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Monday, May 30, 2011

Having all sorts of epiphanies

Something has come alive in me here that I think may have been either dead or sleeping for a long, long time. I have this fire that started in my belly (could it be the heat here in the far east?) that is growing stronger every day. Some connection happened after I recovered from my jet lag that was like a piece of a missing puzzle. I am home here. Not just here in Thailand, but home in myself. It is a feeling so large that I can't really keep it contained in my body. It is an amazing thing. Just thought I would throw that out there.

Chiang Mai is a wonderful place. It is a city that is full of people from everywhere. We have made friends with Yu Mi from Japan, Harvey from France, Nacho from Spain and Mieke from Germany. And it is only the beginning of the first week. They - like us - are here to study Thai Massage. It is a wonderful camaraderie that we are experiencing... travelers from afar brought together by a desire to learn about healing. I loved finding a vegetarian Thai restaurant today that (finally) presented me with the opportunity to eat something I could really enjoy. Harvey found it weeks ago, and as he walked me there, explained all about his experiences following his Amma around the world. He lives at an ashram in India - a life he has been living for two years now, after becoming disenchanted by life in Paris. I am jealous. :) I find myself wanting to follow him and his Amma and live a life in prayer and peaceful existence. Meditation and yoga and Thai massage. And travel. MMMMMM.....

Learning Thai massage here in Thailand has so much more depth than I could have possibly imagined. It is everything I wanted and hoped for and much more. I smile at the smallest movements, I relish in the breath behind the work, I find passion for putting my hands on another person in the quest for healing that I sometimes lose in the daily grind. I was meant to be here. The work is both easier and harder than it was when I first learned it six years ago in Chicago. It is different, more meaningful and full of spirit. I love the pain that I am going through as I grow and stretch and become who I am supposed to be in this moment.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Arriving in Thailand

I must say, I am totally impressed with Finn Air. They know what they are doing when it comes to flight. All the components of the second leg of the trek to Thailand worked together well to make smooth travel. Good food, excellent service, fairly spacious coach seats, individual TV touch screens with a choice of music, movies, games, TV shows in a multitude of languages - impressive. I was even able to move to another seat, so that the only person next to me in the row was a Buddhist monk who alternated between sleep and prayer. Thank goodness! I got a little sleep and watched a couple of movies.

Getting to Bangkok was easy. The city was bustling - equal parts ancient and modern and brought to mind Hawaii, Mexico and Jamaica with extremes in housing from shacks to mansions. It smelled like my favorite Thai restaurant back home, and I couldn't keep looking all around at the people, the vegetation (even in Bangkok) and the crazy pink taxis. Navigating the city was even easy. There were signs in English and Thai and plenty of people around to help answer questions and direct bleary-eyed tourists to the right stops. We hit the ground running as soon as we arrived, and followed a combination of Rail train, subway, and our good ole' feet, to get to the main train station with our overnight train to Chiang Mai. When we arrived to the station (filled with hundreds of travelers sprawled all over the waiting area), we got our first class overnight sleeper tickets. Yippee! Finally traveling in style.

On a mission for the bathroom at the station, I found a sign for pay showers. So, I went back to the group to let the others know that we could freshen up before the journey. Three of us decided to go for it - at 20 Baht, it seemed like a deal. Now, considering the last shower I took was at a Finnish spa, I knew I should keep my expectations low, but this exceeded even those low expectations. I had visions of my Girl Scout camp shower (I always felt dirtier leaving than I did getting there) - cold water, dirty floor, old stinky smell. It did the trick of getting the travel grime off of me, but I cannot wait to get to Chiang Mai to take a real shower.

