3.02.2015

Danger: High Voltage- Bring it on Home...





Tuesday morning in bed with coffee and kitties listening to Led Zeppelin's "Bring It On Home".  Damn, real rock and roll. Makes me swoon.  Now, it's story-time people- about swooning to 70s rock and driving on Friday mornings here in the Kingdom of Bahrain.

I've likely mentioned this before, but Fridays are the best *safest* day to drive here because it's the 1st day of the weekend and many are preparing for late morning prayers at mosque.  Mornings are especially empty of traffic.  At this time, I always find myself driving from A`ali to Juffair to BaYoga. 

Saudi Aramco (eastern Saudi Arabia) DJs are always playing 70s rock on Friday morning.  It's soooo soothing driving and rocking out in the car.  It has to be a funny site because I just can't sit still and listen. I'm all over the place rocking out so any random car driving parallel with me gets a show. 

Of course, these past 4 months have been 'winter' here so there is no need for air con so windows are open and music is blaring.  Blaring. I know it's 'haram' and I'm generally careful about being culturally sensitive but sometimes one just has to cut loose.  It's especially relevant because I'm heading to yoga class.  Therapy before therapy... I get to class and already am 'tuned-in and turned-on.'

Of course, the rest of the weekend the Aramco radio station is playing rock, but Friday mornings... That's some good shit man.  It's a blessing to feel 'normal' here, and y'all that know me well know what 'normal' is for me.

Speaking of 'normal', it's a beach day today :)

My favorite *not many other options* beach here in this island kingdom.  With Shamika from last April :)


2.25.2015

Turkey Trotting 2015

I was recently in Turkey, for a few reasons. Here they are: Istanbul, Gaziantep, Antalya...



the cats of Istanbul


on a walkabout to Moda for some cold beverages

kitty kat capsule hostels

Gaziantep

Ada sunshine

in the old quarter of Gaziantep

Chalet Settar








mating season

Nano Nano...

gallery hopping for the free booze



Antalya Archaeology



















with Jamila Jordan ELF :)



2.16.2015

Wassup?

Wassup?



Well, let me tell you all wassup right now with me.  March is marching right around the corner and the heat is slowly stepping up here in the Middle East.  I'm thinking that in 2 weeks I won't be able to drive with the windows down any longer and that air con will rule once again.  Perhaps the same for my interior living environment, but maybe can hold off the air con a wee-little bit longer...

I'm looking forward to a fast, effortless semester at the university to close down my Middle East experience.  I have made this place homey, yet it doesn't exactly feel like home.  That's fine because I am homeless :)  It doesn't really feel all that bad honestly.

I am already beginning to feel the 'disconnect' in knowing that I will be leaving Bahrain in summer.  I look at my 'homey' apartment and think, "what can I get rid of" before the move?  With every clothes-washing experience, I see more holes in my t-shirts. This makes me smile as I know its more to leave behind, and that those t-shirts served me well over the years.

There will be no lost love over dropping off my car upon departure... I have mostly gotten used to the reckless attitudes of the majority of drivers here, but some days my blood boils.  Yesterday coming home from the university at 4 pm (not a time I'm usually leaving the uni) there was more traffic- which means more shitty drivers... Two cars nearly slammed into me because they were in such a hurry to rid themselves of 'slow' drivers in front of them.  I've never experiences so many assholes on the road- I mean it. I should record myself driving. It would be a fun memory of a lot of my time here in Bahrain... In fact, I'm looking forward to simply walking and taking public transportation at my next location :)

What do I want to stock up on before I leave?  Well, Arabian perfume for one... No where better int the world to smell good as the ouds you can get in the souks here.  Also, Frankincense- from Oman.  Loads of it in fact.  Again, no better quality than in the region (that I've experienced so far anyway). I suppose I'll have to purchase a rug before I leave... I'm going to try really hard to NOT purchase any more books...Last, but certainly not least, I'm sure I'll purchase another pair of bejeweled sandals- my guilty pleasure. "I cling to bling" is my sandal motto now.

Well, this is wassup right now for me.  The impending move is still a ways away so I'll stop thinking about it now and get outta bed and get on with my day- which means I'll binge-watch Homeland Season 3 today...




1.14.2015

Tunisian Soulfood, and other revolutionary thoughts...





