It’s good to be impulsive. And occasionally life threatening.
It’s the year of the monkey. Naturally, I was born in the year of the monkey. Witty, sociable, easily bored, stubborn.
Sums me up perfectly I think.
No better time to get harnessed up and back on the face of a mountain.
It’s been a few years since I went boulder climbing. It used to be a regular thing, but after my hand injury I didn’t trust my wrist to support my weight.
I didn’t know what to expect on the half day climb with The Rock Shop. I’d signed up for a beginners course because I was worried.
Climbing had been my way of dealing with my fear of heights. I don’t like to be scared, or limited. My way of handling fears is to throw myself into them. More than often the return is something beautiful. The views from the top. The reward of an isolated spot. It’s a risk, but one worth taking.
When I floundered on the first climb our guide grinned at me
“You can be good or bad, but you must have fun!”
He was right. Once the pressure was off, it was more fun.
After the day’s climb, the rest of the group wanted to grab food and see some of Railay. We were all keen to find the lagoon for a relaxing swim to end the day. We deserved a break.
Little did we know.
We had assumed that it would be a calm walk, a couple of dips and then back to Tonsai.
The warning signpost and the exhausted faces of people scaling down from a point up into the mountain, should have been our first indicator this wasn’t going to be easy.
The route had ropes set up along the way. All you had to do was find your feet and hoist yourself up. Easy enough. I decided to pop my flip flops into my bag and go barefoot.
My feet still haven’t forgiven me.
When we finally reached the clearing at the top it dawned on us that we’d have to climb deeper down into the mountain to reach the lagoon. Unless there was an off chance this was a magical lagoon at the top of a mountain that defied gravity.
The downward descent to the lagoon was a little more than “strenuous” as the warning at the start of the ‘hike’ suggested.
We were lowering ourselves through slippery sharp rocks, climbing through narrow holes with back packs on and at times reaching around for a foothold, or handhold when we couldn’t see behind us. After my first slip and near fall onto craggy rocks, my faith in my wrist was completely restored.
It was a precarious climb to the bottom. But it was completely worth it. Photos don’t do it justice.
It’s the things we really work to get that bring us the greatest satisfaction.
I’m quite impulsive in the risks that I take. God knows how far this ‘All or nothing’ attitude will get me in Vegas in a few weeks.
It’s 7am and I have a yoga class in an hour. I woke up because of the sea. Living in London, I’ve never had the luxury of waking up to anything other than the sound of urban foxes shagging. Mexico City wasn’t much better. Although sirens were often interspliced with drunken arguments, or thumping music. I didn’t realise how much I love to wake up to the sound of the sea.
The journey to get to Koh Phangan was not as tranquil.
The first night in Bangkok was spent wandering around the Khao San road shopping and avoiding teams of men in matching wife beaters, trying to drunkenly chat up anyone in grabbing reach. People like to touch here, not just drunken Brits out on a stag. I got poked in the boob, had my tattoo stroked and was awkwardly patted by a couple of giggly vendors, who may have been at the laughing gas balloons.
The night in Bangkok was a sensory overload. Lights. Vendors. Food. Massages. Rats. One of which I had an unsettling run in with that left me contemplating how much I really needed my right foot.
It was loud and bright and dirty and seedy. I liked it.
At 5am we were abruptly woken by our panicky Thai host who thought we were going to miss our flight. She had taken the liberty of booking us a taxi that was waiting as we spoke. I don’t think I’ve got packed and ready so quickly. I silently cursed her all the way to the airport.
The journey to get to Koh Phangan was a two fold nightmare. Unlike Alex Garland’s romanticised journey through jungle, jumping off waterfalls and swimming across the island, ours was more pedestrian and disgusting. The waves were dangerously high, so our speedboat jumped along the ocean for nearly two hours. The nausea it provoked was understandable. I regretted inhaling a pork bun and chilli chicken curry on the dock before we boarded. But the real kicker was the synchronised vomiting that began to take place about 20 minutes into the journey. Smiling faces handed out pink plastic bags and tissues, then the pukefest began. It was like the story Chunk describes in The Goonies: one person barfed and everyone else just joined in. It surrounded us and we sunk into our seats hoping we wouldn’t be hit by the spray.
