Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Get the Ball Rolling

I have no idea what I was thinking, but...

I've started my 60-day Challenge. Since Monday.

That means 60 straight days of yoga.

I should then be done in time for Thanksgiving.


I've been praised for my backbend first by Mike, then even Stefan said I have a great flexible backbend. Then Cheryl commended me, and told me to do it outside the hot room, for Annemarie to see, [Cheryl] saying pretty soon I'll be able to grab my ankles(?!), that I should practice walking my hands back down the wall 10 times then 15 times, and if I can do 20, then I'll be ready to grip my ankles. Then today Lynn said I have a great backbend. It feels good to hear that. :) But seriously, it's "just" lifting and keeping your chest up, hips forward, tightening the glutes and thigs, everything forward to the front mirror, and just constantly looking and reaching back:"whole spine is backward bending." But then that seems to be the only posture I excel in; I still have trouble locking my knee in Standing Head to Knee Pose. Oh well; we "practice" yoga, after all: working and working constantly to improve.

So far, of the teachers whose classes I've taken, I can see clearly in my mind's eye Mike, Mercy, Stefan, Lynn, Ana, Janna. But somehow, Cheryl reminds me of Toni Jo from Las Vegas. And her walk..her walk reminds me of Denee's same outrageous swagger. OhmyGod, no. And it doesn't help that she teaches an awesome class.

Oh, and I've found fellow veg-heads in Andrea and Mercy. Mercy had this cookbook called "The Voluptuous Vegan" whose author teaches at the Naural Gourmet Institute in NYC (though there also seems to be another alternative school in Oregon, where there would also be better chances of teaching and a nicer atmosphere than in NYC). Something called "kanten" intrigued me, and I found a nice vegan recipe and explanation here.

I've booked my Thanksgiving vacation with Ninang Nilo; my debit card is working, yey! And I've taught my first double yesterday, with Mike guiding me almost every step of the way (thanks, Mike!) Seriously, though, Mike and Joani so far, touch wood, are looking to be really nice bosses/mentors. I wonder, if after 6 months, it would be feasible to live here. I need to learn how to drive, that's for sure: walking takes a lot out of a person, and the bus is unpredictable. But I'm still on Week 2, after all. We have yet to see.


Monday, September 24, 2007

In Transition

I'm moving into my 2nd week in Houston. So far, I've taught 7 classes already, Mon-Tues-Wed-Thurs-Fri-Sat, with a break on Sunday, and then today. I teach my first double tomorrow. Ohmygosh! Seriously, though, it's been incredible. My first class had me all nervous: I hadn't taught in a month, and as I was reviewing the dialog the night before, I realized I had forgotten most of it. Before I was to teach, Mike was up (to teach): he usually teaches the early classes, actually. So he asked me if I was ready, and when I mentioned I was nervous (and probably must have looked it!), he said I don't have to teach if I'm really not up to it; he looked so concerned. But I told him I could do it, and he smiled. :) I asked him if he was going to take my class; he told me he wouldn't if I'd get all jumpy. But I said I wouldn't, so he did. And guess what: I didn't. The vibe when I taught here was just so different. And afterwards, he did have some things to say, but they were constructive, sound, and at the same time, still very supportive. I told him afterwards that I thought he'd chomp my head off, and he hugged me and said there wouldn't be any chopping around here; how sweet! A day after, even Joani e-mailed to say Mike said it was a good class, and congratulated me! But then I had a bad class the other day, right after a great class the previous day. Despite that, my students still thanked me after class, and when I told Joani about it even she told me not to be too hard on myself!

And indeed, such are the people here, so much so I still have trouble getting used to it. Students here are thankful for class; they do not have distinct favorites: they focus on the yoga, not the teacher. At the same time, Mike and Joani generally leave us alone, teachers and desk people alike. There is that implicit trust and confidence that I am surprised to have been so generously given, but I am all the more grateful for. Here, it is not an environment of fear, but of love. And that is such a blessing.

