It’s Sunday morning.  6 am.  I was woken up by bells and a deep guttural chant and song.  I hear music like that quite a lot.  Erupting into the morning or night and I can never work out where its coming from.  Its eerie, but also quite grounding.  I think in the UK we should all sing a bit more.

Anyway, 6 am is perfect.  That gives me just enough time to get some food down me.  Two midget bananas, and a satsuma, purchased from the organic market yesterday morning, and my ritual green tea. Also means I can catch up on the blog.  Time has started to run away from me, and I want to encourage looking at the now, not to always be looking back.

Saturday was rest day, which meant that Friday was Ashtanga-party-night.  We all emerged from the shala on Friday morning like school-kids breaking up for the holidays.  Drinking our coconut water through wooden straws chiseled into the centre of the fruit, discussing our practice, our struggles, stories of how we got there, and plans for that night.

I’m still the newbie.  Not 100% sure of everyone’s names, or able to laugh at the insiders’ jokes, and even though I still feel slightly self-conscious or nervous in those situations (will that feeling ever go away), I’m beginning to feel more like part of a group.  I’ll relax into it in time, and to be honest, I’m still wanting/needing a lot of space to myself.  Getting a social life isn’t necessarily on my agenda, I just want that to happen naturally…like meeting Anouk.

When I was at the pool last week, I’d been there a few hours, and was starting to feel a bit of a burning sensation on my inner thigh, and the centre of my back, where I’d forgotten to put sunscreen, and was debating going home.  I sat myself up, and was surprised to see someone else, I’d had the place to myself all day.  I wasn’t sure where she was from, and watched her struggle with the sun lounger, light her cigarette, and then take a swim in the pool – all the while thinking, do I say something – do I introduce myself – or are we both just happy to coincide in solitude?

She looked like the kind of girl I’d get on with.  She had a kind face, and had been lost in her thoughts for a while – we shared a smile.

All it took, was that simple question, “where are you from?” and that was it.  She – Swiss/French, grew up on an island off Madagascar; me – English grew up on an island in the Caribbean.  Both travelling alone, she – passing through Ubud, me – here for a while.  Both emotional about the stray dogs, loving the laid-back and holistic attitude of the people, we decided to exchange email addresses and go out on Friday night.  Anouk – my first friend in Ubud.

We met at 5.30 and went for food at a warung overlooking the football field.  It was charity-based, the money going towards helping children with mental disabilities.  I think how it works, is that everyone working there is in training, which makes the customers sort of guinea pigs.  The food was simple but tasty, and the kids that served us were heart-wrenchingly sweet.  Dropping knives and forks on the floor, nervously apologising, but with these great beaming smiles.  They could have accidentally stabbed us in the head, and we would still have loved it.

We talked for ages and was amazed by how many shared experiences we had.  Both equally disliking the “where are you from” question, and having struggled to find a sense of belonging.  Anyway, we laughed a lot, and there were lots of “that’s soo true!” comments, before we ventured on to meet the yoga group at the Jazz Cafe.  I got us lost, but we made it in the end, and I wasn’t really sure what to expect.  I’d heard that it was really vibrant and the music was brilliant, but when we got there it was incredibly quiet, and the yoga group were in full swing.  Deep in conversations and laughing loudly – it took a while for Anouk and me to get into it.

But we did.  Eventually people moved around, conversations opened up, advice was given – I was asked how I’d found my first week.

To put it simply – I’ve absolutely loved it.  Rahda and Prem are proving to be quite inspirational, with the way that they break the sequence down, and rebuild you back up, tolerant and brave, in the way that they don’t seem to mind adjusting you no matter how hot and sweaty you are.  I really enjoyed hearing everyone’s stories, why they do yoga, what they get out of it, what they struggle with, and how it’s changed their lives.  Some of them have been practicing since they were children, others on and off for the past twelve years, a couple of us, not long at all – but all seemed to be getting the same thing out of it.  An addiction of sorts.  All loving the way that it makes you feel.

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A few beers in, we decided to move on to the reggae bar.  A chance to dance to Balinese Bob Marley.  In retrospect I probably shouldn’t have had quite so many beers, I could still feel it this morning in my yoga session, and felt annoyed with myself.  But, it was a chance to get to know everyone better, and laugh at stupid jokes and oh – to dance.  There’s nothing quite like drunkenly swaying to a gentle reggae beat.  It brings out the love in people.  All projecting our voices into the faces of happy strangers, “no woman no cry” and abandoning all sense of coolness, as you close your eyes, release your hands into the air, imagining that you’ve got African rhythm…it’s just been repressed all these years.  Obviously, when you open your eyes and look around you, it’s not the case at all.  A lot of jerky, out of time motioning of the hips, and sunburnt faces, but who cares?  Everyone’s happy!

By the time the night came to a close, it was past midnight, and we stepped out onto Monkey Forest road, under a spectacular downpour of tropical rain.  The sky was flashing white and the thunder rumbled overhead.  The forest itself looked impenetrable, menacing, but there were three of us, so we figured it would be alright.

Thank god for the lightning, guiding us away from the stark drops into the polluted river, and cracked pavement under foot.  I didn’t see a single monkey – the little terrors – but it’s certainly not a walk I’d like to do on my own.

By the time I got home I had to wring my clothes and hair out, and wash the mud off my feet, before curling up in bed, and falling asleep to the lullaby of the tropics….I survived week one.  I wonder what week two will bring?

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