So much is on my mind: packing for Turkey, conferences in Turkey, PowerPoints to make for conferences in Turkey, getting my last day of work out of the way tomorrow and final grades confirmed and entered for the semester, etc.  There is so much to do yet I sit quietly in the dark next to the space heater (yes, it is freezing cold here in the Middle East) thinking about Tunisia.  Thinking about 4 years ago yesterday and today when a revolution not only swept a country, but swept through my being and consumed me.

I am thinking about my friends who experienced this event with me.  I am thinking about all the people I don't even know that witnessed this event.  I'm thinking about all the martyrs. I'm thinking about the New Tunisia of today.  The Tunisia that struggles to make something from all this.  It wasn't for nothing.  It doesn't guarantee something. Everyone is hopeful. Everyone is watching. Everyone is waiting. To see.

I am thinking about Ben Ali, the deposed dictator. Is he still in Saudi?  Is he living a life of luxury in exile?  I am thinking of all the people in the hospital that I stared blankly at while waiting for my friend solo_ojo to come out of surgery after taking a bullet for Tunisia.  I was roaming the halls of the hospital with Cyrus the Virus. I was carrying a box containing a bloody belt, a bloody pair of shoes, and a camera full of the day's fury. I couldn't understand anybody.  I was in a tunnel.  We all looked the same, grief-stricken. We were all freaked out, I'm sure.

Occasionally I would allow myself to look at the contents of the box.  I would not allow myself to cry- not yet.  It wasn't time.  Something kicked into motion inside of me.  Something I had no control over.  Something I'm sure that was a result of my father's influence on me.  My phone kept ringing.  It seemed a bother to answer.  It seemed a heavy task to accomplish.

I felt so alone, even though I wasn't.  I was surrounded by love. I was surrounded by passion. I was surrounded by revolution so fresh it was dripping crimson blood. Blood. I had it. I had it in me and on me.  I remember looking down at my running shoes.  My beloved gray New Balance running shoes, covered in blood. They weren't earlier in the afternoon...

There was a certain beauty to that murky afternoon. At this point in history, I realize I'm already starting to forget things- for whatever reason.  For whatever reason I don't want to forget anything.  I want to remember everything as it was, as it still is.  I realize I will continue to write about this because it's just so overwhelming- still. I want to feel every emotion I experienced then.  I want to remember that smell of tear gas.  I want to visualize over and over again all that I took in on that day, those days.

I thought about that day most of the day today.  I had an awfully busy day today. When the events of today were past me and I got home and turned on my computer, I opened FaceBook. I saw that many of 'us' were posting about THAT DAY, those days. It's not just me.  We are all doing it.  We are all honoring those memories of THAT DAY.  There's a comfort to that that is indescribable. I'm not sure why.

In the ensuing days there was so much tension.  There was so much laughter.  There was so much wonder. There was so much coffee and cigarettes... There was alcohol.  There was shisha. There were many late nights, watching movies.  I remember vividly staring down my window at the ground and seeing an army guy hiding beneath a palm tree. Maybe he wasn't hiding. I don't know. All the lights were out in my apartment and a few of us were watching a movie.  I remember thinking that the light from my little computer seemed so bright and that maybe it shouldn't be. 

I remember finally being able to come back into my neighborhood a few days later.  Everything felt different. Suddenly life was a slow-moving picture show in black and white.  Soon our neighborhood gang found out that solo_ojo had been shot.  Soon people started coming over to check up on him, on us. The rotisserie chicken guy came and brought us chicken.  It was our favorite.  We ate at that chicken joint 3 times a week- easy. Damn the way those chickens were stuffed full of Rosemary goodness...

Slowly life turned a new leaf.  We all came together to talk. To smoke. To drink. To share. To find moments of laughter. To be somber together. These days had an impact.  I might forget for long periods of time, but I can return at any time. I think this is what 'soulfood' is. Yes.

I'm stuffed on soulfood tonight. I think we all are. 

1.04.2015

Conversations with My Temple- otherwise known as: Unexpected Pleasant Encounters (UPE)



We should be so fortunate to live a life of Unexpected, Pleasant Encounters (UPE). For the most part, all my encounters are pleasant- expected or unexpected.  There are times though where it just comes out of left field. You wonder why, you analyze, but ultimately you just let it be and be grateful. 

2015 is but a few days old, and I have had an UPE.  As one looks back at a series of UPEs in their lives, one tends to look for a pattern.  As my father said, 'there is a pattern to chaos.' For me, most of my UPEs came about because I was doing something I loved to do.  Not always, of course, but the ones that stand out specifically right now happened this way. 

