Butt Ugly

Feeling a bit prudish? Avert your eyes. 

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

  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Naturally.

You would be forgiven for thinking I had perhaps fallen into a wine stupor in an Irish pub and never awoke again. The last time I posted I think it was something to do with the weather, cycling in the rain, living in a cottage, and feeling slightly deflated about my choice of summer location.

To catch you up –  the weather did not improve, in fact it may have gotten worse. But I learnt that if you let the rain stop you, you will never ever do anything in Ireland. Overall it was an excellent summer. And then I learnt that if I wanted sun, I should go to Spain. So I did.

    
Here I am, after one month of intensive yoga training in a tiny Andalusian village. I have sprouted muscles in places I did not know you were allowed to grow muscles, and last night I enjoyed my first piece of meat in many weeks. I barely remember eating it because I was like a savage, starved hound. It could also have been the wine that impaired my memory.


The yoga course was intensive, but in different ways to what I expected. Living in a house with three other random females, there is always a bit of drama, but the most dramatic moment was being awoken at 3am by one of the other girls, who was sure she heard someone in our house.. either it was the wind, an active imagination, or a confused elderly spanish man on his way home from the local bar….. I lay in bed for the rest of the night, heart pounding. The next night I behaved like a small child and slept in my friends room with her. I was the youngest on the course, therefore it is okay for me to be the weakling. I may grasp the philosophical teachings of the Bhagavad Gita, but I am still a little girl that is slightly scared of the dark and monsters.


I chanted a lot of mantras, read a lot of weird spiritual yogic textbooks, giggled at the words “anus” and “perineum”, got very good at wind releasing pose, mastered a visually pleasing forward bend and discovered the art of Yoga Nidra – conscious deep sleep. So now, when I say I’m doing some yoga, I’m really doing a big sleep. Heads up. I am also very good at breathing now, all different types of breath! So fun, but slightly alarming for passers-by.



We also took a trip to the Hare Krishna Temple in Malaga. I felt as though I was being initiated into a strange cult. There was a five year old child being breast fed by her mother in the courtyard, decrepit older men wearing white robes that left nothing to the imagination, and at one point (much to my amusement) I was caught up in a hare krishna conga line! The woman in front of me had armpit hair that I probably could have braided, and they all had a distinctly “spiritual” smell to them, as though they bathed in incense. I surrendered to the moment and showed them some of my best “middle of the party circle” moves, then we made a swift exit and headed to a cafe for coffee and normality.


Obviously, it was not a high enough dosage of weird for me, because I arranged a slightly unusual work exchange placement for my last week in Spain. What better place to get a full body tan than a nudist resort?

I am here now, fully clothed, modesty intact, and it is glorious. My companions include a great dane called Dino, who weighs the same as a muscular adult human being, and a small scruffy dog called Billy, with two different coloured eyes. Dino comes to say hi and smears his rope of drool all over my clothes, which is very endearing. He is so large that I might try to ride him one day, if he doesn’t mind too much.

  
 Today I put on my bikini for some sunbathing, then remembered I would be the only weirdo wearing clothing by the pool, so I eased myself into it by removing my top half, then half an hour later I removed my bottom half and squirmed in a very prudish way. I lay there, thinking how I had laughed when I first found this place on HelpX, but it stuck in my mind and obviously I love a good naked challenge.

 
 Things I am slightly concerned about are nipple burn and/or the state of my bottom, because I never really see it, and I don’t know how the view is back there, but i am sure someone would tell me if there were any issues. Also ants are rife here, and they seek out the lovely warm spots on one’s body. As long as I don’t accidentally dribble honey on myself I should be fine.

Naturist problems eh!

Olga and the Knight Bus

Ooh la la, what a journey. I was sort of hoping for magical experience similar to that of Harry Potter on the Knight Bus, and I was sorely disappointed.

After arriving in Barcelona yesterday afternoon, I killed time for a few hours in the Zoological Gardens then jumped on my 10 hour night bus to Lyon. I was hoping for a seat by myself and my wish was almost granted, until one person turned up at the last minute, all sweaty and panting, claiming that her plane was late and she had made a frantic dash from the airport to the bus. She squeezed in beside me, introduced herself as Olga from Russia (not even kidding) and went on to tell me all about her disaster in Morocco when her friend’s wallet got stolen by “the big thugs”. She smelt a bit weird and talked incessantly so after a while I got up and moved down the back to a spare row of seats.

