22 June, 2011

days leading up to the Solstice

Okay, let's see if I can play a quick game of catch up. When last I left you, I was ruminating on my day of emotional release. The next day I awoke feeling completely renewed. I was regularly overwhelmed with sensations of gratitude and joy and of great fortune for my current nomadic existence. During the rare moment when I would start to respond to some small stimulus in the negative .. which, sadly, has been my knee-jerk Pavlovian reaction ... I would just remind myself of what I would likely be doing if I was still back in NC going through the motions of that mostly stale and droopy life. That would instantly revive my sense of gratitude and happiness. And, since, I have been consistently reminding myself how lucky I am to be living this new life ... to be experiencing newness on so many levels and to be growing in ways that really inspire and fulfill and uplift me.

At the end of the last post I mentioned my adventures in food prepping in an ill-equipped kitchen. Turns out the guest house kitchen is only equipped with a hot plate and a microwave, a very limited supply of knives, some plates of varying sizes (no bowls), and only one pot for cooking that I could find. So, I was able to make my millet, but couldn't saute any of my vegetables since there wasn't a pan in which to do the deed. So, I had millet and salads ... a lot. I did crack open my first young coconut with only a very little spillage! The kefir I made was so-so, and the kefir cheese that I tried to make without the proper container did not at all turn out as hoped. In fact, I think I may have concocted some new and exotic type of non-dairy bleu cheese. It smelled exactly like a good, pungent bleu. Unfortunately, though, it didn't taste anywhere near as delicious, so I tossed it. Oh well. Better luck next time. I will have to get some grains and do it properly.

On Friday, we finished up our last day of school. Our second level testing took considerably longer than the Level 1, so we were pretty knackered by the end of the day, but we all passed. Eugenie, Charlye and I "graduated" from Level 2 with our certificates in hand. Yay!

Saturday morning I met Eugenie for our first round of spa treatments at the Janrawee House Spa. We both got the "Detox" treatment (colon therapy), Herbal Steam, and Oil Massage. Eugenie also received a Mineral Milk Bath and a Full Body Exfoliation treatment. Afterwards we both felt very light and clean. We also felt tired and quiet, so we decided to go back to our respective abodes and just relax and recover for the rest of the day. I had hoped to meet my friend Vasae that afternoon for an Acro-Yoga "flying yoga" workshop in the Old City Center, but was feeling much too Yin for that kind of energetic Yang activity. She went and gave it high marks. Maybe I'll catch it next time. Vasae is another woman I met at school. She was taking Level 1 while we were taking Level 2. She's really nice and I felt a kindred connection to her very quickly. She's a bit more free-spirited than I am yet. I hope to see her again before I leave, but if I don't, I feel glad to have met her.

Sunday was my big shopping day. I left Chaba House at noon and took a tuk-tuk to the Wararot Market. (This is the market where all the locals shop. It's open every day from very early in the morning to around 9pm or so.) Wararot is a very large market that is partially located indoors. It also sidles up to and kind of melds into the flower market where you can get fresh cut flowers as well as fresh flower garlands and such for altar decoration. Due to the expansiveness of the place, and the crowds of locals and tourists alike, the Wararot Market can be very overwhelming to the senses. I puttered around for about an hour or so, but that was about all I could take. From there I just walked on over to the Old City Center. First I found a postcard shop. I have been looking for postcards everywhere, and, for whatever reason, have not been able to find any. So, I was overjoyed to find this shop. They even had vintage Thai postcards that were beautiful, but they were only from Bangkok, so I didn't get any. (I'm keeping it real with only postcards from Chiang Mai.) The shopkeeper even hooked me up with the appropriate stamps for the cards so I could mail them without the hassle of searching out a post office. (Though it turns out there is a post office just a few blocks from my guest house.)

There was a sweet little cafe/coffee house next to the post card shop, so I decided to while away some time in there with some lunch. The cafe also houses an adventure tour business and a language study business. I was the only person in the place for a while. (My time table seems to be out of sync of that of the Thais.) The proprietress is a cute little tea sandwich of a lady named Petchara. She is very tiny and has a super smile. Her English is impeccable. She asked where I was from, and told me she had worked with the US Peace Corps a lot when they were here many years ago. We chatted for a while before she disappeared into the kitchen. She returned many minutes later with a steaming hot bowl of spicy vegetarian galangal soup and a plate of freshly made rice. It was delicious. I mean, really delicious. I could tell that she had really touched this food with a bit of her own magick. It was very spirit warming ... and that wasn't just the spicy peppers! A couple more guests came in while I was eating ... clearly they were regulars ... a Western man and a Thai woman. (That seems to be de rigueur here.) I took my time eating, savoring every sweet and spicy moment, every zing of lime and lemongrass, every zip of galangal, every crunch of carrot and cauliflower. I tried not to slurp too zealously for fear of making a spectacle of myself. I was in public, after all. Plus, I was in no hurry to end the experience. I had all the time in the world, and I, for once, allowed myself to just languor over a simple, yet ambrosial, meal. Before I finally left the cafe, I made sure to get a photo of myself with Petchara. One of her employee's took the shot for us, and Petchara made me promise to email her a copy of it.

