Well here we are, at the end of the trip that I’ve been waiting for pretty much since I set foot in China and at the end of Alyssa’s Expat Life. And, minus the exorbitant amount of mosquito bites on my legs, the Bali portion did not disappoint.
Customs at Denpasar airport was one of the more extensive experiences I had at a country gateway, and considering I was coming in on a plane with all Chinese people, I felt somewhat in my element—until we reached the final customs line. After being in line for quite a while the typical butting and pushing and shoving began, which I will never figure out for the life of me the point of. There is a line for a reason, and trying to skip ahead or push me further into the person in front of me isn’t going to do you or me any favors. After about an hour we finally got through, and the customs agent saw a woman clearly butt right in front of me. Luckily he wasn’t Chinese, he was Indonesian and waved me to come right on ahead. I got a quiet satisfaction and a little redemption for all the times that someone threw their groceries down on top of mine at UniMart.
Normally I wouldn’t feel anxiety at a customs line because I didn’t have a connection to make. However, since I haven’t had the best of luck with people picking me up when they say they are going to and since it took an hour and a half to get through the line, I was worried that my driver didn’t wait for me. I wouldn’t blame him since we were pushing 2 a.m. I finally picked up ALL my China luggage, put it on the cart, and made my way to the final check in. Lo and behold, another Chinese woman and her daughter butted right in front of me. I had enough at this point and gave her a gentle tap with my cart and a not so gentle scolding with my mouth. The customs agent grinned, took my passport and again waved me through. I left them in my dust. You’re not in China anymore, Toto. No longer is it OK to treat people like crap just because you feel entitled. I will never feel that butting in front of someone is cultural. It’s rude and exhibits a serious lack of manners. Learn some respect.
My amazing driver was waiting for me, I changed my money and I was off to Taman Ayu in beautiful Seminyak. The next four days were spent soaking up the rays and the mosquitos in my awesome villa or poolside. I needed the break and the rest more than I thought and welcomed the new sunshine overhead instead of clouds of pollution.
Next I was off to the Inner Temple Retreat for six days of a structured, planned-out well-confirmed experience. Since China is anything but that, I was giddy when Emma, our leader, called to say they would be a little late, and then the car wasn’t even really that late. Communication is a beautiful thing to me personally and something that I really missed these last several months.
I met up with Rebecca and Jess, the other two women that would be on the retreat with us. We were driven over winding roads and between rice fields until we reached our safe haven, our true oasis—Samadi Bali. Samadi Bali’s doors ended up being a gateway to the soul, an escape from everything imaginable except the four of us and our minds and hearts. Even though other people come to Samadi for the vegetarian menu, yoga classes and camaraderie, we were allowed to delve deeper into the grounds, back into our beautiful house and private pool area. The owners live on site, but beyond that it’s easy to get lost in lack of humans and the abundance of wonderful animals. Each day we were greeted by three dogs, two geese, a cat, a guinea pig, a rabbit and roosters crowing. I also had an unwanted snake as a guest wrapped around a boys’ neck on day 1, which hampered my first yoga session due to anxiety of the moment. It wasn’t the smartest thing for the kids to bring a snake to a place where women were having a retreat, seeing as it’s tops on many women’s lists as the No. 1 fear in life. But, our fearless leader Emma spoke with someone and the issue was solved, as every other thing was the rest of the week. We wanted for nothing and yearned for nothing. The entire focus was self healing, allowed mostly due in part to Emma’s amazing guidance and nurturing personality.
Even as I sit here by the pool watching the groundskeeper water the grounds and the lovely women clean the rooms and do our laundry, I am amazed at the week I just had. Everyone should get a chance to work on him or her self without distractions of the outside world. It’s only been six days, and the yoga, meditation, new food, dinners by the coast, massages, pampering and reflection are things that I will absolutely take with me for the rest of my days. I’ll remember yoga with Cyril (Cereal) the most and the candle meditation. He had just the right amount of care and firmness that I needed in an instructor. I’ll remember that I don’t need alcohol to survive or to alleviate my anxiety or to feel like I’m a more interesting person. I’ll remember the day spa and getting a mani, pedi and scalp massage all at the same time, not knowing which one to focus on and the incredible thanks I felt to be able to have hot pink nails again without melting down because it was Dave’s color. I’ll remember our chocolate workshop at Suki’s house, which was straight out of something you’d see on a movie set. Suki, a native Londoner, fit right into this world with her charisma and charm. She was just one of those people that you are drawn to—a friendly nature mixed with a mystery that was just evident enough that you are dying to sit down to hear more of her story. I’ll remember Damien being nice to me even though I skipped most of his morning Ashtanga Yoga sessions. I personally prefer the yoga that is more instructed and not repetitive and the fact that I even know the difference now shows how much I’ve grown in just a week. I’ll remember the Mandalas and chakra meditation and how creative we all are, and how the mind reflects different things so vividly than even someone who can’t paint can still put thoughts out in color. I’ll remember Jasque’s voice during our “letting go” therapy every time I feel anxiety and anger from the past. I will carry his healing vibes and that calming moment with me forever. Anxiety passes just like every life moment. And we all have our own paths. Mostly, I’ll remember Rebecca, Jess and Emma.
Emma wasn’t just a coordinator. This isn’t just a job for her. She’s a lifelong friend now and a nurturing soul. She attended to our every want and need both logistically and emotionally. I think this is the first time in my life that I am at a loss for words on the impact a person has made on my life. The words may be lacking, but my heart is overfilled and beyond thankful for her kindness and life-changing impact.
I couldn’t have picked a better two people to be on this retreat with in Rebecca and Jess. Rebecca has obtained a severe food allergy, which allowed me to really look at my own food choices and realize that I’m lucky that I can eat absolutely anything that I want and that I should be making better choices in my daily eating habits. I really hope that this allergy goes away or lessens so that she can enjoy all the foods she loves again.
Jess is one of the most positive, fun people I’ve ever been around, and I know that we also will be lifelong friends. We’re already talking about the next retreat that we want to meet up on, and it will be good to have someone to travel with that has such a great outlook on everything and who is so open. In closing mediation today, the four of us sat around and gave thanks and talked about how we all are so different, yet were able to come together in a non-judgmental space with all of our quirks, lessons and open hearts. I’ll remember that moment with those three amazing women for as long as I live.
As I close Alyssa’s Expat Life, I feel so blessed to have taken part in this almost year-long journey starting with a simple TEFL class last July. All roads have led to this point, but it’s by no means an end. It’s a beginning. I’m heading back to a life built on what I’ve learned in the last couple of months, renewed friendships and discarded baggage. What a wonderful gift it’s been.
Maddux, the wait is over. I’m coming home.