triple threat

Today I woke up at 6-something am and realised I had imbibed too much alcohol the night before. I cursed myself, as I had plans for today, Sunday November 1st — plans to do my first leg of the Indigenous Marathon Foundation virtual marathon, plans to go to Bikram, and plans to start the 30 day core challenge.

Instead I read Facebook in bed. I came across an article about turmeric being proven by 53 clinical trials to help with inflammatory and autoimmune conditions. I was intrigued, but wanted more scientific evidence (did you know there are many, many people out there who are obsessed with turmeric, in a very non-scientific way?). However this article in particular made me quite hopeful, as I am already on the exact same dosage and medication as the participants in the trial, and more than half of them were reportedly in remission by the end of a month of curcumin supplements. I probed a little further and this study was much more indepth and seems less effervescent in their analysis of the research but still agreed there seem to be positive results for people suffering from ulcerative colitis.

So I went down the road to the chemist’s and got me some curcumin (the active ingredient in turmeric) and I stained my hands and kitchen table all yellow distributing them in my pill box — it’s more expensive than my actual medication to take 3g a day, but whatever, I suppose it’s only for a month!

Whilst out and about, I saw a buy-one-get-one-free offer for Berlei’s super-cute, majorly supportive sports bras. I legitimately needed new running bras, as all my old ones are B-cups and turns out I am actually, incredibly, a DD-cup (a tiny 10DD, but a DD, nonetheless). So I got myself two running bras and felt it would be a gosh-darn shame not to take one out for a run.

Before I left I did the 30 day core challenge, since I was so psyched up. I then ran 3.25km, came home, grabbed my yoga gear and went straight into Bikram. Which was a mildly horrible thing to have done to myself, dehydrated and hungover as I was. But if I hadn’t gone to Bikram, I would not have come up with this most excellent meme:

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Of course, all this displacement activity is really because I don’t want to clean my house. I am hoping that Melbourne Cup Day will magically be Rosie-Cleaning-Day and everything will go all Mary Poppins.

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some kind of update

I survived, somehow, an entire month, thirty consecutive days of work, in China. I have been back in Melbourne for fewer than 10 days and am only just starting to feel human, only to find out this morning that I’m heading back to China in 4 days from now. I wrote a really long post on the plane the other night, after watching Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon for the second time ever (the first time was in 2000, in French, let’s say my experience was a little different this time around, watching it in Mandarin and getting all the historical/geographical/cultural references). I’ll spare my heartache review, let’s just say: urgh, China.

I’m even more frustrated because my repeated trips to China are pushing back the date I can apply for citizenship and a student loan. But on the positive side, my gross month in China got me back into running!

I can tell my body isn’t crazy about a return to this running thing but it’s so far putting up with it enough that I’m going to keep going. I’m even running a marathon (only I have a month to run the total distance, which is nice and safe). I’m alternating with Bikram, initially because I hoped stretching every other day would help with the running. So far, the running is making me very tight and making me extra-inflexible in Bikram, so there’s definitely something happening.

We’re entering the final countdown! less than 2 months until James comes home from Afghanistan and then immediately turns around for us to fly to England! Followed by Iceland! Followed by Denmark-land! Followed by Finland! Followed by flying back to Australia and collapsing in complete exhaustion before going back to work.

I just realised this is a quintessentially Rosie post: Work too much; China; Running; Travel with James.

return to Taipei!

I have been planning to move back to Taiwan for a few months next year, and my current holiday here is sealing the deal. I love being back in Taiwan (for the fourth time, albeit my shortest visit yet). I love it so much that I want to keep telling James over and over, although I’ve learned to suppress it a little as apparently it was getting old.

We landed very late at night/early in the morning and waited ages for a taxi. However when the taxi did eventually show up, the driver was lovely and we talked all the way to Fuxing Beilu, making me feel like maybe my rusty Chinese was still useable. When I was living in Sri Lanka, the Mainland Chinese I met through work often struggled to understand me (even though my Chinese was so much better then than it is now). Same when I visited Xinjiang and Beijing on work trips. Here, everyone seems much more willing to meet me halfway.

