Saturday, April 12, 2003

Greetings from Spa Samui Village!

Dear Ones:

I am sending all my love to all. Before you start reading my recent update I have to warn you that this is another long one. I miss you all very much, so I am going on and on about everything here as a way to be with you for some time. This is my way to feel less lonely and to also share with you all my experiences.

It feels a little like the Chinese tea ceremony, sipping in slowly and calmly while socializing. There is a guy here at the Spa Samui Village, San Bao who offers a three hours tea time, sipping the tea from China, slowly. Two tiny vessels are used, one long and one small- we pour from the long one after sniffing it into the small round one for drinking. Two little tea pots are also used, one for brewing the other for serving. It is so delightful! It even beats the high English tea that I also love but it is so unhealthy, the black tea, lots of sugar accompanied by thick cheese and little sandwiches with white bread.

So, here I am, going on and on before even starting. I just finished a long tea session with San Bao and a few other lovely guests. The only rule by the way is to turn the long sniffing cup down when I had enough of a certain tea. This simple rule suits me just fine right now.

Let's have a little tea together now, you and me. I'll serve and you sniff and drink. Remember, you can always turn your sniffing cup down when you don't want to drink anymore.

Ko Samui is a really a nice island situated at the Gulf of Siam. The beach is a little disappointing for those who enjoy big waves but it is great to soak in the salty water, although it is not so clean, nothing like the pristine blue ocean of Hawaii, Greece or the Bahamas, or the pristine green ocean of certain parts of the brazilian coast.

I arrived here April 5th directly from Chaing Mai in northern Thailand and started a cleansing fast on the 6th (Richard Anderson's clean-me-out program.) Kind of crazy doing a fast in Thailand with all this delicious food, but it was really good I did. Eating in all kinds of places for the last 10 months was putting a toll on my system, even though I try to eat the healthiest things possible most of the time. I am even using the Zapper to take care of any parasites that may have crept in. The way I was eating, there may have been more than one of us showing up at meal times.

I finished a seven day cleansing fast yesterday and I felt so light and rejuvenated after eating a breakfast of papaya, goat yogurt and bee pollen this morning that I could start circling the world again. But also hearing from my godson, D3 last night that he wants me to live with him forever makes me also want to go home and be with all my loved ones (all of you!)

Lots of massage, steam bath (with 32 Thai herbs), Chi Kung, yoga, meditation, beach weather and lots of healthy food (didn't get to eat much of them so far) available here. I also watched Dr. Bernard Jenson's video tapes on nutrition and proper elimination for up to 4 hours a day on the TV in my room. This is really a paradise for someone as concerned about health as I am. If there was one of these places in every town in the world, human beings wouldn't have to put up with so many chronic diseases and doctors who know nothing about how to take care of them the natural way. This is preventive medicine at its best.

I have done this same cleansing a couple of times at home and went to such extremes with it that some of my friends and co-workers starting asking if I was sick -I lost a lot of weight then. I am trying to do things more balanced now and doing it with other people helps.

By the way, this is very similar to the program offered at the Optimum Health Institute in San Diego I believe. I have never been there but from what Walter and Cynthia told me, it is the same concept. But no fresh wheat grass here, they say that the weather is too humid to grow it. Instead, there is Vegi Vera dried in packets- not the same!

Not much time for anything else but take my detox drinks, and herbal supplements, colemas (high powered enemas) swim, watch the videos, massage, socialize with the English contingent here (90% of the guests), pedicure to take of the ¼ inch of what seemed permanent Indian dirt on the soles of my feet (it is all gone now) and still the extra skin I got during my walk in Spain (still working on that). The spa is all geared to health so even the swimming pool has purified water (the shower and faucets too) with salts instead of chorine in the pool. Really nice!

The services and facilities in Thailand are much better than in India in general, although the prices here at the island are high for Asian standards.