My body’s natural defense mechanism in situations of high stress is to shut down. Much like a possum. Only more like a narcoleptic. I pass out.
When I awoke and drowsily got off the boat there was still another journey left to make. Kerry, had warned me that transport to The Sanctuary was a mafia. It’s lucky I had her and her amazing litigation skills to get me this far.
You couldn’t get a cheaper price no matter how good you were at haggling. What was worse they had decided to hike the prices up, to make the best of all the business that was anxiously waiting. We held out for as long as we could as the surliest driver in the world bitched at our attempts to bring the price down.
It didn’t feel great having to concede and get in the back of his shitty truck. It felt less great as we were hurled about along bumpy back streets out into the middle of nowhere.
Distance can really help to gain some perspective on life.
In the last month I have been making a more concerted effort to find a job. A friend of mine pointed out to me that if I actually made an effort and a plan, rather than planning to escape as I always did, maybe I would get where I wanted to.
I am not the most patient person when it comes to my goals. If I haven’t made it work in a month it starts feeling like failure. The panic sets in and I start looking at the international teacher posts on TES, or escort work.
I get desperate.
In comparison, I am far more functional in a foreign country alone, with limited funding and only the clothes in my back pack. After 10 years of travel and living abroad I have grown to have more faith in that version of myself.
The woman stuck in her parent’s house isn’t to be trusted and is a proven flight risk.
After the last four months I needed to get away. Recharge. Try again. I needed Brazil.
My days would start with the view of Mount Corcovado and coffee. I visited The Selaron Stairs, Christ the redeemer, Sugarloaf Mountain, and relaxed on Ipanema and Copacabana. In the evenings I would have conversations with friends, grab a drink, have a laugh and make the best of my time in town.
Christ the Redeemer
I was pretty proud of how well I had managed on my own, a feeling that I’d forgotten after months of rejection emails and depressing bank statements.
In my short time in Rio I visited Paraty and Ilha Grande. My Portañol (Spanish/Portuguese mash up) was getting me through the day and I was able to have conversations where I would normally be taught how to pronounce things, (that r is a killer) or how to swear.
Add to this the fact everyone in Rio seems to be a walking gym advert, and that they advocate for teeny bikinis and no tan lines, then you’ve got a city I can get on board with.
After talking to a few people, I found out that it might be possible to get a teaching job for the new year. So why not move there?
I’ve never had more reason to leave London. Everyone would understand if I gave up. If I went back to Mexico. If I went back to teaching. But things had changed and an escape plan, though great for the short term, would not get me where I needed to be.
On the way to the airport Nelson, my taxi driver, explained the meaning of the word saudade, a word unique to portuguese. He said it was the feeling of missing something you hadn’t felt or experienced in a long time. Like sadness and nostalgia, a longing for something that you didn’t have anymore. Though bittersweet it didn’t always have to be sad.
He then serenaded me with Girl from Ipanema before telling me all the beautiful girls lived in Rio, and I should come back.
Over the last few few months I have been trying rewire the way I look at life and focus on the positives rather than my relationships and other failures.
It has been a mourning period for me in many ways. I have spent months putting to rest my expectations. Trying not to be angry about the plans that I had given up so easily, and the life I had chosen to leave behind.
It’s hard to move on. As terrible as you might feel in the place you’re in, you get used to the misery in a way. I’ve been as positive and active as I can, but it sneaks up on me.
My ‘ex-rages’ were a symptom of the fact I wasn’t over it yet. I could be in the middle of a perfectly nice evening, travelling, or out drinking with friends, and then a wave of anger would sweep over me. It was like Tourette’s. Anyone close enough would get a comprehensive list of grievances against him, and a demand for an answer to where the hell did he get off texting me to call me a ‘waste of his time.’
