Archive for the ‘When the Blues Hit’ Category



a place to breathe and suspend sad thoughts

I watch her as she walks down the halls, her weary eyes almost blank, and her shoulders struggling not to slope down. She must keep up appearances of a cheery disposition that actually belies a mind tormented by anguish and a heart buffeted by the opposite end of Cupid’s love arrows. She has tried to push the thoughts – of him, of what went wrong – from her mind, but like a boxer trapped in a vice, the blows rain heavy and incessantly. She tells me her heart’s agonies, which break mine as well, but all I can offer are words of solace that seem ineffectual in easing the dull throb. I know her; no, I know her very well. She never goes into something without her entire heart, she takes risks, and her understanding is to the point of fault. Unknown to him, it took her seven years to give her heart to another one having turned into an unreconstructed hard-liner against intimacy. Who could fault her? Blinded by Cupid, she followed and waited for this man who had awakened her love but had no intention of loving her in return. She wasn’t into playing games, but he was. She had realized only after she felt that hard twinge in her chest as if a hand had plunged into it and grabbed hold of her heart and, within a blink, yanked it out. Wide-eyed, she had watched him cast it aside like cotton waste. Never again, she vowed to herself. Never again will anyone have her heart, she told herself. But the universe has had always a soft spot for her, a spot for making light of her decisions and making her believe everything would turn out all right, but, like a well-crafted Poe story, would end on a saturnine note.

Now, she is dealing with the risk of having opened herself to the possibility of love – something she dared not talk about because of the inopportune situation and timing. She wakes up every day with a tightness in her chest and an urge to cry but no tears roll down. She has difficulty in breathing and is assailed by throbbing pains in her stomach. She is wallowing in wretchedness with each passing day. She has been shunned because of a perceived slight on his part which caught her off guard. She would never hurt him! Reeling from the painful brush-off, she turns the exchange of messages in her mind hoping to find an opening to explain again or for that abrupt and painful closure to a budding relationship. She argues with herself inside her head: she, of all people, knows when to back off from a situation that is fraught with drama. She actually runs away from drama: it’s a trait she inherited from her mother. She could be a drama queen if she really wanted to, but she only sees the futility in such a role.

She’s not fatuous having learned from her mistakes. What her intelligence cannot comprehend at this point is the spitefulness of the universe. She is no angel. She is far from perfect, but she has striven to not commit the same mistakes she did during those years she calls blinded vacuity. Ironically, it is the year of the Rooster – her year – and it’s off to roaring start. She doesn’t want to be mired again in emptiness and self-doubt. She knows she didn’t make a mistake this time, but why won’t he listen to her? Why won’t he talk to her? I am at a lost too at what to say to her to alleviate the silent pain running up and down in her. I can only tell her to not forgo her workout regimen with her personal trainer because happy hormones are good for her. Then there’s the beginner’s yoga class she leads, which, thankfully, I see her doing with alacrity.

The last time we met she told me she has found a respite from the steady barrage of her sad thoughts. She has a found a cozy nook where her past and present can’t get to her. It’s a breathing room she hides in which helps her to suspend the ugly thoughts doing the cha-cha on her heart and mind. I praised her for it – the universe knows she needs a break from its battering.


Who would have thought that an hour plus of Cumberbatch and a cup of churros would banish the blues? Trust my gal-pal to know the remedy when I once again hit rock bottom. It is just one of those days when fatigue from work and working out, a whole day weekend of teacher training, and missing my wonderful man like crazy coalesced to pull me down to one of the nadirs of my life. Gal-pal Fistri came to the rescue with plans to catch Benedict Cumberbatch in Dr Strange at Bugis Plus mall on Victoria Street. Originally, it was just to meet up over a cup of Monster Ice cream – picture a mountain of soft serve vanilla ice cream wrapped in caramel popcorn – but the doctor thought eye candy would do the trick. The eye candy treatment was effective! Benedict Cumberbatch as Dr Strange worked; I take this to mean that he was able to create a persona that had no traces of his rendition of the quintessential detective, Sherlock Holmes. And he had this wonderful chemistry with the Cape of Levitation.

