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Monday
Oct242016

KRITI: I belong here!

When my daughter Molly was 11 or 12, we took her to Maine for the first time.  Her mother and I had lived there for several years, and loved the place.  Family growing older brought us back to the Midwest. On her first trip, Molly, picking up sand dollars in the tidal flats, looked at me and said, “Dad, I belong here.”

That’s how I felt about Crete….something deep in my soul was stirred. I found a spot; a ruined Hellenic village, probably 1000 or more years old.  As I sat among the ruins, looking at the sea, feeling the energy of the spot, something in me was so touched, so moved, so complete, that I want to return to Crete—again and again.

I arrived on a Monday in mid-October, after the wonderful wedding in Athens of our cousin Theodoros.  I rented a car, through the advice of my friends Bev and Lee who live in London, but have bought their Cretan village home and plan to retire there in a few years.  I flew into Heraklion/Hraklio; the site of the Minoan Palace of Knossos, which is known both for King Minos and his Minotaur; the bull who was kept in a labyrinth.  We visited the palace 20 years ago, and nothing in me was stirred by that place.  But just leaving the airport, driving east to Sitia, I felt the wildness of the country; the sheer rugged untameable beauty.  I was made low, and I loved it.

This was the view from the road, and this was my first meal on the road:

Through Bev’s good directions, I made it to their home in a village of eastern Crete called Piskocephalo, meaning ‘head of the church’ (pisko=episkopo and cephalo=head).  In previous times, this village was indeed the head of the church in eastern Crete.  Today it’s a small and in many cases crumbling village.  The tradition with property is to give equal shares to all one’s children.  After several generations, the five, or ten, or fifteen heirs can’t agree on what’s to become of property, so it sits and crumbles.  Therefore, many homes in the village lie in ruins.  They’ve bought a lovely place; two older homes put into one with a courtyard between and a great rooftop terrace with marvelous views.

After arriving we went into the town of Sitia and had a bit of lunch.  At the end a treat: we were served fruit and raki, the traditional Cretan spirit….sort of a grape whisky.  Potent!  Already, I’m meeting people; their British friends Dave and Maggie were also having lunch, and we had a nice visit. Back to the home and a reasonably relaxed afternoon with a short orienting drive around the area.  Truthfully, the week is something of a blur, so I may confuse dates and days as I describe our time together.

On Tuesday we drove to the south shore, only about 20 miles away, to view yet another beach town, Makrys Gialos.  While a nice place, first, the wind was so intense I didn’t enjoy the place because I literally could barely stay upright walking into the wind. We found a realtor in this town who promised to put me in touch with a realtor in Sitia, their larger town, and the place I seemed to find my soul.

Wednesday, I took a day to explore. I visited the Folklore Museum, which took only a half hour, but gave me a guided one on one tour through the museum.  I’m always interested to see how people lived, and this little museum presented life in the village and the country in about 1900.  Tasty.

Next I headed for the Venetian fort still on the hill.  Much was destroyed by earthquake in about 1500 AD, and much was also torn down by other conquerers, but the fort itself remains halfway up the hill, guarding the harbor and all who live near it. Then I wandered the streets, up and down steep stairs from one street to the next, following my whims.  Parking is incredible in this town!  Driving isn’t great fun, though I began to master it; but I’d rather not try to achieve mastery in the city region.

On the drive I spotted a lovely village out the coastal road east; a development called Village Dionysis. On closer inspection I realized it was a condominium sort of venture. Bev and Lee call it ‘Dead Village’ and I understand why:  a great idea that seems to have been underfunded or built in just the wrong decade; it’s gorgeous, but crumbling.  Future ruins perhaps, if someone doesn’t invest soon.

 Back towards Sitia stopping for photos all the way, and I stumbled on two sets of ruins:  one called Trypitos.  And here the magic began….as I climbed a small hill, first by car, then on foot, and sat among the ruins, I had a strong pull….a feeling of my heart being opened that I don’t think I’ve had before.  Something in me so resonated with that tiny ruin sitting on the hill overlooking the sea, that I felt I’d been there before and needed to be there again. (first photo) I can’t explain it better, and if it makes no sense to you, I’m sorry.  I only know I felt an incredible peace and fulfillment at the spot.  The second ruin, a Minoan palace from probably 2000—1500 BC, was closed, and didn’t seem to offer the same feeling in any case.

