Tuesday, October 11, 2011

From Jazzersising to Muay Thai

This entry could have two alternate titles, they are: “Bangkok prepares for the flood: Tesco has NO more drinking water!!!!!!!!” or “Glenda Recharges,” but tonight I decided that the most appropriate title was around the workout culture in Bangkok.

Last Wednesday, after our fourth day of Fulbright orientation, Gracie and I decided to check out Lumphini Park. Instead of walking to the park --and risk getting lost--we decided to take the sky train (I now have 11 rides on my train card). We arrived at the park when Gracie was asked by a group of Brazilian muay thai fighters to take their picture at the entrance of the park. Gracie agreed to take the picture and then we proceeded to enter the park. We realized that there was a large crowd at the entrance of the park JAZZERSISING!!!! I know the term isn’t a part of the English dictionary, but IT SHOULD BE! Imagine a group of women (of various ages) doing a hybrid of kick boxing and dancing to loud house music. These sessions of outdoor (and FREE) exercise happen in different parts of the city--including my local grocery store/mall! We joined the exercising women and I enjoyed every minute of it! After awhile an older women tapped me on the shoulder and asked me to move to the row in front of us. I think I was invading her personal space with my jazzersising moves (it’s interesting to compare the cultural concept of “personal space”--more to come on this at a later time). After the older lady asked me to move I couldn’t get my rhythm back! Gracie and I decided to run around the park instead of jazzersising!

Running around lumphini park was one of the best experiences I’ve had in Thailand and it reinforced my believe that I could happily live in another country that is not America. It was 6pm and there were people from a variety of age groups running, walking, lifting weights, and jazzersising for free in this beautiful park. SIDE NOTE: I love my birth country (U.S.), but I know that there are many things that are missing and I am coming to learn of those things by traveling around the world. The U.S., in my opinion, has privatized exercise. Currently, in the United States, to get good quality exercise one must own a private home gym or a pricey gym membership (that’s if your lifestyle (ie. work, family, etc) provides you with enough time to exercise). We ran for maybe 15 minutes when we came across a pretty lake, but then it started to rain! Instead of getting caught in the downpour we decided to head back to the Chula International dorm.

Thursday night I decided to try out the Bangkok night life and it was stupendous! 3 of my male fellow Fulbrighters and I checked out Th Khao San (aka the backpackers district). The ambiance was very laid back. As I stepped out of the Taxi I was greeted by neon signs for Subway and KFC. The streets were filled with more “farangs” than Thai people. SIDE NOTE: Farang is terminology used to refer to white foreigners ; if you’re a Spanish-speaker Latino compare “farang” with gringo). After lounging and sipping on very inexpensive (alcoholic beverages are relatively pricey in most of Thailand--like in India!) drinks we headed to a club/discotheque. After a long day of Thai language classes and orientation on Thai Culture, dancing in a club was the last thing on my mind. I decided that my body needed the exercise after sitting in a classroom for eight hours, so I danced! At midnight the club started to get more lively but it was the consensus that we all needed sleep and mentally prepare ourselves for Friday’s workshops. After dancing in clubs around the world--from India, Los Angeles, NY, and Bangkok-- I will have to say that clubs are very similar world wide (i.e. Britney songs, smoke machines, overpriced drinks, etc).

Friday’s orientation was a very emotionally draining day. The entering ETAs (my group of Fulbrighters) met the exiting ETAs (the 2010-2011 cohort). The exiting ETAs presented us with their obstacles, wisdom, coping techniques, and “golden moments.” Seeing their feelings of accomplishment and nostalgia for the positions they are leaving reassured me that I am about to engage in a life changing experience (as cliche as it sounds). They reinforced a lot of things that I have learned in my last two years of VISTA, lessons such as:

  1. Don’t compare this experience to past experiences.
  2. Don’t sweat the small stuff
  3. Learn to say no when your plate can’t handle it or it compromises you’re well-being/happiness
  4. Expect to lose independence (MORE to come on this)
  5. Do what makes you happy (i.e. TV, reading, traveling, etc)

After hearing the best and worst experiences of the ETA, we let lose at MBK’s (HUGE MALL) karaoke bar. We rented a private karaoke room and danced and sang the night away. I had a lot of fun with my fellow ETAs and I proved to myself that although I can’t sing I can still belch songs out of this lovely body! Afterwards, I decided I still had enough energy to experience Bangkok’s gay club scenery. If you know me well, you would know that I have a very soft spot for gay clubs (i.e. Cherry pop and MJs in LA and Hippo in Baltimore). For most of my life, I have felt very safe in gay clubs because I know that I am not the “main attraction” at these clubs. I have to say that gay clubs trump heterosexual clubs any night of the week (because of the music, energy, and ambiance).

After my anthropological analysis of Bangkok’s night life, I decided that Glenda needed to recharge by laying around and reflecting for two days (the weekend). A part of me felt guilty that I wasn’t exploring and soaking up everything Bangkok has to offer but I just didn’t have it in me to be sociable. I have become very good at listening to my body and soul and its needs; I gotta say I am proud (now I just need to silence those guilty feelings)!

After a weekend of recharging, I started my second week of Fulbright orientation with Thai language classes and lesson planning workshops. After orientation, I was able to hear my body screaming that it needed to work out and get some endorphins flowing. I visited the university’s gym and felt amazing afterwards. While walking back to the dorm, I bumped into Sara Lee (another fellow ETA) and she asked me if I wanted to join her for muay thai and I accepted her invitation. Honestly, I thought she was asking me to join her to watch a muay thai match. We arrive at the muay thai gym where we had to take our shoes off, and then I realize that there was nowhere to sit for the match we were going to watch. Then I began to realize, “today, I am going to learn muay thai moves!” We began muay thai class and I realized that the instructor didn’t speak any English and I am the world’s most uncoordinated person. I was able to follow, for the most part, and then a muay thai fighter comes up to me and says “Are you thai? Do you speak thai? You look thai!” and I responded no to all of his questions and gave him a blank state when he told me I looked Thai.I really don’t think I look Thai but he was the third person to assume that I am Thai. Anyway, Sara and I learned some wicked muay thai moves.

After muay thai, Sara and I chose to visit Tesco (a mall with a grocery store in the third floor) to use the internet and eat. SIDE NOTE: The Glenda recharge session this weekend was also caused by my stomach problems. I think my stomach needed a break from street food for the past few days. Today, I opted to eat a relatively expensive Tuna panini rather than my typical street food: papaya salad, tom yum, and grilled chicken/beef. Also internet at Tesco is a lot more reliable/faster than at the dorms. In the dorms the internet gets “tired.” At Tesco, Sara and I ran into most of our Fulbright group. Everyone was buying water and provisions (because of the flood threat in Bangkok) or using the internet. I read in this Saturday’s AP article that Prime Minister Yingluck Thaksin was announcing the possibility of flooding in Bangkok but it didn’t sound alarming so I decided to pay little attention to the threats. Today, most news articles are advising Bangkok residents to prepare for a flood, so I decided to also prepare but by the time I decided to also buy provisions Tesco was out of drinking water. Luckily, the corner Seven (or Seven-Eleven--they are EVERYWHERE in Bangkok) had some water left and I decided to add bahts (money) to my cell phone just in case of emergency also my mom needed her bi-daily call.

Luckily, Bangkok (the Siam area where I am staying) is not flooded and I am safe. I really hope Bangkok and all of Thailand is also safe... and this flooding ceases to disrupt people’s lives. Send positive energy this way!

Sawaadee ka!

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