SOUL HAPPY

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So you’re eating a diet of immaculate nutrition and following a vigorous balanced exercise plan, practicing yoga and meditating first thing, getting 8 hours of sleep each night and ticking everything off your to do list each day.

But,  you can’t remember the last time you properly laughed from your belly, or went outside just for the joy of breathing in the air and taking a walk with no music and no distractions.

It isn’t often you sit down and have a heart-to-heart walls down chat with someone, because its much easier to just skim the surface and have the same conversation each day, and anyway you have to get to yoga/ the gym/ a meeting/ your phone. You spread a smile on that face and carry on, finding comfort in the structure of your day. You go home, you go to sleep and you do it all again the next day.

You do this over and over, in pursuit of a sense of wholeness and completeness that constantly evades you, that is always just around the corner, because each day you are so busy planning forward and sticking to the plan that you forget to live, now. Your mind lives in the future, imagining what it will be like once you’re in a better place, when you have more money, when your body looks different, when somebody loves you.

You don’t even recognise that your bank account is full enough for what you need, you don’t notice the beautiful man who holds the door open for you every day, you don’t notice how good your food tastes. You don’t notice the innate wisdom of your body as it protects you and supports you.

There can always be more, better, bigger, richer, happier. But we never get there, unless we enjoy being here. Wholeness is here and now.

Life is messy. Happiness is messy. A whole and happy life is messy, unpredictable, it’s colourful and psychedelic and a lot like a children’s collage or finger painting of flushed cheeks and sandy toes, of sleepy lazy mornings and surprise evening visitors, of things not going to plan and being even better than you could have planned. Surely, the universe has something more creative in store than we could find in the depths of our imagination?

Happiness is when you snort tea out of your nose because your dearest friend makes you laugh so hard that you lose all decorum, and all control. When you get blisters on the backs of your heels from walking in hiking boots the wrong size, because you loved the walk so much you barely noticed the discomfort. When you get completely lost in a new city and instead of feeling scared, you feel intrepid and inspired. When you are so deeply immersed in something that bares your creative soul that five hours trickle by without you even feeling the time passing.

Perhaps theres a little something missing in your picture of perfect health, if it all feels a little too clean and concise, if there’s no room for spontaneity, for cake fresh from the oven, for the occasional ugly laugh.

Happiness isn’t all clean lines and airbrushed skin. Happiness is imperfection, and complete acceptance of that imperfection, right here and now. Happiness is believing that something wonderful is about to happen, and accepting that it will look and feel so different from anything you ever could have planned.

Happiness is here and now.

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The Laos Life

I’m sitting on the pool patio, sipping on ice cold water, soaking up the rays through the layer of thick, humid cloud that is concealing the sun. On the other side of the river the builders are blasting Laos pop music at max volume, I can hear the hammering of tools and the occasional outburst of laughter or shouting. The sounds seem to bounce around the hills in the distance, as if we are in a little box of Laos and the hills are the walls.

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Infinity

I’ve found myself back in Laos, this time in Vang Vieng, known for it’s party scene, drunken tubing and half naked tourists wandering confused in the streets after consuming mushroom shakes and taking too many shots at Sakura Bar,in the quest for a free t-shirt, labelled “drink triple, see double, act single”, rules which every bogan backpacker worth their salt will follow on their quest to find themselves in Southeast Asia.

I’m here in the quiet season, and I’m seeing a different side to Vang Vieng. Emphasis is on the beauty of the scenery, the tourists are mostly Korean who cruise down the river in their tubes, occasionally falling out and unable to get back in, they hold onto their tubes and scream with laughter as they bob around, lifejackets and armbands keeping them afloat, all the while holding their phones in waterproof casing and taking selfies with one hand, gripping for dear life with the other.

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Nam Song River 

I’m here for one month, teaching yoga for Yoga in Vang Vieng, based at the Silver Naga Hotel. Myself and my fellow teacher, the lovely Tye from Australia, take turns with our teaching days, me teaching both classes one day, and her the next, which means every second day is a day off! Living the dream? Ahhh yep.

It took a few days for me to settle in here, as I always do. I felt like I had stepped into a dream – after one month of quality, much needed family and recuperation time in the UK, I found myself back in sticky, sweaty southeast Asia with all its lovely sounds and smells and I had to break myself back in to the… different way of living here. My first night here I woke up in the middle of the night to thunder and lightning, very very frightening, and one of the hotel dogs scratching at the door trying to get in for a cuddle. However, I’m not living in a bamboo hut or showering in cold water every day, nor am I getting up at the crack of dawn and teaching all day. I remind myself daily of how incredibly lucky I am to be doing what I love while travelling the world, and I get to live in a beautiful hotel this time, which is the cherry on top.