Despite only getting a handful of hours of sleep, the next morning I headed out to Hatha Yoga for a Bikram class.

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Which was wonderful, even though the room didn’t have carpet but instead was lined with plastic-covered mats and we just practiced on towels. This wouldn’t matter except I was the only person sweating like a pig (I positioned myself under the heat as the room was much cooler than I am used to), and a puddle grew around me (especially in triangle pose), creeping towards my poor neighbours. Water poured off me but to be honest I liked it! Also I loved hearing the dialogue in Chinese. I wish I could have a recording of it in Chinese so I can practice both my Chinese and my Bikram at home. I am hoping I’ll get to come back to the studio on the Sunday morning we are back in Taipei.

Then I met up with James and we went for lunch. It turns out the studio was very close to Yongkangjie, behind Shida University, where I used to study back in 2005 and 2006. We sat in Yongkangjie Park and watched cute kids play and I reminisced and rejoiced in how much I love being in Taipei.

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In the afternoon we walked a billion kilometres trying to find somewhere that would either have the flip-flops James wanted, or alcoholic beverages. This allowed us to visit Gongguan and Shida which was fun again for me as these are places I used to frequent a lot as a student, but frustrating as every bar I could think of was closed until the evening — I guess students don’t drink in the daytime!

Sneak peek of Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall as seen from the metro station:

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Then I caught up with several of my friends which was lovely. and we finished the night at Taipei’s most famous 牛肉麵 establishment, where I had beef noodles and James had the “half beef, half tendon” noodles. The funny thing is, I came here many years ago (10 years ago, in fact) when the Taiwanese couple who were hosting me took me out for dinner with some of their friends. I turned my nose up at it all as it did not appeal at all to my sensibilities. This time of course I was thrilled. I guess I have improved with age.

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That was my “one day in Taipei” as we flew out the next morning to Kinmen: at least one, if not multiple posts to come (I had to get this one out of the way first!).

struggle yoga

I went to 6am yoga on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, and at some point in the middle of Wednesday night woke up and decided to turn off the alarm for Thursday morning yoga. I marginally regretted it throughout Thursday so that night I very carefully planned Friday 6am yoga, since I had an appointment at 8am. I prepared yoga kit, work clothes to change into, breakfast to grab, all my morning pills (I have to take a LOT of pills) in a little dish by the door with a glass of water so I could do it all in record time — I had it all rehearsed.

Then I forgot that my 5am alarm had been switched off, and woke up at 6:20 with some serious grumpyface.

My 8am appointment was with the psychologist. I was already full of rage at the world for depriving me of my morning yoga, and angry that I had to go to this stupid appointment. I angried my way there and waited, angrily. Of course it turned out to be a really fantastic session (about my anger) and I came out really glad I had attended.

Among other things, we discussed how Bikram helps me placate the rage inside of me, and how to cope when I can’t go for whatever reason (injury, time, location etc.). She suggested I run through each posture in my head, a sort of virtual yoga, and so on the tram to work, I pulled up a doodle app on my phone and drew each posture. It was such a soothing exercise that I almost missed my stop. I feel very reassured to have this option, given I won’t be able to practice when we’re traveling around Taiwan (although I am planning to visit the Taipei Bikram studio and do a class in Chinese).

