Tag Archives: beach

sunday night on holiday

It’s Sunday night. 8:09pm. I start an intensive yoga training tomorrow at 8:30am, which runs through Saturday. Good word, I have to get up at 6:30am. Where went my week off?

I’m slowly going though the Sri Lanka pics, only about 70 more to edit until I am done with the pics from ashtangalanka and environs. It’s taking a long time because they are all quite similar and I’m not sure which to cut. I’ve never mastered my digital camera, because I quit professional photog when film was still the standard, and I’ve simply not shot that much digitally by comparison, though my SLR is five years old. The way it reads light is still strange to me, which in Sri Lanka wasn’t helped by the fact that one of the two batteries I took with me was so old as to only hold charge for about 3 minutes, before the meter went mad. I discovered this when Andrea and I went to the surf beach (as we called it, because the waves were suitable for body surfing) and there were two sweet cows on the beach. I kind of fixed the exposures, but alas.

Cows on the beach in Tangalle, Sri Lanka
Cows on the beach in Tangalle, Sri Lanka

I’ve also been reading a novel in the blissful quiet of my home, the most vacation-y thing I’ve done this week. I can’t recall the last time I indulged. It’s quite good, though I’d have cut a hundred pages plus, easily, and tightened up the story (which you’ll be saying upon viewing all the ocean photos in the upcoming photo essay). I’m two-thirds through the book, A Trip to the Stars, and am waiting to get through the rest to see as if ends as I’ve expected since page 37.  I just want the separated lovers to reunite and kiss, damn it.

A week from now will be the eve of my return to the bread and butter job, and the next six days are full of yoga. The last 7 days have been full of yoga as well, lest you think I was clever enough to take the week to laze about my home and stroll in the park. Other than the novel and editing, I’ve been fulfilling the requirements for my advanced training, as well as teaching, and reading about php/wordpress, to see exactly what I can do in this realm. I taught five classes, did five hours of required, supervised privates, and assisted/observed other classes for six hours. That was my week off.  I did lunch with friends three times, squeezed in chats with a few others, and reunited with lost friends Ilona and Narimantas, whom I’ve searched for since I last saw them in Kaunas in 1995 (yes, of course it was assbook). Remarkable. I managed to clean and do laundry in <3 hours today and was delighted to have the rest of the rainy day to read, edit and finally write before it all starts up again tomorrow. I think this might inspire the next post on the yoga blog: what does it take to be a yoga teacher?

My mother told me tonight that Mr. Brown, Herb to my parents, died on Thursday, which was 10 years to the day that my paternal grandmother/namesake died. Mr. Brown lived across the street from us when I was a child. He was incredibly sweet and funny. When I went knocking with my girl scout cookie sales sheet each year, he’d tell me with twinkling eyes what a good girl scout he was in the day—sold more cookies than I would imagine. He’d also mow his lawn in the dark (when it was cooler) and sometimes in circles, walking around in the street to get the edges. The Brown’s daughter, about ten years older than me, was the town’s star softball player, which seemed very tough and glamorous to my eight-year-old self. Mr Brown often practiced his golf in the front yard for hours, and hollered jokes over while I mowed the lawn. “What??” Ah, memories. You were a great neighbor and you made us laugh, Mr. Brown. May you rest peacefully.

first night, first day at ashtangalanka

goo.RP.mapWe left home (NYC) at five on Tuesday morning and reached Tangalle around eleven Thursday night, after an unplanned but mostly refreshing day in London due to a mechanical problem and missed connection. Our first night in SL was a horror. There was no mosquito net on our bed at Rocky Point. I should say beds, really, as a double bed is something of a luxury in SL and at all but one of our accommodations (The Galle Face) we slept in two twin beds pushed together, under one not-quite-big-enough net. The beds were nowhere near the ceiling fan, which is not only meant to keep things cool, but to discourage mosquitoes. We were mauled. So many itchy bites. So hot. We got up and pushed the beds closer to the fan, which helped a very little bit. “I was more comfortable and slept better on the flights over,” I thought repeatedly. Ugh. We both wondered what on earth we’d gotten ourselves into.

nicolai.cocoAfter almost no sleep, we got up at 6:45a and walked over a few bungalows for ashtanga yoga. This was how we greeted the next 10 days. The hot and sweaty (demanding, hard, fun) practice somehow helped me recover from the sleepless night and our first full day in SL was amazing.

