My Sugar-Free Journey

Listen to your body, it’s the only one you get!

On Monday, I drank a cup of coffee with no sugar and guess what I survived. I’ve also just completed my 2nd 4 day streak of no sugar and it’s getting easier. At first, I didn’t think I felt any different, but last night I went out to dinner and enjoyed a full plate of pasta (which I never do) and topped it off with a Krispy Kreme donut and as soon as I got home I felt extremely lethargic. Carbs turned into sugar and took over my body and my body was not used to that.

This has been my year (school year) of self-care, regular spa and nail appointments, exercising, relaxing, detoxing, healthy eating. Since I’ve been hearing so much buzz around sugar intake and how it affects our bodies, I decided to give it a rest. My vegan diet is already very limited but I’m always trying to find ways to be better and healthier. This seemed like a natural progression.

I started on a Sunday, since my husband does the food shopping on Saturday. But then on Monday, I received a care package from my sister from home. It included all kinds of goodies and sugar, butterscotch krimpets, peanut chews, sour patch candies, starburst, etc… and Cinnabon opened up here in Qatar. I mean could this be any harder?

I went cold turkey Sunday morning-Thursday afternoon. I didn’t even eat fruit. The menu consisted mainly of vegetables and soups, snacks were raw vegetables, air popped corn with nutritional yeast and activated nuts. I’m not going to lie, it wasn’t easy.

Over the weekend I did eat a few sweets, a couple of mini peanut chews. But during the week, I was completely sugar free. By the end of the second week, the desire for sweets decreased tremendously. I didn’t feel like a drug addict denying myself as I did in week 1.

During this short time, I have learned several things. 1. I had a slight addiction to sugar. 2. There is a lot of sugar in products that you wouldn’t believe and I will check content labels for carbs and sugar more closely. 3. You can enjoy things without sugar. I actually got used to drinking tea without sugar. I think I’ll stick with it. 4. You can have energy without sugar. I never felt tired while staying away from sugar. In fact, I think I had more energy. 5. Sugar-less items cost more -surprise! Why does eating healthy cost more than the alternate when there is less ingredients?

I don’t plan to give up sugar altogether but I do plan to be more conscientious of my sugar intake. I’ve read that natural sugar is actually healthy, like the sugar found in berries and melons. I’ll try staying away from sugar during the work week and enjoy a treat or two over the weekend.

There is a lot of information out there about how enjoying a diet with reduced sugar leads to many health benefits and I believe them. Craving sugar the way I did the first week, was not a good sign. Going two weeks without it gave me a lot of insight. I don’t need as much sugar as I was consuming. Someone once told me, “my body is a temple, if I take care of it, it will take care of me.” Listen to your body, it’s the only one you get!

9 days in Sri Lanka- Part 2: things to know before you go

(If you haven’t read part 1, you can access it by clicking here)

Before I traveled to Sri Lanka, I spoke to several people who had been prior, read blogs and researched websites to find out all I could. I went with a wealth of information and still was unprepared. I hope my thoughts, tips and suggestions will help someone going to visit after me.

Quick Facts

Sri Lanka is an island located South-East of India. Below is a picture of its’ location on a map. It is relatively cheap and easy to get to from the Middle East, just a short 5 1/2 flight from Qatar. It is a Buddhist country, but is home to many cultures, ethnicities and languages. It is famous for its production of cinnamon, rubber and tea. It is a developing country.

Once you arrive

You must obtain a visa to visit Sri Lanka. If you are not from a SAARC country, the fee to obtain a visa prior to arrival is $35 USD. You can apply here. You can also obtain a visa on arrival. Before going to the Immigration window and standing in that long line for nothing (like I did), look for a small window that says visa, go there. Show your passport and pay $40 or 15800 Sri Lankan Rupees (SLR) That’s what they charged us even though online it says $35 for a tourist visa. Note that you are required to pay in USD. The following countries and categories are exempt from the visa requirement:

The Republic of Singapore.
The Republic of Maldives.
The Republic of Seychelles
Crew members of flight / ship
Children under 12 years of age

After you get your visa and proceed through immigration (the agents are not very nice btw, sort of like the government workers in the USA), it’s probably a good idea to purchase a sim card. They are pretty reasonably priced in the airport and they will set it up for you. Mine worked very well, the entire time I was in Sri Lanka and I had great wifi.

Money

Rupees

The Sri Lankan Rupee (LKR) is its’ official currency. One LKR is approximately 0.005 USD and 0.020 QR. USD can go very far there. Some places accept USD but many do not. We exchanged some QR for LKR before we went but found out very fast how very fast the money goes. To help you better understand let’s go back to the visa price above. In LKR, one visa was 15800. (In the picture above, my husband is holding 10300 LKR) Now double that for two visas, and that’s quite a lot of money to carry around and that is just for one transaction. You would have to carry around quite a lot of paper if you intend on using cash for everything. Of course, you could use credit/debit cards. We used our debit card quite a lot at the ATM and accumulated too many withdrawal fees. Every time we took money out, we were charged between 200-400 LKR or $4-$8 USD. This is a pretty big chunk and remember you can only withdrawal so much each time.

Suggestions

  • Pay for what you can in advance, before even going, eg… hotels, drivers, excursions. This way you decrease the amount of cash you have to carry.
  • Find a bank/ATM that you can withdraw large portions of LKR with a minimal ATM fee. Halfway through our vacation we found Hatton bank that allowed us to withdraw double the amount that Commercial bank did and with half the ATM fees.
  • Use credit/debit card rather than cash in as many places as possible but check your bank for international transaction fees first.
  • Carry USD to use when possible and to exchange while there because you will get more bang for your buck.