Physically and chemically, you wonder what is happening when you are doing something you love to do.  Again, for me, I'm taking the example of yoga. The endorphins, the increased oxygen-flow to the brain, the release of sweat that detoxifies to bring about an inner shine- all these 'things' produce something visible in me, or on me, I think.  In this heightened state, it's as if one is invincible.  The best of you on the inside is manifesting on the outside.  It is an attractor definitely.  I don't need to wonder about that. 

I remember writing years ago about how I felt most 'religious' when I was active in sports.  Perhaps that's the wrong term.  Maybe it's 'spiritual' or it's when I'm the closest at figuring out the secrets of humanity and the existence/purpose of Homo sapiens.  I don't really know.  But I know this is the state of reality that I like to dwell in.  Sometimes I lose sight of how vital this 'feeling' or 'energy' is to me, but not usually for long.  I know I can go through this inner turmoil about running.  There are just phases where I decide that I don't want to go out and run- for no reason at all really.  I can convince myself (my mind tricks my body) of this for random periods of time honestly, but that day when you return... THAT. 

What is THAT?  Yes, I love when my body frees itself from my mind.  Of course there are a lot of external influences that add to this internal ping-pong game of mind over body and body over mind.  Tag team, you're it.  Yep, just ride that wave long and far... For the past few years my living situation hasn't always been condusive to my inner desires manifesting itself outwards.  I'm certainly not walking around in a bikini 50% of my time over here.  I'm certainly not partaking in various recreational treasures that I'm so accustomed to.  I'm certainly not able to just pop into Mana Foods and buy organic produce (I can here, but it's so extremely expensive so in effect I can't).  I'm not living the irie life I've been accustomed to most all of my life.  But you know what, I can still obtain 'that feeling.' I have my means.

You adjust.  You find creative solutions.  You have no choice.  It is survival.  Keeping my mind and body clean is my survival zone. There are toxic environments wherever one goes.  The toxicity simply changes.  You learn your dose.  You learn your overdose.  There are days here when I overdose. I become so world weary that I simiply don't want to get out of bed.  What do I do?  Well, I don't go to yoga. I don't run (I effectively talk myself out of these healing activities). Instead, I grab my computer and hard drive and prop myself up in bed and watch movies all day and eat popcorn with Brewer's Yeast and Japanese spices on it.  I burn incense.  I make smoothies, etc.  Whatever it takes to make this Unexpected Unpleasant Encounter (UUE) more tolerable. 

Take this morning for example.  I was hungover (UUE) .  I was hungover because of a previous UPE... So, this is ultimately a good thing, right?  Right. Now, my previous intention was to go to Bikram Yoga class this morning at 8:30 am.  I didn't expect the bodyache that would result, and was thinking to cancel out of class.  Then I started to wonder, to analyze, and to ultimately become grateful- for the bodyache (UUE that resulted from UPE). I projected into the future and asked myself, "How will I feel at 10am today?"  My body answered, "F*CKING AWESOME HOLLY." Right then I knew, fly outta bed (I had 15 minutes to get up, shower and get outta the house) and head to Al Hamala.

Before class I was a bit nervous as I have been hungover before, sure.  But I've never been hungover and attended a Bikram Yoga class.  In a previous blog entry I've explained the concept of Bikram Yoga so my dear readers already know that it is grueling and performed in a heated room to 104º F. I wasn't sure what was going to happen, but I just gave in, or my mind gave into my body's will.  What resulted was incredible.  I had a KICKASS practice.  I stuck nearly every single standing pose in fine form and had no flexibility issues whatsoever.  I nailed it.  I owned it. I did have to burp a few times in order to breathe properly, of course. 

This UPE reminded me of another UPE in yet again another yoga class a few days ago.  There were 2 of us in class. We had personalized attention from our teacher.  We were 2 wayward souls on the same plane of existence inside the yoga shala.  We didn't even know each other, yet gained strength from one another. My first thought was, "wow, here is a dude that is a yogi." My 2nd thought was, "shit, his side crane posture is really nice." So here it is again, 2 units of energy heading for a collision- better known as an UPE. What is the connection? What is the sanctuary? YOGA.  Yoga and the ability for the body to overcome the mind.  Not simply 'overcome', but to innately desire to rule.

