Moloka’i

13 Apr

When I went to Costa Rica, I brought three books. I was gone for a week, so the original plan was to bring 4. However, apart from reading on the plane and while waiting around in airports, I didn’t read that much when I was there. It was hot, there was lots of sand, and there was too much to do!

Before I left, I took a trip with a friend to the bookstore to stock up. I ended up going on a teen-lit kick, buying  Anna dressed in Blood, Alice in Zombieland and Vampire Academy. While other people at the yoga retreat were reading books about finding inner peace, I had books about a ghost, zombies and vampires.

I did buy another book as well. When I picked it up and decided to buy it, my friend said “Really? Lepers?” What can I say, I was intrigued.

The book was Moloka’i, by Alan Brennert. I didn’t end up reading it while I was in Costa Rica. I started it yesterday and finished it this morning. Yes, it’s one of those books. You, know, the kind that draws you in, shutting out the rest of the world. It broke my heart, it made me smile and I now need to go to Hawaii.

It tells the story of Rachel, a young girl living in Honolulu in 1891. She’s 5 years old and she loves to ask questions, which drives most of the adults in her life quite crazy! One day, her uncle Pono is arrested on suspicion of being a leper. He is sent to Kalihi, a hospital, where he is kept in quarantine. Just as the family is starting to get over the shock and shame of having a relative with leprosy, Rachel’s mother finds a pink blemish on the little girl’s thigh.

Her mother tries everything she can to cure her daughter, while keeping it a secret. Hawaiians, at that time in history, were quickly dying of diseases brought over by haoles, white people. Having never been in contact with these germs, they had no immunity against them. Not much was know about leprosy, except that it was contagious.

Rachel is eventually found out, and sent to Kalihi, where she reunites with her uncle Pono. Small, afraid, and separated from her family, Rachel is poked and prodded by doctors for a year before they decide they cannot help her and she must be sent away to a leper colony on Moloka’i. She is ripped from the only life she has ever know and sent to an island where she expects to die.

When she arrives, however, she discovers a world apart from anything she has ever known. Her life is not always easy, but it is a life worth living. She watches friends die and her body being taken over by the bug. She loves, she grieves, but most importantly, she lives.

This book was so well written. It informative without being boring. I have long been fascinated by leprosy, and learning about it through the story of people’s lives was much more interesting than reading a textbook. The beginning of the story was intriguing, the middle captivating and the ending satisfying. If you’re looking for your next book to read, here it is.

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Smash book

1 Apr

My blog turned two in March. My trip to Costa Rica happened just before this anniversary. Such perfect timing.

I feel like, since I’ve started blogging, try has become a word I use a lot more. Sure, I’ll try that. Let me try! I want to try that. I don’t know what will happen, but I’ll try!

It’s not that I didn’t try before. But I started my blog the year I turned 30 and something seemed to shift in my head. It was like I could do anything I wanted, no matter what anybody else thought. The people close to me always support me, so who cares about other people?

In Costa Rica, I found some of that energy I felt I’d lost recently. I tried everything! I was happy, blissed out and exactly where I was meant to be.

Since I’ve come home, I feel much more motivated to write. I used to write in my head all the time, and have to look for bits and pieces of paper to make sure I didn’t forget any of it. (Yes, it would make sense to carry a journal around. What can I say, I like post-its!) I’m doing that again! It’s a small thing, but it makes me happy.

I haven’t been writing here very much, but I have been creating. I’ve started a smash book. It’s kind of like a cross between a journal and a scrapbook. I could never get into scrapbooking, because I could never get it to look just right, but a smash book, now that’s my kind of book. You basically just smash everything you want it there.

At first, my book was mostly just words, but I’ve been adding images too. I tried something new, and I’m having fun with it!

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Surf’s up!

17 Mar

Two weeks ago today, I was surfing in Costa Rica.

In the weeks leading up to my trip, I told anyone who would listen that I was going to try surfing. I was very excited about it, even though I didn’t expect to be very successful. Secretly, though, I kind of thought I was all talk. I half-expected to chicken out once I got there.

My first full day at Peace Retreat, I asked if anyone would try surfing with me. Another yogi from Ottawa, Mélissa, said she would. We made plans to go the next day. We had a lesson set up and there was no backing out!

On the morning of the lesson, I was a little nervous, but I was also busy getting a bikini custom made, so I didn’t think about it much. Once we got to the beach however, I started to have second thoughts. The waves were huge. I’m not a strong swimmer. Also, sharks.

