(29 April, 2017)

We returned from Mt. Batur in the middle of goodbyes. I hugged Lucy, my British roommate from Accra, realizing yet again how lucky we were to share this experience as people with such similar backgrounds. We had pulled one another up a waterfall, booked massages together, and were the first to laugh during a serious meditation when a farmer starting shooting at birds over the yoga shala. At the heart of it, we were two young people stepping out into the world who still yearned for our adopted mother, Mama Africa herself.

It came time for me to leave. As the taxi rolled out of the long driveway, I felt a bittersweet twinge. This teacher training had been hard for me. Not only was it physically demanding, it forced me to stare into the mirror and accept the entirety of what was there. My development at Zuna had synthesized a vast foundation for me to scaffold my post-anorexia life upon.

And so rice paddies receded into the streets of Ubud. Incense burned under brightly colored umbrellas, wafting delicately into streets that roared with the constant splitting sound of motorcycle engines. Alleyways reverberated with the din of the Ubud market. Every corner was saturated with yoga stores and vegan restaurants from which scantily clad tourists poured like water. The overwhelming freedom I now felt was propagated by thousands of colors, smells, and sounds. It was dizzying.

The taxi turned down a quieter street, and together we dragged out my duffel bag. He drove away, and I was left with no working phone and only a little bit of hard cash. As time passed, I was worried that the driver from my AirBnb had forgotten our agreed meet-up point.

As I waited, I fended off an old shopkeeper cackling as he gestured to his wares, an array of phallic wooden carvings all varying in size, color, and prominence of veins. Carvings such as these were popular in Ubud, constituting some sort of dirty inside joke between vendors and tourists alike. Though the shopkeeper was harmless, I was relieved when my driver finally arrived.

However, there was a problem. Instead of a car, he had a scooter. I glanced warily at the driver, a teenage boy who seemed naively positive as he stuffed my enormous duffel bag into a crevice between the seat and the handlebars of the scooter. He climbed on, checking the balance, then looked back at me expectantly. Well, here we go, I thought, gingerly swinging my legs over the seat, trying to balance backpack and camera as I worried about flashing the old shopkeeper who watched the entire predicament with glee.

My dress and dignity remained intact as the driver, Wayan, stepped onto the pedal, and we skittered off down the cobbled streets. Boy, girl, and duffel bag somehow made it up an enormous hill as pavement morphed into muddy trails that interlaced the rice paddies. After one more close call on an especially tight corner, the scooter launched itself through the mud.

Over the glittering emerald of midday rice paddies rose the “Firefly Eco Apartment,” a whimsical building made of brick, bamboo, and a thatched roof. If there ever was a love child between the Gilligan’s Island set and a chic downtown apartment, this was it. After Wayan and the caretaker of the property handed over the keys, I sat down in commemorative silence. This was the next part of my adventure.

As dusk fell, countless little sparks glimmered on and off over the deepening green of the rice paddies. I hadn’t seen fireflies in years. The magic of the moment soaked through the loneliness that had, all of a sudden, sprung up inside of me. Accompanied by the croaking of frogs and a rustling sound that I could only hope wasn’t a snake in the rafters, I hurried into my loft and pulled the mosquito nets around me. For the first time in over a month, I slept until my own body woke itself up.

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