You ever wonder what it means to be "enlightened"?
I used to believe that enlightenment was something one experienced in their twilight years, purely because of all the theological treatises on the subject, but as I grew into my own mind, I realized the reality is more likely that enlightenment can be experienced while we are still alive, while we are present in each moment, that something as simple as being present, is in its own right, a form of enlightenment if not enlightenment itself.
So much value is attached to this higher consciousness that often we discourage ourselves from seeking after something we convince ourselves is illusive, but in reality, it is as simple as learning to be still and to let what is, be.
When I was 27, right after the painful end of a relationship that went from beautiful to shit-in-a=sandwich almost overnight, I did what anyone in my situation would have done, I went and got a tattoo!
I got the only script tattoo I sport, and likely the only one I will ever sport as I age, coz script doesn't age well as a tattoo, and this tattoo says simply:
I am in this moment being me.
At the time I got the tattoo I had a couchsurfer staying with me, she was a lovely woman from France, and the biggest decision wasn't the tattoo itself but whether there should be a "full stop" at the end of the sentence or not. She helped me make up my mind about the use of punctuation by suggesting the finality of being in the moment, that in every moment we are only who we are, no two moments will ever be the same, physically we will have changed, cells would have died or been reborn, metaphysically too, we will never be the same as we were a moment prior.
The beauty of having time to do nothing more than be present is that you get to actually spend time thinking about things you'd normally consider a waste of time (philosophy) because it doesn't improve your work productivity or make your paycheck come a week earlier, but this is what I am learning to appreciate in this moment where I am in my life, with no real purpose work wise, where my identity and my self-worth isn't attached to any kind of tether and where what I am doing is not who I am because if it were, how would I define it?
I used to find the whole aspect of Hong Kong life, being an expat wife, so perplexing. Often I would note that when someone asked an expat wife what they did, especially if they were not working, they'd respond with something like, "I used to be a....and my husband is a..." fill in appropriately with banker, lawyer, pilot, etc. I used to reply to that kind of question with, "Nothing!" Like...in my world, I was living a life of lunch sets at nice places with a group of "girlfriends" all in the same boat or better, I had a domestic helper who took on the less appealing chores of taking care of my kids and cleaning my house, and I literally wiled away my days shopping for groceries, prepping meals and dining and wining with my cohorts at foodie destinations. I enjoyed holidays often and lived a life that many would have thought came at a great price, but in truth we were always living frugally as we holidayed where we had property or family who did, and we traveled with Cathay staff travel, so our flights were practically free, in fact, we did get two free flights a year on top of the staff travel flights that cost no more than the taxes on a ticket.
I wasn't one for shopping, so you wouldn't see me buying expensive handbags, that was something my mother did, and I never found it so appealing, I mean, a bag should be something to carry your shit in it, if it costs more than the shit you have in it, then you really are valuing the wrong things in life. I ain't saying that to disparage people who enjoy a good handbag, and yet, there is something clearly wrong in a society where consumerism is already the looming specter of what is to come, the destruction of our environment, the overflow of our landfills and the harm it does to humanity in the end.
Regardless of whether I disliked shopping, I am sure that I was not doing much with my life, I wasn't even taking care of my kids full-time, right? So what would it matter what my husband was doing? Its not until I opened the restaurant that I felt like I had some sense of purpose or, as they call it, "you are what you do"...and yet, it still didn't sit well with me. Why am I merely what I do? Why has this become a thing and why shouldn't it be acceptable to do nothing and be more than nothing?
The years have given me the opportunity to see whether I care about this concept of defining myself, which I believe is what they call Ego, and I can best describe these last few months of upheaval as being the most profound period of introspection I have been afforded in my adult life so far. I am so grateful for the circumstances that carried me to where I am in life right now. For more than a year, my husband and I have taken on the full duty of parenting and childcare, after having fired our final helper in Hong Kong at the beginning of 2020, right before Covid-19 hit. My husband has had to bear the greater burden of the childcare as I was still working, but now that we are all together and doing "nothing" together, its been the most fulfilling experience of peace, persistence and serendipity.
Initially, in the first two weeks since we made the move from Hong Kong to the Netherlands, I would wake up with nightmares, flashbacks of childhood traumas, and I was truly blown away with what bubbled to the surface of my consciousness now that my cortisol levels had nowhere to go but down. I began keeping a journal, reading scientific papers in psychology, biology and microbiology, and I began meditating again in earnest.
Fast-forward to where I am now, where we are, as a family, at exactly six weeks since we left Hong Kong, and you will see my children have grown so much more mouthy and confident. My youngest who will be 8 years old in May is behaving like a young man, and sometimes its hard to remind myself that him and his older brother who is 9, are still kids. I made this mistake yesterday when Sasha, my 9 year old, asked me if the tooth fairy was real. I know now that he simply wanted me to reassure him that his belief in the tooth fairy was legit, and instead I did this deductive reasoning thing I do all the time, and completely crushed the kids dreams! I sat there afterwards trying to repair the damage and it was a shoddy salvage, but how the hell was I to know that a kid that doesn't believe God exists, knows that Santa is made up and thinks that parents only say their kids are beautiful because they are biased...how was I to realize he still believed in the frikken tooth fairy?
I had to salvage it by hugging him tight as he sobbed uncontrollably, and I talked him through it like so:
"Son...you know how Anna believes in God and she believes so strongly that to her, God is real?"
He just nodded, couldn't even say anything as he had tears rolling down his face and was kinda hiccuping.
"Well, to her, God is real even if he isn't real to you...so does that make her belief any less important to her?"
He shook his head, no.
"Well, would you like to give up believing in the tooth fairy?"
He shook his head again, no he didn't...
"Then, what do you do? You've got to choose what you believe in, and as long as you hold true to those beliefs, its real in your frame of consciousness, and that, in the end, is all that ought to matter to you, not what anyone else thinks."
He slowly stopped sobbing, his tears dried up, and he bit his lower lip, more resolute to keep his dream alive.