Wednesday afternoon our nephew Tim Harvey arrived with his friend Diana Brickell.  Tim had joined us at the wedding and Diana had only come in after the wedding on Sunday, and feeling poorly from a congestion and possible flu, etc.  We had a dinner together on the waterfront, getting the feel of the place together, and all felt totally comfortable in beautiful Sitia.

Thursday morning I had made plans to visit with a realtor.  She, Vaitsa (meaning ‘little palm’) took Tim, Diana and me to ten different possible home locations in the region.  This one too large, this one too hot, this one too crowded, etc.  Three possibilities emerged for Gloria and me to have a home in Crete:  one totally over budget, in the village of Agaia Fotia a few miles east of Sitia.  The village home was a bit of a walk to the beach and other amenities, but the house itself was spectacular in terms of views, furnishings and decorations, plantings and price.  Our second choice was a sweet cottage in an international tourist enclave of about ten houses, sitting on the very hill of Trypitos village that I’d fallen in love with the day before!  The third choice of many was a huge apartment in Sitia proper that probably hadn’t been lived in for five to ten years, had been left just as was, and presented great potential for someone who wanted to put in the work.  Can you guess which appealed to me? Hint: it's the one pictured, the cottage, with the view below.

I sent Gloria photos and descriptions of all three properties (not boring her with the one living below a family whose old folks had moved out and who were surrounded with junk, or the one so high up the mountain I didn’t know if I’d make it there after dinner in the village, or the one in the Dead Village, or the apartment in town so dirty I didn’t want to stand in it, or the one with a shared rooftop with no room for us….etc).  Happily, without knowing my total feelings, Gloria chose the cottage sitting on the hill where I belong!  We’ve made an offer; it’s been accepted, and we have work to do to complete the process but I think it will fly and we’ll have our dream home in eastern Crete, on a place I’ve been before. The nine or ten cottages are owned internationally; one Irish woman, two French houses, a couple of Greeks, an English couple, and Italian….and the Frenchman even has his own boules court!  I had a chance to practice my French, and realized it’s pretty shaky.

The process!  First, realtor took us to ten properties.  When I made an offer, first visit was to a notary who explained the procedure to me.  Next a trip to the tax office to secure my own Greek tax ID number, evidently necessary.  Next a government office to give my realtor power to deal with taxes in my absence; then back to tax office to file the papers and claim the number.  After, a fruitless trip to the bank to open an account as they wouldn’t let me do so; two years of tax returns, proof of Springfield, MO citizenship, SS #, tax ID #, etc, etc….I may have to make another trip back just to open the crazy account.  After all this, a trip back to the notary to appoint a power of attorney for me and meet the local attorney who will therefore manage my affairs while I’m away, and hopefully complete the contract.  What a day!  I was out from 11—5 taking care of all these errands, all on Greek time.  But the end result was that by 5 pm every detail but the bank account was handled, and I think we’re going forward!  Yes! We’re sitting on a small and rocky beach, a walk to town of perhaps a mile, views to die for, and mere steps up to my power place.

The process took all of Friday.  Friday night there was a celebration in the village, as the taverna manager, Anna, was moving to Switzerland for the winter to work there.  16 were in our party, mostly Brits, led by Frans and Denise, who seem to be the spark plug for the British community.  For 12 Euros each, we were served an incredible meal of chicken, pork, rabbit, salads, bread, profiteroles, and all the wine and raki we could drink.  The dancing was great!  We wound our way right out into the street, then back into the taverna.

The next morning, Saturday, I woke with a xericephalo (dry head=hangover).  We had made plans, and did indeed make it to the Gorge of the Dead, Kato Zakros, with a coffee stop halfway across the mountains (by car). In the gorge we hiked about two hours down into the gorge and out to the sea.  It’s an incredible place; high above the gorge in the cliff walls are many caves where the Minoans used to place their dead.  A very interesting experience with Frans, Bev, Diana, expat Chris and his partner Melina.  We were met by Tim, Lee and Denise who had dropped us off.  We all met under a lovely fig tree for a small picnic, then walked to the beach, had a bit of time in the water and had a great meal at the beachside taverna before going our separate ways.  A really fine afternoon.  Tim, Diana and I stayed longer, arriving home about dark, ending a good day.