Getting Around

Sri Lanka traffic

I DO NOT recommend driving in Sri Lanka. It’s crazy. I think I only saw 3 traffic lights in the entire 9 days that we were there and we moved around quite a lot. A few times I thought, ‘this is it’, because we were almost run off the road. They also drive on the opposite side of the street of Qatar and the U.S. One day we were in Ella, Ella is very mountainous, and it rained so hard, we had to dodge mudslides.

We had a driver. His name is Rifaan. Here is his contact information: Coconuttaxitours.com, instagram: coconut_taxi_tours, #+94716285486. He was an excellent driver. He stuck with us for the entire trip, offering suggestions of places to go, where to eat and translating . He even invited us to his home to meet his family whom cooked us a wonderful Sri Lankan dinner. He booked all of our rooms, which is better as natives get better rates, and made purchases for us. I felt completely safe with him. Call him for anything Sri Lanka related. Thank me later.

Rifaan and my husband

Sites Considerations

There is many things to see and do in Sri Lanka and several things to consider. When packing keep in mind that you must be modest when entering Temples. You can not wear a head covering of any type and your shoulders and knees should be covered. When visiting mosques, your head must be covered as well as your knees and shoulders. Long comfortable pants and a scarf should be your staple. In most places, people remove their shoes.

You will have to pay a fee when visiting most sites, the prices ranged from 600 to 5500 LKR. The fees for locals are way less. The Fee to climb Lion Rock is $30. The fee to climb Piturangala was only $3. That is one of the reasons we chose to climb Piturangala instead. Both offer great views but I can only speak about the climb to Piturangala. (You can read about it by clicking here) Maybe one day I’ll go back and climb the other and make comparisons. Better yet, if you’ve climbed both or either, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Leave them in the comments area.

If you’re planning a trip to Sri Lanka and climbing one of the famous sites, be sure to pack hiking boots or good old sneakers. If you plan on hiking in the early or late hours to catch a sunrise or sunset, take a flash light with you. The paths were generally dark even though there were lightbulbs, none were on and we couldn’t see our way. Thank God for cell phones. Take some extra water too. I love to watch new days begin and end, so I like to hike during those times. It has been my experience that hiking before sunset is usually less crowded.

If you plan to see the 9 Arch Bridge try to time your visit when the train comes. Then stay after the train passes, when most tourist start to leave. After the train passed, I left and then halfway away from the Bridge, I noticed that most people had left as well and I could have taken better pictures had I waited them out.

Everyone is waiting to get a picture of 9 Arch Bridge with the train
And when the train left, so did the crowd

The train ride to Ella is a must do. From what I’ve heard, it is very difficult to get tickets, easier if you know a local that can get them for you off the black market. We were in 3rd class and we lucked up because you can sit at tables with windows in 3rd class or choose to hang out the door but you’ll still have a seat. Second class was over crowded and we met a family who was in 2nd class that had to stand for 4 hours. I can’t speak for first class. Third class also comes with friends, roaches. Right after we ate our food, they started appearing everywhere. It grossed me out, thank goodness we didn’t have far to go and our driver had our luggage in his car. Other than the roaches, it was a very delightful ride.

Hanging out the door on the train
Beautiful scenery on the train ride
Yup that’s roaches on the train
Time to get off. Ella is a very popular stop.

Accommodations

I highly suggest researching accommodations on several booking websites before actually booking rooms. Pictures can be deceiving. We stayed in a variety of places, from a couple of homestays to a shitty room, to 4 star resorts. Our driver booked our rooms and for the most part they were okay but if I go again, I will be sure to pick my own, take his thoughts into consideration, and have the final say.

The rooms in homestays are pretty big in Sri Lanka but the homes themselves lack tlc. Of course, some are better than others. But if you are on a tight budget, homestays are the way to go. Some cost as little as $10 a night and most include breakfast. Also don’t be fooled by a number of stars. I’ve learned through traveling that 5 stars around the world have different standards than the U.S.

If you stay in Sigiriya, I recommend, Hotel Sigiriya for a mid range budget. The rooms are adequate with good A.C., hot water, comfy beds and nice bathrooms. They have a good breakfast buffet, a great view of Lion Rock, a beautiful pool and is in the perfect location. You may even see an elephant walking around. You are sure to see monkeys but watch your food around the pool.

Hotel Sigiriya

For a wonderful time in Mirissa, stay at Imagine Villa Resort for a mid range budget. The rooms are large with good A.C., hot water, comfy beds, nice bathrooms, sitting area and balcony. The grounds offer a big pool, beach and pretty good cooks too.

Imagine Resort

My Reflections

Sri Lanka is a beautiful country. If you travel around, you can see rainforest, jungle, tea plantations, the beach and mountains. On the other hand, you will also see people dumping or burning their trash on the side of the road. You may see men urinating in the streets. You will see animals living very close to people, some free and roaming, others in chains. There is A LOT of bugs, from ants, small to giant roaches, to spiders and some other things that I didn’t recognize. The weather was great when I visited in late December with a fair amount of rain. The people seem genuinely nice but manners are different than what I’m used to. They do stare unapologetically. There are so many things to do and see in Sri Lanka. After 9 days, we were Templed out though; they are everywhere. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t check a few out though, they are beautiful. If you are considering a trip to Sri Lanka, definitely go. If you’ve already been, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

See you next time!