"Now, put your tooth under your pillow and lets get Papa to send the tooth fairy that whatsapp to remind her while she chillaxes in her castle made of milk teeth!"
Then my husband rolls in, I mouth to him that our son is borderline gonna hate me for the rest of his life and gonna remember this moment when he was 9 years old where I crushed his dreams, and my husband, who had no idea I had tried this salvage option, gave my son a huge bear hug and said, "Don't worry, much as Papa is essentially Santa Claus, Papa is also the one who puts the money under your pillow, not the tooth fairy!"
Sasha's face scrunched up again and his tears began to well up anew...
"Right after Papa gets the money that the tooth fairy drops into his pocket once she receives his whatsapp reminder!" I added quickly, giving my husband a glare with eyes big as saucers while shaking my head in a big old "NOOOOOOOO!"
Then my youngest son goes loudly, "Yeah, dude! Don't you know, the tooth fairy isn't real! Just like Santa and God!"
"Shut up!" was all that Sasha could manage. He was not having any of it.
Yeah, sometimes, parenting can be full of failure moments, but for the most part, I am loving having all this time with my kids. I am breathing in every moment with my family, and rejoicing in the quiet certainty that we will continue to grow together, and that now more than ever, I understand what it means to truly be alive.
I am just me, in the moment, I am not someone who used to be something, nor am I someone who is something purely because of what I am capable of doing, I am just me. I am one with a sea of consciousness and much like someone standing still at a busy train station while the hustle and bustle of commuters move all around and trains zip in and out, if those commuters and trains were thoughts, I am the person who is able to stand still amidst all the energy that abounds, constantly in motion but not needing to be followed.
This morning, after the kids had made it to their ipads to play in the living room, its about the only time we get to have our cuddles in private, as we are all huddled together in the same room when we sleep, I asked my husband how he felt about his life right now. He answered as he always does, "Yeah, fine."
So I had to ask once more, "No, really, how are you feeling?"
He knows me well enough, he knows he needs to give me more than just a placating one word.
"I honestly am fine. I am not anxious. I am not worried about the future. I am not worried about money. I know we have more than enough to buy a property if we wanted and still have money to survive after that for years to come if we are living the life we plan on living. I know that we will need to do some renovations on the boat, but nothing that would cost us an arm and a leg. We already own the boat outright, and we aren't in debt anywhere, we will be fine. I am fine."
This means the world to me. I was so anxious for myself. I was anxious for my husband. I was worried we would struggle together, alone in depression. What has surprised me is how much the opposite has been true. We have been able to appreciate being alive, experiencing small moments together as a family, seeing our children grown into their wit and awareness of the world around them.
We stopped worrying about schooling as we waited to know what was expected of us within the Dutch educational system, which, as I mentioned, is mandatory, home schooling is not an option. We know we are only here until June, after which point we will set sail and take on the responsibility of home schooling, so for now our sons have been scheduled to start at a government funded language school immediately, but since I am leaving for Hong Kong in just under two weeks, we have been able to teach the kids required learning in Dutch with the help of workbooks given to us by the teachers at the new school, and we will send them for in-person schooling once I leave on the 3rd of February.
My main concern is that while we are in full lockdown, while the government has new restrictions on curfews for all, the last thing I need is for my kids to then expose me to Covid-19 right before I hop a flight to Hong Kong.
Thankfully the school administration understands, and they have accepted that the kids won't come to school until I leave early February. We already had a bit of concern a week ago when my husband was feeling unwell and I was feeling bleh, we went and got Covid-19 tested only to find out we were both negative. So for now, at least I know what a test feels like, so I am mentally prepared for my test upon arrival into Hong Kong and for the two times thenceforth that I will have to be tested, once at the 10 day mark and then again at the 20 day mark, all while in the confines of the hotel room.
When they tested us here, they stuck this implement down my throat to scratch the mucus membranes back there and then they took the same damn implement and stuck it so far up my nose that I was worried they'd poke right into my brain! Boy that was quite a bizarre feeling!
When I came out the testing facility I mentioned to my husband, "Damn, I thought they'd get my brain there! How gross is it that they put that swab in our throats first and then the same damn thing was sent up our noses!" I began to giggle.
"Well, be grateful they didn't do it the other way around!" he said, and I began to laugh even more.
Then Sasha pipes up from the back seat of the car we were sitting in, post testing, and he's all, "What do you mean, Papa? Would they stick that swab up your butt?"
By this point I was laughing so hard I forgot all about the discomfort of the swab that was still stinging in my nasal cavity!
Kids! They just say the funniest things sometimes.
This morning when he woke, Sasha went over to the living room and mentioned to my husband that not only was his tooth missing from under his pillow after he put it there last night, but the tooth fairy hadn't even put any money under there! "Did you whatsapp the tooth fairy to let her know I had a tooth under my pillow?"
My husband insisted he had done so and said maybe he needs to check his whatsapps and send a reminder, that in these times of Covid-19, maybe even the tooth fairy is having delays.
He then came to the bedroom and asked me in a hushed tone, "Wheres his frikken tooth?" as it clearly wasn't under his pillow...So we moved the bed and found that the tooth had fallen down the back of the mattress. So I suggested my husband put the money in the same spot and take the tooth, which is what he did.
We waited another 10 mins, so as to not make it obvious, before asking my son to look for his tooth and that maybe it fell off his bed in his sleep, and so he came hurriedly to look for it, shifting his bed, and then he found the two coins, a total of four euros, in its stead.
He was over the moon!
Small victories, I'll take it! :)
A share for those who would like to see the full script of the poem/spoken word we witnessed at the inauguration of the new President & VP of the United States. Some of you may know that I have a quiet love for poetry that paints a picture of beauty and hope. So this one, I'll be honest, moved me to tears.
“The Hill We Climb” - Amanda Gorman
When day comes we ask ourselves, where can we find light in this never-ending shade? The loss we carry, a sea we must wade. We’ve braved the belly of the beast, we’ve learned that quiet isn’t always peace and the norms and notions of what just is, isn’t always justice. And yet the dawn is ours before we knew it, somehow we do it, somehow we’ve weathered and witnessed a nation that isn’t broken but simply unfinished.