We met up with our surfing instructor, Forest, who was waiting for us on the beach. We practiced laying on the board, paddling and jumping up, feet apart. I felt clumsy on the sand, so needless to say, wasn’t super confident I would get up on my board in the water.

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Walking towards the water, I was still apprehensive, but I was getting more and more excited.

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Heading straight into the waves, I realized I was afraid I’d be scared, I wasn’t actually scared. After that, I started to have much more fun!

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I face planted into the ocean several times. Salt water tastes like pretzels.

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Then, after several tumbles off my board into the waves, something exciting happened. I started to get a feeling. After I started paddling and the wave had me in it’s hold, I would feel like the moment was right. It was time to get up. And I did. More than once! Sure, my board was huge and there was no controlling where it was going, but I was surfing. Actually, for real, surfing!

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It was such a rush! I couldn’t believe I actually did it! Our lesson was for two hours, but after an hour and a half, I was too pooped to keep going. It was hard paddling over the waves. It used a lot of upper body strength that I don’t actually have! Mélissa lasted a little longer than me, but when we were done, we walked back to the retreat very, very slowly.

We were covered in sand, I had a huge bruise forming on the back of my leg from rolling around with my board in two inches of water and falling on the fin, our legs and arms were like jello and we had swallowed a gallon of salt water between us. It was the best feeling in the world.

Words to live by

16 Mar

Joy

Love

Happiness

Enough

Family

Spirit

Travel

Open

Hope

Dream

Fly

Share

Awesome

Fabulous

Sparkle

Dance

Pink

Partner

Grateful

Be

Happy

Smile

Try

Listen

Fun

Friends

Read

Adventure

Play

Yoga

Compassion

Free

Breathe

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How to do yoga in the jungle

13 Mar

I just spent a blissful week in Costa Rica doing yoga. I love yoga so, so much! Hot yoga is my favourite, so I wasn’t worried about doing yoga somewhere deliciously hot. I learned quite a few things about myself and my practice when I was there. I also learned some valuable lessons about doing yoga in the jungle and at the beach.

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1. It is not your jungle

You know who was there first? The ants! They were there to stay, but thankfully, ants don’t bother me at all. These weren’t some kind of crazy, biting ants, just yellowish, let me eat your picnic, ants. I also saw the biggest grasshopper ever, in the world. There was a praying mantis who caught my attention for so long, I was no longer paying attention to class.

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2. I am not a morning yoga person

I woke up every day as the sun came up and got up around 6:30. This was not difficult for me, it was actually enjoyable, which was a surprise. Meditation started at 7:15, and lasted 15 minutes. I enjoyed this as well. Not so surprised here. Yoga was from 7:30 to 9am. This was very difficult for me. Big surprise!

Although I love practicing, morning is not a good time for me. I didn’t feel like pushing myself at all and just kind of moved through the poses. I had very little energy and no desire to find any. I was also hungry, which didn’t help the situation. About halfway through class, I would find some energy and start to enjoy myself a little more.

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3. Monkeys trump yoga

During class one afternoon, someone saw a monkey. Well, it didn’t take long before we all got up off our mats and ran for the windows to see it! As an elementary school teacher, I’m usually on the other end of something like this, trying to teach when everyone wants to make sure they don’t miss what’s going on outside. It was cute, and it was swinging from a branch, acting like a monkey. I think he knew we were watching.

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4. Yoga on the beach is not really going to happen

About ten of us from the retreat went into Tamarindo for the day, with very good intentions of practicing yoga together on the beach at the end of the day. You know where we ended up? In a restaurant, eating and drinking! I have lots of pictures of me doing yoga poses on the beach, but I never did an actual practice. It was usually too hot. Also, when I’m at the beach, there so many sights, sounds and smells, there’s no way I’m staying present. What if I miss something, like a shark or a pelican?

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5. Yin wins

When I first started this blog, I was doing a lot of power yoga. After my week in paradise, I can confirm what I’ve been feeling for a while: I’m not much of a power person anymore. I like yin, with it’s melt-into-the-floor poses and passive postures. I’m not saying I’ll never do power yoga again, and I still love flow, but the afternoon classes, which were less power, more yin, were like candy to me. Maybe it was the slow pace of Costa Rica that got me all yin-like, or the fact that I was running around all day learning how to surf and stand up paddleboard with the crocodiles, leaving me with little energy for yoga at the end of the day. Yin was a welcome relaxation.

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The yoga studio at Peace Retreat had an open feel to it, letting in air, light, and the sounds of the jungle. I felt very lucky to be able to practice in such a beautiful setting. I can’t wait to go back and practice there again!

