Monday, April 26, 2010

The day Phyllis stepped on a sea urchin

Are you ready for the most hilarious story ever?  The first day off from yoga training, me and the crew decide to hire a boat to bring us around the island to visit the beaches.  Relaxing day on the beach?  Think again…

Meet my amazing new friends: Knut and Julie (Austria), Johanna (Texas), Kate (San Diego)
Lily (New York), James (Hong Kong)
After about an hour of shopping for necessities in Thong Sala, we headed to Baan Thai Beach.  I had a beautiful massage on the beach for only $5 Canadian.  It was the best that I ever had, my body needed it after all that intense yoga training I have been getting.   Naturally, I floated in the water afterwards in a blissful state of mind you can ever imagine.
James starts telling me this hilarious story, and he made me laugh in a way that only your gay best friend can make you laugh.  I laughed so hard, that I bore my entire weight on a prickly Sea Urchin!
Now I thought I felt the most pain during my Vipassana training but this pain was a million times worse.  I was like god that hurts, I hope its not poisonous.  I say to James, I’m not feeling so hot, I think I’m going to head back to shore.  He takes a look at my leg and he’s like dude, that is not a good sign.  He ends up carrying me back to the beach.  It was a stinging kind of pain, like your foot is numb from being frozen on a block of ice with an element of extreme pain sensation.
I was immediately encircled by about 20 people on the beach, all of whom had different advice.  There was a french dude who insisted that if I pissed on it, that it would go away on its own as he has had it many times.  There was the Israeli doctor, and Bangkok med school student who thought the spikes should be removed.  There were a total of 13 punctures in my feet.
But my favourite was the little Thai guy that James rustles up from the Thai shop.  They show up with a cup full of limes and a little bottle of Jack Daniels.  The guy tells me that I should bash the bottle of JD on my foot to improve the blood circulation and then rub the lime all over my feet. 
By this time, my eyes have swollen up and I’m like what the F is happening to me? The obvious choice was to start chugging the Jack Daniels.
In the end, the group consensus was for me to pee on my foot.  I know, gross right?  I hobbled to the washroom with much needed support, and peed into a cup which I proceeded to pour on the bottom of my foot.  It actually took away a lot of the stinging.  This is like another version of that Friends episode, except with an element of booze and cigarettes.
After that we chilled out and took the boat back to the Haad Yuan beach otherwise known as our temporary home where we met our yoga instructor for Lily’s birthday dinner.
After dinner, Canut, the Austrian guy and his pre-med school girlfriend Julie came to my bungalow to help me take the spikes out of my foot.  She carries these sterilized needles around because she performs acupuncture.  They hung out for about 2 hours trying to get all the spikes out.  They gave up after about 5 because they were so soft and they were already starting to dissolve into my body.  Needless to say, I was super enthused that they stopped.  You can see from the photos that this was not the most pleasant part of my day. The upside is that the spines are made up mostly of calcium carbonate so they can be dissolved in the body over time.
At the end of the day it was quite the experience.  It’s still painful but I’m free from infection, and the spines are naturally making their way out of my body well with the aid of soaking my foot in the salt water on the beach, hot water and trying to get the spines out with tweezers when they start to come out.  It’s like having crazy long splinters stuck in your foot.  Electrical shocks sometimes when you’re stepping down.
Finally after one week, of soaking my foot in vinegar, they all came out on their own, and I am now jogging again pain free.  yes! 
 Anyways, aside from that adventure – the yoga course has been amazing.  One of the first days of class, there was an all night party going on at Guys Bar – The techno party in the forest on our beach that happens every friday night.
 We were invited by Lily, our amazing yoga instructor who invited us to wake up around 6 AM and go for a “morning boogie” because that’s when the best music is playing.  Then to go yoga class after at 8:30 AM.  We took her advice and it was a blast.  If you look closely at the picture below, you will see her dancing. 

