Well, now this shit’s getting serious. I awoke at 7:30ish this morning. Not bad considering I couldn’t get to sleep until 2:30am last night – mainly because I was anxious to hear about my darling man’s last day of work and talk to him before the day was out over Facebook chat. We’ve only been apart 2 days but it is amazing how much I’m missing him already.
When you travel alone, you see so many new things, experience so many strange or funny new experiences and taste new foods…it’s natural to want to turn to the person closest to you and say ‘What do YOU think of that?’ or ‘Isn’t that beautiful?’ and it’s strange him not being by my side. But also interesting to be experiencing all this as an individual having been solidly part of a couple for some time now – living and working together. There is no moderating of my own experience of the world for his tastes or benefits here. You’re getting my uncensored view of the whole experience without Andre here to rein in my wayward bits (or wayward boobs).
So, this morning I eased myself into my new Primark yoga pants, bought especially for the occasion. They are basically slightly fancy leggings, with a fleecy lining that is far too hot for the Gozoan climate. And I let Nay lead me out and around the Amchara complex to show me past the beaaaaauuuutiful pool (which I still haven’t deflowered/christened and haven’t seen one other person in yet – possibly because they are all indoors having coffee enemas and then sitting on the loo in yoga poses).
Talking of yoga, the first class started at 8am sharp, led by a serene man with a soothing voice called David. I haven’t done a yoga class since I was 6 years old, when it turns out I was much more bendy and a tenth of the weight I am now, making it slightly easier than I found it today.
I should point out that one of the rules here at Amchara is that you are not allowed to speak negatively about yourself, even in a jokey way. This is possibly something I will find harder even than juice fasting. So all comedic mentions of myself as a porker, chubster or wobble bottom are strictly forbidden here. I’m not allowed to say I’m crap at something, useless or ‘can’t do’ shit. This could potentially jeopardise my creative writing flow quite considerably, so from now on, if I want to let you know that I was useless at something or feeling the burden of my size/weight, I will simply refer to it with the euphemism of ‘my chakras weren’t properly balanced/aligned’. OK?
So, I entered the gorgeous airy yoga studio barefoot and with a little trepidation but mostly resolute positivity and a sense of achievement even for being awake and in yoga pants at 8am. Yay me. Nay had stopped on the way to introduce me to various colleagues so others had got there earlier and taken up all the yoga mats at the back of the class room, leaving only the mats right at the front for us to take. My hackles immediately rose up as the thought of being possibly the person with the least balanced chakras in the room yet right at the front where everyone could see my unbalanced chakras filled me with anxiety. But after grumbling under my breath a little I bravely took a yoga mat in front of the teacher, David, and sat myself down, trying to look serene and grown up like the other people there. Nay, however, sharing the same anxiety for exercising in front of people, dragged her mat and her chakras to the back of the room in a tiny corner. ‘Splitter’, I mouthed at her. Then asked ‘I know I’m not allowed to say mean things about myself while I’m here but am I allowed to say mean things about you?’ She just grinned, and the class began.
David is an excellent teacher, oozing calm and un-egotystical confidence like a young, white Morgan Freeman. He demonstrated each of the poses and the transitions between them with grace and poise, making it look easy. I…did the best that I could with what I had to work with. But I’m going to say it now, because I couldn’t say it in class, but I FUCKING HATE downward dog poses. I’d encountered them before when I did pilates a few years ago. It may be easy when you are 7 stone and all muscle, but when you have the weight of two 50 pounds bosoms tipping you forward crushing your hands into the thin yoga mat it is not a fun pose. But I did everything I was told to do and thought to myself ‘By the end of the week you’ll have nailed this’, and found myself really really enjoying the classes.
My mind, not altogether empty and meditative, kept thinking about that funny video on Youtube about the guy who farts in a yoga class when doing a bendy position. Despite my slight anxiety about such occurrences, I didn’t feel gassy this morning and the class passed by seemingly quickly. I couldn’t (yet) do all the positions, but I gave it all I had. At the end when we were laying on the mats to relax and focus on our breathing I nearly nodded off, and probably would have if it weren’t for the fact that my right buttock muscle had gone into spasm and refused all instructions to release and relax. The rest of my body frowned in the direction of this rebellious buttock, like it was the one salmon swimming in the wrong direction. But there was little I could do about it, and I didn’t want to interrupt the serenity of the moment for everyone else by asking David how to force my buttock into relaxed submission.
Before I knew it, my first class was over and it was time for our first juice of the day near the pool.
