You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘being happy and healthy’ tag.

pfit

In the summer of 2014, I started taking my health seriously. I went to a health Spa in the remote town of Piestany, in Slovakia. To get my eating habits sorted, treat my ever painful Achilles tendons, hip and lower back pain. After spending a month focusing on myself with no distractions, I came back rejuvenated, healthy, centered, positive and ready to take on my new administrative roll by the horns. For the first few months of the academic year, I was still on point, until the stress and negativity that surrounded me at work got the better of me and I let myself go. I reverted back to my old ways of numbing the pain to be able to cope. Comforting myself the only way I knew how to, by eating food, the more of it, the better. I put back on all the weight I had lost. By April, I had reached an all-time low. I was depressed and generally unhappy. I was desperate and in need of a dramatic change. I honestly didn’t believe I would make it to June. It became increasingly difficult every day to find a silver lining, to motivate me to get up and do my best. Unlike last year, I felt like I had fallen into a deep dark pit. I had lost hope of climbing back out. I honestly felt limp and defeated I had no fight left in me. This is something, I still find very difficult to admit and say out loud, because I have never been a quitter and have always gotten back up, but this time, I just wanted to stay down. I had, had the stuffing knocked out of me and my core was shaken, I didn’t have the will power or feisty fire to stand back up and dust myself off, again.

After teaching Summer School to third, fourth and fifth graders, I was ready to get on a plane and get as far away from my teaching life, my country, family and friends, (at least I thought I was). I needed to be on my own, to have an adventure and revive the fading inner warrior from within. Of all the countries I have visited and trips that I had been on, on my own, I was exceptionally nervous and terrified. It was as though my subconscious new, that this trip, was one that would be life changing. The feeling of fear stayed with me right until I landed in Thailand and was safely in my hotel room. The day I arrived in Bangkok, I had to kick myself out of my hotel room. Otherwise I would have just cocooned myself in the room until it was time to go to my next destination, Phuket. I was actually scared of leaving my room and had no desire to discover or explore, which was very out of character for me. On my first night, I took baby steps. I walked around the immediate neighborhood of where I was staying for just a couple of hours. The next morning I still felt uneasy about going on a guided tour that I had booked. A part of me wanted to just stay and watch the world go by from my hotel window. When I was on a tour of the Floating Market, sat in a boat in the murky water, watching the boats gently collide with one another and stall keepers literally reeling in passerby’s, I was beside myself with laughter, watching the disorganized chaos. In some bizarre way, it reminded me of Cairo traffic, but on water. When I got off the boat, I started to feel a bit more like me. I walked around the market on foot, taking pictures, haggling with sales people for good prices and just enjoying the chance to interact with people and their culture. I especially liked helping a group of students on a school trip, who were instructed to talk to tourists to practice their English whilst filling out a questionnaire.

By my third day, a chunk of my self-confidence had returned and I was enjoying walking the streets of Bangkok, taking in the sights, the markets, buying souvenirs and interacting with the people I could feel my old self slowly climbing back up and out of the dark Abbys.

On July 26th I landed on the island of Phuket, I had booked myself into a “spa” for a 21 day cleanse. I can’t begin to tell you how much I was looking forward to some pampering and relaxation. As the taxi began to slow down and I peered out of the window, I saw a luxurious hotel on my left hand side, a satisfied smile crept across my face, but the taxi didn’t turn in to the hotel drive way, it kept going further up the road and turned right up into another driveway. A place that looked like a sports center or a boot camp. My expression changed within a fraction of a second and the reality of the situation began to dawn on me. It wasn’t a spa, it was a fitness retreat! A fully equipped place with two boxing rings, punching bags, padded exercise floor, kettle bells, dumb bells, gym, TRX bands, various other equipment  and a multipurpose exercise room. The only phrase that kept playing on a loop in my head was “Oh Shit, What have I done!”  I reluctantly got out of the taxi and made my way to the office to check in.

The description I had read on one of the booking sites, fell short of describing PhuketFit as a fitness retreat. They described it as a spa, where pampering and relaxation was the main focus. So, instead of seeing people wrapped in towel robes and slippers, they were all in sports attire and dripping in sweat! (I was very grateful no one could hear the colorful language that was going on in my head)

The staff were very accommodating, friendly, polite, cheerful and calm. They explained that in the morning I would meet the detox consultant, get weighed in and would be given my daily routines. I was given the schedule of the workout classes, shown the facilities and once I checked in I was shown to my room. The room on the grounds was spacious and clean. The bed was large but the mattress was too hard to my liking. I, personally couldn’t get comfortable and got little to no sleep my first night there. Luckily there was retractable sofa in the room, I made that my bed for the remainder of the stay, it was the most comfortable, but it was much better than the bed.

On the morning of the first day I meet the head consultant, Oiy to learn more about my program. Oiy is a lovely woman, who is very welcoming and helpful. She explained that every morning, to start my day, I would mix myself a detox drink, composed of apple cider vinegar, psyillium powder, magnesium and water, along with 6 supplement pills.  At 9am, I would have a green smoothie for breakfast. 10:00am fresh coconut juice (I took great pleasure watching the ladies hack the tops off the baby coconuts), from 1-3pm lunch (salad, like non I had ever tried before) was served, 2-2:30pm coconut juice and a second dose of the detox drink. At 4pm was the liver flush drink, (which should be drank as quickly as possible, it’s very garlicy and it tastes like salad dressing), and from 6-9pm dinner (soup + salad)

All of my meals during my stay were prepared and served in the detox house. The food I ate for the entire duration of my stay was raw vegetables. I didn’t have any grain, dairy, oils/fats or animal protein in my 20 day stay, (Luckily, I love most vegetables). I was asked if there were some things I was allergic to or didn’t like, so they could accommodate me. Since I was, doing the 21 day cleanse, a scheduled daily massage was included in the package, as well as the choice of going to the sauna every day. (I didn’t know that the steam in the sauna not only cleared your pours, helped with respiratory the system, but it also helps boost metabolism).

