A Tokyo Self Guided Tour: Part 2

Part One of our day in Tokyo can be found here!

After departing the sumo museum, it was time to hop on the subway and make our way to another huge attraction: Tokyo Skytree. We wandered around the streets a little aimlessly as we looked for the correct place to go. We were tricked by the train station, which is separate from the subway station. By this time we were also feeling thirsty. We found a “100 yen” or “Dollar Store.” Since I had read that eating and drinking in public are frowned upon in Japan, we hid in an alleyway and chugged our drink.

Eventually we made it to Skytree. The entrance fee to get to the top was $20 USD. We didn’t feel like paying that price, seeing as it was a cloudy day and the views wouldn’t be super spectacular. For free, you can take the elevator up to the 36th floor, where there are some restaurants and great views of the city. We ate at “Dry Beer.”


After the long day of sightseeing and walking, we headed back to our tiny hotel room for a nap. We needed to rest up for a big night out in Tokyo! Two girls on the loose in the big city!

Getting out of bed was very, very difficult. I was still feeling the jet-lag a little bit, although I like to claim that jet-lag has no effect on me whatsoever. This was our one and only night to experience Tokyo, so I ran downstairs to the lobby and bought some beers to get us pumped up.


We hopped on the subway into a designated part of town known for the bars and nightlife. (At the moment I can’t remember the name of the district we were in! Apologies!) It was a rainy, slightly chilly night. Getting off the subway we found ourselves surrounded by huge concrete buildings, and not a lot of lights. It was unusually quiet. I was still in a bit of a sleep mode, and had I not been in an amazing city, I would have crawled back into bed. We stopped into a little hole in the wall bar for a drink and appetizer, and to regroup. This helped improve my mood, and we set off again in search of fun and adventure.

Along the streets of the bars, nightclubs, and karaoke venues, were club promoters. Most were tall black men with accents. (Possibly from Brazil? Why are they in Japan?) One suckered us into their Jungle themed bar. Ladies drank free all night. How could we resist? Inside was an elaborately decorated jungle room… that was 95% empty. With free drinks, this wasn’t SO bad. We had a few and decided to move on. We explored up and down the streets, getting more excited with each new possibility.

In the Tokyo Jungle!

We met a group of hilarious guys who stopped and chatted with us for a little bit. This funny exchange made us feel really happy to be in Japan and meeting “locals” our age.

Chatting on the street

One nice girl enticed us to follow her to a bar she was promoting. We follwed her for an uncomfortably long time away from the street we were on. She took us to a bar, and we followed her to the back through a soundproof door. We went into a “hidden” club. This had free admission and drinks for us. We laughed at our willingness to follow this girl, and not ditch her because we felt bad. (She was a student! Studying art!) We decided to have a drink to make it worthwhile, then head back to our original street.

After a few minutes I felt a tap on my shoulder. A young Japanese guy was gesturing towards my hair. I though he was saying he like it, so I kinda smiled and turned away mumbling “thanks…” Turns out him and his friend had a mini hair salon set up, and they were offering to style our hair for free!

Club Salon: A weird experience

We then left this bar, looking and feeling fabulous. Our next destination was to go back to the Jungle bar, where the free drinks were still being poured. This was an excellent choice, because here we met some super fun Japanese girls who were out celebrating a birthday. Dancing. taking pictures, and chatting with these young ladies really made our night unique. I never wanted to leave!

Due to an early departure time, Annaliese and I did have to return home. The subway was closed, so we took a taxi back to our hotel. Back in the room I was so excited that I claimed I wanted to stay up all night! And write a famous movie script! This did not happen, and we got a precious few hours of sleep before the sun rose.

Sightseeing in Tokyo! A Self-Guided Tour

By 8:30 AM we were all showered and ready to explore this futuristic city! We took full advantage of the lobby’s complimentary coffee as we poured over maps and subway schedules. The exciting day ahead had limitless possibilities.

