Monday, December 13, 2010

Retreat (from an email to a buddy)

I went to a Vipassana Meditation Retreat in Thailand at the end of my trip. I'd always wanted to experience 10 days of silence so I found one that fitted into my travels and made my way south, despite weather forecast warnings of heavy rain, cyclones and tsunamis in the surrounding areas. I had no real knowledge as to what such a retreat would entail, through the grape vine I'd heard of a girlfriend who had found herself crying for 5 days and had had a life changing experience as a result of her experience. And others I met a long the way who had previously attended simply smiled and said, 'Enjoy' without disclosing anything more.

The setting was very close to nature, the property was a 25 minute walk from the main highway and the contrast from cement and cars to trees and tranquility couldn't have been greater. The architecture was very basic, open concrete halls - sturdy and practical, no adornments such as paint and only a few pictures of the founding Monk Buddhadasa Bhikkhu scattered sparingly around. The rest was nature, nature, nature! The dormitories were basic 3 by 4 square meter cubicles with a concrete slab for the bed, a straw mat for the mattress, a blanket, mosquito net and a wooden pillow to elevate your head during room had about 10 spiders in various ceiling locations, a gecko and some centipedes when I first entered and i think when I left there may have been more. There were 8 western toilets (which I cleaned each day as a chore) and 6 large water basins where one could fill their bucket and use to cleanse the body (no showers or hot water). There was however a natural hot spring which was available for our use twice a day, the water was 40 degrees and glorious!

The daily routine was as follows:

4am Wake up to bells chiming rhythmically for 10 minutes.
4.30 Morning readings.
4.45 Meditation.
5:30 body meditation (Yoga, Qigong and Tai chi),
7am Meditation/Dhamma talks.
8am Breakfast, Chores, own time (and hot springs).
10am Dhamma talk/meditation.
11am Walking meditation/sitting meditation
12.30 Lunch, chores, own time
2.30 Dhamma talk
3.30 Walking meditation/sitting meditation
5pm Chanting
6pm Hot chocolate/own time (hot springs)
7.30 Sitting and group walking meditation
9pm Bed
9.30 Lights out

All this in silence for 10 days. Some very committed people chose to also abstain from eye contact. Men and women were encouraged not to make eye contact as the opposite sex can be (are) a distraction :) Our dorms were separate and we did not share the same hot springs either.

This was a phenomenal experience for me.

I had been on the road for 4 months, I'd been through Russia, China, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia and each place had had a different vibe for me personally regarding my activities as a traveler, the latter two been quite extravagant regarding partying and indulgence, and I'd also had a resurgence of guilt regarding my ex-boyfriend as he had decided that he needed to distance himself from me for a period of time and had sent a couple of quite heavy emails raising question about my morality and choices I'd made. Upon arrival in Thailand my emotional stability was rocky and the over-touristic, hedonistic and consumer driven atmosphere of Bangkok was also affecting my better senses. I'd had 2 days of island tranquility before the retreat to try and calm my nerves before the silence and I was anxious as to whether or not I was in the right state of mind to attend such an event...the fear of falling apart nagging at me.

Upon arrival however all worries and fears dissipated and throughout the process I let go of so much baggage I had been carrying around...and all cause of breathing! Just focusing on breath! That's all the meditation was focused on, breath, breath, breath. Long breath, short breath...just being aware of breath. I was blown away. There was also a lot of information presented in the Dhamma talks about the principals of Buddhism and releasing the self, I, me and myself. As well as the cycle of suffering and how humans get tangled tangled in the web. I learnt a lot of theory and feel a lot more knowledgeable about Buddha, his journey and his legacy. The breath and practice of living now was the greatest gift I received though.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Journey Seems like a Dream

I am currently in Toowoomba, Australia with my Mum and Nikita. My little sister is no longer little, she is in her second last year of school and is pretty much a full blown human. My mother is well and currently in the process of movement, a new job requires relocation. And me, well...I'm here! I'm here right now in front of the machine and that's all I've got. Since I last blogged a tremendous amount of activity has occurred and no longer is...I passed through Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand and then arrived here in the land down under almost a week ago. It feels as if the journey was but a dream though, everything here and now is so real that 5 months of gallivanting from Europe to South East Asia does not feel real...and all I've got to show for it are a couple of Tattoos, some t-shirts and little nick-naks here and internal journey of course is a different ball game and the experiences will always exist in the fibre that binds my body and prevents me from falling apart. And I was honoured to have made some new friends along the way, I met some people who have made my smile stretch from ear to ear and generously shared time and space with such fervour and love for which I'm eternally grateful.

I shall try and share some stories and thoughts about the trip though, for it really did happen and I'm an altered human due to the wonderful journey that enfolded upon a whim. I succeeded in having a journey that took me to me and exposed me to new worlds and humans, new thoughts and experiences, new sights and energies, new food and emotions...There were ups and downs! There was sobriety and delusion! There were tears yet an abundance of laughter, silence and noise, darkness and light, fear and bravado and I was there for it all and came through the other end with a smile on my face and health in my system!

I wrote an email some days ago and decided to cut and paste parts of it, so here are some snippets:

"From China I headed down to Laos where I was swept into the relaxed and peaceful world of the Laos people. Things don't move very fast and things don't happen very quickly. A boat trip said to take 5 hours could take 8, a bus trip said to be 9 hours could take 16. There was no rushing and things just flowed and happened when they wanted to. In Laos there are places with no cars and the only way to access them is by boat. Once there the one road is shared with cows, pigs, chickens, children playing games and fellow humans on feet. People greet each other simply because they pass each other on the street and if in the know a simple greeting could take a few minutes because there is time for such interaction. The nature all of a sudden became subtropical and lush, giant butterflies fluttered about, leeches squirmed in the bushes, trees hovered above seemingly touching the sky and the different shades of green presented a pallet for the eyes delight. Wide and generous Smiles hopped from face to face and an acceptance of life's treasures sat secretly behind each face. Here Buddhism too had a hold of the people yet a simpler less ritualistic existence for the monks was evident (no mobile phones and fancy cameras were owned by the Monks as they were with the Tibetan and Chinese Monks). Barefoot they walked about begging for alms and spreading loving kindness and tranquility in their paths. Trips on boats along the rivers were for me a highlight, sitting in a boat and watching the world go by around me...and the world being one of wild tropical nature. Monkeys swinging in the trees and birds swooping about! The food was also a treat, tropical fruit shakes everyday, coconut water flowing at every corner, vegetables grown in rich soil not contaminated by pesticides or too much high technology, a tomato smelling and tasting like a tomato. A banana without the powdery taste of been plucked to soon from her tree....mangoes....dragonfruit....lychees.....hmmm....

Vietnam was a complete change from laid back Laos....all of a sudden things got faster and more efficient and organised. People became a bit less smiley and more determined to get their dollar from you, you who are just a tourist and a source of income. Beneath the strong exterior though one can always find the human and they too were good people even if they wanted you to believe otherwise at times. Communism became more apparent and red flags waved at every corner, especially in the North, around Dien Bien Pho (where they defeated the french) and Hanoi. Up in the North I visited a place called Sapa that was very chilled and relaxed in comparison to the rest of the county and there one could get lost in the mountains walking for days through different villages where the hill tribes of the H'mong people (and other tribes) live. Rice paddies dominated the landscape and the temperatures were cooler. The rest of my time in vietnam was along the tourist route and I traveled with a young man who lived to Party so together we partied from the North to the South. We ate some of the most delicious and fresh Vietnamese food...always the best food coming from the streets rather than the restaurants. We visited sacred sites but were often disappointed because a lot of it was done up post the wars and therefore had a feeling of being slightly fake and designed purely for the tourists enjoyment ... this was not always the case...just often! Halong bay was a highlight though, the Limestone Islets protruding out of the water were a sight and a half and cruising along on a boat to see them was pretty special. Very touristic which is expected as it is Vietnam's Eiffel tower in many ways so no escaping that.

From the Hustle and Bustle of Ho Chin Minh City I returned to tranquility, in Cambodia. It is the poorest of the South East Asian Countries and despite been so close to Vietnam and Laos was a new world once again. It's own history, it's own story and it's own way of doing things. The people too looked different and had a general different vibe to them. More smiles yet not with the same relaxed nature as the Laos. There are endless possibilities to volunteer ones services in Cambodia from being a presence in an orphanage to teaching English to local entrepreneurs. I didn't get involved with anything but met many who had and said it was an experience worth doing over and over again because in that way one is able to really connect to the people rather than simply purchasing food and accommodation from those running businesses. I had planned to speed through Cambodia over to Thailand but ended up staying almost 3 weeks. I met some really lovely people and just had to stop and breath after the wild partying adventures in Vietnam. There I spent time by the beach and entertained the many children selling what ever they could to the tourists in order to earn some cash. I let them paint my nails, give me massages, make bracelets and slowly but surely take money money money...being bombarded by children selling stuff was something I experienced only in Cambodia and it was pretty intense because they were business savvy and used the fact that they were cute kids to their best advantage, they would play on cuteness and if that didn't work they would try for empathy, "i need to buy new school uniform", "I have no parents" was a tough things deal with for me...especially cause I've worked with kids for the past 4 years, kids the same age as them...but again new experiences.

The ruins of Angkor Wat were pretty impressive and after 3 days of exploring that ancient Kingdom I was exhausted from all the stimulus. There were not so many tourists when I was there and I felt overwhelmed, I can only imagine what it must be like in Peak season! But they were amazing. In particular what stood out was the power of nature. The strength of the trees to burst through stone and engulf such big structures in her vines and roots. having a tree growing over a wall was just phenomenal!"

Until next time....

Love and respect


Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Technology sucks some times!!!!

