Editor’s Note: This is one in the Sentinel’s “Where Are They Now?” series about Ramona graduates — where they are and what they are doing.
By Karen Brainard
She calls herself the “traveling yoginista” and among her many adventures was delivering aid to typhoon victims in the Philippines.
Desiree Crossman, a 2000 Ramona High School graduate, didn’t have to travel far to deliver the aid last November — it took about a 4 1/2-hour boat ride to take food and building supplies to the residents of the isolated village of DapDap on Ponson Island.
“Places like DapDap would never receive the legitimate needs and supplies to rebuild after Yolanda (Typhoon Haiyan),” Crossman wrote on her blog. “It’s not even a fishing town. They have small canoes, a bamboo raft and one municipality truck. So you have to think to yourself, who would come?”
At that time, Crossman was living in Cebu City, the second largest city in the Philippines, where she was teaching yoga full time in English, a dominant language throughout much of the country. Many students were surprised to see an American instructor with no Filipino blood or ties coming over to teach yoga, she said.
“I guess I’m a little nuts but it’s what I wanted for myself — to teach in a foreign country, teach different styles, different locations, and gain experience,” explained Crossman.
Since graduating from Ramona High, Crossman has lived in France, Austria, England, Philippines, and for just a month each in Taiwan and in China.
“So far I’ve stepped foot in 41 countries and my goal is 50. I love to travel, she said.”
Crossman said in 2012 she went on a two-month solo expedition “across Southeast Asia, visited Angkor Wat, Halong Bay, did yoga in different countries, slept under escalators in airports, etc...random trips for work and leisure.”
Her first trip to the Philippines was in 2009 when she worked for a production company, and she found she enjoyed the country and its lifestyle.
Four years later, after earning yoga certification and keeping in touch with many people, she decided to go back.
The benefits of yoga, which is expanding in Cebu, are vast, noted Crossman. “Yoga by definition means to yoke and union the body, mind and spirit, but what I’ve learned is it’s an endless definition that only you can relate to. Every style of yoga comes from Hatha style, which I explain to my students in a nutshell: It’s the mother lineage of yoga,” she said.
Among the many types of yoga Crossman teaches are Hatha Flow, Power Yoga, Hydro Yoga and Vinyasa. She is also a licensed Zumba instructor and certified in Swedish and Thai massage, the latter of which she learned in Thailand.
In addition, Crossman dives and paddleboards, and with four others collaborated on an event called SWAYED, an acronym for: Stand up paddle, Wakeboarding, Aqua sports, Yoga, Eco (beach cleaning and conservation), and Diving. It was the first of its kind for Cebu and was lined up for Nov. 9, 2013, — the day after Super Typhoon Yolanda was supposed to hit, so Crossman and her colleagues rescheduled SWAYED for a later date.
During the day of the typhoon, Crossman and boyfriend Jeff Maher, who is also from California, spent the day in their apartment, experiencing brownouts and watching the winds blast past their windows. Cebu City was spared by about 30 miles of being in the direct path of the eye, but other areas weren’t so lucky and unable to withstand winds of up to 217 mph, she said.
Wanting to help, they began a fundraising campaign to aid victims and were contacted by a couple in Utah who had relatives on Ponson Island in the Camotes, an area that was badly damaged. Crossman said they picked up basic building supplies and canned goods, rice, noodles, diapers and other items, and worked with friends who were also receiving donations. When they arrived at the island villagers greeted them, grateful for the assistance.
Crossman, the daughter of Trish and Mike Crossman of Ramona, came back to the states for the holidays and decided to stay for a while. She may return to the Philippines later this year. In the meantime, she is teaching at Reach Yoga studio in Pacific Beach. For a schedule of her classes, visit www.reachyoga.com. To learn more about her adventures, visit www.travelingyoginista.com/blog.html.
Readers with the name of a Ramona graduate for the “Where Are They Now?” series may email email@example.com or call 760-789-1350.