The detox house is a cute little house on stilts, just up the hill from where the fitness facilities are. The house has a small pool, garden and veranda to sit out on. It’s also where the massages are given. There’s also an endless supply of fresh ginger cinnamon tea, (which I soon became very fond of and have learned to make at home). In this house, I met some of the most inspiring people, I have ever come across. They aren’t celebrities or billionaires they are just regular people like you or me, but with fascinating and humbling stories. Sitting on the sofa, listening to each person tell their tale of how they found their way to PhuketFit, I quickly learned that we should never be too quick to judge people. We are all fighting our inner demons to become better and healthier individuals. People’s appearances don’t always reflect what is going on, on the inside.

For the first two days I wasn’t very social, I was still disappointed that I hadn’t checked into a luxurious spa, so I kept to myself a bit. I also didn’t do any of the workouts, I needed to allow my body some time to adjust to the change in calorie intake and for the drained feeling to subside.

By day 3, I had given myself numerous pep talks and had finally made a conscious decision to stop behaving like the spoilt brats I despise, and suck it up and just make the best of the situation. As a true believer in fate, I had chosen to accept that I was meant to be there for a reason, and that no amount of beating myself up would change anything. I made more of an effort to socialize and initiate conversations. I attended Pilates and Yoga, to get some exercise and went to the sauna, to give my metabolism a boost.

One of the first people I met at PhuketFit was a very warm and friendly Australian woman of Greek origin, who made an effort to make me feel included. She introduced me to many if not all the people who were staying at the retreat. When she would see me passing by or sat alone, she always gave me a warm greeting or asked me to join. If it hadn’t been for her extending her hand of friendship, I don’t think I would have settled in as well as I did. People from all corners of the globe were there, Singapore, Philippines, Australia, Kuwait, Dubai, India, New York, England, Ireland, Venezuela, Switzerland, Sudan and South Africa we could have started up our own United Nations!

As the days went on the bond between the long term attendees grew stronger and so did my self-esteem. I could feel all the negativity that I had been harboring for the past few months shed with each passing day. I could feel my body rejuvenating with all the fresh vegetables I ate at meal times. My mind was clearing and my thoughts were not drowned by doubt and fear. With every yoga and Pilates class I could feel my strength returning my core becoming more engaged with the different forms of exercise. At the end of my second week I could feel the flexibility and elasticity returning to my joints and limbs.

The journey up until this point had not been easy at all. At times it was grueling with the muscle pain, the exhaustion and wanting to just quit because it was so damn hard pushing my limits and trying to let go of all the layers of protection that I had piled on for so many years to numb me from feeling hurt, feeling unworthy or rejected. Letting go and trusting the staff was the hardest thing of all. If it hadn’t been for the staff’s understanding and their encouragement “It is never too late, to get back in shape”, would be a phrase repeated by Kim, the TRX instructor, “take it one small step at a time, but the important thing is to take the first step and keep going.” as well as other participant’s motivation, I don’t think I would have survived those three weeks.

Another difficult experience was saying goodbye to the people you had seen day in and day out. When their time had come to an end, watching them leave was hard. Why, you might ask? Well, when you are in a small community, and you see the same people every day, eat with them, workout with them, share experiences, celebrate loss of kilos, encourage them to keep going even when they have not lost anything, they become your surrogate family away from home. You also know that there is a high possibility that your paths may never cross again, but they have taken a piece of you with them, wherever they go. I guess that is how a platoon of soldiers feel about one another. This rang true for me with a handful of people I met there. The handful of people that I am referring to, are spread across the world and although we keep in touch from time to time, I owe a lot of my success at PhuketFit to them.

By the third week, I decided to go full throttle I did as many workout classes as I could. I would push myself to do between two to five hours a day. I would force myself out of bed for the 7-8:30am Mai Thai class, after my green smoothie I would have a short rest before heading to Zumba or Pilates, Tabata and going for a walks and yoga.

On the morning of my final day at PhuketFit, I bade farewell to all the staff and left them with some parting gifts to thank them for helping me on my journey and to remember me by. I also met with Oiy, the detox supervisor again to see the progress I had made over the last few weeks. Her parting words to me were “Our Princess is no longer stressed, the light is back in your eyes and you are ready to go back.” (Princess was the name I earned, for being one of the very few (crazy) people to sign up for the 21 day cleans)

She had known from the moment I arrived…

Later that afternoon, I stood at the foot of the steep hill that had knocked the wind out of me the week before. It was a hot sunny day and the humidity was high, but I had made up my mind, “Go hard, before I go home”. With water in my backpack and the music from my ipod secured in my ears, I tackled the winding hill.  Cheeks crimson red, sweat dripping from my brow and staining my t-shirt, a passerby, took pity on me and offered me a ride to the top. I graciously declined putting my hands together and bowing my head, “Kap Kum Ka” (Thank you in Thai) and trudged my way upwards, one step at a time. Once I reached the top, I felt as though I had not only tackled, but defeated a giant. I bought last minute souvenirs for family and friends, took pictures of the beautiful view from the top and slowly made my way back down the hill, to spend some time with friends, before I had to pack 3 weeks of my life into one suite case.