I sat for 3 hours the other day and wrote one of my most epic blogs about my time in Laos and as I pressed publish I lost everything...I was so disheartened that I could not bring myself to spend any time, other than a quick facebook update, in front of the machine. So now I hope to build the stamina to share some of my adventures. I will not do it now as I have a day of exploring to do here in Hue, Vietnam but I wanted to write and say I am soooooo well and happy and that everything is going as it should. Love from me to you!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Sleeper bus and Farewell to China for now...

Last night I took my first sleeper bus! What a fabulous fabulous way to travel long distance. I took a 15 hour bus ride from Riga to Moscow and ended up with swollen feet and a sore back. On the sleeper bus from Dali to Jing Hong life couldn't have been better for my back or feet. Perhaps if I were a bit taller I would be complaining dramatically cause my height is the limit for a comortable journey I think. There were moments where I had to move my head back up to the top of the bed so my legs could regain the private was luxury and I had most splendid dreams. The only issues might have been the gas release of some of the passengers and the smell of the pillow and blanket but those are minor details in the grand scheme of things.

So, I am now in Jing Hong the capital of Xichuanbanna and I have entered a new world in my China horizons. Here it is a tropical paradise. Palm trees line the roads an oppressive and humid heat fills the atmosphere, the people are soooooooooo chilled out and relaxed and in the 10 hours I've been here i've seen 4 foreigners so I feel like I've left the tourist hoards up north in the cool of the mountains. The minority people here are dominant and I've also seen many Indian looking salesmen, perhaps they are burmese I don't know, but they are dark skinned and all speak English very well. They also wear a sarong and a white singlet, a uniform that sets them apart from the local inhabitants in their bright hats (or their modern get-up). The streets are lined with tropical fruit, mangoes, dragonfruit, mangostines, pawpaws etc...and earlier there was thunder threatening us with rain. I don't think it came though cause it seems fairly dry outside.

I won't be here long unfortunately and fortunately as I've bought my ticket for a Bus to Loas tomorrow morning at the crack of dawn. Dario is in Luang Prabang for another day or two and I don't want to miss him before he heads back to India his land of choice. So I will be leaving China...beautiful and wonderful China! It has really grown on me, of course I have only really seen but a fraction of what she has to offer but that has been enough to develop some serious feelings for her. I met a woman this morning who has travelled from Moscow to here as well and we shared our travel stories. She, I think is more of an adventurer than I as she walks and walks and walks when ever she gets the chance. In mongolia, where she spent a month, she found a stream and simply walked along it for 2 weeks then had to find a way to get back to carry on the train journey. Here she has reconnected with another traveller and tomorrow they're heading out to walk the hills here for 3 days or so...I'm envious of their commitement to walking yet I'm also satisfied with my commitement to relaxing and taking things pretty easy! We discussed different characters we'd met along the road and came to conclusion that part of the joy of travelling alone (as she was before she met the other traveller) was meeting other people and sharing time and space...I wrote of this last time and hold true to it. One of the reasons certain places are remembered with such fondness and stimulate joy in my heart are the people I've met. Having limited Chinese means that most of these people were other travellers (English speaking Chinese included) because there is only so far one can get with thank you and hello when it comes down to the nitty gritty of human communication. Meeting folk along the way has made the way more memorable and special! I'm sure there are travellers with different thoughts on this topic who would completely apose my theory and that's ok! I can only speak for myself.

I met a man yesterday who had travelled through South East Asia quite extensively and he was giving me tad bits of advice on certain places, Laos in particular because I was heading there. It was funny, he claimed to LOVE Laos and all that she had to offer yet by the end of our conversation I was sitting there frightened to move from safe and super developed China. ALL the roads are TERRIBLE, the people will TRY to take ALL my money like VUlTURES eating a carcass, the weather is AWFULLY hot and mosquitos will EAT me alive, the Food is EXPENSIVE and not as good as China, The accommodation is RIDICULOUS and not as cheap and reliable as China, the Trekking is MUCH better in CHinA etc....From all I'd heard about Laos before I felt terribly ignorant and foolish for having any positive now Laos will be a surprise! I'll expect nothing and just hope I survive the hoards of blood sucking mosquitos, the gulping, guzzling, grabbing locals reaching at my limited funds...ha ha! A new chapter awaits!

So from China I say farewell and next contact will be from Laos, mysterious Laos...

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Images from here and there.

The Monastary in Shangri-la was under construction. The soil was rich and the plants plentiful and where ever you looked one saw HUGE marijuana plants growing wild! It was at first a novelty to see the plants and I giggled like a kid at the sight and then I realised they were everywhere in the Monastary.

Lhasa Restaurant in Shangri-la was run by a super friendly Tibetan man who had a little girl about one and a half and when there was music playing she boogied hard! So we, a group of 8 gathered around her and danced and clapped as she attempted to immitate any dance she deemed worthy enough to be replicated. When she got tired of trying she would clap and we would clap in response and we danced for a good couple of hours with the point where she was yawning as part of her routine. She experimented with her head movement, walking like and egyptian, grinding down to the ground, shaking her behind was so beautiful! A friend has the video and if i recieved it I will post it.

Lijiang!!! The old town was a maze of endless shops and eateries and more shops shops shops then the bars and night spots. After having had very little sleep and a been on a bus for four hours we found our lodgings had a cat nap and set out to find food in the pouring tropical rain. We found a set of stalls selling strange little treats and took turns in choosing different options, some tasty some questionable and then by chance we stumbled upon the street with all the bars and entered the rhelm of MADNESS! Ay yay yay!!!! First of all there was a herd of umbrellas competing for space on the walking path and then the sounds started creeping up, LOUD pumping base from each bar, blasting, blaring beats from brightly lit bars with bundles of brawling shouting, singing people releasing their darksides into the anonymity of Lijiang. Each bar with different music and vibes ranging from traditional folk dance to sleazy and sauntry pretty chinese women bumping and grinding to techno beats with chinese lyric a top. It was never ending, one bar after another and then 20 more and on either side of the stream that divided the road. Each bar also had some hired man power attempting to lure the umbrella party into the bar to join the chaos inside! I walked with my jaw on my chest holding on to my friend as he signified a smidgeon of reality. I felt like i was having an outer body experience in a moulin rouge type movie, the colours the vibrance and noise the weight and the uncontrolled release of each was WILD!!!!!!

Shangri-la la la la la la Lijianggggg Dali

Shangri-la: a permanently happy land, isolated from the outside world.

Shangri-la is often used in a similar context to which "Garden of Eden" might be used, to represent a paradise hidden from modern man. It can sometimes be used as an analogy for a life-long quest or something elusive that is much sought. For a man who spends his life obsessively looking for a cure to a disease, such a cure could be said to be that man's "Shangri-La". It also might be used to represent perfection that is sought by man in the form of love, happiness, or Utopian ideals. It may be used in this context alongside other mythical and famous examples of somewhat similar metaphors such as The Holy Grail, El Dorado and The Fountain of Youth. (Thanks wikipedia)

Having just read what wiki had to say about Shangri-la I had to smile and sigh a sigh of joy because I had a most amazing time in Zhongdian, Yunnans claim to the 'Garden of Eden'. Perhaps I am a sucker cause part of my amazing time was due to the fact that I met an amazing man and a group of other amazing humans and together we indulgded in the excitement of sharing time and space in paradise.

Filling our bellies with good wholesome food,
gracing our ears with glorious and diverse musical sounds,
moving our bodies in extatic flow,
telling tales and inspiring laughter that took me to tears of joy at times, appreciating the surroundings and knowing that the fun together was impermanant and should therefore be enjoyed in each and every second of experiencing it!
I felt as though on fire for 6 days, intoxicated by life,
elated by the simplest of activities...

Shangri-la was spent playing backgammon,
sipping on tibetan butter tea (good for the altitude i was told),
visiting local markets filled with some of the most exotic produce I have ever seen!
Cabbages the size of my torso,
aubergines the length of my shin,
frogs the size of toads-ranging in shades of green-
bunched up in buckets waiting to be sold
and consumed in some local speciality,
Eels swimming happily,
darting back and forth in their oxygynated tanks
daring the brave to take them home,
Yak heads delicately placed besides their intestines
beneath their hanging and dangling carcasses,
some with smiles on their faces others with scorns of remorse!
Tofu in all shapes and sizes, noodles galore,
black chickens and pink, live ducks and dead,
Green leaves from all walks of life,
Mint in abundance - so fresh and delicious
especially in morrocan tea which we made for 3.5 yuan
and supplied to over 15 folk.
Honey dripping from the honeycombs
and poured directly into ones container,
so sweet and sticky and golden and delicious!
grasshopper and snails,
trotters and pig tails...
I ate lots of dumpling and steamed buns,
I drank Yak milk with yak butter tea,
I ate yak pie which was absolutely DELICIOUS!!!
and drank chinese rice wine till my head span.

And I mentioned I met a man...

The woman in me was awoken once again. I'm a sucker for a romance and realise more and more that this little heart of mine loves to love and to be loved in return! Yet short and sweet serves me fine right now, nothing long term and complicated I seek. This time of my life is for me to do what's best for the betterment of me and if I continue to be as lucky as I have been in meeting special men just for a short time then I adhere to the saying, better to have love and lost(lust) than never loved at all! Each fleeting relationship with each traveller I have encountered has been so intense and wonderful not because they'll be friends for life but in the moment it is real and the bullshit isn't apparent! I've had some of the most incredible conversations which have opened my eyes to different worlds. Discussing the army with some Israeli travellers and hearing their stories first hand of losing friends and loved ones, or gaining insight into what it's like for a Tibetan from Lhasa to be living in China...the act of sharing so simple and clear.

