Saturday, December 21, 2013

West End, I Want to Come Back

It is our last night in West End, Roatan. I want to come back and yet I have not left. 

A new club/restaurant is having its grand opening tonight. Fireworks have been coloring the dark sky for the last 30 minutes. All I can think of are the dogs. How they must be terrified of the sounds. 

There are a lot of dogs here at West End. They all belong to someone. Most of the time we just don't know who, but they do, they really do. I guess that is the other thing that I absolutely love about West End. People love dogs and dogs are allowed to have fun here. I feel like I belong here just because of that.

West End is known for being more affordable compared to other areas in Roatan. Most backpackers go here to chill and dive. Utila, the party island, is a ferry ride away, but West End is also known to have some good parties. Getting drunk seems to be on almost everyone's list that come here. Aris and I prefer to be on the downlow. He has been working on his thesis when we are not diving and I prefer to read. Alcohol is not actually cheap here so we prefer to use our money for better things.

The weather has been perfectly gorgeous these last 2 days. We have been diving because doing anything else would be a crime. 

I absolutely love diving West End. The area might not have big pelagics, but the reefs are pretty and healthy and very much alive. The dives are always relaxing and fun. The marine life is colorful and made up by interesting sea creatures. And when you jump into the water, something will bound to make you smile. 

Gosh, now I make me want to dive again. 

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Creatures of Roatan

I had a staring contest with a green anole lizard today. 

It is native to Texas Gulf Coast area, but somehow the little guy was here in Roatan, Honduras. It has the ability to change colors, depending on the temperature and "mood". At one point in our staring contest, he turned from brown to bright green. I think he was intimidated by my intent stare. Or he was just being cheeky.

I woke up at 7 this morning. I brushed my teeth, grabbed my rain jacket and headed out to grab coffee. The coffee is good here. I just started drinking coffee. Good coffee is good. I decided I like coffee.

Anyway, as I was heading out, it started to pour. The first place I went to did not have to-go cups so I went to the next place and they had to-go cups. "Help yourself," the lady said. I sure did. "Coffee is free, by the way," she added. God bless people who give out free coffee. Today I am thankful for coffee and free coffee. 

We went diving again today. Diving is good here. Better than good coffee or free coffee. And today's diving was wonderful. My tank got stuck in one of the swimthroughs, but it was wonderful.

We saw beautiful creatures underwater. A big trumpetfish was the first that caught my eye, then there was a big porcupine puffer fish, a juvenile morray eel, and an adult morray eel. 

After diving, it was lunch and hanging out at one of the beachside cafes where the staring contest took place. I had Tropicana Smoothie, a concoction of delightful tropical fruits in one giant margarita glass.

Looking at the sea, the wooden docks and the beach, I saw a sight that warmed my heart. A young boy was teaching his puppy to swim. At first the pup was just watching his human from the beach, not wanting to go nearer. The boy came out of the water and carefully picked the dog up and took him into the water. The pup did not react. I guess he felt safe in the hands of the young human. The boy then let his pup go. Four little paws started to paddle. It did not take long until he understood how swimming worked and what he needed to do to get closer to its human. Once he was close enough to the boy the pup leaped and landed on the boy's right shoulder. The young boy laughed and they did everything all over again. 

God, I miss my dogs.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Back in Roatan

We came back to Roatan. This island has a magnetic charm, obviously.

It rains every single day, with no avail. And here, when it rains, it pours.

Right this very moment, invisible giant buckets are emptying their contents with pride. The Gods put some island wind also into the mixture to sway the trees. It is not raining unless everything is soaking wet. 

It also rained earlier in the day. I happily took my time walking in the rain. I wanted to dance, but it felt too much. I just skipped and hopped.

We went diving this morning before it started to rain. The boat ride to the site was choppy and the clouds were grey. It was going to rain for sure. 

We went to El Aguila. One of the most famous wrecks in all of Honduras. The massive ship was deliberately sunk, but Hurricane Mitch did all the wrecking. 

Usually a morray eel would greet divers that popped on its backyard. It is a resident of the ship and a pretty friendly host. Today it was not around. I was dissapointed, but it probably had better things to do than meeting nosy divers.

The other residents were groupers,  eels at the eel garden, puffer fish, trumpet fish, and king crabs. I had the pleasure of meeting them all. 

