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Hello and welcome to my blog formerly called Gypsy-K. Please note that I am only updating this blog while I am walking from Rome to Jerusalem from September 2015. My online home and permanent blog is at www.kymwilson.com.au. You can also sign up for pilgrim postcards and newsletters here. Thank you for being here and supporting my journey. With love and courage, Kym xx

Sunday, 28 June 2009

Monkey Mind

The words, stories and messages are spinning round my mind in a water-logged whirlpool. I can see them but I can’t make them stop long enough to grab hold of one of them.

Everyday I experience something new, see something differently, learn something about myself and the world, do something new or realise a dream. There is so much I want to share and write about like the joy and pride in completing my Divemaster, the freedom, exhilaration and fear in learning to ride a motorbike, environmental concerns about seas of rubbish, choosing my next adventure, preparing to leave, the simple pleasure of eating fresh, ripe fruit and veg straight from the plants, and gratitude for the life that I have. But at the moment the topics just keep circling inside my head like a never-ending merry-go-round and I can’t focus my words in a meaningful, flowing stream. The incessant bombardment distracts my meditation and disturbs my sleep. Yes, I am suffering from Monkey Mind.

Today I have packed my bags in preparation to leave Phuket on Monday. I am going to Koh Phangan, not for a full moon or half moon party for which it is infamous, but to detox and cleanse my body, mind and soul. Eight days of fasting and cleansing, yoga and meditation, swimming, lying in the hammock on the verandah of my bungalow resting and reading in another tropical paradise is sure to restore some calmness to my mind and see the words flow.

Tomorrow I ride around this island I have called home for the last two and a half months and say farewells, some temporary and some permanent. And I ride for the thrill of riding.

Friday, 19 June 2009

Sunset #5

Can you remember the last time you watched the sunset? And I don’t just mean watched it like “Oh yeah, sunset, pretty colours, cool”, I mean truly watched it. Not only absorbing the details of the miraculous phenomenon occurring in front of you but really feeling it’s beauty and uniqueness with all of your heart.

I have now been living in Kata for two months, and today was only the fifth time I watched the sun set. The fourth was just yesterday and the third just four days earlier. Each sunset was so beautiful, so unique, so mesmerising that it knocked louder and louder on the door of the dormant promise I made to myself, to appreciate the beauty in the world around me with all of my heart, until today it knocked so loud that I actually heard it in the form of a silent call to go and watch the sun set.

Back in Melbourne, I very rarely thought to watch the sun set. It happens everyday, we all know that. And because it happens every day, it repeats, it is guaranteed to occur, we stop looking at it with a sense of awe and maybe we stop looking at it and appreciating it entirely. It blends into the background of our lives as if bland, boring and commonplace. Even if we do remember it, we know it will be there tomorrow. With so much more "important" stuff to do, we put off paying attention to it until tomorrow and then tomorrow, we put it off until tomorrow.

Even during the time I lived in Elwood, right by the sea, I watched the sun set maybe once or twice when I caught a glimpse of stunning colours in the sky. But for the most part, I was so busy “doing” rushing between one activity and the next or “thinking” about the past or the future that my life was in a mindless blur and I barely appreciated anything in the moment that it occurred.

I wanted to change that. I wanted to slow down my life, stop thinking in the future and living in the past. I wanted to be in this moment now, to feel everything in this moment now and appreciate what was unfolding before me in this moment now and appreciate the natural beauty that surrounds me now. How easily I forgot. How easy it is to get distracted by other mundane activities that merely fill in time.

So this afternoon, I felt myself drawn back to Kata beach at dusk. I walked a little way along the beach until I found the right place to sit, watch and absorb this free event. I watched the edges of the sun glow in a peach and apricot metallic glaze peaking from behind dark grey clouds. I watched the light intensify then ebb as the sun dipped further down towards the horizon. I watched the light shimmer and dance its way towards me across the sea and the wet sand.