We, the successors of a country and a time where a skinny black girl descended from slaves and raised by a single mother can dream of becoming president only to find herself reciting for one. And, yes, we are far from polished, far from pristine, but that doesn’t mean we are striving to form a union that is perfect, we are striving to forge a union with purpose, to compose a country committed to all cultures, colors, characters and conditions of man.
So we lift our gazes not to what stands between us, but what stands before us. We close the divide because we know to put our future first, we must first put our differences aside. We lay down our arms so we can reach out our arms to one another, we seek harm to none and harmony for all.
Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true: that even as we grieved, we grew, even as we hurt, we hoped, that even as we tired, we tried, that we’ll forever be tied together victorious, not because we will never again know defeat but because we will never again sow division.
Scripture tells us to envision that everyone shall sit under their own vine and fig tree and no one should make them afraid. If we’re to live up to our own time, then victory won’t lie in the blade, but in in all of the bridges we’ve made.
That is the promise to glade, the hill we climb if only we dare it because being American is more than a pride we inherit, it’s the past we step into and how we repair it. We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation rather than share it. That would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy, and this effort very nearly succeeded. But while democracy can periodically be delayed, but it can never be permanently defeated.
In this truth, in this faith, we trust, for while we have our eyes on the future, history has its eyes on us, this is the era of just redemption we feared in its inception we did not feel prepared to be the heirs of such a terrifying hour but within it we found the power to author a new chapter, to offer hope and laughter to ourselves, so while once we asked how can we possibly prevail over catastrophe, now we assert how could catastrophe possibly prevail over us.
We will not march back to what was but move to what shall be, a country that is bruised but whole, benevolent but bold, fierce and free, we will not be turned around or interrupted by intimidation because we know our inaction and inertia will be the inheritance of the next generation, our blunders become their burden. But one thing is certain: if we merge mercy with might and might with right, then love becomes our legacy and change our children’s birthright.
So let us leave behind a country better than the one we were left, with every breath from my bronze, pounded chest, we will raise this wounded world into a wondrous one, we will rise from the golden hills of the West, we will rise from the windswept Northeast where our forefathers first realized revolution, we will rise from the lake-rimmed cities of the Midwestern states, we will rise from the sunbaked South, we will rebuild, reconcile, and recover in every known nook of our nation in every corner called our country our people diverse and beautiful will emerge battered and beautiful, when the day comes we step out of the shade aflame and unafraid, the new dawn blooms as we free it, for there is always light if only we’re brave enough to see it, if only we’re brave enough to be it.
So I don't know about you, but I have steadily put on weight during the pandemic and have struggled to get it back down.
I am blaming this on several factors, excessive stress being the first, boredom and snacking during lockdown being the second, and finally, staying stationary! Initially, stress caused a rise in cortisol levels, which, if you know how that goes, you have a struggle losing weight and you gain weight even while eating very little. I went through that when I was first opening the restaurant. I think I gained something like 12lbs (about 6kgs) when I was in the 4 months planning phase for opening the restaurant. I was barely eating, but I was drinking a tonne of coffees while having meetings everywhere, so occasionally I would cave and have a cake or a pastry along with my coffee as that was likely to be the only food I would have time for.
Once I opened the restaurant and began working 15 hour days, sometimes longer, I was able to drop the weight in record time. You'd be surprised how much exercise you get when working in a restaurant, and ours has a mezzanine floor storage space, so we have a flight of stairs to contend with several times a day. I can do nearly 14,000 steps in one day without even planning it, all purely from working one day at Confusion. That and the unplanned intermittent fasting that our workday naturally is, its easy to keep the weight under control.
But as the pandemic slowed business and our periods of standing around waiting became longer, it became a problem for me to avoid the unhealthy eating habits that come with boredom. As the gyms got shut down, it became even more complicated for someone who isn't great at home workouts and motivation!
So here I am, after nearly a year of Pandemic, still trying to lose the 10lbs I gained, which was already from a starting point some 5lbs away from my goal!
I recently signed up for an at home workout plan through Centrfit, which is some app run by a team put together by Thor (Chris Hemsworth)! I know, I am a sucker for shit like that! But I have to say, after checking their insta out from a distance, for many months saying I was not really ready to bother with something like that, I finally had a moment, Well, it wasn't so much a "moment" as it was severe insomnia brought on by perimemopause!
So there I am, its 2am in the morning, I am wide awake all of a sudden, my tinnitus is like this fire alarm in my ears, I can hear the radiator kick in as it goes through the job of heating our home in the Netherlands while the outside temperature dips below zero, and it sounds like a washing machine on spin cycle. Of course its not that loud, but at 2am, while struggling with a bout of insomnia, it does sound that loud!
I do what everyone knows you shouldn't do at that hour, I look to my screen, and then I begin scrolling through Instagram because I don't do Facebook (trying to limit the brain rot, not sure how well I am succeeding!) and up pops the Centr promo! I already follow them, so this was likely on their actual feed, or maybe it was sponsored, who knows, who cares...it was for a 6 week promo, free use of their app, before committing to a year at USD119.
That...isn't bad at all. Six free weeks of access is long enough to make a decision on whether or not you are capable of handling the program, and to check out the many features on offer. I had read good things about their app, even Taika Waititi mentioned that his kids love the meditation part of the app, coz they have meditation for kids! So I figured, if its good enough for Jojo Rabbit dude, I am sure I can hack a free six week trial, amirite?
So I have started. I also downloaded the dreaded My Fitness Pal app, I only say I dread it because it shows me exactly how much I have been overeating with wild abandon! I don't gain weight from making good choices, I gain weight from not caring what I eat and then avoiding thinking about it. That is the reality of how I am. So when you have to log everything you eat, including the oil you throw in a pan before you begin a stirfry, you reconsider your choices and consider new ones with care.