We came back to shore right before the rain poured. Cafe y baleada por almuerso. Perfect to fight off the cold. 

I better get back to my book now, because I am planning to take a long nap afterward, while the rain is still soaking the island. Pura vida.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Damn Insects!

I am so ready for Summer to be over! Damn bugs are eating me alive every day. I can't stand this anymore!

I just went outside to make a phone call. It was less than 2 minutes and already I have 7 mosquito bites all over me. This is crazy! I guess it's now crazier because yesterday it rained and now puddles of water are everywhere, giving those blood sucking insects to reproduce. Dang it!

And I also still have bite marks from a month ago from unidentified insects. Most probably ants. These Texas insects are awful! The more I scratch the more they itch.

I can't handle this anymore. I swear to God!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Oh Yeah!

I nailed the COMPASS test!

I did -quoting the academic advisor- AWESOME on every section. Even the math. The lowest score I got was for the trigonometry and I still did quite good. I aced the English reading and writing. The person that read my essay even told me that I should be a writer. I feel so good about myself. It is like having a shot of self esteem just injected to my veins. Sometimes it does take a piece of paper to make me realize my self worth.

At times I would sometimes feel like my intelligence rate had dropped significantly. It was not just about not getting an academic upgrade per se, but mostly about not really giving my brain a real challenge. I do think SUDOKU counts as a challenge, but there is always that 'play again' button when I suck. The test, on the other hand, really scared the hell out of me. This test was an equivalent of an SAT and to fail would be such a slap on the face. Fortunately I scored at college level. The thought of failing made my stomach churned, but when I was actually facing the computer screen with all those questions I was absolutely on a high. I loved it! Dear God, I am such a nerd.

So the next step is getting my transcript evaluated and hopefully some credits can be transferred. Then it is back to school for me. Yipee!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

I Got You!

On repeat!

The Starting Point

A long time ago I have decided that I did not want to pursue a Master's degree. Time passes and I still feel that way. However, I have changed my mind about going back to school. I am in the process of going back to school. Not a fancy grad school, but a community college. And I am pretty darn excited.

As I was filling out the application I realized that high school was 12 years ago and college was 8. It has been a long time since I left the academic world. Strangely, I feel like I have never really stopped learning. As cliche as it may sounds, I have learned a lot from people around me, even strangers. I learned things that school never taught me from the work I did -and still doing- as a writer, a travel journalist, a yoga instructor. This Associate degree that I am planning to attain from said community college will help me branch out to a whole new world. I am planning to get an Associate degree in Petroleum Technology.

I have to admit that I would not think of it myself. My husband told me about this opportunity to become a Petroleum technologist. It took me almost 2 years to finally decide that I want to do it. At first I fought the idea. "It's not me," I said and I struggled with defining 'who am I?'. The most cliche question of all. I was struggling with the notion that if I was one thing, I could not be another. If I was a writer, I could not possibly work as a Petroleum technologist. That would be a betrayal to myself. It took me so many full moons to finally come to peace with myself. I do not need to define myself. I can be anything.

My husband and I went into a lot of heated discussion about this Petroleum Technology thing. His arguments were always logical and mine were always based on my feelings. And finally I realized, taking this degree would not kill me. If anything, it would only benefit me in the long run. Adding another skill can never hurt. It will only give me a better chance in getting a well-paid job here, besides still doing the things I love to do like writing, teaching yoga and traveling.

So now I am studying for the admission test. I am revisiting trigonometry and algebra. I know it is only a community college, but I still want to ace it. I am and will always be a nerd. I guess that's the thing I like about school. It is challenging and makes me want to do well. Really well.

I did not think I would be really excited about this, but I really am.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

It is important to travel, 
but it is more important to feel happy when you are still.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Flexibility is Overrated

More and more I see people uploading pictures of themselves doing some hard core yoga poses on social media. On instagram there are even daily challenge from a so-called yoga expert to his/her followers to do certain poses. These poses are cool to see, intriguing and motivating, but sometimes also misleading.