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At first a bus tour was looking like the easiest thing to do, unfortunately we didn’t exactly know where to go to book one. Also, without previously booking, you never know if the tour is already full. So, due to our uncertainty,we decided to make our own tour of the city using the subway! Our first stop was to find some food, naturally. We went into a little restaurant that looked decent. This place was called Coffee Hop Car’B. We both ordered an egg sandwich and green tea. Turns out the egg sandwich was not breakfast style, but instead an egg salad sandwich that I was most certainly NOT in the mood for. I am not a very picky eater, so I did make it through most of my meal. Annaliese was not so into our selection, and only ate about half.

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A “not what I thought” egg sandwich.

Not far down the road was our first attraction: Sensoji Temple. This was built around 628, making it the oldest temple in Tokyo. It is a big attraction for tourists, and especially known for the main Kaminarimon Gate, home to a giant hanging lantern. Even though there were a lot of people milling around, I still had an amazing time touring the temple and the surrounding grounds. We happily did the touristy type traps, like getting our fortunes on paper, and lighting incense as a form of prayer.

Selfie in front of a huge lantern!


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My Most Unfortunate Fortune. Oh Well!

Upon exiting the temple area, we found ourselves in a tiny, random, amusement park. Since fate had told us to walk that way, we bought tickets and went on some Japanese amusement rides! Already doing our own, self guided tour, was having benefits. What is life without some uncharted, unpredictable, detours along the way?!

We used this ride to see more of Tokyo

These seats were labeled with American sounding names.

Next on our loose agenda was to visit Ryogoku Kokugikan, home to a free Sumo Museum. Annaliese navigated the map, and we leisurely strolled alongside the Sumidagawa River to our next destination. The day, and city, was extremely peaceful. We found ourselves wondering out loud multiple times how amazingly quiet Tokyo was.


When I return to Tokyo, I will put “attending a sumo match” on the top of my “to-do” list. We asked at the counter, and all the fights were booked up months in advance. Sumo wrestling is HUGE. (Pun intended) The men themselves are celebrities. We got a firsthand look at the madness. As we searched for the entrance for the museum, (which we walked by on accident,) we saw an excited crowd amassing. SUMO on the loose! Several sumo wrestlers were emerging after (I’m assuming) practice. We joined in the madness and snapped some pictures, feeling special to witness such an exciting event.

Sumo induced swarm!

Annaliese getting a piece of the autograph action!

The actual museum was only one room, and though it was interesting, had we not seen the sumo celebrities, coming here might have been a disappointment.


This was only half of our day! Check back for Part 2!

Departure Day!

My friend Ryley was going to be flying out of the Denver airport the same day as Annaliese and I. We decided to carpool together and spend the night in a Marriott near the airport. This way, Ryley is able to leave her car while she is on vacation (FOR FREE!) The Springfield Marriott has a free shuttle bus continuously going to and from the airport. Also, since we are employees, we get a nice discount. And they have a great free breakfast! So to reduce travel day stress, going the night before was a great idea.

Marriott Breakfast

Last breakfast on USA soil! Thanks Marriott YUM!


We made it to the airport nice and early, as Annaliese prefers. (9:45AM) We scoped out the various prices of bloody mary’s and decided on Aviator’s, and settled in to have a pre-departure cocktail. We also made last minute phone calls to our parents and our lovely grandmother.

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It seemed surreal to imagine landing in Tokyo in just a few (+) hours. Our flight was due to leave at 12:30. Unfortunately due to wind and rain, we were delayed one hour. By 1:10 we were ready to board!

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At the gate! Next stop, TOKYO!

The ride was fairly uneventful. I watched Dallas Buyer’s Club and caught up on this season of Girls. A wonderful bonus was the sparsely populated flight– Annaliese and I had a row of seats to ourselves! This makes it possible to contort your body somewhat into a slightly more comfortable sleeping position. You could also anonymously snag extra blankets and pillows without upsetting anyone. Yay:)
The food was tasty: I had veggie curry roll, salad, and brownie.
We also were treated to a sandwich, ice cream, and a breakfast of egg and sausage, roll, and cookie.

