What do you do when you find out your husband is on the road for four weeks? Granted, it was not four weeks straight, as he did have a 24-hour break in Beijing after the first two weeks, which was barely sufficient to attend a company D&D, pack his bag, squish in a haircut and meet a friend over lunch. Seeing I would be more of a deterrent to his productivity than any help, I decided to pack my own bags, go home to see my parents and then have some adventure of my own.
It’s not that I’m unhappy in Beijing, not at all. I have met many lovely people here and formed my own circle of friends and am entirely grateful to have gotten to know them. I fill my days with Chinese class, yoga lessons, meeting up with friends and just getting stuff done, which definitely takes way longer in Beijing than anywhere else (more about that in another post). However, when you’re back in your apartment at the end of the day and are faced with the question of how to kill the remaining hours until bed time, it does start to frazzle your nerves. There are only so many movies you can watch and books to read. So the idea of going home to see my parents and friends became all the more enticing, especially since the last time I was home (my Singapore home that is) was more than a year back. Throw in a yoga retreat and some R&R days in Sri Lanka and the deal was clinched. Plus, it had also been a while since my last solo trip and as much as I love my better half, I dearly missed exploring a place on my own.
So two days after returning from the Philippines I headed back to the airport and made my way home. I know some of you are confused as to how many homes I have and I can only answer that I am blessed with two: Singapore, the country I grew up in and where my family and close friends still live, and Germany, my chosen home where we plan to live happily ever after…in the long run…eventually…one day…
Being back in Singapore was great and it’s needless to say that I enjoyed every minute I had with my family and friends. There is a difference to giving snippets of info via Whatsapp or actually being able to sit down and have a proper conversation. Days were spent exploring the newly opened Museum of Contemporary Arts, checking out the latest additions to the city’s urban landscape, seeing my cousin’s daughter for the first time, celebrating a friend’s birthday and meeting up with colleagues and friends from my previous workplaces.
Although Beijing is closer to Singapore than Germany is, it still is a 6.5 hour flight away, which still makes it too far for a trip over a long weekend. Hence it made me soak up all these experiences as a parched sponge soaks up water. It did in a way feel like this was my water, my elixir, something that made me whole again and reminded me of all the important things in life.
My next destination after Singapore was Sri Lanka, a country which I have always wanted to visit. This trip was not one of my usual “get out there and explore”trips but it was to be a more relaxing and calm one. I was going there for a yoga retreat up north with my favorite yoga teachers Daphne and Anton followed by a few relaxing days at the beach down south. It seems I will just have to make a second trip back to Sri Lanka to explore the rest of what the island has to offer! 🙂
The six-day retreat organized by Routes of Yoga was held at The Mudhouse, an eco-friendly and sustainable sanctuary amidst vast nature. From the moment I stepped onto the premise, I felt immediately at ease and felt myself unwinding. Uniquely designed huts made out of natural materials are spread out through the forest and blend in with nature. Only the reception area was equipped with electricity this villages was connected to the nation’s power grid only in 2012). The few lightbulbs in the hut I was to share with three other ladies were powered by solar energy but the hut was mainly illuminated with candles and lanterns that contributed to the romantic and nostalgic atmosphere. The adjacent outdoor bathroom provided many squeals as well as laughter – think little frogs getting flushed out of shower pipes and onto your face, the odd deer who watches you soap up or your wild chase to get frogs out of the toilet bowl after you’d forgotten to let the cover down. The hut encompassed a courtyard around which our beds were placed. This courtyard invited to many hours of stargazing, moments of reflection and vivid discussions – one of them being where we all would hide should a he’d of crazy elephants come crashing onto our home. Bean bags and hammocks were scattered around the hut into which we could retreat with a good book or our thoughts. We were equipped with bicycles to get around the sanctuary and a torchlight in order to find our way to the outdoor bathroom in the night.
Each morning started with a 2-hour yoga session in one of the most beautiful shalas I have ever seen and we were accompanies by the wildlife waking up – a beautiful sunrise, birds and insects chirping and the rays that warmed and heated us as the morning progressed. On our last days we were even blessed with the sighting of a peacock in flight.
Breakfast was traditional Sri Lankan fare with lots of delicious curries, fresh fruit and hoppers, a Sri Lankan pancake made out of rice flour, coconut milk and topped with an egg or chutney. Needless to say, food was so good breakfast always ended in a major pig-out.
Usually we would have a break of 1-1.5 hours after breakfast, which we were in dire need of as we had by that time already slipped into a food come. Afternoon activities to get them lazy bones moving were a Sri Lankan cooking class, forest walks, visit to the nearby temple and rocks where we practiced pranayama and enjoyed splendid views as well as a bike ride and picnic by one of the lakes. In the afternoon we would then have a lecture/workshop followed by another yoga session and of course dinner to end the day.
As usual times flies when you are having fun and all of a sudden we were gathered at the reception area with our bags packed and ready to head home. On my journey down south for some beach time I pondered on what I took with me from this retreat. Sure, I had to face my fear of creepy crawlies with frogs jumping onto my face in the shower to worms and geckos hiding around each corner. I learnt on how much I can push my body and when the right time came to sit back and let it go and accept that some things are not yet meant to be. I finally was able to just sit in silence and observe and tune into nature without having my monkey mind disturb me (not like in India where for one month my only thought during meditation was banana pancakes with peanut butter).
My main reason for the retreat was to get my practice, which I had been neglecting quite a bit, back on track and getting myself into the right space of mind to continue this practice. Instead, I found myself bonding with and opening up to my fellow retreaters really quickly – something that doesn’t generally come easily to me. Each of these ladies, who had been complete strangers a few days ago, taught me something, be it their calmness, determinacy or take-it-as-it-comes attitude. I am sure that this was only possible as we were in such a care-free environment and all there for a similar reason. I do sometimes wonder if we would have bonded that well if we had met under different circumstances.
As for Daphne and Anton, don’t even get me started. To cut things short, let’s just say it felt great to be practicing with and learning from them again. Teachers who have both inspired me and prompted me to look into different things and directions I would not have thought about before having gotten to know them. Individuals who are so attuned to their students’/retreaters’ needs and actually take the time to respond to them (yes, even in a crammed classroom). Souls who actually believe in what they do, have only the best intention at heart and live what they believe. I felt more grounded after each class I had with them and especially after this retreat. To the both of you, thank you so much for all you have given and shared and I hope this was not the last retreat.
So yes, it blows having your better half away so much (out of the 15 weeks so far in 2016 Stephan has been on vacation for two weeks, traveling for 7.5 weeks and in Beijing for 5.5 weeks), but it also opens up so many opportunities. Opportunities to try out new things, meet up with loved ones and learn about yourself. For this I am grateful.
P.S.: For those of you looking to treat yourself or learn with Daphne and Anton, check out their homepage Routes of Yoga. In German there is a saying “to put your hand into fire” to vouch for something or somebody, well in this case I would put both hands and feet into the fire and can ensure you that you will not regret having connected with them in whatever way.