Friday, December 31, 2010

Goodbye 2010, Hello 2011

So 2011 is upon us, and here I sit typing up a blog entry, swaddled in full arctic gear and a blanket, shivering and cursing the whole concept of winter.  My yoga practice has gone from feeling fantastic to geriatric pretty much overnight, and I roll out my mat each morning with a space heater cranked up full tilt and sporting long johns over my yoga gear, along with a snazzy pair of legwarmers.  Nose:bleeding and runny.  Eyes: itchy.  Hands and feet: numb.  Lips: chapped.  Do I miss tropical weather?  ABSOLUTELY.

That said, I will try to look on the bright side of things.  It has been a pretty fabulous year with lots of amazing learning experiences, adventures, and new friendships.  My  passport has gotten a major workout with all the traveling I have done, and it has made me believe firmly in the idea that there is a very valid form of education that comes out of seeing the world.  There have been incredible people everywhere I have visited, and I am pretty grateful for all the kindness that strangers have shown me.  Many of these strangers turned into highly valued friends, and it has been gratifying to share so many of my adventures with them.

What's on the agenda for next year is a question many people, including my family, would like to know, and now that I flew across the world back to Canada I had intended to settle down in Victoria for a bit.  The universe is clearly not done messing with me however, because two days after I arrived I was surprised with a really amazing possibility that would take me to Australia for the next year, more or less, which is an idea I had been toying with before I left India.  So that is all up in the air at the moment.  Again.  What to do. 

Any thoughts, ideas or suggestions for what to do?  Any preferences for what I blog about?  Write me some comments, send me some feedback, it is great to hear what people are thinking.  I have been amazed by the number of readers lately, and the global scope of my audience... even though I only have 6 followers, the stats record shows me that I have passed 800 readers in the last few months.  Hurray, and thanks for thinking I am interesting!

Happy New Year!

*For anyone who was wondering, my mum is out of the hospital and waiting for test results.  Send some positivity and healthy thoughts her way!

Friday, December 24, 2010

On the Road Again: Super long flight edition

So the last few months I have been torn with indecision about what to do after my next teaching job in Indo fell through, and it has meant a lot of thinking, a lot of talking it out with amazingly sympathetic friends, and a lot of trolling the internet for flights to various location.  All the agonizing, however, was for nothing, as the universe had something in mind for me the whole time.  As I type this, I am transiting through Dubai, onwards to Houston (Dubai-Houston:16hours on the plane!!!), and then finally to Edmonton to be with my family, because my Mum is in hospital, and frolicking around the beaches of Sri Lanka while Mum is hooked up to an oxygen tank doesn't feel like the right thing to do.  My mind had been drifting towards Australia for the last month or so, thinking how great it would be to get a working holiday visa and spend the year there until my next India trip, but I was procrastinating like crazy about applying for the visa... maybe my intuition knew something else was on the lineup for me?  It makes me think that maybe the job in Indo wasn't really meant to be either; if I still had that on the go it would have been more difficult to get back to Canada to see my Mum and return to Asia in time for the contract to start.  My family was telling me not to ruin my plans to fly home on such short notice, but I had to kinda laugh at that thought: hard to ruin a plan that didn't exist to begin with.  So back to Canada for the next while, and I have to admit that some fear is there, at the moment mostly about the thought of WINTER, and then for the obvious things, like where to live in Victoria when I get back out there, and where to look for a job, and at the very forefront, for my Mum's health. Going home is the new challenge, the new adventure, and it makes me wonder what other surprises the universe has in store for 2011. 

Happy holidays!  The next few blog entries may be typed in mittens, so look forward to some interesting typos!

Monday, December 13, 2010

On the road again!

Last week I left Mysore with a lot of warm wishes and love, and it was really hard to just pack up and go.  My previous trip was entirely different; I enjoyed my three months but I was ready to leave at the end of it.  This time there were many tears and a lot of sad goodbyes, and it was a litttle surprising because I haven't had that reaction to leaving a place and a group of people in a very long time.  Arriving in Sri Lanka was a pretty smooth transition though, and after a short flight and a long bus ride along a gorgeous coastal road I was reunited with some dear friends from Canada who I haven't spent nearly enough time with over the last year or two.  More thoughts on Sri Lanka to come, but let's just say for now that it is pretty amazing to be practicing, drinking coconuts, and then jumping into the ocean for a swim.  Now the question is how long should I stay, and then where do I go from here? 

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Quotable Mysore

I don't often write about my asana practice because I figure that it is for one, quite personal, and secondly, quite boring for anyone reading who isn't into yoga.  But last week I had a memorable enough moment that I think it deserves sharing.  I am working into the Intermediate Series and up to 'pincha mayurasana.'
This guy makes it look easy.  But for me with my spindly ex-ballerina arms and lack of shoulder stability, a challenge is there.  I made it through two rather successful attempts last Thursday and thought I would go for one more, so up I go... balanced, breathing, one... two... three.... crash.  Face plant.  I am a little worried about tipping over backwards in this one because I don't want to land on the person in front of me, so my reaction when something goes wrong is to smoosh my face into my mat and bring my feet back down from there. 