The cup of mini churros was a serendipitous find as Fistri and I rode the escalator down to the first floor after the movie. Tucked in a little corner of the fourth, at the foot of the escalator, is Churro 101. Like a moth drawn to the fire, I quickly gravitated to it much to the surprise of Fistri. It is like the Californians who go agog over In-and-Out burgers because it reminds them of home. Churros throws me back to my un-jaded self particularly to the time I first set foot in Disneyland Anaheim. I walked around the happiest place on Earth munching on a long, thick churros drizzled with cinnamon-sugar. The version of Churro 101 is, I find, more practical. They’ve cut up the churros into bite-size pieces, placed them in a cup, and included two stick pokers for you to eat them without having to dirty your fingers. Verdict: the cinnamon-sugar churros was just right, not too sweet, not too bland, not greasy or tough. 

A cup of churros to chase the blues away

Fully medicated with a dose of Cumberbatch and churros, I climbed easily back to the ne plus ultra of life. 

No. 16

“You must take a number,” said Indra as I walked pass him to get to the ladies’ locker room.

“Number? What number?”

“It is for spinning class, for the bike,” he explained, pointing to the table opposite the men’s locker room where his colleague was seated and watching over strips of numbers arranged neatly. The number man, as I had secretly taken to calling him, would be at his station between 5 and 510pm waiting for cyclists to pick one up. Without much thought I selected number 16 and, being a creature of habit, I’d always picked number 16 and appropriated the bike as “my” bike.

Indra, one of the spinning instructors, had been urging me to attend spinning class every time he’d see me at the gym. I had return to Helios gym at Cyber Park Bekasi last June but I wasn’t that keen on attending spinning class. I had attended the class years ago but I wasn’t ready; I knew I would as soon as collapse after a few minutes on the bike. Eventually, I bit the bullet and relented to hop on a bike. Ever since then spinning class has become my panacea, the source of the much vaunted happy hormones I needed to get through the days of listlessness and ennui.

There was a time engaging in persiflage would lift my flagging spirit – repartees gave me a thrill but then my verbal jousting partner had started his first year in medical school at University of Indonesia and no one was left to pick up the gauntlet. Repartee is more difficult and less satisfying over WhatsApp. Gawking at the jeunesse dorée did distract me too from my worries – it is like flipping through a glossy magazine – until it hit me that I am almost penurious compared to them. So, what do you do when you are feeling as if someone pulled the rug from under you? Being patient was one colleague’s suggestion. Another told me to tuck into sinfully delicious red velvet cake or Baskin and Robbins ice cream or Excelso’s banana frappio. Fortunately, Indra badgered me into attending spinning class which gave that much-needed diversification in my workout.

Diversity in workout, I read in an article in, is a must for people who want to get more out there of their workout. Said Ingrid Nelson, a personal trainer in Washington, D.C., and founder of the ING Group personal training, in the article The One Thing All Personal Trainers Tell Their Clients to Do More Of: “Even minor tweaks, like doing squats or pushups for a set period of time instead of number of reps, keep your muscles guessing and working in new ways, which improves strength.”

It was also written in the article that “in a small study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology, researchers found that participants who followed a varied workout routine (including resistance training, sprint intervals, stretching/yoga/Pilates and endurance exercise) and ate whey protein lost more weight, lost more fat mass, and gained more lean body mass than those who combined the protein with resistance-only strength training or only consumed the protein.”

Spinning class is conducted every day of the week at Helio in Bekasi Cyber Park.

Spinning class is conducted every day of the week at Helio in Bekasi Cyber Park.

So, following the experts’ advice, I have added regular spinning classes to my exercise bag of weights and yoga for a well-rounded workout routine. For 30 minutes, three or four times a week, I pedal and huff and puff plus curse under my breath while following the moves of Indra or Rini or Carin who barked orders to pedal faster, increase the tension, or go up and down in Indonesian. After each session, I feel as svelte as Heidi Klum and an Indonesian phrase wiser – ambil nafas (roughly translated as inhale, exhale) is now part of my vocabulary.


“Hot yoga? How hot does it get?” she asked over Hangouts.