By this time I was really hungry. At home, I have my no added sugar muesli with berries on top, a handful of walnuts, the recent addition of a spoonful of those seeds budgies eat and some almond milk before I do ANYTHING. So I was really excited about getting some juice in me and what it might taste like.
Nay showed me to the juice room, where little glasses and vials of interesting colourful liquids were presented on trays labelled with people’s names. Everyone doesn’t have the same thing here – it’s all prescribed by a qualified nutritionist or naturopath according to an entry consultation you have – we’re having ours this afternoon, so we had the basic juice just to start us off. Before allowing me my breakfast juice (a mix of courgette, cucumber, celery, apple and something if memory serves), Nay made me drink some stuff called Moringa in water and then some psillium husk in water. I’d never heard of Moringa so have photographed the board for those interested in the health benefits which I’ll post below.
For those who are more interested in how I cope with the experience, there is a short video of me trying it for the first time which I will upload at some point. I won’t go into detail here.
The Moringa wasn’t too bad (I was thirsty after yoga and would have probably drank snail juice if someone had put it in front of me) but the psillium husks were more interesting. They swell up in water helping to make you feel fuller. They also slough off the crap in your intestines helping you to detox faster…or some such healthy shit which I wasn’t really listening to at 9am when it was explained to me. Nay recommended stirring it and drinking it as quickly as possible followed by 2 full glasses of water to wash it down. By this time I started to feel like a full hot water bottle and a little bit icky. But I did what I was told because I WANTED MY JUICE.
I’ve mentioned my inner chimp, Thatcher, before now. Thatcher doesn’t cope well with hunger pains. Thatcher starts wanting to throw things when she’s hungry. You might as well get acquainted with Thatcher now because it’s likely she will feature heavily in the coming days. Thatcher is a part of my psyche that houses all the negative emotions like fear, anger, jealousy, insecurity and so forth. Mainly she is a docile chimp, a bit submissive and full of insecurity and worry and self-doubt; but when provoked by certain situations, she’s more than capable of taking on Parliament with the strength and temper of Kong himself. At the moment, Thatcher is twitchy. She is hungry (which she doesn’t like at all) but she has been well prepared for this eventuality so she is tolerating it, trusting me (the higher brained human me) that she will not starve to death. Thatcher was grateful at breakfast time, even for the psillium husks and green juice. Thatcher doesn’t mind what food there is as long as there is food. That’s not strictly true actually. Thatcher loses her shit big time if someone says there are biscuits and it turns out to Bourbons or Custard Cremes or those horrific pink wafer biscuits sandwiched together with some sort of vomitous pink gunge. But other than that, Thatcher behaves herself around food.
The green juice was tasty. At least I think it was. It’s now mid afternoon and I’m losing my memory with the trauma of having not eaten lunch.
So…post yoga and green juice, Nay fetched me my own Amchara water bottle and sent me out with a few other guests for a coastal walk for an hour. ‘What happens if I need to pee?’ I asked, anxiously. ‘Don’t worry,’ she said, ‘You can just go in the bushes’. Drenched in sun tan lotion and covered up as much as possible to preserve my youthful complexion, I set off up the hill with our guide who was David, the yoga instructor. Joining me was a lady called Elenor from Brazil and Glen from England. Glen fasts every week for the fun of it (says it gives him more energy and makes him feel good) and Elenor is on a part raw diet, part juice fast and is working out here editing her own blog.
What struck me straight away with this walk was the silence. Permeated only by my own incessant need to fill silences with chatter and the embarrassing squeak I’ve found my trainers do every time I take a step with sweaty feet. I like to know people’s stories, as well as tell my own, so I kept asking questions and commenting until I realised the sound of my own voice was annoying even me (even placid David and started to look strained) and I shut up a little to enjoy the absolute peace around me as we looked out to the calm sea from the cliff edge.
David pointed out a big rock in the sea which used to be protected by a little tower on land nearby because a very particular kind of fungi grew there that the Chinese herbalists greatly prized. For many many years this rock was protected and guarded. Turns out the fungi has no medicinal properties whatsoever so they were just watching mushrooms for no point at all, but no harm done I guess. I wonder how ‘Pointless mushroom guardian’ would go down on a CV these days?
Along our walk we passed a field of watermelons growing and field of courgettes and tomatoes. Tomatoes are Gozo’s biggest export, so I’m told. The other guests and I exchanged glances and murmurs about this particular walk being the place to come if the fasting gets too much. Illicit watermelon theft may be something the island has had to get used to since Amchara opened. I wonder what the penalties would be and if the judge would let you off if he knew you’d been living on psillium husks and celery juice for 5 days.
