Travel Log – Return to Amchara, Day Four – Floaty floaty floaty

Today I am tired and hungry. But I am also floaty as a feather, calm as a marshmallow (I’m sorry, my in-brain-thesaurus is not functioning on so few calories right now), and happy as a non-clichéd at all pig in mud. I am finding words troublesome. This is normal in detox for many people. So forgive the shoddy metaphors, atrocious punnage and general repetition of adjectives and phrases. When I start repeating the same stories over and over you can prod me by email, but all else is fair-dos.

I didn’t feel up to yoga. My stomach muscles and lower back were still feeling the burn from yesterday’s class, and I decided to listen to my body (something I’m re-attuning to here) and give myself a more gentle start to the day. André felt fine (he’s an absolute natural at all this) and went off to yoga by himself which was being taken by a lovely lady from Sweden/Switzerland/somewhere beginning with S called Jana. I’d heard great things about her class, including that she was even more serene than lovely Ina. More serene than lovely Ina didn’t even compute in my brain – I’m not sure this is technically possible. But I left André to go off and test this hypothesis (crikey brain..you managed a four syllable word today afterall!) and I luxuriated in my first lay in since coming here.

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mmmmm bed

After lazily flooching about on our big pumfy bed which has a mattress which is just the right hardness/softness ratio for my back and pillows to match, I decided to take my laptop out to the poolside and blog in the sunshine.

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It’s seriously beautiful here. The perfect open air pool is at the centre of a ravishing courtyard of sandstone buildings in the traditional style, with ornate stone balconies and palm trees and succulents/cacti everywhere. If you have sunburn or tummy trouble the staff will let you raid the live aloe vera plants for some of the gel that oozes from the leaves. There are plenty of sunbeds and parasols if you want them and outside each of the downstairs rooms like where we are, are little patio furniture sets. Everything you could want is provided. Except naughty food. And net curtains. The latter is more important in a way because our living room space looks right out onto the pool area and it’s very easy to come out of the bathroom and forget that unless the curtains are shut on that side of the room that the whole world can see you naked, or pooping. Amchara feels so safe that it’s easy to forget you are not invisible when you are naked. Andre and I keep having to remind each other to shut the curtains or throw a robe on so as not to frighten anyone pert with our 40 something pasty white bodies.

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So I blogged away merrily in the sunshine until breakfast juice time (green one – good things and lovely) but afterwards had a sort of indigestion pain. A few aches and gripes are a totally anticipated part of detoxing and on day two we’d attended a lecture on the effects of fasting on the body and what to expect. So anything ‘negative’ that’s come up hasn’t been negative at all really as we can see it as our bodies working through stuff that’s actually really good for us. It passes quickly with the right action and advice – which normally involves drinking plenty, popping in for the infra-red sauna to work its wonders, and being gentle with yourself in general. And after a bit of juice I felt much better and so when Andre returned from class we decided to hot-foot it into the nearest town, Victoria, to the naturopathy shop to buy some fluoride-free toothpaste.

Yesterday’s lecture was about the thyroid gland and everything it does. I swear they could do university courses just on that one organ because there was so much to take in. So much fascinating stuff. And I realised whilst listening to the lecture that there’s every likelihood I might suffer with an underactive thyroid. It wouldn’t surprise me at all as there has been a history of women with thyroid issues in my family. But one small change that’s easy to make to help the thyroid is to cut fluoride out of your daily life because it blocks the receptors of certain essential thyroid hormones and messes with your endocrine system as a result. I’ve been told this before by other people and managed to ignore it, but I really loved the fluoride free toothpaste I got in Victoria last time I came to Gozo and so thought we’d stock up while we were here.

Coming into Victoria we circled in vain for a place to park the car, and ended up finding a spot near a wall with plenty of space for cars to pass by in both lanes, next to loads of cars owned by locals, with no road markings and no signs to say we couldn’t park there. Our ten minute trip to buy expensive organic toothpaste ended up with us getting a parking ticket for ‘parking in the wrong area’. Only we noticed not a single one of the other cars had a ticket. We wondered if we’d misunderstood something or if other vehicles had permits but there were no permits, no signs, no nothing. It made us question if we’d been targeted for having a hire car. Googling online later it seems Victoria is somewhat known for parking inspectors that do just that, and Andre was yanked from his newly acquired serenity into full on inflamed chimp mode. The expensive toothpaste turned out to be the world’s most expensive toothpaste in the end. However, my lovely sis has offered to challenge it for us, so fingers crossed we get let off.

Swearing and ranting about the experience on the drive back to the retreat, André knew I wouldn’t tolerate him bringing his anger into the lovely calm space of Amchara. That would be like pooing on someone’s birthday cake. But as we arrived back at base he still had a face of thunder. Much to my surprise and delight though, he agreed to join me as soon as we got there in the aqua aerobics class in the gorgeous outdoor pool.