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The doggy trying to cool his genitals on the floor

I’m up at 6.30am on teaching days, prepping the room and my class, I teach from 7.30-9.00am, have breakfast in the hotel (buffet awesomeness), chill by the pool, hang out in my room, explore the town, get a massage, go for a bike ride, practice my Laos language on the hotel staff (who just laugh at me, shaking their heads like “such a fool, at least she tries), visit a local cafe, plan classes, write my journal, chat to other guests, teach again at 5pm, then go for dinner and chill for the evening. On my days off – same same, except I attend the classes instead of teaching (or sleep in, haha…).

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One of my first days here I visited a cafe in the town for coffee and good internet, and got chatting to the owner, who offered me a job on the spot, “like a homestay! You come here, speak English with us and the customers, help us, eat with us, we speak Laos with you, you drink coffee??”. Obviously I said yes, we shook hands, and every day since I have wandered into Offbeat Cafe, bringing writing notebooks and coloured pens and Laos-English language books and we sit around miming things in attempt to make conversation. They laugh at my attempts at Laos language (my mouth just doesn’t make certain sounds), and they laugh at themselves when they try the English words. They call me their baby Laos, because I sound like a very special baby when I speak Laos, and they also call me “uaey” which means “big sister”, which makes me feel all happy. I call them “nongsau” which means “little sister”. There is Song and Prin, brother and sister who own the cafe, and the three young girls, Tame, Deuy and Daa. They are adorable and all wear their hair in the same high bun and their work t-shirt tied up in a fashionable way.

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Dinner Time!

I’m amazed at how eager they are to learn – when I was in school I don’t think my eyes lit up the way theirs do when the teacher walks into the room. They come running up to me, saying “Jao kin kao ya baw??” which means “have you had lunch??”, and they touch my arm and say “beautiful skin” and I’m like really cos I didn’t moisturise today hahahahaha and they look at me blankly but endearingly, like “she crazy, but we will allow it because she has the knowledge we require”.

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Munchkins.

Mealtimes are interesting. Sometimes I have lunch or dinner with them, and we sit around the table and eat with our hands. The first time I joined them, they put a box of sticky rice, a bowl of vegetables and a plate of meat on the table, pointed to me and said “eat!”. So I sat down, pulled the plate towards me and started to eat, and they started laughing hysterically, “NOOOOOO hhahahahhaah that bowl for EVERYONE!”. Needless to say I felt like a greedy little farang at that moment. Just goes to show that portion sizes in the western world are outrageous, that our normal evening meal would feed a family of four in Asia.

The next time we ate together, Song pulled out a plate of pastey stuff, called “jaeow”, gestured to the sticky rice and said “you eat!”.

Rosie: “what’s this? fish paste?” (It sure tasted fishy.)
Song: “no, no, no fish. Vegetable. And….”
Prin: “Vegetable aaaand…. and…. injection!” *flaps arms wildly*
Rosie: “INJECTION??!” *look of horror*
Prin: “Ahhhh…. Insects!”
Rosie: “mmmmm….”
Prin: *googling furiously…..* “CRICKETS!”

Welll. I ate no more cricket paste that evening, and awoke the next morning with a dubious sensation in the pit of my stomach. My body may not be ready for Laos cuisine in its entirety, but it sure is exciting!

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Green Cookies!

I’m off to swim in the infinity pool. Peace and love from Laos to you all.

La Kon! Goodbye!

p.s. six weeks until our Whole & Happy Retreat in Chanthaburi, Thailand on the 4th of November. Wanna join us? There are still some spaces available. Email me at rosie.moreton@gmail.com to reserve your space, or book online at:

http://wholeandhappyretreat.eventbrite.com

See you there?

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Loving and Leaving

I can’t quite believe that my one month in Luang Prabang, Laos, has trickled past so quickly. In a hazy blur of yoga, sunrises, sunsets, a birthday, lush countryside, new friends, some illness and homesickness, but most of all an overwhelming feeling of contentment and gleeful disbelief that my world right now allows me to work, travel and live like this.

There’s something very special about Luang Prabang, in a way that you can’t quite put your finger on. It is the kind of place that just keeps ticking along – you come, you settle in, then you leave, and it just keeps going without you, which is both sad and comforting at the same time. A month is too short a time to fully experience life there, at least in the way it needs to be experienced. The most captivating part of Luang Prabang life for me is that life feels easy. Nothing is too far away, you have culture, religion, outdoor adventure, nature, comfort and a bounty of good, cheap food on your doorstep.

