Retreat Yourself

This month has been one of  transition, of challenge, of merrymaking, and of ants.

I will start strong and tell you all of my recent nightmare involving an army of ants, my sleeping body, and the eeriness of a full moon.

I recently moved into a new home, away from my sweet but small and noisy hut on the other side of the retreat. I had to farewell my pet gecko Fred – we had developed a strong relationship based on him pooping in the corner, and me pretending to ignore it. Now I live in a comparable mansion, which is perhaps one metre larger, with solid floors, walls that turn into windows, a door that shuts fully and completely, and more places to put things! I also have replaced Fred with a pet frog who waits for me on my light switch every night. A slimy suprise. Needless to say, I was the happiest girl when I moved in at the beginning of this week. I was pumped for a big, good sleep in my awesome bed with the full moon streaming in my open window, a gentle breeze tickling at my feet.

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I awoke at 3am, feeling itchy. Things were crawling upon me. I was sure I was dreaming and kept swatting at the irritation, until I was fully awake, then realized it is not normal to have things crawling on you in your sleep.

I turned on my torch and gasped murderously as a stream of bolshy ants paraded  up and down my exposed arm, infiltrating my clothing, delving into the depths of my bosom crevice. I leapt out of bed, getting all tangled in my mosquito net (which, I will say, has NO POWER against the wrath of ants), and placed my feet on the floor, instantly realizing that I was standing in a SEA of ants, they began to climb my legs, clinging to my feet as I fled the room.. The entire floor had become one big ant.

I returned in desperation, trying to spray them and get them out of my bed , also pouring half a bottle of insect repellent onto the floor – they seemed to enjoy the challenge of the liquid, and began to build rafts using eachothers bodies, all the while advancing on me with menace in their eyes. I went to sleep in another accommodation, and returned in the morning to find they had nest’led into my clothes, my bedsheets, and my soul. I put on my yoga pants and instantly regretted it, feeling a tingling, itchy sensation all up in my legs that would last for days. Fun fact – apparently ants do not bite – they PEE on you, and that is what stings.

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The retreat staff came to exterminate the ants who had infiltrated my home, spraying toxic stuff all around the outside, and hopefully this will ensure they never return. The girls did point out to me that ants like coconut oil, and I had a big old jar sitting on my bench. I had also covered my entire body in the stuff before sleeping that night, so they probably smelt me and came running.

I have never written the word ant this many times and it is beginning to look and sound strange, so I will stop talking about that now.

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I am learning the ways of Siem Reap, some life hacks, so that on my days off I maximize my time and minimize expenditure.

I have stayed in the same $12 guesthouse for the past couple of weeks, where they greet me with a smile and rent me a bicycle for my time there. I love riding my bicycle – the tuk tuk drivers don’t hassle me, I simply cruise past with a look of superiority and independence on my face. On my day off, I like to venture to a nearby luxury hotel, where they charge 10dollars to spend  the day by the pool, with access to the spa, sauna, hot showers, Jacuzzi and ginger tea! Or, if you’re like me and many of my Siem Reap acquaintances, you just glide in as if you belong, wearing your least hobo clothes and with a posture of dignity and tremendous wealth.

I spend a good 70% of my time off  immersed  in some type of water. I always feel quite dirty here – even when I shower I am instantly sweaty again, and my hair is comparable to a frizzy hedgehog. It is the humidity I suppose, and the fact that washing in cold water all week long hinders cleanliness.

Last week, however, was very cold indeed! A cold front came through from somewhere that experiences an actual winter, and we all shivered and huddled over our tea for several days, (it was like 19 degrees Celsius, but its all relative). I secretly loved being able to light the firepit in the yoga hall every morning, and put on another layer of clothing. At night, I pulled my blanket over my shoulders, which is a miracle in itself.

I am now adjusted to the 6am starts, sometimes 5.30am on a good day, and I have to ensure I am tucked up in bed by 10pm. I often take a daily nap in the late morning or early afternoon, but I can’t nap for too long because then I wake up all sweaty and disoriented. The only clothing I wear these days are yoga clothes, and some may say this is the best job in the world, because yoga pants are the most comfortable pants ever. I haven’t worn jeans in 3 months – I didn’t even bring any with me.

Highlights from this week were teaching outdoor yoga at a nearby temple, next to a lotus pond, and also teaching a partner yoga class. Nobody can get through this class without exploding into giggles – especially when men partner up with each other and I get them to make love hearts with their bodies and “breathe with each other”….