Outside of the hot room, I have gone to Rice Village and back, though that was maybe more of a mile each way, so I'm not sure if I want to do that again, I was so sore the next day! Then I went to the bank across the street today: I found there WAS a crossroad for crossing the busy street ;-) However, the bank had already closed, so I'll just try again tomorrow. Might also go to the bookstore tomorrow; walk there maybe, whatever, get more adventurous ;-)

Last night, Janna (a fellow teacher) invited Stefan, Mercy and me to her house for dinner, where I met her dogs, yey. :-) But I was kinda woozy from sleeping at 4 that morning from reading online stuff after coming "home" at 1 from my first live non-classical concert, with Jack, Stefan, Mercy and Annemarie, tickets courtesy of Jack, the mayor of Houston's music scene! ;-) Ate a lot yesterday, and today; maybe the (lack of) sleep has something to do with it? At least I practiced (and taught) today :-s Andrea and I went to Wholefoods yesterday for groceries and stuff, after lunch at Field of Greens with her fiancé Ben. Then Tony saw the fridge today and teased me that he'd get a full breakfast right there, haha. Also been having lunch with Mercy and Stefan sometimes, who are gracious enough to wait for me when I am slow! I also heard Mike finally relented and got an iMac. Hehe; it was the combined influence of me and Jack telling him to get one. But seriously, Macs are beautiful machines. So happy for him! So touch wood, I've been getting along with most everybody, which is always nice. The first few days, I was told that here, everybody pretty much gets along with everyone else, in essence making up a yoga family; this seems to truly be the case. And that is such a blessing.

The dialog seems to be coming easier (touch wood, please Lord!): instead of reading it aloud, now, I seem to fare better reading it before class to prepare. And then I taught this morning without "rehearsing." Beforehand, I was nervous about it. But Tony told me since I teach everyday, I should do ok. And I did. And that...I couldn't even have envisioned that before coming here. That is already a small miracle. And I am truly, truly thankful; I feel blessed. Thank you, God.

So yes, I've been doing pretty good, I think, touch wood. I hope it can only get even better. At the end of the 6 months, who knows? :) It's a beautiful environment; Mike and Joani made sure the yoga would develop the way it has, I guess. And I am grateful to be a part of it. 
I'm grateful to Mom and Dad who let me delve into Bikram yoga, not halfway but full throttle, even if having me away worries them half to death! Mama Cez too--evidence being Oa calling up to check on me, and to offer support of any kind. Tita Angie (Marian's mom) has also called me up, and I might meet Kristine (Kay) for dinner next week, an old batchmate from way back in 7th grade who moved to Houston. Ninang Nilo and Oa have both invited me over for Thanksgiving. Tita Neng and I have spoken, too. And Tita Marose's sister Tita Cecile said she'll meet me soon.

I'm just hoping and praying this, I, can only get better and better.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Howdy from Houston

'Hope this finds y'all fine and dandy. 

I arrived in Houston yesterday. Have a phone, just don't know the number yet!  I start work on Monday. Yikes!
The weather here in Houston is still pretty warm (yey!), kinda like Manila, oddly.
My hosts/employers Mike and Joani have been absolute darlings. Besides housing me already and fetching me from the airport, Joani paid for my 1st groceries in Wholefoods as a "welcome to Houston." Mike helped me get a phone line here, though it only does calls, I think, and to the US? Not sure, will verify. (It's actually their extra "shared" line(?), where I only pay $9.99 a month, as opposed to maybe $80 with a prepaid) He also helped me mail Marian's package for her mom. Whew: that's done! Then this evening, they took me out for dinner, how nice is that! Everyone's been so nice: they said that if I need anything (particularly on mind is to go to the bank nearby, get a razor and a foldable line-dry to dry my yoga stuff and delicates 'coz no way can I dry those in the dryer, as well as to find a Catholic church nearby), to let them know so they can give me a ride, if need be. I've met Joani, Mike, Anne Marie, Jack, Janna, Ana and Andrea, so far. And Christina didn't apprentice here in Houston; it turns out she apprenticed in Dallas, I think that's what Joani said. Ana's Nikki T (from my training)'s friend, it turns out! And she said not to worry, just to go out there and teach!
Mike is a Texan through and through so has this cute drawl; Joani on the other hand is from New York, so she doesn't really have that Texan accent, though she doesn't really have that New York accent, either. Mike is a dog person (most of the staff are!) and has 5 dogs which he said he'll introduce to me one of these days; Joani is a cat person. And hey, Mike's 94-year old mom practices Bikram yoga, and has practiced it since she was 84, how neat is that? So if she can do it, anyone can! Quoting Bikram loosely, "It's never too late, you're never too old, never too sick, never too broken, to practice yoga." 
Took Mike's class this morning, even if they told me I didn't have to: I figured it's the least I could do, to get up and introduce myself to him first thing, right? Then took his class. He praised my floor bow :)  His class was pretty gentle, actually, as opposed to what I heard, that it's tough. The humidity was great, too--not as hot as Pye's, not as intense as Tu's class. But Mike was fluid, and genuine, and so assured, which I think made all the difference.
I voiced some of my concerns with Mike, like how to control the class, give energy or pick up the energy again, and so on. I particularly remember one thing he told me. He said when we talked about dogs, my voice inflection changed, my eyes lit up, etc. He said to remember that as I teach class and to input that in my energy, in my voice, when I teach. And of course, dialog, dialog, dialog. He says, it's hard--he and Joani both do--but they said I'll surely get there. :)
Will write more when I can--whether it be evenings here when everyone's gone (as I stay in the studio), or when my computer gets connected to the wifi here. Still have to get used to the timezone, too! It's 2 hours more here than San Francisco, 1 less than NYC. So if it's 10 am in San Francisco, it's 12 noon here, 1 pm in New York, and 1 am in Manila.
So still settling here in Houston, will maybe explore after work settles(!). In any case, will write again when I'm not as woozy.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