The slight downside of experiencing such blissful moments is that when the next step of the journey is taken the emptiness sits. I sat with emptiness when I arrived here in Dali two days ago. Not sadness or depression just a sense of loss and the natural feeling of missing the people you spent time with. I missed Noa my Koala friend. I missed the lovely man I shared 6 days with, I missed the lady who sold me butter tea and the friendly faces of the staff at my hostel. So I spent some hours in front of the machine facebooking and emailing, youtubing and skyping, I slept for 16 hours straight and woke up yesterday feeling like a new human ready for new adventures! So now I am in Dali for real and last night I met a new group of troupers. I did some fire twirling last night for the first time in 6 years and despite being a bit nervous with the fire I had so much fun and will go back to the Bad Monkey and join in the fire show tonight. My heart was racing so fast i thought it would pop out of my chest from the rush that came after having first played again. the whirling whooshing sound of the fire surrounding me was just fantabulous!!!

I also spoilt myself and indulged in a traditional chinese whole body massage which was heavenly, at times a bit painful but the release after the pain was worth it...I am tempted to go back today for another foot massage because I can! I spent the rest of my day yesterday browsing through the endless stream of shops shops shops selling everything and anythings one could ask for! I bought some pants and now have to throw out some pants cause my back pack cannot fit much more innit! I considered being a good tourist today and visiting some of the local attractions but I must admit I do not have the heart for it. My desire sits in being able to sit at a nice cafe with a book and inbetween reading about Ghengis observing the local and tourist masses cruise control around the old city drinking either some fruit juice or a beer and being open to human interaction if it should come my way. I'll be leaving for The south of Yunnan province tomorrow evening and hope to be in Laos by wednesday to see my beautiful friend Dario!!!! Very exciting!

And on that note, here's a poem my man friend shared with me:

There is pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
There is society, where none intrudes,
By the deep sea, and music in its roar:
I love not man the less, but Nature more,
From these our interviews, in which I steal
From all I may be, or have been before,
To mingle with the Universe, and feel
What I can ne'er express, yet cannot all conceal.

LORD BYRON, Childe Harold


Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Litang to Doacheng and Yading!

Right now I feel like a million dollars in fact a billion dollars! I'm in Shangri-la and have been having the most wonderful couple of days. My last blog I spoke of the loneliness and like a I predicted, in no time i would meet some super humans, I did. I met a lovely lady traveller coincidently heading in the same direction as me. We decided we would journey to a national park called Yading together and explore all that is to be discovered so we set off in a mini van with a very energetic Tibetan driver and a windy road ahead (every road in the mountains seems to be windy and slightly bumpy). We arrived in Daocheng to a very cosy little hostel with a gorgeous garden...the garden was filled with flowers, some vegetables and at least 15 huge canabis plants towering way above my head. The lady working there spoke immaculate english and we were able to acquire all the necessary information about our journey to the national park....Rubber boots, poncho,warm clothes, good lungs, lots of enthusiasm and a great sense of adventure! So i spent some money (too much i'm told) on a fancy rain jacket, strange but pretty rain boots(pretty cause they had upsidedown hearts on them...made for a lady like I) and some thick socks. We set off at 8 and the ride there was beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. Misty blankets covering the hills, smoking steam rising from the mountains, small showers inbetween blue skies which kept us slight optimistic about the weather and also anxious about the inevitable rain and what that would mean for seeing the snowy mountains we so eagerly awaited.

After 2 hours our 3 hour journey came to an abrubt stop outside a slightly official looking building...our driver went out and chatted with his fellow Tibetan driver comrades, returned and told us to get out with our bags...(his english was limited) so without choice we got out with our bags wondering if this was Yading??? Yading??? Yes? No? Finally an English speaker explained that the driver could go no further and that as of today tourists entering Yading have to take an "official" bus which cost 120 yuan (which is madness cause there was only an hour left) So having no choice and slight frustration at having to pay for the bus and the entrance fee we set off once again, now with an English speaking super energetic Tibetan man who took us under his wing. He decided we would sleep at the same hostel (which he luckily organised) and that we would walk together too...which was great! So the 7 of us (3 chinese, 1 south korean, 1 israeli, 1 tibetan and myself) set of up the mountain to see one of the sacred snowy mountains and pearl lake. We were about 3900 meters above sea level and heading up to 4200. It was a bit of a struggle with the altitude working against us and it was worth it. the air was fresh, the scenery spectacular and we were moving, i was moving. On the road i've felt a little lazy at times and the need for physical activity has been sought when possible...stairs or escalator? stairs! The array of scents was also so refreshing and I felt so content with life and her presents. My new friend Noa from Litang is a Koala and koala as you may know take there time but she was so good and despite not feeling up for the walk completed it succesfully and when we sat at pearl lake (which was green, emerald green and very very tranquilo with the cloud covered mountain in front of us) we all felt utterly content and blissful. Many many photos were taken and many many poses were done, created and done again...the most popular being the jump in the air and hope the photographer captures the moment. We hung up there because we were happy and also with the hope that the mountain would clear and we could see her majesty in all her glory! And with all our hopes and some prayers she cleared and she blessed us with her naked presence. She was pretty amazing!!! the contrast with the green lake and the pine trees surrounding it with the rock snow covered mountain towering in the back and reflecting in the water was a sight indeed! once the cloud covered again we decended and food became the next mission (as it often is).

We stayed at a Tibetan run hostel and ate a most delicious dinner cooked and eaten in their kitchen. Lots of delicious spice, veges and Yak! My introduction to yak had started and continues to sneak into my list of consumptions.

The next day we arose before dawn ate a hearty local breakfast of butter tea, rice porridge, runny fried eggs, freshly baked round barley bread and a porridge that took me back to my child hood (it tasted like pro-nutro). Then we set off for the big climb. we were to walk 4km, take an electric car for 8km. walk for 8km (uphill the whole time) see two more beautiful lakes, take photos, walk back 8km, take the electric car for 8km, walk back 4km and then take the bus back to Daocheng....Yes! Ok! No problem! How many hours? 5 hours...No problem! Ok! Lets go! And off we went. My Koala friend was not up for it so she took her time and decided she would not go the whole way...the sky was filled with grey weeping clouds and after the efforts of the previous day our bodies were a bit more tried and tested. My enthusiasm was tenfold and i was ready to run up the mountain if possible. We walked up the 4km in 45 mins no problem. we took the electric car which was slightly chilly and wet but we got where we needed to be to start walking. We walked on the wooden platform and all was copasetic. we started walking on the grass towards the mountain and discovered that it was grass yes, but it was marshland and it was getting wetter and wetter. I felt happy to get out my pretty rain boots...I was the only one the rest were wearing shoes similar to converse!!! material and non weather resistant! As we started towards the trees away from the marshes the mud became apparent. A group of tibetan cowboys then came over and offered us to take some horses for the small fee of 300 yuan. Of course we refused and they insisted that it would be a long and tedious walk because the paths were filled with mud and horse dropping, there were streams and small rivers, there were steep passes and mere mortals would not be capable of doing it....we still refused and laughed at their dramatic speech and their good salesmanship...we were not going to fall for it...we were set to trek up the mountain come what may!

And up I went ahead cause i could with my superrain boots. Then i'd wait for the others to catch up and so the journey went. the mud was at times so intense and gluggy. the horse droppings were everywhere both a hindrance and a good indicator of which way for me to go and the others to avoid and seek alternative routes through the trees to limit the disaster to their shoes. After 3 hours we reached a mountain. it was raining fairly consistantly and the lakes were still not apparent. My patience was being tested as i now had to wait much longer periods of time for the rest of the troupe to catch up and was groing anxious about the journey down and back to doacheng in the light hours of the day. I walked for a further half an hour steadily up and then my instinct said turn round go back...the lakes would just be a cherry on top, the journey was the most important. And so I did...i simply started walking back. I came accross the troup who were struggling but determined to go the 9 yards. So i continued back and they continued up. I walked in the mud, the poo, the water much more carelessly than the way up. I almost feel many times and hunger started creeping up on me. I made it back to the bus stop, wet, muddy, hungry but still happy for the journey i'd had so far. still optimistic and filled with the joy of being in nature and moving. So i waited for the bus...and waited...and waited...and waited...(it rained and the chilled wind blew)...and i waited. And my patience once again was tested. My thoughts wandered along the paths of, 'what kind of service is this...i paid money and expect that a bus should come....and how dare they demand so much money and not deliver the goods...this wouldn't happen in europe or Oz...thee people know nothing of service...and started to deteriorate to, fucking hurry up and get here!!! after 50 minutes finally an electric car came filled with chinese tourists and cameras! I was so relieved and my former slanders were forgotten. So i enthusiastically sat in the car and indicated that we should go...and the driver indicated that we had to wait for the tourists to return from taking photos. so I waited more...half an hour later i was in tears and swearing to no one. I kicked the benches and swore the families of the drivers. I cursed and spluttered and shouted to the deaf heavens...the drivers sat stared at me with blank expressions and I continued to insist that we should go NOW!!! NOW!!!! NOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! eventually another bus came and he took me back face teary, heart and soul so consumed with Anger and frustration and disdain for all who crossed my path. One of the men in the car tried to practise his english with me and i told him not to talk to me or i'd cry! he stopped! once i got to the bus stop I started running, running down the hill as fast as i could, running like a crazy woman...i don't run usually, and yet running seemed like the most natural thing to do. i stomped in the mud, the shit, the puddles and just ran ran ran...when i reached the entrance i round Noa the koala, ate 8 big steamed buns and we set off for Daocheng.

My head was throbbing and the adrenalin pumping through my body was immense. I had not in recent times felt so ANGRY!!! And it was magnificent...FEELING!Feeling is amazing!

And now i must go and eat breakfast....Shangri la will be the next installment!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Loneliness creeps in unexpectedly

I left Kangding yesterday to journey further west towards Tibet on a bus that was due to leave at 6.30am. Bags packed shower had I set off at 5.45 feeling a bit sad to say good bye to Zhilam and two wonderful people I met there. I was honoured to spend the last 3 days in Kangding with Marcella and Bernardo, a couple who have cycled from Italy to here...we had a super relaxing time together, watching 5 Adam Sandler movies, eating flat yummy pasta from a muslim restaurant, dumpling soup which was so delicious and they introduced me to some of sichuans sweet treats. It was such a joy hanging out, so easy and super!