My eyes took in all that was happening before me and changing from moment to moment. And I tried to feel it with my heart. I so yearned to feel it with my heart. For my mind knows it is one thing to know and appreciate beauty with my eyes but something completely different to feel it and know it with my heart. At the moment, that is my deepest longing, to feel everything so deeply, completely, openly and with love. There's a tugging at the edges of my heart and an invisible tug of war between my mind and the divine. My heart knows that if it truly felt the beauty, it would be overcome, and weep with happy sadness and with joy. My mind is not quite ready to let go of the rope. Yet. But soon, it will be.

“I feel life meet my eyes
And it's the best thing
A beautiful feeling”
PJ Harvey



Sunset #1



Sunset #3



Sunset #4

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

We Ride

The wind blasts my face and rushes past my ears in a deafening whoosh.
My long brown hair streams behind me in a tangling mess.
I move my head close to yours so your words are audible but for the most part, we don’t talk.
Sight, sound, smell, sensation, inundated by our ever changing surrounds.
We ride.
Past tropical jungle, where the wind cools our skin and the earth perfumes the air.
We ride.
Upon cliff tops, overlooking the Andaman Sea with row after row of waves rolling into the sandy shore, innocently inviting but dangerous to the naive.
We ride.
Up hill, down hill, around bends but barely ever in a straight line as the potholes create an inverted obstacle course.
We ride.
Always, the bitumen blurs under the wheels.
By day, the sun intensely kisses every inch of bare skin on my body, my face, my arms, my legs, my chest, the back of my neck.
By night, our movement witnessed by our only constant companions, the effervescent stars and the moody moon.
We ride. We ride. We ride.
And I always wish that our destination is forever slightly out of reach
So we can continue to ride and ride and ride along a never-ending road of bliss.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

I want my MTV!

“I want my, I want my MTV” or so sang Mark Knopfler and Dire Straits back in 1988. I didn’t exactly have this tune in my head when I came to Phuket, but I definitely woke up singing it on Saturday 30th May.

You see, America’s MTV were in town, shooting a reality TV show in the vane of Survivor. They started with 28, twenty-something year old American guys and gals, trying to successfully complete physical challenges without elimination so they could share in prize money of around USD$100,000 plus other prizes. The schedule is fairly rigorous and when they weren’t shooting, the cast were housebound. I call them cast rather than contestants, because each of them have contracts with MTV that go over several seasons and MTV exclusively owns their pretty American faces for the next 7 years.

The cast had the day off from challenges. So, for a day of relaxation, they decided to charter Sea Fun’s boat to “Discover Scuba Diving”. And lucky me, in my capacity as a Divemaster Trainee, was enlisted to assist them in their discovery. Unlike a normal Discover Scuba Diving trip, these customers were only going to do one dive due to time constraints so this was just a half-day trip which would turn out to be long enough for me.

When you think of young Americans in their early 20’s, what image comes to your mind? For me, I pictured white home boys with their pants hanging somewhere below their Calvin Klein clad buttocks plus baseball caps perched too high on their heads. I was only expecting males, so I hadn’t created any mental image expectations of girls.

Ina and I waited with anticipation at the end of Chalong pier for their mini-bus to arrive so we could welcome them and escort them to the boat. Unsure of what to expect and joking about the worst case scenario.

The bus eventually arrived and of course the first people to emerge were three very loud-mouthed and crass American males. “Hello, hello, let’s go f***ing diving” were the first words to greet us. Oh dear. Maybe we were about to experience the worst case scenario we had imagined. We ignored the obscenities, introduced ourselves and shook their hands.

Not far behind them was another male and four females. We watched them as the walked down towards the boat, showing off for the camera as the the crew filmed their movements. Yes, MTV were filming their adventurous day off and yes, there is a chance that you might just see my face on MTV. We all had to sign releases so they could use any footage of us.

They guys were tall and muscular. Their clothes showing off their shapely arms and the odd tattoo. The girls were small and slim. Two blonde, two brunettes. If I had to label them, two were princesses, one was an athletic cheer leader type and one was the rock chick in the style of Pink but brunette and her arms covered in tattoos (she was to become my customer for the dive) . The girls were much quieter than the guys, polite and lacking the macho arrogance displayed by the guys.