9 days in Sri Lanka- Part 1: an overview

The beat part of Sri Lanka is its’ natural beauty, which is why we chose to spend our Christmas break there. While Qatar is improving in its’ outward appearance, most of it is man-made and the rest is just flat and beige. We were literally starved for some palm trees on the beach, green country side and mountains and Sri Lanka delivered. I didn’t know if I’d ever return because it was never high on my ‘to visit list’ so I wanted to see as much of it as possible in 9 days.

Here is the area we covered.

We hired a driver, (click here for the contact information of our driver), whom met us at the airport in Colombo and drove us to Negombo, where we stayed at a Homestay for the first night. Gangarama temple was the first temple of many that we visited. It was actually a museum filled with buddhist statues and cultural items.

Then we drove through the craziness of Second Cross street to get a good picture of the Peppermint Mosque or Jami Ul-AlFar (the proper name).

driving on Second Cross Street
What a beautiful Mosque, in the middle of the city

We tried out some Sri Lankan dishes at Tusker Restaurant: Prawn Curry, Dahl, Snake Gourd and purchased some Arrac for our room. Arrac is a distilled alcoholic drink made from coconut flowers. It’s strong and tasty mixed in a cocktail.

Arrac and passionfruit drink and some Sri Lankan dishes

We had some street food on our way to Sigiriya for breakfast, stuffed aloo paratha. It was spicy and the best street food we had the entire time in Sri Lanka. Our driver also got us hooked on small, red, peel bananas and king coconut. We had a King Coconut almost every day.

enjoying a king coconut on the side of the road

We stopped by the Golden Temple of Dambulla- a UNESCO World Heritage Site and climbed the stairs. We regretted not having enough rupees to enter the caves but we enjoyed the view, the crazy monkeys and more street food.

Golden Temple
Entrance to the Cave
A monk and monkeys on the stairs to the cave
The view from the top
Another view from the top
More street food

We stayed at Hotel Sigiriya and admired the view of Sinhagiri also known as Sigiriya rock also known as Lion Rock. The hotel is nice, nothing glamorous but one of the nicer hotels we stayed on a budget. The breakfast buffet is delicious and had many authentic Sri Lankan dishes that were vegan approved. I was able to try sour sap fruit which I later realized was the same as the custard apple that I tried in Peru (click here to read about my adventures in Peru). I enjoyed some green gram (which I just found out is mung bean), milk rice (coconut milk that is), string hoppers, samaposha, dhal curry, and had my fill of passion fruit. Here is also where I fell in love with coconut sambal, a must try in Sri Lanka. We liked Sigiriya as you get to see animals just roaming around and it’s just so beautiful and green. We even had a close encounter with an elephant, who obviously didn’t take kindly to having her picture taken. She let out a loud noise and ran towards our car. We got out of there pretty fast, hence the blurred picture below.

Monkey on the table enjoying someone’s left overs
Sorry for the blurry picture but we were kinda scared
Beautiful Jungle

In the wee hours of the morning, 4:30 a.m to be exact, we climbed Piturangala Rock to watch the sunrise. Many people climb Lion’s rock but we opted for the road less traveled instead. We made it to the top in time, but sadly the overcast was too heavy to see the sunrise. It was quite a climb and we had a wonderful view of Lion Rock. We almost missed the Piturangala Vihara on the way up because it was so dark but we made sure we stopped by on our way back down.

The top of Piturangala
pretty early in the morning, no sunrise yet
The sun has risen but too cloudy to have witnessed it. Still beautiful and peaceful
I was still able to catch this beautiful picture over Sigiriya
He enjoyed the climb
We enjoyed the climb
That’s Lion Rock way back in the distance
Vihara
resting in the side of the moutain
A picture of Lion Rock from the ground

While in Sigiriya we visited a gem store, where we learned Blue Sapphire is only mined in a few places in the world, Sri Lankan being one of these famous regions. Sri Lanka also produces a lot of silk so it was only right to visit a silk store as well. At the silk store, the workers dressed Darryl and I up in traditional attire and took our picture. They even put a red dot on my forehead between my eyes; this means I’m married.

Aren’t we the cutest couple

Kandy was next on our list. It was lovely and we wished we had scheduled more than 1 day there. We visited a spice garden and Temple of the Tooth. I wasn’t impressed by either place honestly. The spice garden was over priced and a tourist trap, as we were able to purchase the same items at a local market for less than half the price they were charging and the Temple of the Tooth was boring. I also got tired of being stared at, at the Temple. Perhaps it was my bald head, since you can’t cover your head at the Temples.

Spice Garden spells great
Making spices
Temple of Tooth

The Bohiravokanda Vihara Buddha Statue is pretty and sits atop a hill. We didn’t go inside, but the view of the city from the top of the hill is great.

The Temple
Great view of Kandy

The highlight of Kandy was with friends. Our driver invited us to his home to meet his family and have dinner that he and his family cooked for us. He sent a tuk tuk driver to fetch us from our hotel, The Sky Pavillion, to bring us to his house. His family was lovely and dinner was terrific, by far the best meal we had in Sri Lanka. His sister even drew a beautiful henna tattoo on my hand for me. We went back to our hotel feeling full and beyond blessed.

Our Tuk Tuk ride
Authentic Home Cooked Sri Lankan dinner
Henna Tattoo from the Host family
On our balcony at the Sky Pavilion
Great view isn’t it

The next day we went to visit another friend, Nazma, my henna partner from Qatar. She is from Sri Lanka and coincidentally was there on holiday like me. She invited us to her home to meet her family. In true Sri Lankan hospitality style, which I came to appreciate, they prepared food for us.