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I was there for a month, teaching yoga daily for Luang Prabang Yoga, overlooking the Nam Khan River, through rain and shine, sunrise and sunset, to whoever passed through. I had some regulars – people staying in town for a while, expats, or returning visitors who went elsewhere and decided this was the place to be. I was teaching most classes at Utopia, which is just as it sounds – a chilled out, everybody welcome kind of place with good food, interesting people, cosy seating overlooking the river, a volleyball net and a yoga deck.

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One of my favourite evening activities was to visit one of the temples at around 6.30pm and join the monks and novices for their evening chanting and meditation. From 6.30 – 7pm they would chant Buddhist verses, then from 7 – 8pm they would meditate in silence. I would do my best, sometimes sneaking out a little earlier, because an hour and a half is a long time to sit without stretching out your legs. The feet are considered the lowest part of your body in all respects, so its very rude to stretch your legs forward and face the soles of your feet at Buddha. If you want to stretch, you have to awkwardly poke your legs to one side. One time I made the foolish mistake of wearing a wrap around skirt to meditation, and quickly realised that I couldn’t sit cross legged without baring my crotch to the Buddha, which is generally deemed inappropriate in Buddhist tradition.

At the end of the meditation sometimes the novices would turn to practice their English with any westerners in the temple. They were very inquisitive about our lives and how we can travel, and in exchange I asked questions trying to get a grasp on the day in the life of a monk or novice. It’s a lot of discipline for these tiny little boys, and one night in meditation I opened my eyes to just watch them sitting. Some of them are so small and their heads keep lolling forward, then they catch themselves and try to sit upright again, only to keep falling asleep every few minutes. It’s adorable and kind of sad and also very impressive all at the same time – as teenagers these kids have more discipline than many of us might learn in a lifetime. At their age I was running around half naked in a field, building tree houses and singing at the top of my lungs. The contrast is pretty eye opening.

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The food… People say that Laos food is nothing to write home about. I found some gems in Luang Prabang that made me rethink – my particular favourite breakfast at Delilah’s consisted of a little bamboo box of sticky rice, a Lao omelette with dill and vegetables, steamed vegetables and a pot of spicy eggplant dip which was the best in town. I would go there for brunch after teaching, use the Internet, and just watch people passing by. It was a weird little place, they would often be blasting the music at 9am, even if I was the only customer, but I took my food outside and they took a shine to me because I tried out my rudimentary Laos on them every day and they thought I was hilarious.

Some places in town make awesome Laap or Laab – made with either chicken, fish or tofu/mushroom, mixed in with fresh herbs and served with greens and sometimes sticky rice, it makes a refreshing lunch or dinner. Street side stalls have grilled bananas, fresh fruit, tiny pancakes, sandwiches, and fruit shakes. I discovered an alleyway in the night market offering a buffet selection of vegetarian food, where you grab a bowl, fill it with as much as you can pack in, get them to heat it up for you, chuck an egg on top and pay a tiny 15,000kip (less than 2usd). You can also choose to wash it down with a big beer Laos, at the average price of 10,000 kip. Cheap and cheerful.

A favourite was also the Sin Daad or Laos BBQ, with baskets of vegetables, noodles, raw meat or tofu, pots of broth and dipping sauce. You grill your own meat or tofu on the hot pot which is built into the table, pour the broth into the little most and fill it with vegetables and noodles, and then scoop it out bit by bit into your bowl and try to get it in your mouth with chopsticks. An awesome social way to eat, pretty cheap, and there are places around town that offer an all-you-can-eat situation, including icecream for dessert, and you can just stay there for several hours to see how many meals you can squeeze in for your kip.

It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows in Luang Prabang for me, though. I got a nasty burn on my leg from riding on the back of my friends motorbike, which I was terrified was getting infected, especially when it started bleeding and looking quite worrying. Luckily a friend had some medical supplies and it has started to heal nicely. Apparently they call them “Laos burns”, because everyone gets a burn in the same place from bumping against the exhaust pipe on their bike.

I got a weird bite or something suspicious on the back of my other leg which became a curious texture and felt all squishy when I touched it, but I just kind of ignored it for a while (out of sight, out of mind) and it seems to have gone away. Phew.

I also had some nasty stomach issues which still haven’t quite been resolved – a sensitive stomach at the best of times can struggle in Asia, with all the hidden ingredients and language barrier when you ask for certain things to be excluded/ added to your meal. Laos has come a long way, but if you’re looking for gluten free dairy free vegan chia seed muffins, this is not the place. And maybe that’s a good thing.

In general, being sick when you’re away from home is pretty much the worst thing. Every tiny little inconvenience of living in Asia comes to the fore – you can’t find the medicine you need, you can’t drink from the tap, there’s a power cut and you lie there all feverish with no air con, nobody understands what you’re saying (to the point where you think perhaps you are delirious and rambling), the thought of noodle soup makes you turn green, and everything comforting and familiar is far away.