“Imagine doing yoga in a sauna,” I wrote flippantly, adding a smiley emoticon.

I should have followed it up with a rational explanation that it wasn’t that hot as a sauna – it’s at least half or less the temperature of a sauna allowing you to do the asana for 90 minutes.

Hot yoga for flexibility, clearer mind, and slimmer physique (sculpture of woman doing a bow pose at Hot Yoga-Studio Leona)

Hot yoga for flexibility, clearer mind, and slimmer physique (sculpture of woman doing a bow pose at Hot Yoga-Studio Leona)

Hot yoga provided succour when I was beset by anxieties and doubts at one point in my life. But it has been a while since my last hot yoga session, so after five-plus years, I finally stepped into a hot yoga studio filled not with anxiety and doubt, but a desire to practice it again. Call it serendipity, but my hotel reservation included a session of hot yoga – super! I had always wanted to go back to a studio but there was no strong impetus for it until my brief April sojourn to Bali. Hotel Puri Tempo Doeloe had a nice yoga package tied in with Hot Yoga Studio Leona – book three nights’ stay at the hotel and enjoy a free hot yoga session.

Who wouldn't be challenged to do Hot Yoga when you see these "women"? -Yoga garden, Hot Yoga-Studio LEONA

Who wouldn’t be challenged to do Hot Yoga when you see these “women”? -Yoga garden, Hot Yoga-Studio LEONA

I was stoked to conquer the 50 poses of the Absolute Hot Yoga series in 90 minutes. Possibly losing several calories plus gaining flexibility and strength also provided the push. Classes are seven days a week, twice a day, one in the morning and one in afternoon, except on Tuesdays and Saturdays where hot yoga is replaced by capoeira while Sunday only has one session in the afternoon. The studio is within the hotel premises; it is to your left if you’re coming from one of Hot Puri’s wooden Gladak room or suite, or private villa. It is easy to spot because the little garden at the entrance to the studio is peppered with sculptures of voluptuous women in various yoga poses.

Yoga women sculptures_camel pose at the back and

I chose the 530pm class on Friday and followed the advice listed on the leaflet to the letter.

  • Arrive 15 minutes before the class.
  • Bring a towel and water.
  • Avoid a big meal two hours before class.
  • Dress as light as possible – think tank top and shorts or leggings.
  • Drink plenty of water before and after class.
  • Have fun.

Yogi Chris was genial. He greeted the newcomers to class, telling them to take it easy and to look at the person in front if things got confusing. Then, in his Jude Law-like voice, class finally got underway.

Hot Yoga -Studio LEONA

Hotel Puri Tempo Doeloe

Jl. Bypass Ngurah Rai 209 Sanur, Bali, Indonesia

Tel: 0361 286542

FB: hot yoga-studio leona


You wake up one fine morning doubting the existence of hope, wondering if there is a point to everything you’re doing. It’s that time again when you wallow in melancholy as the ghosts of the past caper within your field of vision. There is really no way to go about it except to ride this wave of the blues, but the ride doesn’t have to be mired in wretchedness. My advice is to think of your creature comforts, which can certainly add in a dash of bright hues in your otherwise grey palette. These creature comforts of mine dovetailed with sessions of foot reflexology are more than enough to help me ride the pesky blues.

  1. Weekend high tea

A trip to Cascade Lounge at Hotel Mulia Senayan, Jakarta, can be a huge ameliorating factor in lifting up the blues, and this is despite the exhaustingly infuriating journey to the city all the way from Bekasi because of the turtle-pace traffic and road closures that would have you making a huge circle to get to where you’re headed, which was normally accessible by a straight line.

A basket of flowers greet you as you make your way from the lobby to Cascade Lounge.

A basket of flowers greet you as you make your way from the lobby to Cascade Lounge.

There are numerous exquisite sofa sets to claim as your nook for that afternoon in the spacious Cascade Lounge, order the classic high tea set, and simply sit. Whether coffee – cappuccino or café latte – or tea (I recommend the green tea), it goes well with the set of little tuna/salmon/caviar with egg sandwiches, scone with jam and clotted cream, mini meat pie, and an array of delectable éclair, macaron, and mini chocolate cake. Completing the relaxing weekend afternoon is the music wafting through the air from the trio of Eastern European women on the piano, cello, and violin.

