Learning to Climb

In this short story, I tell about my adventure in Thailand back in 2006, with two of my closest friends, Neesha and Amy. Wish I was back there!


Brrrrrrrrnnnnnnnnnngggg!!! The alarm went off. 5 AM. Startled, I leaned over to turn it off and thoughts of going to work whizzed through my head. I opened my eyes, pleasantly surprised that I wasn’t at home and didn’t have to go to work after all. Stretched out before me through the window was the Indian ocean, off the coast of Krabi. In bed beside me, my friend Neesha slept soundly. I was always envious of how deeply she slept, and she looked like a princess amidst the white sheets. “Wake up!” I yelled, and went to the adjoining room to shake Amy awake. She was another one that loved to sleep, and she couldn’t share a bed either. At almost 6 feet tall, she liked her space and we always knew that if there was a single bed, it had her name on it.

By 6 AM, we were ready to go. We got to the beach and gazed up at the silver cliffs that loomed up into the sky. What an adventure! Amy was terrified and instantly identified a small cliff (more like a rock) on our right that would be her challenge for the day. I had been rock climbing once before back home, but never outdoors and never in such a beautiful setting. Our Thai instructor was a small man with a wide smile, toothy grin, and lots of optimism. Back home we would’ve had to take a course, sign our lives away, and wear a helmet. Here in Krabi, we were handed ropes and a harness and a big smile of encouragement. “You can do it!” our instructor said to us. Neesha went first. She expertly scaled up the cliff like one of the spiders on my balcony, and reached the top like a champ. I was responsible for belaying her. I felt a huge weight on my shoulders as I became aware that my best friend’s life was in my hands. I would later read that “belay” is the most reverent word in the climbing lexicon; it is the ultimate act of trust. I did not take the responsibility lightly, and I followed the instructor’s guidance carefully, keeping the rope loose enough to allow movement, but providing just enough slack in case of a fall. She descended back to the ground gracefully.

I would later read that “belay” is the most reverent word in the climbing lexicon; it is the ultimate act of trust.

I was up next. I started climbing and I wasn’t nearly as graceful as Neesha. My head hit the cliff rocks a few times. Where was that helmet?! My hands were shaking and forearms sore; clearly I had not worked these muscles in awhile. I got about halfway up and I’d had enough. I yelled back down “Ok, I’m done… let me down now!” In response, the Thai instructor smiled broadly and yelled “YOU CAN DO IT!” Was he kidding?! I saw Neesha give him her ‘serious’ look – she knew when I meant business. He wouldn’t budge. He yelled “YOU CAN DO IT! YOU CAN OVERCOME ANY OBSTACLE!” I couldn’t believe he was preaching inspirational sayings while I hung there, exhausted and terrified. I gazed at the ocean through my disbelief; it was a stunning sight. I shouted back to him that I was not, in fact, going to do it. Back and forth we went like that, and eventually I relented. Slowly, painfully, I continued up to the top. And I made it! What I had assumed I couldn’t do, I managed to do with a bit of force and someone’s refusal to give up on me. I felt great, although I made sure to give them both hell when I got back down. But my ear-to-ear smile gave away my satisfaction.

What I had assumed I couldn’t do, I managed to do with a bit of force and someone’s refusal to give up on me.

On our walk back to return our equipment, Neesha, Amy, and I happily ate bananas and strolled under the huge palm trees along the beach. We chatted about how much we’d enjoyed the experience, nerves and all. Suddenly, I was overtaken by what I thought was a meteor. Something hurtled past my head and fell at my feet. My banana splattered everywhere – on my shirt, in my belly button, in my hair. I was shaking all over and covered in banana goop. I noticed that Amy and Neesha had collapsed on the ground laughing once they’d assessed I was ok. It was a coconut! It had fallen out of the sky and straight for my head – and it had missed me by about an inch. Every year in Thailand, a few people die from falling coconuts and I was this close to being the next statistic. Between laughs, Neesha said to me “What would I have told your parents? Sorry Mr. and Mrs. Patel, we did everything we could but the coconut was just too fast for us.” Ha Ha Ha. I wasn’t laughing – YET. I couldn’t believe that I had survived my rock climbing adventure but nearly gone out with a coconut. Shaken but laughing, we continued along the beach and onto our next adventure.