We landed at Narita airport at 4:20 Tokyo time. (Around 1:30AM Denver time)
This airport is around 60 minutes from downtown Tokyo. We opted to take the much less expensive bus option, rather than a taxi. This cost $30 USD from the airport to TOkyo Station, which was about a 25 minute walk to our hotel. I felt very confident using this bus, which was from the “Friendly Bus” company.

Annaliese had researched and booked our first hotel of the trip. This was in the business district. As you can imagine in Tokyo, our room was teeny tiny! Everything had its place and was compact.


Looking in from the doorway: Yes this is the entire room!

After taking some pictures and letting the giddy feeling of landing in a new foreign city get us excited, we decided to test out the food! We wandered down the streets looking into various restaurants and seeing which one caught our eye. First we tried a nice place that looked decently busy, with large windows. As we tried to walk through the door a lady said “no English menus!” and shut the door. Weird.
Feeling a little confused, we went to another place. At this one they said they were all full. At this point I was feeling very rejected and unconfident. Is it because we are younger? Two girls? White tourists? I was starting to get worried, and hungry! After such a long time traveling, and feeling so excited, this disappointment struck me deeply and I felt very unwelcome. Annaliese and I tried to stay positive, and we walked on. Eventually we saw a place called “No Reservations”. OK! That was kinda inviting sounding, and thank goodness they let us have a table!

I, of course, ordered sushi!!!!! Annaliese, being vegetarian, ordered a cheesy pasta. The portion sizes were great (not too much, but filling).
One thing I foolishly did not realize, was that you are supposed to eat every bite of sushi on your plate. Unfortunately I didn’t read this until that night after dinner… and I had left a piece on my plate. Although I’m ashamed of this faux pas now, there is little I can do but warn other ignorant sushi lovers: Eat it ALL!!

We also witness the waitress bringing the (Japanese) ladies next to us their check. We never got ours though. So after waiting a long time, and both using the bathroom and almost falling out of our chairs from sleepiness, we waved our waitress over and asked for the bill.
Why can’t there be a universal protocol for restaurants?

We were too tired to do any more exploring that evening, so we called it a night.

Preparing For SE Asia: Round 2 Vietnam Edition

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From the local library I rushed to check out books on Vietnam. I paged through Lonely Plant and Frommer’s. Both are well respected and traditional tour guide books. I appreciate guides like this to get a basic idea of the country I will be visiting. I tend to read them with a dose of skepticism, mostly because a lot can change since the publishing date. (Especially if faithful readers have followed their recommendations and flocked to the highlighted attractions!) Also, have you ever read what they have to say about your hometown/state? Rarely to my favorite places make the cut! I suppose I’m just unique like that.

I also read the novel “Matterhorn,” by Karl Marlantes. This book is very well written and fascinating. Although it is fiction, the author graduated from Yale and is a decorated Marine who served in the Vietnam war. I found his descriptions of the war heart wrenching and deeply moving. His imagery of the jungle, heat, and living conditions, kept rattling around in my brain as I walked around Vietnam. I much prefer reading a story about the place I am going to visit, verses a few sentences about a trendy new restaurant.


Prior to my trip, the only movies I could clearly remember watching that pertained to Vietnam were “Forrest Gump,” and “Letters From Vietnam.” The latter of which was part of my Junior year of high school’s US History class. This documentary was wonderful and touching, as well as infuriating. Most material surrounding the Vietnam War is infuriating to me.

