How to Survive….

a zombie apocalypse? 

or the attack of the in-laws?

I have been quiet, too too quiet lately… and no, I was not eaten by flesh eating monsters nor have I gone into a Vipassana stupor (though sometimes I wish I could). I probably had too much spicy food in Asia giving me mental diarrhea which led to verbal dehydration. Or it could be my bruised pinky finger from that tubing “accident” in North Carolina when I used my hands to break on the ice instead of just my feet thereby disabling my hands from typing on the computer.

No excuses.

I still had nine other fingers.

Or maybe, it could be that my husband’s parentS (take note plural form) are here… to stay… for FOUR months!!!

I remember writing about it when I had my first panic attack. 

After 3 glorious weeks of traveling in the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand (of course, I will remember to write about those…in the near future maybe), reality sets in the moment my in-laws start to bicker with each other at the airport when they were deciding what to eat for dinner on what was a very limited menu from the airport food stalls. I could sense my husband take a deep breath and give me “that look”.

After so many “looks” exchanged between hubby and I, and that does not include trips to the gym or the yoga studio, overtime at work, false headaches or hiding in my bedroom, it is now two months since they first set foot in America. Can you believe how fast time flies? Two more months to go!!!

In the two months since they have been here, I have not cooked a single meal in my own kitchen. My mother in-law loves to cook. She is a very good cook in fact. She is one of those born to cook to serve her family kinda woman. I, on the other hand, cook because there is no one else to cook the meals here. I cook because of necessity so who am I to question this cooking queen. Here, you take over my kitchen. I will gladly wash the dishes.

But caveat, by her taking over my kitchen, that means, I no longer sometimes can find my own stuff… or I find a recycled ice cream container here or an empty spice bottle there. Coming from a third world country, I think you get used to repurposing or recycling stuff (not that that is inherently wrong) but c’mon now, recycling meat styro containers??? Washing or storing used (and dirty) zip lock bags? Keeping boxes to bring back to the Philippines? Arghh…  yes, the frustration is there. Aaaand maybe a little annoyed.

My father in-law also likes to keep himself busy. He has so far, organized and cleaned our garage (I bet we have the cleanest garage in all of Florida!), trimmed and weeded our yard as needed, cleans both of our cars with my hubby and helps in walking our dog. Bam! Jealous, much?

So with everything that they have done and have been doing, all those little annoyances don’t really count much. Sure, there are times when I want to pull out all my hair from the weird stuff that my mother in-law does but I have decided to pick my battles. I can just continue to yoga my way out of my anxiety.

And then this….

 

 

 

My Yoga Retreat in Costa Rica

Costa Rica, the land of Pura Vida.

You hear some people say it. You see it on ads and billboards. You read about it. But, what exactly is “Pura Vida”?

Urban Dictionary defines it as: the law of the land in Costa Rica, literally translated in Spanish as pure life; the expression is used in many forms, from a greeting, to a synonym for “excellent.” They follow this lifestyle and are some of the most wonderful people on earth. A synonym of “hakuna matata.” Life is wonderful; enjoy it!

I randomly found this article on Pura Vida (<— click on this link to read more about it) as eloquently written by Ryan Van Velzer. He says:

Transient in meaning, in relevance, in purpose. To define pura vida is to misunderstand the term….
….Pura Vida’s a parable for the Costa Rica’s relaxed attitude and paraphrase for thoughts that need not be said. In short it’s a way of life….
….Pura vida’s shouted from the rooftops at parades and festivals, it’s a response to como estas? (how are you?) and you’re welcome. It’s both a greeting and a goodbye. It’s a statement about life, how it is and how it should be…. 

Now, if the rest of the world would only adapt this philosophy to our everyday lives, it would be so much simpler! Then again, not everybody is Costa Rican and to live by this “motto” if you will is much deeper and profound that just saying pura vida or wearing a shirt with a pura vida logo.

What comes to mind when you think of Costa Rica?

Lush greenery, cloud forests, rain forests, volcanoes and exotic waterfalls. A perfect playground for the adventurous and outdoor lovers. At first, those were my impressions too. Then a friend mentioned she went to go surfing in Costa Rica. I was surprised to hear that there are a lot of good size surfing communities along its coasts. I don’t surf so what do I know, eh?

Then this perfect opportunity came along while browsing online for budget vacations. I am such a cheapskate sometimes I embarrass myself. As long as I get to go somewhere, as long as I can pack my bags and get on that airplane, I don’t care, take me away!!!