The bus journey was you'd expect heading into the wild west should be wild! I met 4 young gentlemen travelling on my bus and attached myself to them. They were 4 friends travelling together after not having been together for 4 years or so and this boys trip was their special thing. we had some complications on the bus for we sat and then were told to move to another bus so we moved and we sat and then were told to move back to the other bus but when we returned the only seats available were at the back and i had been warned specifically not to sit at the back on the road to Litang...well having no choice we sat at the back and boy was it a bumpy ride. i hit my head on the bus roof 3 times and was constantly on guard to protect myself from oncoming bumps in the road, of which there were many!!! well well...8 hours later we arrived at litang which is really cool. Tibetan architecture for homes is complete different to chinese and it's so charming. there are MANY tanned, long haired, leather jacket wearing, tall, handsome tibetan men on motorbikes cruising around as if on horses. the women wear long elegant dresses with their thick, long beautiful braids either wrapped around their heads or dangling behind. the old folk walk around with their individual spinning prayer wheels or the beads, chanting under their breaths and allow themselves to be interrupted when addressed, tashideli (which means something along the lines of may you be blessed...though i'm not 100% sure of that).

So yesterday upon arriving i cruised up and down the one street, identified my surroundings then headed back to my hostel. on my way i bumped into the four boys (they stayed in peace hostel) who were heading out to eat together. I said farewell and continued on my the hostel i sat alone and the pangs of loneliness all of a sudden crept in and sat with me. I guess i've been spoilt so far with meeting lovely folk where-ever i've stayed and spend quality time and space sharing food and good vibes and all of a sudden i felt alone. It was momentary as a german couple and I began chatting and we ate dinner together and shared stories and laughter. then slumber came and i met a new lady, a new yorker jewish journalist who had worked in Zimbabwe for a few years and knew some of mom and dad's friends from Harare...small world! We chatted before falling asleep and I arose a new woman, energized and ready for the world. the restaurant was empty so i wandered the streets for food to eat and the loneliness walked beside me silently as not to frighten me too much. I ate, i watched handsome tibetan men walk past, i wandered to the monastary walked up a hill then another all the time alone with my thoughts...and i felt that the solitude was something i had to acknowledge. So i walked further up and further away from the town, heart pumping, breath short, mind determined...and after some time i reached a peak only to see more peaks and worry started creeping in because i'd heard of a man walking on his own and breaking his leg and the rescue mission only being possible cause he'd had a phone on him and i left my phone cause no one is due to call me and then what would happen if i slipped cause the rocks were slippery and a slight drizzle was falling and the hill was steep and.....many many many more thoughts started overwhelming my little head then i heard a GONG from the monastary and it reminded me to breath. so i took a deep breath and began to laugh. I could walk down the hill and be safe and if i got wet it would be ok and there was such an amazing view and it didn't matter that i was witnessing it alone and plus if i fell and broke something...i'd have to deal with that point anticipating it. I stood for a while let the drizzle dampen my physical state and calm my mental freak out and breath access my inner core. I made it down the hill with many words of encouragement from me to me to keep me motivated and safe (it was steep and slippery and raining). I made it down safely and smiled all the way back to the hostel. The loneliness now sits on my lap warm and cosy and the reality is I am alone! But now i'm ok with it and shall enjoy it while it lasts cause i'm sure soon i'll meet more super humans and share time and space once again.

I've lost FB access's cold up here in the mountains (i'm over 4000 above sea level up altitude problems for me :) My room is warm and cosy and clean. the food is good. the men are pretty...though i don't think i'm pretty to them...i was warned that the men were predators with their eyes when it came to foreign women but i've only received curious gazes rather than lusty leers. I've stimulated laughter too amongst some kids and ladies who find my hair style something alien and laugh worthy...kind laughs though.

I'll continue to shangrila tomorrow and will draw closer to Laos.

love and respect!


Friday, August 20, 2010

Back in Business Baby!

It seems like a thousand years since I wrote on the blog and I have missed sitting in front of the square screen writing and releasing thoughts and ideas. I wrote a few times along the way and posted them earlier when I discovered a secret agent way to access my blog (and facebook) here in Ching chong Super China. I am currently in Kangding which is about 10 hours east of Chengdu (which has a population of about 13 million people!) Kangding in comparison has about 30 000 which is super! It is also located in the mountains and is the beginning of my exposure to Tibetan people which is exciting...on my arrival I was unable to stay in the hostel i wanted to due to a landslide complicating exits and entrances to Kangding from Chengdu so i stayed in a Motel (offically registered for foreigners to stay in) There were no people there so I had a 3 bed dorm all to my self for 30 yuan a night...happy was I. And i could wander up the hill to the hostel for social interaction. I was lucky cause on the day I arrived there were many very nice people. John, a melbourner, took me under his wing and took me to a nice restaurant for dinner, then the next morning took me to a local Tibetan Monastary to observe the beginning of a seven day celebration to commemorate the coming of Buddhism to Tibet. We spent over an hour listening to the prayers which was so hypnotic and without intending to get into a meditative state one is drawn to a higher consciousness purely because the chanting and singing and random instrumental bursts evoke a state of delirium and bliss that had me feeling like a little kid filled with love love love. One of my observations that made me even happier was that the monks were only human. I say this because during the prayers there were some young guys yawning and pulling faces, i saw one guy stick his tongue at another one who then laughed and pulled a face back at him. I saw some of the guys wriggling and trying to make themselves more comfortable, some looked as if sleep was drawing nearer and nearer and then they would spring back into life because the clang of the cymbals invoked a waking state once more. And after the prayers there was a general consensus of being glad to be done with the prayers. I mean i'm sure they were happily doing it as anyone would happily do their job, and that's what being a monk is, a job! their job is to pray and hold religious ceremonies and know about the scriptures whereas my job at school was to look after munchkins or teach English....anyway the session was wicked. Afterwards they prepared for the dancing and then they danced in pretty dresses to the music made by monks blowing into super long horns, drums and bells. I felt honoured to be there amongst the people who were there for more traditional reasons. The Tibetans in my oppinion are very beautiful, like the Mongolians but different. They are generally taller and once again, some of the men are HOT HOT HOT! The women too are beautiful. And i have observed that the men are more forward than the chinese men with their female radars have been on alert more often with stares from tall handsome dark tibetan cowboys....i'm told this only gets more and more the further west I go so...more on that. I don't have any intentions of finding a husband here though but window shopping is always accessible(with caution).

After the Monastery i went and extended my Chinese visa because i want to be able to take my time on the way to Laos. the police man was so nice and kind and friendly and now i have an extra month in China....yippee! The rain then came and I went to the hostel to befriend anyone willing to chat with me. Kangding i must tell you is in the mountains and is so beautiful. There are constantly clouds hovering above the trees and cluttering around the pinnacle of the surrounding hills. there is the sound of flowing water constantly gracing my ears as the river rushes below us like a wild stream that would be filled with white water rafters.

I met some really lovely lovely love people that evening, there were 5 Israeli traveller's and a couple of Beautiful Spanish men with whom I spent the evening with laughing and sharing stories with. We as a group had a good rapport and I was grateful for the simple fun of sitting and chatting and sharing. I found the two Spaniards very attractive (not sexually but humanly) and yesterday I spent the morning with one of them visiting another temple, meditating, laughing and chatting, we had a really great chemistry and I felt like he was an old old friend, their departure was sad and beautiful...a big long bear hug and a mutual understanding of having shared a beautiful 15 hours in each others worlds at this crossroad in our journeys. I hope our paths will cross again one day. Travelling exposes one to many people and some just hit the spot immediately, others there is nothing and some can also infuriate you within seconds...ha ha!

Now I am at the hostel and there are many new people but my desire is to zone with my book and drink my tea. I went for a nice walk up a hill this morning with one of the lovely ladies working here and the views were stunning. I'll stay here a day more and enjoy the clean showers and toilets before i start my journey into the Tibetan "wild west" and then south towards Shangri-la.

I am well and happy and my heart is bursting with so much love and lust for life. I have had time to reflect on my last few months and years and I my heart has such a great spot for Norway and all the friends and loved ones I have left. I miss Aleksander very much and his company I often would like to have on the journey to share certain moments. I also remember the people whom I spent my time with both at work and socially and smile deeply inside because I feel so lucky and blessed to have been accepted and loved by so many beautiful people...I still know that I am moving in the right direction and that my departure was necessary without a doubt. I need this period of time to grow and further develop and expand. Birralee gave me a farewell present which I wear everyday, a chain with an open heart, Trude said that all the loved ones that i was leaving behind are around the heart travelling with me where ever i go and that as i move I will meet people of whom i can place in the heart and they too will be with me henceforth and I really feel the love of all with me when i fondle my heart around my neck.

And now back to Genghis and his world take over.

love love love and more love!

Some Old Information I wrote along the way.


Thomas and I visited one of the remnants of the Great Wall of China yesterday which was pretty spectacular. The Chinese are indeed a superior people in terms of their architecture and development! Some of their achievements are beyond belief. The wall is so magnificent and grander than life. Thomas says that it was for him a similar experience to observing the achievements of the Egyptians when building the Pyramids. China has so far exceeded my expectations in every way, perhaps because I had no idea what to expect, so everything is very impressive. Beijing is really amazing, for a city with such a big population everything seems to be in perfect order and working accordingly. The streets are clean, the people are not on top of each other, the public transport is impeccable, the taxis have AC and are always available, the food is incredible (and very nicely priced). We have not done much exploring yet but the little we've seen has been super.