Saraswathi saw my epic fail and came up to me with a laugh and a twinkle in her mischevious eyes and said, "you have nice face, don't break it!  Now take again, I help."  How cute is that!  She is one special lady.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Bringing crafty back!

Last week was nearly entirely consumed by craft sale prep.  I sat waiting for my breakfast the day before the event working on a  half finished mitten with the goal of completing the set by lunch time, just so I could make a toque in the afternoon.  Yoga. Sleep. Eat. Crochet.  Can't talk, must crochet!  Little crazy no?   When I showed off my creation in progress to some friends on the way home, it was mentioned that Justin Timberlake can be held responsible for bringing sexy back, but now I am bringing crafty back, one project at a time.  It is a tough job, but someone has to do it!  The craft sale itself was a huge success, raising nearly $800 (33790 rupees!), and shining a bit of light on Odanadi as an organization as well as the issue of human trafficking itself.  Everyone who came to help out for the event was absolutely brilliant, and it was pretty amazing to see how much time and energy people are willing to give.  We had snack/chai wallahs, flower wallahs, cash desk wallahs, tag-making wallahs, helping-out-in any possible way wallahs, and also the number of projects donated by the Saturday morning craft crew was pretty spectacular.  When the founders of Odanadi arrived, they were blown away by the success of the sale and asked to call the media, so midway through the day, a television crew turned up to film some footage and asked if we could say a little something about the event and the purpose for it; I certainly didn't expect to make the local news!  The really great thing though was that the girls from Odanadi who attended had a fabulous day getting to interact with the yoga student and they all left exhausted, but with epic smiles and hugs and kisses.  Seeing the light and confidence in their faces took the whole thing to an extra level of special for me, and it is pretty safe to say that the day was just as memorable for the people who attended based on the warm feedback that I have heard in the days since.  And now every morning both before and after practice I get to see everyone sporting their beautiful new hats, mittens, scarves and legwarmers.  Pictures coming soon! 

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Who would have thought?

I have been busy this week, crocheting (since last Saturday) a pair of mittens, a set of legwarmers, and four toques*, in a last minute rush to beef up the stock list for the Odanadi craft sale on Nov 27th.  Everyone I have bumped into in the last few days has been offering to help in any way they can to make our event a success, from cash donations to just having an extra set of hands around on the day of the sale, but one person went above and beyond to help out.  My friend Boonchu offered to create a poster, and in no time at all, he came up with a masterpiece.  I couldn't be happier with it!

In return for his kindness, I made him a very stylish toque, dark charcoal grey with a acid green trim.  And when he went into the yoga shala to ask Sharath (our teacher) about putting up the poster, he also showed off his hat.  And now Sharath wants me to make one for him!  Talk about pressure!  The other thing that is really cool is the amount of support I am getting from the Mysore crochet community.  Last Saturday the craft session on my balcony reached new heights with about 12 people showing up with their yarn, hooks, and a big smile.  Underage Grandmas (and Grandpas... we had two gentlemen crocheting with us) unite!

Big surprises this trip... crocheting is cool, and a special order to make a hat for Sharath.  Who would have thought? 

*Toque:  For all you non-Canadians who will most like be left scratching your heads over this gem of a word, it is a snug fitting wooly hat generaly worn in chilly weather, sometimes called a beanie in other parts of the world, pronounced like "two" with a "k" thrown on the end.   

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Crafty Saturdays and Diwali Mayhem!

The last few weeks in Mysore have zipped by very quickly, undoubtedly because they have been action-packed.  After the dog bite incident I postponed ballet classes at Odanadi and started teaching the ladies how to crochet... a nice quiet sitting down activity was easier for me to handle with the flesh wound.  Because everyone was so keen to keep up with it, we are now planning a craft sale in Gokulam at the end of the month, and hopefully all the yoga students will flock to craft corner (a.k.a. the balcony I share with my lovely neighbour Sonja) to purchase some little handmade projects and support a very worthwhile cause.  Crocheting seems to be in this season; I have taught about 20 friends over the last two weekends between some one on one lessons and Saturday craft time, asking simply for a small donation to help fund the supplies for Odanadi.   Now I am getting stopped in the street and asked about single stitch versus double stitch and how to finish a toque.  Who knew my dorky grandma hobby was actually a cool hobby in disguise?    The great part is that everyone is really excited about it, and it is nice to see people getting creative with their projects and ending up with something fantastic, handmade, and original.  And also the toque-wearing population at the coconut stand is increasing much faster than if I was the only one making them.  Long live the toque!

Last weekend, the big event (other than crochet Saturday) was Diwali, and for the last couple days I have still been feeling the after-effects.  On the first big night of fireworks I ended up in front of the yoga shala with a group of friends and we were setting off all our explosives with Sharath, our teacher.  Might I add that I bought said explosives at the local elementary school? 

