An Interview with alumni (2005) Taruna (Tobin) Wu
When did you attend Ananda Living Wisdom School?
I started as a boarding student at Living Wisdom School at Ananda Village in 2000 as an 8th grader when I was 13 years old, and went to school there every year until I graduated High School in 2005. I spent the first four years living with five different host families, and my last year I lived with the other boarding students.
What was your background in schooling before you came here?
Before attending LWS I had tried public school for first and third grades, and home school for the rest of the time. The two years before I started at LWS were very unproductive and I fell very behind in my schooling. Because of the amazing and helpful teachers at LWS, I was given the time and attention I needed to catch up, and in most subjects, I made 2-3 years worth of progress during my first year at LWS.
Have you done any college work? Where?
After I graduated from LWS in 2005, I moved back to Portland, Oregon, where my parents live, and took a year off before deciding to study accounting at Portland State University. During my junior year of college I was a business honors student. After seeing what pursuing a career in Accounting was going to be like, I decided it was not the future I wanted, and put my college education on hold.
How do you feel that your time at LWS affected your life “on the outside”?
I don’t know of another place I could have gone to school that would have given me the same well-rounded education as the one I received at LWS. LWS focuses on all aspects of development, not just academics. LWS taught me the importance of patience and introspection. I know for a fact that I would not be the well-rounded person I am today if I had not gone to LWS from when I was 13 until I was 18. Those last several years before adulthood are, in my opinion, the most crucial. After all, we are products of our environment.
What LWS lacks in quantity, it makes up and surpasses in quality. The friendships I made at LWS are the closest I’ve ever had, and even though I graduated 6 years ago, I am still as close to my high school friends as ever, and they are still my best friends.
Can you relate any interesting and fun stories about your days at LWS?
One of my favorite memories from LWS was when my class took a 6-week trip to India. We were up in Rishikesh visiting a Swami who lived in a tiny house right on the banks of the Ganges River. His house had a flat landing right at the river-bank, so close you could jump straight into the river. We were all hanging out on the landing, and my friend Simon got the idea to swim to the other side of the river, which at that spot in the river, was not very wide. I was sure that our teacher, Nitai, would say no, but amazingly he said yes. I eagerly asked if I could swim across too, and he gave me permission as well. Simon and I stripped down to our shorts, and one after the other we jumped into the river and started swimming across.
After only a few moments in the water, I looked ahead and saw that Simon, who had only jumped in a moment before me, was already twice as far out as I was, and I simultaneously noticed how the water was getting colder and colder the further from the bank I got. The current was also a lot faster than I had thought, and we were rapidly being pulled by the current down the river. I was not even a quarter of the way across before deciding that this was not a good idea, and flipped around to swim back to the bank. I stood in the shallow water and watched as Simon eventually made it to the other side, a good distance down river. I walked in the shallows back to the Swami’s hut, while Simon thawed out on the far bank before walking back up, and swam back over at a narrow spot in the river a very short distance up river from where we were. After Simon got back, Nitai said to all of us, “I said yes to Simon and Tarun because I knew that Simon was strong enough to make it, and because I knew that Tarun was smart enough to turn back if he needed to.”
What are you doing now?
I am now 23 years old, and married to my wonderful wife, Priya, who is turning 26 later this month. We celebrate our third wedding anniversary this summer. We own two homes in two countries, spending about 4 months out of the year with our spiritual guru in Northern California, another 4 months living with him on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica, and the last 4 months of the year we spend working during the summer and visiting friends and family.
My wife and I own our own business, which is great because we get to work together, and only when we want and need to.
By Hridaya Atwell