On our arrival we were exhausted after 36 hours on the train (which was a story in itself as we met an extraordinary couple who have been travelling the world and writing books for the past 45 years...they were an incredible source of information on different topics of interest) so we went to our hotel and slept for a few hours letting our minds process the huge amount of information we were exposed to in such a short time, not to mention Beijing itself with it's grandness! We then decided we needed food, so the guide book recommended to go to a lake where lovers stroll in the evenings. When we got there....wah wah wee wah! It was nothing like my mind had conjured up. There were at least 15 restaurants in a row, 20 bars with live musicians in each one, 6 discos, markets stalls, people swimming, senior citizens playing cards, pretty ladies selling roses, thousands of people- Chinese and foreign, people playing a foot game with a badminton-like ball, middle age couple dancing rock and roll to techno music, boats in the lake and of course, the lake itself in the centre of all this. There was another lake with a similar set up further north but we decided one lake was enough. So we first found a bar and once again allowed our minds to process the new batch of information, whilst listening to Chinese love ballads sung by a duo with a guitar. We then kept wandering until we found a suitable restaurant with such an abundant array of food that it took us a thousand years to decide on what to eat. We finally chose: special healthy vegetable from the North(which were leaves with vinegar on them, fresh and crunchy), Chrysanthemum and Bean Curd Salad with peanut decorations, Aubergine fried with Green chillies and a variety of meats and fish in a soup. We were sooooo full afterwards!!! Last night we tried 4 different dishes at a different restaurant more local and have set ourselves the task of trying a different dish every time we eat out.

Thomas is set to depart on Wednesday which will be a sad parting, it has been so wonderful spending time with him and getting to know him better. I feel very lucky to have him as a mentor figure in my life! We have had many a good laugh, great conversations and have also managed to sit in complete silence doing our own zoning!

We decided to go and see the Beijing Opera the other evening and it ended up being an acrobatics show. It was really entertaining and there were many amazing things to see like dudes juggling hats whilst climbing on top of each other, really flexible humans building pyramids on each other and the best was dudes on bikes riding in a big metal ball. Initially it was one dude and i was really amazed, then a second dude joined him in there and my jaw was on my chest, then a third dude joined him in there, my jaw fell to my lap, and then....yup...a fourth dude joined him my jaw fell to the floor, i'm tempted to say there was a fifth dude but my memory fails was mind boggling!

I lost my camera (again) so no longer have access to my photos that I took from Moscow to Beijing. I think I left it on the train. I was quite upset about it yesterday until I decided it's just as easy to take mental snapshots and savour the moments. So I'm not going to buy another camera for the time being and just become really good at taking in the moment and really being present no matter what!


I left Beijing at 6.50 on Wednesday morning and was happy to be on the move again after having stayed at Joe's for a week of resting, sleeping and reading I was well in the mood for new adventures. The journey to Xi'an was divided into two, and the first 5 hours of the journey to Zhengzou were for me without at seat. I was lucky to be able to sit for the first two hours but the last three saw me standing in the restaurant carriage(even though I tried to sneak into the first class seating and got shooed away like a dog with rabies by the carriage attendant) with numerous other seat-less Chinese. They were really friendly folk and I ended up befriending young man (Timmy) on his way to seal a busines deal and a lovely lady who communicated with me through her mobile phone translator. Upon arriving in Zhengzou the lady escorted me to the sitting hall for the next train, gave me a Zhengzou specialty sweet made of sugar and Tamarind and we shared smiles and the joy of sharing time and space despite language barriers.

The train to Xi'an was really really fancy, it looked like a rocket, white and sparkling and it was really lush inside. I spent the journey roughly planning out the rest of my trip and realising that the 19 days remaining on my journey are going to be jam packed with movement....well well! I think to travel in China one needs time and whilst waiting for my Vietnamese visa in Beijing time tick ticked away. It was HOT walking out of the the train station a humid and oppresive heat that immediately got the sweat glands working over time. I was with a lovely British couple and we attempted with all our luggage and sweat to flag down a Taxi rather than stand in the Taxi line...unfortunately and quite comically we failed on that mission and ended up splitting ways. They took a more expensive alternative of transport and after more taxi failure I eventually opted for the public bus which was well wonderful! It cost 1 yuan!!!!! And took me where I needed to be so I was very proud of my efforts! A system of instant rewards was in play so once I had checked in to the hostel and breathed I went and had a Chinese foot massage!

WOW! It was so glorious...I ready somewhere that in order to balance out the energies, when having a foot massage, women massage men and men massage women so when my man came into to take me to a higher level I was not surprised what did however surprise me is how my body reacted simply because it was a man touching me! He was strong and he was firm with his touch and I simply resolved to let him manipulate my body as he pleased. It was 90 minutes of bliss and I'm going to go back today!!! After the massage i realised that I was I found a restaurant sat and ordered a soup and a plate of beans cooked with chilly! What came was shocking, it was GIGANTIC! The soup bowl was the size of a bath (OK just a HUGE salad bowl) and the beans were enough to feed 5. Then they brought some rice and some pickles and a few cups of tea! I ate myself silly and resolved to eat with folk from now on, eating solo isn't easy in China!

Back at the dorm I sat and pondered pondering items lost in a world of being well fed and watered, not to mention manipulated and relaxed...then three young very friendly Chinese women surrounded me and started inquiring into my journey, they later revealed that they were lesbians and wondered what I thought of Lesbians. The more masculine woman then went on to tell me that one of the other girls was her wife and asked me if I thought she was beautiful, I responded accordingly as she was cute and they were very chuffed with that, soon they left and I retired to my dorm where I met my roomies organised to go and see the terracotta warriors and slept like a BABY!!!!

The adventure to see the terracotta warriors started at 9:30, Talita (a very cool Dutch lady) and I set off to take the bus to the station, then the local bus to the warriors. Check! Got to the station found the 306 and joined the enourmous queue. Then Mikki and David joined us as they recognised Talita from the dorm and the four of us became a Terracotta Team. We arrived, and headed for the entrance taking our time stopping along the way to shelter from the rain and simply enjoying the journey ahead. We tried some terrible deep fried tofu, I had some coconut water, we considered the possibility of needing to have bought tickets earlier on decided there had to tickets at the entrance and kept going! Of course when we got to the entrance we were informed by a kind young man that we had to buy them from the ticket office which was where we came from with the bus but that he just happened to have some tickets on him and that he could sell them too us for 100 rather than 90 because he would save us from having to walk all the way back! Ha ha!

So we walked back and then the rain really started bucketing down, cats, dogs and a few baby elephants. The stairs turned into waterfalls, the streets into flowing streams and we were saturated. We eventually made it to the ticket office bought our tickets and started back again, but baby elephants turned to full grown African kings, the cats to tigers and the Dogs to wolves so we sought shelter and proceeded to crack the coconut and indulge in the tasty white nut of life! We sheltered for about half an hour and then decided to take the journey come what may, all the way to the warriors and we succeeded successfully! The warriors were definitely worth the visit! Amazing what man is capable of! Each soldier wore a different face with so many different intricate details and so many soldiers for ones man desire to be successful in the afterlife! After having seen all three chambers and worn out the desire to explore any more we sat and waited for David who we thought was still in there...he never came out and my imagination created a number of scenarios that included him being placed in a warrior and kept we left our quatro down to three, our energy down to a minimal and our bellies craving more MSG (food). Food became the next mission so the journey to a restaurant was glorious!


I am currently in Chengdu, Sichuan State, staying at Nova Traveler's Lodge which is a super clean and cheap backpacker joint. I've been here for two nights and am going to stay for 1 more night. I left Xi'an on Friday the 13th and took a (spooky) sleeper train. The people in my 6 sleeper compartment were really lovely, there was a family and two students. The family comprised of 5 people, grandma, grandpa, mother, father and little daughter of six who was so cute and adorable and also a little bit spoilt. She received oodles amounts of affection from her 5 guardians and was the centre of their world. She was very cute none the less and I enjoyed their company very much. The two ladies were student of economics and when I asked whether they enjoyed their studies they clearly communicated that they did not enjoy it at all but felt they had no choice in the matter of what they studied.

The train journey was extremely comfortable and the 16 hours went by so quickly. Upon arrival in Chengdu I was met by a lovely tall Chinese man with blue contact lenses and a generous smile. He quickly informed me that he was gay and was working as a volunteer at my hostel during his university break. He is studying marketing and when I asked if he was enjoying his course, he clearly communicated that he did not enjoy it at all but felt he had no choice in the matter of what he studied...hmmm...could there be a trend of kids studying something they don't want to?

I must mention here that I had not been to the toilet for a number two in 4 days and was beginning to get anxious because as those of you who know me know, I can be a little anal retentive when it comes to my great joy in cleansing out my system on a daily basis! 4 days is the longest I've gone without any bowel movements in a VERY long time and my body offered no indication of wanting to change that situation. SO I decided to consume some glorious fruit and fibre because the toilets at the hostel are impeccably clean and there are sitting toilets rather than squatters...HURRAY! I went for a walk towards the centre of town, where I saw a number of sights that were astonishing. Firstly there was the mobile phone district, where there were literally over 200 shops selling mobile phones or various shapes and sizes, colours and brands. I've never seen so many phones in my life and they were all next door to each other and so many of the shops had so many people and each one checking out one or more phones! CRAZY! I then found the central square which had dancing fountains. There was very loud Chinese classical music playing and the fountain which was about 100 metres long had a dazzling show which seemed to be synchronized to the music. There were thousands of Chinese tourists taking their photo in front of the water display. I started needing to pee there and was not game to try the public toilet so opted to keep on walking towards the park i was heading for. The need to pee got more and more desperate and eventually I was dancing along controlling myself from grabbing my bits in public and literally keeping the pee in. I saw a nice looking hairdressers so stopped in for a pee and a haircut. The haircut was amazing (as was the pee) I have designs in the side of my head the the Mohawk has never looked better!