On the boat, Ina conducted the boat briefing. This is standard for every dive trip to let the customers know where things are located on the boat and basic rules such as the cabin being a dry area and no flushing toilet paper down the marine toilets. As part of the briefing, she explained how the afternoon would run and asked if anybody was a certified diver to which one of the male cast members responded, “No, but I’m a certified muff diver.” Oh how I cringed. I tried my hardest to keep a straight face but I’m sure it displayed a grimace of disgust and the thought, “You are a loser” kept running around my head.

We ate lunch on the sundeck, and I kept my distance, somewhat repelled by the arrogant, showy energy dispersed by the group. After lunch, I went downstairs to the main cabin to check my phone. The guys walked in, ready to watch the “Discover Scuba Diver” educational DVD and as they entered, Mr Certified Muff Diver asked “Who in here wants a f***?”. I ignored the ridiculous question, finished what I was doing and walked out as quickly as possible. Were these guys for real? Did they really think this type of pathetic behaviour was cool? Do people really want to watch people acting stupidly like this on TV?

The guys and girls were split into two groups based on their teams which meant all males diving together and all females. Fortunately for me, I was diving with the females. We sized them up for fins and masks and helped them into their gear ready to take their first step into the underwater world.

Discover Scuba Diver students must learn some basic skills before they can dive such as how to clear a flooded mask and how to recover a regulator if it is knocked from their mouth. I jumped in the water first and descended to 2 metres, waiting for Ina and Craig, the instructors to teach the basic skills and then one by one send the girls down to wait with me until all the girls had successfully performed the skills and were ready to dive.

The first girl was the Rock Chick. She learned the skills very quickly, descended to me and I took her to the sandy bottom at 5 metres where we could kneel and maintain position due to the slight current that was running. She was so excited to be in the water, her eyes wide open with amazement and excitement. The other three girls took much longer to learn the skills. So there we sat and waited, watching the fish swim past us and around the nearby coral until finally we were ready to start diving.

I accompanied and looked after the Rock Chick. She was so excited that for the whole dive she swam non-stop and with such speed that I hung on to her pressure gauge for the whole dive and was towed around. No fin kicks for me. That probably sounds nice and easy but in reality it isn’t.

One of the unexpected things I have learned during my Divemaster course is that being a Divemaster/Instructor is no easy job, it is hard work. When you think of a Scuba Instructor, what mental image comes to mind? Do you think of the Caribbean or somewhere else warm with sunshine, warm water, instructors casually teaching their students, a couple of hours a day, laughing and socialising with them, breezing through the day, diving and having their students follow them along? If so, you’re kind of right but wrong at the same time.

When someone doesn’t know how to dive, you are watching them the whole time. This is no longer about fun diving for you. This person is your responsibility to make sure their dive experience is safe and enjoyable. You need to manage their buoyancy, make sure they are calm and happy and that they are not too far away from you, if they get to the point of letting go of your hand or you being able to let them swim by themselves.

Many first time divers can’t manage their buoyancy properly and add too much air to their buoyancy control device (the jacket you wear that the air tank attaches to). This causes them to shoot up towards the surface and you have to grab them anyway you can, pull them back down and release the excess air.

Some first time divers swim too fast or they don’t swim at all which means you are either dragging them along with you or pulling on them to slow them down.

Now imagine the situation where you have two first time divers you are looking after and neither of them want to let go of your hand or are able to control their buoyancy plus you have to communicate with them underwater via hand signals that they often forget. Not only are you managing yourself in the water, but you now have two dependents. This type of underwater work is hard and tiring.

So my Rock Chick diver was a fast swimmer, and I got a free tow around the dive site but it was still not an easy dive trying to control which direction she went, forcing her to stop or circle back when we were too far ahead of our group and getting her attention to make sure she was ok. However, she was rapt with the dive. We surfaced and she yelled out with joy, “That was f***ing awesome! I felt like an f***ing fish!”. Ah, what a poetic description of the experience.