These kinds of tools are helpful if you have no idea what a portion looks like. I used to have a friend who was always complaining how she couldn't lose weight despite eating "really healthy stuff". And when I asked her what it was she is eating, she mentioned things like Pomegranate, nuts, seeds, avocado, fresh fruit juices, and the more she shared the more she became aware that many of the things she was enjoying, including dried fruit such as Medjool dates, are very calorie dense and although packed with nutrition, can also pack a high caloric load, which is fine for someone extremely active, but its not great for someone sedentary.
When you hear complaints from Vegans who say they gained weight since becoming Vegan, its because simply being vegan doesn't mean being healthy. You can eat a lot of processed goods that are vegan, and if that is all you eat, then you will find it a struggle if you are someone with a sedentary lifestyle. You can be an elite athlete and eat only Beyond Burgers and have no ill consequence to your waistline, but its not the most healthy daily choice either.
The truth is, the idea that being loosely "plant-based" is guaranteed to be healthy is not a given. Within the plant-based community, being Whole Foods Plant Based is the gold standard, if you want shiny eyes and glowing complexion while you age slower and live longer, your best bet is a Whole Foods Plant Based diet that eschews animal products, processed items and any oil made in a machine (yeah, this includes olive oil, regardless of how much of a virgin they claim it is!)
I'll be honest with you, for me, that choice isn't necessarily that easy. I have tried and failed several times. The biggest barrier to success for me has been convenience. I simply don't have the commitment to eating that clean daily, and its not a failure, its just how I am at this stage in my life. I will one day get there, but for now, I look at avoiding dairy, meat and animal products as already being a big win. I try to keep the processed food to a minimum as an occasional indulgence, but in the end it boils down to just plain time management and my inability to set aside that time to commit to myself on a daily basis.
I cook for my kids, I cook for my husband, and my husband doesn't need to be losing weight, he needs to gain it, my problem is my ability to put away the same or more of a portion that my husband does! He's a whole foot taller than me and another 20kgs to boot! So its really not him, its me, lol. I need to portion control, I need to practice mindfulness, I need to avoid congratulating myself for managing to eat right for a day. I am human afterall, and I grew up with food as an expression of love. My mother wasn't much for hugging or even vocalizing her love for us, but she showed it through her food. When we ate her food, we knew we were loved, you could taste the love in there.
In many ways, its why I opened Confusion, and its what I intended for my culinary efforts, to infuse them with love. Its what I trained my team to prioritize, to actually care about the food you cook, to care about who eats the dish you plate and to care about your place in the food chain.
In Japanese we say one word before we eat and another once we are done eating, and these words are an expression of gratitude for all the people who had a part in bringing our food to the table so it could sustain life. Itadakimasu & Gochisousama. I am not sure I am spelling that phonetically correct, but I think I am getting the basic spelling right. Its thanking the farmer, thanking the rain, thanking the soil, thanking the harvesting process, thanking the grocery store, thanking the hands that prepped the meal and then cooked it. Gratitude practice deepens with mindfulness.
This is what is missing when you are bored and snacky. I know this because I am certain sitting with a pack of store bought flaxseed crackers isn't exactly part of that, and I certainly had no idea that 100g of that stuff had nearly 400kcal in it! 22 mins of High Intensity Interval Training burns just 122kcal! Someone needs to just drop that truth bomb out there.
Willpower is like a muscle, if you don't use it, it will never get strong, and if you do use it, the more you exercise it, the stronger it gets.
I used to have willpower like The Rock! And now, I am like...water, just ebbing and flowing and willing to change shape depending on the receptacle! Lol.
So I am trying to be better with my choices now, to rejoice in the small wins, and to motivate myself by sharing recipes on the company Instagram because I don't have new content to share on there as I am not in Hong Kong taking photos of the food we prep. You may wonder why I haven't passed that responsibility on to someone else, and I am gonna tell you that I did, I suggested that the team take photos of the food, to emulate the very basic style I use, but the photos they send me are not brilliant, not for any fault of theirs, its just about the love for photographing food.
I love photography, I love the still capture, and I love food, so its not hard for me to take photos of food to express my love for whats on the plate! Everything in life, if done with love, is just better. Its why it makes a difference if you are happy where you work, you can bring that happiness and joy into your workspace and its contagious. It was so important for me to create that space for my team and for myself. When we had an individual that was constantly unhappy, angry or ungrateful about life in general, they were let go, and this was purely because it is infectious. When you have a team, its important you function as one unit. Much like a body functions with arms, legs, eyes, nose, ears...without one, there is a struggle to cope, you can cope, but its not an ideal situation.
We've had to learn to live with each other, we've grown to love each other, and its going to be quite a hard pill to swallow when we disband as a company and to see how we stay in touch as family. I am not sure if I am ready for it, honestly, I know I am tired and am ready for the company to end, after such a long period of financial battering and challenges, but I am not ready to say goodbye to Peter, Shan, Maggie, Swati, Anh and Jake. Jake will always be my son, but its going to be hard to not see him often. At this stage it just feels like I am on a holiday I will return from, its not the first time I have taken a break this long, but it will certainly be the last. When I leave Hong Kong the next time, it will be for good.
My husband and I talked about the "maintaining permanent residency" issue. We are both permanent residents of Hong Kong, and I believe you have to return at least once every three years if you wish to keep that status, and I suppose we will have to see what the political situation looks like as we drift past the next three years, because if it goes from bad to worse, what would the privilege be worth in the end?
For now, I just stick to controlling what I can. I have been able to come to a place of contentment purely watching the wind in the trees and the ducks swimming on the pond outside my window. Holland remains in full lockdown, so there is nothing out there to do besides grocery shop, and since I have now started keeping proper accounts of what we are spending on food, I am hell bent on ensuring we don't go over budget.
When you have no income and everything you are spending is coming from savings, its kinda super important you keep an eye on your expenses. When my husband had a job and I had access to staff meals at Confusion, it wasn't an issue, but now, I gotto pay close attention to our outgoings.