The morning of my departure, I stood in the drive way of PhuketFit and the feeling I had when I had first driven up at the beginning of my stay, was not the same feeling I left with. I actually wished I could take the place and everyone who worked there back with me to ensure my transition back into my everyday life. I knew without them, there was no safety net and it would not be an easy. I had to rely on what I had seen and learned in my time there and keep pushing forward through the obstacles that life would continue to throw at me.

As I made my way to the airport driving past the sites that had grown so familiar to me, watching the people going about their business, it suddenly struck me, that  not only had
I found myself again at PhuketFit, but I had learned to like and care about myself too.

I don’t know when I will go back, but I do hope it is soon. I miss the staff, the food, the ambiance, the small Greek café around the corner, the kind lady and her family who do the laundry and ironing, nature, culture and the people.

It’s been two months since I’ve been back, it has been very hard, trying to keep and maintain a healthy diet. When you’re at PhketFit, you don’t need to worry about preparing meals, it’s done for you. When you’re working full time and have deadlines, meetings and paperwork to keep up with, it’s very easy to slip back into old habits. In Egypt, aside from soccer our second national sport is socializing while eating out. When I meet up with friends in a café or restaurant, I feel like I’ve walked into the lion’s den. I guess an alcoholic feels the same way if they set foot into a bar. I am very wary of what I choose on the menu, I usually stick to vegetarian dishes or salads. I was able to make it to 90 days without eating any desserts. When I did try a piece of a cup cake, I didn’t enjoy it and gave the rest away. I still have no desire for fried food; I prefer fresh fruit, vegetables and grilled chicken over most things on the menu. The area I am finding the most difficulty is setting aside time for me, to workout. I have recently found a yoga center not too far from my house, which I tried last week and I think I will join regularly, to help strengthen my core and keep my Zen state of mind.

So, as you can see the journey may have begun in PhuketFit, but it is continuing here, at home.

Advertisements
  • Thermia Palace, Piestany, Slovakia

    Thermia Palace, Piestany, Slovakia

    Sunday 27th July  

    Sundays are days off at the retreat! I was very grateful to have a sleep in for a change. Since the end of the Academic year, I’ve been on the go, and a slower pace, even just for a day was nice.

    What would I do with myself for a whole day in a place where I can’t speak the language? sleep? naaa! The sun is shining and the air is clean! I should fill my lungs up with as much of it as possible while I have the chance. But before I decide, first order of business is; breakfast!! I dressed hastily, made sure I had everything I needed in my hand bag and my camera, so that I wouldn’t have to come back to the room if I decided to head straight out.

    By now, I knew what the nutritionist had planned for my breakfast off by heart;  a glass of fresh juice, a slice of toast, cottage cheese, a slice of Emmantal cheese, 2 small 50 gm triangles of processed cheese, 2 boiled eggs, yogurt and a bowl of oats. Meh! is right! It is quite bland to the palette and doesn’t sound or look anywhere near as appetizing as the croissants, slices of tea cake, fresh pineapple, scrambled or boiled eggs, BUT I am here for the purpose to drop my weight and to clean my insides of a decade worth of poisonous crap that I had consumed, so I will suck it up! It’s amazing how a little dash of pepper and salt can change how food tastes!

    Just before I was done Rana walked into the restaurant with her father. I went up to greet them both, she was very surprised to receive the little box of chocolates that I had left, “shoo hay, wahdi be wahdi’ , she said in her strong  Lebanese accent, s “what’s this? one for one.” I told her it was a simple thank you gesture for giving me something I loved so much. “I want to see you in Beirut next time. I’ll send you my contacts so you can call me next time you come.” I promised the next time, I was there I would most certainly contact her. I wished her and her father both safe travels in case I didn’t see them before they both left.

    After breakfast I went in search of the small travel agency (again), that organizes short trips to neighboring cities both in Slovakia and countries close to its borders. I followed my mother’s description to the letter and I couldn’t find it. I was slightly perplexed about it but I decided to continue on with my stroll and worry about it later. As I walked the island and saw the other hotels that shared the area, It was without a shadow of a doubt that I had booked into the jackpot! The other hotels were of modern architecture and from what I could see they didn’t give off as bright and relaxing ambiance com as Thermia Palace. I’m sure the service is good, there too, but I like the places I stay in to look cheerful both inside and out. I snapped a few pictures along my walk and kept a look out for where I might be able to rent a bike for the hour or for the day.
    The thought of riding a bike was exciting as well as Terrifying! Since moving to Egypt in the early 1990’s I haven’t ridden one. I was genuinely worried that I had forgotten how to and that I would fall and that would be the end of my holiday and I’d spend the rest of it all bandaged up like a mummy! When I last rode a bike the world wasn’t as safety conscious either, I didn’t want to violate any rules or collide into another biker, pedestrian or car. So, I also took a mental note of where the bike lanes were, so if I ever did find a bike to rent, I had some idea of where I could ride.

    I had no such luck, so I went back to the hotel after a lengthy walk and decided to check in with my family. As I was about to go up to my room, I bumped into Rana again. I stood chatting with her and her father, and was then introduced to 3 more Lebanese gents who live and own a travel agency here. Rana introduced me to Farag and said, ‘This is Nadia, she’s a lovely girl,  please keep an eye on her. Nadia, Farag is a very old and good friend of mine, if you need anything please don’t hesitate to ask him.” It’s moments like these when you see the true spirit of the people from the Middle East, hospitable, helpful and generous. The media has plagued their image with false assumptions that we are all blood thirsty born killers, who have only thoughts of terrorism on our mind. It was very nice to see abroad as well as back in the region. Once they left and we said our final goodbyes, I went up to my room and sent my mom pictures of the area she had described and asked her to pin point exactly where the travel agent was supposed to be. After a lengthy discussion it turned out I had walked by the place quite a few times! So, once we had ended the conversation I headed back downstairs to check it out.