Friends and partners

This food came in handy on our train ride to Ella. More on that in a minute. Once we left Kandy, we drove toward Nuwara Eliya, admiring the vast tea plantations, monkeys on the road and Talawakalle waterfalls. We even stopped at a tea factory to see how tea is produced in the oldest tea factories in Sri Lanka.

More monkeys
So this is how they make tea
I think he likes it
Enjoying the sights and Waterfalls
beautiful waterfalls
tea plantations

A train ride to Ella is everything you’ve heard about and is a must do in Sri Lanka. The route is very scenic and beautiful. (Read about where to sit and how to score tickets for this train ride in Part 2) It began raining halfway through our train ride so I missed the sunset.

train station
riding through the country side
Sri Lanka’s beauty is best seen from this train ride
Mist over the country
Here comes the rain again…

Our first night in Ella was not good. It was pouring rain and there were mudslides all around. We didn’t stay at our original booked hotel because something was wrong with the room and they tried to have us stay in another room but all I saw was spiders and dust. Most of Ella was all sold out so hotel rooms were in short supply and we wound up staying in this shitty room that I almost had an asthma attack in due to the mold. But after the storm comes the sun and our driver was able to find us another suitable hotel, Yoho Nilara Resort, for day 2. No visit to Ella is complete without a visit to the 9 Arches bridge, where we were able to take some cool pictures. This place was crawling with tourist which means it’s a happening place that many want to see. Our driver planned it perfectly because not long after we made the climb down to the bridge, a train passed.

9 Arches
I’m that dot with the white hat on right next to the train

We also climbed Mini Adams Peak to catch the sunset. The sunset was not to be had as we got caught in the rain. I was beginning to think that I would never catch a sunrise or sunset in Sri Lanka. Good thing I like the rain and rain usually keeps the crowds away. Less people make for better pictures of the wonderful scenery.

Afterwards, Darryl and I threw on some nice digs and enjoyed dinner at Ceylon Tea Factory in Ella. We even got to to enjoy some drinks at this popular place called Chill (definitely the party spot in Ella) before heading to Mirissa.

We stayed at Imagine Villa Hotel in Kamburugamuwa, right outside of Mirissa. This was the best hotel we stayed in Sri Lanka. It was right on the beach and was a beautiful resort. Outside of Whale watching, we spent our two days in Mirissa at the resort relaxing and socializing. I even found a little vegan gem of a restaurant (Ahimsa) to enjoy Christmas dinner.

The pool and beach view
The hotel grounds
While I prefer to pose at the beach
My husband loves the water
Locals enjoying a day at the beach with family outside the resort

Galle was our last city to visit. On the way, we made a few stops: a boat ride to visit Cinnamon island and to see wildlife, and a turtle hatchery.

More beautiful views
We got to hold a jellyfish
Grinding up cinnamon
Work it

Of course we had to see the infamous Galle fort and I’m so happy to say that on this final night, the sun was nice to me and showed me it’s setting. And you know what, it was worth the wait!

I love sunrises and sunsets
What a great way to end our vacation

On the drive back to Colombo airport, we stopped at Bentota beach to grab some food and I felt sad because Bentota beach was beautiful and we didn’t spend any time there. Does this warrant a second trip to Sri Lanka? Maybe…

*Be sure to read, ‘9 days in Sri Lanka- Part 2 ‘ for suggestions and tips for planning a trip to Sri Lanka

When the Newness of your Host Country Wears off…

It feels like this school year should be further along than what it actually is.  Between all the packing and unpacking and repacking and re-unpacking and moving to a new school building and shifting classrooms and constant changes this school year feels infinite.  Thank God, winter break is just two weeks away.  But outside of work, it seems the flashy newness of my host country is wearing off and after two and a half years I’ve settled in.  So now what… Well I’ve started checking things off of my ‘Things to Do Before I leave Qatar’ list.  This doesn’t mean that I’m leaving tomorrow, because I have signed on for another year, but next year may be my last for several reasons unless there is a major change in my position, because a change is overdue. 

For our anniversary this year, Darryl and I stayed at the famous Torch hotel and had dinner at Restaurant 360.  It rotates so you get a full view of Doha.  The hotel is very nice.  The rooms are all powered through the Ipad and you can set the mood in the room by changing the color of the lights.  The food at the restaurant was delicious but the service was slow.  However the view was great.  

For his birthday, I took him to Nobu- a well recognized Japanese restaurant.  Although the lightening of the interior is a bit darker than my taste, the food is amazing.  I could not resist the Black Cod Yuzu Miso dish, so my fake veganism re-appeared. 

Last week we went to see Creed II in the Seven Star Novo Theatre in Souq Wakif.  It is very similar to a First Class Flight on Qatar Airways with reclining leather seats and partner pods.  You even get a blanket and satin covered pillow.  We received a welcome non alcoholic drink upon arrival and ordered some food that was bought to our seats.  Had I known, this movie theatre was so luxurious, I would have dressed better. Oh the movie wasn’t half bad either.  

A few days ago, my girlfriends and I made a visit to the beach that is literally down the street from my house.  We had a small picnic and some girl talk.  It was the first time I actually sat on this beach and I’ve been in my flat for 6months.  There was a nice amount of people there enjoying the cool weather and I decided that I’d frequent Al Wakra beach more often.  Besides, I always wanted to live near the beach. 