We have had to spend more than we planned because we are now paying rent, we have had to buy a car, and even though it was cheapish and second hand, it still needs a clutch replacement as that hasn't been replaced in 12 years, and we have to pay for mobile phone contracts and internet so the kids don't kill us. It all adds up. Its still a fraction of what we would have spent in Hong Kong, but its a fraction we have to be extra mindful about now that our future is quite uncertain for how we will attain income.
Don't worry about us though, money is the least of our concerns. As I have said before, we live a very frugal life, and we are confident we will take up jobs wherever we choose to stay longer, any jobs will do, but likely I would happily take up a job in the service sector, be it in a kitchen, or in house keeping or anything along those lines, I just like cleaning up and cooking, its what I am good at and I take pride in it. I could teach cooking, sure, but its not necessarily where my passion lies, but if it was a means to make money and support out continued adventures on the ocean, I would do it. My husband is trained as a Pilot, hes been flying since his early 20's, pretty much his entire career, and although initially we sat there quite glum about a future in aviation at a time where planes are flying with half the passengers and airlines are shutting left, right and center, its not like he is hell bent on aviation being his niche.
My husband knows everything there is to know about maintaining a sailing vessel, he knows a lot about engines and he's also very capable at building things and fixing things, he's cool with any job from construction to plumbing, sailing someone else's yacht from one location to another (yes, people pay for that) is also an option as he's got a license to do that. Education in Holland is bordering on free, so as our kids start next week, Dutch immersion, not only will we get a break from constant fighting between the two, we will also have the added benefit of them learning to speak fluent Dutch in the upcoming months.
I am excited for them, and once five months is up, we will leave for the Med. The goal is to set sail by first week of June. My husband has been designing the frame that we will attach to the boat so we can mount the solar panels we are purchasing. He will install the water maker we bought, which will filter sea water and make it drinkable! It will save us money for sure. Hell, my husband bought a Soda Stream, which is a machine that can make sodas! I don't care much for missing out on Cola or Orange soda, but with this machine and our water maker, technically we will be saving storage space as well as money. Anyway, besides these creature comforts and attempts at being eco conscious, we are also installing lithium batteries that can last a decade plus, to store the energy we harvest from the solar. I forgot to mention we are also mounting two wind turbines, to harvest the wind in places where solar may be difficult, like for instance if there happens to be four days of rain and shit weather.
Basically once we set sail, our expenditure will drop drastically.
We will be living mortgage free, so our biggest expenses will be on food, fuel & maintaining the boat. Fuel cost we can keep down by avoiding motoring, using only the power of the wind in our sails. We already know this is possible because with our catamaran we would refuel about once a year. The cost of that refuel was about HKD8000, not a small amount, but the reality of it is, one refuel a year is pretty conservative as we sailed a lot. Of course, we will sail much more than we did in Hong Kong, but there is this misconception that if we are setting sail we will be like pirates who never see land, but in reality, according to my husbands reassurance, we will spend 90% of our time within reach of land and just 10% (or less) of our time on the open ocean.
An Atlantic Crossing can take 3-4 weeks if you struggle with a week of no wind, but if you take short cuts and have the wind in your favor, you got it through in 2 weeks. So yeah, we are talking 17 days on the ocean or 21 days, or if unlucky, more than 30 days, but the reality is, you ensure you stock for such eventualities.
I am going to enjoy learning to be even more creative with my culinary journey as we sail around the world and get to experiment with local ingredients.
So much to look forward to, and right now what I am focused on is cooking food inspired by the team at Centrfit, its great they have options for vegans and vegetarians. I will keep sharing my journey, I have lost about 1lb since starting a day ago, mostly water weight, no doubt. So I am going to avoid weighing myself except once every week. Lets see how I go with avoiding obsessing about the numbers and just enjoying the experience of getting back into the game of fitness and healthy eating.
Wish me willpower! :)
So the good news today was that there is an interested party who wants to take over the shop from us, including our license and everything in it. The questionable part is that its the landlords henchman who has brought this to our attention and when asked how much this interested party is willing to offer us for the license and the shop with everything in it, the dude was all, "oh...there was no mention of anything" and then went so far as to jokingly say that if I wasn't keen to strike a deal with the interested party the landlord would expect me to return the shop in "bare shell condition" as previously agreed. He wrote this with a "laughing until I cry" emoji, so what do you think he meant by that? Hmmm....I'll tell you what I think he meant.
For those who don't understand what that means, let me enlighten you on that empty threat.
The crazy train wants the shop to the condition below! Which I guess they are assuming will be a bigger seller than if the shop still had walls and a toilet bowl to pee in while working!
The landlord has been wholly unhelpful at the worst of times, and now they bring me this? Pshh, yeah, sure. I told him to just get the interested party to contact me direct because I was already mentally and financially prepared to break the damn place down to bare shell condition, but if someone is keen to start their own restaurant and expects to get it all handed to them for free, they got another thing coming.
I couldn't care less about leaving the place not bare shell, but the cost of a restaurant license alone warrants a price tag if they want me to transfer mine to their name, not to mention a fully furnished, kitted space.
Its the principal of it, there is a value to be had in a license transfer vs going through all the cost of getting a license from zero. Restaurant license applications go through an intermediary such as a "Restaurant Consultant" which, if you ask me, is just a means of extortion because they cost an arm and a leg and somehow they get shit done faster than if you were to apply for it personally. You can apply in person, but then somehow, by some kind of voodoo, it would take you almost 6 months, but if you pay through your rear to a "consultant" then you could get your license sooner! Yeah, beats me, if you ask me it sounds mighty similar to some form of graft.
You know what I take issue with? Frikken buzzard mindset! Vultures!
I know, I was actually upbeat when I got the news this morning, but since it was coming through the landlords henchman (one who I have had serious back and forth shit slinging matches with on Whatsapp over the past year) vs the actual interested party, I can't help but have a sneaky suspicion the landlord is somehow trying to profit from the whole damn thing. Trust, you may say, nah, I don't trust them worth a damn.
