After looking around, I found the currency exchange and picked up my Rupiah. I had to ask someone where China Eastern Airlines' Boarding Pass area was. I wasn't sure what would be best, so I chose an aisle seat. This was a choice I would come to greatly regret. I sat in the lounge area, waiting for some sort of announcement that never came. I decided to go and check my gate, only to see my plane was boarding. So I hopped in line and got ready to board a plane for the first time in my life. Once I found my seat, I stowed my luggage in the overhead compartments and sat down. It all started to sink in. I couldn't change my mind. I couldn't get out of this even if I wanted to. I was on a plane and was going to China, then Singapore, and finally Bali, Indonesia. The gentleman seated beside me was a kindly Vietnamese- Canadian who was travelling back to Vietnam for the winter months. He assured me that we would be fine and it would be a long trip but we would get there in one piece. As we taxied out to the runway, my heart started to race and I began to hyperventilate a bit. I was white-knuckling the arms of my seat and looking around with terror in my eyes. Then: the inevitable. The engine revved and I was pushed back into my seat by a force like nothing I had ever felt before. As we rocketed down the runway, I closed my eyes and said some words to the Universe: “I know you will get me there safely and this will be the greatest adventure of my life”. And after what felt like forever the plane lifted from the ground and we began to climb.
This first flight would be the longest of the three. We were on route to Shanghai from Toronto, headed north... wait, north?! Yes, north. We traveled north-west over Alaska and Russia before banking south to Shanghai. I was completely enthralled by the GPS system tracking the flight. I found this very calming and interesting. I didn't get much sleep on that flight, despite taking 5 travel pills to do so. This was when I began to regret taking the aisle seat. People were constantly brushing past me on their way to the lavatory, I had no room to stretch out, and I had nothing to lean on besides my own seat. I vowed to take a window seat from then on. At least in a window seat I would have something else to lean on. The food on the plane was good though and completely different than anything I had eaten in the past. I thoroughly enjoyed this, as I love trying new foods. I also enjoyed the screens on the back of the seats and watched the new 'Aladdin' several times. I did not enjoy using the lavatories on the plane as they were tiny and people did not wipe the seat when they had finished. I also was incredibly uncomfortable as the temperature in the plane was very hot. But after 14 hours, the seat belt sign finally went on and the pilot announced that we would be landing shortly. I was beyond thankful and slightly nervous. We began to descend, and despite chewing gum, I found I needed to yawn to get my ears to pop. I only noticed this on the descent. I also noticed my stomach flipping anytime we ascended, descended, or banked. But I knew this would soon be over. As we got close to the ground, I gripped the arms of my seat tight and closed my eyes. I felt the plane hit the ground and instantly felt my stomach return to normal as the plane wobbled a bit before gaining its stability.
Once I got into the Shanghai Pudong Airport, I began to search for the gate to my next flight. After a very long walk, I arrived at my gate and eagerly got on my phone to make contact with my family and friends back home... but nothing was connecting. I went and found a help desk and she gave me the password, but then advised me that China has blocked all social media. Instead, C I was so disappointed. I just wanted to contact my parents as I knew that my Dad was very nervous and eager to know that I was safe. That was when I vowed to never spend more than lay-over time in China. The next 5 hours would be long, and no restaurants would be open for another half hour. So I found a space near my gate a did a bit of Yoga until something opened up and I could feed my growling stomach. With a few hours left, I found a row of benches and laid down. I didn't sleep, but it felt great to stretch out. Finally the gate opened and they began to board my second flight to Singapore. This plane was a bit smaller than the last, having 3 less seats across. This time the take off was not as scary, but the ascent and banking still turned my stomach. However, when we straightened out at cruising altitude, I felt fine. I was not able to sleep on this flight but I did watch 'Aladdin' one more time and I made a new friend. Shirley told me she lived in Singapore and researched poop professionally. I was intrigued, as I had coincidentally watched a documentary on the topic a few weeks prior. I find it fascinating that scientist can cure someone's unhealthy gut biome using a healthy person's feces. It sounds disgusting, but if it can save someone's quality of life, that's pretty neat. We had a good conversation around this subject.
Shirley & I - Shanghai to Singapore
As we flew over Singapore I was completely awestruck with the beauty of the city lights at night. It was absolutely stunning! The lights on the massive ships in the harbour gave a clear view of their cargo and glittered so brightly on the surface of the water. This was a view that I will never forget! Once we landed in Singapore, my new friend Shirley and I walked for what seemed like forever as their airport was massive, but very elegant. They had bidets in every washroom! I only had a two hour layover there but I wished I had thought ahead and planned a nights stay. But alas, I boarded the small budget jet to Bali. This flight was very short, only two and a half hours. I chatted with the young couple sitting beside me, who turned out to be my age, and I enjoyed my view from my window seat. This time I got to see the view from above and inside those puffy white clouds. It was also incredible to watch the landing: the plane skimmed over the water until mere seconds before we touched down. I was so excited to finally be here, however as soon as I stepped off the plane, the heat almost suffocated me. I started to wonder why I had chosen to train in such a hot, muggy country. I made my way through the airport, got my first stamp in my passport, and found my waiting cab.
