Weekly Photo Challenge: In the Background

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Sipping wine while watching the most spectacular sunset inspired this picture of Moai, the stone giants, of Easter Island – I thought this would be appropriate for this week’s challengeūüôā

This is what you’re looking at without the wine glass a few minutes earlier:
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Hell Bent – Hell NO more Bikram?

 

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If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading.” – Lao Tzu

Being a self-proclaimed Bikram yoga junkie and having just finished “Hell-Bent – Obsession, Pain,¬†and the Search for Something like Transcendence in Competitive¬†Yoga” has presented, what some may consider, a personal dilemma.¬†¬† This dilemma of mine¬†only lasted all but two seconds but that in itself was long enough to take notice.¬† Am I supporting the biggest fraud in the yoga world¬†by practicing Bikram Yoga?

I’ve been sweating my ass off¬†(literally) for two and a half years now.¬† Unlike some of the other “sweaters” in my classes, who’ve had some huge chronic obstacles to overcome, knee and back surgeries, morbidly obese, diabetes, I had found I was annoyed enough with the knots in my shoulder, low energy,¬†big hips and thighs¬†to make some drastic changes to my fitness routine (which was, in fact, a “no fitness” routine issue!).¬† I started going back in early 2011 and I became, full on, addicted.¬† I lost the knots, the weight, the colds and flues, gained muscle, flexibility (how many years had it been since I could really touch my toes?).¬† I’m a hot room addict, there is no doubt about that.¬† I would go every day if my schedule could permit but I’ve settled into a nice 4 days a¬† week practice.¬† I love Bikram – or so I thought!

Now enters Benjamin Lorr¬†with his book about….well…. really a bunch of¬†topics ( back-bending¬†club, the who’s who of the Bikram yoga world, pain, heat, Ms. Boobs, Tony Sanchez, etc).¬† But the main topic is Bikram Choudhury, the founder and creator of Bikram yoga, and is his insanely narcissistic pathos.¬† Let me begin by saying, I get it, I understand the lure of men like this and the personal challenge to, not only deal with them, but to be loved and adored by them as well.¬† Anybody who has ever lived with a narcissist understands the compulsion to “win”¬†a¬†narcissist¬†over and to be the one to “cure” them of their self-destructive behaviors and make them whole again; It will never happen and it’s a complete waste of time, but the “wanting” is still a powerful force and I get it.¬† Mr. Lorr¬†writes, with great and entertaining detail, about his Bikram yoga teacher training and I am convince I could never, myself, subject myself to 9 weeks of Bikram in the flesh.¬† Just to be clear, I don’t fault anyone for having done the teacher training or anyone that, even after reading this book, wants to do the teacher training but I had my dose of Bikram for 2 hours in Boston last year and, coupled with this book, I know I could never stomach him for 9 weeks.¬† I had imagined myself doing the teacher training someday, at some point, but I will not place myself in the same room as a man who goes out of his way to insult women (the specific paragraphs about his treatment of a women he called “Ms. Boobs” are especially disturbing), takes a man’s money and time¬†and then tells him the day before graduation “I’m not letting you graduate because you practice at a studio I don’t like and I’m not giving you your money back!”, sexually harasses¬†young women, and ostracize¬†his most loyal followers from the Bikram yoga community on a whim.¬† I don’t have any evidence that any of these stories are true, having no direct, personal experiences, but I know my stomach turned, several times,¬†while listening to Bikram, over a year ago, because he didn’t seem to be grounded in anything other than himself and, frankly, I’m not interested in anyone’s self, least of Bikram’s self….creepy!