Walking down the street during the daytime was the closest thing I can imagine to a war zone with crackers being set off every few minutes and in every direction.  I wouldn't be surprised if heart attack rates go way way up at this time of year.  The second night of the festivities there was a huge crowd gathered on the street corner just under my apartment, and everyone was taking turns lighting fireworks and setting off crackers for a solid two hours. My nervous system was on major overload after all that, and I think I am still twitchy every time I hear a loud noise.  But I also wouldn't trade in the experience for anything.  It seems like the Ashtanga practice has a tendency to make people a little hypersensitive to sounds and large groups and things like that.  And so it makes perfect sense that everyone is so into crocheting!

Friday, November 5, 2010

When things go wrong in India, things go really wrong in India.  Like people receiving news that a loved one has passed away, or getting dengue fever, or a hernia, or in my case, a rabid dog bite.  What is interesting though is that the community here, comprised of people that you have generally known for a limited time, is somehow able to generate a network of support and love that is pretty unbelievable.  Everyone is perhaps a little more sensitive than usual while they are here, and I think a heightened sense of empathy is the result.   On my first trip when I was pretty desperately ill, on more than one occasion, I had rehydration salt delivery and company from a generous soul, and this time around after being chomped on the ankle by a sick dog, I have received more compassion and concern than I probably deserved from friends and complete strangers alike.  Many people have been checking in on the healing process on a daily basis, and just having so many people offer to help in whatever way they can is something I can only express gratitude for.   For a tight-knit community to be formed in such a short time frame is quite special, and I think there is a little Mysore magic involved; I can't begin to fathom this happening anywhere else in the world.  

***Blogging teaser: Crochet-aholics/Underage-Grandma-Club and Diwali mayhem posts coming soon!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Dasara Elephant Bums and More!

India is all about festivals, and today there was a big parade at the Mysore Palace to celebrate Dasara, a major event in the Hindu calendar.  I didn't actually get to watch the festivities, because after an intense yoga practice, sitting in the sun for hours on end and being jostled by a mob of people wasn't particularly appealing, so I gave up and went home before the whole shabang actually got started.  I did get to see the elephants dressed up and painted however, and I got this rather charming photo of their bums, with a nice backdrop of cotton candy clouds floating through the sky.  (Unfortunately these clouds weren't helping keep the sun off of our seating area...)  The elephants were really all I wanted to see, so mission accomplished. 

Yesterday was also an important day of the Dasara festival (it runs for nine nights and ten days) and there were decorated rickshaws, cars, buses and motorcycles zipping all over town, trailing flower petals and banana leaves in the breeze. 

I love the fact that vehicles get blessings too!

Another noteworthy tidbit of my day yesterday: I arrived at the coconut stand quite early and had the opportunity to watch Guru, the expert coco-opener of Gokulam, lighting incense and doing his morning prayers to Ganesha.  Watching someone communicating with God (in whatever faith or manifestation) is pretty powerful; devotion is a beautiful thing to observe.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Mehndi Magic at Odanadi

Odanadi is an organization based in Mysore, India, that aims to raise awareness about the difficult reality of sexual exploitation and human trafficking.  The founders of Odanadi rescue women and children from these situations and give them a safe place to live, recover, and discover their strength, talent and passions in a nurturing environment.  They provide ways for these survivors to express themselves through outlets like dance, yoga, karate, and art, but they also encourage them to become self sufficient and have meaningful human interactions by inviting visitors out to the center for event days that double as fundraisers.

Yesterday about ten ladies, including myself, were welcomed into the Odanadi center to experience Mehndi, the application of henna body art, and as we arrived, everyone was charmed by the children's immediate affection and 1000 watt smiles.

By the time we got settled down and the Mehndi process was underway, the younger children had crowded around to watch and play with anyone who was still waiting, and were especially excited by being allowed to borrow our cameras and take their own photos of all the action.  The older girls, who were creating our beautiful henna designs, showed a great deal of confidence and remarkable focus in a pretty chaotic situation. I have been visiting Odanadi twice a week to teach dance lessons, but many of my friends had never been there, and to see their reactions to the kids and the whole experience in general was really extraordinary. 


The group energy was off the charts and everyone left with immense gratitude for the opportunity to spend time with these incredibly strong women and children, and the beautiful body art that we will be able to admire for the next few weeks. 

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Do you have a country coin?