    I headed down stairs and went directly to the place, my mother had described only, only to find a tiny note pad size piece of paper stuck to the window, that said they had relocated. I took a picture of the new address and asked the reception at the hotel.  They informed me that it was on the bridge to the left of the hotel but would be closed on a Sunday. I asked if they knew of anywhere else I could rent a bicycle and I was told the  hotel Balnea Esplenada rents them. They called the hotel for me and made sure that they had bikes available for me.

    I walk to the hotel and went to the reception. I thought I had been transported back to Cairo and began to panic. The place reminded me a lot of the Intercontinental- Semiramis Hotel, near Tahrir Square. It was a modern architectural structure, with black tiled floors, tan colored leathers seats in the reception area and full of Gulfies.

    (Yeah, I’m definitely staying at the classiest joint on the island! Phew!)

    At the reception I gave my name, and the room key card holder with the details of how long I’m staying at Thermia Palace and room number. To rent the bike, it’s 5 Euros for 4 hours. Once all the details were taken and I paid cash, rather than have it charged to my room, I was taken a long, a long corridor to where the bikes are kept. I chose one, adjusted the seat, took the key for the bike lock and went on my merry way.

    At first, I had forgotten, how one should actually start to peddle. So, I had one foot on a peddle and the other was pushing along the ground, like you would a scooter. Eventually, I got both feet up on to the peddles and I started to move forward, holding on to the handle bars for dear life, as I wobbled from side to side, like a drunk! I eventually found my equilibrium and was riding the bike! I rode along the bikers path along the river banks, the more I rode the more confident I became. By lunch time my thighs, abs and my butt cheeks were in agony. In addition to that I was famished. I headed back to the hotel, parked the bike outside, inhaled my lunch and was soon out again.

    I rode for another hour, until the sky turned a gloomy dark color. I rode the bike back to Esplenada, took it to where I had been told to leave it when I was done and locked it, turned the key into the reception AND the heavens opened with a loud CRACK of thunder and a whip of lightening flashed across the sky!

    Monday 28th July 

    I love walking! I find that I see more and learn more about a place and it’s people, when I’m on foot. On Saturdays, I join a small group of photography enthusiasts who, walk around areas of Cairo to take pictures. I enjoy it a great deal, not only because I take pictures, but I get to walk and see some of my ‘real’ countrymen/women going about their day to day lives.

    First on the agenda for today is Nordic Walking.

    All I knew is that it involved sticks and walking (obviously)! After a very quick breakfast, I went to the spa building Irma, as it stated on the paper to await the person who would be leading the group of people on the walk. I was greeted by a tall blond, blue eyed, fit young man called Jan (pronounced Yaan). In fairly good English he informed me that he would be leading the walk and it looked like I would be the only  one participating. He adjusted the length of the sticks, showed me how to strap them on to my hands. I thought I looked like a marionette or some kind of shadow puppet. which then queued the ‘Pinocchio’ song ‘I’ve got no strings’!

    The sticks took some  getting used to. Jan told me to have the arm go with the opposite leg and to not focus on it, otherwise I would trip myself up. He was right the less I thought about them the better I was at walking with them. I asked him questions about what life is like living in Slovakia and how he got into fitness to distract my mind from the sticks. We walked a circuit for about 20-30 minutes at a fairly quick pace. It was great cardio and my lungs appreciated inhaling the fresh morning air.

    Once done, I ran to my room to get ready for my other sessions…   I had a fairly easy day, I only had 4 sessions.  An hour after the walk I got into my robe, because second on the agenda was the mud pack.  An experience that takes some getting used to at first. I don’t mind having the warm mud slathered on my bare skin and being wrapped up like a shawerma. It’s trying to get the mud off in the shower! No matter how thorough, I try to be, I always end up missing some!  The Mud pack was closely followed by my Electro Magnetic  treatment for my back , where I was greeted by the ever so lovely and very friendly and kind Elena. A middle aged Slovakian woman, with short hair and kind eyes and face.

    My last treatment wasn’t till later in the afternoon, so I went for a long walk around the town, discovering new areas and just taking in the scenery and architecture, stopping every now and then to take pictures with my phone. I also went to the mall to get some long sleaved tops. I had only packed short sleeved t-shirts and if the forecast predicted rain for the week, I would need something warmer to wear. , (Another excuse to shop and spend money! Why not! I’m helping the economy, well at least that’s what I tell myself 😉

    I was looking forward to my work out class GG Slim, last time we bounced around and exercised on balls! This time we had a different instructor, who looked a lot like Rhald Dhals character, the Trunchbull from his book ‘Matilda’. A medium height, square looking blond Russian woman, with knee length shorts, socks half way up her calf, white nurse like shoes and her hair tightly tied back. One look at her and I knew this would be one session where my muscles would be so soar by the end of them that if they could scream mercy, they would. Even the Saudi woman taking the class with me, looked as though she was scanning for an escape route. “Laa Laa Laa, mu hathi, Wahda thanya”, which in Gulf Arabic translates to “No, No, No, not this one, another one!”