In short, I’ll continue with my Bikram yoga practice with a full committment to growing my own practice.¬† It’s highly unlikely I’ll ever do the teacher training but, you never know…the entire Bikram yoga community could find themselves with a new leader one dayūüôā

30 day Birkram yoga challenge – week one

Suddenly jobless and prone to inertia – 30 days of hot yoga sounds good to me!¬† I’ve been practicing for over 2 years now but I’ve never done a 30 day challenge before.¬† I’ve had a few shocking observations so far after week one;

1. Quick progress – I’ve noticed my postures have been improving quickly.¬† I’m more flexible and strong each day, not weak and sore¬†as I expected.¬† As a matter of fact, I’m not experiencing any soreness at all.¬† Typically my hamstrings, at least, are soar with the 3-4 days a week practice I’ve been doing – after 7 straight days I’m as limber and flexible as I’ve ever been!¬† Thank god!

2. Heat – what heat?¬† I’ve never been that deterred by the 108 degree hot room but at this point the heat is not even a factor.¬† I also find my¬†body is very comfortable in all temperatures.¬† Yesterday I was outdoors all day in mid 50 temps and, not once, was I cold.¬† Bizarre, right?

3. Weight loss – ok, I’ll be honest, I haven’t weighed myself in nearly 2 years after having trained and completed a 10k and finding I only lost 4 pounds (but went from a size 12 to a size 8) – I just don’t see it as being a good measure of fitness – so I don’t have any strong evidence except to say that already I can see how much more lean my body, back, hips, everything is.¬† My body does have a tendency to “get with the program” quickly and so we’ll see how that goesūüôā

I’ll write-up another report after my second week.¬† So far, I’m loving this challenge!!¬† Oh, and hopefully my standing bow will look better than this standing bow (below)

 

attempt at standing bow in Coral Sand Dunes Utah May 2011

 

Is an adult long weekend in Disney possible?

The answer is a big, resounding YES!¬†¬†¬† We made the decision to go on¬†Friday afternoon and left that night¬†on an 8:55pm flight from Boston to Orlando.¬† The hours leading up to our departure was a mixture of giddy anticipation, logistical chess, and disbelief – this was definetely the most last-minute trip we’d ever planned.¬† The reaction of my co-workers also made pre-departure more exciting – everyone was so genuinely happy this was happening.¬† I work with some really great peeps btw!

We arrived at The Florida Hotel¬†by 12:30am and, after some talks, heart-to-hearts and maybe a bit whining, we had a pretty solid plan for the next 2.5 days.¬† The Florida Hotel is ranked #2 on tripadvisor.com.¬† ¬†I can’t honestly say why – there was nothing very positive or negative that stood out.¬† It was fine.¬† 20 minutes from Universal and 30 minutes from the Disney Parks.

We were here during labor day weekend and, according to all the parks staff, this is a slow weekend and I’d have to agree with that.¬† We got an early start on Saturday and arrived at Universal around 8:30am just as the park was opening.¬† We decided on a dual pass to Island of Adventures and Universal with an upgrade to the Express Pass – it was a friggin fortune, $199 per person, but in the end you did get a lot of bang for your buck.¬† We were able to do all the rides we wanted in both¬†parks¬†waiting no more than 15 minutes in lines.¬† We found the best rides to be the Harry Potter Experience, Spider Man, the Hulk, Hollywood Rip-Ride Rockit, Jurassic Park and the Mummy, and Despicable Me.¬† What’s up with no Voldermort on the Harry Potter ride though – weird, right?

We had dinner afterwards at a great Italian restaurant called Bice at Portofino Bay Hotel Рa water taxi will take you there from Universal City Walk.  Everything about this day was perfect Рso much fun!!