I have to admit that I have done my fair share of showing off on social media. Thinking back to those days always makes me kind of embarrassed, but I need to own it because at that point I was where I was supposed to be. I guess that was part of my journey and now I have to live with seeing my boastful ego in each of those pictures. That same ego still follows me every time I do my practice and I've been trying to find a way to work with it and not for it. Because let's just face it, praises and adoration fuel the ego and when that happens somehow we thought it was happiness or worse, contentment.

More than once people would come to me and say that they had been thinking of doing yoga but they kept hesitating because they were not flexible. I guess that is the number one reason people don't step into a yoga class. They do not want to look silly standing beside other students that they thought were flexible. I would always say, "You don't need to be flexible to do yoga." As long as someone is breathing, I would say that yoga is for them. The crazy poses with those arm balances or unbelievable backbends are not for everyone. People should realize that before injuries occur, because they do occur.

I am one of the flexible people in my yoga class. I really am not saying that to be condescending, but to say that it really does not mean anything at all. There are poses that I could easily get into, because I was built to do them easily. I am petite and I did ballet in the past, so some poses do work in my favor. Nonetheless there are times when I tried to hard, I forced, struggled and obsessed until I felt pain and then I would feel stupid for pushing my way into a pose. It is just a pose. People need to lighten up and realize that the poses are only a small part of yoga. I need to remind myself that every single day. It is just a pose. The world will not collapse if I can't do a handstand or a stupid standing bow.

My yoga training included a posture clinic where we went through poses one by one, discussing the benefits, the anatomy and the correct way to do them. We spent a lot of hours to do so. I would have nights where I dreamed of those poses. It was that intense and I would be extremely critical to myself when doing the poses. At the same time we also learned about why the poses came second. Or maybe third. I couldn't really grasp the concept until I did some special classes as part of my training and also when I had finished the training.

The classes were special because almost everyone in these classes had mobility limitation. Flexibility is a word that would be taken as mockery in these classes. Unless if we were talking about flexibility of the mind. I have had the privilege of giving yoga classes to people in wheelchairs, people with Multiple Sclerosis, senior people who were senile and totally immobile except for some movement of the wrists. These are the kind of classes that make me love to share my passion for yoga and not because I pity them, but because in these classes yoga feels pure, yoga is believable, yoga is not seen as a place for competition.

The first time I came to teach in a Senior home here in Houston, I really did not know what I was going into. I did not have the slightest idea what I was about to encounter. It was actually my yoga teacher's class and she asked me to sub because she could not do it that day.

My yoga teacher that I love and adore is 74 years old. Her mind is sharp, she has terrific posture, she is independent, she is passionate, she is the very definition of being alive. She is the one person that makes me think that age really does not matter. One does not have to be old when they get older. One does not have to give up youth as they experienced life longer. Somehow she makes age just as it is: numbers.

Coming to my first yoga class in a senior home I was welcomed by a startling view. My class was a group of 7 people, all in their wheelchairs and -I believe- most of them were senile. Actually, all except one, he was in his bed and looked unconscious. I was more than discouraged, I was ready to jump out the window and ran as fast I could. I did not though. The class was on the 4th floor. I stayed and struggled to do the class. I had taught a class for people with MS and there were interactions, there were a sense of a normal class only with a lot of modifications and that was fine. That was absolutely fine with me. In the senior home, there was almost no movement, let alone an interaction. I felt like I was the only person alive in the room. I was on the verge of crying because the class felt like hours when it was only 35 minutes and I had ran out of ideas.

I had to totally alter my routine. I did a lot of fingers, wrists and ankles movements. I had them breathing with me. Breathing alone was a struggle in the class. Some of them followed my instructions, other fell asleep or started talking to themselves. At one point I had to really pray that nobody would die, because I honestly felt like some of them were slipping away. It was scary. By the end of the 35-minute class I was drained. My level of energy was so low that I felt like taking a nap right there and then. It was gruesome, but it was also awesome because I had the chance to experience something so out of my comfort zone. Something so new and challenging. To me, more than contorting poses, classes like these are the true challenge.

The one thing that made the whole experience more than worthy to repeat was when I had the opportunity to talk to them one-by-one after class. Some would just repeat their sentences over and over again while others would tell me about their past as if I was someone who really knew them. They would say thank you and how they enjoyed the class. The class that I had made up along the way while silently crying and wanting to bail. I would say thank you back because I was really grateful and because they made me felt the presence of my grandmother. They made me realize how uncomplicated it was to be compassionate. How easy it was to take things easily. Those souls, in the body of a senile old lady or a dying old man, humbled me with their presence. It was enough by them just being there in the class, doing the breathing, struggling to breathe.