 It was actually really fun.  This was the first time I had ever waken up and gone dancing at a crazy party, and also not drank any alcohol because of my yoga class.  It was a unique experience, and I just realized you really don’t need to drink in these situations to have fun.
Below are some shots from of the fun stuff we do at yoga boot camp.
Lunch break with the girls, practicing and resting at the Blooming Lotus studio.
This was taken during our Acro-yoga session yesterday.  Sebastien, our instructor for the day reminded us to always be playful in our practice which was a brilliant lesson.  I was lucky enough to be the one paired up with the dreamy instructor for this.
 Life has been amazing on the beach.  One night when we were hanging out over dinner, I decided that because there are 15 people in our class, I could make a yoga calendar of all the students with 3 bonus pages for 2011.  Lucky me, I get to work on my creativity as a photographer and take pictures of my hot yogi friends on the beach.  It is like a dream job!  Here is one of my favorite pictures during sunrise taken on the beach of my beautiful friend Alex from Hong Kong.  She is this beautiful girl – half german and half philipino. 

Saturday, April 17, 2010

The beautiful temples of Angkor Watt


Yes!  We did it.  Somehow Katie and I managed to pull it together and we got everything that we had set out to do on time.  After we had left the orphanage we got on a bus to go to Phnom Penh to see the Killing Fields and War museum (Which was really disturbing), then off to Siam Reap where we had allotted 3 days to go see Angkor Watt.

  The first couple of days, we rented bikes and did the route on our own.  This was a great way to get our exercise but I tell you by the end of the day, we were always wiped!  The third day we splurged, and hired a tuk tuk to take us out to the far out destinations that are unreachable by bike.


We woke up at the crack of dawn, and were picked up around 5 AM to get to Angkor for the sunrise.  The view was spectacular, and there were even people serving ice coffees, books, etc. to all the tourists there snapping away with their cameras.  Yes present company included.


I had a friend tell  me not to bother going to the temples in Ayyuthya and Lopburi (Thailand), because I was going to Angkor anyways and all the temples eventually look the same.  Thankfully, we ignored his advice.  The temples in Angkor are very different from Thailand, as the religion, the building style, everything is different.  The temples in Thailand I find very rich, you see elaborate paintings and lots of gold.

IMG_4851 In Angkor, the temples are also quite elaborate with many details on the rock carvings, however there weren’t any jewels, or gold or elaborate decorations.  Most of the valuables had been stolen, probably as soon as they were discovered.  They are also really old, with trees that have grown right through them, their roots destroying the old walls and buildings. And as you can see cows, are free to roam through them. 

What I found devastating, was seeing statues that had been defaced by the Khmer Rouge.  I can’t believe that people are capable of destroying such important religious artifacts.  


I had mentioned to Annette, one of the students in my yoga teacher training class about how I am drawn to the Buddhist teachings that I have been exposed to and surprisingly how they align with my meditation and yoga practice.  When I proceeded to tell her, of all the temples I’ve seen in Thailand and Cambodia, she was really surprised.  Because she’s been to these places many times, even though she is a Tibetan Buddhist.  She said maybe this is your pilgramage.  Maybe you are being called to explore your spirituality…

And here, I just thought I was following the must do things in Lonely Planet!  Well who knows, it could be my pilgramage, because I am exploring right now, and I love visiting temples.  

I am now in my yoga teacher training at The Blooming Lotus in Thailand.  And I find myself continuously learning more.  I have an amazing teacher, and she actually called me on not acting according to the yogic principles.  (Well not individually, but I knew what she was talking about)  I write more about that in my next post.


So everyone has their view of Angkor Watt.  I fall into the “Love it” category.  I could have easily spent 2 weeks there. There is just so much to see, so much history and architecture.  I love to imagine how much time it would have taken to build just one of the structures.  The best way to see it, is to allow yourself several days, so you can take a day off to see the town every now and again.  There were so many breath taking moments that I do feel like I would like to go back again.



Katie and I had a lengthy discussion on what we prefer: Sunrises or Sunsets. We have seen so many together, and the third day of Angkor was no exception.  Sunrises are nice because they start the day, the colors are brighter, but Sunsets are still my favorite.  I find them more romantic, peaceful, and easier to work into your day. If I was given a choice, Sunsets would win every time! IMG_5740

Sunday, April 4, 2010

My experience volunteering at the Cambodian Orphanage


Wow.  How do I even begin to describe my experience at New Futures Organization in Cambodia?  Volunteering with orphan children has opened my heart.  I have deep admiration and respect for these kids, who have absolutely nothing but they are so cheerful, and they want to share everything they have with you.  They are really intelligent and I was continually surprised by them.


