From Diplomat To Yogi: A Jamaican Woman’s Life In Bali

Jamaicans are everywhere!

That is fact. And, I went out of my way to prove it in my first blog series when I brought you Keyma’s tale from Dubai, Shawna Kay’s tale from China, Terry’s tale from Poland and various Jamaicans who are ‘Jaminating’ in Japan. This week, I’ll revisit that series by sharing my talk with another Jamaican woman ‘jaminating’ in a foreign land.

Meet Nadine McNeil.

  

Though Jamaican by birth, this Universal Empress is a Personal Development and Transformation Coach, Workshop Facilitator, Writer & Yoga Teacher. As stated in her EPK, she discovered yoga while working with the United Nations, where she began practising regularly to find balance and respite from the job’s emotional and physical demands.

During her 22 years with the UN, her assignments included stints in Sudan, Iraq, Kuwait, and in 2004, she served as head logistics specialist for UNICEF in response to Indonesia’s tsunami.

After the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, Nadine led Global Volunteer Network initiatives in the country, and has also worked in the Netherlands with the organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. These experiences have rooted her devotion to activism, which she threads through all her yoga and transformational work.

Now, let’s jump into some Q & A with Nadine and find out more about her life in Bali.

Q. What brought you to Bali?

A. In 2015, I moved here to pursue my passion as a yoga teacher at the invitation of the owner of the Yoga Barn. We first met around 2006 while I was working for UNICEF as an emergency response and logistics specialist following the 2004 tsunami.

Q. How would you compare living in Bali to living in Jamaica?

  

A. More than the comparison is the contrast. Bali is to the east, what Jamaica is to the west; a tropical paradise. The Balinese people are soft and gentle whereas Jamaicans tend to be larger than life and in your face. Indonesians in general, and the Balinese in particular, have a deep love for our music and culture. There is similarity in fruits, flora and fauna and both Bali and Jamaica are deeply steeped in their faith. In Bali, they practice Hinduism, while Jamaican practices Christianity. The Balinese live in close commune with the soil. Old time Jamaica used to be like this and to some extent, it seems as though we are returning to this. Both countries enjoy spicy foods and I particularly admire the Balinese tradition of community and several generations living under one roof.

Q. Do you plan on returning to Jamaica?

A. I’ve never left Jamaica. Wherever I go, Jamaica is. It is the land of my birth. It is where my family resides. For me, home is more of a feeling than it is a physical destination. Both places nurture similar, yet different aspects of me. Who I am is a telltale reflection of being blessed to live between these two paradise isles.

Q. What would you tell Jamaicans who have an interest in moving to Bali?

A. From my years of working at the UN and traveling the world to present day, I always encourage people to travel. Visit places that are different from what you’re used to as it serves to broaden your horizons and you see your homeland through renewed lenses. Bali calls people from all walks of life & from all across the planet who are usually seeking spiritual clarity. It’s also one of those places that calls you in when the time is right, and lovingly bids you farewell when it is your time to spread your wings and fly.

Q. How would you rate the food and what is your favorite food to eat in Bali?

A. Food in Bali is DIVINE and it is a mecca for the vegan palate as the fruits and vegetables are amazing. My favorite dish is nasi campur.

This is similar to an Indian thali plate. The centerpiece is usually yellow rice (nasi kuning), surrounded by small servings of various veggies (tempe manis), local spinach (that is very similar to callaloo) and served with spicy sambal (a mixture of shallots, ginger and spices).

Q. Which part of the Balinese culture do you most appreciate?

A. I love the way the Balinese integrate their spiritual practices into their daily living. Despite modernity taking over, their ceremonies and rituals remain front and center. Flowers are a huge part of this. No matter one’s socio-economic status, every day you see women modestly dressed making their offerings at the temples. There is a blessing for every reason and every season. On the Balinese New Year, a sacred Day of Silence called Nyepi, the entire island is silent. Even the airport is closed. Internet is switched off and no one can leave their homes for 24 hours. During this time, people are encouraged to fast and pray. The intention is to rid the islands of evil spirits and it reminds me somewhat of when I was a child in Jamaica on Good Friday.

  

Q. What aspect of the Balinese culture could Jamaicans adopt?

A. Perhaps the greatest aspect that Jamaica can adopt is to promote and sell everything Jamaican. It is time for us to completely revamp the general image of Jamaica that is portrayed to the world. We’ve evolved beyond being just about ‘sunshine, sea and sand.’ Our culture and music is unrivalled on the global platform and from Alaska to Zimbabwe, everyone wants to speak, sing and look Jamaican. What’s of utmost importance in these times too, is that we claim our rightful place on the world stage as a viable health and wellness destination. As the world begins to emerge from this pandemic, people are looking for places to visit where they can enjoy themselves while remaining healthy. We have the best Vitamin Sea in the world, not to mention our rivers and waterfalls. I have been blessed to teach and practice with some of the world’s leading yoga instructors and I can confidently say that some of the best I’ve encountered are home grown. They are right there on ‘the Rock.’

Subscribe to my WEBSITE to get stories of my experiences as a black woman living in Japan or stories of Jamaicans jaminating a ya’ad & abroad. Email us at jamaicansjaminate@gmail.com or follow us on FB & IG.

Also, much thanks to Nadine Mcneil aka Universal Empress for sharing her story with us. Please follow her IG: @universalempress or FB: @UniversalEmpress

Till next time, live, love & laugh a lot!!!

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