Nobody ever talks about the shitty hard part of living and working away from home. It’s like it’s a little bit unacceptable to admit to being unhappy while you’re living in sunshine paradise and working your dream job. It’s natural that there are ups and downs, and being sick makes you realise that your health is the single most important thing, coming before everything else. If you’re not well then you can’t enjoy everything that your surroundings offer.

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And THAT, my friends, is the time to go to Chiang Mai, a vegan/ vegetarian/organic/ gluten free/paleo Mecca for anyone with awkward dietary requirements. It was very sad for me to leave Luang Prabang, where life was easy, and faces had become familiar, but the time has come, and I’m looking forward to starting a Thai Massage training in Chiang Mai and having the resources around me to get my glow back.

I’m currently up in Pai, a chilled out ‘hippie town’ north of Chiang Mai, where I plan to spend several days doing just that – chilling out, doing yoga, catching up on some work and exploring the lush surroundings. Next week I start my course, where I will learn to massage bodies.

✌️

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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

 

 

 

Cambodian Village Life

After a month of Rugby World Cup shenanigans and family time in England, my travels took an unexpected turn and I jumped on a plane bound for Siem Reap, Cambodia. Definitely did not foresee such action, but it turns out it was an excellent decision. 

Whilst in Spain, I was also applying for various yoga jobs in Europe, just throwing my CV out there and hoping the universe would provide. Old universe came through, but as usual, it was in a highly unexpected way. 

So now I’m in Cambodia, working in the traditional Khmer village of Bakong, near the temples of Angkor Wat, surround by rice paddies, an overwhelmingly stinky marketplace, curious-looking cows, tiny children dressed proudly in school uniforms riding bicycles far too large, dusty brown roads and dense green jungle. The villagers throw wild, loud parties that begin at 4am and finish at 3am. They celebrate life, death, weddings, anniversaries, getting a new cow, their neighbour getting a new cow, the anniversary of 100 days since their neighbour got a new cow…. Anything is a reason to party, and I respect that. I also respect and relish my one hour of silence between 3am and 4am, when the wailing and chanting ends and the frogs begin.

   
   
I’m teaching yoga at Hariharalaya Yoga and Meditation Retreat, quite possibly the best yoga retreat in Cambodia, but maybe I’m biased… I live in a little thatched hut, with a mosquito net that I keep throughly tucked into my mattress, and a broom to sweep out the fresh gecko poop. My pet gecko is called Fred, and sometimes I burst into my room to find him squatting hurriedly in the corner, an alarmed look in his beady eyes as he is caught doing his thrice daily ablutions! One of Hariharalaya’s pure intentions is to get people back in touch with nature, and there’s no doubt it has done that for me…  A frog squad lingers outside my hut at dawn and dusk, exchanging tales from pond life, leaping over each other and avoiding my huge human tread. Once, on a sleepy midnight trip to the bathroom, I stepped firmly on something very soft and squishy, which turned out to be a tiny frog, fresh from tadpole life, and I felt so sad and mournful. 

  
There are also giant worms, and I mean so so large. As long as my leg (which in fact is not very long but long if you’re a worm). The first few weeks I was here, there were still remnants of the rainy season, and after the rain the giant worms would come out to play. At first I thought they were snakes. And then the first time I saw a snake, I thought it was a giant worm, so I peered at it curiously, considered prodding it, until one of the Cambodian girls came sprinting out of the house, broomstick in hand, and started bashing at it furiously with all her might. She turned to me, eyes bright, and cried “ees small, but ees baaaaaad!”.  Poisonous worm, otherwise known as snake. I should not be left alone in the jungle.

  
My first week was a challenge. Up at 5.30am every morning, sometimes earlier, learning the ropes, planning classes for groups of 20-30 people of mixed yoga experience, from all different backgrounds and languages, and trying to balance doing a good job with socialising with guests. Plus I was dealing with the culture shock, the temperature and humidity, jet lag, a cold turkey vegan diet (pun intended) and caffeine withdrawals. 5.30am is rough WITH a nice cup of English breakfast tea or strong coffee, but without… I truly felt like a zombie going through the motions. Jasmine tea and meditation is what I have to work with. Days off though…

  
My first two weeks of morning and night meditation was a STRUGGLE. I’ve tried to meditate regularly over the past couple of years, but never really got into the rhythm. Here I have no choice, which as it turns out, is exactly what I needed. I could not sit comfortably for half an hour without fidgeting, worrying about bugs in my hair, scratching mosquito bites, adjusting my shawl, rearranging my sitting position from cross legged to kneeling to cross legged to kneeling.. I soon realised that I am obsessed with being comfortable (which anyone could guess from my collection of chunky jumpers and yoga pants) and that maybe it is quite good for me to sit with the discomfort for a while. And that’s when my meditation improved. Amazing! I mean obviously, it’s still bloody awkward sometimes, especially when a moist slimy gecko lands on your leg in the darkness of evening meditation, and you can’t see what it is, so you let out a wisp of a scream and jump from the ground, fumbling for the light of your phone then realising you don’t have it because it’s a digital detox and all phones are contraband, so you scamper to the bathroom and sit on the toilet until the meditation bell rings to signal dinner time, and you emerge, pale and shamefaced, admitting defeat by a wayward gecko.

