Rebel Rebel

I clearly do not like being told what to do

A paramilitary tried to train me for a cross country run once. I thought running with someone else would be fun.

Wrong.

The clue was in the fact he was paramilitary. As a result, he thought barking at me to run faster, run backwards, slow down, go faster, would motivate me. I stopped about 2k in and said I wasn’t going to do anymore. He did the whole, “Don’t quit on me now!” soldier bollocks that might get a different person hyped up and grunting like a frat boy.

I just stopped turned around and started running in the opposite direction.

“I know you’re type.” he said when he caught up to me. “Don’t like being told what to do.”

He was right. I don’t like being told what to do. I don’t like being yelled at. I definitely don’t like the combo with the added stress of an increased heart rate when I am covered in sweat.

Before I could wheeze something offensive at him he pulled out some ninja death stars and a butterfly knife, and said we could go and practice being ninjas in the park instead.

Funnily enough I didn’t mind being told how to throw a knife.

My dad says I always have to be difficult. Do things the hard way. Or the weird way.

Maybe he’s right.

It’s unfortunate we seem to be so diametrically opposed in our approaches to life.

I never considered the tattoos, piercings, short hair, red hair, late nights, drunk nights, or any of the rest of it an act of rebellion. I was just doing what I wanted to do. It just so happened there was someone on the opposite side telling me not to do it.

Is that what makes it rebellion?

Discussing the topic with a friend she told me of her own rebellion: joining the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

It was a bizarre situation.

Her parents thought she needed spiritual guidance. Unfortunately it’s rare to get a Hindu priest knocking on your door.

Cue the change of religion.

I’m still not clear what they hoped to achieve by having the nice Watchtower ladies talk to her once a week. Maybe they thought they would calm her down enough for Hindu control. I bet they didn’t expect her to join the Jehovah’s Witnesses though.

It took two years before she felt her point had been solidly proven and returned to being a happy agnostic.

Was this a completely necessary point to prove?

Probably not.

But when you’re a teen there’s the need to assert who you are. Followed by the notion you will slow down, calm down, or grow out of it.

Now that I’m older, I feel somewhat obliged to behave in a sensible moderate way. But the need to assert who we are isn’t something confined to our hormonal teens.

There’s no one really telling me what to do anymore. Only my brain.

What do

Well brain, I do what I want.

 

 

 

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Happy Endings

Things work always work out in the end. Even gastroenteritis.

All it took was one bite of the egg.

I heaved up the banana milkshake quicker than I’d drunk it. Then whatever else was left of the Tonsai devil burger I had at the start of my journey.

That’s what I get for eating a burger at the beach.

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I should have known…

I was climbed out. Tired. And I had been eating pretty healthy for about a week. One burger couldn’t hurt. Plus I thought it would see me well on my epic  boat, bus, plane and train journey to Ayutthaya.

But now it had me hunched over the toilet bowl of a tiny restaurant at 7 am.

My first instinct was to head back to bed. Or even better: Bangkok. But when would I get to come this close to Rama’s city of Ayodhya? That’s what Ayutthaya was meant to be, the city of temples, old capital of Siam. A slice of history, mythology and my childhood.

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Ayutthaya

The Ramayana was one of my favourite stories as a child, stories of princesses, demons, flying monkeys and a city all lit up to welcome home an exiled prince.

I couldn’t just leave.

So I pushed myself to do a five hour walking tour of the temples. A tour which ended with me hailing a tuktuk to help me round the last leg.
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I even went on a riverboat tour of the waterside temples. Each one filled with ornate Buddhas and crumbling buildings. There was a calm beauty to it all. But I was feeling out of sorts.

It could have been too much in a short span. I had temple overload and zero perspective to appreciate what I’d seen. More likely the food poisoning had muted the experience.

It wasn’t how I’d wanted my trip to end, but it was how I returned to Bangkok.

Funnily enough though, Bangkok was the real surprise. I didn’t expect to enjoy the tail boats and temples as much as I did. Nor that I would feel as peaceful and calm in the city as I had at The Sanctuary wandering around the temples and palaces that Ayutthaya had inspired.

Maybe I’m just a city girl at heart. Maybe I’d found some inner peace.