On my last visit I was first charmed and then eventually supremely annoyed by the multitude of school children who would chase you down the street asking if you have any "country coins" because they need them for a project at school.  The first few times it was sweet and I was purposefully carrying some pennies and nickels around so that I could add to their collections.  Then once the same kids started asking every day, even when you already told them you had run out, it started getting irritating.  When they took to hovering at the coconut stand to pounce on you during coconut happy hour or chasing you down the street on their bicycles asking if they could go to your house so you can check again in your bags for country coins I started wanting to ask them for their country coins just to see how they liked it.  This first week in India was country coin request-free until yesterday, when two of the little twerps, who I remember distinctly as being particularly aggressive collectors,  tracked me down a few blocks from home.  They went through the same routine, saying they had a project for school, but I have to say, there were two things that have evolved in the quest for the country coin.  As an English teacher, I was glad to hear that their English had improved significantly, and I wish I would have told them so when I was talking to them, but it didn't register until I had digested the conversation.  The other change:  these boys were relatively polite.  The still asked to come to my house to see if I had any coins there, but when I told them that was an inappropriate request to make they apologized and said, "OK Mam, sorry for the disturbance, and we hope you enjoy the rest of your day."  This all finished up of course with a lot of head wobbling (what does this head wobble mean???), from me and from them.  I can only hope that all the country coin collectors have changed their ways.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Over the last 6 weeks I don't even want to think about how much distance I have covered flitting around Asia, across the Pacific and then back again.  It has been a whirlwind of travelling and stopping down place to place for a few days at a time, sometimes less and sometimes more, and 12 pages of my passport have been stamped, signed, and smothered in travel visas.  When I reached Victoria I was surprised and pleased by how easily I slipped right back into place in my old community, and meeting new people in that circle felt like meeting old friends.  The amount of love I felt while I was there caught me off guard and reinforced the idea of that little corner of the world as the place where I can put down roots one day.  Something about Victoria fits me like nowhere else that I have experienced. 

It has been a year and a half since I left India, and now that I am back in Mysore it is seems as though nothing has changed, yet everything is different.  Is it simply because there are many new faces and a smaller crowd of yoga students, or is it something that has evolved in my perception of this place and the people who inhabit it?  Or, and I would like to think this could be true, is it simply that I have changed?  When I arrived last time I was absolutely amazed by everything; the sights, sounds and smells were all new and at times overwhelming.  I was also at a turning point in my life and had little sense of direction as I battled my way through my often-scoffed-at-but-painfully-real quarter life crisis.  This time around I feel much better prepared, knowing more about what to expect and where to go for the various neccessities of living in this mixed community of yogis and locals, as well as having developed a greater a sense of purpose and a path to follow once my time here has run it's course.  Tomorrow morning the yoga practice will begin, 4:30 AM, and I am looking forward to the energy of a room full of students hungry for knowledge and the presence of a teacher.   It is a special opportunity, to focus so deeply on my yoga and let all the distractions of everyday life take the backseat for a while, and it the doors are open for much learning to occur.  Thank you universe for bringing me back to this place.   Om, shanti, shanti, shantih

"If we practice the science of yoga, which is useful to the entire human community and which yields happiness both here and hereafter - if we practice it without fail, we will then attain physical, mental and spiritual happiness, and our minds will flood towards the Self."

"Yoga, as a way of life and a philosophy, can be practiced by anyone with inclination to undertake it, for yoga belongs to humanity as a whole. It is not the property of any one group or any one individual, but can be followed by any and all, in any corner of the globe, regardless of class, creed or religion."

- Sri K. Pattabhi Jois

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Looking Back and Moving Forward

"Become a student of change. It is the only thing that will remain constant."

~Anthony J. D'Angelo

Change.  Ahhhhhh.  I love it!  My year in Depok is drawing to a close, and it is interesting to look back on my year and think of all my experiences and memories; the variety is pretty spectacular.  This crowded city that I have lived in for the last 12 months doesn't quite feel like home and I will not miss it, (I just don't think there is a big enough trees to motorcycle ratio for me,) but I will be sad to leave friends and students who made me feel so loved every day of the year.  At the office I was sat in a corner, surrounded by all the boys, so I took the butt of a lot of jokes, but I have heard it mentioned that interviews will be held for whoever wants my spot... it won't be going to just anyone.  I realize the desk will go to whoever happens to come next, but it is a nice thing for them to say anyways, even if only in jest.  When teachers are ready to leave EF Depok, a poster goes up on the wall for all of the students to sign, and the number times "I love you Miss Ashley" shows up on there brings a little tear of gratitude to my eye, because I honestly loved them too.  After I got home from India and was feeling lost and insignificant working in retail, I knew I needed a job where my work was making some sort of a difference to people, and there is no doubt in my mind that I have found it.  Now it is time to move on though, and I will look back at this year fondly, for all the adventures, the learning experiences, and the love I have received.  The next few months of no fixed address should prove interesting and then I will be settling back into teaching in Bandung for the New Year, I can't wait to see what the universe has in store for me!

