family

family

Surprise, 11km!

nogwajatrophy

Photo courtesy of Alka.

I had a little too much to drink tonight and “accidentally” signed up for another trail race this coming weekend. So far, I’ve raced 3 weekends out of the last 4; so this will be 4 out of 5 of the last weekends that I’ve woken up at the crack of sparrows. But honestly, I’m still high and burning lots of calories from the 11km I did on Sunday. Yes 11km, advertised as an 8-10km. But it was gorgeous!

I decided a few weeks ago to take my first vacation in 2 years and spend one night at Ezemvelo ahead of the Arnold Chatz Nogwaja Run, orchestrated by myroadlesstravelled.co.za. It was so worth it, as I could just meander down to the start of the 8km, no, make that 11km run, on Sunday morning. Apparently the extra kms were added for Mother’s Day. I wanted to protest (loudly) that my mother was not, in fact, in country to run those extra kms for me. But I set my GPS watch and started off with the rest of the (somewhat surprised) runners. Note: The 20 km was actually a 25km, so I shouldn’t complain.

nogwaja

A little less chubby than in January.

Honestly, the scenery was so stunning that I didn’t notice how far I’d run until about 9kms when I searched the horizon for the finish and saw it, rightfully, another 2km away. The difference between 8km and 11km is less than 30%, but I train in the 5-6 km range, which makes an 11km greater than 50% more I usually run. (Can anyone spot the data manager?) A more experienced trail runner than myself remarked that the race brief did say 8-10km, and this is a trail run and so we must be prepared for anything. In addition, I shouldn’t really complain, I paid R90 for an 8km race and got 11km, so- a bargain!?!

So now I’ve run my first 10km (~1:17), which is a major achievement considering I had only set my sights on shorter distances. Overall I was 38th of 67, 21st female, and 7th veteran (official time was 1:28:59). I’m really proud of myself and feel I’ve definitely, finally recovered from my sinusitis and upper respiratory tract infection from March. I’m also truly amazed at what the body can do; I never considered dropping out. My body pulled through, and my mind kept up, and an Epsom salt bath took care of the rest.

Maybe it’s just endorphins, but I’m totally looking forward to Rabbit #2 (Captain Carrot) on 16 July also coordinated by myroadlesstravelled.co.za. Nina has a good sense of what constitutes a beginner trail run, one that still includes challenges so we can level up to the 20km (25km?) runs eventually. Not that I’m considering a 20km run in the future. The scenery was simply stunning, it was a true joy to run through the Ezemvelo reserve, bokkies everywhere! Pics, including me winning spot prizes at the end, can be found here. Definitely worth a look-see (more pics to follow on Wednesday, allegedly).

So this Sunday, an “easy” 6km, the Illumin8 Techniblock Chase the Sun Trail Run, right back where I started in January.

BenAnnaFargo

Fargo?

I must mention now, under other things that make me happy, my brother Ben has completed his goal of running 50 marathons in 50 states before he’s 50 (+1 in DC, making it a 51 marathon total). He ran the final North Dakota marathon this past weekend. I’m not sure how many years he’s been doing this, but he’s only 41, so finished well ahead of his goal. Definitely inspiring. What could possibly be next? Trail running in Africa perhaps?

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This is so last year…

I’m beginning retrospective posts from when I decided to jump on a training regimen again in December. All part of the New Year’s Resolutions stuff I usually blog about, but I’ll leave it out this year and instead just link to it here.

The real reason for my renewed blogging is to document and describe my attempt at combining yoga and running into a complete practice. And the story it really starts in 2014.

2014 was real a real drag for the following reasons:

1. I had to close Ekam at the end of June, not enough people supported the studio to pay the bills, and my landlords found a buyer. So…

2. I had to move in July. At first I was looking for a space with an extra room to teach from, but in the end I think I made the right decision to walk away from teaching yoga for a while.