I did.

After lunch I just walked up and down the street biding my time window shopping until the Sunday market got up and going. I had a couple hours to spend in this way. But they weren't wasted. I discovered a couple of really charming little boutiques that I would likely never have found otherwise. First I found a shop that sells handmade cotton clothes, appropriately called Chiang Mai Cotton. They are very simple, yet very chic. I got myself a pair of palazzo-style pants and a lovely deep purple blouse. The shop girl was extremely congenial, and she, too, spoke impeccable English. (I made sure to thank her for making the effort to speak to me in my language since I was unable to speak to her in hers. I felt really lame about that.)

From one charming shop to another ... I stumbled upon what I think must be my favorite shop in Chiang Mai: Things Called Art. It is run by an artist who makes really lovely paintings of elephants, birds, cats and such. Each has a very whimsical quality to it, which is, of course, why I fell in love with his work. He has other gifts and handmade treasures in his shop, as well. I ended up buying a glazed elephant figure for my dad, a silver elephant slide/charm for my mom, some sweet bunny earrings for myself, and a small painting for myself. I rarely allow myself to buy art for some ridiculous reason, but I was really taken by this simple, but fanciful, painting of a cat. Go figure. So, I decided to treat myself, and reminded myself that I like spending my money in ways that support artists and creative endeavors. Then I wondered why I had kept myself from buying more art in the past.

All this shopping was making me thirsty, so I popped into a Mr. Juicy shop for a yummy juice concoction. I don't remember exactly what I got in mine, but it was tropically (yes, I made up that word) and so yummy and refreshing.

Still wandering around pre-market, my feet brought me to another sweet "gifty" boutique. I can't remember the name of the place, but I got some dangly wooden earrings here. It's strange: I never really wore earrings in the States, but this day I bought two pair! And I've been wearing them every day since! Strange, indeed.

At this point, market vendors were beginning to sprout all along the street. I spotted a little side street with all its vendors up and ready to sell, so I made a bee-line for it. I was happy to score some really great gauzy pants with built-in skirt-like panels in the front and back that can be made long or short per the wearer's mood. (Yes, I know, that's a difficult description to follow. I will try to post a photo of them sometime soon. Suffice it to say, I love these pants.)

After all this shopping I was feeling pretty happy with myself. I had managed to spend my money carefully on things that really made me happy (or I hoped would really make someone else happy). I had remained budget conscious throughout all my purchasing decisions. And I managed to check two (out of three) gifts off my list. But, there was still one more gift to get. I still needed to get something for my sister. And I really wanted it to be good. I was already sending her back some Thai fisherman pants, but I wanted to get her something else a little nicer. She had only asked me for pants, and I know she's trying to purge her home of clutter, so that meant no tchotchkes. I considered a pair of silver elephant earrings from the artist's shop, but she doesn't really wear earrings much, either. (Save the pair of diamond studs our mom gave her.) I looked and looked for some pants that I thought she would really like, and couldn't find anything! There were several "almosts" but no "YES's". Finally, I decided to take one last stroll down one of the side streets of the market before leaving. (It was nearing 5:30pm, now, and I'd been shopping pretty much since noon!) Then, like a gift from the gods, I saw them. The skies parted. The sun shone down in glorious rays of illumination. I heard a faint trace of angels' chorus on the breeze. And I saw them: Sister's pants. They are quite lovely, really. They are olive green with a sort of tribal/floral patterned waistband in greens, blue-greens and creams. And they are loose and flowy. Very bohemian ... but in an elegant way. I hope she likes them. But, if she doesn't, then I will be happy to take them. (But, I swear I bought them for her. And I really do hope she loves them!) So, that was my Sunday. Sunday, Shopping Sunday.

Monday I didn't do too much. Slept in, then lounged in the morning. (After my yoga, of course.) Then I hoofed it to the Central Mall to get some cash from the bank and some groceries from the supermarket. As I was walking back to Chaba House with my two bags of groceries, a man pulled over and offered me a ride ... "for flee ... no money!" I politely declined his offer. I was having trouble deciding if he was being kind or creepy. There wasn't a distinct vibe emerging. So, I am deciding that he was being kind. I mean, I was a farang (foreign) girl walking along the superhighway carrying two pretty heavy bags of groceries going who knows where (from his perspective). I must have looked tired. And he was catching me as I was almost home, so I was probably sweaty and covered in a fine film of exhaust sprayed from the many cars, trucks and motos that had passed me along the way. Now that I think about it, I probably looked kinda sad and scraggly. Yeah, I'm going with the Kindness scenario.