Sunday was another early day and we arrived at the Magic Kingdom just around 9am.¬† Our game plan was the following;¬†hit all the “adult” rides like space mountain, thunder mountain and then head over to Epcot.¬† Our plan almost worked; I could not,¬†WOULD NOT,¬†leave the Magic Kingdom until we did It’s a Small Small World, Haunted House, and Pirates of Carribean – as old as these rides are, they’re still magical to me and we were as impressed with them as we had been as little kids!¬† I was especially blown away with Space Mountain – the sound effects really added to the experience.¬† I don’t know if they had that when I was on that ride 17 years ago.¬† We spent the rest of the afternoon and night at Epcot – the ride Soarin was the big hit at this park – at one point it would have been over an hour wait to get on this ride, so we headed over during the fireworks show at 9pm and got on in 5 minutes.¬† Mission Space is another crazy simulator type of ride that feels like being on a rocket ship taking off into outer space¬† – crazy! It’s apparently a centerfuge and 2 people have died after doing the ride (that explains all the warnings).¬† The other¬†insane ride at Epcot is a ride called The Sum of All Thrills – it’s a huge robotic arm that you program with lops, turns, tricks and then the entire experience is played out in a simulator controlled by the¬†giant robot arm – so cool!¬† ¬†I could see something like this in everyone’s homes in the next 30 years (well, ok, at least maybe at the local arcade!).¬† They need to do better with the graphics though, and¬†I would suggest not doing jet plane option.

Sunset at Epcot

Monday was water park day – after looking at all the different options like Wet-n-Wild, Blizzard, we decided on Typhoon Lagoon – I have always wanted to go back here ever since I was 12 years old and it’s just as cute as I remember with a great atmosphere.¬† David and I did the Crush ‘n’ Gusher at least 10 times!!¬† It also has the best lazy river in the world!¬† Actually, we decided, one day we’d like to make a lazy river in our back yard!¬† Yep, we’re big fans of the lazy river!

Birds of East Africa

Ostrich
Serengeti, Tanzania

I never considered myself a “birder” – maybe a casual observer of birds, at the¬†most.¬† 3 weeks in Africa can change a person in many ways though.¬† My husband and I have seen many unique birds before in places like¬†Costa Rica, but one afternoon in Aberdare National Park, at the foothills of Mt. Kenya, was the moment that, perhaps, reallly cemented our love of birds.¬† We also found a childrens book on birds of East Africa and decided it would be fun to find and log all the pictures of the birds we had and give them, along with the book, to our niece Maya.¬† The following are the birds we were able to capture on film, along with the location.

Larry and Sue Melander just sent me this picture of the Secretary Bird, which I didn’t have in my collection of shots¬†– thanks you two!

Secretary Bird
Serengeti, Tanzania
photo credit goes to Larry Melander

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Common Bulbul
Aberdare Park, Kenya

Olive Thrush
Aberdare Park, Kenya

Yellow Weaver
Aberdare Park, Kenya

Egyptian Goose
Aberdare Park, Kenya

Yellow Billed Duck
Aberdare Park, Kenya

Blue Heron
Lake Nakuru, Kenya

Marabou Stork
Lake Nakuru, Kenya

Marabou Stork
Lake Nakuru, Kenya

Sacred Ibis
Lake Nakuru, Kenya

Great White Pelican
Lake Nakuru, Kenya

Yellow Billed Stork
Lake Manyara, Tanzania

Kori Bustard
Masai Mara, Kenya

American Fish Eagle
Masai Mara, Kenya

Superb Sterling
Masai Mara, Kenya

Helmeted Guinea Fowl
Masai Mara, Kenya

Van der Deckens Hornbill
Amboseli Park, Kenya

Bateleur Eagle,
Amboseli Park, Kenya

Verreaux’s Eagle Owl
Amboseli Park, Kenya

Lilac Breasted Roller
Amboseli Park, Kenya

African Hoopoe
Seregeti, Tanzania

Ostrich
Serengeti, Tanzania

Turkey Vulture
Serengeti, Tanzania

Ostrich, female
Serengeti, Tanzania

Flamingo
Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania

Grey Crowned Crane
Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania

Spending a Day With Silverback Gorillas in Rwanda

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Our journey began in Boston on July 3rd, 2012.¬† Kigali,¬†Rwanda¬†is not an easy destination;¬† it requires either a long lay-over in London or a quick overnight stay in Nairobi.¬† We opted for a lay-over in London, took the¬†Heathrow Express from London to Paddington (about a half hour ride)¬†and¬†enjoyed the British Museum and a delicious¬†Turkish lunch at Sofra¬†in Covington Gardens.¬† The most notable memory from that day¬†was standing in front¬†of Big Ben at 3pm and watching the sudden appearance of¬†hundreds¬†panda bears – no, we weren’t delirious from lack of sleep – I have video to prove it! People dressed up in panda costumes streamed out of Westminster station and waved¬†their furry little hands, making kids laugh, walking down Westminster Bridge as the clock struck three.¬† Why? We still have no idea!(if you do, please let me know!)

