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Holistic Holiday

August 2, 2014

I am in the airport waiting to return to Antakya after 12 amazing days of holiday. I am so grateful for the time off and the truly blessed experiences. My life is so so blessed and I go from glory to glory. I pray that my life glorifies God immensely. Sometimes I really wonder if I should be suffering more for Christ…? In any case, it is a pleasure to see Him in so many places, people, and cultures. The best thing to share about this vacation is that though I did not travel with anyone, I shared every beautiful moment with beautiful people who truly appreciated being with me in that moment. We experienced life in these days with eyes and hearts wide open. In Psalm 133, David remarked “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!”

The first week of my holiday was spent on the Greek island of Skyros in the Aegean Sea where 22 others joined together for a “holistic holiday” at Skyros Centre. Most of them came alone, and there were 3 couples. I took the art class while others took a writing class and a few took a class on presentation. Most of us shared a room with a complete stranger, and my complete stranger was a feminist Muslim Pakistani-British lady whom I came to respect greatly. There was also a Brazilian who’d been in the UK since the late 80s, a tattooed biker Brit, a sweet and hilarious Irish teacher, a South African-British novelist, a British actress, a British commercial producer, and a few others. In my art class was a South African who’d lived in the UK since the 70s, and 2 Russian young ladies in banking who went to school together, now living in London and New York City. Our teacher was the talented and successful Scottish artist Michael Gahagan. We started with sketching, then oil pastels, which I hated, then watercolors and chalk pastels. I learned a lot and enjoyed the practice. Michael’s approach placed importance on learning through the journey, not on the final product, and on being present in the moment, noticing the beauty all around us. Of course there really is more beauty to notice on Skyros than most places! We had 45 minutes of yoga each morning, followed by breakfast, then personal time, then 3 hours of class, then lunch, and afternoons were free, then we usually went into town for some delicious dinners! In the afternoons, I went to the beach to sunbathe, swim, kayak, sketch, and watercolor. I also took a day to wander around the narrow streets winding up and down the mountain. I went to the Manos Faltaits history and relics museum, too. I ate a lot of veggies and seafood, and drank a lot of iced cappuccinos and alcohol. The island had everything that I love and wished for on a holiday.

At the end of the week, we had a gallery viewing of the artists work, a closing ceremony, and a cabaret night where anyone in our group could perform a talent. I was proud to show my work alongside the other artists. (Last 6 in this album.) For the cabaret, I read a poem that I wrote about the Skyrian landscape, below, and sang a duet (with my roomie) of Adele’s “Rollin’ in the Deep”. I practiced this song at least a hundred times this past winter for my singing lessons with Jeremy Ragsdale in Annapolis and reluctantly took this as an opportunity to perform it. We sounded great together!

What surprised and delighted me the most was how close I became with the others. I actually teared up at the airport! It felt ridiculous because it was only one week! But in that one week, I opened up and fell in love with them more than I have with my current colleagues over the past 3 months. The contrast was so clear in my mind and my heart, and I really didn’t want to leave that love and unity, nor the wonderful life-style we had on the island.

The next stop was Istanbul where I met up with 2 of my Syrian colleagues, both kind-hearted engineers. They prepared an itinerary for my 4 days in Istanbul (formerly Constantinople) and led me around to all the most fantastic sights! We went to Hagia Sophia, built in 537AD as a church, and in 1453 was converted to a mosque, and finally in 1931 was converted to a museum that opened in 1935. We also went to the Topkapi Palace of the Ottoman sultans where I supposedly saw with my own eyes Moses’ staff and David’s sword. (It’s hard for me to believe those were the real items…) It was quite a beautiful estate! We also spent a day on one of the Prince Islands, where we biked, swam in the Sea of Marmara, ate ice cream, walked in the car-less streets, and ate the most amazing seafood dinner on the water at sunset. The dinner included pickled fish, fried mussels, shrimp, little fried fish, and a really big baked fish. It was a fantastic tour of the city with sweet gentlemen.

All in all, an amazing holiday!!!

Skyros Island

Out of the earth,
high and lofty
mighty mountains
standing proud
dignified wise men
tattered by storms but standing
wrinkled under age
speckled with bushes
split wide by miniscule seeds
caves of refuge
altars of hope

arises
geometric shapes
hundreds of corners
straight, crisp lines
icy shades of white
plans and dreams
devised and fulfilled
hollow windows into deep souls
a staircase to the blue heavens
a Babylonian city building higher and higher
crooked teeth taking a bite out of the sky.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. August 2, 2014 8:57 pm

    I am so happy you get to have such enriching experiences. And you use them to expand your level of self actualization so beautifully. I do fail to understand how more people in the world suffering would serve Jesus or any good purpose. There is far too much suffering as it is. You strive in your life and your work to make life better for others. I am always proud of you and happy you had such a wonderful time and made more friends from around the world.

    • Anonymous permalink
      August 3, 2014 12:07 am

      Ah yes. The problem of suffering. It was a rather sarcastic remark because being Christian isn’t supposed to be easy or make life perfect. And it is not. But Jesus said His purpose was to relieve suffering! And that is what I strive to do for others and what I seem to also get in return. Perhaps I need to break away from thinking that if I live to serve Jesus through serving others, that would mean I am not working towards satisfying myself and so I will suffer. I can see that what I give, I gain back! But these blessings seem to be much more than I’ve given.

  2. Tolulope Olumuyiwa permalink
    August 3, 2014 3:09 am

    Leevani, you continue to amaze me. This blog post somewhat sounds like Paul when he described his journey to Turkey. I am so happy to see you are living your life to the fullest in godliness, and influening lives with the gospel, Christ’s message of love.
    I am so so happy to hear you are doing well. God will continue to send great men and women your way and cause favor to be round about you always.
    I love you sis, God bless you always.

  3. August 25, 2014 11:08 am

    A wonderful summation of your time on Skyros. So glad to have met you and shared in this in a small way.

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