In Between Trips

Oh hey, Pavarotti's dead.

And heh, wonder if this is true:
Take it here.


Got back last night. Didn't get to sleep 'til 5 this morning, woke up near 1 pm. Heh; having been reading Philip Pullman's "The Amber Spyglass" didn't help, either ;)

Went to Frankfurt and Munich in Germany, then Florence in Italy, and Athens and Kea in Greece. Lots of pictures. Tried to curb the shopping. But of course, bought stuff.

First destination: Frankfurt. Went to the Messe with my parents for the first time. Saw the set-up. Halle 9. Interesting. Went to stores, saw sales. Discovered Uli Knecht, and got a paisley George Gina & Lucy bag. S goes nuts over Louis Vuitton, and World of Music in Karstadt. Introduced her to Douglas Parfumerie, where she bought some Benefit stuff. Celebrated S's birthday at Rama V, an excellent Thai restaurant.

Took the ICE train to Munich, but got on the wrong wagon. Got to our seats at the last stop before Munich, to enjoy it for 30 minutes (out of 3 hours). Before that, it was one mad rush. Dad blamed me, saying I was a twit and should know better. Needless to say I was very upset, and S said later on that she did not quite know what to do with herself, aside from having motion sickness from the constant moving about.

In Munich, we met up with my German "big sis" who surprised our mutual friends at their new store location in Karlsplatz by bringing us along. Went back to the Basic bio super-store in Isartor and bought my beloved Amaranth schoko-müsli, as well as a gorgeous, multi-toned schal. At nearby Cosi Bazar, found-and bought-HUGE rings that fit my slim fingers, at reasonable prices. Tolle! Showed S Marienplatz--the Glockenspiel, the Viktualienmarkt (where I bought some Bärlauch and she some honey hand creme), St. Peter's Church, Elly Seidl (where we both bought fresh, handmade chocolates!) Dallmayr (where she bought coffee beans), Funf Höfe, and the Residenz (the latter new for me, as well); brought her to Linderhof and Oberammergau, then after a horrible tourist lunch, took the arduous climb up Neuchwanstein and Mary's Bridge, coming back to Munich exhausted. Remembered the bahn  routes. Remembered my scant German.
I love Munich.

The train ride back, we were early, and got on the right wagon. Was able to read more of Philip Pullman's "The Subtle Knife" while S dozed.

In Frankfurt, rushed to the hotel then to the Messe to meet up with the parents--and see the fair on its last day. Manila FAME doesn't even come close.

Next day, left for Florence. Ate at 13 Gobbi for lunch. Yum, yum. My parents come to Florence to shop and to eat, and this time brought us along to their haunts and introduce us to their sukis: Farmacia Mustermann, the Erboristeria Spezieria Palazzo Vecchio, the enoteca they frequent, the piazza and Sta. Maria Novella--both scenes in the movie Hannibal(!), the department store La Rinascente (where we were able to get La Perla cheap!), Giotti--the original Bottega Veneta, Prada, Pucci, Armani (where S got sonnenbrille), Gucci (where Dad got shoes), Angela Caputi (where Mom and I got beautiful shawls on saldi!) and Etro, my favorite--the pattern on pattern, as Dad describes it (where I got a shawl, sonnenbrille, a shirt on saldi and a travel bag). Went to rub the pig (Il Porcellino) for good luck, as well. Consulted a map and a Louis Vuitton salesman's directions to Vivoli in a previously-unexplored part of town, but alas, the shop was closed for the summer. Ate gelato at another gelateria anyway. Molto bene.