Our schedule at Rocky Point was beautiful. Its absence from my life makes it almost painful to recollect now that I’m back to the grindstone: We woke around 6:45am. Yoga from 7:30am to ~9am. After yoga, a quick shower, then a snack of fresh coconuts. First we drank the juice, then cracked open the shell and ate the flesh. “It’s delightful,” said the venerated coconut. We shared this ritual with the owners and other guests at Rocky Point, before heading to Silent Beach for a swim.

sanju.cocoBy 11:30a, we returned for breakfast. After a few days of trial and error, Andrea and I settled on the “Sri Lankan omelet” and the coconut pancake with treacle (kithul palm syrup), which we shared, with toast, jam, and two lovely bowls full of papaya, pineapple, banana, and mango. After breakfast, we sat, drank tea, chatted with other guests, read, and relaxed until three or four, when we prepared for a swim and surf at Palm Beach. This joy lasted until dusk, when we returned for dinner, usually an amazing spread of veggie Sri Lankan curries with rice. The bugs became unbearable by 7:30, so we were rarely outside past 8p. And because we’d moved the beds to be under the fan (which Samantha, the Sri Lankan manager, thought very wise), we were nowhere near the reading lamps, nailed to the wall by what had been the sides of the beds. They gave us a mosquito net, which somewhat solved the bug problem, but it was too dark to read in the room on the bed, under the protection of the net, and we couldn’t take more than an hour of the mosquito swatting required while seated on a chair under a lamp. We were usually asleep well before ten.

Next up: the yoga.


out of new york (please get me)

My biggest concern about Sri Lanka was that I wouldn’t come back refreshed. Instead, I’d come back, exhausted, to work and teaching, and to start another teacher training. Could I really fly for two days just for the beach? But if I travelled the hill country and Buddhist ruins on my own the last week (Andrea would travel later) it could be terribly tiring, and then the long flights home. Yet I couldn’t imagine going that far just for the beach, and ignoring the rest of the amazing country. Oh well. I’d decide when I got there, I figured. I needed a break, a break from work, from teaching, from my routine, and from NYC. And I wanted to be in the ocean with Andrea.

Rocky Point, Tangalle
Rocky Point, Tangalle

I raced to get everything ready in six days. On the flight I was relieved to be out of the city for a while. I’m so tired of New York. I’m not a hipster. I do not care. I hate the ubiquitous ads. I hate the weather. I hate the MTA (I used to love the subways, and of course, my bus drivers). I especially hate the ads on the outside of our subway cars. I hate the noise. I especially hate the noise my neighbors make, the noise of my neighbors on the train with ipods blaring and the noise of my tone-deaf, retired-pharmacist neighbor who has taken up the violin and asserts his legal right to hack at it between the hours of 8am and 10pm (“I know. I’ve been taken to court,” he once informed, at 7:56am on a Sunday).

But most of all, I hate the sameness of it. I’ve walked these streets so many times. Nothing feels new, nothing surprises. This might sound like sacrilege to some, and I realize I might be slamming the only place I’ll ever feel truly at home, but I need some space if I’m going to appreciate it again.

That wasn’t provided on the flight out. I think every movie on offer, and there were over 20, was based in New York and sought to glorify it in some way. Ugh! I watched one, and then a bit of a documentary about the French guy who tightrope-walked between the World Trade Center towers in the 70s. I’d heard him on “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me” a few weeks earlier. Yes, you’re right. It’s my favorite show. Out of Chicago.

The situation was the same on the way back home. When I walked the streets of NYC via the tiny screen wedged into the seat in front of me on my crowded Kingfisher flight from Bangalore to London, I thought, “That place…that place looks like a great place to visit. But to live there? What a mess.”

Rani, at the Millennium Elephant Foundation, Kegalle, Sri Lanka
Rani, at the Millennium Elephant Foundation, Kegalle, Sri Lanka

Unfortunately, I think that about most places, including those I’d just visited.

I did rest a bit. And I traveled the hill country with Andrea (he left Silent Beach early to come with me), which was beautiful. The flight home was long and the jet-lag still lingers. And yes, I was back at work, teaching, and the full catastrophe within ten hours of my arrival. But Sri Lanka was amazing. It was a wonderful trip and I’m so glad I went. But I did come back still needing rest. How do we, why do we, all go on this way?

More to come.

{June 2009 update: Okay, I love NY. We have a strained relationship at times, but I love it. Could use a break, but yes, the love is real.}

sri lanka?

I have jet lag. And for some foggy-headed reason, I think that when and how much I’ve slept in the last four days is interesting to people. It is not. As if stories about the fabulous trip to Sri Lanka aren’t bad enough.

silent beach, tangalle, sri lanka
silent beach, tangalle, sri lanka

Sri Lanka? Why Sri Lanka? I just wanted some beach and a rest. But a few months ago when I passed a link from a british yoga marketing email on to Andrea, I had a small feeling there might be consequences. It was for a place called ashtanga lanka, on the beach in southern Sri Lanka. I passed it on because it boasted great bodysurfing, which is among Andrea’s true joys.