As we were coming to the end of our walk I felt the urge to pee rising, grimly. I looked around and realised Nay had slightly fibbed to me – there were no real bushes to speak of, and squatting behind a low, ground-crawling courgette plant does not give anyone much coverage. So I tightened my bladdery muscles and made it back to Nay’s apartment as quickly as possible.
After a tiny rest (and a very big wee wee), Nay took me for our ‘lunch’. At this point I should introduce you to Nay’s chimp, who I’m going to call Ghengis. Nay has had a face like a slapped arse all morning, bless her cotton socks, because she is also trying to stop smoking for the second time since coming out here. She achieved this with such ease when she first came to Amchara as a guest, and we all marveled at it. However a year or so on and old bad habits crept back in and nicotine addiction regrasped her. She says (today) that she doesn’t care about all the good reasons for quitting. Her chimp, Ghengis, is seething with resentment for not having a little rollup. Ghengis likes to smoke. Ghengis is pissed off already and it’s only been a few hours. Thatcher and I are a little scared of Ghengis and so far Nay has kept him under control but we can see flashes of him behind her eyes and in the tightness of Nay’s lips. So ‘lunch’ is a welcome distraction, especially as I was just beginning to feel hungry again.
Lunch was another lot of psillium husks in water, followed by more water, followed by a delicious carrot, ginger and apple juice much like my favourite raw juices at Wagamamas. I drank it slowly, savouring the flavour and trying to make it last. Nay went one step further and ate the froth on the top of the juice with a spoon as if trying to trick her mind into thinking it was solid food of some kind. A dessert even. I felt envious that I hadn’t thought of that. The juice was delicious but Thatcher could smell the solid lunches of guests that are on the raw food diet (they were having grated carrot with nuts and edible flowers with a side dressing of something delicious sounding that I’ve forgotten because of the forgetfulness I mentioned earlier). It smelled good. Thatcher wanted what they were having.
Nay had said a good time for me to go swimming would be after lunch juice and before the talk that was being given on colonic health by a nice lady in harem pants called Sally. So I vowed to do at least half an hour’s solid swimming back and forth in the lovely Amchara pool to work off the fish supper I had yesterday and get back into training for my delayed Macmillan sponsored swim that I need to do when I get back to England. I know that half an hour’s swim = half a mile for me at my regular pace so this seemed a good starting point.
The Amchara pool is utter heaven. The temperature (no doubt just heated naturally by the sunshine) is perfect. The shape of it is lovely, with a curved end and a nice width that mean I don’t have to stop at the end to turn round but can swim round the arc and not have to stop at all. Which might mean I swam even more than half a mile. I had the entire pool to myself and the gloriousness of this was not lost on me. Surrounded by the beautiful sandstone buildings, palm trees and blue skies, it was utterly relaxing to just pootle away with a gentle swimming stroke up and down and round in circles for half an hour. This pool is so beautiful you definitely couldn’t pee in it, even if no one is looking. It would be sacrilege. Luckily they have a loo right next to the pool. Which is very important when on a liquid diet.
I got dry just in time to sit down for Sally’s fascinating talk about the colon. And the group of adults sat around discussing how often we poop, the consistency and colour, the smell, what puts us off kilter and all manner of healthy poo talk – just as if we were talking about the weather or how to grow mint plants or something. Incredibly grown up. Sally only used my most unfavourite buzz word ‘inflammation’ once, so she gets extra brownie points for that. Did you know that 70% of the immune system is in the gut? And did you know that we have more bacteria in our bodies than actual human cells? I didn’t. I also learned that I should be eating a small amount of fermented food every day for optimum gut health.
Ghengis and Thatcher were very well behaved during the talk because when you engage your higher brained ‘human’ then the chimps tend to fall asleep or play docile in a quiet corner of the mind. But as I went to get up afterwards, I felt quite light headed and hungry again. However, unlike normal I didn’t feel panicked by it. Instead I felt like an intrepid warrior at the start of a journey. By the end of this journey I am hoping my chakras (my code for wobbly bits, in case you forgot) will be more aligned (smaller), that I will have incorporated daily yoga into my daily ritual to take home with me and help my spine problems, that my skin will be glowing, and that I will look like one of those cool people on the plane home, with an air of fabulousness about me.
That’s if Ghengis hasn’t eaten me alive first and smoked an after-dinner roll up over my nibbled skeleton. ;o)