The peoples park was splendid, there really are some beautiful parks here in china. The lake had goldfish and rowing boats, the trees were well kept and looked very exotic to my eyes. there were many people old and young enjoying the facilities available, people singing, some dancing, some sleeping, some stretching. After teh park on my leisurely stroll back to the hostel my belly started gurgling and the desire to use the toilet once again surfaced only this time I needed one I could it on....the journey to the hostel was HILARIOUS!!!! I made it and finally was able to cleanse out my insides! I then replenished my nutrients with a typical sichuan style hot pot which the hostel provided to it's residents gratis! Sichuan food is REALLY spicy and there is a type of peppercorn that numbs ones's so exotic, its a sensual experience for the tongue like no other I've ever had!

Yesterday I went to a Panda Breeding Research Base and spent a few hours watching pandas do their thing. They are such big lazy creatures and so incredibly delightful to watch as they did their thing. The first panda we saw was asleep and i think we could have stood and watched it sleep for a good half an hour had our guide not promised us there would be more pandas coming up. We saw five two-year-olds playing and wrestling with each other. They were so playful and they had us the observers wrapped around the false thumb! We saw a 5 year old eating his bamboo, a couple of new, new borns squirming in the incubation tank, one a couple of months old that was the size of my hand yet already had the black and white colouring (SOOOOO adorable) and the red panda which resembled a raccoon. I'd never heard of a red panda before and was happy to learn about the existence of a new pretty creature.

I've spent the rest of my time trying to organise the next leg of my journey which was not looking as I had hoped it would until just a few hours ago. I want to go on the road towards Tibet from here but yesterday the buses were not going because there were some land-slides due to the heavy rainfall. I booked a train ticket down south instead after having accepted that I would not get the chance to see west Sichuan. But this morning was informed that the roads had been fixed and the buses were accessible again so I had to go to the train station cancel my train ticket (receive a partial refund) come back to the hostel and book the bus...which is leaving tomorrow morning at 8am! SO i have one more evening here at Nova with the clean toilets and comfortable beds before I head into the wilderness and the mountains! Very excited! On that note I will return to my book, I'm reading about Ghengis Khan and his world take over!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Mongolia has stolen my heart...

I mentioned in my last blog that Mongolian people are very attractive...that was after having being here for a short time. Now I KNOW with all my heart that they are exceptionally gorgeous people! Not only are they stunning but there is an inner beauty that shines through with such warmth and generosity. Thomas and I just returned from a journey to the Natural Reserve Park where we stayed in a girt and lived alongside a local family in the village. The journey there was along a beaten dirt road track through forest and alongside pastures of feeding cows, sheep and goats, not forgetting packs of horses. We observed horses cooling themselves down in the river, cows crossing the river and having to walk in till the water reached their heads...there were brave cows and cowardly cows, smart cows and deflated cows, the smart cows chose to walk across at shallower points. The deflated ones didn't dare cross. The cowardly one crossed but it took some time before they entered and the brave well they just went across fearlessly.

We had a really amazing woman as our guide and she shared her knowledge of current Mongolia and historic Mongolia (we were lucky cause her partner is a Mongolian historian so her knowledge was broad). She is a doctor but enjoys working as a guide every so often to practice her languages (she speaks French, Russian, Polish, English, Chinese and Mongolian). I learnt so much from her that my head is soon to explode with new knowledge of a land that I now feel so connected to. The country people are very connected to their animals as the animals provide so much for the everyday survival. I discovered that horses are not only good for riding and pulling things but you can make alcomahol from their milk. So the milk is collected now and by October it will be a delicious alcohol called Irak.

We went on a 3 hour horse trek through the country side and I had a mighty steed(I also had a 10 year old boy leading my mighty steed by foot) It was so nice sitting on the horse and observing the nature from such a perspective. I was even given flowers along the way and got to drink water from the river. Thomas was able to ride his horse without a guide and he was generally successful but criticized for not hitting his horse hard enough when it was time to go.

Mongolian culture holds men in great esteem and the rules of Ladies first do not apply at all, it is always the man who enters or exits a building first. And it is the man that eats food first etc.The reason being that if there is an aggressor with a bow and arrow (or a sniper) aiming at the doorway, the man must boldly and bravely open his chest and accept the arrow(or bullet), and, if perchance the food is off, or has been poisoned, it is the man who must suffer the tormented death or agony of a bad stomach. Thomas has been very brave and accepted his new role accordingly.

We have eaten a lot of MEAT! And my stomach has started playing up. My toilet roll has been in great use in forests, restaurants, behind camels(this I'm making up) so I think once I get to China I will no longer consume meat and resume my former habits of eating seafood, veg and legumes. Perhaps it isn't the meat but it is the easiest food object for me to blame...tonight we're going for Mongolian BBQ so I will have my last indulgence attempt there. Here too Thomas has been a good man, he has generally accepted my left over meat and consumed it alongside his.

And now...I must sign off as I have a long walk back to the guest house.

Mongolia: Men exposing their bellies to allow the cool air to gracefully blow onto the buddha belly and cool it down. Yaks grazing alongside cows, goats grazing alonside sheep. Adorable little humans with cheeky grins! Tall Mongolian men with long hair that look like they've just come out of crouching tiger hidden dragon. Elegant women with broad smiles parading along the street. Girts scattered along the rolling hills and plains, always the entrance facing south.

I will return here one day to work!

I do not know if I am able to blog in China, as I have heard there are very tight restrictions on the Intranet so perhaps I will return to blog once I reach Vietnam...however I hope it will not be so long.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Toilet paper that doesn't absorb is better than no toilet paper at all!

Thomas and I have a arrived in Magnificent MongoliA!!!!

We left beautiful Baikal on a local bus which was an unanticipated adventure well worth having to experience a side of Russia which was very similar to my beloved Africa. The joy of squashing as many people possible into a bus. There were no animals so in that regard the Siberians failed on the exotic elements of public transport. But on a bus designed for 30 people there were another 20 people squished into the narrow walk way between the seats. There were babushkas, matrushkas, munchkins and bunchkins. The bus driver was a real Russian MAN in my eyes. Tall, broad, blond, rough around the edges and very serious looking. Would have been an ideal character in a Russian Mafia movie...and of course he was as gentle as teddy bear. He had his son on the bus with him who was mini-him and the love and affection he openly displayed to this young fellah was touching! On the 70km drive to Irkutsk we took about 2 hours, struggled up the hills and picked up and dropped off a number of characters large and small. There was a babushka who thought my hair was very interesting and she pointed at it and made comments then pointed again smiled, smirked, spoke more then left the bus. I'm not sure if I made a positive impression or not:)

At the train station we had a 2 hour wait for Train 362(I think) and I spent the first part blown away by the multitude of characters surrounding me. There were so many faces around me, each face telling a different story, each on their own journey. Old faces etched with wrinkles, young faces with curious eyes, men in suits, boys in in uniforms, women in scarves and little girls in pink. There were two snow white dogs pulling at their leashes wanting to break free and play. SO majestic was their fur and generous their gazes. I smiled at those who curiously tried to figure me out and received smiles abundant in return. I accidentally blocked the main entrance and received disapproving looks for my lack of understanding of the train-station traffic. We then found a cafe, indulged in home made cranberry juice and continued our backgammon championship, which I am happy to report I am now dominating by a long shot!!!!

The train ride was 38 hours long and we shared our cabin with a dutch lass and a Russian Senorita! Very nice and friendly people on their journey from Moscow to China too. We had a troupe of Fussy French traveling in our carriage and their passion for order became the inside joke. About half and hour before and after each stop the carriage attendant locks the toilets and this was not popular because there were a few stops and lots of busting elderly french ladies. They were highly optimistic and would return to see if the toilet had been unlocked every 5 minutes then ramble on about how annoying it was that the toilet was locked. This phenomena became more and more common during the journey and we were able to giggle and laugh regularly at their expense. We also had some interesting American Characters next door who were in Russia visiting the Republic of Tuva developing and learning new technics of throat singing. The Tuvaens, I was told by our Russian roomie, are all thugs and alcoholics, And then I was told by the American, that the opinion the Russians hold of the tuvaens is similar to the that, that the average American holds of the Native Americans, The average Ozzie of the Aboriginal people, the average Norwegian of the Sami etc...Interesting that world wide we have such commonalities!

The train journey was super and the second last I will share with Thomas. The one frustration I have had and has become more and more an issue as the trip goes on is that of toilet paper. The toilets have been fine, I have managed to go to the loo once a day since the beginning of the trip and for that I am eternally grateful. Since entering Russia however there has been a decline in the quality of Toilet paper. Now this is not good because for those of you that do not know this, toilet paper is one of my great soft spots! I like to be able to clean my bits with paper that does not resemble in anyway sandpaper...I am of course humble enough to not carry my own soft, thick, bleached white toilet paper where ever i go (which you should know the Queen of England does!!!) No I am generally accepting of toilet paper in places that have it but this is becoming less and less the case here in Mongolia, following from Russia! The toilet paper is just not acceptable! It doesn't absorb the liquid. It doesn't perform its duty, it doesn't function as it should, it doesn't remove liquid from my bits and for this I am falling apart. SOOOOO...from today I on I'm on a hunt for toilet paper that absorbs and i will no longer be humble or modest and will take on an arrogant stance that if non absorbent toilet paper is not available I will carry my own!!! Earlier today on the hunt for a toilet though my theory was disturbed a little because i used the toilet and discovered there wasn't any toilet paper at now have decided that although non-absorbent-toilet paper is not ideal and by no means comfortable and functional, it is better than no toilet paper at all!