To add to my Vietnam movie knowledge, I watched “Born of the Fourth of July” with Tom Cruise. This movie spent more time on the terrible after effects the war had on US soldiers than on Vietnam culture. Still, I had not seen it before, and it gives perspective to a girl who has had no military experience. (Me)

I also watched a free documentary about Australians who fought in the Vietnam war, and their efforts to help the families of fallen Vietnamese soldiers locate and properly bury their loved ones. This was pretty boring/short and did not offer the sort of information I was hoping for.


As part of my employee benefits, I can access and practice a multitude of languages  through Rosetta Stone. A few weeks before our departure date, I began Vietnamese. Word to the wise: this language takes MUCH more than three weeks to even grasp the most basic concepts! Woo-wee! How you address someone depends on their gender and age in relation to you. There are many little voice inflections and tiny words going crazy in the most simple of sentences.

Example A: To say, “The girl drinks juice,” is “Dua con gai dang uong nuoc hoa qua.”

If you want to say the same thing, but about an adult male drinking, it is “Nguoi dan ong dang uong nuoc hoa qua.”

Talk about a tongue twister!

In addition to the complicated grammar, is complicated pronunciation. The letters a, e, and o, have EIGHTEEN different pronunciations. These are indicated by symbols and accents.  Of course, there is also the regional differences in the language from north to south.

I am proud I attempted to learn the language, but I’ll readily admit that the practicality of the endeavor was 0%.


Not a thing! Call me crazy but I just assumed I’d still be covered from those random vaccines I got two years ago for Thailand. Plus, I’m lazy lucky in the health department.

The night before we left Annaliese and I grabbed some ibuprofen and Imodium.


Another little item we overlooked: a visa! A few days before we were due to leave Annaliese asked if I had looked into getting a visa. I realized all along I blindly assumed we would be getting a visa when we landed, similar to Thailand. Thank God we looked this process up, and thank God it is a simple process! It is possible to get a visa on arrival (VOA). This requires you to fill out and e-mail a form to a company in Vietnam. (Cost about $18) In return you get a visa approval letter, which you must print and bring with you, along with two passport photos.

Things you need at the airport:

  • Original passport
  • 2 passport photos
  • Entry/exit forms
  • Printed approval letter
  • $45 USD cash for a 1-3 month single entry

Visa Approval!

Annaliese and I used different companies, and our response letters looked a little different, but both worked just fine!

I think a slightly more popular route to obtaining a visa is by your home country’s Vietnamese embassy.

TOKYO: I did a terrible job researching Tokyo! Whenever I looked at a map, I clicked away in fright. This city is a lot to handle! I did find some online modules on basic Japanese phrases, which were much easier to swallow than Vietnamese. My #1 priorities in Tokyo revolved around sushi and fashion. (Eating and admiring.)

How to you prepare for a trip? Any favorite resources?

Emerging From Blog Hibernation

Hey! Remember me?

At the request of my hundreds of devoted fans (my dad) I am crawling out from my cave of silence and returning to the world of travel blogging! This is perfect timing, as I have recently returned from an eighteen day trip overseas.


You might remember my travel buddy from Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia: Annaliese.


Her oldest brother, Daniel, has been living in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, for about a year now. We both live in the beautiful mountain town of Vail, Colorado. As soon as ski season is over (April 20th), we enter mud season. Tourists abandon us and the weather makes sure they stay away. In general, the lack of sunny days, skiing, and people to fork over tips, results in a mass exodus from this town. It is the official vacation month! Those who stay pass the time with netflix, ice cream, and wine. A crazy night out might consist of going to the single bar in town that remains open.

Last year I jetted to Hilton Head Island, SC, for a week. This year, Annaliese and I decided we needed to seize the opportunity to visit the country we missed out on during our last South East Asia trip: Vietnam. The decision was made easier when we factored in the chance to visit with her brother, and have an unofficial tour guide at our disposal.