Sunday morning, before I left, I received word that we’d agreed on price for the cottage.  We’re going to be property owners in Crete!  So excited.  After breakfast with Tim, Diana and Lee, I met the realtor Vaitsa one last time to finalize some bits, look at the house again, and get back on the road to Hraklio. On the way I stopped at another ruin from Minoan times, Gournia.  Again, an amazing experience but nothing like the way my little village ruin on my little hill reached out and grabbed me.

Final photo:  Our view, from our hill, near our ruins.....hopefully, friends and family will enjoy the spot also!

So:  I’ll be returning to Crete; hopefully again and again.  It feels like I’m coming home, and I’m so enjoying the place, the people, the food, the friends I already have there, the language and the feel of the sea and the land….I belong here!

Sunday
Oct232016

An Amazing Family Wedding in Athens!

   Sometimes I don’t know how I got to be so lucky!  Tomorrow I return from a two week trip to Greece.  The first half was devoted to Gloria’s family from Kalamata.  Their son, Theodoros Kouretas, married a lovely young woman named Katia on Saturday, October 15.  Gloria and I were joined by her nephew Tim who lives in Colorado and had never met any of his family.  He’s delighted to have met his five new third cousins, and even picked up a bit of Greek as well!  The longer he stayed, the more Greek he became.

Glo and I arrived on Wednesday before the wedding and Theodoros collected us at the airport.  We went first to our hotel, then to his apartment where we got to see his mother, who had prepared a delicious lunch, and meet the bride, who is a beautiful young woman, and runs her own pharmacy.  Theo works with container shipping in Athens.  They are happily, not among the 40% of young people in Greece who can’t find work.  They both have advanced degrees and great work ethic!  What a super young couple. In the evening Theo took us to the Plaka, the market area just below the Acropolis….a bit of walk around Acropolis, a glass of wine, and bed felt great!

On Thursday we took the day to first get Tim to the hotel (thanks, Theo!), then the three of us took a cab to the Plaka area, walked, enjoyed, had a lovely lunch with wine again.  Nice touristic day.

Thursday night:  a fantastic Greek tradition.  Family and friends gather at the new home of the couple (in the north of Athens, gorgeous home with a fantastic view!) to bless the house, make the marriage bed, throw a young boy onto the bed to signify the desire for many sons, and eat and drink until wee hours!  At this party we were joined by Giorgi, Theo’s father, and his sister Christina, as well as Ioanna’s sister Iphagenia and more family.  Great to see them all! We were pretty tired, but didn’t want to miss anything, so stayed nearly til the end.

I believe we spent Friday recuperating and preparing for Saturday.  I believe this was the day Christina took us to the Flisvos Marina for coffee….it’s a lovely newly developed marina and shopping area south of Pireaus, the Athens port.  Very nice. Perhaps this was the Plaka day instead….yes, actually we returned to the Acropolis to see the new museum there…a few years old, and stunning.  They’ve done such a good job, and have even reserved the top floor for the day the Brits return the stolen pieces of Acropolis.  Might be a long wait….good museum though.

Friday night, a super family and friend of groom dinner.  A taverna where food just kept coming, and coming.  Wonderful foods!  Salads of two kinds, bread, pork, potatoes, etc, etc.  We were stuffed and happy to get to bed, again.

Saturday we just tried to stay out of the way….until 4 pm at which time the festivities began.  Groom’s family and friends gathered at his apartment to prepare him.  His young men friends shaved and dressed him, amid drinking and joy.    Theodoros wasn't the only one getting primped and prepared:  As you can see, Ioanna managed to tame Giorgi as well.  Lovely parents of the groom! Then we tied ribbons on our cars, and honking all the way, made a caravan to the church, some half hour north, in the bride’s parents’ area.  Gorgeous church, beautiful bride, lovely service.  Back in the cars for another ride to a clubhouse venue that was marvelous….did I mention this was a wedding with 350 guests?  And we were treated royally by the wonderful family.