I left Mumbai on the 27th of March at 11:40pm and after a short stop at the Bangkok airport I flew straight to Chiang Mai. No dust, no cows on the streets and the traffic are very sane for Indian standard. The public transportation is interesting with the tuk tuks (3 wheelers similar to the rickshaws in India), and sawngthaews, trucks with rows of seats in the back that make regular routes. They function more or less like buses here and the prices are negotiable, but with less need to haggle so much over prices as they are not as crazy here about charging in several multiples to foreigners. I couldn't believe I could pack and send a package home in 20 minutes at 9 pm. This service bits even the west; in fact the franchise is the same I have seen in Noe Valley in San Francisco, MBE (Mail Boxes Express). Yes, the franchises here are a little annoying, but convenient. 7 Elevens are everywhere!

The ladies packed my belongings brought in my small backpack (books, used clothes and a few parasols I picked up at the Night Bazaar), put the labels and no need to buy cloth, find a tailor and have the cloth stitched around the box, sometimes even have red wax dripped on the stitches.

By the time the package is ready to be mailed in India, the post office is probably closed or it is a holiday as there are 60 holidays in a year in India the odds are high. It is not common to get two things done in India in the same day anyway, although this is becoming a possibility in cities like Bangalore. I was actually able to send a package there the same day, but the tailor had to drive me in his motorcycle to the post office, with the box hanging on my right thigh. I told him I was leaving town the next day and it was true. I couldn't believe we made it, just before 4pm.

After three days in Chiang Mai driving around in a scooter and visiting sites, I went to Mae Hong Song almost at the border with Myanmar (former Burma). It was a quick visit of hot springs, massage and a visit to the longneck/long ear tribe settlement and fish caves. Originally from Myanmar these women wear brass rings around their necks making them longer. The neck coils depress their collarbone and rib cages making it look as if their necks have been unnaturally stretched. The story goes that they did that to protect themselves from tigers and also to make them less attractive to the men of other tribes to escape rape. Again and again I see how women is oppressed everywhere.

The women on the streets in Thailand seem a lot more relaxed and free than the Indian woman, but I already encountered a few who told me their personal stories of husbands having women and children outside the marriage without a divorce, drinking problems and so on. But this is the case in a lot of countries, not just Asia. No wonder some man feel almost offended to see a single woman traveling freely and happily alone specially in Asia.

After Chiang Mai I went to Pai. A lovely area with many trekking around, elephant camps, hot springs, mountains, herbal whisky everywhere, massage everywhere. Superb massage, and cheaper than in India, better than the massage here in the islands too, more vigorous, the stretches are so intense I almost feel it is a substitute for Yoga. I took a 2 1/1 days massage course.

It is such a workout for both client and masseur this Thai massage. I found out that this style as well as a lot of herbal healing methods was brought from Kushinagar, the place where Buddha was born on the border of India and Nepal in those days. The man who is now veneered next to Buddha and the royal family in Thailand is said to be the Buddha's doctor and a lot of natural healing and massage was brought to Thailand from that time and tradition. His name in Thailand is Dr. Shivagakomarpaj. I remember from the book "Old Path White Clouds" that there was a doctor following the Buddha on his wonderings to and from all the many monasteries being established in northern India. This doctor was ordained as a bhikkhu (monk) and was in charge of the health and sanitation of the monasteries. I wonder if it is the same guy.

The only bad experience on this whole trip so far was that my wallet got stolen on my last day in Chaing Mai with 5,000 baths, 1,500 rupees (about US$150) one credit card, one debit card, my drivers license many cards, photos and package receipts for the many boxes I have been sending, not to mention the nice wallet I bought in Paris. I have a feeling someone took it when I left my handbag unattended, but it is odd that my big money bag with passport, airline tickets, traveler's checks, dollars, more credit and debit cards didn't get taken. I usually don't leave both in one place but this time I did, as I was getting ready to fly to Ko Samui the next day. So, in a way I was very lucky (trying to always be positive here.)

Thanks to my faithful friends (nice to have you there Claudia and Cynthia), my lost cards were taken care of. The numbers I had for the collect call were not accepted from Thailand. I was starting to panic when I found out about the credit card gangs here, so I called Claudia and she not only called me back (the rate here is almost 2 dollars a minute!) but took care of everything within hours. Relief again!

My last week in India was very different than the previous 4 months there. I stayed with Vijaya for a few days having the experience of being in an Indian household and learned so much about Indian culture, history and issues around women with her. Vijaya's children and grandchildren live in the US so she was so happy to have me as her guest that I felt guilty to leave to Koregaon Park to visit OSHO Mediation Resort and see Britt after a few days visiting with Vijaya. She cooked for me with such love and I received several invitations from her neighbors for dinner (could only go to one – a portuguese family from Goa!)