Photo from bing.com


We were giddy with excitement booking our tickets. After carefully choosing the perfect dates, and obsessively checking and comparing prices, we found the perfect ticket fit. A 12 hour flight from Denver to Tokyo, four hour layover, and 5 more hours to Vietnam’s capital city, Hanoi. After selecting this, and mere seconds before confirming the payment, Annaliese mumbles to herself, “Tokyo would be awesome…”

My clown-like smile reaction was all she needed to exit out of our perfect trip itinerary, and start over! Why not stretch this Tokyo layover into say, two nights? Click. Boom. DONE!


Our final itinerary:

April 27, 2014: Depart Denver Airport 12:30PM –> Arrive Tokyo 3:25PM

Depart Tokyo really early –> Arrive Hanoi 11:55AM

Spend 13 amazing days exploring!

Depart Ho Chi Minh City 11:50PM –> Arrive in Denver May 14 at 12:50PM

And then I woke up in Colorado…

Well well well. I’m alive. I made it back to the USA from Thailand. A very brief summary (to be followed by some long and fascinating recounts of me and Rylee’s last week overseas… When I’m not too lazy)::::::


  • Finished fasting
  • Overnight bus to Bangkok, arrive at 6am.
  • Creepily lurk outside Lub.d and miraculously run into Jefferson!
  • Visit forensic pathology museum link to yucky pics !!!!
  • Final shopping at MBK (I’ll miss that hectic million mile mall)
  • Final goodbyes and last glimpses of Bangkok, feels like we are leaving our home.
  • Long, long, long, flight home. 5 (or maybe 7?) HOUR layover in Beijing (not again…) where Rylee and I find a little cubby area for meditation and yoga. It was freezing cold and Rylee was tempted to buy a grossly overpriced and ugly sweater out of desperation. We we “forced” to buy Starbucks just to keep our hands warm.


  • Uneventful final flight to JFK. May or may not have previously secured Xanax to ensure this.
  • Another long layover for flight to PORTLAND, MAINE.
  • Loving, caring, generous, parents pick us up at midnight. They hadn’t changed a bit!
  • Stay at the fabulous Fireside Inn but Rylee and I can’t sleep so we stay up all night watching “House”
  • Christmas shop in the old port, mandatory dinner at Flatbread, eventually drive home and are reunited with our kitties!

My Main Man Atlas

I also bought a 2002 Prius and planned my high school 5 year reunion which turned into 2 nights of bar hopping in downtown Bangor and seeing a ton of people that I realized I missed more than I knew! Why so sentimental, Kimble?



Oh, then I drove over 2,000 miles from Maine to Colorado with my OTHER sister, Kenzie!!!!!
Wow ! Good thing a Prius has that good gas mileage reputation. I rung in 2013 with a casual glass of wine, cheese and crackers, chocolate, and Kenzie and Annie. The next day I did a “working interview” at Mountain Mobile Vet and was hired as a vet tech. Outstanding!
I’m living in Eagle-Vail, 5 min from Beaver Creek and 10 min from Vail.

My first week here consisted of hanging out with Kenzie, setting up my new room, and learning the ropes at my job. It was really busy and a whirlwind of to-do lists and scheduling. Now, I’ve been here two and a half weeks. I can drive around without my GPS. I’ve gotten my first paycheck, and I’ve met some cool new people. Things look good. One problem: no ski pass yet. I came too late to get the Epic pass (6 or 7 hundred dollars). At this point a season pass is over two grand. Yikes. I went one day at Beaver Creek with my coworker, Jenn. I can’t wait to go again, but I’ve gotta find a job that has a free pass as a perk.

I already have tons of stories about the vet clinic, where I learn tremendous amounts every day. It is a demanding, fast paced, and rewarding job.