  
There are many humorous moments, and many meaningful ones too. At the end of each retreat we do a closing circle where everyone shares something of their experience. Sometimes people start crying which generally makes me cry and then the sight of me crying makes other people cry because it’s not very pretty, in fact it’s a bit scary. It’s a healing place though and I’m so grateful that I’m a part of it.

   
   
 The next retreat is over Christmas, so that’ll be weird. Vegan, wine-free Christmas? If I was Santa I’d stay at home. But maybe it’s a good opportunity to give Christmas a different meaning. My family dinner this year will be with my lovely workmates and retreat-goers, passion fruit smoothies will be my prosecco, and the treehouse will be my Christmas tree, the sunset will be my Christmas lights… These are the things that people who live on yoga retreats begin to say. Village life is going to my head. 

  
I’m currently enjoying a luxurious three nights off,  recovering from some kind of savage bird flu (maybe just normal flu but I like to be dramatic), partaking in hot showers, green juices, mineral water, jacuzzis and vast swimming pools. All the different types of water please. I recently had a very bad, very boyish haircut from a lady in the marketplace (in hindsight, not a good idea) so I don’t particularly want to go out where lots of people can point and laugh. “It’s not so bad!”, my friends cry, but they’re not the ones with a frizzy mullet. 

  

I will be back soon with more tales of Cambodian village life. This post was mainly about insects and creepy crawlies, but this stuff is important to cover. In the meantime, if you’re in Southeast Asia….. book yourself in for a retreat here

  
   

  
  

  

  

  


…. And please bring me some Christmas dinner. 

Seeking Balance (and Summertime)

Today is a great day.

I’ve just noticed that I have 100 followers on my sexy little blog!

Also, I have arrived back in Ireland, a place that makes my soul tremendously happy. I’m heading back to The Valley House for a summer of mighty, savage, marvellous craic (savage craic sounds a bit scary but people ACTUALLY SAY THAT. I know.)

The past week has been a quick catch up with family and friends, cups of tea and trips to garden centres, some excellent quality sausages at the birthday BBQ, and a trip up to London for some social activity. I was feeling a little over-healthed and under-partied, and was perhaps experiencing a sort of mid-youth crisis, hitting age 22 and having spent the past 6 months primarily doing yoga and eating nettles.

Which is very essential for ones spiritual, physical, and emotional development, but I also felt I needed to imbibe and party. It’s all about balance.

So we went out in Brick Lane, ate very cheap curry, scored some wine and then went off and found ourselves a party. It was great, but I couldn’t handle 2 nights in a row. Instead, we went to Hyde Park then I went on home to watch Sex and the City and eat some quinoa.

Hyde Park was lovely, the actual sun shined, and there were even some triathletes doing some world championship final thing. I mostly just noticed how wonderful their bums were.

 

 

 

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Braving flip flops
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Our picnic in Hyde Park
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Sunshine!
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A miraculous hound.

 

So now I’m off to Achill Island, writing from the rickety bus that arrived 30 minutes late at Knock Airport. I like Knock airport because it reminds me of Nelson airport back home – no security, one big room, old men discussing public transport.

I’m curious to see what becomes of the next 2 and a half months. I expect it to be different from last year, with some different people and some the same, but also I think I am quite different from how I was last year.

I sense it will be a test in balance- how to maintain daily yoga and meditation and consumption of greens, whilst working in a Backpackers and Pub where alcohol consumption and party time is a given.

Challenge accepted! I sure hope there’s sunshine, so I don’t have to do yoga in the pub. That would just be distracting, for all parties involved…

Chat soon old pals.

Vegetarians Gone Wild

I’m writing this post from Lyon airport, having said goodbye to my lovely Brenazet family earlier today. They were so fun, loving life on their idyllic farm, eating amazing meals together every day and constantly learning and trying new things. It’s inspiring to find people who genuinely love their lives and don’t even feel like they need to holiday, because home is so lovely!

After a hearty breakfast of green smoothie and some buckwheat hazelnut porridge (awesome stuff), Mariken sent me on my way with a little snack pack and instructions to let her know when I arrive safely in London. Elza the dog jumped up and gave me a smooch too, which was cute.