I met Vijaya at the Ramana Maharshari's ashram in Tiruvanamalai back in January while having a delicious dinner over banana leaves on the floor and of course eating with our hands in the best southern Indian style. It was a fool moon - the same day I walked around Arunachala after the Sri Chackra puja. I told Vijaya during dinner that I would spend a few days in Pune at the end of March on my way to Mumbai to catch my plane to Thailand and she immediately invited me to stay at her home and join her on her daily early morning Iyengar style yoga classes.

Vijaya is a yoga aficionado, and it was a pleasure following her in her neighborhood, making stops at the many little temples on the way. She also took me to the Parvati hill, a place locals go for exercises and jogging in the morning. Of course there are also temples and even a museum there. Vijaya is also a Reiki Master and healer and before I left she initiated me as a Reiki Master. So now I am also qualified to initiate other people into Reiki. Awesome!

In a typical Britt style, she got off her train enroute to Goa when it was passing through Pune, knowing that I should be there within a day or two. The fact that she was already traveling for 20 plus hours on the train from Delhi helped her make a decision to postpone her trip to Goa indefinitely and take a little rest in Pune while visiting with me. I got a call from her at Vijaya's on my second day there. I had left Britt information about my whereabouts not sure whether she was back in Denmark or still somewhere on the west coast of India too and she got the message just a few minutes before getting on the train to Goa.

We met on Friday, I think it was March 20th and went through Osho Commune's registration process together, getting photos, HIV test, and returning the next day for a long half a day orientation on different meditations and activities at the Commune. It didn't take much for me to know that the OSHO Commune was not my cup of tea, but the pool was great and the bookstore has good hardback books really cheap (just about the only cheap thing around the place). And I must add that Osho is a brilliant scholar and insightful lecturer. I love his rebellious daring and unique style. I bought a few of the books Britt recommended and shipped them home from the Commune. It was a breeze there.

At first I thought I could get into the meditation style of jumping around and dancing before getting silence inside to sit in meditation. But after a while that seemed almost aggressive to me, an overkill as I feel pretty relaxed and stress free these days. I can just sit and chant anytime I want, not knowing of the existence of much aggression in my body. It could be that my aggressions are too deep with a nice layer of peace and quiet, but at least it does not feel that way to me. In any case, dancing at scheduled times and then meditating didn't sit well with me. I was not too attracted to any of the courses offered there either.

It was great hanging out at Koregaon Park with Britt though. She had lived there for 6 months before and knew her way around well. It was nice to take a break from hard traveling and have long breakfasts of pineapples, mangos, watermelon, papaya, curd (Indian yogurt) and mango juice. It was also nice not to have to think much of destinations but just follow her to the Commune, her favorite lassi (a drink of cold yogurt) place, hang out at the Commune's pool, the pool at the pyramid's, a stroll in town, record store, even a movie in the middle of the day. A simple thing like an air-conditioned movie house with films in english (we saw Maid in Manhattan) preceded by cappuccino and cafe mocha felt really exotic. Being my last week in India it also felt fine eating western food at the Commune's cafeteria, even going dancing on a Wednesday night to disco music.

I think I was making myself ready for a western lifestyle again. A good go away week I had, in a truly unconventional ashram if it can be called that. Actually, the place is called OSHO Commune Resort and rightly so.

Thanks to Vijaya and Britt I didn't have to cry too much leaving India as they filled me with much love. But it was hard saying goodbye to them.

As it turns out Britt never went to Goa and is now in Denmark watching snow falling but not for long as spring is approaching. It was time to depart southern India, as it was getting too hot there, time for everyone there who can to reach for the hill stations.

So, tomorrow I take off to Bangkok, just for one night and off to Bali for a few days. I will be in Ubu for most of the time, a small artist community in Bali - I had enough of beaches for the moment.

If you made it to here you are a brave soul and I offer my pranans to you, my offerings of respect and much love.

I hope all is well with all of you.

A thousand petals to you, Marisa

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