Over the weekend, Darryl and I along with another couple (Britney and Quahn) went Kayaking in the Mangroves of Al Khor.  I didn’t know kayaking was so much work.  But it was nice to be out on the water, and for a little while, I felt like I was on vacation. 

I don’t know how much longer I will be in Qatar; I’m thinking 1-2 additional years Max depending on the situation.  But before I leave there are still a few more things on my list that I plan to do before I go because once I leave here, I don’t plan on returning.  In the meantime, I’m off to see another part of the world.  Nine Days in Sri Lanka, coming right up.  Stay Tuned…

The other Side of Thailand- 7 days of Detoxing in Phuket

I was relaxed and at peace and 10 lbs lighter …

When you think of Thailand, you probably think of Bangkok, partying, Lady-Boys, prostitution, eating Thai food, The Hangover or maybe you think of the many islands around it, beaches and James Bond.  Well I just returned from my trip to Thailand but not for any of those reasons.  I went because this year is about Self-Care.  My girlfriend Jennifer saw an advertisement on Facebook for a wellness retreat BOGO deal, that means buy 1 get 1 free and we hopped on it.  We made our reservations without hesitation and paid half.  So for our Fall break, we flew to Phuket, Thailand.

We left on a Thursday night on a straight flight and 7 hours later we arrived on Friday morning.  Phuket is 4 hours ahead of Qatar.  We were met by our taxi driver sent from our resort- The Life Co Phuket Well-Being (you can see my review of the resort on viator titled: ).  By the time we arrived I was really hungry because I slept through the second meal time on the flight.  They couldn’t give us any food because we had not yet chosen our meal plan so they gave us an Energy juice instead.  We received a tour of the grounds and an overview.  Our body compositions were taken and we were taken to our room.  We had a pretty view of the lake from our balcony and a nice rain shower head.  We chose the daily green salad detox for the first two days of our stay so at noon and 6pm we were served large salads.  In between those meals we received detox juices, supplements, alkaline water and all the soup (broth) we wanted.  According to my body composition, I weighed 63.9 kg on arrival day.

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Pretty but hard 

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my relax spot on the balcony overlooking the lake

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The beautiful lake

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daily schedule of events

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eating area 

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Yoga Studio

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Healthy Green salad twice a day

Day 2 began with Yoga with Wa, then we met with the resort Doctor who went over our body composition results with us.  He offered to conduct all of these test on me for a fee, of course, for which I declined.  Afterwards, we had our complimentary 60 minute massage, and it was divine.  Following the massage, we used the Turbo Sonic machine- a vibrating machine that supposedly stimulates every cell in your body, before having an angel wash- a fancy name for a enema on a fancy machine.

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Yoga with WA

I haven’t had an enema since I was a child and I just remember it not being very pleasant.  My mom used to tell me to lie on the bathroom floor on a towel and she would stick this tube in my rear end and run water or something up there until I defecated all over the place.  She often did these when I was constipated so needless to say I was not looking forward to performing one on myself.  But daily angel washes are a part of the program and I intended to follow it to see the results.   What I will say is that it was a very interesting experience and I was not looking forward to doing it again the next day but after seeing what came out of me, I was definitely on board with the angel wash.  We sat in the steam room then the infrared sauna before spending some time in the pool.  In the evening, we went to the Naka Market which was wonderful but torturous.

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Naka Market souvenirs

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loved this market

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Sushi galore

There was food everywhere, all sorts.  I really wanted to try some food from a country I’d never been to but I was on a strict diet and didn’t want to divert, however I did try a small piece of this very green fruit and it was amazing.

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I wish I could remember the name of this fruit

This market convinced me that Thailand is a country I would revisit, and I rarely do repeat visits.  We purchased some souvenirs before heading back to Life Co.

On day 3, we switched our plans to the master detox, which meant all juice and supplements.  No Food!  We received 5 shakes a day, Herbs and Wheatgrass juice, and as much herbal tea and soup broth that we wanted.

On this day, we followed our routine angel wash, steam room then infrared sauna.  The angel wash was smoother than the day before. We took in some sun for tanning and relaxed.  You are highly advised to relax on a retreat, especially since your calorie intake is much lower.  On the master detox, our daily calorie intake was 500, my usual intake is around 1200-1500.  But in true Jennifer and Kennesha style, we can’t sit still too long, so we participated in the Crossfit class with Wa.  It was great.  In the afternoon we went to a cooking class with the chef of the resort.  He showed us how to make vegan wraps, apricot porridge and some dips, all vegan.  We were able to sample only an edge of a spoons worth unfortunately because of our diet, but at least we left with some recipes.

In the evening we caught a taxi to Phuket Oldtown market.  It was like Odundé in Philadelphia but with regular shops as well.  There was live music, gifts to purchase and so much street food.  Again, I felt some type of way that I couldn’t indulge.  At one point, I just sat down salivating as I watched the people cook right in front of me.  I hadn’t had any food all day and the smells were enticing.  My weakness was all around me, seafood, huge shrimp, lobster, squid, mussels, you name it, it was there.  I was really using will power and I was proud of myself.  Jennifer and I were getting obsessed with weighing ourselves daily and were seeing impressive results, we rooted for each other, we could do it.

