Complete and utter paradise. That’s where I am. After a long and slightly sketchy trip south from Bangkok (I’ll explain more later), I arrived on Koh Samui, an island in the gulf of Thailand where my yoga teacher training will be held. I hailed a taxi and was relieved when he nodded and he said he knew where “the yoga place” was, because I wasn’t sure of the exact address. 20 minutes later I arrived in paradise. The friendly receptionists took my bags and sat me down at the desk to check in and a moment later I was handed a cold towel to wipe my face and a sweet refreshing iced tea. My room wasn’t ready yet, so one of the attendants showed me around the retreat. We passed a nice gift shop stocked with yoga clothes, mats, props, books, and some beautiful locally made jewelry that I might have to splurge on. Next on the right was the wellness center where we can sign up for massages, detox treatments, etc… They look tempting, but a little pricey after my 7 dollar foot massage. After the wellness center was the juice bar and restaurant/lounge. The juice bar offers (for an extra price) fresh juices, smoothies, whole coconuts with a straw and a few sweets. The restaurant is buffet-style and is open for several hours, so you can come and go as you want. There’s a nice open-aired place to sit with comfortable cushions on the ground that looks out over the ocean. Across from the restaurant is the yoga shala where I’ll be spending much of my time, I’m sure. And finally, just before you reach the white sandy beach lined with palm trees, there’s a blue tile pool with lounge chairs and a steam room.

Not having eaten a real meal since lunch yesterday (Cabbages and Condoms!), I browsed the buffet before choosing granola, homemade yogurt, and toast. It tasted great after having eaten greasy noodles and rich curries this past week. There were a lot of people milling about, so I introduced myself to a few. In all there are 39 students in the yoga teacher training course, plus more just here for a retreat. I met Caesar from Brazil who now lives in Australia, another video game programmer originally from New Hampshire, Eva from Holland, a girl from Ireland, and Janet, who happens to be my roommate as well as a massage therapist. She was born in Holland, but now lives outside of Banff.

Now when I say roommate, I mean we share an entrance and a bathroom. Oh, and a balcony looking out at the palm trees and water (are you jealous yet Mom?). Our ‘rooms’ are more like suites. There’s and upstairs, where Janet sleeps, and a downstairs, where I am. We have a refrigerator that gets filled with fresh water every day, lots of closet space, an outdoor shower, safes to lock our valuables, and a wooden Buddha at the head of our beds that gets illumined when we turn on the reading lights. I don’t even care that it’s raining out right now.

To take a step back, though, let me tell you about how I got here. I take back what I said about easy traveling in Thailand. It may be relatively easy, but it’s definitely not straightforward or fast. After being dropped off on a street corner last night and told to wait, I stood there for two hours with Ariel from Barcelona and Mark from England for the supposed bus that would take us south. After an hour I began to get worried, but then other (white) people started to arrive and I succumbed to the wait. At 7:15 the double-decker bus finally arrived and we all boarded and found seats. One advantage of traveling alone is that I usually get my own seat, which were actually pretty comfortable when reclined all the way. At around 11:30 we stopped at a roadside… restaurant isn’t the right word… for a half hour break, then got back on the bus for another few hours. I think I must have slept a fair bit because the next time we stopped we were told to get off and change buses. Since there were people going to several different places, they divided us up and sent us off in what seemed to be random vehicles. Myself and two other guys had to wait an hour before our minivan arrived. Then we were taken five minutes down the road and told to board another bus, this one full of travelers bound for the islands. An hour on that bus brought us, finally, to a dock where the ferry would transport us to Koh Samui. It was a nice ride even though the sky was grey and it looked like it might rain at any second. I sat outside on the deck and enjoyed the cool breeze and rocking of the waves.

We arrived in Na Thon just past 11 and I didn’t have to walk far to get a taxi. Like I mentioned before, he knew where I wanted to go and even the price was expensive (relatively, I guess. It was only $17), I was ready to be done with traveling.

So here I am now, resting a bit before we all meet in the yoga shala for introductions and an opening ceremony. Did I mention I was in paradise?

Two weeks to go!

It’s been seven weeks since I returned to the Sea Lion as Wellness Specialist, and I have only two more to go! (Acutally one and a half) It has gone by really fast, but I’m definitely ready for a break. We had a staff switch-out this past turn-day, so the people I’ve been working with for the last five weeks left, and now there are four new staff members (all male… again). It was really sad to see them go – we had so much fun together! Tom (who is a Lindblad legend) taught me a few limericks, most of which aren’t appropriate to post here. Here’s a (relatively) clean one though –

There once was a girl from Madras

Who had the most wonderful ass

It wasn’t as you think, all round and pink

It was grey, had long ears, and ate grass!

Tom had us in stitches, telling us some of the more dirty ones. He’s also written a book, which I bought, called Dragons, Cannibals, and Erupting Volcanoes – or The Unofficial History of Lindblad. It has hundreds of stories about Tom’s adventures and mishaps while working for the company. It’s hilarious!

Not much else to report… It’s been pretty rainy and cold, so I haven’t gotten out much. We have had some good humpback sightings and we’ve seen a few bears. Last week in Glacier Bay there was a black bear foraging along the coast, turning over rocks and scratching himself amid the seaweed. The bear itself was cool, but in the setting of Glacier Bay, it was beautiful – tall mountains, u-shaped valleys, and mist shrouded trees.

Massage has been going pretty well – I think I had 14 people last weeks, which is quite a few when I have to schedule them around hiking, kayaking, zodiac cruises, wildlife, and of course, my yoga practice. I’m getting really excited for my yoga teacher training. It starts in November, but I’ve been receiving pre-course assignments – like readings, journal entries, etc… – The latest is to take three different types of yoga classes – Mysore (ashtanga), Iyengar, and Sivananda. Obviously I can’t take classes while on the ship, so I’ll have to find those classes when I get home. That’s it for now, hopefully I’ll see something worthwhile to write about this week. Maybe for orcas or bubble-net feeding!

Breaching Whale

It’s the end of another week and I’m sitting in the Baranof Hotel lobby in Juneau, poaching internet and slurping an iced coffee. This past trip was great. The New Yorkers were all very friendly and fun (partly due to the 220+ bottles of wine they consumed within the span of seven days) and we had a great week of wildlife, hiking, kayaking, and weather – as far a Alaskan weather can go. I think the highlight of the trip for me was the morning Stephanie, our expedition leader, woke us up at 5:30 to announce a breaching humpback whale off our bow. I threw on some clothes, grabbed the camera that a deckhand lent me, and ran up the two sets of stairs to the bow. It was really windy and chilly, but the whale kept breaching and breaching for over half and hour, and I didn’t want to leave, despite the cold and spray that covered the deck. I got a few good shots, but I was wishing that I had my camera with its longer lens (which I did receive in Petersburg last week, and I’ve been dutifully shooting anything and everything I see). We have another full trip this week, and I’m hoping it goes as smoothly! I managed to fit in 16 massages last week, along with the hiking and kayaking and my yoga practice (which reminds me – I got accepted into the yoga teacher training program in Thailand, starting in November. I’m so excited!). I just hope I can keep it up for another six weeks!