But I digress... Back to this morning... During Savasana (Corpse Pose), I just felt grateful.  Grateful that my body didn't listen to my mind.  Grateful that THAT still holds sway in my Queendom. I rolled up my yoga mats in a zen-like manner making sure that all sides were even and stood up.  On the floor was my shell- a pool of sweaty remembrance as to what I shed.  I shed my fear and came to class.  I shed my ego and let my soul free. I shed about 2 pounds of water weight no doubt in the process as well... I took one last look at that pool of sweat that I was lying in and slinked off- lighter and happier for the experience. It symbolized what my body achieved.  It laid waste to my mind and my former ego. It was like a bloodbath, that class. The battlefield of love and higher consciousness. No one really loses.  I mean, my ego will grow back.  My ego will attempt to destroy my body.  My body will fight back with love and overcome.  Love shall prevail.  Such is life: UPEs vs UUEs.

At the end of class another UPE materialized, in the form of a lovely Colombian woman. She came up to me to say that I was amazing and that she was just following me!  I did admit to her downstairs my dilemma and she laughed and said she was a bit 'fuzzy' as well from the previous night. So, not only something kickass was going on internally with me, but it was manifesting externally- enough that someone took notice and thought that it was helpful. 

My Temple knows...Time to feed it some Mana from the Gods.  That is currently translated as watching Season 1 of The Walking Dead.  I'll figure out something more creative to feed it tomorrow :)



12.31.2014

2014: Let it go effortlessly & bring in 2015 gracefully

I'm not one to look back.  I focus forward.  I'm on a trajectory, to where (spatially) I know not. Yoga is my cocoon. What I transform into, I have an idea.  I go forward with this. I like the metamorphosis. I like shedding. I want to dig deeper into this universe, and that means to burrow deeper into my psyche.

It all came to me in yoga class yesterday. I moved through the postures and it was so exquisite that I was left nearly breathless. In a world that is becoming increasingly difficult, in terms of strife, conflict and ego, I find it peaceful to be able to check all that baggage at the front door of the yoga studio.  Yes, it can even happen here in Bahrain.

This place... is such a dichotomy. There is something that weighs heavy on my heart currently: The politics of labor here.  The politics of pomp and circumstance.  I am white.  I have a blue passport.  I am privileged.  It is apparent every single day here. I don't forget it.  I can't forget it. Every public space I enter into here is constantly darkened when a worker addresses me by, "Madam." There are a lot of Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, and Filipino workers here (many more as well, but the most populous).  They have to address me this way.  It makes me sick.  Of the personal relationships I cultivate, it starts by forcing people to see me as simply 'Holly.'

Recently a yoga teacher called me 'madam' and I was shocked.  A yoga teacher is sensei.    A yoga teacher generates respect and gratitude and a sense of knowledge possessed that a practicing yogini or yogi wishes to attain.   I was silently screaming because we are both a product of our host culture, in which we, sometimes robotically fall into our expected personas.  I was screaming silently because I take for granted that I can shed that expected persona.  A true first-world problem to whine over certainly (and whine I did with red wine afterwords last night).

Another observation of mine includes for the task of adjustments during yoga class and the dilemma of male-female roles in this society.  A few weeks ago in class I observed that only the males in class were getting adjustments (from a male instructor).  As I was longingly looking at the glorious adjustment taking place on the mat next to me, it obviously showed on my face.  My teacher, bless him, looked me straight in the eye and asked if I wanted an adjustment.  I know I lit up at that moment. 

I don't know how else to describe my thoughts here on the subject.  I am grateful to practice yoga here in a traditional environment in a class that is not segregated- as all other yoga classes here are that I've found so far. Why do these issues persist in society?  Well it is a rhetorical question because I know the (my) answer.  Most all reading this blog know the answer.  We all remain silent on it though as it is barely tolerable and approachable subject matter.  For reasons I can't exactly share without a lot of painful back-peddling.

My freedom. My freedom to live a life where this isn't an issue is indeed an onus to contemplate over here where matters are more complicated. Maybe, though, I am looking at this from such an ingrained culture-bound angle that I can't see what is actually in front of me?

What do I do with this white privilege that lets me glide in/out of scenes in the Kingdom 'under the radar' so to speak?  I'm not complaining.  I'm contemplating.  I contemplate that as a western female, I 'get away with things here' that many can't pull off. My actions are simply shrugged off as permissible or tolerable because 'I'm not from here.'

Anyway, this is me. January 1st, 2015 2 6:30 am. I'm supposed to be in yoga class right now, but I decided to let the Gin/Tonics from last evening digest a bit more and attend 10 am class instead. Besides, it is chilly here in the Kingdom- 17º C (63F) and the kitties are snuggled inside my blanket purring.

Another year begins and im`ma just keep pondering and penning... namaste