I spent the majority of yesterday helping them set up a Mail Chimp newsletter campaign and linking it to all of their social media, which is the sort of thing that comes easily to me (it’s my generation) but can be a real chore for people. Always nice to know you’re really helping the people you stay with, because sometimes it feels like you are getting an amazing experience for nothing. Days filled with yoga, meditation, cooking, gardening, cleaning, and amazing food are the best working days EVER.

My last few days involved a lot of cooking, yoga, a trip to Mariken’s local ‘Old Lady Yoga’ (which I secretly loved, even if it was all in French and included lots of pelvic tilting), crazy thunderstorms, dreamy sunsets and much laughter.

Basically I’m just going to post a bunch of photos of food, because I cannot describe in detail all the things we made. Mariken has a spectacular kitchen and array of recipes, during summer she cooks for the guests every day so she’s a bit of a pro at making healthy food for many mouths.

Get ready to drool….

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Raw vege pasta, quinoa, garden salad
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Buckwheat and oat flour pastry, filled with silver beet and soft tofu
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Beetroot and Walnut Dip
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Bean Salad
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Plate of Goodness
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Red Quinoa- Stuffed Tomatoes
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Avocado & Almond Butter Chocolate Mousse
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Raw carrot cupcakes with cashew coconut icing, Apple cake.
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Smoothie greens! Yes, that is nettle.

 

Needless to say I’m going to miss having the means to make all that. But I have a bounty of recipes now. I sort of made up the chocolate mousse, so I shall share it with you. Mariken declared it the ‘best chocolate mousse she has ever tasted’, which is high praise.

Marvellous Mousse

To feed 2-3 people:

1 large ripe banana

1 ripe avocado

2 large tbsp almond butter

2-3 tbsp cocoa powder

2 tbsp maple syrup/agave/honey or whatever your preferred sweetener is.

1 tbsp chia seeds

anything else you think would be tasty….

 

whizz it it all up in your blender, adjust the amounts to suit yourself, serve in little pots with a sexy adornment (I used cacao nibs). If you can wait, put them in the fridge for an hour and let the chia seeds do their thing.

You don’t need much because it is very filling, what with all the avocado and nuts.

Mouuuuthgasm!

 

A farewell sunset
A farewell sunset

Off back to London now, for birthday celebrations, family time and probably some MEAT. Funnily enough, today as I was leaving Mariken was cooking up one of their chickens. Usually they are vegetarian, but yesterday they discovered that one of their chickens was eating the eggs.

So they chopped it’s head off and made coq au vin. Waste not, want not.

Au revoir France! I still only understand a pathetic amount of your language (“inhale, exhale, left foot, right foot, relaaaax”), but I think that’s okay.

 

Bad Hair Month, and other adventures

It’s been a few days, my cherubs, because I have been poorly. A nasty bout of the flu had its way with me, along with a funky stomach virus that made me walk like a hunchback for 3 days.

Being sick is pretty shit when you’re travelling. You don´t have mummy to bring you marmite on toast. It´s especially bad if you’re in a hostel. I’m lucky, because I am in a delightful chunk of paradise in the middle of France, with my own little cabin to fester in until the germs retreat. But it is hard, because as a HelpXer, I always feel like I need to be contributing more, rather than just moping around feeling sorry for myself and sleeping 18 out of 24 hours a day. Luckily my lovely hosts have been very understanding, and even gave me essential oils and a nightcap of thyme infused alcohol to send me into a deep slumber. And it doesn’t take long to get better in such a healthy environment, with lots of greens and goodness.

My nose is rather red and sore, much like Rudolph, from blowing it a few too many times on the toilet roll. So I have taken to using my magical homemade coconut lip balm as a nose balm… It works very well, in case you were wondering.

After missing two days of yoga, I rolled out of bed and onto my yoga mat this morning. It isn’t too hard when it looks like this outside….

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Mariken also taught her yoga class this morning. We did it outside in part of the campsite, and I taught my style of sun salutation to the lovely little French ladies. I´m sure they didnt understand what I was saying, because I have a weird accent, but they seemed to enjoy it.

I could not do my 108 breath meditation this morning, because it involves Breath of Fire, which is alot of firing air out of one´s nose, and I was fearful of firing something other than air out due to congestion. So I didn´t do that..

As for the old ´washing my hair with baking soda and apple cider vinegar´…. It works quite well, but my hair is quite absurd. I look like I have escaped from somewhere. Through an electric fence, probably.

 

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Wow! Impressive isn´t it. I would say the above is one of my two good hair days that have been predicted for the next six weeks on this regime…

At least I got volume.

So basically these days I look like a sixties hipster, wearing ´mom jeans´ that I found in the ´Helpers Box of Clothing´ and repping a fro.