So, about 9:30 we ate an amazing buffet, with most of the meats coming from Giorgi’s farm; possibly 8 or 9 lambs!  At dinner and dance we sat with Iphanagenia’s children and nephew and other friends, most of whom have wonderful English.  Good thing for me, and Tim as well.  Delightful company, followed by….over 6 hours of dancing! The happy couple led the first dance, followed by the rest of us.  Mostly Greek dances, traditional.  Towards the end, some modern popular Greek music for young people to dance. Check out the cousins; old folks dancing while the bride glows! I was so impressed by Katia; she and Theo were on their feet the entire time, both greeting each guest, dancing with all, then saying goodbye to each.  At 6 am we finished the party!  All three of us were totally worn down, but totally satisfied, and so happy to have lasted to the end to congratulate the couple and send them off with our blessing.

Sunday!  We slept until 2 pm, somewhat missing breakfast (actually, we could have had breakfast when we got in from the wedding.  We three walked back to Flisvos Marina, had a light lunch and walk, then Glo and I took naps on the hotel’s poolside rooftop. While we napped, Tim went to the airport to collect his friend Diana, who arrived a bit under the weather, so her beginning of trip was dampened a bit.  And fairly soon, she was introduced to Christina, Ioanna her mother, and the Costarakis cousins!  Gloria had never met cousin Giorgi Costarakis before; he also brought his wife Maria and sons Athonasios, Panaiotis and Vasiliis.  Great folks all, and again, we were treated to an amazing dinner together.  So blessed to find and develop relationships with this fantastic family.

Monday I moved on the Crete to visit friends Bev and Lee….Tim and Diana joined a day later, as Gloria went back to Springfield.  But, Crete is another story!

 

Friday
Apr152016

The End Is Near

It’s been a long, and in some ways, brutal trip this time….I left home on March 11, arrived here on the 12th, began working that day, and haven’t had real days off much of the time.  I ended up teaching 16 days, seeing clients 8, traveling more than four hours 7, seeing 4 shows in the West End, and getting some vacation!  So it’s been full.  And good.

After Istanbul, it was time to immediately get into the CORE III/IV course.  It always amazes me how many people are so keen to take the course, but when the time comes, crazy stuff happens that prevents them from coming on it.  So we ended with one CORE III student and two IV’s….and I was very happy and pleased with the class!  Please say hello and congratulations to the newest certificants:  Level III Nicola Brooks, and Level IV Liz Buri and Chris Mowen.  All three worked hard, took deep work that rattled their cages, and are everything I asked them to be.  Thanks and love to all!  And they are on fire to both get out there and do the work, and to move the work forward as a team….look out for me in Malaysia in the next year! One night I also got to have dinner with student and organizer Fran Kehoe, his wife Ali and their daughter, my Irish grandchild Ciera!

So III/IV took up seven days…on the day off in the middle I saw six clients; some day off.  After finishing on a Wednesday afternoon and an actual day off on Thursday, friend Elizabeth and I went to an art show to see my flatmate Diego Farneti present his artwork amongst 130 artists.  Pictured his booth, and happy to say, I now own a print of the piece at the top left!  Diego was chosen by one blogger as ‘best of show’ and I happily agreed!

The next day Liz and I traveled to Hartlepool by train (pronounced Hartleypool) to visit with student Rob White at his clinic, where we hashed out whether to write and how to write a book together.  The result; we hope to bring forth a collaboration of my CORE principles with their Pilates, yoga and physio movement ideas in a book for movement therapists to teach more effectively to their clients.  I’m pretty excited both about this book and the collaboration.

Rob put us in a bed and breakfast in Seaton Carew, the next small town south of Hartlepool, at the Altonlea….nice place and second building from the left.  Charming, well restored, friendly, and we definitely enjoyed our time there. Seaton Carew has some gorgeous older buildings; loved this one. On Friday night after our meeting and a great Thai dinner on the Hartlepool quay, I gathered the thoughts into a short outline and sent to them.  Next day an early walk on the beach, which isn’t far from an industrial/chemical park! We spent a full business day of hashing out the ideas, creating an outline.  We did also have a late lunch at Gladys’ Tea Room with waitresses dressed in ‘40’s attire and Andrews Sisters blaring, and a stop to see real seals lounging in the tidal river! That night I typed furiously for 2 ½ hours, got 3500 words on paper, then drank wine, ate melatonin, and slept my best sleep in a long time….helps to clear all the loose ends out of the brain!