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The day of the hike begins very early, 4:30am – the Serena Hotel forgot the pack us a¬†breakfast – no problem, I guess,¬†I’m not even sure what day it is as this point, nevermind knowing if I’m hungry or not (although it is a little concerning – a potentially very long hike with no food in our system),¬† Our drive is 2.5hrs to Volcanoes National Park – the road is¬†paved and in great condition¬†(apparently built in the mid 90’s – it used to be a 4.5 hour drive)¬† We drive by hundreds of locals carrying produce, wood, various other mystery products shrouded in burlap, who, we are told,¬† are walking several miles to the farmers markets today.¬† Most of them started walking several hours ago and they’ll walk all the way back to their villages.¬† This is a country of walkers, walking in “the land of a 1000 hills”.¬† After passing by hundreds of the strongest men, women, and children you’ll ever seen in your life one question begs to be asked; “why don’t they pull their money together¬†and buy a vehicle to transport these goods”?¬† There are no easy answers.

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Sunrise gives us our first glimpse at the Virunga Volcanoes, home of the silverbacks

she’ll travel for miles with her baby in tow and a basket on her head

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David and in front of the “teeth” – part of the Virunga range – a bit intimidating!

It’s decided we’ll be put into the Hirwa¬†group which is famous for having a set of 1-year-old twins born on Feb. 3, 2011.¬† The birth of twins is very rare for mountain gorillas and even more rare is their survival.¬† There was never any discussions between us and our guide as to what group we’d be put in and the process was a bit like watching floor traders on wall street – turns out we got the perfect group of gorillas!¬† Our “human”¬†group consisted¬†of an Australian man (this was his second trip to Africa), a couple from India who currently live in Nigeria, their daughter and their niece.¬† It was a great mix of ages, personalities, and everyone had a great attitude.

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Here is one of the twins – a real super star! I swear he sees me, stands up and smiles right at the camera!

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As you can see, we are only inches from the gorillas.¬† Reaching the gorillas took about 2.5 hours and we only got to spend 1 hour with them.¬† The hike itself was extremely¬†challenging¬†and photographing the gorillas was even more challenging!¬† We start the hike at a high altitude and it’s obvious from the start, shortness of breath, little energy (damn it, why didn’t we insist on breakfast!) We’re running around the jungle, following one guy with a machete and another guy with a¬†rifle (incase we come across¬†any mountain elephants or water buffalos) swinging on vines, literally, to get up and down the ravines and thick brush.¬† Don’t forget the stinging nettles too although I didn’t personally get stung by any.¬† I definitely¬†brought the¬†wrong lens as well, a 300 f/4 Nikkor¬†lens and I wasn’t allowed to bring my camera bag with me to change out a lens (the fear is the gorilla’s will steal the bags – they do it all the time)¬†It was difficult shooting conditions with the¬†leaves coming into focus, sun location, thick jungle brush making it dark – ultimately I was disappointed with the photos but the experience more than made up for it!¬† Here is a cool video¬† my husband took with his iphone:

After the hike we visited Lakes Bulera and Ruhondo.  As you can see, we made a few friends along the way.

with our porter – most of the porters and trackers used to be poachers – now they are gainfully employed and there hasn’t been a poaching incident since 2004!!

This woman felt very strongly that I maybe feed my husband too much – I couldn’t tell if she was admonishing me or congratulating me!

this young man (who wants to be a doctor someday) actually just emailed David asking him when he’s coming back for a visit!