On a more tasteful note, we made delightful bounty bars the other day! Would you like the recipe? They are relatively healthful, of course. Quite coconutty.

Bountiful Bars!

Chocolate Coating

3/4 cup coconut oil

3/4 cup cocoa powder (the good stuff)

1/2 cup maple syrup/ agave syrup

pinch salt

Filling

150g dates (or use a date paste)

150g desiccated coconut

1/4 cup coconut oil

3 tbsp cashew nuts

2 tbsp hemp seeds (or more nuts, if you aren´t that fancy)

vanilla

pinch of salt

Instructions

Filling: Melt coconut oil. Mix dates and water in food processor. Mix in the other filling ingredients. Refrigerate for 5 minutes to solidify a little bit. Make into small, stumpy finger bars. Refrigerate for 15 minutes.

Coating: Melt coconut oil. Mix in cocoa powder,salt and chosen sweetener. Let it sit for 5 minutes to thicken – add more cocoa powder if need be.

Roll the stumpy coconut bars around in their sea of chocolate, until entirely coated. Pop them in the fridge to set. Then you eats it ja!

And if you´re anything like me in the kitchen, they will end up looking a little like this: Tiny, stumpy fingers.

 

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I only have three more days at Brenazet, then I head back to the UK for a week or so, to celebrate my birthday and see my dear family. Then I am off to Ireland for a couple of months.

I´m sure looking forward to a summer of mighty craic!

Mossy Bum

Ohhh boy, the weather in France has taken a turn for the chilly. My body is a bit confused, after spending a month in the glorious heat of Spain then reverting to winter weather. Thunderstorms, hail, rain, cold nights… But it’s secretly kind of nice, because it means we can LIGHT THE FIRE. And I love a good fireplace.

I have taken to wearing 70 percent of my wardrobe to bed, leaving 30 percent of my clothing for daytime usage. Needless to say, there’s not a lot of variety going on. Basically I just wear yoga clothes, a chunky jumper and some borrowed gumboots (or should I say, Wellington boots). But we watched a Ted Talk last night and the man giving the talk sagely noted that if all we do is follow fashion, we will never catch up with it, so we might as well not bother…..Right?

As I’m writing this I’m sitting by the fire in our little wooden chalèt, drinking some hand picked mint tea. We have had to do our yoga indoors for the past two days, because it is so gosh darn cold out. Basically, I’ve been doing a lot of baking and indoor work, like cleaning the gités, shifting books, helping with meals.

Over the weekend, whilst housesitting for the family while they were in Holland, Izzy and I made a delightful array of natural cosmetics, some practical, some not so much. Our toothpaste turned out a little funky, and Izzy is convinced it’s making her teeth go brown, which is sort of the opposite of what we were hoping to achieve. Our lip balm is a little bit solid, probably because the standard room temperature at the moment is much lower than average. Therefore the coconut oil is like rock.

We washed our hair with baking soda, made a nettle tonic (to promote hair growth and thickness), then conditioned with Apple cider vinegar. It actually worked really well in my hair, and is a whole lot cheaper than buying real shampoo. Apparently you have about two good hair days in the space of six weeks when you start doing this, after which your hair is MAGNIFICENT. Eyes on the prize Rosie, eyes on the prize. I feel a bit weird doing it, because I quite enjoy that lather effect that you get from shampooing your hair. With baking soda and water, you just kind of mush it around your scalp. It will take some getting used to. I added some essential oils to my nettle tonic to make it smell better. Because nettles don’t really smell that sexy.

We did naked yoga. Naked. I’m just gonna leave that sentence there. Take what you want from it….

I love this place, it’s like a haven of information and terrible jokes and shouting in Dutch and accordion playing and naughty escaping ponies. I love it when Ron makes a joke in English and laughs for a good five minutes at his own wit. Yesterday, when Izzy and I were moving shelves, he cried from the other side of the room “Easy does it! Oh! Oh! ……IZZY does it! Haha! Ha!” That man is hilarious. I love how Mariken calls asparagus ‘Aspergers’ and nutrients ‘nutritions’. I love how Igor farts so much that nobody even says anything anymore. He just lets one rip and everyone continues around him.

Izzy leaves tomorrow, after which it will just be me in my little wooden cabin, doing my strange breathy meditation all alone and sipping tea for one. I will miss the delightful outbursts of song and enthusiasm that happen whenever Izzy is in the room. She is like an excitable child who buzzes around doing a million things at once and is so inspired by everything and everyone, then exhausts herself and has to lie down for a while. Her enthusiasm is contagious, her art is amazing, I will miss that little chipmunk! She is so remarkably comfortable with being naked. Today we went for a walk in the forest, took off all our clothes, climbed a tree that hung over the river, and meditated… Oh what a sentence that is. Very nice indeed, aside from the extremely mossy bum.