Sunday morning, another beach walk,  a short final meeting, then Rob dropped us at the quay again to see the Trincomalee.  This clipper was built in 1817 for Admiral Nelson who died before he could use it.  It’s now on permanent anchor and a great museum, something I was happy to see.  Train back to London on Sunday afternoon, full day of seven sessions on Monday, and that evening a real treat:  watching my student/client Kelly Homewood perform in the West End version of Funny Girl! (second girl on the left)  She was marvelous, as was the production, and we managed a pint after.  A treat for me! Tuesday—Thursday another great three students for CORE II. Congratulations to Jill Campbell, Astrid Spoon, and Chris Carmona! On finishing Thursday night, I tubed right to Picadilly Circus and checked to find I could score a great ticket for ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nightime’ about a boy with severe Asperger’s Syndrome….a fantastic play!  So glad I got there!

Today, Friday, Liz assisted me once again; this time for a jaw class at the North London school.  Again, a good day, and at the end, said goodbye to Liz, who came for IV, but has assisted me in all the courses through the month, and will be bringing CORE to Malaysia!  So quite excited about that as well, and miss her already.

So the last two days, Saturday and Sunday, full days at the Light Centre, Moorgate, and on the plane Monday!  Ready for some warmer weather and home!

Wednesday
Mar302016

Istanbul! Same, Same, Different

The above term was shared with me by student Liz Buri from Malaysia; she’s seen it on T shirts in Asia.  It speaks to the idea that wherever you are, some things are the same even though others are so totally foreign; at least that’s what I got from it.  Istanbul was definitely that for me!

I arrived on Maundy Thursday, about 4:30 pm at my hotel, Istanblue, very near the square with Hagia Sophia/Aya Sofya and the Blue Mosque….a long day from the home, to Gatwick, to Ataturk Airport, then by cab to the hotel. The manager was a great young fellow named Turgut; the tour booker at the front desk was Ocam….nice guys, both.  My view of the side of the Blue Mosque from our breakfast room.

 However, Ocam was determined to sell me tours; therefore, by the time I got to Aya Sofya, it was closed for the day.  In terms of location however, I did well….a short walk up the hill put me in the thick of things in the Sultanatmet District, where the Sultan’s Palaces and most of the tourist attractions were.

Unfortunately, it began raining and turning cold immediately ("It was warm yesterday!").  I had not checked weather and packed light things, which I wore in layers all the while.  I had a kebab from the shop downstairs, went to bed early and slept 11 hours!

Thinking I had only three days to see it all, I was up early the next day and skipped breakfast to get to a shopping area to find a stocking cap…that helped.  Then first stop was the Basilica Cistern, an amazing underground maze of huge columns, a cistern of millions of gallons, built in something like the fifth century…an amazing place.  Pictured a head of Medusa which forms the base of one of the columns.  No one knows why; strange indeed.

On to Aya Sofya; a cathedral built in around 550 AD, turned into a mosque somewhere around the 1200’s or 1300’s, and then made a museum in the mid twentieth century.  Impressive!  Sadly, reconstruction going on, but still one is able to see the beauty and glory…pictured as well, a cobblestone ramp from the ground floor to the gallery, so paved so the potentates could ride their horses up to the gallery.

From there, Topkapi Palace!  Wow, some wealth….it just didn’t stop. Particularly impressive, all the tile works, some great stained glass, the meeting rooms and council rooms, but most impressive perhaps was the sheer size of the palace and harem or living quarters for the sultan and his families.  Included were a museum of armor, of palace treasures, of the former kitchen, of ceramics, etc, etc.  It could have taken a day, but I made it in three hours.

Next, on to the Art Museum, small but very nice.  After, while waiting for the Blue Mosque to open to tourists, I stumbled on a carpet shop.  Mistake.  I can only say the young gent, Sirkan, was very nice, and the carpets were amazing….something came home with me the next day.