The second time my teacher asked if I could do another class in the senior home I immediately said yes. I was shocked by my own enthusiasm, remembering how disastrous my last class was. I guess it was my teacher's voice that made me excited to come back there. Over and over again she would say that everyday is different and I thought that I owed myself at least another try.

So in that Friday morning, a frisky Friday morning, I chose the craziest pair of socks I had in my drawer. They were knee-length high socks with black and white stripes and separated colorful toes. Crazy is an understatement. I covered the socks with my boots. My class that morning was consisted of sweet old ladies and a couple of gentlemen. As usual, everyone was in their wheelchairs, talking to themselves, sleeping or looking at me confused. They might had initially wanted to do tennis or waterski, yet they were brought to a yoga class, because it was hard to do tennis or waterski with a wheelchair and we were nowhere near a mass of water.

I took off my boots and they were immediately drawn to my socks. They might wonder how someone could find such hideous socks, but at least I had their attention. I started the class with a totally different attitude and approach. There was no discouragement or hesitation, I went head first to become the most energized yoga teacher I could possibly be. I made myself the center of attention, addressing each and every one of them with the biggest smile I had, assuring them that the movements and breathing we did were doable and even good for them. I felt like a clown in a 5-year old birthday party, but it was a success. I got more reaction, even lit up a few pair of eyes. It was awesome!

In the end I was still drained, but at least it was because I consciously sent my energy out to them and not because they unconsciously took it from me. There is a big difference. I was a messenger of energy and it is the best part of being a yoga instructor. And those kind of experiences are the reasons I do what I do.

So I guess competitive yoga is not for me. Besides, I don't think competitive yoga exists. Yoga is the very opposite of competition and that is my lesson learned. This journey has its ups and downs. The downs are important, but when it comes to the ups, it gives me a high no drugs could ever provide.


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

It's One of Those Days

It's been almost a year since I finished my yoga training. I've been teaching and practicing, at the same time also questioning and hesitating. I think I learned a lot more after finishing the training. It has not always been easy. Most days I struggle with my self and the thoughts I have. 

Taking the yoga training was like taking a huge gigantic step towards self discoveries. It opened pandora box and some of the things inside are just too damn huge for me, at least for the moment. We learned about anatomy, postures, poses, nutrition, and meditation, but more than that I learned about the things I guess I already knew. Choosing the high road, staying in the moment, attaching to nothing, embodying compassion, and seeing the Highest Self in myself and in everything and everyone, are some of those things.

Finishing the training meant that I was granted the knowledge about all that and left to choose to do or not do. I was granted the ability to see life and its glory in the simplest form and let me tell you, it is scary. It is scary to realize how simple everything actually is. That knowledge crushes ego, but not necessarily sets someone free, because letting go of ego is excruciatingly hard. I am still struggling, every single day.  

It is hard to be unattached and not indifferent. It is hard to know the difference between the two. It is hard to see the Highest Self in people. It is hard to see the Highest Self in myself, because it is pure and divine. It is total bliss and unadulterated. It is hard to not pass judgment. That includes on myself, but most of the time on someone else. It is hard to not be self-righteous and just be compassionate. It is hard to believe that I have the potential to be divine and content. Knowing that everyone has the ability to self-suffice is scary, because that means I need nothing and no one to be content. The knowledge is scary, because now I cannot pretend that I do not know it. This knowledge is indeed power and one cannot just overlook it, because it eats you up from the inside.

Confusion is the name of the game and I'm playing it almost everyday. I guess that's OK, because at least I am doing something. At least I am making mistakes and listening to (or going against) the voice inside me. I'm sure this has turned into a very absurd blog post to some and I am deeply sorry for taking your time to read. I guess I'm writing to myself in the future, so that I will remember this day. This clear day among the hazy confusing ones.

That is it for today. I'm going to watch Bunheads on now, because I'm just a mere mortal and shows about dancing (from the talented Amy Sherman-Palladino) makes me over-the-top happy.