After diving, you will find most divers are tired and quiet on the return trip and it’s not uncommon to have a boat load of sleeping divers. This is generally because of the nitrogen build-up in their bodies which takes some time to off-gas. But I also like to think it’s because of the peace and serenity they have just experienced in the underwater world and the meditative effect of diving. And it was no different with this MTV group. After the dive, the showy, arrogant, loud-mouthiness disappeared, apparently washed away and what was left was some young people talking about their surreal, reality show lives.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Unexpected Gifts in Miscommunication

It’s been almost 2 months since I arrived in Phuket, well, 54 days to be precise. The only reason I counted the days was for this blog and out of mild curiosity. The only reason time is relevant at all to me is because my current visa expires in 6 days time and I visited the Immigration Office to extend my visa today. As a side issue, I also realise it’s been more than two weeks since I last wrote, and there’s a lot to write about but too much for one entry…birthday celebrations, diving Bollywood style and with MTV. More on that soon.

When I say the number, “fifty-four”, either out loud or let the numbers roll around inside my head, it seems quite few. In the way that fifty-four cents, fifty-four dollars and definitely fifty-four baht is not a lot of money. Fifty four days is barely long enough for two full moon cycles, two monthly pay packets, two monthly interest payments or dare I say two menstrual cycles. But the difference is in the way it feels. Fifty-four days feels like a long period of time. Fifty four days is long enough to wash away the vivid sensations of a life that has been left behind so what remains feels like a day-dream , an ever growing more distant memory. Colours are fading, smells dissipating, sensations dampening. Everything is washed over and tugged gently away by the wave of time.

I don’t miss Melbourne at the moment and I’m not sure that I ever will miss Melbourne. Maybe it’s because I know it’s winter there now, the cold, that I so dislike, settling in for the next few months. But it’s not just that. I don’t miss the feeling of the city, the culture and the way of life. When I think of my old life back in Melbourne, I feel the cells in my body tense up to say “please don’t put us through that again”. To all my family and friends, don’t be hurt by what I write. I can’t miss you because I carry you in my heart everyday so although we are separated by distance I don’t really feel like we are apart. But right now, I don’t miss Melbourne. Maybe at some point in the future I will. Melbourne is where I was born and have lived by default because that is where I was born. Whilst I’ve always chosen which suburb of Melbourne to live in, I’ve never really thought of options outside of Melbourne. My thinking has always been constrained. So in this year of wandering and pondering, this is one of the questions that is coming up for me, although not to be answered at this point in time.

In normal circumstances, going to the Immigration Office would be a mundane chore but not for me or at least, not in Thailand. My original plan was to catch a songtaew (local bus) there. However, my Thai friend, Pla, suggested it would be easier to catch a taxi because the office is not located in the heart of Phuket town. It would be too far to walk there from where the songtaew finishes and because the songtaew stops so frequently it would take well over an hour to get there one way. So my revised plan was to have my taxi driver, Mr Saveak, drive me there and wait for me and drive me back. In hindsight, that would have been easiest and simplest but hey, easy and simple is boring. A kind friend insisted on driving me there, so I agreed, thinking “how hard can this be?”

So I may have had a map of where the Immigration Office is located but there were a few minor issues; Firstly, I don’t know Phuket’s roads. I don’t have a car or a bike so when I’m being driven around I don’t pay as much attention to where I am going. I know how to find my way to Patong and Chalong on the main roads but don’t ask me to find something that is not on a main road. I don’t have a clue. Secondly, most of the roads on my map didn’t have names and the name of the road the Immigration Office is located on was one of the missing names. Thirdly, a lot of the landmarks on the map may have had English names on the map, but only had Thai names when we drove past them so were useless as landmarks to me.

So we set off in the general direction of Phuket Town and when we thought we were close to the turn-off, we took a guess and turned off the main road. Lots of Thai people, lots of Thai signs, but nothing looking like an Immigration Office. So we pulled over next to a Thai gentleman on his motorbike, showed him our map with the Immigration Office circled in red pen and asked for directions. He happily tried to assist us looking very intently and earnestly at our map but didn’t really seem to understand and kept pointing back to the police station we passed. We thanked him for his help and kept on our way.