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Every week I seem to say something hilarious when I’m teaching – something that is NOT acceptable and people tend to laugh and fall over a little bit. For example, in a water themed class this week, we were rolling around in the ground in a “happy baby”pose (legs up in the air, on your back, rocking side to side), and I called out “have a little fun with your body….. it’s always available to you”……. Needless to say there were some stifled giggles.

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Our guests are from all walks of life – high season at the moment means there are around 30 people on each retreat, young people, old people, couples, boys, girls, beginners and people that have been practicing for 30 years. It is a challenge and a joy to create classes that suit all levels, and the feedback I get from people tells me that I am definitely in the right place.

So I will be here a while longer… What began as a 2 month internship has expanded into a 6 month role, learning all aspects of the retreat environment – teaching, administration, guest relations, and learning to live in a community in a bamboo shack, surrounded by nature, eating vegan food, and meeting people from all walks of life.

I’m writing from a riverside cafe in Siem Reap on my day off, soaking up the sun, and the caffeine which is contraband throughout the week. The good thing about limiting yourself to a coffee every 7 days is that IT REALLY HITS YOU  and you GET SHIT DONE.

On that note, I’m off to cruise on my bicycle, head held high, in search of a pool with free wifi and cool asian hats.

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Visit me for a 6 day integral yoga and meditation retreat at Hariharalaya

 

 

 

Butt Ugly

Feeling a bit prudish? Avert your eyes. 

In my past week working on a naturist resort in southern Spain (tick that one off the list), I have witnessed many different types of body in their naked prime, and it is safe to say that everybody differs wildly. I mean WILDLY. 

  

 We get very used to our own bodies, we know which bits we like and which bits we would quite like to chop off and flush down the loo never to be seen again. But all these other bodies! My sweet baby Jesus! Saggy old man bottom, thigh hair that you could have , nipples that would poke your eye out if you got too close, terribly awkward tan lines, strangely protruding belly buttons.. The list goes on. So the next time you think that your bottom is too big – it probably is, but at least it doesn’t hang down behind your knee caps. You have that going for you. 

It has, all in all, been a tremendous end to my time in Spain. Bit of cleaning, bit of drinking wine, bit of food prep, bit of dog feeding. Andy, the charming host, spends his life travelling, setting up shop in one place for as long as it feels right then moving on. It’s a constant, ever changing adventure and his welcoming nature makes everyone feel at home. As a volunteer, we get fed and watered as well as the guests, and spend the days preparing for meals, cleaning up, sunbathing nakey by the pool and entertaining the guests with gin & tonic,  yoga and magic tricks (all at the same time).

My last evening we consumed a vast amount of wine, goats cheese, and fancy chicken things, then watched as Andy tied two of the other helpers together with a rope and instructed them to find their way out. Just your standard Monday evening really. I told Andy I was going to relay this event to my mother; “mum, the host of the naked place tied up his female helpers and watched as they tried to untangle themselves, all the while swilling his wine and laughing jovially!” Oh, how we laughed.

   
 I decided that the time was right for a dip in the hot tub, and naturally (haha) our guests wanted a go too, so I found myself bobbing around, butt naked, with an elderly English couple, discussing naturist retreats in New Zealand and whether in fact you really need a place to be naked, or if we should just be able to get our kit off anywhere. I think there is a time and a place, and it is generally not socially acceptable to bare your bottom in the workplace, for example, or in the supermarket, because we only want fresh meat from the deli man, please and thankyou. 

  
We settled in for a while, my bottom would not quite touch the bottom of the pool because I am short in length , so I floated and imagined I was in outer space. Mike spread his arms across the back of the spa pool, and his face was contorted into an expression that I mistook for great pain, so I asked him what was wrong and he said “ah, no, I’m just relaxing”. Let’s not relax too much Mike. 

Janet floated around like a curvaceous pale angel, and her legs kept emerging above the water, and she kept looking down and crying out “ooh go down leg! You naughty thing!” She was a few wines in at this point. She let go of her wine glass and we watched, awestruck, as it floated across the surface of the pool, like an alcohol boat, and then there was a fireball that flew across the sky, and all was good in the world.

  
 I decided to leave Janet and Mike to relax naked together in the hot tub, my time had come, and I sloped off to bed to bask in my last night of nudity and try to ignore the tiny itchy things that nestled into my bosom crevice while I slept.

I awoke this morning, dressed myself, said goodbye to slobbery Dino the Great Dane and Billy the Goat Whisperer. 

   
 
Now I can’t help but look around me at all the other humans on the airplane and idly wonder, “how hairy is HIS back?” , or, “what’s hiding under THOSE fetching brown corduroy trouser legs?”

What have I become! A… Naturist? Or a perve? You decide.