"Most people can look back over the years and identify a time and place at which their lives changed significantly. Whether by accident or design, these are the moments when, because of a readiness within us and a collaboration with events occurring around us, we are forced to seriously reappraise ourselves and the conditions under which we live and to make certain choices that will affect the rest of our lives."
~ Frederick F. Flack

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Infinite Love part 2

I think Dads in general might have a way of shaping their daughter's perspective of all the men that come into their lives both romantically and in friendship, and my Dad has provided for me a sterling example of what to expect from a good man. None of this real men don't cry, and are breadwinners but don't connect with their children nonsense from him! Some of my earliest memories are in the family room of my mom and dad's house, setting up an obstacle course of toys to jump over and carefully instructing my dad on how to do properly jump over and around the teddy bears and blocks and such. And I remember him listening and playing along like it was one of the most important things he would do all day. Now, my dad is a pretty big guy, a little scruffy around the edges (especially when he doesn't shave for a few days), and he was brought up on a dairy farm in rural Alberta (a place where men are expected to be fairly stoic in general), but there is somehow still room in there for a sweet, soft side that cries while watching the Lion King, and knows all the words to every song in the Sound of Music. Every time I go home to visit my mum and dad it goes without saying that I will be tucked in at night by my Daddy, but in a way he came up with when I was in my early 20's, and that has a striking similarity to the Kecak trance dancing that I saw in Bali. It might actually take longer to fall asleep after being so carefully tucked in; all the giggling goes on lasts for a good ten minutes after the tucka tucka tucka tuck in. When I am sick or tired or feeling sad I have been known to crawl up into my dad's lap and burrow my face into his shoulder and he will hold me like a baby until his legs fall asleep. Not talking, not anything. Just being held. My dad is not a complete softie though, I remember the terror he incited in my first boyfriend when we started dating at 17, and I am sure that young man hasn't forgotten either, even though that relationship ran it's course long ago. So on Father's day, I want to remind my Dad how much I cherish the fact that I am still his baby, and I won't be seeing him today, but he will be on my mind and in my heart.
I love you Daddy!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Did you just say what I think you just said???

In the last 11 months, I have been stared at more than I would have thought possible in an entire lifetime, and I have done a really good job of laughing it off. Until this week. It seems that the comments have taken a decidedly licentious turn as of last weekend, and it has been getting progressively worse since then. I have mentioned before in this blog how much I stand out in a crowd here, standing head and shoulders over most women, and glaringly pale-skinned even after nearly a year in the tropics, but what I haven't mentioned is how hard I am trying to conform to cultural standards of propriety and dress. In 33 degree weather I wear a cardigan or a long sleeve top to work, so as not to morally offend anyone, and also as what I would consider a preventative measure against lecherous staring and lewd commentary. Yet I have been hearing things from grown men, in all probability married men, that are nothing short of filthy, all while I am covered up from my ankles to my wrists and everything in between. And wearing big sunglasses. It took all of my self restraint to not turn around and lash out at these lusting wankers (ahem) men and give them an earful. It has been on my mind enough that I even know what I would say to them in Indonesian, and that definitely takes a bit of mental rehearsing. And then to top it off, two of my students, age 10 and 13 actually wolf whistled at me... in class. Now I feel absolutely no sympathy for the people who I see prancing around with next to no clothes on for getting unwanted attention, but COME ON!!! I don't want to hear any lascivious nonsense from these sexually repressed men, so I dress appropriately and keep my head down. The shouts of "hey bule" are no problem, and the "I love you misterrrrr" from those who don't speak much English is nothing to worry about, but the graphic hand gestures and obscene comments to match are unacceptable. To anyone. Western, or Indonesian or otherwise. Full stop. The next ungentlemanly fellow to shout at me is going to get a talking to, and a stern one at that.

*Disclaimer: Before I make all Indonesian men sound like perverted jerks, please let me make note of the fact that I have been treated with respect by many men of all ages and status in this country and there are many who would fall into the category of gentleman, in every sense of the word. I think my tolerance level hit maximum capacity and writing about it seems to have let off a little steam. I am reaching the point in my stay here where I just want to blend in, even if only for a day. But realistically, that will never happen, so maybe I will continue blogging instead?

Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Littlest Hobo

One of my co-workers has nicknamed me 'the littlest hobo', and considering some of the other nicknames I have been stuck with, it isn't so bad. And really I suppose that, as the old cliche goes, if the shoe fits... wear it. 'Hobo' brings to mind a grotty mental image of a homeless person with patched clothes and a stick with a little parcel all tied to the end, but I have been told that it is actually just an abbreviation for the words homeward bound. This works for me, this meaning. Over the last 9 years, since I moved out of my parents house, I have traveled around the globe and managed to be welcomed in to more homes and families than I would have ever thought possible. Last weekend, I had yet another incredible surf adventure, and I spent my time in Cimaja chatting with all the surfer kids, in my broken-yet-surprisingly-effective Indonesian. One stormy afternoon, I was invited to see the kampung where all these kids live, and it was an opportunity I couldn't pass up. Maybe this is bragging, but I will say that there were other foreigners hanging out as well, but I was the only one invited to their village. Upon arriving in this little community, I was escorted around from house to house, being offered fruit and snacks everywhere I went, and of course there was the requisite photo-taking and baby-holding... that is just a given! What touched me the most, is that these families, living with on average maybe 6 or 8 people in a house that matches in size a cramped two bedroom apartment, were all offering me a place to stay, and treating me as if I were their flesh and blood, coming back after a long journey. This generosity is really extraordinary to me, because when someone has nothing, in terms of material wealth, all they can offer is love and friendship, and what makes a place a home more than that? It seems like homeward bound is really just a perpetual state of being that ebbs and flows, and that home is a feeling that blindsides me in the moments when I need it the most. Forget the saying about home being the place you hang your hat, it is simply wherever people open their hearts up wide and welcome you in. The world is a beautiful place.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Infinite Love