The cab ride was very long and slightly terrifying. The traffic in Bali was extremely hectic, and the lines for lanes were mere suggestions that no one took. Scooters were dodging vans and travelling extremely close to each other. Vans were passing each other quickly when they could squeeze by. There were three to four vans beside each other on a two lane highway at all times. Scooters packed in tightly to each other with numerous people and belongings piled on, including young children. No one used their signal lights and they merged without even checking their mirrors. All of this made me very nervous, so when my stomach began to turn, I began to get very miserable. To make matters worse, I hadn't purchased any water at the airport and was sweating profusely. I was completely regretting my decision at this point knowing I was going to come close to dehydration and I was dying to stretch out in a bed. I kept asking the driver how much longer until we arrived, but he had no idea what to tell me as the traffic was the determining factor, and it was only getting busier. After a very long, uncomfortable ride, we arrived at the bottom of the path that would be my home for the next 23 days. I was so frustrated to see I now had to get on the back of a scooter to get to my guest house. I wasn't even sure if I had enough strength left in me to hold myself upright. I felt like this journey would never end. But after a few minutes, we arrived, and I was shown to my room.
The View from my Guest House
I purchased a bottle of water on my way to my room, which didn't last long. I was extremely thirsty and slightly afraid of what was going to happen to me after going without water for so long. I met my roommate, Nina, a young woman from Germany. All I had energy for was a quick "hello" before I showered and laid down for a nap. This was when I realized the next 23 days of my life would be difficult because my mattress was incredibly hard and I could not get comfortable. But I managed to pass out for three hours before reluctantly waking for dinner. At this dinner I was completely out of it. Even the ladies I was sitting with that I had never met before, could tell that I was basically a zombie. But I pushed through the dinner and then went back to the guest house, had a quick Facetime chat with my Mom, and passed out almost immediately. At this point I didn't realize that our room had an air conditioner, so my sleep was broken as I kept waking up with sweaty thighs. I also awoke around 3am and threw up. My head was absolutely pounding, and I threw up a few times after that. Thankfully my roommate had brought some Advil from home and offered me one. I took the medicine and hoped it would kick in by the time we began our morning Yoga practice.
The View from the Yoga Shala
The morning walk to the Yoga Shala was absolutely beautiful. It was a 15 minute walk that passed by many shops, restaurants, and guest houses. The path itself was roughly laid brick so you had to really pay attention, but the views of the rice fields were incredible. There were so many ducks and ducklings in the rice fields - apparently the Balinese farmers use them as pest control! They were so cute walking in a row behind their parents. There were also many rooster and hens. I would come to get used to the roosters' calls, as they made them all day long. The first event on our schedule for the day was the opening ceremony. There was incense burning at a Hindu shrine and bolsters arranged in a large circle. The view from the Shala was absolutely majestic. It was surrounded by massive tropical plants, beautifully arranged flowers, and lush green rice fields. Not too far off in the distance was the palm tree line of the forest. All of us Yogis were dressed and white and eagerly waited to begin. A Balinese man said a prayer as he went around the circle, giving us water in our hands to drink, spraying water on our heads, and giving us rice to stick to our third eye and chest. It was incredible.
Thankfully my stomach settled and head stopped pounding by the time the ceremony was over. We were a very large group of 34 Yogis, and I was honestly wondering how I would remember everyone's name. After the ceremony we had our very first Yoga practice together. It was very difficult, especially considering I had been sick in the morning but I was very proud of myself for pushing through. I managed to hold a half moon longer than ever before, which was also very satisfying. I was absolutely drenched in sweat as it dripped down my forehead, off my nose, and down my legs and arms. This was the first massive sweat of many. The restaurant that we ate at was called '308 Kiss Me' and was a two minute walk from the Shala. That morning I absolutely fell in love with Bali breakfasts. We had smoothie bowls, vegan pancakes, eggs, oatmeal and local seasonal fruit including mangoes, watermelon, bananas and dragon fruit. Every breakfast for the next 23 days was like this and it quickly became my favourite meal.
The View of the Main Street of Ubud, Bali
Unfortunately my guest house had no wi-fi available for the night as someone had cut the lines while driving along the path with construction supplies, so I decided to head into town with one of my new friends from the training. Her name was Alana and she was from Ukraine. We found a store where we were able to grab some supplies and then found a nice coffee shop. Every restaurant in Bali has free wi-fi thankfully. This quaint coffee shop looked out over the streets of Ubud and had excellent service. I was so thankful to find a good coffee as I was going through a total caffeine withdrawal. I soon realized that coffee creamer was not available in Bali and I would have to remember to ask for cow milk. We caught up with our family and friends, posted on our social media accounts, and got to know each other a bit. When we returned to our guest house, I spent some time with other ladies from the training. There were a lot of Germans there, ten to be exact, and I also found a fellow Canadian. Zhana hailed from Toronto, and she informed me that there was another lady from Toronto there as well. I instantly felt a bit more comfortable.
Dinner that night was much too light and a majority of the yogis went to another restaurant for dinner. I went with some of the ladies from my guest house, and there we met up with two French ladies who also stayed in our guest house. We had a really great time, chatting and getting to know each other. Katya, another young woman from Germany, mentioned she was planning on climbing up a mountain on our first Sunday off to take a picture of the sunset. Almost all of us wanted to join. The 2am start was not ideal, but I was willing to do it for an incredible memory and amazing photos. I Facetime chatted with my mom for a bit and then went back to the guest house to turn in for the night. I was beyond excited to feel the conditioned air and get a good night's sleep. There was only one issue with that - my German roommate was not okay with air conditioning and complained that she was cold. This began the war of the AC. We even switched beds to try and solve the problem. However, I would turn it on and fall asleep, and I would wake up to it off. So I would turn it back on and the cycle continued. We knew we needed a solution, so Nina turned to the other yogis to see if we could switch rooms. This didn't end up happening, so Nina wore her pants to bed and we would just turn it on and off as the other was sleeping. Fortunately, we just laughed it off and learned more about how we handle conflict. We also ended up becoming good friends.