Am I cynical? Yeah, sure, I am. I have been dicked over enough times to smell something being "not quite right" when I encounter it, and this one stinks. In my three years of running the restaurant I have encountered people who on the surface have been very friendly and down to earth only to realize later that they expected special treatment because of their proximity to me socially. Bizarre, but nah, I ain't as trusting as I was when I first started.
Everyone from the person who helped me when I was setting up the shop to the restaurant consultant I was recommended, everyone got their claws in me with a smile on their face, and I saw it for what it was, a necessary evil, but it also taught me that in the game of commerce, the only ones who win are the sharks.
I was having this conversation with my husband this morning when I woke.
I have a tumultuous relationship with capitalism. I see this hunger for money, this drive for more, this insatiable greed, its so destructive. I have seen it within my own family, and its taken me much mindfulness to come to understand that although I may not have that same hunger or greed, I can still earn the money and distribute it to those that need it more than I do. I figure, if it hadn't been for the protests and then Covid-19, we would have been on the up and up, but you can't change the circumstances by some sort of magical sleight of hand, it is what it is, it was what it was, but I know I am ending with my integrity intact.
I have seen money destroy my family, my mother having come from a home where gambling changed their financial security so drastically overnight, was very anxious about money all the time, so she brought that insecurity into her marriage to my father. Its because of this constant fretting about money and having more of it, that many of the arguments between her and my father were born.
We as their children grew up with very skewed views of the value of money, my sister, brother and I.
My father came from abject poverty, the usual "no shoes, one meal a day" story, my father grew up in Kerala, India, and it was by sheer luck that my grandfather got my father and all his siblings into Lawrence School, Lovedale, in the southern state of Tamil Nadu, as merit scholars.
Merit scholarship is given to those too poor to afford to pay their way through school. Lawrence School was founded by Sir Henry Lawrence III, and it was a former military asylum, a boarding school for the children of those in the British Military and such, by the time my father got his merit scholarship, it was under the express condition that these were given to people of "Anglo-Indian" heritage, meaning that it was understood that somewhere up the family tree, we had colonizer blood in us.
Truth be told, we now know that was a lie, my Grandpa lied, or maybe he didn't, but we certainly know from my uncle doing genetic testing through 23&me that we are 95% Southeast Asian from India and 5% Pacific Islander (!) yeah, again, beats me!
Dad was one of the first Merit Scholars to graduate from that school to send all three of his children back to the same school, paying in full. It was a source of great pride for my father, as boarding school is not exactly a cheap thing, but he was insistent that he would educate us the same way he had been, what he saw as a great place for discipline, fraternity and building lifelong friendships.
I loved boarding school, but I would never send my kids to one, its great for making friends if you are socially gifted, but its terrible for your relationship with your parents.
Anyway, where I was going with this is that my father grew up dirt poor. He was educated for free and he loved the school as he finally got three meals a day and a uniform, which meant he had his own clothes and shoes on his feet. Because my father grew up poor, he always looked at his accumulation of wealth as being something he was gifted with and that it was not really his to keep. He was generous to a fault. He would help a wayward brother who squandered money on drugs or alcohol. He would help his father who would then squander that on whoever was currying favor with him. He also helped to educate my cousins when times were tough. Many of these efforts of fiscal help went through me and behind my mothers back, and one day when we got caught, I got in so much trouble with my Mum, like I was this liar when in reality we knew how she felt about giving money, hard earned, to others who needed it more.
I had forgotten how I helped my father spread the wealth, honestly, it must be where it came from, my mindset about money, skewed as it may be, sometimes I would try to talk my father into being more mindful about how hard he worked and how he truly did need to know he was deserving of it, but he would say, "What am I going to do? Take it with me to my grave? While I can, I should help those that need my help!"
Yeah, so you had my Dad who was always, "I can earn more!' and my mother who was all about, "Save every damn penny and don't squander it!"
Very different people, very conflicting approaches towards the earning and hoarding of money as well as very different mindsets about who deserved money and for what.
From when I started, it was important for me to have a team built on equal pay for men and women. I wanted everyone to feel they were equally valued and invested in the shop. That worked, for the most part, but then you realize that sometimes some people understand the concept of gratitude and others do not, its not a fault of their own, maybe they just didn't grow up in an environment where they learned that, and how do you teach them that in the time you have, all while running a busy restaurant?
For the first 6 months of the running of the restaurant I didn't take any salary. I had to claim I was paying myself, but I didn't. Then I gave myself the lowest salary of the whole team, and it was just so I could cover my outgoings, the cost of commuting and such. My first real salary was at the 1 year mark, and I paid myself the same salary as everyone else, but the very first salary went to pay someone we were letting go. Somehow everything I was doing was in the hope we could build the place up to be something bigger than ourselves, something that would be profitable in 3 or more years. Eventually my entire salary was allotted to us maintaining an apartment above the shop so I was always close to work.
You know what? I don't regret a damn thing. I will cherish the memories because my husband and I have become stronger together through the experience of me running this restaurant. He has learned how to be there for me when I am at my weakest and rejoice with me in my strengths. My children may have complained about me not being there as much, but my absence helped me appreciate their presence in my life more, and they have had the positive experience of building a strong bond with their father, my husband. Boys need fathers, they need a good father figure, and my husband has been there even for my oldest son, Jake, ever since he was 8 years old. I could not have asked for a more supportive, patient and kind father figure for my son from my previous marriage, honestly, I know Jake knows that now. My husband is a good man, I truly am blessed in so many ways.
I have learned so much about myself through the building and operating of Confusion. I have learned how nothing is impossible if you have the will to make it happen. I know everything I have done has been with others in mind, and now as I sit on a couch in the Netherlands, jobless as all hell, with a life passing at a crawl, I can relish the experience without guilt or anxiety, because I know I am exactly where I am meant to be.
I have watched my team flourish, as individuals, in their communication, their inter-personal skills, their mindset and their camaraderie, and I take great pride in knowing that I took time to nurture that mindset in them. I have always maintained that I am their equal even if I am their boss, and I have, for the most part, succeeded in earning the respect I have been given, not once taking that respect as my birthright.