My Day Today
Arrive at 8am. Friday is surgery day. We have 2 cat neuters, one cat spay, one dog spay, and a dental. The patients are dropped off between 8 and 9am. Jenn (other tech) and I take each animal and weigh and temp them. We set them up with blankets. Using their weight we calculate and draw up all the pre and post op meds. We also set up two surgery sites, one for intubation, and one for more invasive surgery (the spays). Mixed in at this point someone makes a coffee run across the street to Yeti’s Grind, a nice little coffee shop. Today I got a large coffee and veggie bagel.
The Dr. Arrived around 9. She was Dr. Fine, who came in to cover for the owner and primary vet (who was at a vet class/convention/meeting in Denver) I hadn’t worked with this vet, so I felt intimidated and wanted to make sure I didn’t mess up.
We began with the dental. This involves putting the animal under anesthesia. (Rare will you find an animal willing to let you mess around in their mouths without some sort of sedation.) Since the dog was older, we had to draw blood and check for any health issues. I restrain the animal and “hold off” which means I use my amazing strength to cut off blood circulation causing the vein to pop up for the other tech to poke with a (tiny!) needle. The blood is spun in a centrifuge to separate the plasma. This part I like to do, I feel like a scientist. The equipment is IDEXX, which has a HQ in Maine, so I think of home. I pipette the blood plasma into little container. Sets of slides are kept in the freezer (12 for GHP – General Health Profile, or 6 for Pre Anesthetic profile) you must warm the slides up to room temperature, then inset them into the expensive medical equipment machine one by one. After it reads the bar codes from the slides, you insert a new tip on the probe and it sucks up the blood plasma. You put the probe in the machine, and viola! A blood panel profile prints out. This tells me not much, but to the doctor it shows levels if liver enzymes, oxygen in the blood, calcium levels, and so on.
The patient was deemed healthy, and I was authorized to do pre op. This means giving “cocktail” of morphine and (oops some other drug I forget). Morphine stings, so make sure you have a really secure handle on the animal. Also, never put it in their blood stream! These shots are sub-cue, with is short for subcutaneous, (under the skin) usually we do above the thigh, or the shoulder. You make a tent out of the skin, poke through, pull back on the syringe to make sure you don’t draw up any blood, then inject! After 15 minutes they feel the effects and act loopy. Now, (if we haven’t already) we place the catheter. This is where fluids are given during the surgery. Once the animal is subdued they are given the rest of their meds to put them to sleep. We set them up on oxygen, place heart rate and oxygen monitors on, and keep close watch on color, eye reflexes, and jaw tone to make sure the animal isn’t “too deep” or waking up.
The dental begins with scraping off the tartar. This can come off in huge nasty (slash oddly satisfying) chunks. Then you scale the teeth with the same thing dentists use on humans. You probe the gums to make sure there aren’t any pockets. You finish by polishing and rinsing. Happy puppy! (Or kitty!)
The first dental I watched was an old cat that had a bunch of abscessed teeth that had to be pulled (followed by a gross gush of blood and puss) and the the hole stitched back together. Ew. Feel free to imagine trying to poke a needle through your gums, and the sound, and yuk it was gross to watch.

After the dog was done we did the two neuters. This was a pair of orange tabby cat brothers, who we adorable and reminded me of out beloved cat “Rocky” who has been missing for 4 years but who is most certainly alive and just too stupid to find our house. A neuter isn’t very invasive (but don’t try telling that to a cat!) I monitored breathing and held the hind legs vertical as the Dr. made the incisions and did the deed. Most don’t even need stitches. The boys did well. We were set to move on and do the first cat spay, when an emergency came in. The dog was acting lethargic and didn’t eat today. We did X-rays and could see spasms in the intestines. The dog had ran off in the woods the night before and gotten into something. We did a full blood panel work up and gave fluids to help him perk up.

Feral Cat spay: Went crazy when she heard the clippers buzzing. (used to shave a patch for catheter placement.) Scratched my arm and almost jumped to the ceiling. We eventually got her going, incision was made, to find … Old sutures. Poor kitty had already been fixed. No wonder she was so scared of clippers, and what that sound meant!

