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A, Holland again. Where do I start? Although I loved travelling to various destinations there is something in me that feels such a deep connection with this unforgivingly flat land of open fields and crowded bustling towns. Although speaking and reading Dutch takes much more of an effort for me than English, there is something inside of me that deeply relaxes when I hear its expressive and almost lyrical tones. I am even working my way through Harry Potter in Dutch!

Anyway, nostalgia aside, the next few weeks in Holland provided many adventures - long days, exciting courses and little rest! In fact I think I need a vacation to recover from my holiday! I spent an amazing three days with my cousin Miriam, a concert cellist, in the Hague. She and her husband, Sven, a violinist in the Utrecht String Quartet welcomed me into their home and showed me around the official city of peace. It was the first time that I met their trilingual three year old daughter, Leah, who kept me entertained with her heart warming antics and inquisitive ways.

At the Kushi Institute in the heart of Amsterdam, I enrolled in every class that was available while I was there. I enjoyed Macro Cooking - Caribbean style, Middle Easter Macro Delicacies, Cooking for the Liver with Spring and Wood Energy, Secrets of the Macrobiotic Pastry Chef (hmmmm....), a Sushi Skills class and a study day on Arthritis, Arthrosis and Rheumatic conditions and more.

Though it was in Castle Overcinge in Havelte in the Province of Drente in the north of Holland, that the real macrobiotic adventure unfolded, while I took part in the Art of Life School - Part One. Surrounded by lush fields and quaint country houses, the grand country manor, complete with a moat, fortress and a suit of armour in the doorway housed 50 students from around the globe. There were participants from Egypt, Germany, Lebanon, France, the United States, England, Israel, Belgium, Spain, Austria, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Japan - even a fellow Aussie. I soon became firm friends with my roommates, a Saudi Arabian dietician and two Japanese girls, Sawa and Takako, who is the chef in a macrobiotic restaurant in Kyoto.

Although Amsterdam was literally shut down by a terrible storm that grounded public transport and claimed several lives, we felt relatively protected in this building, parts of which had stood the test of five centuries. A few of us braved the elements and ran through the fields in the escalating winds. Exhilarating though it was, as trees started to topple around us, we hurried back to the safety of the castle, only to barricaded there by the ancient trees that had toppled on the only road to the outside world.

Three nourishing and decadent meals prepared by leading macrobiotic chefs and assistants from the courses ensured we were up to participating in dawn Do-In classes, daily shiatsu instruction, inspiring cooking lessons and stirring philosophical lectures and debates.

The characters that brought my two weeks there to life included the Egyptian Dr Osama (who actually works at the Bin Laden hospital in Saudi Arabia!). He had translated seminal macrobiotic texts into Arabic. There was an ex-Israeli army girl Achinoam who had fallen in love with the Nelissen's (who are the founders of the Institute) Brad Pitt look-alike son, Koji. She was accompanied by her 93 year old English grandfather, a poet who is writing a sequel to the merchant of Venice, but had a little trouble with war memories and the German students (remember that Fawlty Towers episode with the German guests - "whatever you do, don't mention the war!" - Basil Fawlty?). There was Axel who runs a macrobiotic guest house in the south of France, Cathy who is the proprietress of a macrobiotic bed and breakfast in Bordeaux, a psychiatrist and his internist wife from Switzerland, the handsome and humorous Rainer from Germany and an anthroposophical school teacher from Belgium. Then there was Jorge and Donna, also a violinist and cellist from Rhode Island in the States. Running for my train connection to Steenwijk on my way north, I came across this couple laboriously loading their luggage on as well. Instinctively I knew they were headed for Overcinge even before I enquired about their destination. Our delightful conversation on that part of the journey was the first of many interesting interchanges during our stay.

I managed to catch a ride back to Amsterdam with a lovely fellow student, the elegant and kind Lide. There were so many students squeezed into her car, that most of our luggage had to be transported back to the city on the lorry along with all the cooking and shiatsu equipment! I can still see us all bopping along to the Spanish pop of Baja Mix 2002 (including the Ketchup song that was taking Europe by storm) as the car sped down the freeways of Holland - Amsterdam bound). It was a stunning day - one of the last when the sun shone brightly and we took advantage of it by having a lovely picnic lunch (the thoughtful kitchen staff at the Kushi Institute provide healthy, gourmet lunch boxes on the last day of the courses to sustain their students during the trip home) overlooking the water at Lyda's place.

Back in Amsterdam, passing through the historic arches of the world renowned Rijksmuseum, where an "East meets West" exhibition was showing, I was overcome by the most haunting folk music I had heard. Gathered in one corner was a troup of richly adorned Mongolian musicians. I was rooted to the spot where I stood by the deep, stirring sounds that their instruments and voices produced. It wasn't so much the sounds that affected me, but the reverberation of these unique sounds in my solar plexus. While the lead singer emitted a sound which could loosely be described as yodelling, his band members hummed in the background while strumming woodern instruments that can only be described as the fusion of a guitar, sitar and a cello ornately adorned by these nomads with carvings of horses. I was delighted when a band member autographed a copy of their CD in Mongolian for me.

Although the Weteringschans, where the Kushi Institute is located was heavenly, with a supermarket sized NatuurWinkel (a chain of health food stores found all over Holland) and The Awareness Shop, a boutique specialising in environmentally friendly fashion, it was the Groene Passage (the Green Passage) in Rotterdam that showed me a glimpse of the eco friendly shopping future. This beautifully designed centre houses an enormous health supermarket called Gimsel (imagine an entirely green Safeway...), a huge new-age bookstore, an interior design store with all organically grown and produced materials, a restaurant, a fair trade store, a health clinic, a cafe, a study centre and a purpose built cooking school. I didn't know where to begin...