On Monday, I had a different kind of Enema, it’s called a HydroColon.  This one is administered by a specialist and is much easier.  You don’t have to do any of the work. The specialist and machine do it for you.  Apparently, I was very full of gas which kept me pretty backed up.  I’m glad they got it out.  I think I was bloated because afterwards I felt super light and refreshed.  My pounds were dropping and fast.  We went down to the Nathon beach and walked around.  There are plenty of little shops and spas across from the beach.  We stopped in one and I got a Thai massage for 400 Thai Bhat, or 12 USD.  The massage was good but the lady’s hands were moving so fast, it definitely wasn’t like the relaxing massages I’m used to getting.  The massage at the resort was better but far too expensive for Thailand.

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Day 3 of the master Detox was rough and we still had one more day on this program to go.  Both Jennifer and I woke up not feeling well.  I felt extremely weak, comparable to waking up with a terrible hangover without the nausea or how it feels when you’ve been sick for days and unable to keep anything down.   I think the lack of food and drinks were taking their toll.  Our sleep was always broken up with bathroom runs to urinate because of the supplements they were giving us and the amount of alkaline water we consumed in each day.  Our bodies were definitely going through a change and I really wanted some food.  We reported how we felt to the kitchen staff and they prepared us a special drink that included lime and ginger and some tea.  We felt better after while.  We participated in another food demo in the evening and a special workshop called Rebirthing or Breath Work (stop back for my post on Rebirthing, you don’t want to miss it).

The weather this time of year in Thailand is wonderful.  The temperature each day was in the high 80’s with a cool breeze.  It usually rained in the morning but cleared up by afternoon.  On Wednesday it rained all day but we woke up feeling much better.  It was the last day our master detox and we were proud of ourselves but honestly, we really wanted something to eat.   The snacks that I purchased to take home were tempting me.  But after stepping on that scale, I knew there would be no way I was cheating.  I had lost a whopping 9 lbs.  So instead of eating, we went to meditation and did yoga.  Jenn had her Hydrocolon therapy and I another angel wash.  She wanted me to be the guinea pig with the Hydro Colon therapy first.  After I reported back she signed up to get hers done as well.  We spent the day reading, and relaxing and it was amazing.

 

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Thursday was our last full day and we were smiling from ear to ear because at noon, we would get food.  Well sort of, okay technically salad is food but not the kind of food I wanted, but it was better than juice and water and by Wednesday I had decided I had had enough of broth and seasoning.  I woke up early and caught the shuttle for a morning walk on the beach leaving Jenn in bed to rest because she was feeling dizzy.  The beach was serene and the water cool.  I took a short walk on the beach and in the water, then laid out a towel and read a few pages of Malala.  I only read a few pages because I was too busy just being and watching families play with their little ones on the beach, and dogs walking up and down enjoying the morning sun, even a man prancing his horse back and forth.  I wanted to soak it all in before it came to a pause.  I was relaxed and at peace and 10 lbs lighter according to my new body composition report.

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When I returned to the resort we enjoyed our last angel wash, and trip to the steam room and sauna.  I swam a few laps in the pool after enjoying my salad which I only ate half because I wanted to save the rest to finish when I got hungry again, maybe I just wanted to savor it.  Jenn and I took the beach shuttle early so that we could get another massage at a different place.  This time this masseuses hands moved a little slower but boy was she heavy handed and apparently I needed this.  She bent me and snapped me and gave me the deepest tissue massage of my life and afterwards I wasn’t even sore.  We gave them a nice tip.  To end our vacation we watched the sunset on the beach and a monkey playing in the tree before heading back.

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Can you spot the monkey in the tree?

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We ordered meals for the plane ride home to ease our way into regular eating again because our body had not worked hard in a week and it is not a good idea to put regular food back in right away.  We satisfied our bill and packed up.  On Friday morning we flew home and it sure felt good to eat that low calorie vegan food that the resort had prepared for us and to pick over the vegan airplane food.

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This was the first vacation I had taken where I didn’t feel like I needed a vacation from my vacation.  I don’t remember the last time I felt so relaxed and unstressed.  Not worrying about if the food would be good or if the resort could cater to my vegan eating preferences was a relief.  I’ll admit it wasn’t easy going 4 days with no food but I am proof that it’s possible with the right supplements and program.  Within 7 days, we had only consumed 6 salads total and no other food.  Jennifer lost 6 kilos and I lost almost 5.  We met some wonderful people and had uncomfortable conversations (colonics lol) with them.  What I wish to take from this- not my weight that I lost of course, but patience and self-confidence, peace of mind and tools to assist me with mindfulness and positivity.  This entire experience was Amazing and I look forward to doing another retreat, perhaps with my hubby.  I also look forward to returning to Thailand to island hop, party in Bangkok, and EAT!  Would I go back to the Life Co Phuket well-being resort? NO, I would not, for several reasons, that you can read about in my review on Viator. However, I would try one of their other two resort in other places.  I had a wonderful time there but some things are unacceptable by my standards.

I wonder how long I will keep the weight off.  My goal was to be at 135 and I crushed that goal by 4 pounds.  If I gain weight, which more than likely I will because as soon as I get back I’m back to working with my personal trainer weight lifting and resistance training, I hope that it’s muscle and I hope to only go back up to 135.  I plan to be more conscientious of my carbs and timing of my evening meals.  I don’t plan on being a health food fanatic but after this jump start to my body and cleanse I’m optimistic that I can maintain a healthy body, soul and mind.

Have you ever been to a health retreat?

10 Essential Items to Pack when Traveling Internationally

Since I’ve stepped out of the bubble, that was of my mother country the U.S. of A, and began traveling more, I have learned that other countries have different systems than we do and some things that I consider essential in life are not really essential to everyone else in the world. So I have compiled a list of essential things, that I pack when I travel to other countries so that I stay comfortable abroad.  This list does not include obvious things: passport, camera, everyday clothes, shoes, etc…  and these items are in no particular order.  Also, these are things within my control, hard beds and different manners than you’re used to, you learn to deal with.

