On travel: Philippe and the girls and I spent three weeks in Thailand surrounded by golden Buddhas, reclining, sitting, standing, walking; colorful temples with ceilings and walls painted in fire engine red, sea blue, lime green; monkeys swinging from trees and begging for peanuts and bananas, near caves with shrines and bats; monks of all ages draped in orange robes over one shoulder; smells of food on the streets and people eating amidst the car fumes and ever-present pollution; tuk tuks and motorcycles and hot pink taxis; shrines in front of people’s houses, in the back of their stores, in front of McDonalds and Starbucks, with offerings of pineapples and flowers and baht coins; soft lychees with red skin and green strands like fur; unidentifiable and impossible to pronounce fruits and vegetables; a vegetarian cooking class where we learned the tricks of pad thai and peanut sauce and chili paste; the Golden Triangle where Thailand, Burma and Laos collide; riding elephants, swatting mosquitoes, admiring black butterflies and gekkos; long-tail boats up the Mekong River separating Thailand and Laos; rice paddies, tea plantations, palm trees; blown-up pictures of the much loved king and queen on government buildings, in front of temples and four-star hotels, in busy city intersections, honoring the sacred 67-year-old monarchy; ominous skies and off-and-on rain during the green season; prayer flags, brass bells, orange candles, gongs, incense, stuppas, flag poles and the Bodhi tree under which Buddha sat and meditated and achieved enlightenment; opium fields removed and replanted; hill tribe people smiling and selling their wares along roadside huts; windy roads in the mountains to the northwest with Burma on one side and Thailand on the other; random army and police checkpoints for drug inspection; beaches on the Andaman Sea with pure white sand and exotic shells that aren’t supposed to leave the country and removed at the airport if caught; snorkeling; markets with women sitting cross-legged in their stalls shelling and peeling food; little plastic bags of fresh food tightly closed with red rubber bands; inexpensive whole body Thai massage with women walking on your back and lengthening and stretching every part of your body; Muslim men and women covered in Sheilas and Niqabs, zipping around on motorcycles in the south near the Malaysian border; restaurant and hotel staff placing their palms together and bowing and saying Sawasdee or hello every time they greet us; bare feet, removing shoes when entering every temple and most hotel rooms and some stores; evidence of the tsunami in Khao Lak with memorials and museums to show the loss and remember. Click to see pictures.
An only-in-Israel moment: the day before school started, I went to my Monday morning water movement class at the city pool, my first time in about six weeks. Women in their 60s, 70s and even 80s surround me on all sides. As I approached my favorite spot where the shallow water begins to deepen, one woman turned to her peers and shouted: “Savtaot, mahar hahofesh hagadol shelanu mathil!” meaning “Grandmas, tomorrow our big vacation begins!” Why? Because in this family-centered country often the grandparents care for the grandchildren over the summer—referred to literally as the big holiday—while parents work. In the few classes I did attend early July, several children waited and watched at the edge of the pool while their grandparent flailed about in the water. Living close to family and being available to watch grandchildren is part of the culture, almost expected, and it still awes me.
On turning 48: thank you to everyone who sent me birthday wishes and wonderful thoughts either via email, text, Facebook, phone or in person. To celebrate, I taught class in the morning and then two friends took me to a new café for lunch. From there I bussed to Jerusalem and shmaaed around with my mom for a few hours. We strolled through the Mahane Yehuda market where we took a break for ice coffee and carrot juice, bought dried mango and dates, perused the handful of boutiques scattered throughout the covered shuk, finally arriving at my parents’ house around six. My dad was in the backyard reading the Jerusalem Post, wondering if we had gotten lost. After Philippe and the kids arrived, we walked to the rooftop restaurant of the Mamillah Hotel for dinner. There’s nothing more to wish for—yoga, good food, friends, family. As my sister-in-law Batya said, she loved reminding her father, who was 88 when he passed, how great it is to have a birthday ending in 8 because if you turn it on its side, it’s infinity.
Anusara yoga lives on: the day after my birthday I drove to Techelet Yoga, where I had subbed a few times upon arrival two years earlier, to attend a three-hour yoga workshop with Michal Lichtman. Michal and I first met at some Anusara workshop in the New York area a few years before my move, and she introduced herself as the person dedicated to bringing the once famous, now almost defunct style of yoga here. When, at the time, I shared my love for the practice and expressed my own dream of teaching it here she put me in touch with the owner of Techelet. The country is small, so the connection was meaningful: there I subbed, participated in the Anusara workshops with BJ Galvin and Hagar Harpek when they came and thought I had found my new kula or community. Until the collapse of Anusara in the winter of 2012. Despite that unforeseen event, Michal keeps coming. She is still devoted to her mission, calling it Shalom Yoga, the home for Anusara yoga in Israel. On Friday afternoon, I was one of 15 people, listening to Michal talk in Hebrew about boundaries, using blocks and our muscular energy to create them, partnering for handstand and full wheel, and it was good.
Personal accomplishments: unlike in summers past, I set some writing goals for myself. I started and am working feverishly to complete three new stories. If any of you want to be a critical reader—to edit and comment in any capacity—please let me know. The more readers, the merrier.
Earlier-than-ever holidays: I cannot remember a year when the Jewish holidays started so early in September. School began on Tuesday, August 26 and it already breaks for Rosh Hashanah on Wednesday, September 4. This year we are spending the three-day holiday (from Wednesday night until Saturday night) in Jerusalem, staying at my parent’s empty house, eating the first dinner with my brother and his family, first day lunch at my parents with friends, second day lunch at the King David Hotelwith the same friends, and still-to-be-determined lunch on Shabbat. Aside from Philippe going to services at the kotel or Western Wall, the plan is to take long afternoon walks when the first breeze begins, play President and Anomia and Uno, read, relax, eat and enjoy. May this year bring all of you sweetness, a clean bill of health and world peace, at least here in the Middle East.