THE END

One Flame Uniting People Worldwide

Week 36. This was a special one because it was in North Wales, where my Dad used to hike in his school days. We left from Coventry (where I was born!) and piled into the rental car and got comfortable for the 2-hour drive. We stopped to play with the sheep… well I did and everyone laughed because the sheep just ran away when I approached them. I felt a little agitated, wondering how I was going to make it through the day, staring at the sun and the mountains in awe yet still a little angry at God or whoever, but mostly just unable to process the amount of gratitude I was feeling. Roshni, Mom, and I sat in the back, crowded and trying to feel comfortable. Dylan sat in the front with lots of room and a big smile on his face. Dad drove, and led us through the hills and valleys, as we entered the place that he had fallen in love with as a child.

We parked close to Mount Snowdon, but we still needed to take a bus to get to the base. We discovered that we didn’t have enough change so Mom ran to a nearby taxi bus and asked him for change for a 10 pound note. She came back and we stood there waiting, then Dylan had the idea that we should just take the taxi instead of waiting for the bus, and so Mom ran back and asked him how much it would be and he said that it would be 2 pounds each (so 10 pounds in total). She came back and we agreed it was a better option (well first my Dad said that the bus would be cheaper, then realized it was just a small difference) and we all piled into the taxi. We enjoyed the smooth ride after being trapped in that small car for so long. It felt like the start of an adventure! Once we got to the base, we stopped to use the restrooms and geared up for our climb.

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Base of Mount Snowdon, North Wales

The sun was shining brightly and it was very windy. We decided to take the Miner’s Path, a beautiful hike encircling two lakes, that is perfect for people who want an enjoyable hike without going to the summit. Throughout our hike, my Dad would find hills off the beaten path and him and Dylan would climb up them and almost get blown over by the force of the wind. We stopped at one of the lakes and had a rock-throwing contest – mine didn’t go very far!, Dad won, with Dylan came in a close second.

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There were waterfalls and sheep and the views were beyond beautiful. I stopped at a waterfall and started to sing “I Would Die for You” – a flash of inspiration.

On our way home we stopped for lunch at a cute little café – I had a vegetarian breakfast consisting of eggs, veggie sausage, hash browns, mushrooms, and toast – all for just 3.99 pounds! I had to use the bathroom which was a porta-potty type thing, and on my way stumbled upon a beautiful little stream. I paid my 20 pence for the bathroom, got inside and pressed the LOCK button. Then the automated message voice announced “This door will open automatically in 15 minutes” which gave me a heart attack (how was I going to survive in there for 15 whole minutes?!!), immediately followed by “At any time you may press the button to unlock.” Phew!

We drove on and encounted a cute little place that looked like a B&B that turned out to be a yoga/retreat centre. We stopped outside and we were in awe of the World Peace Flame (image above).

The World Peace Flame is a universal symbol of global peace and unity. Peace is the change that you and I can make here and now by the way we think, speak, feel and act to create harmony in our day to day life and relationships.

There were seven flames in 5 continents that were lit across the world. In 1999 they were united in Bangor, North Wales to create the World Peace Flame. Since then the flame has been taken to every country in the world and serves as a representation for the unified desire for world peace. The flame is a call to action, and is associated with many humanitarian projects around the world. The World Peace Flame Foundation runs trauma healing programs in Sudan, Northern Ireland, and Nepal, and most recently programs to help Syrian refugees. In India, there are programs to empower local communities and provide free health care to impoverished areas.

We walked into the main office of the centre and met the owner Sue, who took us through and explained some of the programs related to yoga, meditation, mantras, the power of sound, and retreats. She was so lovely and animated, and made us feel right at home!

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Me and Sue, Owner of Dru Yoga Centre, North Wales

In the picture you can see Saraswati in the back and the Bhagavad Gita! I wish I’d taken a picture of the passage it was open to. Sue handed us lots of brochures and guided us through the centre. I saw the book Full Catastrophe Living there, which was written by Jon Kabat Zinn, whose meditation I do on a daily basis. Then I said hi to the sleeping Buddha who was hanging out by the window.

