prayers on Facebook as well. After the session,  I noticed some relief, and from then on I quickly improved so that by the evening I was practically back to normal. What a joy that I could recover so quickly, and I appreciate the prayers and the healing so much!

Taking cheap flights usually involves long layovers, which I actually enjoy. I find airports to be fascinating in many ways. On my layover in Dallas-Fort Worth airport, waiting for the flight to Philadelphia, I met an American Airlines employee whose wife is Christian and vegan. He was shocked that there would be such a thing as a retreat for vegan Christians, and he arranged for me to meet his wife who worked at the Philadelphia Airport. The timing that had to take place in order for these connections appeared to be supernatural. More about that will be shared later.

I wanted to have appointments set up to meet with people and figure out my schedule before I left. I was concerned that the extra 5 days I was staying in Philadelphia would not be productive. I could always focus on writing and networking online, but I wanted to have some meaningful, face to face interactions. One person, Mary Kate of Liberation Philadelphia, who I had met at the Animal Rights Forum in Berkeley last summer, did agree to meet with me a few days before I left.  But would our schedules line up? I confess, I was feeling nervous about how I could justify taking this longer trip.  If I was going to do writing, I could have just stayed home.

But within days of my arrival, I made two more appointments to meet with two other really wonderful activists and leaders–Josh Vincent of the Center for Study of Economics and Paul Glover who started the successful Ithaca Dollars.  I was able to make appointments all in one day which enabled me to take my trip to New York City. One of them got pushed to the next day, which ended up being even better than the initial appointed time.

God is sure good at helping me make a schedule even though I might blow it. I am eager to share how all that transpired, and divine connections that were made in spite of my poor planning.

Each one of these leaders in their fields–community health care, helping to empower poor people by changing land use tactics, and animal rights- taught me many valuable lessons which helped me see how veganism fits into the bigger picture of helping all of creation to thrive.

I visited New York City for a whirlwind, one day trip. For twenty-five dollars, I bought a round-trip ticket on the Megabus. I am proud to say that I only spent $30, and my keepsakes were some wonderful pictures, a wrapper from my $3 confection from a vegan chocolate shop, and menus from the vegan deli and vegan restaurant.

On the two and a half hour ride to NYC,  I posted on Facebook asking for an unusual recommendation: “Where can I find a place in NYC where I might meet some animal rights activists?” A Facebook friend (one of the many vegan friends who I don’t know) told me about a vegan deli and shoe store where she thought there was a good chance I might get my needs met.

I did not get the recommendation until I was in NYC for about 2 hours. So I did what I usually do–I wandered. Praying for guidance as to where I should go, I was led to Times Square where I met an Irish couple who were on a journey towards veganism. Our conversation was very unusual and vulnerable. We talked about veganism, ethics, and Christianity.  This will take a whole post to explain!

While eating some vegan butternut squash soup at the Little Beet Restaurant (which was recommended online as a vegan restaurant-but also had fish and steak!) I looked at my FB updat and found the recommendation for the Orchard Deli and Moo Shoes store. I felt excited to have a bit more direction.

I was easily able to find the places using Mapquest, and asking the friendly NYC residents for directions. People were SO friendly both in Philly and NYC. I believe that people naturally love to be able to serve. I even helped people out with a few directions myself!

I was glad to get to ride the subway and then walk to my destination. After chatting with the friendly workers at the deli and shoe store, I sensed that I needed to talk to a man who was sitting at the three seat counter.  I asked him if I could talk to him and he said yes. I asked him if he was vegan (natural question to ask at a vegan deli!) and he said yes.

We had a long, inspiring, heartfelt talk. We vegans often have an instant rapport. I love that! I found out that he was an animal rights activist who had been vegan for 19 years.  We had many stories to swap about our involvement in the movement. I was even able to tell him about Liberation Philly. I can’t wait to share more about that conversation in another post.

When I traveled alone for 13 months at age 19 in such places as India and Afghanistan, I learned to ask other travelers for recommendations as to where I should go next. I asked my vegan activist friend where I should go next. “Buddha Bodhi Restaurant,” he said.

I took his advice and walked the mile or so to Chinatown. At Buddha Bodhi, where they serve traditional oriental food vegan style, I met a young man who is now my friend on Facebook–and he is a Christian vegan!

I have lots more stories to tell about my eight hours in New York City. God sure does know how to help me schedule my time!

 

When I travel in a city, I have to ask people for directions because reading maps on Mapquest (or, before Mapquest–any map!)  has always been a big weakness of mine.  I asked so many people for directions–maybe 50 people–during my travels. I found 99% of the people were super helpful and many really went out of their way to make sure I found my destination.

Whenever I travel, there are so many opportunities for miracles to happen, and the opportunities to surrender, be guided by, and to trust in Jesus are even more abundant than when I stay home. I think this eight-day trip held more miracles than any other trip I have been on, considering the shortness of the trip. Maybe it is because by finding and doing spiritual practices that really help me to connect with God I can be more receptive to his blessings which I believe he is showering on us all the time. We just need to learn how to clear away the blocks that keep us from receiving them.

I am eager to share all that I experienced and learned on my trip. Pray for me that I will be disciplined enough to capture it all through writing!

I would love to hear how you feel when you hear my testimony, and if you find traveling to be an opportunity to experience miracles and thus increase your faith and deepen your relationship with Jesus.