The musicians in flowing gowns enchant you with tunes from classical to modern.

The musicians in flowing gowns enchant you with tunes from classical to modern.

Naturally, the high tea is to tide you over before the gastronomic experience at the buffet of The Café a little later in the evening.

The Classic Afternoon Tea Set is your bridge to your next meal at The Cafe.

The Classic Afternoon Tea Set is your bridge to your next meal at The Cafe.

  1. Cool coffee

It has been a while since my last visit to Eight Coffee, this quaint coffee place at Grand Galaxy, and a lot has happened. The menu has expanded to included light meals like the fettuccine carbonara among others plus breakfast sets that early risers can dig into as early as 6 a.m. A new drink caught my attention, the Vietnamese iced coffee, which piqued my curiosity having had it always hot.

The verdict: it’s a serene afternoon with each sip as you nestle comfortably in one of the sofa sets, your current read in your hand.

A book, a bowl of pasta, and a glass of Vietnamese iced coffee make for a relaxing me-time at Eight Coffee.

A book, a bowl of pasta, and a glass of Vietnamese iced coffee make for a relaxing me-time at Eight Coffee.

  1. Tea and toast

Killiney Kopitiam has always been a favourite haunt of mine in Singapore. Whether breakfast or snack, a cup of sweet teh tarik (‘pulled tea’) and a plate of toasted bread with butter and sri kaya (coconut jam) spread satisfies those persistent hunger pangs. It’s now easier to make a teh tarik-kaya-toast run because a franchise called Killiney Kopi just opened for business at Grand Metropolitan in Bekasi.

Got the hunger pangs? Grab a mug of teh tarik and a plate of kaya toast.

Got the hunger pangs? Grab a mug of teh tarik and a plate of kaya toast.


It used to be going to the cinema was the solution to alleviate the vicissitudinous nature of work; after all, dealing with children and their parents is very much like getting on board the roller coaster leaving one completely winded at the end. But now, going to the cinema isn’t good enough. I discovered this little fact from my grade 10 students who had trooped to the Premiere section of Cinema 21 at Grand Metropolitan mall while I made my way to the ordinary theatre. I noted they had a different entrance and had a comfortable cafe to wait at until the movie started.

Fancy tickets for a fancy cinema

Fancy tickets for a fancy cinema

Curious, I decided to up a notch in my movie-watching and went Premiere. It was a good decision. The touch of exclusivity started with purchasing the ticket; there was a different counter and you sit before the ticket attendant much like you would when in bank to open a new account. A staff from the cafe then sidles up ready with a menu for your beverage and snack. He suggests the popular Mikado shake, a combination of chocolate and avocado and topped with Milo chocolate balls, which is actually a good suggestion. Too bad, calamari that day was not available.

Ready to chillax at Premiere Cinema after a hard day at work.

Ready to chillax at Premiere Cinema after a hard day at work.

Put your feet up and enjoy the movie.

Put your feet up and enjoy the movie.

The Premiere Theatre is a microcosm of the business class cabin of a traditional air carrier. Its verisimilitude is amazing – the only element missing was the captain welcoming the passengers on board. The walkway and the seats make all the difference. The former is wider and the latter are big, cushy and reclinable. Rounding up the blissful experience was the blanket to keep the cold away and my Mikado delivered to me just as the lights went off.

A basket of nachos and a glass of Mikado - snack away!

A basket of nachos and a glass of Mikado – snack away!

Now, there really is no going back to regular cinema viewing after my Premiere experience.