Today things took a turn. To use the vernacular of Mary Poppins, the winds have changed. It's appropriate, too, since it's the Solstice and all. Litha, or Summer Solstice, is a celebration on the Wheel of the Year that marks the pinnacle of the Sun's brilliance. It's the longest day and, therefore, the shortest night of the year. From here until Yule (Winter Solstice) the Sun's power will wane and the dark aspects of the Moon will begin to heighten. What all of this portends, in simplistic terms, is that after today, Nature begins a slow and steady shift toward a more introspective, receptive and self-nurturing (yin) way of being following the more out-going, liberal, external (yang) energy that takes full bloom in Spring. What does all this have to do with my travels, you wonder? Well, a couple of things, really. One, is that I made a rather sudden change in my travel plans today. I decided to shorten my stay in Thailand and rescheduled my flight to Pohnpei a week earlier than originally planned. I now leave Thailand this Thursday morning. That's right .. in two days. It all happened really quickly and with significantly fewer fees than I was expecting. So, I consider it a fortuitous decision. Secondly, I have been feeling a very quiet, but persistent, need to reconnect to my spiritual practices and studies. I've been feeling this for several months now, and I think it's interesting that, as I begin to really pay attention to the world around me and my actions and reactions within it, that I keep making decisions or embarking on journeys on very specific spiritually appropriate days. For instance, I mentioned in an earlier post that I hopped my flight for Thailand on the New Moon. And I was slated to be hopping my flight for Pohnpei on the New Moon as well. But when I changed it, I didn't negate the magick of that occurrence, but, rather, added significance to it by making the change on one of Nature's spiritually significant days ... one that marks the beginning of a return to the more spiritual side of Self. It all seems very appropriate and synchronistic to me.

So, today was spent mostly trying to get myself organized to leave so quickly. I walked to Spa Mantra to make my appointment for tomorrow afternoon. Then I stopped in at Satva Yoga and had a kombucha and one of Tukta's delectable juice blends. I also ordered a Thai massage mat from her. She was kind enough to have it ordered as a rush delivery, and the lady who makes them was able to get it to me by 5pm tonight. While there, I was happily surprised to see Eugenie and Charlye who were coming in for a very late breakfast. We made dinner plans for tonight, but through some confusion in our communications, we missed each other, so I am hoping we can do dinner tomorrow night. While there, we also got to talk a while with Freddy the Yoga Instructor/Massage Therapist and Andy the Acupuncturist. I wish I would have known about Andy before now ... I would have loved to receive an acupuncture treatment before leaving. Ah well, next time, maybe. I also packed up most of my stuff to see where I stand on the luggage situation. I will be checking not only the big fish shoulder bag (that I had to begrudgingly check on the way here), but also a yoga mat and a Thai massage mat. I hope I don't get charged to check these pieces, but I suppose it's better than trying to arrange to ship them to the island. My backpack is nice and light and I'll have a little canvas bag with my computer and books in it for carry-on. The one bummer is that I just bought all this food at the supermarket, and am not going to be able to eat it all or fit it in my luggage. I'm eating as much as I can of the perishables. Then, I think, I'm going to see if Eugenie, Charlye or any of the folks here at Chaba House would like to have it. I really hope it doesn't go to waste.

This morning, I got to chat with some of the other guests here at Chaba House. I saw Louisa (from Australia) briefly at breakfast. Mariano (from Argentina) was there, too, and he stayed for a while while I had my breakfast. We talked of my travels, and his travels and our "same same, but different" Thai massage training programs. Then he told me of the Spanish woman he met in Argentina several months ago. They spent three months together falling in love, then she had to go home. He arrived here in Thailand from a month with her in Madrid. Now they are trying to figure out how to navigate the relationship from here. He has the most luminous smile when he talks of her. I hope they are able to make things work so they are both fulfilled and happy. A little later, I got to chat for a bit with Sam (from Great Britain), who is doing a two-day meditation retreat, which, if it goes well, might lead to a four-day meditation retreat. I wish him well on his spiritual path. I immediately liked Sam the first moment I spoke with him. He is very kind and his spirit is just warm, and gentle and lovely. Saw Patricia (from France) for a moment, too. She just got back from the south yesterday, and was heading off to Pai (north-ish) today. Last night I met Werner, a massage therapist from Hawaii. He was great fun to chat with ... very personable and generous. I do wish that I could have gotten to spend some more time with these folks.

Tomorrow is my last full day. I will go to Satva Yoga Cafe for lunch, then to my big spa day at Spa Mantra. I'm not sure what time I'll be getting out of there, but I'm guessing around dinner time. I am hoping to meet up with Charlye and Eugenie for dinner. Then I'll just come home and do the last of my packing and set my alarm for early a.m. Then it's off to the airport .. again!

I very much would like to return to Thailand. My earlier departure is in no way a reflection on this place. I just felt like I had gotten what I was supposed to get from this visit. I would like to come back when I can plan an extended stay. I want to study a while with the Thai massage master, Pichest. I would love to take some Thai language classes. I would like to explore more than just Chiang Mai, for sure. It's nice here, but it's a little too "big city" for me. I'd love to explore some of the smaller villages. So, I plan to come back at some point. As I mentioned in an earlier post, Thailand has gently crept up on me and nestled its way into my heart. I am grateful for my time here.

And now I'm going to bed. It's late, and I'm tired, and I have much to do before I leave. Have a happy Solstice, wherever you are! And sweet dreams!

PS: Photos will have to be added a little later. It's way too late to post them tonight! xoxo!

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