Or the parasites had changed me irrevocably.

The temple at Wat Pho fast became my favourite place for peaceful meditation and a massage. I’m addicted to Thai massage now. There is something strangely relaxing about being forced into yoga positions and cradled by a stranger who will then crack your entire spine.

It put a smile on my face.

Though I’m pretty sure it shouldn’t have.

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I visited the reclining Buddha one more time before I left.

The immensity of it, filling a whole temple had me in awe when I first saw it. Looking upon it again I felt content and at peace before I left and ready for whatever might happen next in life.

Leaving countries is always so bittersweet for me. It’s like cutting a conversation short when you’re really getting to know someone.

I’ll be back Thailand.

If for nothing more than another massage.

Cleanse

Colonic irrigation is about as fancy as it sounds.

The room was small, incense burned, a jazzy tune played, but the roar of the ocean could still be heard in the background. I stared hard at the long wooden plank leading to the toilet in the middle of the room. Above it, a bucket filled with coffee infused water and a system of tubes. I listened carefully as Mun acted out how to carry out your own colonic, occasionally eyeing up the plastic bottle filled with olive oil that I would be using to ‘lubricate my anus’

Maybe the juice fast had me deluded.

This had seemed like a much better idea after a clay shake. I am very suggestible and mildly violent when hungry. I had wanted to purge any residual negaitivity I was storing up mentally. Why not physically? Start afresh: body, mind and soul.

I hadn’t imagined a new start would look like a 6 by 4 propped up on cinder blocks and an open toilet.

I’ve never been one for diets or health fads.  I attempted Beyonce’s Maple Syrup diet 7 years ago. Well I say attempted, I drank herbal tea for 5 days and chased them with  short stacks drowned in, maple syrup.

The Sanctuary is an amazing place to satisfy your curiosity for detox and cleanse programs. It is possibly the cheapest place in the world to have a colonic, or carry out a cleanse. Its staff are friendly, and well informed. There are also ongoing classes in yoga, pilates and meditation, as well as massages, a spa and steam room.

The whole environment encourages you to live and eat well, and fills you with a sense of well being.

I was intoxicated. Which is probably why a Juice fast sounded good.

I love juice. All drinks in fact. The more beverages the better. A day of juice sounded easy. Anyone who has seen me wolf down an order of tacos, or observed me eating my three lunches, knows I won’t fade away after a day fast. What I didn’t know was that all cleanses ended with a colonic.

I had a vague understanding of how they worked thanks to an episode of Jackass where Johnny gets a colonic. It didn’t prepare me at all for what it would feel like. It didn’t feel as hilarious as Johnny’s looked.

As I returned to the wellness centre, I looked visibly traumatised.

I won’t lie, when I decided to come out here I had been hoping to get in touch with myself. Just not via my anus with a tube I inserted myself. But you can’t predict what turns the game around.

I thought the emotional elements I couldn’t shift were with me for a reason. But just like a physical cleanse,  it takes time to flush out the more noxious parts of us.

They can be shifted though.

It won’t be pretty, but as I lie swinging in this hammock with a massive smile on my face and not a care in the world, I’d say it was worth it.

Asian in Asia

Have passport, will travel.

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.

Luckily we were headed towards Sanctuary.

Know your role

Everyone is good at something…right?

As I stood there watching the young man writhing on the floor, lip locked with a rubber IKEA oven mitt, I wondered what the hell I was doing here.

My friend Abner has been encouraging me to go to auditions, to network, make contacts with script writers. “You’ve got to get out there and follow your dream!” He was right.

Consequently, I’ve been signing up for auditions and taster classes. It’s been something to get me out of the house at weekends. Plus it’s free, which sums up my criteria for entertainment these days.

It’s definitely been entertaining.

At the writer’s workshop, I felt like a moody teenager. I was sat at the back, all dressed in black, screwing up my face every time someone bleated at the opportunity to read their work out.

I was grateful for the pair work. At least then the other person could strain their arm enthusiastically in the air, while I continued to slouch apathetically in my chair and text.

