I felt amazing as I walked down to meet my scooter guy. I felt light, whole, and peaceful. For the first time in my life, I felt confident, grounded, comfortable in my own skin, and happy to be alive. Riding the wave of exuberance from my healing, I asked scooter guy to take me to the Ubud Monkey Forest. I had tried to coordinate an excursion with a fellow Yogi, but no one wanted to go when I did, so I went alone.
I entered the Monkey Forest and was astounded. It was massive, surrounded by lush green forest and palm trees. There was an area separated from the rest of town, and legally appointed as monkey conservation land. It costs 80,000 Rupiah per person to enter the forest, but all the money goes to a fantastic cause: the owners use the proceeds to purchase surrounding land to increase the area of the forest, and of course, maintain the health and wellness of the monkeys. At the entrance, a sign laid out the sanctuary’s four very important rules.
1. Do not look the monkeys in the eye.
2. Do not bring any kind of plastic/ paper bags into the monkey’s territory.
3. Do not EVER touch, grab, or disturb the monkeys.
4. Do not feed the monkeys. No peanuts, cookies, candy, bread, or any kind of human snack or drink.
The moss-covered statues and towering trees were incredible. As I made my way further into the forest, I began to wonder when I would see monkeys. There weren't many near the entrance, but once I got further in, they began to appear, running out of the wooded areas and swinging along the vines. Every 500 meters or so there was a feeding area where the keepers placed the monkey food, including lots of fruit. Shortly after I passed the first feeding station, I began to hear the screams and screeches of the monkeys. I wasn't sure what they were freaking out over until I got closer and realized they were fighting with each other. The males were fighting over food and females. One monkey would scream and advance toward the other, who would then scream back and retreat before advancing toward the other monkey.hey continued back and forth like this for twenty minutes or more. It was slightly nerve wracking,as the monkeys fought like this from either side of the path, making it difficult for people to walk through the war zone. The last thing I wanted was a scratch from a monkey because they are known to carry rabies.
As I made my way down a set of stairs and past an incredible lion sculpture, I heard a woman scream loudly. I looked over to see a monkey on her shoulder, with its hands tangled in her hair. She stayed very still as the monkey rummaged around in her bag to see what she had. Then it reached for her fancy, expensive-looking water bottle and pulled it out of her backpack. As the monkey tried to get it open, a good Samaritan,who apparently hadn't read the signs when we entered, attempted to scare the monkey away to retrieve the water bottle. The monkey then lashed out at the guy, swiping at him and scratching his ankle. He ran away and let the monkey have the bottle, but I hoped he didn’t get a nasty case of rabies.
A Monkey Family with a Breastfeeding Baby
There were so many funny and adorable moments in the Monkey Forest. The monkeys, called Balinese long-tailed macaques, were often seen cleaning each other thoroughly. They laid down and picked through each other's fur, cleaning it of dirt and insects. They also cleaned each other's bums, which was absolutely hilarious to watch. Mama monkeys cuddled their babies close,protecting them from other monkeys and animals. Families hung out together, cleaning each other and playing together. The funniest moment in the Monkey Forest was when I found a monkey, urinating in the middle of the pathway and playing with his genitals. I made sure to catch that one on camera.
After I finished with the Monkey Forest, I still had time before my driver returned, so I made my way down the road and found a nice restaurant. I treated myself to a delicious, juicy burger and a creamy slice of cheesecake. The frappucino was my favourite part of my meal. It gave me the kick I needed and was full of chocolate and whipped topping. The meals were unbelievably cheap in Bali. That meal cost me 65,000 Rupiah, the equivalent of just under $6.50 CAD.
After my meal, I found my scooter guy and we rode back to my guest house to prepare for the final celebratory dinner. Nina informed me that every Yogi passed their exam and would officially be a yoga instructor as of the next morning. I was incredibly excited and proud of myself and all of my fellow Yogis. We had all worked hard and studied hard together. W’d quizzed each other, shared memorization techniques, and talked through the concepts of each section on the exam. We had come together as a group and all finished strong and successfully. I knew in that moment that the Universe had placed me in the proper class with the perfect people.
We had our last dinner together at 308 Kiss Me Restaurant. It seemed surreal. I had just gotten used to being around these people and now we were all going our separate ways. I would miss getting together with them and sharing stories of our travels and lives with each other. I would miss hearing their different worldviews and ideas. I would miss seeing their smiling faces as I entered the Yoga Shala in my state of morning misery, immediately making me smile as well. I would miss the encouragement and applause when we met a milestone and achieved an accomplishment. I would just simply miss them. All of them.
After dinner we threw a dance party in the upper section of the restaurant. It didn't take long for my friends to recognize my dancing abilities. After all, my first love was dancing, followed closely by singing. The ladies asked me how I did it. I didn't have an explanation, simply telling them, “just feel the music and move how you feel!” We all had a blast dancing and rapping along with the music. Tori, a young American woman, and I owned 'Baby Got Back'. The ladies loved it! But then I just had to play 'This Is America' by Childish Gambino. Most of the Europeans had not heard of it, but as soon as it started, I got down. Nina started filming me, and for the first time ever, someone caught me dancing freestyle. I cherish this video. I shared it on all of my social media and it will always be my favourite video of myself from Bali.
Me Dancing to 'This Is America' by Childish Gambino
Marianne, Myself, Svenya
During our dance party, we really started to see Marianne come alive. Marianne is the quiet young lady from a town close to Montreal. For anyone paying attention, this young woman transformed during our time in Bali. She taught me much and warmed my heart often. She started as a shy, quiet, sweet young lady, and proved her incredible strength to everyone. By the end of our time together, she had almost fully come out of her shell and showed us all who she was. Earlier in the week, she said something to me that I will never forget. She told me that she thought my curly hair along my hairline was cute. This was the first time I had ever heard someone say that about my hair. I had spent my entire life hating those curls and tying my hardest to keep them down and straight, to not let anyone see them flying away. But Marianne's one comment changed this for me. I now see those curls as slightly less annoying and hideous. I do still try to straighten them, but I'm not as concerned with them if they decide to fly away.
After our celebration, we returned to our guest houses. Nina and I spent some time talking about how things would be different when we returned home. We also set up our rides for the next day and activities before we left. I made a Facetime call to my Mom and told her what time I would arrive back in Toronto. I was so thankful that this night would be the last time my head would hit that soft pillow, and body would hit that hard mattress.
Graduation the next morning was beautiful. For the last time, we all sat in a circle around an amazing flower mural laid out on the ground - made entirely out of flowers! It reminded me of the ground murals from the mid-90’s TV show Art Attack. It was amazing to see the creativity in the shape made of different coloured flowers. All of us were dressed in our white outfits again to receive our Yoga Teacher Training Certificate. The instructors sat together, with us Yogis surrounding them. Spyros called out the names and handed out the diploma, while Ourania placed flower necklaces over our heads We gave each one of the instructors, Ourania, Spyros, Himanshu, Magda, and Nicole, a hug before making our way back to our spots. My hug with Magda was extra long, and I realized in that moment just how much she supported me and was rooting for me. I felt confident that each one of the instructors felt this way, and they were all very genuine with their advice and kind words. Out of all of the flower necklaces, I got the one that shed the most. Wherever I went, I left a trail of little yellow and orange petals all around me. It was absolutely beautiful.