3. My family came in August. Not a bad thing, but an added stress. Work also got pretty stressful around the same time.

namaqualandfamily4. My dog got cancer, again. We started radiation treatments in September, then surgery in October, which she never healed from and required frequent cleaning and bandaging. We finally got the wound closed in February 2015.

5. In December, my computer and car decided to die at the same time. Along with all the vet bills it made for a sticky financial situation.

But I was able to get back on my mat regularly again in mid-December when my place of work closed for the holidays. I had three weeks off to reflect and make my plan to take back my mat (and the rest of my life)! I have been fighting some injuries for a few years now and through the last few months of 2014 I took a different approach to my ashtanga practice- one of therapy and healing. I got rid of the ashtanga agenda (but not the ashtanga practice).

I love yoga, and I love practicing ashtanga vinyasa yoga, and I love the philosophy and practice of ashtanga yoga, and I was heartbroken that:

  1. I was having a really hard time, battling in every forward bend of the primary series and in constant pain during my entire practice, and,
  2. People have such strong opinions about what makes you an “ashtangi”.

So this year is about saying a big “screw you” to the haters.

Also, for some reason, I decided to start running.

Renewing my practice, my 5 values:

I’m blogging again. Shocking I know, after such a long hiatus. But it’s time. I’m embarking on a 12-week mission to renew my practice and reclaim my inner yoga space. Don’t worry, I won’t bore you with a long dark night of the soul kind of story, that’s not what it was. But needless to say we all lose our internal compass sometimes. We allow life’s burdens to build up rather than fall away. So I’m getting a little help from Jo at kalavati.org and looking forward to strengthening myself, body, mind, and spirit. And what better tool than yoga for the reawakening?

I’m not a self-help or life coaching kinda girl. As you all know I’m a goal setter, a list maker, a DOER. But somewhere along the way the goals stopped being interesting and I updated my New Year’s Resolutions this year out of habit rather than out of a true contemplation of where I really wanted to be.

Enter Jo! After a priorities check-in, Jo had me identify my values, so here they are:

  1. INTEGRITY: the closest yoga concept is satya or truthfulness, essentially I must live my truth, aligning my actions with my beliefs.
  2. PASSION: my favourite niyama, tapas, the internal fire that drives us to act.
  3. ACTION: karma, or affecting change in the world, I’m not the kind of person that just sits back and let’s it all pass by.
  4. GENEROSITY: complain as I might about having no money, I still offer my skills and whatever else I have to those in need. This niyama (roughly translated) is dama.
  5. CONTENTMENT: santosha is being happy where you are. Happy people don’t complain. I hate people who complain! I hate complaining!

What are your 5 values, those concepts that you come back to as fundamental to your being, the good habits that you practice and repeat, even if they’re not exactly self-serving?

Things that have made me happy this week:
MC Yogi released a new album: Mantras, Beats & Meditations! Rock the block party, manipulate the body!

Along the same lines, some old parkour/freerunning friends of mine were recently in a very visually interesting Skrillex video “Ragga Bomb”. For my friends and family abroad, this is what normal daily life is like in Joburg.

the travelling ashtangi

as kids, my family never went half-ass on vacation. we travelled all over the U.S.- florida and disney world several times as my grandparents had a very nice jumping off point in orlando. gettysburg to see the battlefields, mesa verde in colorado to check out the cliff dwellers (at 15 years old i was the 3rd designated driver on that trip), prince edward island (that’s in Canadia). the younger sibs even made it out to the badlands (oregon trail style, but no one died of dysentery). there was no national park or museum we didn’t hit (i saw the house, not the movie, where jesse james was shot). we always drove, packing 8 kids and all our reading material and pillows into a 14 passenger van. it was a hoot. until saturday came.

my mom (designated driver #2) would always make sure that on sunday morning we were taking up an entire pew at mass in Godknowswhere, USA (or Canadia). i’m not sure how she did it, but she always found a catholic mass for us to attend. even on vacation! (honestly, she made me track down a catholic mass in kasane, botswana) and if a mass couldn’t be found, she would be very put out. quiet all day and reading her today’s missal. eish.