    We both took a deep breath and did as we were instructed. We got our mats, lay them on the floor and did what reminded me of the early 80’s Jane Fonda work out, minus the music! We did all sorts of stretching, lifting of arms and legs and stomach crunches. I could felt my muscles wince in pain, as I pushed myself to the exercises, while  reminding myself, this is why I am here, to get fitter, thinner and healthier! Without any pain, there will be no gain!

    By the time the session was over, I was exhausted and the Saudi woman was panting and gasping for air. I thanked the woman for the session, took my card and went to my room to change and go for another walk around the premises before dinner.

    After dinner I went back up to my room and sat down and began writing part I to my experience at Thermia Palace.
    I got so carried away with what I was writing that I lost track of time. I had been asked by one of the Egyptian women, Su, whom I had met on my first night in Piestany and had kept an eye open for me everyday to see how I was getting along asked me earlier on in the day, to make sure that I spent some time with her and her friends later on in the evening. Su and her husband were due to depart the next morning to head home back to Egypt after spending a month at Thermia Palace. I was very fortunate to find them all still sat around the round table that they had reserved for tonight. When I walked in I was greeted warmly by all those who were there. I was invited to sit and take part in the on going discussion. I was the youngest person at the table, sat among two doctors, an ambassador and 3 other highly intellectual individuals of 3 different faiths. It was while we sat and talked and exchanged contact information, I had a ‘moment’… ‘I am sat at a round table, with Christians, Muslims and Jews, there is no conflict or hate, just people.’ How poignant and more symbolic could that moment have been? If only the media, would stop fueling the hate and showing more moments like this.

    Tuesday 29th July

    It was another very early start to the day kicking it off with Nordic Walking. I fared much , better today and I was able to keep up more. The time seemed to just fly by. I felt cheated and would have gladly done the circuit once more. Since my arrival, I had been trying to figure out where the gym was. In the end I just asked Jan, where it was, since he was the fitness instructor. He showed me which door I had to go through and which corridor, I needed to walk along. The place is like Hogwarts (less like a gloomy castle thought), more like a maze! There are so many doors and corridors, that it’s easy to lose your way. (Now that I had an idea of where it was, I would definitely make an effort to use it (I hope!).

    The rest of the day, was spent between Irma and the Napoleon III and 1B buildings. Bustling about across a courtyard between buildings with a gym bag and flip flops in a robe can be a workout in itself I tell you! It was a busy day, with Electro treatments, Parafango, Water gymnastics, Mirror pool and 20′ Massage.

    The water gymnastics was lead by the Trunchbull! It wasn’t the usual red headed lady with a somewhat cheerful air about her. The members of the class looked worried. I related to their fear. There’s one thing to do those exercises on a mat on a floor, but in a pool? I hoped I wouldn’t drown!

    The class went pretty well to tell the truth, the water created resistance and I felt like I had worked a lot of my muscles, especially my upper body. From there I showered off, changed into my robe to make my way across the court yard yet again to Irma, to take a much needed 20 minute dip in the warm sulfuric water of the Mirror Pool.

    I usually shy away from getting naked. I don’t even like looking at myself with no clothes on. I’m fine when I’m looking at myself from the collarbone up, because when I look below that’s when I see all my faults and areas of imperfection that are so loudly pointed out and dictated to us by the media. So,  I was genuinely quite surprised at how well I was adjusting to the numerous of times I had to bare-all and be in the presence of other women too. (I wondered what Freud, would have to say about that?)

    In an odd way it was starting to feel more natural. When that thought crossed my mind, I even shocked myself! One of the many outspoken voices in my head, piped up; “More natural! Have you lost your mind girl? Next thing, you’ll be thinking about how cavemen or tribes people in the Rain forests of South America, are more civilized than we are, and we are over complicating life! The sulfur must have gone to your head!” I’m not saying, I’m by any means ready to give up my wardrobe or start vacationing at nude beaches or becoming a nudist. What I am trying to say, that perhaps we have been going about things the wrong way. There is a lot of shame that is brought on to those that don’t have a certain figure or that breaks the mold shall we say. A bodies shouldn’t be ‘a one size suites all’ mentality. If you look at the statues of women from the time of Ancient Greece or Rome or portraits from the Renaissance, women were not stick thin, they were busty, voluptuous and curvy. Why is it in the past few decades that perception of beauty has changed?

    Three years ago, I wanted to have a body like Megan Fox. I won’t be hypocrite, I’m not going to lie about it.  Having been here less than a week, my perception of beauty is changing. When I’m out walking and riding a bicycle,  I see people who are healthy, active and they come in all shapes and sizes. So, my goal now is not to go back to Cairo looking like runway model, but to be a healthier person, who is comfortable in her own skin. I don’t want to get down to a size 4, I’ll be content if I can make it to a healthy 10/12. There’s nothing wrong with that!

     

    Stay tuned for part III

     

  • Thermia Palace, Piestany, Slovakia

    Thermia Palace, Piestany, Slovakia

    For my sister’s wedding almost four years ago, I began my battle of the bulge with ‘Operation Megan Fox’. I was determined to look good for her special day and I didn’t want to appear like a shlumpadinka in my dress. I stuck to it and dropped the weight using the Slim Fast Shakes and watching what I ate.I looked better and healthier too. I had intended on following through, but life always throws us some curve balls. In all honesty, I fell off and got back on the wagon many times since then. I couldn’t figure out what the invisible force was that kept preventing me from accomplishing my goal of releasing my trapped thin self, until I did a detox earlier this year and discovered that  unbeknownst to me, I was the invisible force, who kept poisoning my body with foods that I thought were healthy and good for me. While I had a silent allergy to them.