This Mother's Day, I am away from home yet again, and regardless of time difference and the vast distance between us, I am thinking of my Mum. The two of us have never really had an easy relationship; I have heard stories about my middle of the night acrobatics in utero, and the all the other problems that I caused throughout my nine months (and those extra three weeks that I tagged on at the end) in the womb. It didn't end there, as I turned out to be the one in the family who had the most insecurities, nightmares, emergency trips to the hospital, and also the most extravagantly time consuming activity of anyone I know. I think it is safe to say that my mom probably didn't much enjoy any of those aspects of my childhood, and you would think that she breathed a sigh of relief when I reached adulthood, but since I have left home, I have done nothing but make her worry more. Having a child living in a developing country on the other side of the globe is not doing anything to slow the graying of her hair. In the grand scheme of things, none of this really matters. The simple truth is that I have learned from my mum an infinite amount about what it means to love another human being, even when that other human being (ahem, me) isn't being particularly lovable. This unconditional love has left me with the solid roots of a good family and the wings to chase my dreams wherever they may take me.
Mummy, I love you.

Photo by Ron Layzell, May 2008

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Making the Team

Last week, a few of my co-workers happened into a soccer game against some kids in the neighborhood. I listened to their banter about being thoroughly beaten by a team of eight year olds decked out in flip flops, and all the complaints about their lack of fitness. Only half paying attention to their conversation, I continued planning out my lessons for the day, until I was invited to join in for the next match, which caught me completely off-guard. I haven't played soccer since recess in grade three, if memory serves me correctly, and knowing the cultural standard here, (boys like sports, girls like shopping) I figured it was pretty safe to assume that I would be the only lady around. Some indecision followed, as I am not usually particularly good at team sports (read this on a report card; 'Ashley does not play well with others'), but on Friday evening I found myself heading up to the pitch with the boys, figuring that if it (or I) turned out to be lame, I could practice my Indonesian with someone on the sidelines. It ended up being a fantastic evening, hanging out with all the little munchkins, and I even managed to score a goal, not too bad a showing if you ask me! I did get a chance to chat with some of the kids; the few girls that were hanging out on the sidelines were especially keen to ask questions. I woke up the next morning with heavy legs and a grin on my face, partly at being included in what seems to be considered as a "boy's night," but also because I love hanging out with the locals and soaking up the culture first hand, and at the sheer pleasure of physical exertion lingering in my exhausted limbs. I got a text message this afternoon saying the kids were up for another match, and upon arriving at the meeting point, I saw these little brown faces and huge smiles radiating excitement, and then one of them asked, "Missus, again you playing?" I grinned right back at them and told them yes, I certainly was going to join in, and they sat down beside me to wait patiently for the rest of the boys to get ready to go. These experiences, the little things, the magical moments, are what make me feel like there is no where else in the world I would rather be. When people say that Indonesia gets under your skin, this is what they mean.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Words of wisdom that made me think...

"Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I'll meet you there."

"I exist as I am, that is enough."
~Walt Whitman

"At least two-thirds of our miseries spring from human stupidity, human malice and those great motivators and justifiers of malice and stupidity: idealism, dogmatism and proselytizing zeal on behalf of religous or political ideas."
~Aldous Huxley

"Re-examine all that you have been told... dismiss that which insults your soul."
~Walt Whitman

"It may be that the satisfaction I need depends on my going away, so that when I've gone and come back, I'll find it at home."

Saturday, March 20, 2010

A thought from Pablo Picasso

I found this on another blog that I enjoy reading and thought it was something special...

"Each second we live is a new and unique moment of the universe, a moment that will never be again. And what do we teach our children? We teach them that two and two make four, and that Paris is the capital of France. When will we also teach them what they are? We should say to each of them: Do you know what you are? You are a marvel. You are unique. In all the years that have passed, there has never been another child like you. Your legs, your arms, your clever fingers, the way you move. You may become a Shakespeare, a Michelangelo, a Beethoven. You have the capacity for anything. Yes, you are a marvel. And when you grow up, can you then harm another who is, like you, a marvel? You must work, we must all work, to make the world worthy of its children."

(Pablo Picasso)

Friday, March 5, 2010

Mediocrity? No thanks.