On the street outside of the station, I had my first Thai meal - fresh pineapple on a stick. To watch the woman expertly cut a pineapple in less than two minutes, put my best pineapple cutting skills (and I have eaten fresh pineapple my whole life) to test. it was delicious - sweet and juicy and the right thing for my off kilter sense of time and out of sync stomach. I then went into the craziest 7-11 (bologna and peanut butter sandwiches on the shelf for sale - yuck), and purchased two of the biggest bottles of water I could find for the train ride. And then I just sat with the group and waited for our train. Sitting in the station, we met travelers from Canada, the U.S. and Australia. They all gave us great information about what they were experiencing and we all bonded over adventure. The overall feedback was that Chiang Mai is lovely and diverse - I can't wait to get there.

The train ride was the part of the trip I was most looking forward to. An actual bed to sleep in! Since we were traveling first class, we were able to get individual sleepers with AC. I was glad to see that there were sinks and we each had doors that connected to another compartment, so none of us were truly isolated. Giddy with the excitement of the long (yet last) part of our trip, we ordered dinner and beer. Pictures were taken, toasts were made and then we settled in to eat, ride and rest.

I kept telling my group that they should follow my lead and eat vegetarian - what can possibly go wrong with veggies and rice, right? Wrong! I fell asleep around 10:00 p.m and woke at 11 with a burning feeling in my chest and throat. I experienced the worst heart burn I have ever had to deal with. It felt like fire in my throat - I thought I was going to choke. The rocking of the train only made it worse. With visions of death on a train in the middle of nowhere, Thailand, I woke my neighbor (Tara) who sat up with me and helped me try to figure out what was going on. Could I breathe? Yes. Could I swallow? Yes. Did my stomach ache? No. Did I feel any pain. No? We deduced that it was probably severe heartburn, so I gave some Alka Seltzer a try. No luck... I then tried Pepto tablets. Within 5 minutes, I was in the train bathroom (and I use that term both recklessly and loosely - bathrooms have taken on a whole new meaning here :) ) throwing up my veggies, rice and pineapple. And beer. It was the worst vomiting ever! I don't want to thrill you with all the details, so suffice it to say I am on an elimination diet (don't eat anything unless it is bland) for the rest of this train ride.

Back in my cabin, Tara gave me some motion sickness aromatherapy and peppermint gum. The burning slowly faded and I fell asleep to a combination of relaxation hypnotherapy and the un-gentle swaying of this 1960's train (if you are picturing the Orient Express or some other luxury, just get that right out of your head). This is Thai first class :) Old train, bad food, lots of rocking and noise and never on time.

At 6:30, Tara woke me up to look out the window - the train was flooded with sunlight as we rode through mountains and lush greenery. A few times, we could look down the steep mountainside and see brown rivers and steep drops. I was trying not to think about how much rocking we were experiencing at this point, I was just soaking in the visual splendor of the countryside. Thankful that I had the foresight to bring ginger on the trip (it is excellent for nausea), I ate a few pieces and brushed my teeth with bottled water and tucked into my breakfast of fresh pineapple (I ordered the vegetarian breakfast - chocolate cookies, pineapple, juice and tea - but pineapple was all I could stomach) as I sat and enjoyed the view. What an experience!

Arriving in Chiang Mai (five hours later than expected), we quickly navigated through the taxi drivers at the station to get to the red taxi we were told to find. Our driver (a nice man who didn't overcharge us - 200 baht for 6 people is a steal!), took us right to our guest house. It is small but clean, and the desk clerk/owner (Ann) is very kind and helpful. Now we get to settle in, shower off, and explore Chiang Mai.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

One Day in Helsinki... sort of

Hey there world! Well, here I am in Helsinki-Vantaa airport. If you have to be stuck in an airport, this is a great one. As it turns out - this trip has already turned out to be an adventure. One very naughty little boy on this trek from Chicago to Thailand - and boy do I mean NAUGHTY. He climbs walls, jumps on airport furniture, runs in women's restrooms and opens exit doors at gates. I feel bad for his mother who is traveling solo with him, but seriously. He needs a spank!