No matter what comes, I have no regrets.
If someone wishes to buy us out of our license, they can pay a price that is fair, I myself paid 128K for a bare shell space with license and one fridge we have called "the shitty fridge" ever since day 01! Do I feel I got a bum deal? Hell yeah! Hey, I didn't know any better then! Do I expect that money back? Not at all. But when you know that you've got about 800K worth of renovation, equipment, furnishing and fixtures in there, someone saving you the cost of breaking the place down to bareshell is the least of your problems, the bare minimum they can do is pay for the license, coz a transferred license is a quick pass to opening doors for operation!
I know this, I assume others in the business also know this, so in the end, its going to be up to this supposed "interested party" to get in touch and make me an offer, coz I am open to whatever is fair.
This move that started with so much anxiety and uncertainty has now settled into a calm where both my husband and I have been able to give up our unrealistic expectations of ourselves. We have had to put aside our "Hong Kong" mindset, where speed of implementation is proof of ones capability, and its not by any grand design of our own, it is truly because we have no choice but to slow down.
We have already paid for the boat from Sweden in full, and as I type, we are in the process of getting the final payments on the boat we have sold in Hong Kong.
For those who don't know me, my father was in the Merchant Navy, he was a man of the ocean, through and through. He trained at Dufferin from 1961-1963, I always thought it was some kind of college, which, technically it was, it no longer exists, but it was actually the name of a ship! If you are curious about a bit of Indian Merchant Navy History, you can always check out this website that is created and curated by someone my Dad went to training there with: www.dufferin61-63.com/
Anyway, my Dad can navigate by the stars! He is often heard bemoaning the loss of the old school sailor, how youngsters rely so heavily on computers they wouldn't know their ass from their elbows if they were stuck in the middle of the ocean with their tech failing. I always take great pride in my fathers ability to navigate by the stars! To this day, I find it very attractive that my husband knows exactly where all the stars are in the night sky, or that he has an app purely to plot the location of the milky way and planets in the sky, something that was super cool to check out when we went camping in Australia where light pollution was non-existent on a protected island and the stars clustered in the night formed a snow globe sky around us from horizon to horizon.
My father always dreamed of retiring and buying a sail boat and just wiling away his days sailing into his old age. Dad is 75 now, he never got to realize his dream, although until just a month pre-covid, he was still sailing ships as he's never given that up. He pilots ships through the Mallaca Straits, a tough job, but one he trained for when he got aged out of sailing oil tankers, so he'd still have access to his love of the ocean as he got old. My father works not because he has to, he works because he loves the sea. So its with great pride that my husband and I got our first sailing vessel, a Lagoon 450, a catamaran, and we were able to take my father out on the water in Hong Kong. I know it made my Dad happy, to see us living out his dream. They say that we all carry the dreams of our fathers in our own lives, and I think that we, my husband & I, have found that old adage to be true for us.
It wasn't just my fathers dream, it was the dream of my Father-in-law too. Although he's finally got himself a modified sailboat, that has been converted to a motor boat (the mast has been removed) so he can navigate the canals and rivers of Holland, its not the same as sailing the ocean in a sailboat.
When we found out my husband lost his job, it was the most stressful time for us, stressful because like many other Cathay Dragon staff who up until that day had been confident they were working for a company that granted benefits to long term staff such as boat purchase (as long as you lived on it) or home purchase (same rule) they were suddenly left having to pay for these things from savings vs earnings. Many have had to beg banks for a one year leniency on mortgage repayments, but for us, for a boat that we were fortunate enough to buy with 100% financing thanks to it being brand new some four years prior when we made that commitment, we were facing the very real prospect of becoming individuals with shitty credit.
Either we had to find a way to pay back the financing by some miracle each month or we had to sell the boat. Back and forth with the finance company that had initially promised us leniency for a 6 month break only to change their mind and say that wasn't possible, it was very stressful indeed. It took us a few months, but those months were the toughest of our life as we had committed to a very high pay back rate so we could clear the debt sooner. We lived frugally so we could ensure that we would be debt free within 7 years, and when he lost his job we were almost 4 years in but still 3 years away from our target.
We made the choice to sell our properties in Holland, one which we had bought with a mortgage and the one above it that we had paid for outright with a personal loan from HSBC. It had been nearly five years of paying that off too, and honestly, I am glad we made the choices we did because we wouldn't have had anything to start a life with now if it weren't for the sacrifices we made back then. We took a risk, we put a lot of our finances into the one thing we were told would not depreciate in value, property. Now we are back to owning no property, a prospect that doesn't necessarily bother me as I have always been up for the wanderer lifestyle, and honestly, we have the boat we bought recently, even if its sitting on the dry in Sweden as I write. Unlike a car which depreciates in value the moment you drive it off the lot, a boat can do pretty alright as long as you take excellent care of it. Oh, it will still depreciate in value, but it will never be like a car that you practically have to pay someone to take it off you!
The new boat is a mono-hull, unlike the Catamaran, its likely to be a lot more rolling around on the water and it will take some getting used to for the whole family. On the Catamaran you could leave your glass of water on the counter and even while sailing, you could be certain you would still find it there when you realized you'd forgotten to put it away. That will not be how it goes on the new boat. The new boat is a 52 footer, a blue water boat, a custom build from the 90's...its sturdy, and likely a bit worn around the edges inside, but its a good boat. As I have mentioned prior, we have named this vessel "Kokoro" and I can't wait to see her and to memorize every inch of her once she makes her journey down to Holland in April.
I will try to post some pictures of the new boat, and I believe there is a video floating about Youtube where another sailing couple went to survey the same boat but didn't buy it, their requirements were for a smaller vessel fit for their needs, I believe the boat is perfect for a family of four who hope to take friends or family on board for the duration of short voyages. With five cabins, I am confident we will have ample space to share our journey with others or to take on crew if we need to.