Shits and Giggles

It may be the worst thing in the world, getting sick when you are far far away from mummy and home comforts. Where is mumsie to make you hot water bottles and cold flannels for your brow?

It is, at least, a lesson in harden the f**k up. But it isn’t fun. Especially when you share a bathroom with 10 other travellers, many of whom also have the illness, and when said bathroom is a solid 30 metres away.

You know it’s bad when you wake up curled around the base of the dubiously cleaned toilet, and you don’t even have the strength to be scared of the spiders minxing about in the corners.

I was lucky enough to have my darling Irish friend take me into her home and feed me soup and electrolytes, and let me use her bathroom and sleep in her bed. You know they’re a good friend when they give up their bed for you, whilst they sleep in the tent in the backyard.

If I’m looking on the bright side (which I usually am), I suppose it was my body’s way of telling me it needed 5 days of sleeping, free of alcohol, coffee and pretty much all food. I shall view it as a detox, and promptly get back on the wine wagon.

Having recovered from a sprained ankle, a damaged wrist, a vommy bug and some nasty hangovers, I have a new found appreciation for my health. And my appetite. Food tastes so good.

So what have I even been doing this past month? Not writing blog posts, that’s for sure. I’m sliding off the face of the earth on this island. My day goes roughly like this:

Wake up at 10am. Perhaps do some yoga, perhaps go back to sleep for an hour.

Eat a strange assortment of breakfast foods from the Helpers kitchen. We’re a healthy bunch this year, so the foods in demand seem to be flaxseeds, oats, soy milk and honey. Get em while you can!

Make a variety of glutenous pastries that I cannot eat due to intolerance but I would like to smush my face into, such as lemon meringue pies and buttermilk scones.

Get flour all over my clothing, get flustered if I receive more than one order at a time in the cafe, basically make it up as I go.

Squeal with glee over tip money that equates to one drinkie.

Finish work at 6pm. Occasionally go for a walk, a run, or most likely a nap.

Shower myself, or at least dry shampoo my head.

Sit in pub talking shit with various people. Increase my bar tab. Stay up too late. Go to bed at 3am. Tell myself I will get up early tomorrow and do activities. Secretly know that I will sleep for as long as possible.

It’s a whirlwind of activity, and the days slide by far too quickly.

A couple of weeks ago my homegirl Jeananne and I took a trip to Clare Island, moseyed around, drank a lot of tea, did some naps in the ditch and got rained on far too many times.

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This weekend I’m running away for a few days to do a cycle trip, which will include party time in Galway and then cycling through Connemara, wild camping and cooking food on a tiny camper stove. I’m very excited, and hoping that the heavens will not unleash their rainy fury on me too regularly. I don’t think my Primark raincoat would be able to handle it.

We have sporks, so I think we are pretty prepared.

When I return I promise to write a marvellous post of all our adventures. There will probably be a lot of pictures of me, sodden and downtrodden, regretting the decision to go camping and cycling in Ireland.

I shall leave you with these images of me and my compadres, drinking to excess and having a tremendous time.

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Seeking the sun

After a week of strenuous planning ( I say strenuous like it’s hard, figuring out whether I want to go to Italy or Spain next), I have come up with a rough plan for the next 5 months. I am the kind of person that will agonise over every little detail for a few days, toss and turn at night, then suddenly make a snap decision and that’s it. Done. Sorted. The decision is the hardest part, the actual planning is generally smooth sailing!

Next Wednesday I’m heading to Barcelona for 3 nights, to see the city just because it’s somewhere I’ve never been and have heard wonderful things about! Through Couchsurfing I’ve been invited to drinks and a ‘language exchange’ evening while I’m there – I think they expect me to speak a small amount of Spanish, which is awkward, cos I don’t. But that’s ok – maybe I’ll meet someone who’s willing to teach me.. They may regret it. I thought about Couchsurfing in Barcelona and put up a open request for a couch, but I just got about ten messages from 30 year old men, with their entire profile filled out in Spanish apart from their life motto “impossible is nothing!!!!” and, “I’m here to show you how to PARTY DOWNTOWN.” Not entirely sure what they mean by that. I’m all for partying, but…. Nah..

Then I am heading down the coast of Spain to work at this yoga retreat in the hills, near the beaches of Costa Daurada. I will be sleeping in a tent, being vegetarian again, doing yoga every morning and of course helping with the retreats. I just have my fingers crossed that there are no aliens there. I can’t wait for SUNSHINE!

I’m there for about three weeks, then I’m going to France, to HelpX at this place that runs wellness retreats and camping/ gités over the warmer months. They also have horses, which I’m super excited about! Mariken is a yoga teacher and they drink green smoothies in the morning, I will be right at home.