"A Prayer For Owen Meany" by John Irving is a book I have read twice in the last few months, and it intrigues me because there are some interesting ideas about faith, doubt and following the course set out for you by the universe. Towards the end of the book, Owen says in his unnerving voice, "IF YOU CARE ABOUT SOMETHING YOU HAVE TO PROTECT IT- IF YOU'RE LUCKY ENOUGH TO FIND A WAY OF LIFE YOU LOVE, YOU HAVE TO FIND THE COURAGE TO LIVE IT." (Owen's dialogue is in upper case letters through the entire novel.) This caught my eye and I was lost in contemplation after reading it because it strikes me as a very profound way to go through life. The happiest, most balanced individuals I know have done exactly this: they have found a way of life they love, and they fight tooth and nail to protect it. Funnily enough, these people also quite often need to survive the backlash of going against the grain, and straying from the path of societal norms. I have experienced this backlash firsthand. When I was dancing, I was often asked by the most random of people, exactly when I was planning on getting a "real job". I was incensed by these individuals, who could complain bitterly about the mundane existence they were leading, and then have the nerve to ask when I would be joining them in a life of mediocrity. Many a discussion about what exactly constitutes a "real job" came up, as well as some sassy comments about the lackluster option of working in a cubicle in order to obtain all the things a person 'should' have (ie: house, car, spouse, 2.5 children...) versus the opportunity to chase dreams all the way to the end of the rainbow. I chased my dream of dancing a little ways past the end of the rainbow in a desperate act of hanging-on, only to be smacked directly in the face by the blatant realization that I had already found the next prism glistening in the sunlight. Is this meandering path of travel, teaching, surfing, and yoga going to carry me through into middle age and beyond? That will be discovered as the time ahead of me is uncovered day by day and month by month. I may get bumped and bruised and battered by life sometimes, so be it. The courage to live the life I love may fluctuate and waver, but I will fight to steady it, all in the hopes of living my life to it's fullest potential, and perhaps finding the balance and happiness that taking chances can bring.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Oh Canada, my home and native land...

I have had to think a lot about the Canadian 'identity' since I have been travelling, because a lot of people are curious just exactly what makes a Canuck different from our neighbours, the Americans. It is something I explain to new friends, my students, my co-workers, you name it. And here is the thing: I didn't realize just how proud I am to be from the land of the maple leaf until I had spent a significant amount of time away from it. I enjoy letting people guess where I am from, because no one ever assumes Canada, and usually these guesses cover pretty much anywhere in western Europe, (lately a lot of people have been saying France) but the Canadian flag on my backpack should make this a fairly easy game to play. With the Olympics about to take place in Vancouver, and visitors from every corner of the globe about to see the splendor of that little corner of my country, my feelings of national pride are burgeoning. I would like to consider for a moment the "I am Canadian" rant used as an advertisment nearly a decade ago...

I'm not a lumberjack,
or a fur trader...
and I don't live in an igloo
or eat blubber, or own a dogsled...
and I don't know Jimmy, Sally or Suzy from Canada,
although I'm certain they're really, really nice.

I have a Prime Minister,
not a President.
I speak English and French,
NOT American.
and I pronouce it ABOUT,

I can proudly sew my country's flag on my backpack.
I believe in peace keeping, NOT policing.
DIVERSITY, NOT assimilation,



This Joe Canada dude seems to know what he is talking about, but I have a few more things to add.
'Colour' and 'color' are both correct spellings, and I say 'hey' not, 'eh,' and definitely not 'huh?' It is incorrect (and supremely annoying) to call a Canadian 'American,' even if you are referring to North America as opposed to the US, or to assume that American English is the language spoken north of the border.

Enough ranting...

Canada is a fairly distinct country, combining both a British and American influence, and enriched by the multitude of other ethnicities that color our towns and cities with a truly international flavour.

God (or allah or ganesha or buddah...) keep our land,
Glorious and free,
From far and wide,
oh Canada.
we stand on guard for thee...

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Dreaming of distant places...

Wanderlust– noun: a strong, innate desire to rove or travel about.

The last few weeks I have been dreaming of India, and simultaneously feeling deeply envious of all my friends who are there right now. Then my conscience kicks in, and I feel a little ridiculous for wanting so badly to travel, because hey guess where I am: 14 time zones away from home in the imperfect but fantastic country that is Indonesia. How can I have such a deep yearning to travel when I am already so far from home? It seems a little selfish considering that many of my students and friends here have never visited another country, yet my passport is adorned with a varied collection of stamps and visas. The truth is though, that after 6 months I have put down some roots, and living in a culture where I am a minority and outsider in every possible sense has stopped feeling like travelling. Having a fairly stable daily routine, a job, and (here's the real clincher) an electric bill, some of the sense of excitement begins to get a little tarnished. There are little blips on the excitement radar, like last Friday when I made a day trip on the train to see Kebun Raya (Botanic Gardens) in Bogor, but for the most part, I have settled right in and at home here. Which also means that the urge has struck to pick up and move again. Where does this wanderlust come from? I have absolutely no idea, (except that it didn't come from my parents,) but I do know that it has got me dreaming up adventures well into the future. The world is a pretty spectacular place, and I would simply like to see as much of it as possible.