I’d have been happy with the Caribbean or South America. I’ve never been. I’ve been to Asia—central and south Asia—more than five times. Only once because I was truly aching to go there. Sri Lanka takes a long time to get to, isn’t an easy place, and has a huge time difference. And I’d only managed to wedge three weeks out of work and teaching, and another teacher training. Sri Lanka?

But Andrea was set. “The surf in the Caribbean and South America is dreadful,” he asserted. He got his tix, and I wanted to go. Ashtanga every morning before ocean swimming sounded great, and perhaps I could get some traveling in my last week there. I was also curious about the American couple running the place. I’m burning for another way to live. And, the food would delight me. Though it would perpetuate the untruth that I prefer to vacation in troubled places, I was somehow convinced. Seven days before the flight, I booked my tix. Once again, I didn’t choose South Asia, but she somehow got me back. Perhaps it’s time to stop blaming George.

the beach at issyk kul

I’ve an unexpected morning in Bishkek to type out my thoughts. It’s overwhelming. Where to start? Perhaps with a correction on the Bishparmak statement in the last post. Many Kazakhs do love their national dish, and were horrified to hear that anyone felt otherwise. Though it’s popular here in Kyrgyzstan as well, I’ve still yet to try it. My friend here, Jamilya, explained that perhaps I haven’t had it because it is only made for big celebrations and a horse or sheep must be slaughtered for the dish. Trying it in a restaurant (entirely possible) just isn’t the same.

I left Kazakhstan on the 14th for Kyrgyzstan, and spent a few days at Issyk-kul, the second largest mountain lake in the world (after Titicaca in Peru). The fresh air was quite a treat. I went from night bus (not my choice of travel, but I took it for Guka. A mistake that snapped our friendship, strained from communicating poorly and being together too much. A painful lesson learned, is being learned, here) to soviet four-person bunk room with Guka, Nadilya, and her two kids. Then I met up with Jamilya at a lovely guesthouse in the next town, unfortunately overrun by an obnoxiously loud family, replete with drunken, obstreperous, egotistical father and screaming, miserable child. They left the dining area and bathrooms an obscene mess. The family was so uncouth that I’d no idea they were of the new rich. Only when we walked back to the guesthouse and Jamilya pointed out the obnoxious father’s giant black Mitsubishi SUV did I realize that this unbearable family is of the new wealthy class—and also Kazakh. There seems to be some animosity from the Kyrgyz toward the wealthier Kazakhs. Jamilya said of the man and the new rich, “Yes, of course he is! They are all loud and intolerable and terribly full of themselves. It’s unbearable”

View from Aunt's Flat, Issyl Kul
View from Aunt’s Flat, Issyl Kul

It is understood in the ’Stans that if someone is wealthy, he is wildly unscrupulous. Especially if he joins the ranks of his impudent, SUV-driving comrades. Unfortunately, this is usually true. The resort town of Cholpon-Ata was overrun by such people and the vibe was unpleasant.

Like beach towns in the West, Soviet resort towns all have a similar feel. Open-air cafes line the streets, each crowded with plastic tables and chairs shaded by umbrellas emblazoned with cigarette ads. TVs for Karaoke blast head-splitting pop music. People stroll along in beachwear drinking beer, eating ice cream and relaxing. From Baltic and Black Sea beaches to the shores of Issyk-kul, on to the Pacific coasts of the Russian Far East, it is more or less the same scene. Generally people are quite easygoing, but here in Cholpon-Ata, everyone had something to prove, or show off.

Those with new money strut about in tight, gaudy bright-colored clothing (this isn’t fashionable Moscow) and sport a scowl that screams of their boredom and superiority. It seems a thin veneer over a wretched, lonely misery of never, ever enough. Of “Do they have more than me and if so can I hide it ’til I get it too? How do I get it too? Am I enough? What is wrong?” It won’t be long until Prozac arrives here, if it hasn’t already.

After a night at the guesthouse, Jamilya, her mother, sister, and I left for their aunt’s flat a few towns east. Quiet! No hot water, but clean and quiet, and a kitchen to cook in. Much better for the yoga retreat: morning and afternoon sessions on the beach. Tuesday, a giant rainbow passed over the lake as we practiced. Wednesday, I moved again for a photo project at elderly centers in Balykchi, and then onto Bishkek, where I stayed at Jamilya’s house with her father, who was alone for the week while the family vacationed at the lake.

While I hugely appreciate Guka and Jamilya’s hospitality, it overwhelms me. I was relieved to be on my own for a bit.