All of this was day one of three!  I was pretty tired next morning, but again up and out early to get my fill.  Tram down the hill, then walk through the spice market where I bought apple tea;

up the hill to the Grand Bazaar….spectacular, but overwhelming. 

I didn’t visit but maybe one hundred of the thousands of shops before glazing over, and heading on up the hill to the Suleymanye Mosque, which I found to be softer, quieter, and more beautiful than the Blue Mosque. 

The perhaps one half acre of prayer carpet impressed me....

The toilet on the grounds did not.

The tomb of the Sultan's wife was beautiful, much tile work and decoration....she's surrounded by family members.

Another gorgeous view, this one from the terrace of the Suleymanye Mosque....

Back by the carpet shop, met owner, Mr Ayuup Karar (maybe we’re related?),  (don't worry, this is NOT what I bought) after many shared teas, taken to lunch by the young man, then went to an afternoon at the Dolcambace Palace.  This was the newest palace built by a sultan, in the European style.  An amazing place with crystal finials on the main staircase and huge assembly rooms…well worth the visit.

Next up the funicular to Taksim Square and its hero statue featuring the first Turkish president, Ataturk, Turkey's George Washington, still revered.  I had no idea there’d been a bombing there only ten days before, and that wouldn’t have stopped me from going to visit.  A walk down that hill, looking for the Tunel, an underground down the hill.  Not finding it, I took a cab back home.  Another long day. That night, looking at my ticket, I realized I wasn’t leaving on Monday, but on Tuesday!  I had much work to do in London, so think I just adjusted in my head how long I was staying.  I was both delighted I had an extra day and terrified of getting home to extra work.

So Sunday, Easter, I was able to sleep late and have a wonderful leisurely breakfast before heading out. I went by tram to the New Town again, across the Galata Bridge, but couldn’t work the Tunel from the lower end either, so took a cab to the Galata Tower, where I met a couple of American kids.  I toured the tower with them, and we had breakfast together.  Then I worked my way back down the hill on foot, enjoying the shops and people on the way. Sadly my camera battery had given out at the top of the tower with the best view of Istanbul!  I walked back to Spice market area, saw another smaller mosque with amazing tile work, was disappointed by the Archeological Museum as they had remodeling and had Alexander the Great's sarcophogas hidden away for restoration.  But, the Guilhane Park was lovely.  After, Ihad a dinner at the kebab stand,(chef, already fired, hotel owner Turgut, me and Juva, kebab stand manager) and found I was locked out of my email!  I’d decided not to take my computer and was using the hotel’s desk.  Their keyboard is totally different with lots of characters that made it impossible to type, so not sure if I screwed things up or I was just too foreign…in either case, I had no email from then on to the end.  I tried to facebook Gloria through one of my new friends; she thought maybe I’d been kidnapped and held for ransom, so wouldn’t respond!  Oops.

Monday another nice breakfast, blackout curtains, a good long sleep.  A short walk to the Cemberlitas Hamami, a bathhouse from perhaps 1500….as one lies on their back on warm marble in a steam room, one can count the 150 or so tiny skylights in the dome above.  Then Hassan comes around, pours hot water on you, and eventually, scrubs and rubs away any excess skin and gives a pretty good massage and lathering.  I felt revived and refreshed after his treatment!  Next a tram back to the funicular, up to Taksim again, then the walk down the entire hill, and a tram back home.  This last day I was able to give myself a bit more free time, and had a great day and evening, sharing drinks and dinner with the kebab stand manager Juvo (means Friday) in a friend’s restaurant, our second visit.

Tuesday the shuttle early back to airport, landed in Heathrow about 11 and home by 1:30 to the catch up work.  A great trip!  My learning:  First, most of what I saw of Islam made me believe these people are much like us.  Those who are religious are of two kinds:  those who believe everybody should be like them, and those who are tolerant.  One good Muslim described to me that “Isis are shit.” Everything I saw made me believe that same, most are good people, and different, they happen to have a different prophet, but believe we share one God.  Second, the politics of Turkey isn’t good; both in that the ruling party is a controlling party, and second in that the Kurds who make a large percent of the population are treated as second class citizens…same, same, different.