Sleeping on a bus is super awkward, because there are little knobs everywhere that dig into your limbs so that just when you think you are comfortable something starts to niggle. I draped myself over two seats, which was a bit of a luxury, but I think maybe my bottom is too voluptuous because it overlapped when I curled into the foetal position and just sort of hung off the seat, threatening to topple off if I relaxed too much. Also, I don’t like to think about the fact that I had my face pretty much buried in the seat, for obvious reasons. I sort of slumbered for a few hours, fitfully, trying to ignore the Asian girl opposite me who kept tickling my feet with hers (I don’t THINK she meant to, but who knows really). I was woken at 5am by my dead arm.

The joy of travelling. I arrived in Lyon shortly after, desperately needing a toilet break. Apparently the toilets cost 50 cents and you have to wait until 6am, and it was only 5.15. I looked around desperately, then was forced to sit in the corner like a homeless person to try and charge my phone while I waited. Unfortunately the power plug did not function. So I got up again and waited in a line for a while, thinking it was a queue to buy tickets, until I got to the front of the queue and realised they were all boarding a train to Marseille. I entertained the idea of just going along with them, because surely there would be a toilet on board…

So I exited the queue in true Rosie fashion, ducking under the barrier and getting my backpack caught so that the barrier pinged back and almost hit the person behind me in the face.

By this point I was truly dying for a wee, but the toilets were still not open, so I went to the information office and inquired as to how I would go about finding the right train. I was informed that in fact I was in the wrong station and I needed to take a tram to the OTHER Lyon train station. So I did that. Twenty minutes later, I am basically weeing my pants, trying to get into the toilet at the other station, where you have to pay 50 cents but they only accept certain coins, and I have the incorrect change. I almost wept with the urgency and unfairness of my situation, so I decided the only thing to do would be to go and buy a coffee to get some change.

I returned 15 minutes later, coffee in hand, and realised I still had the incorrect change, so I charmed the toilet boy to let me in for free. It’s tremendously awkward trying to squeeze oneself, a large backpack and a hot coffee into one small toilet. I thought it best to avoid examining myself in the mirror, because I knew it wouldn’t be too pretty.

After a number of trains and buses, My hosts called to say they will pick me up from Vichy, which saved me several hours of train time.There was an elderly man hoiking at the other end of the train, two men who looked like pirates sharing cake out of a box, and a RATHER handsome French man who had dreads in his hair and was wearing a chunky jumper therefore I love him.

I have arrived safe and sound at Brenazet, and had to excuse myself this afternoon for a rather long nap, now I feel spacey! I am surrounded by lovely multilingual Dutch/ French/ English speakers and I am sleeping in a delightful little wooden house. Now we are off to the lake! There are also tiny ponies roaming about behind the house, weeing and frolicking…

A new adventure.

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Bueno.

Thursday was Zoe and Megan’s last day at Casa de Carrasco, so we tagged along on a trip to the Cardo Monastery, way up in the hills behind Rasquera, the nearest village. It’s on the opposite side of the mountain to us, and you feel like you are in a completely different country – our side of the mountain was ravaged by fire two years ago, so is a lot dryer, whereas the monastery side is lush and green.

The monastery was built by monks in the early 1600s, and has been used for various purposes over the last few centuries, most recently as a hospital for injured soldiers during the War. It has been abandoned ever since and now it’s crumbling into ruins – there is talk of it being turned into a luxury 5 star hotel and spa, which is sort of a shame but I guess it gives it another life…

The monastery itself is closed off to visitors, because it’s a bit of a danger zone….. But we climbed a fence and snuck in. Zoe camped there once overnight – I can’t imagine anything spookier.

We did a walking meditation up to the hermitage (where they rang the bell), and sat to look at the view and do a seated meditation. We got the feeling we were the only ones there, and we may well have been!

And today I left the lovely Carrasco, after three weeks of yoga, sunshine, good food and quite a lot of wind (both kinds, we blame the chickpeas)… Last night the wind was insane and I was all alone in a big safari tent, with the A-Frame threatening to collapse on top of me at any moment, but one of the other guests came to find me and invited me to sleep in her lovely little cabin with her, so I got an awesome much needed sleep. Stella the dog came to keep me company too, I think she sensed that I was leaving and wanted to get in one more night of warmth in my bed. Softest dog you ever patted.

I will sure miss the yoga and and the Spanish sunshine, and all the lovely people…. But it’s time to move on to France! I’m lurking around in Barcelona for a few hours, waiting for my night bus which will take me to Lyon, arriving there at 5.30am, which will be super fun. I hope it’s not one of those buses with broken air conditioning and smelly people. But I sense that may just be a given on all public transport…

Wish me luck! I have earplugs, an eyemask, a chunky book and a bag of almonds to get me through.

Here are some pictures from my last few days in sunny Spain!