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It felt like a long drive home, but thankfully we all slept and were konked out for most of it. We arrived back in Coventry at around 9 PM, where my Foi was waiting for us and had a wonderful dinner prepared.

 

A Family Affair

Week 35. My cousin Hiten and I headed out after breakfast at my Mama and Mami’s house in Ipswich (I’m in England right now, visiting my grandparents and cousins and nieces and nephews). It was a cloudy day but warm, and it was nice being in his company, since it had been awhile since we had spent a day together. He is someone that really gets me, and always has, along with my cousin Krupa who somehow seems to know what I’m thinking and totally relates to my journey. We walked to the docks area and it was gorgeous. The boats reminded me of the Toronto harbourfront area, which is close to my heart and I’ve been missing so much lately. At one point I started to tear up a little when talking about how my Dad had offered to pay for my flight to Iceland (gratitude always makes me cry), and he was ok with my crying although he might’ve said that I can’t keep on crying forever. He said “Have you ever thought about just living? – you know without all this other stuff?”. Ummm isn’t that what I’m doing? How could I not be living? Living happily is a different story I guess. Like right now I’m sitting at my cousin Vanisha’s computer, upstairs in her son’s room, while my Mom and Masi and Kumar sit downstairs and I can smell the masala tea and I can’t wait to go down and join them. Just have to finish this post first by 2pm.

We walked into town and I was pleasantly surprised by all the cute little shops and cafes. Ipswich is clearly under-rated. We sat at a Starbucks and I got a latte, he got a frappucino, and we sat outside and talked about volunteering and a wonderful organization called International Volunteer HQ that does short-term volunteer placements around the world. Here is a pic of him representing the organization. Doesn’t he look great?!

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We wandered to the shops and inside the churches and the light from outside streamed ethereally through the stained glass. Hiten said that he had been going to the pub just outside the church with his mates (that is British for ‘friends’) since he was young, yet he had never gone inside the church. We were both taken aback by its beauty. The church is now  a cafeteria and there was a man there who explained the meaning of the beautiful  images at the back – it was the story of Jesus, from his birth to his death to his resurrection. Here is the scene, although you can’t really make it out. I wish I’d taken one closer up!

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The story of Jesus, Church of Ipswich

We continued walking, passing by some of the pigs that have overtaken the city. There is a Pigs Gone Wild app that you can download and scan the code at each pig that you encounter. All the proceeds go to the St. Elizabeth Hospice in Ipswich.

We wandered into the sweet shops, took in the sounds of the street performers, and at one point I started to sing too. I told Hiten that it helps me access my heartache, and it was amazing how I felt comfortable enough to sing “Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone” and Sam Smith’s “I’m not the only one”, and some of Adelle’s Hello. Singing helps me to access my joy too! (yes it’s in there). We continued along and found an eclectic furniture store and I commented on how I would buy everything in there to decorate my own place. It is called The House In Town and is owned by John Manning, a jolly chap who selects all the pieces himself and buys them from all around England. Next door to him is his Mom’s shop, and next to hers is his brother’s shop. He showed us an article written about them that details how the business has been a family affair over the last 20 years. As I wandered through, I was drawn to the paintings of powerful women, Audrey Hepburn and Marilyn Monroe. I admire Audrey so much for her free spirit and humanitarian work she has done throughout her life. She was also very fond of animals, and was even known to sleep with a young deer. As I gazed at her beautiful face, I was reminded of a similar painting I have back in Toronto, hanging behind my door, that I used to see every day before heading out. I’m actually moving out of my place on October 9th! I can’t believe it. I’ve been there for 7 years, so it’s a huge thing. It will be fun packing up all my things and heading towards something new!

On the way home Hiten and I stopped by the park nearby his place, and of course I had to stop and go on the swings. Then we arrived home after a long day, greeted by my Mama and Mami who were wondering what we’d been up to all day.