I loved it.  I’d love to visit again, for a longer time.  I’d love to get Gloria to come along.  I’d love to know more about Islam, not that I want to convert, just that I want to understand.  I’d love to learn more Turkish than ‘thank you, delicious, good, and hello”.  The people and the food were wonderful, the sites are spectacular, and the experience felt safe, friendly, and unforgettable.  Same, same, different.  Thank you, Turkey.

Tuesday
Mar222016

A Wee Bit of My Harte Is Steel Thurr....

Sadly, I haven’t gotten far away from Edinburgh; though I love the city, I’d love to see more of the country and get to know more of the people.  On this trip, I had little time to see the sights, but happily, so happily, I got to know quite a few massage therapists.  You can probably already guess that I tend to like massage therapists and their energy wherever I go.  I also tend to like people wherever I go.  But the massage therapists and the people of Scotland are special….and besides that, what a lovely country!

After teaching on Wednesday and Thursday in London,and certifying the delightful women (pictured:  assistant Liz Buri, certificants Sheila Bennett, Daria Stachnik, and Lucy McClements) 

  

 I caught a 7 pm train from Kings Cross, coming directly from the school to the station, and having the delightful detour of dinner with student and colleague Lisl. Sadly and unthinkingly, I’d booked a forward facing window seat for four and a half hours of darkness.  I arrived at Edinburgh Waverly station, right downtown, about 11:30 and after finding a cab, found my hotel about midnight.  Not a great sleep—again.  This trip I can’t seem to find the sleep rhythm, still.

However, Friday was my day to enjoy the city.  I took a cab to the Greyfriars Bobby  church and cemetery.  Pictured here one of the details in the cemetery that makes Edinburgh so special.

 My sister was here in June and regretted not buying the Bobby statue.  I thought it would be easy to find the shop and get the statue.  When I found the cost was £50 (about $70) I decided she’d love a smaller version!  Next, I climbed the hill of the Royal Mile, the main thoroughfare of Edinburgh that ends at the top of the hill with the castle.    I spent two really fine hours on a crisp day, touring the castle grounds, taking in spectacular views, seeing fantastic rooms, buildings, and views.  Then down the hill.  I tried to climb the tower of the main church on the Mile for the view, only to find it was a private function day.  Next time.  Check one off the bucket list; postpone one.

Down the Mile; First stop at the whisky store just down from the castle for two bottles of what was  called scotch cream ten years ago, and is now called malt something.  I stopped at the shop where on that first trip I bought my favorite heavy sweater/jumper.  Sadly, that sweater has lost its shape, but that shop is now full of tea things and chocolates….no jumper. Lunch was a jacket potato with cheese and haggis, in an underground cafe where the ceiling nearly reached the head. I shopped my way down the mile, and never found my sweater.  I DID find an amazing woolen piece for Gloria, and at the bottom of the hill, two sweaters or 'joompers' for me….neither what I thought I was shopping for, both gorgeous.

On to the bottom of the hill to two major Scottish landmarks, the new Scottish Parliament building, a modern structure with fantastic quotations embedded in the outer walls, then the Holyrood Palace.  This is the Queen’s in-town residence.  Not having time, I didn’t choose to go inside.  Another place to add to my list.  Overlooking the two is a massive hill called Arthur’s Seat; supposedly an incredible climb and a fantastic sunset.  Next time….

As I had to get back up the hill to meet Susie Mollison, the former school owner at Falkirk and someone with whom I’ve kept in touch, for coffee, I began the hike up, stopping back by to pick up the second sweater on which I’d waffled.  Partly I was intrigued by the shopkeeper; clearly of Indian descent, but with a thick Scottish accent.  I couldn’t help thinking that’s the way things should be. Here, immigrants are assimilated, welcomed, integrated. By the way, Donald Trump is reviled in Scotland; he built golf courses and other investments, then didn’t pay his debts, ruining many folks.  Not MY president!