now, as an ashtangi, i understand. because whenever i go somewhere, travelling for work or on vacation, i am on-line checking out where to catch the nearest mysore/ashtanga classes where i’ll be. in NYC it’s with eddie and his crew at ashtanga yoga new york. in amsterdam it’s yoga mandala, in nairobi it’s with oriane (who finally got me to my chin in bhuja pidasana). i’m now heading home for 6 weeks and thinking: vermont? boston? portland?

because we ashtangis, we’re all one big tribe (don’t you dare call it a ‘religion’ or a…*whisper* ‘cult’). though ‘physically intimate, but emotionally distant’ we still like to practice together and enjoy each other’s company for that 1 hour, 1.5 hours, maybe even 2 hours, on our mats in the morning, even if we never make eye contact. it’s what holds us all together and individually keeps us sane. because who else would get up at 5:30am to practice primary series again? while on vacation?

and like a catholic mass, there’s no question about what you’re supposed to do. growing up i knew when the bells rang i had to go to my knees and start spewing latin, no matter where i was. now when the instructor calls ‘samasthitih’, i know we’re going to chant the vande gurunam together- in sanskrit. so it seems the apple didn’t fall too far from the tree.

and as a studio owner it’s wonderful to see the occasional, and very welcome, international travellers. those people, who like me, always google: ‘ashtanga [name of city on plane ticket]’. and then scan links for words like ‘traditional’ or ‘mysore’. hell, we’re probably the people who i didn’t make eye contact with in the yoga room/inter-denominational prayer room at the [whatever international airport].

two weeks ago it was a woman from milan. this week it’s a man from america. ekam has had visitors from zambia, france, and lots of south africans now living abroad coming home for the holidays. they bring a breath of fresh air with them and a dedication to a practice that crosses borders and peoples (though i have a sneaking suspicion that we’re all a-type). it’s inspiring that a practice that started in a room that couldn’t hold more than 12 people at a time, has expanded into a global, individual practice. and we welcome all comers. because, in the end, it’s a little global piece of home, and a practice that we all share and are inspired by. in the end, there’s no vacation from the dedication to the practice.

(funny article about how insufferable yogis are. and there’s even a link to something about yoga snobbery. [snark.])

Yes, they are ALL mine! Answers to those rude questions about large families!

for my family.

Yes, they are ALL mine! Answers to those rude questions about large families!.

the rudest comment i’ve encountered was someone who was complaining about how all doctors drive luxury cars, flaunting their wealth. when i noted that my dad didn’t have a luxury car i was told my dad “didn’t have to have 8 kids either”. no, my parents didn’t have to raise and educate 8 children; but then again, having 8 luxury cars is very, very boring. and they’re not really great vehicles for camping trips. and they won’t hike or run with you or give you grandkids or support you when you’re older.

the best things in life aren’t things.

 

“take this pink ribbon off my eyes…

…i’m exposed and it’s no big surprise.
don’t you think i know exactly where i stand,
this world is forcing me to hold your hand.”
                                           -just a girl, no doubt

i’ve been trying to finish this post for a while, but couldn’t think of a way to write it that didn’t sound like a pissing contest between me and most men on the planet (which i would undoubtably win), or a militant feminist, or both. i am not militant, and i’m not a feminist. i’ve never identified with being a ‘girl’ in such a way that it prevented me from doing whatever the hell i wanted (doesn’t everyone think this way?). maybe it’s not so much that i don’t identify as a ‘girl’, but more that i don’t identify any activities as being ‘boy’, e.g. gender specific (except maybe pissing contests). but i am getting a bit tired of people joking about how underneath my lululemon 50 rep bra i’m actually a man. i’m just a girl. throughout my life i’ve ended up in activities whereupon, when i do eventually get distracted from the activity itself and look around, i find myself surrounded by men. i don’t know why this is. it’s as if men took all the fun activities on the planet and peed on them, and so most women stay away. in any case, here’s some of the fun i’ve had-, not being able to distinguish the smell of male urine from anything else.