  1. Universal adaptor– I purchased a 500W converter  off of Amazon that I use in Qatar.   It is a step up/down voltage transformer that converts voltages from 110/120 volts up to 220/240 volts or from 220/240 volts down to 110/120 volts.  This way when I bring small electronic devices from America I can just plug it into the converter.  I learned this the hard way my first year there as I blew out many electronics by directly plugging them into Qatar’s outlets without knowing anything about voltage converting.  With this converter I can also bring electronics purchased in Qatar to American whenever I go back.  But this converter is not ideal for traveling as it is rather clumpy and heavy.  So I also have a few small adaptors that I take when I travel.  One is bound to work where ever I go.  They say universal adaptors work everywhere, but that hasn’t been the case for me, so I keep my small bag of gadgets in my travel bag. You can get adaptors in every country you travel to and some cases the hotels will allow you to borrow, rent or purchase one from them if they don’t already have them in the rooms.  You can also simply buy your own from Amazon, they’re inexpensive.
  2. Face Cloth– Okay, so some people will probably find this one petty but most of the countries I have traveled to outside of U.S.A do not have wash cloths and when I ask for them, people often look at me confused or hand me a hand towel. They are not one in the same. Face cloths are smaller and are used to wash your body in small spots at a time. Hand towels are too big, heavy and hold too much water.  I mean what do they wash with, their hands?
  3. Debit Card and emergency credit cards– Debit cards work just about everywhere and when you use the ATM it gives you money in your host country’s currency. This is usually cheaper and more convenient than exchanging money.  Sometimes exchange booths do not have the currency you need or they suggest you exchange one currency for another more acceptable currency for the country you’re visiting. They charge a fee too.  A credit card is useful in case of emergencies.  Try to have a credit card that doesn’t charge international transaction fees.  Credit cards are also more efficient in getting you your money back in case of fraud.  Just ensure that you alert your bank that you will be out of the country so that you don’t get blocked when trying to use it.  Here is a list of some credit cards that don’t charge international transaction fees: Capital One Venture, Chase Sapphire Reserve, The Platinum card from American Express, Bank of America Premium Rewards.  Also Visa and Mastercard are the two credit cards accepted worldwide. You cannot use American Express everywhere.
  4. A zippered small crossbody handbag- It is harder for bad people to steal your belongings when they are in a bag over your shoulder and secured in front of you rather than carrying your money and passport in your pocket or even in a fanny pack that can be easily unlatched in the back and snatched before you know it. I purchased a Guess crossbody for $30 from an outlet and a cute little bag for 1.5 USD from the Naka market in Phuket Thailand.
  5. A large scarf or similar and easily transportable pants– All countries are not as liberal as the U.S. you can’t just wear whatever you want. When traveling it is important to be respectful of the country’s culture and religion.  Neglecting this could, in the minor stage, attract unwanted attention, stares or glares, in the major stage, land you in jail or cause you to be deported.  To visit certain historical or religious sites you have to cover your body.  If you have on revealing clothing, you may be given a cover up or you will be asked to purchase something to cover your skin.  It is more convenient to just bring your own things.  A scarf also helps to mask unpleasant smells; put a couple dabs of your favorite scent on it and wrap it around the lower parts of your face.  In places where pollution is bad, a scarf can help reduce the amount of toxins you inhale.
  6. Baby wipes or sanitizer and tissue– Bathrooms look different all over the world, but they all have some where for your excretions to go, even if it is just a hole in the ground but what is different is hygiene, sanitation, water and the availability of products to clean yourself afterwards. In some countries, you are charged to use the bathroom and many don’t have tissue or running water. While in Egypt, teenage girls were hustling, selling tiny strips of tissue outside of the bathrooms.  For me, baby wipes are a must have because I can knock out two birds at a time, cleaning my hands and cleaning my bum.   But you can carry sanitizer for your hands, if you prefer, and tissue to clean yourself.
  7. Room spray and bug repellant– If you are sensitive to smells like me than definitely take a refreshing room spray with you while traveling.  If you are sharing a room with someone, definitely take some room spray with you in the bathroom.  If you are prone to bug bites take some bug repellant along with you.  Bug repellant can also save your life as many diseases are transmitted by insects.
  8. Ear plugs- Some hotels have very thin walls, if you can sleep through your neighbors partying or engaging in lustful affairs into the wee hours of the night, great, if you can’t invest in some good ear plugs and not the Styrofoam ones. And if you’re sharing a room, your roommate may snore so ear plugs are very handy.  My sister purchased some really good ones for me from Rite-Aid.  She cuts the ends down and removes the string and they are miracle workers. Thanks Michele.
  9. Portable phone charger– These are a life saver and are pretty affordable, enough said.
  10. Travel Apps– There are so many apps available now but they are super useful. Four kinds of apps to consider when traveling are those that give directions and help you get around, those that give suggestions on food and food delivery, those that provide translation and those that keep you connected with your loved ones.  Sometimes hotels have contracts with taxis and those taxis over charge.  By finding out which lift applications are available in your host country you can save a lot of money.  By finding out which map applications are usable in your host country you can save a lot of time.   Food applications are my favorite especially since I’m vegan and it’s difficult to find vegan food everywhere.  Translation applications save you stress and who has time for stress when you’re traveling.  The most important kind of app is the one that helps to keep you connected without costing roaming fees.  Some of them even allow you to video chat.  Applications I’ve used in the past but do not work in every country: The Happy Cow (find vegan and vegetarian options), Uber (take me to this restaurant on a budget), Google Maps (I’m lost, help me get back to my hotel before my food gets cold), Google Translate (I don’t know what you’re saying, I just need some hot sauce to go on this spinach), WhatsApp (Jennifer what was the name of that restaurant again, that had those dairy free brownies)

These are the essentials I don’t leave home without while traveling but there are many more things to consider like your medical card, medicines (research if your medication is acceptable to take with you to your destination, not all medicines are allowed in all countries), travel insurance, etc…

I’d love to hear from my readers, what are your travel essentials?