Anyway - we started off in Chicago and no sooner were at cruising altitude when the captain announces that we are going to make a landing in New York. City. WOO HOO!!! I don't want to land, but I have never seen the big apple, so I am stoked. I was sitting in elation - looking at the view of Central Park from above during our descent, when the captain announces that there will be police cars, emergency vehicles and firetrucks on the ground waiting for us. WHAT??? Just a mere formality he says. Yeah. Right. So, after getting checked out for about an hour (and I had to pee so badly that I contemplated squatting in my water bottle right there), we finally get the ok to get to a gate. Wait... gate? Are we getting off the plane? Yes, we did. So with $10 in the form of a voucher from American Airlines, we headed to the food court. In the process we made a friend - Dennis from Sweden - a college student heading home for summer break. He was very cool and funny and we spent an enjoyable couple of hours in JFK airport. Back on the plane, we sat for another hour before take off. As we sat, my vision of a day in Helsinki was starting to fade. I had made an appointment for a deluxe massage and spa treatment at Hotel Kamp in Helsinki - an old world, luxurious hotel. The appointment was for noon, and we were now going to get in Helsinki at around 1:30. So a quick phone call home, and an email to cancel my appointment, and we were back in the air.

I have never been on a flight that long. Sleep - not usually my friend in travel - eluded me on this flight. So, I sat with my headphones on and listened to some meditation type stuff. About the time I started to drift off, the sun was already up (long daylight up here in Scandanavia), so me and Angry birds finished out the flight. Other than my seat mate vomiting at landing, it was a smooth ride into the city.

At the airport, we decided to just hang out due to entering and exiting and customs and baggage, etc. I was happy to find a spa right here in the airport. Massage on!!! So, I had a traditional Finnish spa experience, sauna, steam room, Finnish sauna, mineral pool and shower with ice to cool off the heat. Then, I had a back, leg and shoulder massage with a slimming treatment on my legs... heavenly. It was much needed after such a long trek so far, and with an even longer trek ahead of me. Not a bad way to kill two hours during the layover.

On I continue - flight to Bangkon and then train to Chiang Mai. :)

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Preparing for the next adventure... Thailand!

Well, I must say it has been an interesting spring.  Too much work and school and some travel mixed in there have all taken it's toll on me.  Yesterday, someone asked me if a picture of me taken two years ago was a picture of my daughter.  I could be offended (do I look old enough to have a daughter my age?), but I know that stress and weight gain and a too busy life and lack of sleep all make us age.  I have become my ideal client - ha ha.  So, it's time to get back to what I wanted to do at the beginning of the year.  Heal myself first.  I say yes when I should say no.  I over-commit my time and energy to the needs of others way too often, and so I find myself here... 15 pounds heavier than I want to be (at least), feeling a bit uncomfortable in my own skin, making poor nutritional decisions in the rush between this or that... and not sleeping well.  Enough is enough.  What is the point of all of this if I can't take care of myself first.

And so off I go again - this time to Thailand :)  It has been a dream of mine to visit Thailand and spend some time there to complete the Thai massage training I started years ago.  I will be in Chiang Mai (northern Thailand) for close to a month!  Whoa!  Good stuff, right?  I will be taking yoga classes, walking a lot, hopefully eating some really great fresh foods and living my life at a slower pace.  I have the luxury of being just a student - both with my online program and at my Thai school.  To say I can't wait is the understatement of the century, but I am trying to just breathe in each moment of anticipation of the adventure.

In preparation, I have been spending the weekend in a Thai massage class.  Since I already have some experience, I have been receiving a lot of bodywork - just what I needed.  My sore, stressed out body is getting lots of stretching and working out.  I have been eating LOTS of fruits and veggies and drinking lots of water.  I feel like I am embarking on my biggest wellness adventure to date.  The best part is just around the corner, but I get to have what I crave right here - right now.

The biggest gift we can give to the people in our lives is taking care of ourselves.  We are kinder, less stressed out, happier and more peaceful.  I plan on continuing to say yes - but more so to myself first.  If I am taking care of me, the rest is more of a joy than a series of tasks.

If you want to follow along with me to Thailand, I will be blogging throughout the trip.  I am certain I will come back a new woman ;)