When I wasn’t raging, I was trying to just get on with life. Being as busy as possible. Remembering my life wasn’t defined by a man. Then I’d find myself in tears because this wasn’t how it was supposed to have worked out.
Between the bitching and crying my observant six year old nephew chipped in his two cents worth.
The infant was right. But how do you move past it?
Our break up had been quite abrupt. We hadn’t seen or really spoken to each other in weeks. The last act had been a death in the family.
There are certain expectations around death and how we should treat each other, and behave when someone passes away. It’s a time to be sympathetic, to come together to put your differences aside, and offer your support.
I had wanted to do all these things. But after endless fights, unresolved issues and his go-to-move of ignoring me for three days at a time I just couldn’t find it in me. People can kill your sympathy. Especially when they demand it of you constantly.So I left him to it. He had expected me to be there to support him, but after so much drama, I just didn’t have it in me anymore. I ended it the following week.
In true dramatic fashion I was told never to contact him again. ‘Cross the road and pretend I don’t know him’ style break up.
Relationships with people you love can end abruptly. I learned that young. My little brother passed away when I was five years old. From one day to the next someone I loved had disappeared from my life.
My parent’s generation are not great believers of discussing ‘adult’ topics with children. We never spoke about death. It was just something that was innate knowledge.
After my brother died, his pictures were put away. His clothes were given away. I didn’t get to go to a funeral, or a memorial. Three years of my life with another person just disappeared and I wasn’t to ask any questions, and didn’t get to say goodbye. We couldn’t say his name in the house, or speak openly about him for fear of upsetting my parents. It was something we got used to.
My parents were trying to protect us and themselves. They bottled up their feelings and were ‘strong’. But I could see you couldn’t stay strong that way. We suffered silently. The pain seemed to last forever.
Life carried on, but I felt like he was being ignored, despite him clearly being on everyone’s mind. The only remaining signs he had existed were the crying, or the look that clouded faces when his favourite song came on the radio.
I needed Day of the Dead when I was a child.
From October 31st to November 2nd in Mexico and other countries around the world, Dia de los Muertos/Day of the Dead is celebrated. The belief is that the spirits of the dead reunite with their families and loved ones. They honour them with offerings or ofrendas, and put together on an altar for the deceased. The altars are often illuminated with candles, decorated with cempazuhitl (marigold flowers), their favourite food, drinks, photos and memories. The family will celebrate together, often lighting candles, eating, drinking and sharing anecdotes. They reminisce and celebrate the lives of the deceased fondly.
Day of the Dead helped me to come to terms with ideas of death and loss and move forward in a healthy way. It gave me a chance to celebrate my brother’s life, and the lives of the people I loved who were no longer with me. I looked forward to the beautiful ofrendas and rites that took places. From scenes of the floating of candles on the Patzcuaro lake, to bringing food, drink and even Mariachis to the graves of loved ones so they could enjoy their favourite songs with family.
This year the British Museum put on an impressive exhibition. They had huge skeleton sculptures towering on either side of the entrance. As you entered there was an authentic Atlanchinolli dance troupe, performing a pre-hispanic Aztec dance ritual to remember the dead. There were also workshops where children could make their own marigold flowers to hang on a tree sculpture with their messages for their loved ones who had passed away. It was particularly child friendly. Helping them understand this concept and view on death. Something I think all children should be given the chance to do.
This weekend gave me time to reflect. I hadn’t been honest about how I was feeling. I was pushing myself to be over things. I hadn’t given myself the time to get over it, to feel sad about it, be angry or upset about it. Which is why it kept creeping up on me despite all my attempts to be happy and act like things were back to normal. They weren’t.
There is a reason why you have a mourning period. It helps you to come to terms with what happened and make your peace with it. You get to say your goodbyes and move on.
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