Then it’s my birthday, which I weirdly almost forgot about when making my plans. I may head back to the UK for a week or so to catch up with people, then it’s over to Ireland for 2 months, back to the Valley House where I spent 6 weeks last summer.

The last few weeks have been a bit of downtime, recovering from my weird experiences in Devon and generally just eating meat.. I’m excited to get on the road again!

Earlier this week I wrote a blog post on meditation for my aunty Kath, who runs a wonderful business called designed2enable, which sources stylish assistive products for people with disabilities and physical difficulties. You can read it here. Their pill boxes are a handy gift for people with lots of medication to take!

Tonight I made Socca, which are chickpea pancakes that are very popular in Nice in the south of France. Credit goes to Aimee who I met in Devon – she made these one night and I was hooked.

Here’s the recipe for y’all – goes nicely with spicy Indian dal, or Mediterranean vegetables (just change up the herbs in the pancake). I like things that are easy to make and don’t stress me out by requiring a million ingredients. Which is why I like these!

Makes about two pancakes – double the recipe for more.

1 cup chickpea (gram) flour
1 cup water
1 1/2 tbsp EV olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cumin/coriander, or mixed herbs for a Mediterranean filling

Just cook them up like normal pancakes, then shove one in your mouth.

I hope you likey.

p.s. Exciting news of the week- I got two of 750 civilian passes to go to Gallipoli for ANZAC Day in 2015. You have to put your name in a ballot, and over 10,000 people entered. Woohoo!

P.p.s. The thought of packing up my backpack again is just exhausting. At least this time I won’t have to take all ten of my winter jumpers, because I’m heading to the sunshine! I’ll just take three. Three chunky jumpers will do, Rosie.

 

 

Gidday Mate!

Heyyyyyy everybody and welcome to my blog! I’m glad you’re here, you are probably the only one so far….. This blog is mostly for me to document my travels and share them with everyone at home, and for people I meet along the way to follow my adventures.

I finished my BA degree in Wellington in 2012- I studied History and German- then worked as a history research assistant for a while, all the while thinking about travelling overseas..

The funny thing is, I don’t yet know what my next adventure will be. All I know is I am on the opposite side of the world from home, it cost me a lot to get here and I really want to make the most of it, rather than sitting in front of a computer for 40 hours a week, saving to get home again! The London underground makes me feel dirty, I want to escape it…

I arrived in the UK in May, the day after my 21st birthday. I had money in my pocket and I was rearing to go! I spent six weeks hanging out with family in Surrey, then took myself off to Ireland for my first HelpX experience. I will put up a link to HelpX but basically it’s a website for work exchange opportunities, all over the world, where you work a couple of hours a day in exchange for food, accommodation and a cultural exchange. The two months I spent on Achill Island at the Valley House were some of the best of my LIFE! If you’re looking for a way to travel on the cheap, this is it.

After that I hitchhiked my way around the West Coast of Ireland, much to the dismay of my mummy. (Sorry mum). After a few experiences of being dropped in the middle of a country road at dusk by various elderly couples and truck drivers who thought they were being helpful, I learned to get on the road earlier than you think is necessary…. I don’t know if I would hitchhike anywhere but Ireland, the people are the friendliest you will ever meet and they will generally go out of their way to be kind and helpful. And hitchhiking is an amazing way to get around the countryside where there’s little to no public transport.

Eventually I tired of the voice in my own head, just in time to meet up with some girls from NZ who I would be travelling around Europe with for the next 6 weeks. We met in Galway, took a rainy, green to the gills trip to the Aran Islands, then took our little hire car back to Dublin for a final meal of chicken wings and cider. The next day we flew to the South of France, and began our trip through Nice, Marseille, Paris, Amsterdam, Brussels, Bruges, Prague, Berlin and finally Munich for the world famous Oktoberfest. I can safely say I have never consumed so much beer in my whole life, and I probably looked like a pretzel by the end of it,but it was so worth it. After a 6 hour non-stop hungover bus ride to Frankfurt, a dodgy Ryan Air flight and some late night bus adventures through London,we arrived home to the reality of an impending English winter and the depleted state of our bank accounts.

Plenty of stories from our trip around Europe, but I will save that for another time.

Now I’m busy working in England, eating lots of vegetables and dreaming up my next adventure. Any suggestions are more than welcome, preferably including a strapping Irish lad, vast beaches, sunshine and yoga…

Rosie Posie

Keel Beach, Achill Island, Ireland
Keel Beach, Achill Island, Ireland