I was in Rotterdam for two days to complete the Guasha training course with Dr Mei Mei Yan (see part one). I was so thrilled to be able to take part in a Guasha course while I was there since I was so taken with the concept and applications of Guasha therapy. I left the country with a fine collection of Guasha tools and I have been Guashing myself along my acupuncture meridians every day ever since! ( and

Setting foot in Cuijk, the small town where I spent four of my earliest childhood years really pulled at my heart strings. It happened to be Wednesday when I was there - market day - and the aromas of fresh bread, cheese and freshly fried seafood brought the past back to life. I wandered around the cobbled streets placing memories of setting foot here all those years ago, my small mittened hand enveloped in my mother's grasp. I also cast my imagination to my mother's arrival in this part of the world when she first came to Holland. She would have been my age then - 26. Then it was time to head to Fazantenveldstreet , to catch up with the Van Duijnhoven family, our former neighbours who had seemed like our own family. Their welcome made the last 20 years melt as we caught up on family life. In the afternoon we boarded the Pond ferry and crossed the Maas River (where as a preschooler I used to watch Sinterklaas - St Nicholaas - and his zwarte Piet helpers arrive from Spain in time for his birthday on December 5th. We headed to the fields of heather on the other side of the river for an invigorating hike. In a country where traffic speed humps attract mountain climbers, these purple tinged hills provide quite a view.

In an esoteric bookstore, a flyer about a modern application of an ancient Atlantean healing techniques caught my eye. Further enquiry led me to the apartment of a recently arrived Israeli, Amira, a teacher of Hawaiian shamanic wisdom and a gifted aromatherapy practitioner. I knew instinctively that there was something special about these tools of Atlantan origins even before hearing the inspiring anecdotes. However when I experienced Amira's gift of a session involving these alchemycal tools the undeniably strong kinesthetic sensations that these artifacts elicited in my chakras and meridians had me convinced that these objects are going to play a very significant role in healing and the evolution of consciousness on the planet in the years to come.

While in Italy, I had connected with two travellers from North Carolina (a place where I had coincidentally spent two years of my early childhood and where I had learnt English). They were involved in a unique peace promoting project. A mentor of theirs was distributing small rose quartz hearts as seeds of peace to be planted in as many locations around the globe as possible. They gave me a few of these hearts, which had been blessed together in the presence of a one of a pair of larger Rose Quartz "Mamma" hearts, packaged with instructions to plant on my travels. I later learned that my new found friends from North Carolina had been instructed to leave one of the large hearts in the Temple of Humankind in Damanhur in the place where the synchronic lines converged. So many people that I met on my travels resonated with this project and requested the rose quartz hearts to plant in their part of the world. They have ended up in various parts of Holland including The Hague - quite fitting as it is the official city of peace, in Spain, the site of a WWII concentration camp in Germany and occupied territories in Israel. Soon they will find their way around Australia. If you would like to take part in this project of peace, contact its visionary founder, email: Suzi Leonard.

While buying some clothes in a shop in Amsterdam, I started talking to a fellow customer of Indian descent, who upon hearing my accent, told me he had been in Adelaide on a cricket scholarship and played with Brett Lee and other famous faces. He had walked into this store filled with Indian nick knacks and clothing and asked the proprietor if these items had been made in Holland. "Oh no," was the reply, "they are from your part of the world, sir." "But I'm from Miami," he replied in a broad American accent as I burst into laughter at the astonished French shop keeper's expression.

I also managed to have a consultation with Dr Dankmeijer, one of the world's leading endocrinology and diabetes specialists. Along with conventional allopathic methods, he employs holistic diagnostic and treatment methods including some which can actually detect the prime reason for each individual patient's pathology. I am excitedly awaiting the results that he found and his innovative protocol. I was very inspired by his knowledge and methods and the possibilities they promise.

The synchronicities that confronted me on this adventure were paradigm shifting. From meeting an internet friend who was doing post doctoral research in the same biochemistry department where my uncle is a professor in Cambridge, another internet friend in The Hague who was a friend of the person who asked my parents to come out to Australia all those years ago, to meeting some Melbournian friends of my Swiss travel companions in a club in Amsterdam, one of whom knew all my school friends and the other was acquainted with many of my work colleagues!

On the last evening of my last class at the Kushi Institute (on my last day in Holland!), as the last student to leave the building, I couldn't open the large heavy wooden doors. I thought it was strange since I had never had a problem with them before. Always one for symbolism, I cast my mind back to the synchronious landing (on my head) of Paul Pitchford's book Healing with Wholefoods at the Theosophical Society bookstore when I was in Year 12. This had been the catalyst for my trip to California in 1995 to study with the author. Now, seven years later, I felt that this establishment on the Weteringschans in Amsterdam, that had been the place of so much learning, inspiration and friendship (not to mention those decadent wholefood desserts) was reluctant to let me go. It took two burly East European kitchen staff to get them to open and let me out into the rainy night. I wonder what that means...

The people that I met, the locations that I saw, the places that I stayed, the memorabilia I acquired were absolutely magical. I feel so fortunate to have had an adventure such as this. I know it will be many months before I integrate all that I have learnt and that I will be utilising it all for many years to come. Now as I sit gazing out my window (rubbing the sleep from my jetlagged eyes) at the beautiful Dandenong Ranges on the horizon, it also feels good to be back home.

You can take Ilanit out of her adventures, but you can't take the adventure out of Ilanit... ;-)

Thank you for following me on my journey and sharing my joy and excitement.

To revisit any part of my journey:

Part 1: Schiphol
Part 2: Damanhur
Part 3: England

View the pictures along the way:

Photo Gallery of the Journey

Copyright © 2002 Ilanit Tof, All Rights Reserved.