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Anyway, I was determined I would NOT miss Friday 6pm. I tried to get out of work 10 minutes early, but ultimately my tram connection betrayed me and the 75 just WOULD. NOT. COME. When it eventually turned up, the traffic was bad, and I was practically jumping up and down with frustration waiting to get off the tram at 5:47. I ran home, grabbed my yoga bag, ran to the studio, pulled my clothes off, and discovered I hadn’t packed my costume (of course, it was at the end of my bed). I dressed again, ran home and back, changed, and dashed to the room already soaked with sweat. I tried not to get ragey about the two girls whispering behind me (NO TALKING IN THE HOT ROOM!) and then a man walked in fully dressed including town shoes so he could put down his mat and towel (NO SHOES IN THE ENTIRE STUDIO GOD DAMN IT IS THAT TOO MUCH TO ASK etc. etc.) and promised myself I would not let anger distract me from my class.

My costume misadventure meant the teacher remembered my name. And boy did she use it. Over and over. “Rosie, suck your stomach in” “Rosie, spine straight!” “Rosie, higher on your toes” “Rosie, lock your knee, lock it, really lock it” “Rosie, shoulders down”… I know that sounds defeating but I *love* getting corrections from teachers. I love it when they tell me I’m doing it wrong. And I so pushed myself like crazy tonight, even though it was such a struggle. No anger there!

I was so exhausted at the end, and in the change room one of the other students commented on how intense the class had been. I agreed and said “Yeah… I’m Rosie, so…” and she laughed “Oh man, the whole class I was thinking this Rosie is really getting it tonight!”.

No rage. Also, I’ve stuck to the FODMAPS elimination diet for three consecutive days and feel so much better for it. There’s no way I can follow it while James is here or when travelling, but I am committed to doing it properly very soon.

keygen

It’s not always easy to get myself to yoga. I didn’t want to go yesterday morning — it was 5:45am, James was in bed after waiting so many months to be together again, and I had slept really badly and did NOT want to get up. I also was grumpy because I knew I had to buy a 1-month pass even though I’d be banned from exercise for a week (more on this below) and then we’re going to Taiwan. But it’s so expensive to do Bikram it’s rarely not worth getting a pass.

Anyway, I went, precisely because it was my very last chance before my one-week ban commenced, and I felt meh-to-neutral all the way through. But on the last shavasana, I felt incredible. I think it’s a bit like a Rubik’s Cube or a videogame cheat code — you have to configure your body in 26 different postures, twice each, feeling crap, and then ta-dah! You feel good.

And if there was a fairly simple cheat code you could use whenever you want, to feel happy and well… you would be a fool not to use it at least a couple times a week!

Anyway — exercise ban. This morning I had an appointment to get my right knee’s common peroneal nerve injected with cortisone to try and improve my shin pain/nerve damage. It was pretty horrid, and then my leg went rather numb, but it’s wearing off now. I am reassured that my shin is aching which suggests they hit the right nerve. However despite me cajoling the specialist, the doctor and the nurse separately, they are adamant that I cannot exercise for a week and no, not even yoga.

My volunteer stint for Oxfam Trailwalker is in 10 days so I am trusting I’ll be ok to hike 11km by then. I certainly am cringing at the idea of not going to yoga for a week! But at least James and I can relax and enjoy a lazy Easter weekend.

On the 13th of March, my replacement at work will be starting! So I am very close to an end and there is bright light at the end of the tunnel. I’m a little nervous about how quickly work wants me to move on (my boss mentioned me potentially not bothering to come back from my holiday, but if he thinks I can do a complete handover in 8 business days he is quite deluded). But I’ll certainly be out of there by the end of May.

I have been debating blowing some of my savings to go back to Europe in June. I’d like to go visit my grandmother in the UK, and I would also like to walk a couple hundred more km on the Camino. It’s probably not a very wise idea but… it’s at the back of my mind. First and foremost I need to call Immigration and work out if it will affect my Australian citizenship eligibility though.

53

(warning this is next-level obsessive Bikram stuff)

After our second Bikram class, 3 months ago, Polly asked me “How long does it take until it stops being just awful?” and I kind of laughed and said maybe 10 or so classes, probably more like a month, which is why studios give you their generous intro passes (10 days for 20 dollars, 30 days for 30 dollars and the like). Obviously Bikram yoga is an expensive hobby, as a casual class will set you back 20 dollars and most people get monthly passes well over $150.