Down the end of the road, we took another guess and turned left, still without a clue of where we were. Again we pulled over and this time asked a couple of Thai ladies at the fruit stall if they knew. Their English was not great either. They couldn’t give fluent directions but at least they understood where we wanted to go. They showed us where we were on our map, pointing out the unnamed road and explained “left, okayyyy, right okayyyyyy,” reinforcing the directions with hand gestures and pointing We thanked them with a grateful “Khob Kun Ka, thank you, thank you”. Their directions helped get us closer. Fortunately, I recognised the canal on the map and managed to get us the rest of the way although we did drive straight past it and had to ask for for more direction only to be told it was 50 metres behind us! Oops.

So an hour after leaving Kata, we finally arrived at the immigration office. Unfortunately, my friend needed to return the hired bike and had to leave me at the Immigration office. “No problem” I said and rang Mr Saveak to come and pick me up at 3 o’clock, allowing 30 minutes to sort my visa which I knew was more than enough time. Extending my visa was no problem. Pay for photocopies of my passport and photos for the visa at the back of the building for 146 baht and then pay 1900 baht for the 30 day extension. It was all finalised within 10 minutes.
So I sat outside and waited for Mr Saveak to come and pick me up. At 3.15pm there was no sign of him. Unusual for Mr Saveak to be late so I called him the same time he called me…engaged signal. I ring him back. “Where you?” he says. “I’m at Phuket Immigration Office, waiting for you. Where you?” I ask. “Southern Fried Rice” he replied. He had turned up at my guesthouse to pick me up. “Oh no, I’m at Phuket Immigration Office. You come pick me up from here?” I ask. “Yes, yes” he says and hangs up.

I guesstimated it would take him maybe about 40 minutes to come and get me from Kata so I lay down on the wide stair railing and stared up at the sky. Back in Melbourne, this situation probably would have caused me some stress, anxiety and maybe a little anger. I would have better things to do than waste time hanging around an Immigration Office in heat and humidity and inefficiency is just a complete waste of my time. But now it was different. I was totally unprepared for having to wait. I had no book, no journal for writing and didn’t even have the headphones for my iPhone so no music to listen to either. So with nothing else to do, I lay back on the railing and watched the clouds pass by. Some were thick like cotton wool and moving slowly, some were thin and stretched out dissipating quickly. Some were dark grey, threatening rain, others were the purest radiant white. Different shapes, different textures, unique in shape and form, like all of us.

As I lay there, I realised in that moment that I felt utterly at peace with myself and my life. This sensation of peace washing over me like a gentle cleansing wave, such a beautiful feeling. Everything is perfect, everything is as it should be, there is no reason for stress or anxiety even when things don’t appear to go right. I felt how from moment to moment I consciously choose and create my life. In that moment, I could have become frustrated and angry that my taxi was late. If I chose that response then I would spend the next 40 minutes feeling pretty awful. Instead, I lay there feeling peace, happiness and contentment. I also reflected on my life over the last few years and even recent days and realised how much my life flowed when I made decisions based on what felt right and how it went off course when I ignored that inner guidance. I could feel how I was steering my little Kym ship through life and how easy and fun it is to do if I follow what feels right for me and how I can always trust myself to decide what is right for me.

Forty five minutes passed and there was still no sign of Mr Saveak. So I rang him again. “Mr Saveak, how far away are you?” I aksed “What?” he said. My brow wrinkled, hmmmm, not quite the response I was expecting. “You on your way to pick me up, Phuket Immigration Office? I asked. “Tomorrow”, he said, “Pick up tomorrow.” “No, I waiting for you now” I responded. Oh dear. This was going to take a bit longer than I thought. “Can you come up and pick me up now?” I asked. “Yes, yes. Where, where?” “Phuket Immigration Office, Phuket Town, you know where it is?” I asked. “Ok, ok” he said. “Ok, how long you think?” “Twenty minutes”. He said. “Twenty minutes?” I asked hoping it was twenty and not seventy which I though he may have said. “Yes, yes. Twenty minutes” he said and hung up.

I chuckled to myself. My ten minute visit to the Immigration office was now extended to two hours. Not quite how I saw my day turning out, but what a blessing it all turned out to be. If you ever get two hours or even two minutes to be completely at peace with yourself, I recommend you jump at the chance! And once you find that peace, remember it, and keep it with you always.