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Megan and I, mastering boat pose
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The lovely Sarah, owner, host and amazing teacher
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Cardo Monastery Hermitage
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Zoe, inside the monastery
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Stella, my doggy friend
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View from the hermitage
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Dancers pose, inside the monastery

Siesta, Fiesta, The Besta

So sorry for the lame title. It was the best I could come up with today, and at least it rhymes!

I feel like Cinderella! Today I actually got down on my hands and knees and scrubbed the tiles with a brush.

But it is a labour of love! I love this place! It is so sunny, so Mediterranean, so olivey. If you know what I mean.

Yesterday our five hours of work consisted of scrubbing the shower block from top to bottom, because it was caked in dust and insects, having been unused during the winter. Then we moved on to the casita, a little mini house for guests (and us) to relax in. We carried mattresses and doors on our heads and did many unintentional squats which I feel today in my hamstrings. Today we scrubbed the outdoor kitchen, which was covered in the dust that manages to get everywhere here. I have taken to wearing the same working clothes everyday this week, because they get dirty so quickly and we currently have no washing machine therefore I must preserve clothing. I advise all people to stay at a safe distance during the hours of 9am to 2pm, until I change into cleaner, better smelling attire.

This is the unglamorous part of retreat life. It takes a lot of work to make it look good, and run smoothly for the guests. Especially an Eco retreat, where water is precious, toilets must only be flushed for number twos, and solar power is the main source of energy. So when you go wees, you must not flush and you must also not put the toilet paper into the toilet, you must put it in a bin. It really challenges your habits, and makes you extra cautious when changing rubbish bins. It’s not all sunshine and massages. Although…. That totally comes into it. Us helpers are lucky because we only work 5 hours a day, whereas Sarah works tirelessly in the hot Spanish sun to get everything ready for the opening on Friday. I think this week is the hardest in terms of cleaning..

Once guests arrive our jobs are to lay out yoga mats, partake in morning yoga from 8 to 9.30 (if we want to), serve breakfast and eat with the guests, do light cleaning and bed changing in the tents, pump water and help out with any other random tasks. We also get the opportunity to make some money, by running workshops, giving massages or doing dinner nights, where we cook for the guests and they pay us a set price.

Megan (my fellow helper) and I are planning a vegan three course meal for the weekend, to give us a little pocket money. Not bad, not bad.

Last night, we took a trip into the largest nearby town, L’Ametlla de mar, and wandered the streets while Sarah went grocery shopping. It’s more of a fishing village, with tapas bars looking out over the fishing boats in the docks. We felt very Spanish, sitting at an outside table at dusk, drinking chilled red wine (I know) and eating tiny little salty fish covered in olive oil and garlic.

At the moment my afternoons after finishing work consist of lunch (with greens from the garden), changing clothing, lying by the pool for two hours in a sun lounger reading my book or trying to upload photos ( a struggle), checking my emails for 20 minutes, doing yoga outside, taking the dogs for a walk,showering, reading,eating, sleeping. I am so pooped every night, I forget about the possibility of wild boars or ants infiltrating the tent.

I feel so bronzed, it almost feels unnatural after an English winter. My limbs are no longer blinding to passers by. I am currently lying in the sunshine, towel over my face so that I can see the screen, listening to the goat herder herd his goats like a boss. You know he’s around in the hills when you hear the goat bells tinkle.

Aaaaah, Schpain.

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How did I get here??

I wrote this blog post the day after I arrived, but didn’t have enough internet to post it. I can’t be bothered changing it so am going to post it anyway…

By Jove! I may have found myself in a little piece of paradise!

Saturday evening I arrived in L’Ampolla, a town about 2 hours south of Barcelona along the coast. My host, Sarah, picked me up from the station and we drove out of town, up a winding dirt road into the mountains, until we reached Casa de Carrasco, home for the next 3 weeks. The retreat is set amongst olive, almond and carob trees, and they make their own olive oil.

Sarah and her partner Martin run this place as an affordable yoga retreat, where people can come and camp, or stay in the ‘stables’ accommodation. They’re in the middle of a big renovation of the house, which is over 200 years old, so this next week is going to be a lot of cleaning, finishing off renovations and getting the retreat ready for an influx of new and repeat guests over Easter weekend.

I’m staying in a safari tent, and I’m like, so excited. It’s massive and you can actually stand up in it. It gets cool at nights but really warm during the day, today it’s 24 degrees with a light breeze, and I am cleaning fridges.

They have a very deep, square swimming pool, where you just kind of plop into it, straight up and down, no gradient. To clean the pool I get to get in it and suck along the bottom with some kind of magical water vacuum.