Mongolia!!!! Last night at about 10pm we crossed the boarder to Mongolia. The process started around 1pm when we arrived at Naushki. There were 3 hours spent changing the locomotive to Mongolian style. Then 2 hours spent with customs and immigration officials. then we went to the Mongolian side and had an hour or two waiting for customs and immigration officials then a couple of hours wandering the Mongolian train station (where Thomas and I ate Dumplings) And I got a bad deal when changing money...lost 3 euro...which was not too much of a dilemma really.... but the dumplings were great!!!!! We also had our first intro the the beautiful Mongolian people. They are in my opinion very aesthetically beautiful! The journey from the Mongolian train station to Ulaan Baatar was my first introduction to the open plains and rolling hills, herds of horses, and random girts scattered about the place. There was a full moon last night and at about 1am when everyone was a sleep and no one about, not even a mouse. I crept to the back of the carriage (we were at the end) and absorbed the country side by moonlight. There was a blanket of fog on the plains and the colours were magical! I thought of many people back there and sent you all love and good vibrations. I was also tempted to howl at the moon but did not think the carriage attendants would appreciate been woken up by a mad Mohican wearing a blanket at the end of the carriage.

The morning brought us to UB and both of us are a bit buggered today. The heat is present and being good tourists hasn't entered our program yet. Thomas has just headed back to the room to have a siesta and I think I shall join him shortly.

Before that however I must share that I have recently started listening to the Love poems of Rumi and am in love with Rumi. I seem to be falling in love left right and centre on this trip and now Rumi has stolen my heart. I have an album on my ipod which came up on random and it's content are poems read by different celebrities and Deepak Chopra. I spent a couple of hours transcribing some of them yesterday and want to share.

I am and I am not.

I'm drenched in the flood
that is yet to come,
I'm tied up in the prison
that is yet to exist,
Not having played the game of chess,
I'm already the checked mate.
Not having tasted a single cup of your wine,
I'm already drunk.
Not having entered the battlefield,
I'm already wounded and flayed.
I no longer know the difference
between image and reality.
Like the shadow,
I am and I am not.

I have to pee now so cannot share more....there was one line from another poem that was lovely: Close the door on language and open the window of love!

Anyways...until next time! Keep spreading the love!


Saturday, July 24, 2010

The last of Siberia and Russia

Today is the last day we will be here in Russia and I feel a bit sad about that. Siberia has been good to us. Especially the amazing Lake Baikal region. It is just glorious here. Yesterday we started the day at an open air museum where we wondered through old houses, schools, churches, farm yards etc that belonged to the Baikal region back in the day...some of the houses were very old and others had picture of Stalin, old record players and more contemporary icons displayed. It was really lovely for me because I got to spend time in homes built from the Sacred Russian Cedar tree and then I was honoured enough to be able to see many of the Heavenly trees and to top it all I was even able to eat one of the Sacred Siberian Cedar Nut...I think if I have any more Cedar experiences I may explode from the Joy! My excitement stems from reading Anastasia a book by Vladmir's a quote about the trees I just read from that might interest you:

The tale says the Russian (Siberian) Cedars (Pinus siberica), stand for centuries absorbing cosmic energy from the Sun, planets, ethers and stars. Like many other plants, they grow to provide healing and sustenance to humankind, and if they are not allowed to perform that function (for example, due to remoteness) they begin to audibly ring… thus advertising their location. Accompanying the tale in the books are many details about the nutritional uses, value of the cedars, and their medicinal uses.

Cedar nuts contain a lot of fat, proteins, carbohydrates, trace-elements and vitamins.[3] “Cedar oil proteins contain 19 amino acids, of which 70% are essential. Vitamins in the oil help the human body to grow (vitamin A). They stabilize the central nervous system, improve blood composition and favorably affect skin tissue (vitamins B and D). The oil is very rich in vitamin E (tocopherol). The oil is very rich in vitamin P: it contains three times as much vitamin P as the product called "Vitamin P" made using fish oil. Vitamin P is made up of essential fatty acids, which help to reduce the level of cholesterol in your bloodstream and prevent the formation of plaques on the walls of blood vessels.

Baikal is the oldest and deepest lake the world and local myth has that if you swim in it you will get 25 years extra of glorious life life life. Thomas and I will now live an extra 25 years. And maybe with the consumption of the Sacred Cedar Nut we'll live even if we are still around in 100 years you'll know why!!!! It was, I must say, the COLDEST water I have ever immersed my body in. I thought I was going to turn into an icicle and sink to the bottom of the waist high water I bravely ran into. The journey outwards was the most ungraceful escape from Alcatraz i have ever performed i was shaking and shimmering and my body was twitching as I tried to escape the pins and needles that were slowing numbing my system. My body was saving my energy to preserve my internal organs and everything else was going to sleep. All this in LESS than 1 minute! Ha ha! Fortunately i will live 25 years longer so effectively from now on I am 1 year old again just with teeth and the ability to communicate which is fortunate! Cause I wouldn't have been able to buy the cedar nut or eat it without teeth and language!

Baikal has offered us very friendly people, so friendly in fact that when walking from our B&B to the Centre yesterday we came across a wedding party who had daring young men risking their lives to enter the healing Baikal waters so we, being the good tourists we are took photos....little did we know that we would be the target of the photos as a result. I posed with 20 different Russian men, Thomas posed with the ladies each one a potential Russian bride of course. We had a photo shoot for at least 20 minutes and received so much love that by the end we felt as if we were Family and were devastated at their departure, such a void was left...yet filled with Omul later, the local Baikal fish! The markets were super, lots of Russian souvenirs to be bought, Matrioshkas (not baboushkas), pictures of Putin, Knives, And lots and lots of Shamanic tokens. Here in Baikal Shaman-ism is still ripe and active and definitely being honed in on for us tourists.

We ate at a local restaurant yesterday and were lucky to be only among Russians. On one table the guests were drinking a large amount of...VODKA...and became very festive and joyful and began singing serious Russian songs (or so it seemed to me) hugging each other and celebrating life! The first song was super! I clapped loudly, the second song was drunken and I looked away slightly embarrassingly and their departure was sloppy yet their presence was very much appreciated! We too drank Vodka, Baikal Vodka of both of us feel slightly under the weather but it can't be because of our liquid consumption, it must be the weather, its cloudy and sleepy and that MUST affect ones speed? No more vodka from now on...only juice and camel milk?

Irkutsk was a super little place in the end, Thomas and i wondered around the evening we were there and came across a large group of young men with a guitar, VODKA and the strong desire to sing sing sing. They stood around in a circle (maybe 10-12 of them) by river and sang their hearts out. THey too hugged and were very affectionate which was lovely to see. We also saw the local hippies fire twirling and collecting money, the Russian High heelers, a group of Irkutsk Hells angels on their bikes(must have been up to 16) gathered outside the town-hall, we saw a photo shoot with a slender Russian mamushka posing seductively, and absorbed the relaxed atmosphere of the Paris de Siberia!

So today we venture on with our travels. I am love filled for Baikal and if the universe permits me to, I think I will return. The Siberian Cedar has won my heart and I long to spend more time in her shade. The Lake with her mysticism and grandeur has created a peaceful haven and more time here must be had at a later point in time. And this will be it from Russia in love!

One love


Thursday, July 22, 2010

Trans Siberia so far...

Wah wah wee wah!

It has been a splendid journey so far and today I must admit I am a bit buggered (and slightly dehydrated).In Moscow we boarded the Number 2 Train (first class, latest and most updated train thank you very much) around 9pm with Salami, some fruit, our luggage and lots of excitement. We shared a four man cabin with Dima, a very shy Russian Officer who spoke very little English (or so we thought). The first evening was filled with the simple excitement of being on the train and not knowing what that entailed. We had a very cute little Russian Hostess named Anna who looked after our wagon, she too spoke little English and would blush and get slightly baffled each time I tried to communicate with her. In the end I opted for my name is Tanya in Russian which got a positive response. No Vodka was offered on our first night.

Day 2 we were so excited at seeing the scenery before us yet soon it became clear that we would see lots and lots of yes...wait for it....TREES! Trees, trees and more trees....beautiful, green magnificent, graceful, bountiful, amazing TREES. A few houses splashed in between but the most part was Trees and not forgetting grass. The excitement then turned to when does the train stop next and what food can we buy at the next station. One station offered us smoked fish, chives, tomatoes and vodka (which we didn't buy because the guide book told us we would be offered vodka left right and centre, both the German and the English ones so were sure it would come). The next station offered a variety of deep fried bread with surprise stuffings (usually meat with onion, or meat with Dill, or just meat...very tasty even for a "vegesnarian" like myself) There were pancakes also with surprise stuffings, either cottage cheese or meat with onion, or just meat. Then some stations had nothing but a station we could photograph which was a good change to the numerous photos of trees rushing past and blurred on film.

Night 2 saw Thomas and I in the food carriage having Russian red wine (grape juice mixed with vodka was my guess at what it actually was....I loved it, Thomas thought it was too sweet) and the beginning of our Backgammon championship. First we played with no double dice, then the double dice came in, and NOW, Thomas is kicking my *()#! and I can only sit and smile....I've created a monster!

Day 3 on the Train brought us a new roomie, Pawel, another Russian Army soldier, and guess what...Dima really did speak a little English and more so after we shared Vodka...finally the vodka sharing with real Russians came and it was as one can expect! Fabulous! There were a variety of meats on the table, some lemon and sugar. The key was to smell the meat, skull the vodka and then savour the smell of the meat again before eating a bite. Alternatively you smelt the lemon, skulled the vodka, savoured the smell and sucked a little on the lemon. Fun and games. I slept like a baby that night.

Day 4 on the train would be our last and I learnt how to play Russian Backgammon then shared my version with Pawel who did not appreciate losing and soon lost interest. He played a very gentle game, and refused to eat my lonesome travelers yet I ate his which resulted in my winning more often than not...I think Thomas also beat him! He was kind enough to still wave at us when we departed and the train headed for Vladivostok.

Thomas arrived in Tayshet, and were taken to a very small village of 600 people where we stayed with a local baboushka and were taken care of by her grandaughter Katya. She fed us pancakes for dinner, omelette for breakfast, and potatoes for lunch. Good Russian food! The home was humble an the toilet was outside so we had to battle the siberian mosquitoes when we exposed our bits to the world...they attacked when we were most vulnerable.