Back to the hotel.  I couldn’t fine the number 23 bus from Waverly; the innkeeper had given me a slightly bad direction.  I chose to just grab a cab since I was now loaded down with souvenirs.  After a brief rest it was time to meet the director of the Scottish Massage Therapists Organisation, Maggie Brooks Carter, who I’ve been thinking of for years as ‘Maggie, Queen of Scots Massage’.  This was our first meeting, and she was a bit scattered due to some current family situations.  Even so, I found her to be friendly, welcoming, and warm.  We made our way to the venue where I was presenting.  Here I met several folks including Gail, one of my assistants for the two day course; Lorna, owner of the major school of massage in Edinburgh, her husband Richard, and others.  Maggie’s daughter Nicola arrived from Belfast after her flight and four of us went for a Thai dinner and got to know each other. Bedtime, another night of not enough sleep.

Day one of the conference, Saturday:  We met from 9 am—5 pm with 45 minutes for lunch, and I was the entire show, both days.  We worked hard and fast!  On day one there were over 70 participants….a bit daunting.  I don’t do huge events often, so was a bit intimidated.  Fortunately for me, the students and the 7 or 8 assistants were great folks.  Students were engaged and assistants were knowledgeable and ready to both learn, then pass on my ideas.  I was pretty overwhelmed by both the need to stay on my toes, but also by the enthusiasm of the students.

Bless her!  My student Pam Martin, who has been studying with me for 8 years now, took me and student Liz Buri from Malaysia, for two hours of debrief/destress.  My hotel was on the edge of the Royal Botanical Gardens, but I didn’t have time to visit it on Friday, though it was on my bucket list.  We took off our shoes and re-grounded amongst the crocuses that formed a meadow in the garden. A lovely place, that was also on my tourist list.  Though I want to go back, at least I had an hour there.  Pam then took us on a great tour drive of the city, including up to the hill Arthur’s Seat.  We couldn’t drive up, but wound through the town and enjoyed the sunset before retiring to a restaurant where about 15—20 of the conference participants gathered for dinner.

I sat with a most entertaining and engaging lady, Kit, (not pictured) who is a nurse, a therapist, a teacher of massage, and with her husband, a musician and singer.  She kept me totally entertained with songs, stories, jokes all through the dinner. Across from me was a young woman from Iowa who has lived in Scotland for 10 years, and next a woman from the north….I saw pictures from several people of their home area in the north that made me add to the bucket list.  The beauty of this country can overwhelm!  I changed places to join Jill, (on the right in above photo) a practitioner of Structural Integration, as we had much to compare and discuss.  Great connections, all.  By 9:30 I was knackered, so walked the three blocks to hotel, reviewed notes for day two, and got to bed by 11, rising at 6:15 to start all over again.

Day two of the conference was marvelous (so was day one, to my mind).  After an early breakfast I walked the half mile to the conference venue; on a posh street with amazing views of the City from some nice mansions.  We completed—barely, everything I wanted to cover in an intense two days, and also the beauty, the caring, the love of the room allowed me to open, be vulnerable, and take us all to a newer and better level of honesty and understanding of the work we cherish.  I’ll be forever grateful to that group for their support.  We’re making plans for my return in fall of 2017, and meanwhile, Pam is going to FINALLY begin presenting CORE work to Scotland; something I’ve been encouraging in my own head and heart for the last year or so. Towards the end of the day Maggie and Nicola were called away for a family crisis; prayers and love follow them.

I managed to end promptly at 5 pm, after a few farewells Pam and Liz dropped me at the train station, and I now sit on the 4 ½ hour journey back to Kings Cross, then on home.  So, full baggage, full heart, full mind, and can’t wait to visit both the people and the country.  This morning before leaving the hotel,  I thought; “Next time I must stay at least three weeks without work!  So much to see…so much beauty….so much intrigues me.” Tomorrow five sessions of clients; Wednesday a 6 hour class, and Thursday, off to Istanbul!  The next adventure awaits!

Pictured, finally here, the first photo I ever blogged ten years ago, of dusk in Edinburgh; a fitting final shot. Thanks Scotland, Thanks Maggie, Nicola, Lorna, Richard, Pam, Liz, Kit, Jill, Julie, Gail, Gerry, etc, etc...you're with me still. I shall return.