Anyway, I personally found it only took 2 or 3 classes this time around to not find Bikram just awful. But today I found out that after 53 classes, you will feel just… speechless with happiness.

Today wasn’t even meant to be a yoga day. I was just dropping by Prahran after work to pick up my mat (equipped with the Fitzroy mat bag I successfully collected yesterday!). I always carry Bikram gear with me, because you don’t want to be caught unawares, and I stood in the hallway chewing my fingernail and questioning whether it was a good idea, given I’d been eating BBQ crisps just an hour earlier. Did I really want to go?

The teacher told me “Just do it, if you feel sick or feel like shit, you can just go. I don’t care about people leaving if they have to leave.” I changed and on my way into the room, I asked how out of curiosity how many classes I had done in the 3 months I had been at the studio. 52 — today was number 53.

So I went into class pondering the 73.5 hours I had already spent in there, and it turned out the most ecstatic Bikram class I’ve ever experienced. Not because my postures were particularly strong or deep, but because I was able to stay so focused and give 100%. At one point in wind-removing pose, I realised I was thinking about work, and scolded myself, because I know that if I’m thinking about work, I’m not trying hard enough. “How much harder can I try in WIND-REMOVING POSE, AKA THE MOST BORING POSE IN THE WORLD?” I complained internally, and then just focused on obeying every single instruction exactly and precisely, and continued to do so to the very end of the class.

And the end of the class! I had an incredible shavasana. Over the last few weeks of high stress and anxiety, I have established a little hippy ritual following the last pose. I hold my hands in prayer to my third eye, and thank the yoga for bringing me clarity of mind, then I drop them to my lips and thank the yoga for bringing me kindness of speech, and then to my heart and thank the yoga for bringing me peace, and then I bend and touch my forehead to the floor. And then I lay down for shavasana.

And today’s shavasana… quite literally blew my mind. I felt as though I had stopped breathing and was hovering just a few centimetres above the ground, outside of my body. I have sometimes almost felt this way and then by becoming conscious of it, it immediately slips away. Tonight I was entirely conscious of it and it lasted and lasted… it was a very special experience.

When I emerged from shavasana and exited the hot room, the other teacher at reception saw me and exclaimed “Wow! someone just had an amazing class!”. The teacher who led the class (who is the owner) was also grinning about what a great energy we all had and how glad she was that I stuck around. When it came time for me to leave we had a sweaty hug goodbye and then she told me that she and the owner at Richmond would work something out so I can keep practicing at both studios… what an angel.

Sorry for long yoga-obsessed post. I had to share my joy… and I can’t wait for class 54.

views from the 11th floor

There have been ups and downs this week. Rather than follow a chronological narrative, here’s some of my ups, and then maybe I’ll have forgotten about the downs by the end.

  • Bikram is going great. I listen carefully and do exactly what the teacher says, and my body follows. I feel very strong despite my horrid shins (oh yes, update: definitely not a stress fracture; I’m on the waiting list to see a shin pain specialist) and I think I sat out maybe one position of my last 5 classes. I finish each class shaking and stand for as long as possible under a freezing cold shower, feeling wonderful.
  • To celebrate I got myself a new Bikram outfit from lululemon (who I had sworn off, because they are so dodgy, but I then got sucked back in because they do make such great clothes and I took Polly on a shopping spree to kit her out with running skirts and cute tops… WORTH IT). I have been hunting for a bikini in this Klein blue for years, and not only is this top adorable, but the ocean-print bottoms are great for Bikram because they camouflage the inevitable cameltoe.