When we arrived in Phnom Penh in Cambodia, I was shocked at the overwhelming number of beggars on the street.  It was kind of scary, as our bus pulled in, it was surrounded by locals.  Everyone wanting something from you, whether it was a tuk tuk driver, children, disabled people, landmine victims.  It was overwhelming.  I was most shocked by the beggars in the wheel chairs, with disabilities oh and the kids carrying babies around.

In the Lonely Planet it tells you not to carry even a bag around at night because you don’t want to attract negative attention.  Cambodia was a place I was considering skipping because I thought it may be too dangerous.  And walking around the streets at night, there were definitely times I was worried that something bad might happen.

Having said that, nothing bad happened and we came out safe.  When we arrived in Takeo town, which is where the New Futures Organization is located, it was a completely different vibe.  The people were super friendly, and they truly want to help you.


When we arrived at New Futures, all the kids came out to greet us.  There were 54 of them, all shaking our hands, asking our names, and where we came from. They were so adorable, they didn’t ask us for nothing.


It’s a well run place, and you can tell there has been a lot of love and attention put there.  There’s a couple full time workers that cook for the kids, and for the volunteers.  There’s a classroom with a chalkboard, and pictures everywhere.  There’s tonnes of Lego, toys, a volley ball net, a soccer field.  The kids range from 5-19.  But the thing is they all look so young.  Some of the kids that were 15, seriously looked like they were nine.


These kids have nothing.  They are usually there either because they have no parents, or their family can’t afford them.  But yet you get there and they are so well adjusted, they’re happy, they’re smiling, they want to share everything with you.  The two pictured above were “my girlfriends.”   One of them offered me some of her food – crispy rice which I politely declined.  But she insisted, please, please eat some.  And she was so happy when I took a bite.

We played soccer with all the boys, and I saw the most incredible thing.  They were given a tiny little can of some type of sweet drink.  They put a little straw in it, and they passed it around and everyone got a sip.  There was like 35 of them! 

I went to the market and bought them a bunch of Mango and Lychees.  And everyone only took one piece and no more.  There was a whole bunch left over, and they wouldn’t eat it unless you took it and physically handed it to them.


The orphanage is amazing.  They were able to send one of the girls off to University this year which was a proud moment for the orphanage.  They are all really good at English, and they have ambitious professional goals.  Most of them want to be doctors, teachers, business owners.  And when you ask them why, usually its because they want to help people.   I thought that when I went there I would be able to teach the kids a lot, but I think at the end of the day, I learnt more from them then I could ever teach them.


One of the little ones, Ty is so adorable.  He is the youngest one there.  He is really tiny and sweet.  He was brought there by the villagers because his mother passed away, and his father was an alcoholic.  When they found him, he would pick up garbage off the street and eat it.  When he first arrived at the orphanage, he wouldn’t talk to anyone and wouldn’t play with the other kids but after a couple of months, he is the happiest, most social kid you would ever meet.


  One of the highlights was when we took a tuk tuk 40 minutes out of town to a village school called little pai.  There’s a Cambodian university graduate that teaches a class of about 100 kids of all ages English.  And we went there to teach them “Itsy Bitsy Spider.”  And they are so eager to learn.  Their teacher has amazing crowd control, they are all at attention.  You walk in there and they all ask you how you are at the same time.  And they sang all the songs they knew to us, from Old Macdonald to Mary had a Little Lamb, and You are my sunshine!


On the day we left, we joined them for their morning exercises which is about 15 minutes of stretching at 5:30 AM in the morning.  The girls made me and Katie promise that we would go.  We ended up pinky swearing them and of course we had to live up to our promise for our last day.  After the exercise, they played music on the loud speakers and we danced and played games.  When it was time to go, they all walked us out, gave us big hugs.  One of the kids gave me a bright colored bracelet he made which I never take off. 

I have to admit I cried when I left. I’m not a cryer, I never really cry over anything.  But I was so touched by them.  I felt a kind of love towards children that I never had before.  It left me with a feeling of wanting to do more.  I have the question in my heart, of what can I do for these kids?  When I get settled in back home, I may consider sponsering one of them. 


Also, one of the things I didn’t expect was my attitude towards having kids myself at some point.  I never really thought that I would want to have kids of my own, or that I had the capacity to take care of one.  But after this, my perspective is changing.  They have so much love to give, and I feel like Sebastien and I could have a lot to offer – whether it be to a child we adopt or decide to have ourselves.  I feel it was a major growth experience, and I do intend to go back for a longer duration at some point.