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Pura Vida

12 Mar

You know that feeling, when everything is exactly as it’s supposed to be and you’re exactly where you should be? It doesn’t come around very often, but last week, while I was in Costa Rica, I felt it. After only two days, I knew I belonged there. It just felt right. I’m not ready to give up my whole life and move there, just yet, but I am already planning my next trip. A girl can easily get hooked on the feeling of knowing she is where she is meant to be.

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I can no more cover my whole trip, even though it was only a week, in one post, than I could count the books I’ve read. It’s impossible, there’s too much magic to squeeze in to one little post. I’m not even sure I can find the words to express the wonder, the joy, the excitement that this adventure brought me. But I will try.

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I stayed at a place called Peace Retreat Costa Rica. People say Disneyland is the happiest place on earth, but I’m guessing they haven’t been to Peace Retreat yet. It’s owned and run by Hali and Kevin, two Canadians who moved their life and family down to this happy, beautiful, peaceful corner of Costa Rica. The place is amazing, but it’s their light and love that make it shine.

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Peace Retreat is located in the village of Los Pargos, which, I learned from a Tico, is slang for lazy people. I didn’t meet anyone I would call lazy, but the slow, easygoing way of life was definitely appealing. There’s a beach, called Playa Negra, and it draws surfers to it, like bookstores lure me in, like a mermaid calling to the sailors.

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The village is pretty remote, so it’s not a big tourist attraction. I loved that, even though, technically, I was a tourist. I say technically, because in my heart, I knew I belonged there, and when you belong, you’re not a tourist, are you? There are dirt roads and people regularly stop and ask you if you need a ride. No one wears shoes. Everyone smiles. No one says “I have a deadline” or “I’d love to, but I have to do all this work I brought home”. I’m not saying people’s lives there are perfect, because I’m sure they’re not. We all have our issues, but to an outsider, it all looked pretty amazing.

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I did yoga, learned how to surf and picked a lemon from a tree. I saw lizards, monkeys and I almost saw a crocodile. (I was happy I didn’t!) I took a stand up paddleboard tour through the mangroves, heard the monkeys every morning before the sun came up and got myself a custom made bikini (pink, of course). I went to Tamarindo, tried to do a handstand on the beach and leapt into the air every time someone said “Jump shot!”.

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Pura Vida means pure life. Life at it’s purest form should be, in my opinion, joy. And that’s what I found in Costa Rica. Joy. Bliss. Happiness.

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Aerial yoga

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For Christmas, a friend gave me a gift certificate for an aerial yoga class. I’m also her son’s teacher, so it was my teacher gift as well. It’s the first time I ever recieve a present from a parent that has the words “pole dancing” on it! There wasn’t any actual pole dancing involved, but the class was at a pole dancing studio.

In January, just before school started up again after the holidays, four of us braved the snow and made our way to the studio. We weren’t exactly sure what to expect. I’ve tried aerial silks before, but I wasn’t sure if it would be the same thing or not.

Turns out, it was a good work out, a lot of fun and a great challenge! Our instructor made it look easy, but it really wasn’t. We started of kind of flying back and forth, which was nice, when you got used to the ribbon cutting into your stomach. I thought it would slice me in half, but that was just because it wasn’t placed right. Oh. My bad.

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We did some handstands too. Correction. The other girls did handstands. I developed a sudden fear of the floor coming too close to my face. Must get over it, as I would like to do an actual, unsupported handstand one day.

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Then we tried some sort of flying flip thing. Ha! That did not work. Not even a little. Not even at all. (See how I snuck part of that poem from 10 things I hate about you in there? yeah, I know. Awesome!) One of the girls did it. She must have been taking something to boost her performance, because it was impossible.

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We did a few upside down poses. That was kind of the point of this whole thing. At first, it was too much of a head rush and I felt like I was going to explode, so I didn’t stay flipped around for very long. But after a while, I got used to it, and could get into a few poses instead of just hanging there like a Christmas decorations.

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They made us keep our socks on, so I look like some sort of lumberjack aerialist. Those socks were never supposed to be in the pictures.

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Aerial yoga is on my list of 101 things to do in 1001 days, so I’m pretty happy I got to do it. I would definitely recommend trying it if you like yoga, being upside down, flying and having sore hipbones and arms the next day. Because we also pulled ourselves up using upper body strength. I don’t have very much of that, so my arms felt like noodles the next day. But it was worth it!

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At the very end, we got to stretch out and relax inside the ribbon. It’s actually very wide. We hung there in our cocoons for a while, then emerged as beautiful butterflies. Ha! Just kidding. We emerged as sweaty messes, but smiling sweaty messes.

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