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  • I also got myself a Camelbak insulated water bottle. I have been going back and forth between getting a Camelbak, which my work-wife Nat has and which is obviously awesome, and something insulated so I am not drinking hot water by the time the floor series starts. The one I got is gorgeous, but I am discovering it has the insulation properties of a paper cup so it’s not great. Regardless, it’s a great drinking bottle and I love how much more I drink because of it. Also, one of my staff got me a little desk fan which matches it perfectly!

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  • The desk fan is much needed, because as you will see from the below pictures, I am surrounded by glass and sunshine, and it gets very hot in my office. But so beautiful and sunny!

Glass wall behind my desk:
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Glass wall to the left of my desk:
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View to the front left sat at my desk:
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View to the rear left sat at my desk:
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View behind me when I turn right to talk to Nat:
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It’s not always bright and sunny… here’s a view from a more atmospheric morning of the week:
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In case you hadn’t got it yet… I love my view.

  • For an even happier picture of desk distractions cheering me: James DID order me my very own copy of Pioneer Girl. It’s a massive and beautiful coffee table book, wombat is not quite to scale but not far off! I am reading it very slowly as it is heavily annotated and has so much information about Laura Ingalls Wilder and her relationship with her daughter Rose Wilder Lane. It’s also quite heavy and unwieldy so not the kind of book I can throw in my handbag to read on the tram, but in a sense I like it better that way, it lasts longer…

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  • On my way to Bikram I go past a car salesroom. When I am on my way to the 6am class, I see a man cleaning the salesroom almost every morning, and I always smile and wave. The first time, back in January, he was obviously startled but then immediately smiled and waved back, and it’s become a tradition for us to do so. I’m not sure why I had that impulse, except that early morning cities are a bit more like villages, and a cleaner behind a window is a safe person to smile and wave at, as opposed to the clubbers who are weaving their way along Chapel St looking for a cab. This Tuesday morning the man was waiting for me out the front, and he said “I wanted to say thank you for always saying hello in the morning!” and I felt very smiley and happy and “the world is such a wonderful place!”… then my yoga class was HARD and work kind of sucked, so I probably read too much into it. Still, it was nice.
  • Today I ran lots of errands for my soon-to-be new home, and now own a fridge and a chopping board and a fancy Scanpan knife that was $35 marked down from $80, and at long last, a salad spinner. I wore my Marcelline dress — another gift from James, who really is such a sweetheart, and I am terrible for never sending him anything in Iraq!! — which I hadn’t worn all summer because I felt too self-conscious, but actually I really like it!

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  • I also made a floor plan for my new home in InDesign, to scale, with all my furniture, plus a couch and table which I need to buy. This is a very consumerist post! I am sorry…

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  • Non-consumerly pictures I found unexpectedly this week, of James and me on my friend Benjin’s barge, in London, at St Katharine’s Docks, back in May 2011. Benjin runs a fantastic NFP called Floating Films where he screens films and documentaries on the barge, if you’re in London you should take a look!

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  • My manager (who went on maternity leave then moved to Queensland, and whom effectively I have been more or less replacing for the last six months, which is why I hate my job so much) is down for 10 days, and she brings the baby into the office. The baby is 4 months old and is so god damn cute my ovaries won’t stop wailing the entire time. She plays on the floor next to my desk, gurgling and doing happy baby pose, and I want a baby, I want a baby, I want a baby and NOT to have to work.
  • Last but not least: James has finally shaved his beard off! The whole time he has been in Iraq he has been growing a hideous “Wild Man of the Woods” mass of ginger hair and moustache and beard, and I hate them. I was so grumpy when he sent me a particularly hirsute picture, and so excited and happy when he sent me a second cleanshaven one as a surprise!

The downs were really just one down: at one point this week, I thought maybe my job was quite bearable after all, and was even thinking I could keep things up for longer, maybe even till the Spring/September. But URGH I had a horrible day on Friday and I know the real reason things have been ok is because somehow I haven’t had much work to do; there’s been a lull in my campaigns and it’s just the calm before the storm. But hey, 7 weeks down… maximum 43 weeks left to go?