There didn't seem to much to do in the village and after we had explored the village the evening we arrived we thought we'd seen it all so we anticipated a relaxing day maybe walking the street again and then maybe just sitting at home and chatting. At about 11am the local English teacher came and took us for a walk through the village, telling us about the history when the convicts were brought under Stalin and the foundations of the Village. She told us about how the village operated under communism and how each person had to work to earn their place in the community and there were no problems like alcoholism and boredom. Today, she said, half of the male population are suffering from alcoholic abuse and in the last year they had to bury 8 of their men all ranging from ages 25 -40 who had died because of drinking too much vodka. She also told us that the youth are also suffering from not having much to do because it is such a small town and they too are turning to drinking and taking drugs to escape the mundane existence. It was a sad story, and also sad because apparently this is the case in many small towns all over Russia. After the walk Thomas and I were feeling rather heavy and contemplative about what such a community could do. We went back to the house ate some lunch and discussed viable options then fell asleep.

Around two we were woken up and told we were going on a boat trip. So we made our way to the river and there was a wild looking man in an army outfit and a tired looking woman in tight jeans and a tiny top. Going with the flow, we hopped in the boat and set off for the 'boat trip' not knowing what this would be at all. The sun was shining, the birds were singing, the trees were shimmering so a lovely boat trip it would have to be right? Right! The man Mikail was a lively and entertaining man. With no English he managed to communicate very effectively that he loved this river and he was going to show us how amazing it was. The woman was no generous at all with her smiles and sat slightly cold at the front of the boat pouting. Once we set off and were zooming along at a high speed admiring the beautiful scenery that was around, trees, trees and more glorious trees, islands started to emerge and we were completely surround by trees, it was sort of like the green lake with lighter green tones to the trees. After zooming away for about 20 minutes he pulled over to a shore where we were told to follow Katya up a we did and we went for a walk up a steep mountain and up into the taiga, we walked and smacked mosquitoes and big biting flies and it was lovely up there, great views and good vibes. then we went down again and back in the boat, we were ready to go back to the house happy with our boat trip to the taiga...but NO that was not what Mikail had in store for us. Instead he took us further along the river to a pebble beach. Started a fire. Katya pulled out some pots and proceeded to cook the most delicious chicken soup i have ever eaten. he went and picked out some leaves from the taiga and put it in the soup. then pulled out tomatoes, and other veg that he said came from his garden. we sat on the shore and ate and laughed and communicated perfectly without really knowing what we were saying. Then he started skidding rocks in the river and so Thomas and i started too and before we knew it we were throwing rocks and having competitions to see who could throw the rock furthest, we were laughing (including Katya) running, grunting and behaving like 5 year olds in a candy store. I was exhausted by the end of the day when we took the trip back at 7pm feeling as light as feathers and enjoying one another's company like old friends. Mikail and Katya took us on the best boat trip possible...

Now we are in Irkutsk the Paris of Siberia, i had far to little sleep last night due to caffeine and snoring of one of our very interesting looking roomies. So today is my lowest day so far....which is good and downs are part of the journey of life!

Internet time is running out now....Next stop lake Baikal and then Mongolia...

Russian food is good, the train is relaxing, Thomas and I are getting on very well (even though he is beating me in backgammon) we have super conversations which I enjoy very much. I am well and happy and I feel like a teenager in love at times remembering Vilnius and the lovely Lithuanian!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

To Russia with love

I have 10 minutes before I disappear for a while. I know not when I will be able to blog again.

Russia! WOW! Moscow! What a city! What a lady!!!!! Women with high heels, long legs and short skirts with men with big bellies and fat wallets. The Kremlin and the Red Square, just like out of a fairy tale, looking like you could eat them! Babouskas dancing in the street and knowing the waltz the cha cha cha, the foxtrot and other more russian inspired movements. Glamourous shops with money money money to be spent yet also glipses of a darker, grungier side. The breakfast we were offered this morning was a spread like no, meat, meat, meat, glorious cabbage and a chocolate fondue with fruit to dip into it! WOW! The heat is intense at the moment, 32 degrees in the shade! WOW!Kvas is my new favourite drink, made from dark bread with raisins in it and then slight fermented with yeast and other bacteria that make it taste AMAZING!

The Russian language is beautiful to my ears and picking up bits and pieces is proving to be a real pleasure, I think my name has brought out my Russian roots! I have three days on the train starting today and then we will be in a place called Tayshet for an evening. The train is supposed to be one of the more modern ones so luxury will be at our disposal for the beginning. AC and a shower....WOW!

Ok...1 minute left before internet disappears!

I bought a new camera so next blog will have photos!

Love and respect to all and to all love and respect!


Friday, July 16, 2010

Vilnius to Riga

I am currently in Riga after 5 magical days in Vilnius! I fell in love there! My first day was spent recovering from the bus trip and adjusting to the new surroundings. And on Day two I took a city tour which covered all the important things one needs to cover in such a culturally rich place with over 52 churches. I was given an overview of the rich pagan roots and given stories about pre soviet days vs post soviet days. Lithuania is a peaceful nation with a beautiful (rasta) flag. Yellow for the sunshine that is much loved and appreciated by the masses, Green for the abundance of Nature the nation is blessed with(forests are EVERYWHERE!), And Red for the blood that was shed in order to establish the nation! Sound familiar?

Anyways, on the Tour we got to also see the Christiania of Vilnius, Uzupio, the area claimed by the bohemian community on the other side of the river in 1999 and their constitution is beautiful:

1. Everyone has the right to live by the River VilnelÄ—, while the River VilnelÄ— has the right to flow by everyone.
2. Everyone has the right to hot water, heating in winter and a tiled roof.
3. Everyone has the right to die, but it is not an obligation.
4. Everyone has the right to make mistakes.
5. Everyone has the right to individuality.
6. Everyone has the right to love.
7. Everyone has the right to be not loved, but not necessarily.
8. Everyone has the right not to be distinguished and famous.
9. Everyone has the right to be idle.
10. Everyone has the right to love and take care of a cat.
11. Everyone has the right to look after a dog till one or the other dies.
12. A dog has the right to be a dog.
13. A cat is not obliged to love its master, but it must help him in hardness.
14. Sometimes man has the right to be unaware of his duties.
15. Everyone has the right to be in doubt, but this is not his duty.
16. Everyone has the right to be happy.
17. Everyone has the right to be unhappy.
18. Everyone has the right to be silent.
19. Everyone has the right to have faith.
20. No one has the right to violence.
21. Everyone has the right to realize his negligibility and magnificence.
22. Everyone has the right to encroach upon eternity.
23. Everyone has the right to understand.
24. Everyone has the right to understand nothing.
25. Everyone has the right to be of various nationalities.
26. Everyone has the right to celebrate or not to celebrate his birthday.
27. Everyone shall remember his name.
28. Everyone may share what he possesses.
29. No one can share what they do not possess.
30. Everyone has the right to have brothers, sisters and parents.
31. Everyone is capable of independence.
32. Everyone is responsible for their freedom.
33. Everyone has the right to cry.
34. Everyone has the right to be misunderstood.
35. No one has a right to make another person guilty.
36. Everyone has the right to be personal.
37. Everyone has the right to have no rights.
38. Everyone has the right not to be afraid.
39. Do not defeat.
40. Do not fight back.
41. Do not surrender.
42. Everyone has to right to use a moosejaw coupon

So after the bus trip I decided I had to return to Uzupio and have lunch there, on my way, I saw a man walking, he had really interesting tatoos on his leg and I have recently discovered that Tatoos are physically appealing to me. Before I knew it we were happily communicating and he took me on the short cut to Uzupio where he lived. He then offered to take me to a lake and I spent the rest of my days with him and his lovely Room mate Linas. We went to three different lakes, watched Spain steal the hopes of the Dutch, ate vege food in a cellar, took a yoga class, cooked lentils, watched a Lithuanian movie projected against a brick wall, danced salsa, played foozball (which is a very common past time for young Lithuanians...and they're AMAZING at it! My skills were totally inferior, I felt like either Australia or South Africa in the world cup, full of enthusiasm and with lots of support but skills were lacking in comparison to the masters I competed against) drank Giro and did a little bit of sight seeing and existed in a world where everything and anything was possible. I was really sad to say good bye to Vilnius even after I chose to stay 2 days longer than I had anticipated. I would have stayed forever if I could but the transiberia trip starts on Saturday and I have to get to Moscow! So Riga....

Riga....has been my transitional stop in order to get to Moscow, it is a pretty city, bigger than Vilnius and MANY more tourists. My hostel is Super, anyone wanting a fun place to stay, i recommend The Naughty Squirrel here...great people running the joint and a lovely bunch of coconuts staying here at the moment. Good AC rooms with big beds and free tea and coffee ALL DAY!!!! Yes!!! AMAZING!!! I met a very lovely woman from Melbourne here and we spent the day roaming today. We were recommended a Latvian restaurant and when we eventually found it were blessed with an incredible array of Latvian hearty meals which were cheap and tasty. It is really hot at the moment, 32 degrees and the sun is really doing her job of heating the world here. At the hostel you can go and shoot an AK47 and some other guns, the offer didn't appeal too much to me despite the offer of instant adrenalin rush.

I'll be arriving in Moscow in the morning and have to find my way to the metro station and then to the hotel which is a few stops on the dark blue line in a North East Direction from the city....Hopefully it is as simple as this! I'm told that no signs are in the alphabet I am familiar I must have faith that some humans are going to be so good as to assist me on the first part of the journey!

I feel very happy with life at the moment. I feel free and liberated by the thought that all that has happened and is happening is just as it should be! Perfect! I feel refreshed by the romance shared in Vilnius and ready for all that is to come!

One love!