    With this new-found knowledge of what foods weren’t good for me, I gave away and threw out a lot of products to make room for foods that were nutritious for me. During the clean out, I also got rid of clothes I hadn’t been able to fit into for a while, which served as a constant reminder of what I used to be and the intention of keeping them was to encourage me to get back into them, when all they did was depress the hell out of me, so I gave them to the needy. Throughout this process, I began to do a lot of reflecting. I looked within myself to see what baggage I had been holding on to and I found that I had quite a bit of unresolved issues, resentment and pain that had been weighing me down. It wasn’t easy to let go of somethings because, it made me feel vulnerable and emotionally naked. I didn’t like the feeling at first, because that’s all I seemed to focus on and once I realized how much lighter I felt, I knew I had done the right thing.

    Last Summer, I did a lot of growing up on my adventure to Central America as a chaperon for students and then visiting friends on the East Coast of the U.S. This summer, I decided it was time to face the problem head on and grab it by the horns. So, I booked my trip to a wellness spa retreat for 3 weeks in Slovakia, to reinvest in myself.

    As the day of my departure grew nearer, I was excited but mostly nervous. I questioned myself and doubted my decision to do this. I could have gone to England and Ireland to see my family and friends for the money I was spending! How would I communicate with the people, they speak Slovakian and Russian mostly! The best I can do is count up to 4, say ‘Yes’ (Da) and Good bye (Dasvidanya)!

    Thursday 24th July

    I am up before the alarm clock and dashing around the house like the Tazmanian Devil from Loony Tunes, putting a few more items in my carry on and in my case. As well as making sure that I was leaving my flat in a decent condition for when I returned. At 7;45, I made my way downstairs and got into the waiting taxi to take me to Cairo International Airport. I sailed through the ticket counter and passport control. I met two acquaintances who we there traveling to enjoy their summers holidays. At 10am, I made my way to the gate and waited to board. The time came and the flight hadn’t been announced. Travelers started to get nervous and began asking questions. ‘The Flight has been delayed for maybe 40 minutes, they are preparing the aircraft’ was the response from the men at the counter. A bad omen to the start of my trip, I wondered or am I being tested? The flight ended up being delayed for 2 hours and many passengers including myself were not at all pleased! It meant I would be arriving much later than expected and would lose out on my consultation with the doctors! The flight may have only been three and half hours to Vienna, but it felt like it took an eternity! When we finally landed, I whizzed through passport control, found my bag on the carousel and dashed out to find my chauffeur, who would drive the two hours or so hours to Piestany, in Slovakia. The ride was quite and long. The driver spoke very little English and it would have been difficult to make hand signals and explain myself that way, whilst he drove. So, I ended up just admiring the landscape and the green foliage until we arrived.

    Thermia Palace is a large French like château on an island in the city/town of Piestany. The surrounding area around it was just so perfect and immaculate, I began to think I was on a movie set. It was so picturesque it could be on a postcard (I’m sure it is). I cringed at the thought of having to try to communicate with the hotel staff, but to my relief they spoke fairly good English. I checked in, was told my doctor’s appointment would be at 10am the following morning and then I would receive my schedule of treatments and meet with the nutritionist. I got to my room and the first thing I did was take pictures of it before I unpacked and contacted my  parents  to let them know I had arrived safely. My phone for some bizarre reason hadn’t automatically joined a network, so I had to depend on the hotel wi-fi to send messages.

    After I had unpacked, I went for a leisurely stroll on the island to get my bearings. It was so nice to walk under the glow of street lamps and to the rhythm of rustling leaves in the summer breeze and not be harassed or gawked at by anyone. On my way back to the hotel, I held open the door for 3 women staying at the hotel and guess what…? 2 were from Egypt and 1 was from Lebanon!

    Friday 25th July

    I was up early after a much-needed rest. i dressed and went down for breakfast. I helped myself to the buffet, but chose my items wisely. After all, that’s the whole purpose of the trip. Once I had finished, I went for a walk to see the island in the light. It was a warm day and everything was so fresh looking, like a crisp salad.

    At 10am I went for my doctor’s appointment, where I had my  blood pressure measured, along with my waist, thighs and my height. My weight too! (how could I forget). After asking if I suffered from any pain, the doctor asked me to strip down to my undies to get a better look at me, (Talk about exposure, or so I thought). She checked my bone agility, my problem areas (tummy, waist, thighs) and feet. Once that examination was completed she had a brain storm while muttering in Slovakian an she finger pecked the keyboard all the treatments she wants me to do. The whole process took 20-30 minutes.

    Once I got my schedule, I then visited the nutritionist, who gave me apple cider tablets to take with breakfast every morning and asked what I would usually eat, eating habits and if there where certain foods I didn’t eat. When the meeting was done, I dashed back to my room, to grab my bathrobe and all the other items I would need for my afternoon of treatments.

    First on the list was mud packs; sounds squidgy!

    I get to the waiting area of where I need to be and a woman dressed all in white comes out and looks at my schedule and in a Slovakian accent asks me to wait one moment. Not long afterwards, I’m shown to a room, where, I am instructed to strip down to my skin and then I’m called into an adjoining room where, another woman also all in white, slabs down a cow pat of warm mud onto a bed covered in 3 different kind of sheets and instructs me to sit in it, while smearing mud on my tush. As I sit in the warm mud, I can feel it ooze into places, I wish I could prevent it from going to, I am then asked to lie down, where more mud is being generously applied on my problem areas; hip, knees and feet. As I’m being wrapped up like a new-born baby a cold metal ringed disk is placed on my chest and I am left for 20 minutes in dim lighting. Being cocoon with warm mud smeared on you, makes you drowsy. If it wasn’t for the cold metal thingy-m’bob I think I would have turned into a soft-boiled egg. Every 5 minutes a person comes to check on you to make sure you’re o.k and to wipes your face from sweat.