Sunday, January 10, 2010


~“Give up all bad qualities in you, banish the ego and develop the spirit of surrender. You will then experience Bliss.”
Sri Sathya Sai Baba quotes (Indian Spiritual leader, b.1926)

When I first started yoga, I heard a lot of people talk about "surrender," whether it be to the practice itself, or life situations in general, and I had to make a conscious effort not to roll my eyes or giggle. "Crazy hippies," I would think to myself, "WHATEVER!" However, I have had to reconsider this opinion, and stop to think about what the concept of surrendering really can mean.

When I stopped dancing, I had been going through a series of injuries and was dealing with daily pain in nearly every part of my body. I had been fighting so hard against my body that it was affecting my personality and outlook on life, and the struggle to make it to the studio in the morning for rehearsal was becoming a little ridiculous. I had been working relentlessly on this dream my whole life, making sacrifices and putting other aspirations on hold, and now it was a source of pure unhappiness. Even after I stopped, I was telling my family it was just a break, and in the meantime, I was telling myself this too. Just a few more weeks to rest, do some more yoga, work a little, and then I will go back. After about 2 months of denial, I started making plans to go to India, and I started experiencing my life just falling effortlessly into place. Looking back, the last two years that I spent trying to coax my aching body into ballerina-style submission, the universe was trying to tell me to LET IT GO, it was not my path and the time had come to move on. Oh, the powers of hindsight.


In India, there are things that if you try and question, you will go crazy, because there is absolutely no logic in the way things work sometimes. This is absolutely the case in Indonesia as well. Traveling and living in these places has given me a lot of light on this crazy hippy-trippy business of just surrendering to the whims of the universe. I was recently told by my yoga teacher in Bali that if you stop fighting so hard to plan your way in this world, and resisting so much when life rubs you the wrong way, that things will naturally end up back in balance. An image that comes to mind for me is that if you get a scrape, and then it scabs over, but you keep picking at that scab it will take a lot longer to heal than if you just let it be, and I believe the concept of letting go works in a very similar way.


On my latest trip to Bali I had an awareness of this gut instinct in so many circumstances to just let go. It is so tempting to micro-manage my life, but by scrapping any sort of planned outings I had some incredible and spontaneous experiences. I had been wandering through the big market where all the tourists buy their souvenirs one afternoon, and bought some lunch from a lady set up under a stairway. I began talking to a young guy who was also eating nasi campur, and he was so impressed that I was eating local food and speaking a little bit of Indonesian that he offered to take me out on a tour, wherever I wanted, and absolutely free, simply because I was his new Canadian friend. I gave him a long hard look, and though it is STUPID to go places with strange men on their motorcycles, when you can barely communicate in each other's languages, we made arrangements to meet the next day. It all turned out great, and we went on another adventure a few days later. Thank you universe!
Another day, as I was walking down the main road, I passed a shop selling fruit, and the little old Ibu inside waved me in and pulled out a dusty little plastic stool for me to sit on. She asked me all the usual questions in Indonesian, where are you from, where are you going, are you married, and this one is new lately, "how did you study Indonesian?" I answered her in my baby bahasa, and she beamed at each answer, but as we chatted she was hobbling around filling a bag with fruit. She would shuffle back over to me with a sample of whatever she was putting in the bag, and hold out the fruit to me. I started to reach out my hand to accept it from her, but she swatted my arm away and as I laughed she popped a section of manggis into my mouth. Normally, I wouldn't be too impressed with anyone's blackened and smudged fingers getting that close to my food, or my face, but the delight on this lady's face was just unreal. How could I disappoint her? She fed me some bananas, and peeled me a few rambutan, then sent me on my way with a big bag of fruit at a decidedly local price a few minutes later, and I am so glad I didn't make a fuss about her feeding me; after I had walked about half a block away, I turned back and could see her grinning from her doorway. Before I had even cleared the block, an old old man sitting amongst some paintings in a makeshift gallery waved me in to take a look, he was sitting on a little stool this time, and he went through the same classic questions, but as I was answering he grabbed my hand, wrapped it around his shoulder, and pulled me close into his side. I stood there chatting and being hugged for a solid ten minutes, and although it was a little odd at first, being snuggled by a perfect stranger, it was rather lovely in the end. Being open to these fairly random occurences, along with several others that I haven't mentioned here (I am aiming for a blog entry, not a novel) provided me with some of the most memorable moments of my holiday. Once again, thank you universe for these opportunities.


This is what I am aiming for in 2010. I want the world to take me in whatever direction I am meant to go, meeting the people I am meant to meet, and having all the ups and downs that are intended for me along that path, realizing that I can throw my dreams out to the universe and work at manifesting them, but if it doesn't happen, it wasn't meant to, and accepting as often as possible the unexpected offerings that come my way.

~“If you surrender completely to the moments as they pass, you live more richly those moments.”
Anne Morrow Lindbergh quotes