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Casa Zen Guesthouse and Yoga Center answered my wanderlust this time. Out of the many yoga retreats I have checked out, not just in Costa Rica, this one fit my budget plus its location interested me.

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If you are an avid surfer, you would probably have heard of Santa Teresa in the Nicoya Peninsula. But where is that?

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As you can see, it is a tiny little spot in the map that is Costa Rica. San Jose, the capital of the country and the international airport in Alajuela is about six hours away and that includes a scenic hour and a half ferry boat ride across the Gulf of Nicoya. There is Liberia airport which is closer but the flights didn’t work for our schedule. We had to stay overnight in Alajuela because the shuttle ride to Santa Teresa was only at eight in the morning. So all the considerable time and effort we have to put into this journey made it all the more exciting for me.

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A little unassuming coastal village facing the Pacific, Santa Teresa became popular because of its swells and long stretches of sandy beaches. After the surfers made camp here in the early 60s and 70s and foreigners falling in love with the place and deciding to stay, Santa Teresa together with its adjacent neighbors, Mal Pais and Playa Carmen have all become popular surfing destinations.

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A few years later followed the emergence of the yoga retreats. Yogis and surfers all living in harmony in paradise. All striving to achieve that balance and simplicity in life. From the most luxurious spa resorts to the simpler hostel type accommodations, there is a yoga center for everyone.

I have never been to a yoga retreat before in my life so this was the perfect time and place for me to do so. I have been practicing yoga for about three years now. I do not claim to be an advanced practitioner nor do I consider myself a beginner either. Lucky me, my hubby also does yoga sporadically through his own fitness regime so he is not totally ignorant of the poses. I drag him along, naturally.

Our day consisted of waking up early around 6am due to jet lag (Costa Rica is two hours behind Florida) and mostly because my hubby was woken up from the heat. This was a budget place so there was no air conditioning. The bathrooms were shared and there was no hot water either (which you didn’t really need). They did have a fan in the room and also provided an extra standing fan but the heat was just too much for my hubby. The concrete house a few feet across our room didn’t help  much with ventilation and air circulation. I didn’t anticipate that he would be totally miserable. And if he was miserable, his attitude made me miserable too! So much for pura vida.

So I tried to do my best to make my stay a little less miserable and not be affected by all his negativity. After all, I wanted and planned this off the beaten path kind of travel. Once my hubby cooled down, his mood changed. Everyday we ate a healthy breakfast of toast and fresh fruit which was included in the yoga package. At least the coffee was good enough for him so that helped his sour mood a lot. He certainly likes his coffee and Costa Rica is well known for that.

After breakfast was morning yoga, an hour and a half sometimes two hours depending on the instructor. It was THE best yoga I have ever done! Grueling, challenging yet beautifully good for my body. I have never sweat that much doing a downward dog! The open air wooden deck and the sounds of the waves crashing from a distance helped with the ambience.

After class, if it wasn’t raining, we went for a short walk along Santa Teresa’s bumpy, muddy, pot hole filled roads checking out potential dinner and lunch places or if there was a downpour, which most of the time there was since it was the beginning of the wet season, we stayed inside Casa Zen and hung out by the rancho socializing, reading or playing with our phones since Wifi was better here than in our rooms. One time, hubby and I decided to go to the beach in the rain and played in the waves. Much to my surprise, the waters were deliciously warm!

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It was a short two minute walk to the beach through the public access road that was just outside Casa Zen. We could see surfers with their boards pass by but we couldn’t see them surfing. Maybe because it was too rocky around the area. Must be some secret spot a few minutes down the beach.

After lunch, again because it was too hot to go back inside our room, the second floor of the rancho became our second bedroom where we took short naps.

Every Saturday afternoon, an organic market was held near the beach. Locals and expats took part in selling fresh produce and whatever trade or trinkets they have to sell. Our stay fell on a Saturday so we decided to check it out. It was all very communal and family-like. Everybody was oozing the pura vida vibe, even the dogs have embraced this lifestyle! We bought some yummy freshly baked banana bread which came highly recommended.

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In the evenings, there was another yoga session. These weren’t mandatory by the way so depending on the instructor, the class size varied. Some of the guests have been staying here for weeks so they know the teachers already. I haven’t done this much exercise since I was in high school so by the time evening yoga came, I fell asleep every time we did Savasana, the candle light definitely does not help at all. Talk about ultimate relaxation.

I have never felt so healthy and flexible in my life. I fell asleep easily and woke up energized. Again, thats me, not my hubby. However, he admitted that he liked the yoga work outs because it helped his sore neck and shoulder muscles. Though I learned my lesson not to sit beside my hubby because he makes me laugh and lose my concentration especially when it came to the difficult ones when he attempts the pose and ends up clumsily doing it.