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Now I have done quite a bit of aqua aerobics back home and it can be fun, and can be quite good exercise – especially if, like me, you have a few aches and pains and need the support of the water to flap about in. But if I’m honest I always feel a bit silly when I’m doing it. Back at my at-home gym, there are a couple of pervy old men that like to sit in the jacuzzi and giggle at the ladies jiggling about during aqua aerobics with grins on their faces. The sort of expressions that make me want to beat them unconscious with a pool noodle. At Amchara there are no such perverts, but there were a few people sunning themselves on the poolside loungers for which the sight must have been at least semi-diverting.

But like everything here, even if it’s a bit outside your comfort zone, if you just relax and embrace it then it stops feeling silly or weird. And before long Andre and I, along with a few other ladies, were jumping up and down in the water, splish sploshing around doing high kicks and star jumps and so forth and my previously-angry André had a beaming smile on his face as he minced around the pool, flailing and flapping like a kipper. I was filled with love for this man who can cope with being the only male in a class of jiggly female water-babies. Or will try an enema just because I’ve asked him to give it a go and trust me. Or who has trusted me to write about all of this stuff and nonsense on an entirely public blog because he believes in my writing.

Part way into the class we were asked to get a pool noodle from the side to exercise with. You can tell a lot about a person from their pool noodle etiquette. There are two types of people. Those who will take a pool noodle and pass it on to someone else who hasn’t quite gerlumped to the edge of the pool yet, and even pass out more than one to make sure everyone has one before taking a pool noodle for themselves and then there are those people that just snatch up a pool noodle for themselves and find a space and ignore the rest of the class. I suppose I could be being harsh here. There could be a third set of people who are too shy to pass a pool noodle to a stranger in case it seems suggestive in some way or that making eye contact at all is too painful. Or even a fourth set of people who are on day 3 of their fast and through low blood sugar levels might be a bit dosy and not really be able to think straight enough to even consider pool noodle etiquette. The lady next to me did NOT pass me a pool noodle and I found myself judging her in a way that then made me feel bad for being so judgey in such a nice, forgiving space as this. Back home, my friend Kath and I, who go to aqua aerobics together, are always the ones left with the broken/short/duff noodles because we’ve prioritised the noodling of everyone else first. I comfort myself that the queue to heaven will be shorter for those of us who are noodle-generous, although I’d probably lose my brownie points for being so judgey of others….so it all probably balances out in the end.

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These gals know how to share pool noodles. (Pic courtesy Catriona Mc Cormack)

 


 

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Before we knew it, it was lunchtime, and time for our favourite juice of the day – the carrot, apple and ginger one. This is so much like the Raw Juice at Wagamamas which I love. But today the site of other people’s raw food lunches was really making me hungry. I can’t tell you how much I’m craving crudités with guacamole right now. Or a nice salad with gorgeous sesame dressing. Or even just a carrot of my very own. But watching the people who are breaking their fast try to eat the plates of crudités or the bowls of wholesome soup or even just a chopped up apple, is hilarious and eye opening. One lady swore her chopped apple MUST be about three apples because it looked like so much to eat. She spent half an hour nibbling bits and felt full up before she was even quarter of the way through it. The lady that then left 2/3rds of her crudités and half her guacamole left the rest of us on the edge of our seats with veg-lust. I can remember feeling that full on so little from my last visit. It’s extraordinary how little food we actually need when it’s the right kind of food.

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You have no idea how much I covet this

As conversation turned to cravings (mine – carrot, ginger and chilli salad, Stephanie’s – a massive sea bass, lady whose name I don’t know – bread and butter), when a rather well spoken older lady who is here with her husband ‘for his health’ piped up. Since they arrived, they have seemed the only people here who didn’t seem to be completely embracing it. He honestly looks like he is only here because his doctor made him come as an alternative to dying before his time. Not that he looks ill, you understand, but he looks mighty pissed off. He’s here because he needs to be, not because he wants to be. His wife is trying a little bit harder and has at least tried to join in in the pool, has been loving the hot stone massages as much as I have and is clearly here to give her husband much needed moral support, bless her. They are not on the juice fast with us hard-core Amcharer-ers but on the raw food healthy meals, trying to lose a bit of weight and learn a few things while they are here. But when she pipes up she admits she ‘can’t live without her 4pm biscuit and it’s fairly clear she has a stash of them in her room, possibly along with a bottle of fine Merlot, a Waitrose cheesecake and some Brie – you know the type. She then asks me if I know any good restaurants because she and her husband are sneaking out to have a ‘proper meal’ tomorrow night. I gasp in horror much louder than I meant to and probably more than is polite. Being judgey-wudgey again, I internally reprimand myself.