By now we were running behind. Regular appointments start at 1:30, and there was still a chihuahua spay to do!!! It was hectic, but everyone got fit in (except a chicken who refused to eat, we didn’t have the best med to treat it, and had no time, so we had to postpone till Monday)
Imagine a 3.1 lb chihuahua! Little girl was skin and bones. With this you have to be extra careful with the heating pad and blankets to make sure they don’t get too cold.
At the end of the day you have tons of laundry, updating files, mopping, kennel cleaning, trash, and so on. 11 hours of constant attention to detail, and quick actions, and math, and being friendly… Whew.

After work I drove a an extremely nice couple’s house. I fed their cat over the weekend, and they thanked me with a wonderful dinner of wine, steak, green beans, rice, shrimp, and homemade brownies. We had a nice time talking and I really enjoyed their company!

More later. Xo







Meditation: Not Just Thinking Nothing!

My idea of meditation consists of a lone old man sitting cross-legged, maybe up on a grassy hill. His mind is blank.

This is not exactly accurate.
I recently read an article about a guy who could meditate anywhere, under any conditions. He would be able to sit outside on the chilliest day of a Maine winter for hours, in only shorts. Because of his meditative state, any temperature would feel ok to him. He could control his mind, and therefore his body, to an incredible degree.

Now, here at the Sanctuary, it is my turn. Every weeknight there is meditation in Buddha Hall from 6-7ish.
The first night a group of ~15 people gathered together in a circle. You can sit on mats, and use pillows or blocks to aid comfort and stability. Our leader came in with a guitar. She explained that we would be doing chanting meditation. This was new! Not a silent, lonely, practice where you are in your own head, but a group chant! She began by having us take some long, deep, cleansing breaths. We were encouraged to allow ourselves to sigh or make noise as we exhaled, and to not be self conscious about it. Next she had us repeat the chant after her. She asked us to really feel how the words came out of our mouths in a delicate, beautiful way. She wanted us to imagine them taking a shape and to concentrate on the movement they possessed. I enjoyed the simplicity of taking the time to just listen to yourself. So many people take language for granted. The only other time I really think about words, and how they feel, is when I read poetry.

We all began to chant, eyes closed, legs crossed. The music and rhythm picked up, our voices rising in unison. Gradually we got slower and softer, some people swaying back and fourth. Afterwards we sat in silence, feeling the residual hum of the chant, visualizing the cells in our bodies vibrating with energy.
We did 5 different chants, some in English, some in Hindi.

Afterwards I had the happy sensation you get after trying something new. One girl, (Guinevere, who works at the tea temple) claimed she felt so warm and happy, she wanted to hug and nuzzle everyone!! Someone else answered, “we’ll, why don’t you?” So everyone got a hug as she pranced around making “eee” and “briiii-briii” snuggle sounds. Rylee and I were strongly reminded of our sister, Kenzie.

Day two meditation was done by the resident astrologist, Victoria. Before I met her, she was described as someone who came straight from Hogwarts. I must say, this proves to be an accurate description. She is a loving and carefree older woman who seems to truly enjoy life. Hers was a “guided meditation.” We laid down on our mats, heads in a circle as close to Victoria as possible. She explained that she would take us to visit the Sun God and Moon Goddess, and see if we could have Venus and Mercury visit us too. Astrologically, you see, it is a busy time. (The next night was a full moon.)

We closed our eyes and she slowed our breathing. We started out standing in a ray of light, feeling it warm our bodies. We felt sand between our toes and heard the crashing ocean waves. We walked along the beach and found a cave. Upon entering, there was a door.
“How big is your door? What is it made of? What does the handle look like?”
After going through the door we were in a vast field. Beside a lone growing tree was man with a walking stick. He was our meditation guide.

At this point we had been meditating for about 15 minutes. (I think.) I was doing terrible. The more I tried to focus on a beach scene, or imagine a door, the more static my brain created. It wanted to do anything BUT focus. I began to wonder if my door was too boring, and if my fellow meditators were being more creative than me. Maybe someone had a glass door, or a sliding screen… Tons of images crowded my mental vision, it was hard to push them away and follow Victoria’s steady voice.