The activity was a silent dialogue, set at a party. Pradeep and I commenced our silent conversation. Needless to say, in real life Pradeep and I would a) Never be found at the same party b) Would never have commenced to converse because I would have been able to see his conversation coming a mile off and hot-tailed it to the bathroom.

Writing classes and workshops are a great place to meet a writing partner; your lobster.

Pradeep was not my lobster.

There weren’t any lobsters. Just people trying to figure out what their ‘love’ was. But maybe loving something wasn’t enough. Nor was Marcela. She gleefully shared her comedy creation, Paul: an extremely fat man good at his job. “Fat isn’t a character flaw. What’s his flaw?”

“He works too hard? But sometimes it’s difficult because… he’s fat!”

“So it’s funny because he’s fat?”

“Yes!”

This went on for a while before we all just gave up.

This would never happen at TGS

The following weekend I was amidst a group of actors. Some of whom found it hard to mask their disdain at the fact I was a tourist. ‘It seemed like fun’ is not what the competition want to hear at an audition.

They want the part.

They will even use a five minute break to try and get it, as I found when I was faced with the ridiculously energetic Eva. Her heart-rendering performance of the day she fell over in the rain went sadly unnoticed by the director. I think I’d asked her if there was a Tesco nearby.

I couldn’t bring myself to participate in the improv. The group of people on the floor fighting over a toilet brush, while one waggled his tongue in and out his heat protected hand, left me speechless.

I have no problems looking like a fool. I just won’t fight other fools to do it.

They really wanted this. I needed to have that ‘willing to pretend to make it with a glove’ type of desperation. But I couldn’t even make eye contact with anyone. Every line I delivered was aimed at someone’s crotch or my own cleavage.

I was their Pradeep. Their Marcela.

My friend got a part in the play, without having to romance homeware. I signed up for the comedy writing class.

I think my first piece will be a drama about a woman trying to write a play about an overweight man trying to make it as an actor.

Maybe IKEA guy could play him. He seems like he would commit to putting on 20 kilos.

Imperfections

We all deserve a clean slate.

The new year is a big deal for some reason. Successfully orbiting our sun matters to us.  I can’t say I know how difficult, or dangerous it was, but I’m sure it warranted a drink.

Manchester is currently the shining example of how ham we go on a NYE celebration. I have little recollection of my own NYE, but from the accounts of complete strangers who I ran into at the Guinness factory, I was absolutely destroyed.

For those of you that didn’t go full pagan, here’s what you missed out on:

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My own mayhem was not quite the renaissance masterpiece above, but I did my best to try and drown the old year in alcohol.

Maybe it’s the promise of a clean slate with our hangover that pushes some of us over the edge. The need to obliterate the memory cells of whatever it was that made the last year so horrendous. The joy at being surrounded by the people you love the most.

We go out how we have to: Civilised drinks with family and friends, or pinned to the ground by feds.

Either way, we all deserve a fresh start.

With that fresh start come expectations. I mean it has to go better than the last. There has to be progress. I have to be better than I was.

I think I stopped making resolutions in 2003. There were only so many times I could tell myself I was going to be a teetotaling, non-smoking, gym fanatic who read 40 books a year.

I do alright as I am.

I will still get wasted on occasion. I will still have a drunken fag. I will read, but never as much as I could. I will work out, only as much as I need to in order to be able to eat two whole Nando’s chickens on my own.

Obviously there will be change. But it will come at its own pace.

My New Year is all about acceptance.

My resolutions were always about being a better person. Kinder, more tolerant, more forgiving. Or it was about how I could improve my life to fulfil some imaginary standard others would appreciate.

Showing the same kindness, tolerance and understanding for myself never occurred to me.

Moving past my short comings, be it  getting so drunk I fall off a pier, or ignoring my intuition, is something I find hard. My failings are the sun which I have been stuck in orbit around for years.

Rather than trying to evolve into someone perfect, this year will be the year I embrace my dumb ass self for who I am. An alcohol imbibing, wise cracking loud mouth, with an occasionally impressive rack, and a life that often looks a bit like a Manchester high street on New Year’s morning.

Here’s to happiness  and shenanigans in the New Year.

The Great Escape

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.

Fair point.

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.

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.

I promised that I would when I had a job.