Overall it was a great day. :-)  The only thing missing was that I didn’t get a chance to do any reading up on women’s rights and also I had forgotten my book for my walks, but the theme of I AM POWERFUL played in my mind. Ok off to eat now!!

The Best Is Yet To Come

This day was infinitely better than all the previous ones. This walk is getting better, and things are getting better in general, and I do believe that the best is yet to come. I started my walk actually feeling pretty horrible – I almost thought I couldn’t go on. I left my house and felt like my body was going to give out on me. I’ve been through an incredible journey with my health, and one way that I’ve slowly nursed myself back to health is by taking supplements. I take lots of them – Ashwagandha, Holy Basil, Maca, Astragalus, Grape Seed, Red Reishi, Relora, etc. I’ll write about them more in another post. Anyway, lately I thought I’d change the mix so that I wasn’t taking so many and clearly it didn’t work. I’m back to what I know works, and I’m not messing with it!

I walked along University, past 525 where I used to work, and through King’s College Circle. I got to my creative writing class in Robart’s Library and saw that no one was there. So I emailed the prof and asked if the class was cancelled. Then I went home to fix myself and adjust my supplement mix. And also I realized that I had been an hour early for my class – it was actually at 1pm, not Noon! So I did make it back, albeit an hour late. It was great as usual – we were discussing setting, and how setting is integral to a story. Where does it take place? What does this mean for the characters? A lot of the time the story would not make sense without the setting. A lot of the story that is my favourite story happened along University Avenue. I guess that’s why I like to walk there so much.

After my creative writing class, I went to Whole Foods to pick up some stuff, and then to Balzac’s. I spent hours reading The Underground Girls of Kabul. Ok let me re-phrase: I spent hours there, but only got a little bit of reading done. My mind was on other things I guess, and also I was answering emails and chatting with my friend Raj about his upcoming course, The Demons of the Unconscious. I got to thinking about how women feel uncomfortable when men look at us (well only men we don’t like obviously!). While I was reading, there was a man sitting across from me that kept staring, and although I felt irritated, I also liked the attention. This was noticeable when he left and I kind of missed it a little. Ahhhh well what can you do? Can’t live with them, can’t live without them!

In the Underground Girls of Kabul, Swedish journalist Jenny Nordberg meets with Afghan women and uncovers an interesting phenomenon – families that do not have boys often dress up one of their girls as a boy, so that they can reap the social benefits of having a boy. And also they believe that seeing a boy in the family will help manifest an actual boy in the family, through the method of visualization and positive thinking. I’m going to start staring at pictures of money I think! I’ve started to notice lately that I’ve been focusing a lot on the pain and not as much on the things that are going well. And it’s important to do that, because what you focus on expands. And in the story there was Dr. Fareiba, who defies tradition time and again, working under every form of government, and as a leading female doctor who has delivered thousands of babies. It is interesting that she also believes in the value of having a son, because daughters go away but sons stay forever. A son is a boon while a daughter is considered somewhat of a curse.

Dr. Fareiba makes a reference to her own sister, who has a university degree and a husband who is an engineer. But they were pitied as they didn’t have a son, only four daughters. So she came to Dr. Fareiba. “She asked me: ‘Why don’t you get any girls – you get boys? What is the problem with me?’ And I treated them one year ago, and now thanks be to God she has a son.”

Following Balzac’s, I walked home along Yonge Street, and to the Eaton Centre where I had some quiet time. I read a chapter from The Complete Life of Rama and had some tea and listened to the love songs playing in the background and even cried a little about the beautiful love between Sita and Ram. Who could know love so true? And I saw signs everywhere that good things are on their way. Like a book about Beyonce (the most empowered woman!) and journals with inspiring messages like ‘the best is yet to come’. Isn’t it?

Then I bought a heart pillow for a sexy Valentine’s Day photo shoot that I’m going to do with my friend Gosia this Thursday! Nervous and excited. It is sure to be racy!

Walked home in the most beautiful snow, and was elated when I realized that I was going to make it after all. When I got home, there was a nice surprise in the mail – my passport! Adventures await!