From Lemons to Lemonade

So I picked myself up and re-evaluated my situation without comparing it to anything or anyone else because comparing doesn’t help you see the whole picture.

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You may remember reading this from my last post, “Only a portion of our school has been approved by the powers that be, so we will all be uncomfortable for a little while longer as we will be squished in.” Well, still only a portion of our new school is usable so the uncomfortability still exist with no clear end in sight. My classroom is still not ‘my’ or ‘mine and my students’ classroom as it is still being shared by all others subjects. This is a headache because I am OCD about certain aspects of my classroom and everyone else is not, so others don’t hold the same high cleanliness or organization expectations as me. And even though we all use the space, I am the homeroom teacher and the classroom environment lands on me. Sharing a classroom is annoying as hell.

The class sizes have increased this year as they work to fill the school and of course that means primary classes have more students than any other grades. P.E. and Music are my students only specials this year, versus last year when they had 4 specials including IT and Art, versus the year before when they also had library. So who do you think is responsible for these things now? My contact hours have increased drastically partly due to not filling these positions after the staff made a mad exodus at the end of last school year and the year before and partly because of people complaining about not having enough teaching time. Now I teach no less than 3 whole class periods a day and have 3 other duties including arrival, soft start, and dismissal. On the last day of the week, I have contact for 5 straight hours, which is way too much for me let along 6 year olds, on top of dismissal duty. This includes: arrival, soft start, 4 straight periods of teaching, lunch, finally a break then dismissal. This may seem like a typical teaching day in America, my past, but I’ll admit, I got spoiled here. In the past I only had to teach whole class 1 hour a day and 2 small groups for 2 additional hours with arrival and dismissal duty and the occasional lunch duty. Sadly, the grand ole days when the work was so easy and light are gone.

Prices here continue to rise. The prices of flights are ridiculous making it hard to travel reasonably or to have visitors. My sons want to come visit during the winter break but it’s just not affordable. I really wish the blockade would end. Qatar is making strides toward self-sufficiency but things have definitely changed and there’s been no news lately of any end in sight.

Two weeks ago I was not in a good space. My new motto: Ride the waves, don’t make them, was not going well. I was in a very negative mood and I didn’t like it. I wanted to throw in the towel but then I remembered I have goals to achieve and I can’t throw in the towel yet.

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This was a very low point for me and I could not stay there. So I picked myself up and re-evaluated my situation without comparing it to anything or anyone else because comparing doesn’t help you see the whole picture.

I really like my students this year, so far. Some of them are really low, which means I will see so much progress. Only a few have shown me behavior problems and the behaviors are minor ones. The students seem eager to learn. The working environment is not the best so when I’m there, I don’t think of work, I focus on teaching and that’s something I love doing. So instead of saying, I’m going to work I say, I’m going to teach! This mindset shift makes the work day enjoyable.

At the end of those low two weeks, a friend of mine hosted a vision board party. I didn’t know much about what a vision board was until another friend filled me in and I did some research. I decided to go to this party and I was so glad I did. Oh, let me tell you what a vision board is in case you were like me and don’t know. Huffingtonpost.com defines a vision board as a sacred space that displays what you want and how you want to feel. Click here to read more about it. Here is a picture of mine…

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It isn’t finished but it is a work in process. I left space for me to continue to think and add more. I can’t tell you how empowering it felt to be around other women with goals and were making the first steps to putting their plans into place, women who were really thinking about being better and doing better and how fortunate I felt when so many women were looking for what I already have, a good husband and a house. The energy and the vibe in that room started my upward spiral.

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I have decided to make this year all about SELF-CARE! I joined a gym and have a personal trainer. I have surrounded myself with inspirational, uplifting and encouraging quotes. I have scheduled a full body massage once a month. My trip to Thailand to a wellness and detox retreat is paid in full and less than 4 weeks away. I smile because it makes others smile back, it’s easier than explaining what’s bothering me to people who may or may not have a genuine interest and because smiling feels good. I dry brush, exfoliate and surround myself with my favorite aromatherapies. I vent and then I let it go or I try to turn the negatives into positives. I’ve learned that I have some personal things to work on. For example: I tend to be judgmental of others but honestly, if they are happy, what business is it of mine. So, I’ve decided to work on Kennesha. I’m choosing to be happy because it’s a state of mind and because I am truly grateful for all I have.

If I didn’t have some goals laid out that I’m intent on achieving, I would leave this place and go where the wind blows next. For now, the wind stands still and so do I. But while I’m here, I plan on becoming a better person, setting goals, staying quiet about them, crushing the shit out of them and clapping for my damn self. And in the meantime, I choose to be happy because it’s good for my health.

I’d love to hear from you…

If you’ve taught overseas: Did you ever have a low point, and if so what was it and how did you overcome it?

For all my readers: What do you do for self-care?