They also have mountain bikes, a bounty of hiking trails, two dogs and three cats. Daisy is a big black Labrador, and Stella is some kind of yellow dog…. She took me for a walk last night. Daisy just lies in wait around every corner, then quickly rolls onto her back and waits for a belly rub – when you go to tickle her she grabs your hand with her paw and won’t let go.

It’s so alarmingly quiet here, after being in towns and cities for quite a while. Last night I went to bed and lay there listening to all the weird, non-car noises. Apparently there are all kinds of creatures out in the hills, I hope they don’t come knocking on my tent door in the night…..

Sarah welcomed me last night with some local red wine, a home-cooked meal and a chat about all sorts of things. We start yoga classes when the guests arrive, but in the meantime I can do my own practice on the outdoor yoga platform.

This week the pool is getting refilled, the washing machines are getting hooked up and the internet is getting turned back on, but in the meantime I have to hand wash my knickers in a bucket and climb a hill to get reception. I kind of like it that way though. Sorry in advance if I take a while to reply to messages.

Today I had a lunch of lentils with broad beans, radishes and spinach picked from the organic garden, then I continued to scrub the fridges for 2 hours. Now I think it may be hammock siesta time. Oh did I forget to mention? There are hammocks in the trees. Yep.

Maybe this all seems so much better because of my last HelpX experience. Having been through the weirdest month of my life, this is pretty much paradise in comparison! I am rather dusty and I probably smell weird but at least I’m not surrounded by people who believe in aliens and the such. It’s always a bit strange coming into someone else’s life and fitting into their routine, but it’s so much easier when they are nice people!

I did see a really large beetle thing humping another really large beetle thing. I felt like I was intruding so I just slowly closed the door again and left them to it. Who am I to come to their house and intrude on their sexy siesta?

That’s all for now, limited interwebs. Here are some pictures….

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Planes, Trains and Automobiles

It has been a very long day. Which doesn’t really make sense because I skipped an hour, so technically today has been shorter than average..

After a super fun 5.30am start, (thanks Aunty Sue who drove me to the station kiss kiss), and riding pretty much every kind of transport you could imagine, (aside from a bike, which is the only one I really want to ride), I am nestled safely into my hostel in Barcelona.

Days of travelling are exhausting, which I don’t really understand, because you are mostly sitting on your tush all day, looking at the same map/boarding pass/ tube guide over and over, and worrying about getting there on time. Seriously, today I was in a car, a train, an escalator, an elevator, a travelator, a shuttle bus, an airplane, a train, (again), a metro…. And I think that’s it. Why can’t they make a transportation device that does it all?

After transportation device number three I decided to stop worrying about getting anywhere on time because it obviously wasn’t going to happen. Which makes the whole experience far less stressful.

People are so weird though, I love it.

Whilst waiting for my flight, a small boy behind me in the queue proclaimed to his father in a sing song voice ‘I just ate a naaaail.’ So cute. I saw another nubbin of a child in his mothers arms, dressed head to toe in a furry grey onesie with ears, and a matching furry binky. Too much.

I also found a Blackberry phone on a table next to a check-in desk and handed it in to a member of staff. Later i saw the lady who it belonged to almost in tears from relief when she got given it when boarding. She was so happy she hugged the flight attendant. This was my good deed for the day, I’m hoping that karma comes back to me somewhere along the way. Though I’m sure you’re not meant to say that.

The flight attendant then announced to everyone awaiting boarding that, actually, the plane hadn’t arrived yet, and we all just needed to relax a bit and maybe have a siesta, like the spaniards.

When I finally arrived in Barcelona I was met with a wave of gentle heat and a sign out front of my hostel saying, “welcome, Rosie Moreton!” …Good thing I’m not undercover.

I took a trip to the beach, which was beautiful but also very very windy, so i stuck it out for half an hour then retreated. I’ll start afresh tomorrow…

I am in a room full of Germans, with one American girl; I think we were both relieved to come across another English speaker. Whilst cooking dinner tonight I made friends with two boys who are chefs at the hostel. They were wearing matching outfits and cooking schnitzel, which confused me a little because I thought maybe I was actually in Germany.

Filippe wants to be my boyfriend, he tells me he is from Uruguay and therefore he is a wonderful gentleman. He gave me some Spanish potato and pea combination and let me steal the staff cooking oil. Gracias Filippe.

So tomorrow I am going to go on a walking tour to get my bearings. There’s so much to see and do in Barcelona, but I just get so flustered having to look at a map all the time, so I’m going to let someone else do the hard yards.

In Spanish hostels they only give you a sheet to sleep with, which I enjoy, because when I get up in the night to go to the bathroom I just wrap myself in it and scare unsuspecting bathroom-goers… It’s the little things in life.