raft guide the raft guide training itself is challenging. in Maine, it takes place during one full week in May when there’s still snow on the river banks and ice chunks floating in the water. it’s freezing cold, the river is at flood-stage, and you have to exist on peanut-butter and jelly sandwiches and spaghetti bolognaise. every morning you slap on a (wet) wetsuit that gets more and more ripe each day. the job itself requires a certain amount of physical strength and endurance, the development of a technical skill, a level head under pressure, a loud voice, and a certain feel for the element of water. it’s also not without serious risk. once you’ve taken your practical and written exams and get your Level I Whitewater Licence from the State of Maine (and your Maine Guide patch, which i’m extremely proud of) you can now throw 8 overweight punters who don’t know what ‘down-river’ means and call a paddle an ‘oar’ into a 16″ raft and take them through some class IV whitewater. it’s a fabulous test of endurance of body as well as mind. one of my guide instructors told me once that women make better raft guides. they know they can’t rely on strength so they plan ahead and make their runs work for them, rather than relying on muscle and dumb luck. i’ve seen this concept crop up in other activities as well- technique and skill over brawn and muscle.

4×4-ing

i’ve owned 4x4s since 1998. my first was a wood-paneled, navy blue jeep grand wagoneer, but i prefer land cruisers, specifically the 80 series model with the solid front axle. the new FJ is nice too, but the IFS doesn’t thrill me. since moving to africa in 2001 i’ve kitted two cruisers with: roof rack, roof top tent, 3-drawer packing system, 40L national luna fridge-freezer (sun-downers require ice), 55L water tank (i require showers), the ultimate 168L long range tank (made in australia) bringing my total fuel capacity to almost 250L of petrol or an off-road driving radius of about 1200kms, a dual battery system, a compressor, B.F. Goodrich all terrain tires with an IEF dual spare carrier carrying 2 more, and a VHF radio. i know the difference between brake fluid and diff oil (specifically with regards to smell), and i’ve assisted with two diff repairs in the bush (the reason i always carry diff oil). you don’t know what a diff is? 4x4s have two. with my kitted vehicle i’ve travelled throughout botswana, south africa, namibia and kenya. i also drove from gabs to nairobi (towing a trailer with all my earthly possessions). i didn’t do all those trips alone, but i was the principal driver, navigator, and chef. and i make a mean pan bread.

somewhere in Namibia...

parkour

male-dominated, but not for long. the ladies are catching up! it’s the same as with…

besides, what woman could go that long without taking a bath!

yoga

yes, yoga! until only recently yoga was a male-dominated activity. for the last 5000 years the traditions, sequences, practices, and philosophies have been passed down through the ages via oral and written tradition through by men through guru-shishya parampara (teacher-student oral tradition). only recently, probably since Indra Devi emigrated to the US in the 1950s, has the practice of yoga become dominated by women. this, however, is a western phenomenon. worthy of a movie even.

i’ll continue to do my own thing, regardless of labels. i’m having way too much fun. and you guys can join me, be it on the mat, at a jam, in the bush, anywhere- as long as you’re not up for a pissing contest. because i’m really not a man. i’m just a girl.

2011: my lemon year

2011 has been a year of change and challenge for me. and i’m not the only one that’s been through a lot, everyone around me has also faced considerable life changes. but we’ve all made it, and honestly- i’m happier than i’ve ever been. so yeah, what they say is true…whatever doesn’t kill you, fattens.

but stress gets to you, so here’s a list of what i’ve been through so far this year to cheer you up, because we are all so much stronger than we think. and if life seems to be giving you lemons, then for god’s sake make a frikkin’ gin & tonic and get over it. or lemon squares, i love lemon squares. full of lemony tastiness.

so here’s my 2011 shit challenge list:

  • in january Ekam Yoga hosted an international yoga teacher (actually 2) who increased recognition for ashtanga in south africa. btw, hosting international yogis is a little more stressful than you might think.
  • in february i turned 40. this is not a bad thing, but man, they tell you about the hormone changes during puberty- they don’t tell you about the hormone changes when you reach adulthood. was it some freakin’ secret or something?!
  • in march one of my sisters got married, she’s 10 years younger than i am. she also had a baby this year- totally awesome!
  • i had a real relationship with a real person (something i had scratched off my goal list). it was lots of fun, but in the end it didn’t work out. i miss the friendship.
  • in april i got some abnormal test results back. don’t worry- there’s no cause for alarm, but it was a definite indication that i am, indeed, getting older. (to which i continue to say: ‘f%ck that!’)
  • also in april…i got scarlet fever. srsly! i even got booked off sick for a week!
  • in june i started parkour, which has been an amazing outlet for stress and frustration. it has reminded me to always look with the eyes of a beginner, and provided me with something to blog about. it also changed the way i practice yoga (for the better).
  • btw, in june i started blogging.
  • in july another sister got married, she’s 13 years younger than me.
  • ….and another sister is getting divorced. there have been quite a few weddings and divorces this past year in and around my life. mmmmm… lemon cupcakes with jam filling!
  • both weddings required trans-atlantic trips, essentially way too much jet lag and lay-over time for one year.
  • when i got back to south africa after the (second) wedding i was informed that my position had been made redundant. no more housing stipend or round-trip ticket home every year. after some very hard thinking i decided to stay in south africa, which cuts me off from my family and friends back home.
  • in august i sold my land cruiser, a huge identity crisis for me. i’m trying to create a sleeker, sexier identity with my new car, but i miss my cruiser. also, i sprained my wrist in august.
  • in september i retreated to mozambique and heard whale song for the first time. also, i sprained my ankle in september…and again in october.
  • in october i started my new job, at 1/2 my previous pay. but i have this gut feeling that this job is going to be a helluva lot more fun than my last one, and that makes all the difference!
  • i’m going to have to start paying taxes again after 10 years. (yeah, yeah, ‘boo-di-frikkin-hoo’ you all say.)
  • when i saw my first paycheck, i realized i was going to have to move- house and studio. so in december i’m packing up and moving to another zip code, with all the associated hassle.

geez, i hope november is quiet. and 2012- i really hope 2012 is quiet too. so i’ll have time to make all those lemon squares.

change is the only constant

i haven’t had a chance to blog lately, even though i’m still practicing the whole yoga-parkour-patience-beginner thing (and i have lots more to tell on that front). i found out 2 weeks ago that my position within my organisation has been retrenched and i have two months (less now) to find a new job. so i’ve been a bit preoccupied.

i had to take a time out, but was able to get it all into perspective. the retrenchment isn’t a crisis, more of a ‘life-altering moment’. there are many people in a similar situation all around the world due to the international ‘financial situation’. i’m 40, i have skillz, i’m debt free, no problem, moving on.

but it brings me to one of life’s many major cross-roads. living as an expatriate for 10 years in africa i have to make a decision: should i stay or should i go? an easy decision to make, but a critical one. if i decide to go home my company will pay for my ticket and a container for all my household goods. i return to the states essentially where i left, just 10 years older and a little bit wiser. if i decide to stay i will need to cut some of my support ties with friends and family in the US and many of the significant benefits i receive as an expatriate employee. i won’t be able to go home as often, i’ll need to downsize my truck, my habits, my life. yes, i will finally become a real person and re-enter the world of the normal tax-paying adult.

after the waves of panic roll away i realize i am not my job, i am not my truck, i am not my salary; and i’ve been wanting to change all of these things anyway. but i think we all want to feel that we made the choice, not that it was made for us. a sense of powerlessness overwhelms me, i try to focus on the opportunity itself and not how it came into my life. so…i’m going to stay here because i love south africa, and africa! i’m going to continue building the yoga studio that i know someday will succeed, i’m going to sell my truck, the icon of my years here and get a smaller, more fuel efficient car, and i’m going to cut the fat off of my spending habits. because at 40, i fully understand- i don’t need all this stuff!