That night found S struggling to pack everything she'd bought. Mom sends Dad to the rescue and we sleep at 3:30, only to wake up at 6:45, very late, to leave at 7 to catch the plane to Munich at 8:55 (to connect to Athens from there)! Andiamo! Nonetheless, we make it and I doze on the plane.

We meet Anthony (real name Adonis) in Athens in the afternoon. He had been waiting as per his wife Sofia's instructions since before noon. As we speed to the port in his car--our parents in a taxi as we with all our luggage simply wouldn't fit into his tiny car--he tells us about the fires that ravaged Greece, saying the damage would take 15 years or more to undo. Neither was this catastrophe of natural causes, he said. As to why, he said maybe terrorism.

We rode on a ship to Kea, car and all (what we call ro-ro in Manila). Boat rides and I never get along, so when we got off the ship, it took all I had not to throw up. The winding road to their vacation home didn't help, either. Nonetheless, I survived. Anthony said, "Don't do anything; relax!" Had to help him; he had a bad back; besides, if I didn't move the luggage, he would have a hard time backing out of the driveway. Met their Indonesian housekeeper Sofina, who cooked delectable meals throughout our stay, even cooking vegetarian for me! Every meal was a celebration, every meal a feast, every dish a delicacy. The olives, the marmalade with crunchy sugar, figs plucked fresh from the tree, cherry conserve, sheep cheese, homemade crepes, orange-bread, peppers (or as Anthony calls them, pepperoni), and yes, I ate fresh lobster to respect our hosts, but what lobster, so sweet and juicy..! Our hosts' son Kristos even taught me how to eat it ;)

And the beaches--nothing to rival Boracay, for sure, but the Aegean waters are cool, the waves none too strong...and no-one cares whether you go in with a 1-suit, a bikini, or nothing at all. Still, compared to our small-boned hosts, I was huge, or at least felt it...which needlessly bothered and frustrated me to no end.

We went back to Athens with skin tanned (not sure about S) and bellies full. And it was a different Athens from the Athens I saw 10 years ago. Athens is so much more developed and progressive now. The night we arrived, I was too tired to do anything else but sleep. The next day, however, we went to our hosts' office (Le Shop) and there Mom and Dad were shown ideas for expanding the business. Then we took the train--Anthony showed us how--to the Akropoli, for S to see. But at high noon. Good Lord. Afterwards, we went to Plaka for some shopping and some late lunch and last-gelato(!), ending our day tour with a drink at the top of the hotel overlooking the Parthenon and the entire city.

In the airport, I followed Mom to a Greek specialty shop selling mastiha. Interesting. Should tell Anthony about it. Maybe he can tell me more. Because our hosts are incredibly proud to be Greek, telling us the root meanings of words, Greek lore, and so on. Incredibly fascinating. If we had more time in Greece, I would've wanted to learn the language--how to speak, how to read the words: in fact, I was already able to decipher a little already, but only a little.

In the airport, S had problems with her tax-free forms from Germany as she lost them, and had to check her wheeled hand luggage in. Luckily she was able to salvage her precious CDs (about 120+ out of the 130) and stuff them into her other one.

And now we're back. Back to the real world. Now I have to prepare for my next trip to Texas--not a vacation, but to work, and to get real. And lose the weight gained, imaginary or no.

Mom and Dad now ask about salary and all these things, but vague me hasn't really worried about that. Now pragmatic me is nudging me to learn the ropes of our business next year, and make yoga a side-business, a hobby, maybe like what P does in Makati. I worry, however: what if I need to give that up? I want yoga to be a permanent part of my life. However, there is the reality that it is an uncertain path to monetary success. And I do like my Etros and Lululemons once in a while, and maybe yogi/eco-friendly retreats in the future, with a nifty little spa somewhere near. Plus my Dad points out that my vegan, organic lifestyle isn't that cheap, either. On the other hand, there is the business, where my mother put the responsibility ruse real thick (and being an only child, I always fall for), which she says is something on whom only I am the only person left to run, in their stead. (And what if I fail?  But that is always my fear, which often sets me back: I can fail in yoga, in veganism, in going organic, in the business, but hopefully NOT.) Still, this is not an immediate need to be answered, thank goodness. I still have my apprenticeship in Houston next, and hopefully there, things will be answered, or at the very least, much clearer--the business, yoga, veganism, going organic: hopefully they will all be on the same path.