From the start, we decided to leave a day early instead of the 4-day retreat that we booked for. We still wanted to do touristy stuff and check out volcanos and waterfalls. And I’ve had enough of my hubby’s complaints about the heat so off we go next to regular air-conditioned hotel rooms. He was also complaining about the lack of activities/things to do that he was obviously bored. He definitely needs to learn the art of doing nothing.

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I left our itinerary for Santa Teresa open because I really didn’t know what we would end up doing. Spontaneity was the name of the game here where the weather dictates your activities. One day after raining most morning and well into after lunch, the sun decided to shine so I decided that we explore the area and rent an ATV. Because of the terrible road conditions, this was the preferred mode of transportation for most of the locals and visitors anyway so there were plenty of ATV rentals around.

Coming up next… our ATV adventures in Santa Teresa!!!

My very first panic attack

I don’t normally consider myself an anxious person, nor am I high-strung or a type A personality. In fact, I am the exact opposite. I pride myself on being cool, calm and collected, even more so than my hubby. I thrive in challenging situations, aka, travel nursing and traveling in general, I constantly seek adventurous and exciting things to do, I oftentimes have this nonchalant face that I would like to project when truly deep inside I am scared shitless and know nothing about what to do.

When push comes to shove, I am better at handling stress than my hubby. And he himself admits that. Sometimes though I get tired of pretending to be strong and putting up a brave front and would just like to have a good long cry in one corner of our bedroom. It happens, sometimes. And then I just stop, wipe away my tears, stand up and brush it off. No biggie.

So, thats me in a nutshell. Well, just a part, really.

But mention my in-laws and that can bring a slight tremor and a high pitch to my otherwise flat monotone voice. Mention them coming over to visit us in Florida and that can make my heart race and emotions upside down. Mention them staying with us for four months and that brings me to a full panic attack!!!

I didn’t know what it was at first. My thoughts were racing (not that they don’t) more than the usual, my mind was wandering elsewhere, my breathing was fast. I couldn’t keep still. Dark negative thoughts kept on clouding my brain. I felt so so lost and out of control. I was googling some psych stuff trying to find answers to what was going on. I tried to tell my husband about it but couldn’t really express myself. It ended up me being upset and mad while he went to work.

Hours later trying to find a “cure” to this severe distress I was having, I resigned and went to bed. There, I found sanctuary in the darkness and cried and cried. I was about to text my hubby that I needed help and that I was in a dark place (yes, it was dark in my bedroom) but suddenly, a thought just popped out of nowhere. Or maybe it was more like Elizabeth-Gilbert’s-revealing-moment-when-she-heard-“that-voice”-while-crying-on-her-bathroom-floor kinda thing, except that I was on my bed not the bathroom floor. Or maybe it was simply a lightbulb moment or the universe trying to whisper to me, whatever it was, it was there.

I paused and stopped crying, lifted both knees up, opened my knees out to either side and brought the soles of my feet together. Reclining bound angle pose (goddess pose).

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photo from http://www.shape.com

I know the pose looks weird and funny but it is a great hip opener and a calming posture.

Now, I may not have mentioned here on That Traveling Nurse but I have been practicing yoga for a couple of years now, a struggling yogi so to speak who still cannot perfect the Crow and cannot do a proper headstand without having neck pains afterwards. But I try to be a good student and it really does give me some calm and clarity and much needed exercise. No, I am not vegan and no this is not a religious thing either.

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Me in Reverse Prayer pose

After becoming that “goddess” splayed in bed, I proceeded to do Pranayama breathing which is alternate nostril breathing. I recently watched a video on how to do it. If you like, here is the link.

I promise you after several repetitions, my restlessness slowly went away. That feeling of panic melted into nothingness and I can feel my mind emptying its thoughts while my breath was synchronizing with the hand movements. I eventually became peaceful enough to put me to sleep.

Bam! A yoga moment for me!

I’m not saying that the issue of my in-laws arrival has been resolved. Their visit is looming heavy and large like thunderclouds on the horizon but I am not there yet. I will only worry about it when I get there. Maybe a lot more Pranayama breathings is in my future. I refuse to pop a pill. I am not also saying that they are not nice people because they are, they are just my in-laws. I’m sure you can relate to that too and to some extent know what I am talking about.

Which brings me to conclusion that I am not the cool, calm, collected person I once thought I was. I have evolved. I am getting old.

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