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…
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.
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.
me on the sonic machine
This is the angel wash machine that you sit on
This is where you sit and the tube goes in your butt
this is the where you can see everything that comes out of you
and this is where it goes.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Portable phone charger– These are a life saver and are pretty affordable, enough said.
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?
Red roofs atop cement, adobe or brick homes, cobblestone streets, sprawling green and brown mountains split by sacred rivers, Inca ruins in multitudes, tanned hard working people, minty aroma from eucalyptus trees, salt mines, rocky roads, colorful handcrafted textiles, this is Peru, and there is a whole lot more to it than Machu Picchu!
When most people think of Peru, the first thing that comes to mind is one of the Seven Wonders of the World, Machu Picchu, and I will admit that was my whole purpose for going there. Machu Picchu has always been on my bucket list, but beyond that, I had no desire to visit Peru. But after spending 7 days in this beautiful country, I have to say I want more.
Peru is absolutely beautiful. While there I visited Lima, Machu Picchu, Cusco and Ollantaytambo. Cusco is one of the highest cities in the world; it sits 11,207 feet above sea level, compared to the U.S.A which is only 2,493 feet above sea level. I absolutely loved Cusco but it is definitely the tourist spot. The streets are narrow and winding on hills and aligned with small shops and eateries. The towns are nestled on the mountains or in between them. There is green everywhere, and snow capped mountains in the sky.
There is so much history everywhere. You can actually do a Inca Trail hike for 26 miles, through Inca paving, ruins and tunnels. Inca history is unearthed on the regular there. Choquequirao is an Inca ruin that is larger in area than Machu Picchu but can only be accessed by foot or horseback and is therefore less visited and less popular. Everywhere you look you can see the Incan influence even though the Spaniards did everything to wipe it all away, even to the extent of building on top of it.
The people are beautiful. They don’t look much different than American Indians, short in statue, long, thick, dark hair and light brown skin. Everyone I encountered was nice and very helpful. They are hard working and make many things by hand. In the touristy area, they dress like Peruvians in pictures but if you go further down into the city, they dress like the rest of us.
I could understand the language. I know most people don’t really consider Spanish a romantic language but listening to the people speak took me back to my many years in primary school studying Spanish. They say if you don’t use it, you lose it and I haven’t used Spanish in some time but hearing it again and being able to speak it back and understand some of it felt good to me. Granted once they started going, I became completely lost but I know if I spent some real time there, perhaps a few months, I’d be speaking Spanish fluently.
I have to say something about the food. Actually, the food scene is great for non-vegans and foodies who like to try different things. The Peruvians eat a lot of meat including guinea pigs and doves. But my favorite food is potatoes and they have over 4,000 varieties that are native to the Andean highlands of Peru. They also eat a lot of quinoa. I must have had quinoa soup almost everyday. I tried different types of fruit too including Chirimuya, Granadilla, and Pacay. Eucalyptus is grown there as well as Maca and Coca. Yes I chewed on coca leaves and drank it in my tea. It helps with altitude sickness.
I could never tire of shopping in Peru. The colorful textiles bring me joy. The prices are low and the goods are unique to the country. I love the colorful ponchos and blankets. Even though it weighed my bag down, I couldn’t leave the country without some ceramic pottery, so that every time I ate soup or drank tea, I would be reminded of the wonderful people of Peru and their ancestors, the Incas!
So if you’re considering a trip to Peru, sample all 4,000 varieties of potatoes and the many native fruits and let me know which were your favorite. Visit the salt mines. Explore the many archaelogical sites. Visit the museums and hike the Inca trail. Climb and take pictures on the Rainbow Mountain. Speak the language and try the Pisco Sour and Cusquena beer (roja is my favorite). Have an authentic lunch cooked by a local in their home- an unforgettable experience. Zip-line through the rain forest or ride the rapids in the Amazon river. View the Nazca lines from the sky or simply shop in the San Pedro market and people watch. Around every corner there is something new to try and experience. You’ll never get bored. There are so many reasons to visit Peru, beyond Machu Picchu!
*Hey readers, have you ever visited a country for one specific thing and wound up falling in love with all the rest? Share your story in the comments.*
Ideally, you want to be cute and warm and then cute and cool without having to pack extra clothes in your backpack and look for a bathroom to change into.
It was two days before my big trip to Peru when my husband called me and asked, “Hey do you know that it is winter in Peru?” My response was a little like this alpaca’s…
I guess I just assumed because it was South America and I was in North America that it would be summer there too. WRONG! I spent the last two days before my trip in Old Navy’s winter clearance section and in my basement in totes fishing out appropriate clothes. Don’t make the same mistake I did. Hopefully this post will help you to be better prepared for a trip to Peru in July.
According to Lonelyplanet.com, June-August is the high tourist season in Peru due to North American and European holidays. Also, May-September is the winter season which is the driest and therefore the best time of year to travel. The days are longer at this time which offers clear blue skies and great views of the mountains. The day temperature ranges between the 50-70s Fahrenheit. The nights and early mornings are cold but the days are pleasant.
Since you are more than likely going to Peru to tour the historical Inca ruins, and the wondrous landscape, you’ll probably head out during the early morning to avoid the crowds and return to your accommodation sometime in the afternoon or at night. So the way you dress will be very important. Here is the key word, ‘LAYERS’.
When you head out in the morning, it will be cold, so you might think that a winter coat will be just what you need. But, don’t be fooled my friend because by late morning it will begin to warm up and you will be hot. Instead wear cute leggings under some jeans, a tank top under a t-shirt, a long-sleeve shirt over the t-shirt and a hoodie, or instead of the long-sleeve shirt and hoodie simply wear a heavy fleece jacket that you will be able to remove and tie around your waste. Ideally, you want to be cute and warm and then cute and cool without having to pack extra clothes in your backpack and look for a bathroom to change into. In the morning I was layered up but by early afternoon, I had removed 1-2 layers and stuck the pants into my backpack and tied the jacket or hoodie around my waste.
Here’s what I packed for my 7 day trip:
3 pairs of jeans (worn twice)
4 pair of tights (two fashionable- 1 worn alone, the other worn twice under jeans, two fitness- both worn twice under jeans)
4 tank tops
1 thermal (worn twice)
4 long sleeve tops and a button down
3 hoodies (2 fleece)
1 heavy fleece work jacket
1 pair of sneakers
1 pair of Ugg boots for hiking
2 pair of warm pajamas
1 rain poncho (rain does happen even in the dry season)
2 scarves for my head that could also be used around my neck
a hat but you can buy one there, there are many available for purchase
Garmin watch to count all my steps
Remember the key word, ‘Layers’ and you should be fine. Have fun and send me pictures.