The thing is, you can’t make people see the light – they have to want to come to it. The things they are learning here will probably not stick if I’m any judge of character at all, because they do not WANT to be here, they do not WANT to do it all properly, they do not WANT it…but they probably need it more than any of us. Last time I was here there were people with Type 2 Diabetes who managed to get it completely under control with diet alone and reset their lives in a way which could literally save their life. People come with all kinds of emotional and medical baggage. But the ones who change for the better are the ones that embrace the opportunity they are given. And once again I am left feeling so proud of André who is taking part in everything, religiously attending two yoga classes per day and in general walking around like a Cheshire Cat, happy as a clichéd metaphor I still can’t think of.

Sadly (perhaps not), our colonic irrigation appointments had to be postponed till Sunday as a small electrical problem needed fixing and everyone needed to be jigged around. Instead of simply breathing a sigh of relief and hot-footing it to the pool, André hotfooted it to the bathroom and decided completely of his own volition to do another self-administered enema! I didn’t think he’d get much out of it as we’ve had nothing but juice since his last one and so much came out of that one that his waistline has shrunk about 3 inches overnight! Yet, when I dared to venture back into our apartment, he was proudly telling me about the ‘black tube of poo’ that slid out his bottom along with many other dark and unpleasant things that looked like they’d lived in a very dark place for a very long time. André’s astonishment at what comes out his own bottom is almost as funny as when a baby boy discovers they have a penis (and can reach it) for the first time. It’s an innocent sort of shock and awe and delight I can’t quite put my finger on.

André wouldn’t cheat on this fast. He has already seen the light. He has me ordering pro-biotics and planning healthy recipes for when we go back home. He comes to every lecture/talk the experts give here. He is a model pupil. ‘A-star’ to my ‘B-minus’.


 

Here at the retreat they do understand how hard it is to go back out to ‘the real world’ and stay holy. So they try to prepare us as best we can. One of the ways they do this is through regular raw food making demos.

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Today was one such demo, and they were making raw cacao brownies. Karima, one of the beautiful chefs here, guided us through a simple process involving dates, cashews, cacao, carob, coconut and sour cherries to make brownies and power balls that looked and smelled so good I am surprised a fight didn’t break out. She offered us the mix to try ‘just a bit’. No! We all cried in unison. We are fasting! (You Jesobel!) ‘Just a tiny bit will be alright…’ she assured us. No! We cried in panic, as our bellies yearned to say yes to just one small dab of that nutty, chocolatey squwudge.

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Karima – that temptress with her cacao nibs out on show

‘You temptress!’, I joked, fearing I would give in to that temptation. Like a priest passing by the most gorgeous hooker, trying SO hard to think only good and pure thoughts and sweating at the strain of it.

Miraculously we all survived the demo without caving in. And to boot we managed to use the time to swap some incredible sounding recipes such as a raw food chocolate mousse, a carob and orange cheesecake, and more. I cannot WAIT to get home and try these things. But I was left feeling hungrier than usual, and gratefully supped my dinner broth from the mug with the much-cherished pinch of cayenne pepper it comes with.


 

Evening time, we decided to brave the hire car once again and followed Nay and her boyfriend George back to Victoria where we parked (more carefully this time) and walked up to the old citadel (walled city). Floodlit at night, this beautiful old set of buildings gave us a sense of Old Gozo, when everyone had to sleep within the confines of the town walls in case of attack from enemies. Climbing higher and higher up the hill and the many stairs we were slightly confused by the large number of policemen lingering in the vicinity. When we reached a high point, we looked down to see a wedding party in the grounds below, with a brass band playing.

My sister somehow drew out my last remaining store of energy and we salsa danced across the top of the city walls, in the light of the full moon, with the boys completely ignoring our daft display as they are both…independently…entirely used to our shennannigans.

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Returning to our car, George passed someone he knew who explained that the police presence was there because a very important European Union dinner (and not a wedding at all) was being held in the Citadel tonight. Gozotan police protecting our European Parliamentary delegates are clearly only there for show, much like the lines down the middle of the roads here. ;o) We all remarked on how we had walked past about 5 different police ‘blocks’, carrying backpacks that could have contained enough hand-grenades to ‘get’ the whole lot of them from the place we were salsa-dancing in to their brass band. Perhaps we just don’t look like terrorists. Although that being said, we never make it back through customs without at least one of us being stopped and searched so we must look quite naughty. Perhaps we look more like drug mules? Or the type of people who smuggle rare lizards across borders in their underwear? Next time I get stopped and searched at Customs, maybe I should ask them straight out why they decided I looked naughty.

I’m not that naughty. I’m the kind of girl who says ‘poo’ and ‘pubes’ in her blog and is late taking back library books. I might occasionally flick the V sign to people who can’t see me when I’m the other side of a wall from them. But not really naughty. So perhaps the Gozotan police could tell.

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