Here are some pics of our weekend of housesitting and our very potent wheatgrass juice from our half day juice detox (we got hungry at lunchtime and there were pancakes, need I say more…). As Mariken says, there’s no point in juicing when it’s cold and you feel deprived. It will make you unhappy, and you want to feel happy. Wise words from a wise woman.

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Shots!
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Izzy, unimpressed
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Buckwheat pancakes, red cabbage coleslaw, dal
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Izzy and feast
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Eat the rainbow

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Raw vegan lasagne

Best. Day. Ever.

Wednesday was an action packed day. These Dutch people, they don’t mess around, they get things done. It’s invigorating and inspiring, and you are so ready for bed when the time comes.

The day began with some yoga and a meditation with Izzy outside our little chalet, which we have been doing every day. They say it takes 30 days to develop a habit, and I think I just hit that. Right now I’m loving the Sivananda sun salutations, probably because that was the style we were doing in Spain every morning. The meditation is the 108 breath meditation, which involves alot of heavy breathing which is kind of awkward…. But it sets you up for a very peaceful morning meditation.

 

Bums
Bums
Saluting the Sun
Saluting the Sun

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After that, we had our green smoothies and did some weeding and gardening. I am learning all about which ones are weeds and which ones are plants, which is quite useful to know. I needed to be taught, otherwise I would just go around pulling everything out because it “‘looks messy”… We went foraging for greens to have in our lunchtime salad, now I know that things growing all around our feet are totally edible and actually taste kind of good. Apart from some things which will make you ill, don’t eat those ones…

Then we ate lunch, then we made a raw apple pie for our dinner party that evening! Oh boy, it was good. Its free of.. gluten, dairy, processed sugar, and… meat. You would hope so.

Here’s the recipe, if you’re into that kind of thing. Or maybe you do not know how to work the oven, in which case this is perfect for you.
Raw Apple Pie
Base
200g ground almonds
150g dates, soaked, or a date paste
pinch salt
Filling
3 apples
1 cup dates, soaked
raisins
juice of half a lemon
1 tsp cinnamon
half a tsp ginger
pinch nutmeg

Blend together the base mixture in a food processor, press into the bottom of a shallow dish lined with baking paper. The mixture doesnt need to be around the sides. Blend the filling ingredients, press on top of the crust and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes. Put it in your mouth.

 

Cat and Pie
Cat and Pie

After making our pie, Mariken took Izzy and I on a trip to a nearby town called Chantelle, where there is a monastery with REAL NUNS, a forest and a river. Dreamy. We had a look in the nun shop where they sell all their homemade goodies, then hiked into the forest to forage some wild garlic for our pesto. I was expecting bulbs of garlic to be popping out of the hillside, but no, they are leaves that taste like garlic! Magnificient leaves! And pretty flowers that you can also eat. Oh nature, you never fail to amaze.

Then we found a swimming hole and decided to go swimming. Naked. Because there was no one around, and because we could. Initially I was like oh my word, I barely know these people! I cannot bare my flesh to them! Then I thought, meh. They can just deal with my awkward tan lines.

It was the shortest swim of my life because it was so GOSH DARN FREEZING. It literally took my breath away.

We drove home singing along to Bob Marley. Bobby never fails to capture the mood.

Mariken showed me how she works with her ponies without using a halter. They have seven ponies, all of them a little bit mischievious. They try to eat my gumboot on regular occasions.

Ponies
Ponies

That night we had a 3 course raw vegan meal with some of the guests – Auke, Saskia and their wee tot Shuart. I have no idea how to spell his name, but its pronounced as a combination of Stuart and Short. We had wild garlic pesto, raw lasagne and, of course, our apple pie. And wine, because whats a dinner party without wine? Then we had a soul shakedown party, which is essentially all of us dancing around and Auke the giant swinging around the pole in the middle of the room like a giant pole dancer. He is genuinely the tallest person I ever met. He has to duck to get in everywhere.

Shuart on his machine
Shuart on his machine
The Brenazet Family
The Brenazet Family

We made a bonfire outside and sat around making up stories. A pretty awesome day. Izzy and I are looking after the farm for the next 3 days while Mariken, Ron, Igor and Nikola go back to Holland for Opa’s birthday party. We are excited to have some quality farm time, make some exciting meals and walk Elsa the dog. This place is beautiful! Who knows why some of the photos are black and white and some are in colour…. I am too tired to figure it out.

Ron
Ron
Little guy
Little guy

Brenazet france mei 2014 001 (219)

Brenazet france mei 2014 001 (217)

Brenazet france mei 2014 001 (221)