    When the alarm goes off, after twenty minutes, you are unwrapped by two of the attendees and the mud is lightly scrapped off of you, so that you can get up. You are then led to a shower close by and left to wash off the mud. It’s not as easy as it sounds. Just when you think you have gotten it off, you find more! (You’ll find that when you take a shower later… more mud runs down the drain and for the life of you, you can’t figure out where it had been.)

    Once your cleaned off, you go back into your cubical where you are given a cup of sparkling water (Perrier) and then told to lie down and rest. Where you are wrapped up again and left to… rest. After a short length of time, the attendee comes in to unwrap you and declare the session over. You get dressed and she returns your schedule with a signature on it and with that, you’re free to leave and make your way to your next treatment.

    It’s important you get there 5-10 min before your appointment and you have to take your schedule with you everywhere, they are very punctual when it comes to timing and won’t allow you into a session if you don’t have your ‘card’, schedule.

    Massage

    I have never really enjoyed the thought of someone’s hands kneading my body like dough, until I had my first Thai massage in Gouna, so, I was looking forward to this. I know understand why people from Thermia Palace walk around in bathrobes. It saves them dressing and undressing several times. So, off come the clothes again and I lie on a bed in all my nakedness as a tall tanned short heard blond Slovakian woman massages my back for twenty minutes as I flinch when she works on the areas that are troubling me and then melt like butter when she massages the rest of my back with her oiled strong hands.

    Magnet

    After the massage I am whisked into another room nearby, where I am asked to hop on to another bed and there’s no need to take anything off. I lay on the bed and this plastic arch connected to a machine is slid and positioned above my mid-drift to allow magnetic waves to travel through my body. Again, I am left to drift off into the depths of my mind as the waves are left to do their work.

    Elektro

    Behind door three, I am then asked to sit on a bed and put my foot on a stool. I am handed a funky pair of glasses to put on. The glasses remind me of the ones Doc and Marty wore in ‘Back To The Future’, except they were cooler and everything had a green tint to it. A gel was applied to a device that was then put to my Achilles heel as a woman with pale turquoise talon like nails rubbed it against my weak tendons on both feet for less that 5 minutes. When the machine sounded, my session was over. Now, I had some free time… before my last session  of the day. What would I do?

    I tried very hard to find the travel agency my mother ha d told me about when she had been here last summer because I wanted to rent a bicycle and see what day trips they offered to nearby cities and countries.  I followed her directions to the ‘T’ but couldn’t find the place. So, I decided to just walk. A past time I enjoy,  but rarely do since the revolution, because Sexual Harassment was rampant on every street no matter how conservatively I dressed. While I’m here, I will be walking my little socks off until my butt cheeks wince in pain, begging me to stop! (I did, just that!)

    Gymnastic Slim 

    I sat outside the room where the session was to be held on a hard wooden like bench. It was very reminiscent of films where students were sat outside the Headmaster or the Principles office when in trouble. Randa, the Lebanese woman whom I met  my first night here was taking part in the class too. At precisely   the time scheduled on the schedule, a small framed young girl came energetically up the stairs and opened the door. We waited a few moments for stragglers, but non came. We had our own private class.  We each got an inflatable ball and sat on it as instructed. For a full 20 minutes, were bouncing on the ball waving our arms and hands and occasionally  lifting our feet off the ground too. I had visions of one of us ending up like Humpty Dumpty, and going splat on the floor, just like the old children’s nursery rhyme says, but we all made it to the end!

    Wooohooo!! All sessions completed for the day!

    After the session I had quite a bit of time to kill before dinner, so Randa and I got to chatting and we ended up walking across the Danube River and into town, as we talked about our lives and occupation. It was very pleasant to talk to someone who had been to Piestany many times before and someone from the region. After our walk I went up to my room to shower, change and read a bit before dinner.

    As I entered the restaurant for the third time that day, the Manager of the restaurant informed me that it was assigned seating. Everyone had their own table for the entire duration of their stay. Which was new to me, but I just went with the flow. I was also told the nutritionist had sent down my meal program for the 20 days  that I would be staying there. Having studied it while having dinner, I was impressed. They all sounded really tasty on paper, and I looked forward to trying each one!

    Saturday 26th July 

    I awoke early and went down to breakfast early.My  breakfast was quite a hearty and healthy one. A slice of toast, cottage cheese, slice of cold cut, one slice of Emmental Cheese, 2 boiled eggs, yogurt and on helping of raw oats, with a glass of fresh juice. Along with the two apple cider tablets, that I was instructed to take with breakfast. I was a stuffed dumpling after I was done. Seeing my first appointment wasn’t until 9 am, I decided to help my digestive system  and take a walk until it was time for my treatment. The calmness of the spa island is very relaxing. The stress I may have come with was no longer with me. The quietness, was deafening to my ears, they were not used to such quiet surroundings. I could actually hear my thoughts without the interruption of loud shouts coming from the street or the endless blazing of car horns and tire screeching from Cairo’s bustling traffic.

