My first tattoo … well, sort of.

Scene 1 – The part where I didn’t think
In a casual conversation while helping Sue hang the washing one morning.

T, spontaneously while pegging a pair of Roy’s shorts on the line ‘ Hey, we should get our eye-liner tattooed’

Sue in a slight Peruvian accent- ‘ Yes, do you want to do it today?’

T, surprised at how quick and easy the decision was – ‘I’m game if you are’

And that was that.

Scene 2 – The part where I did think
That afternoon we’re at the beauty parlour.

Sue, 61, anxiously –‘ Let’s not tell Roy (her husband), he’ll come at us with a whip!’ laughing, then adds in a matter-a-fact tone ‘ … Actually, he won’t even notice.’

We’re given a choice of who wants to go first and as I was still struggling with the word ‘permanent’ I graciously, if not cowardly, gave Sue the honours.

I watched nervously as Sue lay down on the reclined parlour chair with the spotlight shining in her face, looking ever so calm and relaxed as the beautician prepared her tools.

The beautician shows Sue a needle, then proceeds to inject an anesthetic into her eyelid.

The loose anxiety I felt turned into a tight ball of fear – needle?! I didn’t know this would involve a needle? In my eye!! As usual, I had only thought about the outcome and not the process.

I then watched the beautician tense Sue’s right eyelid while using the dentist drill sounding device to tattoo the eye-liner. During this time I could see Sue’s eyes flickering wildly underneath.

Brave T thinks, ‘Come on, if Sue at 61 can do this then so can you’

Shit scared T thinks, ‘Be reasonable, the womans had 3 children – she can bear anything!!’

Scene 3 – The part where I cried and discovered I had no balls.
Before I knew it, the beautician was helping Sue to the recovery bed with two white cotton patches over her eyes. It was my turn.

She didn’t even need to get to the needle part, only the topical numbing cream part, when my eyes started weeping heavily.

T, face covered in tears but not actually crying – ‘Is this normal?’

Beautician in Spanish with Sue translating – ‘ You have very sensitive eyes’

Answer equals abnormal. . . shit shit shit shit shit!

I felt a stinging prick as the needle entered my eyelid. More tears, now accompanied by a runny nose – Not pretty.

The beautician, who I hoped wasn’t feeling tired and sloppy from her hour session with Sue, started tattooing the corner of my right eye.

T, doing deep yoga breathing, thinks – ‘ooh, this tickles, but it’s not so bad, I can do this’

As the beautician made her way to the centre of my eye-lid, the tickling sensation became almost unbearable and my eyes started to flicker wildly as Sue’s had done. I could see a white light shining through my eyelid and started to fear that my eyes were going to fly open from the irritation, and then the tool that sounded and felt like it was making thousands of tiny incisions all at once was going to go directly into my eye!

T, panicked – OMG, any second now she’s going to tattoo my eye-ball!’

I seriously thought about getting up and leaving. Then I had a flashback to the scene in the movie ’40 Year Old Virgin’ when the guy leaves in the middle of his painful chest wax looking ridiculous with a chest full of thick black hair except for a couple of bald strips across his nipple. No, I couldn’t leave, not with only one eye done.

I lay there and took it, making low whimpering wounded animal noises every now and then, and slight head jerks whenever the tickling or sting got too much. Much respect to our beautician – a talented professional who when doing my left eye injected an extra load of anesthetic. Smart move!

Scene 4 – The part where we look like bad drag queens
Sue and I arrive home sore and tired, wearing large sunglasses to cover the immense swelling in our face, a swelling that was visually intensified by the black dramatic lines that now framed our googly eyes. We had that surprised, punched in the face without smudging the eye-liner look going on.

Roy, anxious, to his wife Sue – ‘Come on, show me what you’ve done’

Sue reluctantly takes off her dark glasses.

Roy, 71, standing nose to nose with Sue, stares at her face in high concentration and finally says – ‘I can’t see nothing… what did you do?’

T’s gastronomic adventure!

There was a perfect plan to Malaysia – Learn my mother tongue, get fit, and skill up on cooking the local delicacies.

Operation Mother Tongue – I was going to learn Mandarin and practice with my grandmother. She doesn’t speak english, and this way I would finally be able to have a conversation with her, and with more than a third of the world’s population (bonus!). But when I proudly told my grandmother that I was going to take Mandarin classes, she replied ‘Mandarin?! I don’t understand Mandarin!! Don’t you know I only speak Cantonese..’ (Nope)

Operation Get Fit – I was going to sign up to a yoga program and use this time in Malaysia to concentrate on getting healthy, as I had failed to do so in the ashram in India. I discovered a yoga studio near where I’m staying and did one hatha class which put my back out for a week. Since then I’ve been too scared to return. And too lazy to go anywhere else.

Operation Culinary Courses – I was going to take formal cooking classes to learn to prepare a couple of my favourite local dishes at an expert level. In reality, formal cooking classes have instead become informal eating lessons. I’ve learnt that I can easily devour more than three yummy meals a day, 7 days a week, with no problems! In fact, every day I become a better, faster, stronger, food disciple, knowing exactly what I feel like hours before meal time.

New plan! Malaysia is my gastronomic adventure, where I will spend quality time with the family eating. And if this leads me to a soft, cushiony, immobile place, then at least I won’t be able to understand my grandmother when she tells me off for getting fat.

Tea picking for T?

The act of drinking tea, and Tea houses are a valuable part of the Chinese culture, so I decided to enjoy an afternoon of visiting an old-school chinese town called Ling Pe and experience the highly recommended art of tea picking.

Accompanying me on this tour are 2 German men, Bernard and Christoph, and a couple from the UK, Helen and Ed.

Our Chinese driver, who can speak only chinese, takes us to Liz’s Courthouse, which accommodates a lush green tea plantation up on a hill surrounded by bamboo forests with an amazing view over the countryside. He begins informing and instructing us on how to pick a good tea leaf as we all got to work.

Priding myself on being the kind of person who appreciates all sorts of cultural activities and has a keen interest for a vast range of topics, I listen intently with the ears of a dedicated student and went about my tea picking with a forced enthusiasm.

Unexpectedly, after my initial questions (How do you harvest? Is this green tea? How much do you sell it for? and Can you smoke it?) and after 5 minutes of practical, I found myself getting distracted, the mosquito’s were bugging me. I wondered fearfully if there were any venemous snakes or spiders lurking near my feet? I was irritated that my trekking shoes were getting extremely muddy.

T, thinking – Ok, you’re not getting into the experience, just calm down and try to see the joy in it that everyone else can. Be one with nature. It’s like meditating, just breathe and do the activity. Be one with the picking. Yoga zen yoga zen yoga zen..tolerance tolerance tolerance… (Tummy growls) God, I’m STARVING!

I shamefully and disappointedly admitted to myself that I had no interest in the activity and was completely and utterly BORED, and starving because I was bored. I was done pretending to be a happy tea picking hippy and could have easily learnt this from television as I flicked past the tea harvesting channel.

I broke the (supposedly) tranquil silence and ask Bernard, who I admired for his ability to speak 4 languages and the fact that he was in China to perform as a musician at a charity event, to ask the driver how long more did we have to do this for and, more importantly, when was lunch going to be served?

Bernhard – ‘Now. He must have heard your prayers’

T – ‘I started praying an hour ago’

Bernhard, laughing – ‘I know, 20 minutes would have been enough’

T, smiling but thinking – More like 2 seconds.

What I have learnt about myself? I enjoy drinking the tea that other people skilfully cultivate and harvest. And that learning to meditate in India could go either way, but if I can master it, will be an extremely handy skill to have.