There is not much else to say about this experience – I’ll end it with a few gorgeous pictures of the sun setting over the Virunga Volcanoes.¬† I should also mention that we used Vintage Africa to book this gorilla safari and we did this trip before doing the Kenya Wildlife Safari tour with Go Ahead Tours.¬† I would highly¬†recommend both companies as¬† Go Ahead Tours made it very easy and cost-effective¬†for¬†us to fly into Kigali¬†before the Kenya Safari tour and¬†Vintage Africa was very organized pre-departure and on the ground as well¬†(disclaimer – I work for Go Ahead Tours)

Welcome to the LoveTravelYoga blog

Most people who know me well say “Marissa, you should write a book about the story of your life”.¬† Maybe I should (or should have back about 10 years ago) but¬†I’m a modern gal at heart and these times call for a¬†modern “twist’ on the good ol’¬†unraveling of one’s life story (yes I’m modern and¬†dramatic –¬†you can’t have one without the other, sorry)¬† It wasn’t an easy decision.¬† I’ve thought long and hard about inviting the “world” into my daily diary, my heart’s desires, my passions, the creative outlet I’ve been avoiding for most of my life.¬† That’s no bullshit either;¬† I’ve always wanted to be a writer, knew I would be a writer, someday,¬†and yet I’ve barely written a single word since a creative story class in the¬†8th grade.¬† I don’t have crates and boxes of poems, short stories, unfinished novels.¬† I burned all my childhood diaries at Burning Man in 2001 (I thought I was really cool at the time, making a statement about releasing myself from the past, destroying what I’ve created, the very spirit of Burning Man¬†– I must confess I still think it was a great idea!)¬† The other reason I say creating this blog wasn’t an easy decision is because I’ve seen, in my own life, truth stems from now, this moment, and a blog is the opposite –¬†most blogs talk¬†about what happened in the past, reflections on the future and, in some instances, it can feed the little selfish nymph within (she just loves to exaggerate¬†the details, have no doubt about it!).¬† I’ve come full circle with this “dilemma” though.¬† I’ll do my best to just write what comes within, up and out, whatever, and if it’s mean, selfish, judgemental I’ll delete it.¬† Problem solved (or bitchy little¬†nymph just did a good job completely duping me – it’s a possibility!).

So why love, travel, and yoga?¬† It just makes the most sense.¬† I’ve been in love approximately 4 times in my life but I’ve stayed in love only once and that’s 8 years of staying power with David, my muse,¬†THE inspiration, the reason to be a better person, everyday, no excuses, cut the crap and just be a good loving woman already.¬† I’ve been traveling since I was 18 and I’ve seen a fair amount on six continents (I’m missing Antarctica) and, along with a passion for travel photography, I enjoy sharing these stories through words and pictures and sometimes even video.¬† My hope is that others will be inspired to dust off their passports and head out the door for their own adventures.¬† If these posts generate some ideas or they can help others along during the planning process then I’m happy with that result.¬† Travel is an education and¬†the best education, in my opinion, comes from what we can see with our own eyes.¬† Don’t let other people tell you what’s up – go out there and see for yourself!¬† Yoga is a very new passion of mine.¬† I started about a year ago at a¬†hot yoga studio in my hometown, Yoga Crossing.¬† I’ve been searching my entire life for a routine that can help my body age gracefully, because it will age and break-down, it’s inevitable, and I’d like to have as much energy, strength, and flexibility at 85 as I have now at 35.

To me, the most incredible part of all of this, is that my husband shares all three of these passions with me.¬† Our wedding vows say “not even to the corner store alone” and that is the basis of our relationship – our love is together, our passions are done together, we are together.¬† We are different people with a few different interests – he loves sports and stock, I love musical theater and photography, but we don’t keep those things separate.¬† They are a part of us, we share and enjoy them together and¬†are fortunate to have many activities we both equally enjoy.¬† It all starts with love; love is the foundation for all of it.¬† Without love, David’s love, the travel, yoga, means nothing to me.¬† Love is my fuel.¬† I hope you enjoy what you read.