    In my robe, I sat in the waiting area of the pristine IRMA spa building,  and waited to be called in for my appointment. I was asked to bare my back, lie face down and what looked like our rubber suction cups were placed on my back and as the attendee switched on the machine, the electric impulses began… I felt like Frankenstein! The current was strong and a bit uncomfortable to begin with, but I quickly got used to it and the sound of the machine lulled me into a light nap.

    With an hour to spare I had enough time discover where the next session would be held. Once I had found the place I sat outside on a bench watching birds go about their life and the people passing by. When the time came for Water Gymnastics, the receptionist handed me a key and I followed the scent of wetness, until I found the changing room. They key was for a private vestier to leave my belongings in I quickly put on my swimsuit and made my way to the pool. As I rounded the corner and found the hook to hang my key and robe on, I couldn’t help but gasp. The pool areas was of stunning architecture, it resembled an old fashioned conservatory or solarium, with a sky light. It would be something you’d expect to see in the hit TV series Downton Abbey.  Being the photo junky that I am, all I wanted to do was run back and get my phone to take a picture and capture it.  I resisted the urge and ascended into the warm water of the pool. I found a place to stand and followed the instructors motions and enjoyed the session. After changing out of my swimwear and was about to leave for the next session, I snuck back to the pool area, unseen and took a picture. ( I couldn’t help myself!)

    Parafango

    I was very excited about this session because it sounded like a form of dance.  I thought it might be a combination of Tango and Flamenco, at the back of my mind I was fretting about whether my sneakers were appropriate shoes for the class. I was somewhat disappointed when I found out that it was not a dance class but another treatment session with mud. Only this time it wasn’t messy! For this treatment I was only required to be half naked from the neck to the waist and to lie on my stomach as warm solid blocks of mud were placed on my back from the nape of my neck to the bottom of my spine for 15 -20 minutes. I must admit that the warm mud blocks were very soothing and I couldn’t keep my eyes open. I didn’t fight it and I enjoyed my little cat nap.

    It may not have been a dance class but it certainly was enjoyable. I’m looking forward to my future sessions!

    (I have no idea how this is meant to benefit me, but it was lovely)

    At lunch time, I met the Lebanese woman in the restaurant where she informed me that it was her last day and she would be leaving tomorrow to spend some time in Paris. Before I headed back to my table, she said ‘wait’ and handed me a bag of Zaatar ‘hadi ilik’, which translates to ‘this is for you’ in the Lebanese dialect, she said as she handed it over to me. I was deeply touched. It was on our walk the previous day she learned how much I loved the herb mixture, when I told her that I had been in Zaatar heaven, when I visited Lebanon 2 years ago. I didn’t want to insult her, by refusing the gesture, so I gladly accepted it. I was so touched by her generosity that I couldn’t help but post about it on my Facebook page.

    Mirror Pool

    Unlike it’s name there are no mirrors (Thank Goodness!), this experience might not be for everyone. The pool is filled with sulfuric water, that is naturally warm and full of minerals. It is said to be very good for your body. You may bathe in the pool with a swim suite on, almost everyone bathes nude. My mother who had come to Piestany last summer had told me, you didn’t have a choice but to go in starkers, so I had enough time to mentally prepare myself to fully exposing my body and seeing other naked women as well. (The pools are segregated, so don’t panic too much! I don’t know if I could have summoned up the courage to have to see both genders in their birthday suites!) Coming from and living in a fairly conservative country, where kissing scenes are censored in films and T.V shows this was going to take some getting used to.

    Lucky for me, I arrived early for my appointment, which was great because I had the pool to myself. I de-robed, took the necessary shower before entering the pool and ascended slowly into the water, to allow my body to get used to the temperature and not to slip on the stairs that are barely visible through the murky sulfur water. I checked the time on the large wall clock, so that I could time the  20 minutes that I was meant to stay in. The pool reminded me of the hot spring in Siwa Oasis, except it wasn’t in the open air in the desert and I wasn’t wearing a swimsuit. As I waded around and the nice warm water encompassed me,  it felt like I was having a bath, but in an enormous tub. I began to wonder if this was how Cleopatra felt when she bathed in the hot springs? Before my time was up more women arrived to bathe in the pool. ” Oh!Great!!” I thought to myself, “so much for getting in and out without anyone seeing me. I suppose, I’m just going to have to walk out gracefully and pray I don’t slip, so that I don’t draw attention to myself”. That’s precisely what I did and no one even batted an eye lid in my direction. After all we were all in the same boat and I suppose it was the respectful thing to do.

    Once you leave the mirror pool, you shower off again and then go down to a resting area. I supposed it’s so that your body can return to it’s normal temperature gradually. The resting room reminds me of how dormitories were depicted in old movies. The Beds are separated by wooden partitions and have a small over head light and a side table. You’re asked to hop on the bed and then you’re wrapped up again.

    By the time I got back to my room after all my sessions and treatments I was refreshed and relaxed but drowsy. I forced myself out for a walk around the town. I enjoyed admiring the little cafes, glancing at the display windows of little shops, the unique architecture, which I couldn’t help but take pictures with my phone, so that I could upload them later on to instagram. I found my way to the little mall and got a few necessity items that I had put on my mental check list and then continued walking for a little bit longer.

    At dinner time, I ate slowly in the hopes that I would see Randa again. She hadn’t come by the time I had finished so, I placed a little thank you note on the table that she and her father sat at, if it wasn’t for the bowl of Zaatar there, I may have placed the note with a small box of chocolate on the wrong table. I left the restaurant, full, tired and ready to turn in for the night.

    There’s More To Come!  Keep a look out for part II 🙂