and the best thing…my yoga practice, my parkour training, the friends and connections i’ve made here, aren’t part of the stuff, they’re part of my life, and that keeps going. and i’m looking forward to it!

good-bye african icon, you have never let me down! however…
hello, sexy!

p.s. yes, if all goes well, i’m getting a 2001 saab 93 convertible (in palladium silver), because it’s the same price as the corolla i was planning to buy, but it’s sooooo much sexier and beautiful and this is my consolation prize for getting laid off!

Khale and Naro: in memorium

In order to really enjoy a dog, one doesn’t merely try to train him to be semi-human.  The point of it is to open oneself to the possibility of becoming partly a dog.  ~Edward Hoagland

four years ago today my two best friends died of an overdose of diminazine aceturate, a prophylactic treatment for trypanosoma cruzii required by South Africa for importation from Kenya though the disease is not endemic in the Nairobi area. both khale and naro had tested negative for the parasite (by Onderstepoort) two weeks prior to receiving the vaccination.

i don’t talk a lot about that day, one of my last in kenya. my house had been packed into a container, i was living in a hostel, khale and naro had been kenneled with the vet, and I had a one-way ticket to South Africa in less than a week. i was about to start a brand-new, better life with my dogs in SA.

When a man’s best friend is his dog, that dog has a problem.  ~Edward Abbey

Umjumi Khale of Khale View 17.06.2004-29.07.2007

Khale was born on a farm in Kwa-Zulu Natal and was my first dog, a complete princess and a perfect ridgeback. she was wickedly smart, aloof, and a quintessential alpha-female. in botswana, at 5 months old she woke me up to tell me there was an intruder in the yard. in kenya, she warned me that there were people on the property up to no good. khale was the daughter my mother wished on me; completely stubborn, willful, and opinionated, and khale trained me well. my one regret is that i was so concerned with being the perfect ‘dog mom’ to khale, being strict, fair, and ‘right’, that i forgot to be affectionate with her, i forgot to show her i loved her. khale taught me to never miss an opportunity to tell someone that you love them.

i was there with her for her last 12 hours begging her to stay with me, but in the end knowing it was extreme selfishness to try and hold on to her. i was there when her heart stopped, lying on the floor of a concrete kennel, and it was the lonliest moment of my life. khale understood me in ways no one else ever will and i still miss her terribly.

They never talk about themselves but listen to you while you talk about yourself, and keep up an appearance of being interested in the conversation.  ~Jerome K. Jerome

Kulima Naro Moru of Khale View 20.10.2005-29.07.2007

Naro was born in the Karoo. he was a consummate clown and an utter fool, he lived and played with complete enthusiasm. when i was on conference calls with the U.S. he would pick up the noisiest toy and chew on it, making loud crunching-squeaking sounds. i would take it away and he would find another until i got off the phone. he would jump everywhere and interfere in Khale’s and my nap time. he was a small dog with a huge heart and always sensed when i was feeling down. my regret with naro was that i wasn’t there when he died, my little guy- he was all alone. he was always there for me, and at the end i wasn’t there for him. naro taught me that if you’re going to do something, put your whole heart into it, love, play, whatever- do it with utter abandon and don’t worry about looking like a fool.

A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than you love yourself.  ~Josh Billings

i’m still practicing what khale and naro taught me. what came naturally to them takes a lot of effort for me. it’s hard to show people that i love them, and it’s even harder to do it and not care whether or not it’s reciprocated. dogs are the true bhakti yogis, honoring us with complete devotion. a dog’s love is so pure i’m certain they attain a higher station when their wheel turns. so maybe khale and naro have already been reincarnated into future yogis or saints who will continue to teach me a thing or two. i hope to meet them again some day.

Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole.  ~Roger Caras