When my Chi, or qi, one’s vital force, is out of whack I just want to take an indefinite leave of absence from the world. My thoughts run to the beach, but getting to the nearest beach in Bekasi is quite an impossibility. The traffic alone can dissuade you from actually going on making the trip. If you do brave the jams and the snail-pace of the vehicles on the expressway, by the time you get to Ancol (pronounced An-chol), it is already seething with people that you feel hemmed in, which is the exact opposite of what you want to really feel. This is when the idea of going on a city-break to balance the Chi becomes really alluring, which, in my book, is a trip to a spa in one of the hotels in Jakarta. My horoscope on that Saturday did urge me to make a spa appointment to iron out the kinks and fine-tune my lopsided Chi, and a few seconds after reading my horoscope, my FB newsfeed advertised the Chi Spa at Shangri-La Hotel, Jakarta. Can we say serendipitous?

My first Chi Spa experience was ages ago at the Shangri-La Hotel, Cebu. I met up with Sharon Samarista, the hotel’s Director of Communications then, who toured me around the well-manicured hotel grounds that eventually ended at the Chi Spa, which was a world on its own. A Chi Spa experience begins with a short “interview” – you fill in a data sheet that will let the therapist know what ails you, what areas need to be avoided, allergies and recent surgical procedures, if any, to ascertain a truly Chi-balancing and invigorating experience. Naturally, this is all done within the comforts of a well-furnished lobby while sipping a mini cup of tea and dabbing oneself with a cold towel.

Take a break from the world at the Chi Spa at Shangri-La Hotel, Jakarta.

Take a break from the world at the Chi Spa at Shangri-La Hotel, Jakarta.

Shangri-La Hotel, Jakarta, is without the vast space of Shangri-La Hotel, Cebu, as it’s ensconced within the fourth floor of the building, sharing space with the Health Club, but there was no lack in gracious staff and skilled therapists. There was no uncertainty – that kind you get every now and then when you announce your presence at an establishment and the receptionist is at a complete loss – when I said I had an appointment. Before I could finish saying my name, he had found my name in the computer and politely directed to take a seat while waiting for my therapist.

Erni pored over my filled-up sheet, confirming that I wanted concentration of the Chi Balance, a full body massage using acupressure techniques, on my back, arms and legs while avoiding the neck area. Chi Balance is one of Chi Spa’s signature massages, which promises to calm the senses while improving circulation. Teaching gets you all worked up especially with recalcitrant students, not to forget the forgetful and lazy ones, who don’t see the error of their way of thinking: the words and sentences of a reading material will never permeate their minds if they do not actually flip and read through the pages. An hour and 15 minutes of Chi Balance should knead out the knots to get the blood flowing unhampered and, little by little, banish the frustration of having such students.

Ice cold ginger tea and a cold towel - it's the start of your Chi Spa experience.

Ice cold ginger tea and a cold towel – it’s the start of your Chi Spa experience.

I could have chosen the traditional Balinese massage but a part of me was quite drawn to the phrase “acupressure techniques” and having my sense calmed. Erni’s dextrous fingers worked her magic on my back – putting the right pressure on the sore spots and gliding her fingers with even pressure up and down the spine, releasing the “stale air” and coaxing the blood to meander through the body smoothly. With each stroke and pressure she exerted, I exhaled every dissatisfaction, annoyance, and anxiety bit by bit.

Strike it once to signal you're ready for your massage.

Strike it once to signal you’re ready for your massage.

Leaving the sanctuary soon was not an option just yet. De-stressing was the order of the day so I was up for another round of massage. After Chi Balance, I was escorted out of the room and lead to a sitting room meant for an hour-long Chinese Reflexology, Chinese foot massage to relieve stress and stimulate circulation. Through years of going for this massage intermittently, I have learnt to discern between a badly executed reflexology and not: the masseuse must be able to unblock the kinks in my foot area without me wincing in pain. The fingers must glide up and down my foot and lower leg with fluidity and consistent pressure while I breathe normally and read my book. Not asking the masseuse to increase the pressure is also a good sign that the masseuse knows what he/she is doing. He/she can read your foot, breathing and expression quite well.

Finding balance has become more challenging these days. Living in a place that is teeming with a multitude of people of varying socio-cultural backgrounds is bound to always lead to tension and disagreements. Dealing with people, after all, day in day out can be frustrating, and there lies the rub. One can’t take an indefinite leave of absence unless one has grown tired of the world completely. I haven’t; I just need a break every now and then to balance my Chi, which I know won’t always be in tip-top shape.