If you want to check out our boat, you can have a look at the Ran Sailing family as they check out the boat that we ended up buying: https://youtu.be/hJLyzQXsuJE
I wish I could get my Dad to come with us, but at this stage its not looking great with the Covid-19 situation, I am confident in a few years it should be possible, and honestly, age is not a barrier, I've known about people taking their 80 year old wheelchair bound mother on an ocean crossing, so it ain't impossible unless you believe it to be.
We've bought our kids wet weather gear and our own, basically it makes us look like a family from that show about catching crabs in Alaska! Like snowboarding gear, its built for functionality, you won't be winning any fashion awards wearing it! My husband and I got bright red gear and the kids have got green and beige.
Anyway, as we wait for March to roll around as that is when winter ends and spring begins, but my husband has to wait until April 8th to roll around before he can push off to Sweden to pick up the boat, the main reason is that I will be in Hong Kong from the 4th of February to the 7th of April 2021. That is how long I believe it will take me to ensure everything comes to a clean and amicable close of the restaurant. 21 of my days will be an imprisonment in a hotel as I quarantine despite a negative Covid-19 test on arrival, so that should be fun. Once I get back to Holland I will have to hit the ground running as I will then take over the reigns from my husband and begin the process of school drop offs and pick ups, prepping meals, helping with homework and trying not to fall asleep mid afternoon from jetlag.
There is so much about the next few months that fill me with trepidation, the least of which is the anxiety of being trapped alone in a room with a view. I had to remind myself that I spend 10 weeks on strict bedrest while pregnant with my middle son and then an additional 14 weeks on strict bedrest when pregnant with my third/final son. So technically, I remember that was not easy, it was depressing, I shopped a lot on Amazon, I watched a lot of downloaded series while lying on my side, my only break was to use the loo or float in a bath tub to ease the aches and pains of muscle atrophy and joint softening.
I will not be bed ridden this time, I can always do yoga or meditate, but then what do I do with the remaining 14 hours of my day? Yeah, fasting still involves doing nothing, I have planned to finally do a 10 day water fast while in captivity, this so I can finally "cure" my Ménière's disease. My extensive research has brought me to various options and the fasting option is the hardest but most promising so far. The thing is, for the most part now, I have been able to get rid of most of my symptoms, I no longer have hearing loss or pressure in my ear (or ears), I no longer have vertigo or dizziness, but I do get headaches when my sodium levels are not great. I have given up alcohol altogether, I don't touch caffeine, not even in tea, and I avoid all pain killers (asprin and NSAID's as well as Paracetamol can cause my symptoms to flare), not that I used pain killers anyway, but I avoid them now.
I want to be able to just get the last vestiges of the disease under control. I have been able to get most of the symptoms under control thanks to my research on the disease, my effort to eat a cleaner diet and to also take supplements such as nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide, Coriolus versicolor (Turkey tail mushroom extract) and glutathione, just three to name a few that have helped. I am on Curcumin, Resveratrol, Vegan Omega-3 from Microalgae...and a tonne of CBD. Basically, I am trying to take a lot of different supplements to slow down the damage of oxidative stress on my neurodegenerative condition, the Ménière's disease.
Anti-aging is the key, and oddly enough a clean, plant-based diet, low stress and all these supplements are proven to actually prolong the possibility of a long life with quality-0f-life being the main focal point. The mushroom supplements have done exactly what the research paper I read had said it would, at the dose specified, which I am glad for someone my size and body weight, has been a more affordable dose than I had expected (I take 1500mg vs 3000mg that was used in the study, I calculated according to their recommendations for mg to kg of body weight). These supplements are not cheap, but they are not by any means out of reach for someone who wants to avoid losing their hearing prematurely or permanently.
When I had a health scare many years ago, for my liver, when I was diagnosed with lesions and cysts, I took it upon myself to learn how I could heal, and I did. Now, this is no different. Who expects to get something like this? Not me. Hell, I was sitting here thinking being vegan was all I needed anymore, but this condition can be hereditary, and I can clearly remember my mother suffering from painful migraines, dizziness, nausea, the lot, only then we never knew it to be what I know it now is.
I don't have any plans to lose my hearing (prematurely) before I age out, so if I care about my hearing, I will do everything I can to commit to a lifestyle that ensures I can succeed in my goal. The most promising option I came across was the sharing of a 7 year Ménière's disease sufferer who did a (supervised) 10 day water-only fast. Not only did he cease to have any more symptoms after that, he was also rid of his Tinnitus (this incessant ringing in the ears that sounds like a fire alarm at worst and like silent white noise at best). I am down to only the occasional headache that technically is like a low-grade migraine and the tinnitus.
I will be honest though, the last few days, my Tinnitus has decreased drastically. I was waking every morning with this loud, shrill ringing and now its more of a quieter distant ringing.
For those who suffer from Tinnitus, its a horrible thing and I wouldn't wish it on anymore, heck, I am just lucky I am not as attentive as many other people, to a great degree I can ignore it, but it can be quite crippling for some, causing depression and aggression in others.
The reason I want to clear my symptoms altogether is because the future holds a lot of sailing and the ocean can be unforgiving for someone with an inner ear instability. I do not want to be puking daily or to hold my family back, I want to be able to be present and to share in the daily responsibility for the next decade plus, so it is of the gravest importance that I succeed.
I have fasted for 10 days before, this was maybe a decade ago when doing a reset to help with infertility, so I know it can be done. What better way to utilize my time in quarantine than to consciously choose to use that time to actively commit to healing? Yes, I know, I am trying to frame that 21 days of what could be a very stressful situation, in a whole different light so that I can actually gain from it! Its what I am learning now, to view stress as a positive thing and to work with it as a motivator.
So lets see how I go. All I have going for me right now is time!
Overall, I am content with life right now, what is will be, what will come, will, and I am ready.
My name's Lisa. I love to cook, I love to laugh, I love to write. I don't always believe I have the time for creating, and now I am going to work on simply going with the flow, with the food, the restaurant, the writing...and if I can, for one moment, spread a little joy along the way, well, its worth the effort.