My meditation guide was like a cartoon old man. I’m not sure, but this may signify my slight disbelief that I can actually have a meditation guide in my mind.

I lapsed into sleep. I know this, because I woke myself up with a big snore.
I hoped nobody could recognize where the disturbing sound came from.

By now, the meditation had progressed to a point where we were now supposed to be walking with the sun and moon gods, and meeting with Venus. She was handing us a gift or special symbol. I was too busy being embarrassed about myself to listen. We were gradually pulled out of our “meditations.” (I just opened my eyes) Victoria turned on some soft lights, and everyone sat quietly, holding on to the visions they had. Victoria encouraged us to remember the gift from Venus, and for a moment I had a horrible, sinking feeling- what if she asked me what I got, in front of all these serious meditators! (Was this my punishment for falling asleep and snoring?!) Clearly I would have to make something up on the spot- and my brain wasn’t firing too quickly. It was stuck in a hazy fog. Luckily, she didn’t ask anyone. I left thinking about what hard work controlling your mind was.

My third day of meditation was with a very hippy English boy with curly hair and a pierced nipple. This was going to be music based, but the sound system wasn’t agreeing. We proceeded with the natural sounds of the jungle and ocean. Our practice today was a meditation based on the teachings of Osho, an Indian meditation master who became wildly popular with Western-ers. Due to our highly plugged-in lifestyle, it is difficult to walk away from our computer, cell phone, and tv screens, and meditate. He developed new theories and methods to ease into a meditative state.

The first 15 minutes were “shaking.” Yup. You bob your knees, twist your hips, and roll your shoulders. If it felt right, you could raise your hands above your head and act like one of those people on tv being touched by God. This looked and felt as weird as it sounds, but with eyes closed it became more normal. I never quite let go of the fact that I was voluntarily making myself convulse, though.

For the second 15 minutes we “danced.” This was closing our eyes and allowing the body to move however it wanted. There was no wrong movement. You do not think about what you look like, or if you are “doing it right.” I was pretty sore, so a lot of my dancing looked like me stretching my quads and hamstrings… I did pretend to be a willow tree and let my arms sway gracefully sometimes..

The third quarter of our session was simple sitting yoga. I like to fold a pillow in half and sit so my hips are above, legs crossed. You rest your hands on your knees, palms up, pointer and thumb finger touching. I concentrated on breathing in and out. I tried to think of a blank canvas, of nothing. Meditation seems to be one of those slippery things that the more you try, and the harder you grasp for it, the further it slips away. It isn’t something you can dive into, head first, and achieve. The voice inside your head is a little devil’s advocate, who does its best to make you think about anything but quiet. I thought about my dreams from last night. I thought about dinner. I yelled at myself to SHUT UP. I wondered what the voice in Rylee’s head sounded like.

I found the act of thinking itself strange, and that the goings on in my head would never calm down enough to let me sit in peace. In between all of these thoughts I repeated, “breath in: cool and light, breath out: warm and heavy.” All of my crazy, disrupting thoughts would try to cram in together during the pause between breaths, disrupting my mantra. Naughty brain!
The last 15 minutes were the same thing, the same mind battle, but laying down on our mats.

Meditation is very interesting, and surprisingly difficult. Maybe with a lot of practice I could shut down my brain. That isn’t (I found out) the point. It is impossible to think of “nothing.” The object is to concentrate fully on ONE thing. (Like breathing) The chanting meditation gets you to say the same thing over and over, eventually the words come out with no thought process at all. You mind gets bored and leaves. I guess then you have reached a trance-like state of higher achievement and knowledge.

I’ll let you know when I make it.

I clearly will have to do more research on the practice of meditation. It isn’t just for old men sitting alone on a hill. Meditation is so much more!