Chiang Mai FeMail
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Full house for the first night of “That takes Ovaries”!

Women march in Chiang Mai in support of their underprivileged sisters

Adjustments

Chiang Mai reading and book discussion group

 

Welcome to this weeks’ FeMail! We’re hoping at least a few readers managed to catch the second performance of “That Takes Ovaries”, and also that those who did enjoyed it as much as we did! We need more community theatre here in CM, as there’s definitely a shortage of the commercial version…perhaps someone could persuade PM Samak to replace his plan for a casino here with one for a dedicated theatre building, plus a government subsidy to run it! There’s certainly enough talent and experience in this town, in both the Thai and expat communities, to justify such a project! Another event which is probably still on many peoples’ minds is the visit to the CEC meeting by the Mayor. To us, one of the most important statements she made was her call for expat volunteers for several of her projects, and her emphasis on the benefit of integration with the Thai community that this would encourage. In an interview given by the Mayor to the Mail’s reporter this week, she stressed this again, in calling for expat volunteers during the upcoming Songkran Festival, which will, in some places in the city at least, be more in line with tradition than in previous years You can read all about it in next week’s issue - and maybe think about how you can help. The Mayor clearly values our participation in and contribution to the Chiang Mai scene; let’s respond to her call and take it one step further!

Full house for the first night of “That takes Ovaries”!

A scene from the ‘inspirational and uplifting’ play, “That Takes Ovaries”.

The audience loved the first performance of “That Takes Ovaries”, held at the AUA, Rachadamnoen Road on Saturday 8. Comments included “I recommend this play to any woman who wants to live life to the full”, “Get your girlfriends together and have a ladies’ night out, you’ll be glad you did”, and “Inspirational and uplifting, a first for Chiang Mai”. The second and final performance was held on Saturday 15; those of us who were unfortunate enough to have missed it due to prior commitments should be wondering if we can persuade the cast to do it all again!

 

Women march in Chiang Mai in support of their underprivileged sisters

Chiang Mai Women on the march on International Women’s Day.

In 1908, 15,000 women marched through the streets of New York demanding shorter hours, better pay and voting rights. A hundred years later, women still suffer unfair and unsafe working conditions and therefore the march goes on. Saturday March 8 was International Women’s Day, and on that day over 150 women marched from Narawat Bridge, along Tapae Road, and up to the Three Kings Monument. The focus of their protest was the unsatisfactory working conditions for women here in Chiang Mai; they also protested on behalf of their ‘Burmese Sisters’ who are paid much less than the minimum wage and whose working conditions are even worse. To make a very basic living, these women must work overtime every night.
They marched for women working in agriculture, community clinics, construction, entertainment places and factories. These women, a huge number, often have little or no rights and no voice. To learn more contact [email protected] or [email protected]


Adjustments

Tess Itura
Over lunch with friends last week, the conversation turned to “adjustments” - the changes we make as women, both instinctively and out of necessity, when we find ourselves in an unfamiliar situation. We all agreed that, for the first few months after our arrival in Chiang Mai, unfamiliarity indeed became the norm, but in somewhat unexpected ways. Most of us, when we came, were at least vaguely familiar with Thailand and Chiang Mai, either from holidays or from research trips prior to our move; as a result we believed that basic “women’s stuff” such as food, clothes, household matters, etc, would not pose any problems. Communication, of course, was a concern for all of us - as women, we all felt the need to talk with other, Thai, women in order to get our hands on the perspectives of new situations.
Once we were here - this was true for most of us - an odd and unexpected type of culture shock did set in. We decided to call it the “Shangri-La Syndrome”, and we definitely were not referring to the very upmarket Chiang Mai hotel of the same name! We all drifted about in a kind of dream - a frequently heard question was, “mmmm, what day is it…?” - wondering, (having done not a lot since we got out of bed), where the hours went. In that state of mind, of course, everyone makes mistakes - and “recently arrived” is the time when various fairly important decisions have to be made. For example, accommodation, transport, financial matters, etc, all of which requirements attract suppliers, some of whom would be better shown the door before they start the sales pitch! Several of us had, obviously, forgotten where the door was, and as a result had landed ourselves in various unwanted and unexpected situations. This, of course, had dealt a blow to our self-esteem, and made us doubt our ability to deal with the strange world in which we were now living. As soon as we realised that we were not alone, however, and that many newly arrived farangs temporarily lose their objectivity in this manner, we all felt much better! At least now we feel we have a duty to warn incomers on a variety of subjects…and we do!
The communications problem seems harder to solve. All of us had made attempts to learn Thai once we had settled in; none of us had managed to get beyond the basics. In itself this had proved helpful in everyday issues such as buying or ordering food, selecting clothes, etc, and the average woman’s talent for mime had saved many a situation. However, we had been led to expect, particularly online, that most Thais could speak and understand at least basic English, as all schools were obliged to teach it as a second language. However true this last statement may have been, it soon became clear to all of us that not all Thais felt that they were obliged to learn it! Particularly the ones whom we needed on a regular basis. What did not occur to us until much later was that it’s not that simple - many Thais are just too shy to even approach a farang woman, let alone speak to her in an unfamiliar tongue! At which point we all learned to let our newly-developed broad and cheerful smiles do the talking! The quest for the secret of learning Thai successfully is, however, still going on…
Motivation was another problem for all of us - in our home countries most of us had jobs, or our own businesses, plus a home and usually a husband, so strict organisation of just about every hour in the day was a necessity. Here, in a hotter climate, with far less to manage, our menfolk seemed to find it much easier than we did to just sit - except on Quiz nights at the pub, of course. Some of us had found voluntary work, several were getting fit for the first time in years and had discovered the joys of cycling in 95 degrees - the rest of us, having tried and rejected both the majority of the “ladies’ lunch” opportunities and the tediously regular expats’ meetings, are still considering our options. Our menfolk are...well…still sitting!
Most of us have now been here for at least a year, we’ve adjusted to the weather, lost a lot of weight, and learned to use T.I.T, (This is Thailand), as either an excuse or a reason for just about every experience we undergo. We’ve learned to love the good, to tolerate the irritating with a smile, and to store the bad away in a file in our brains in case we can do something about it one day. After all, it was the Buddha who said “you must forgive, but you don’t have to forget”. Most of all, we’ve learned that learning is what it’s all about. The next several years should be very interesting for all of us!


Chiang Mai reading and book discussion group

About 2 years ago, a few friends got together and formed a small readers’ group, meeting monthly over lunch to discuss a book which they had chosen by agreement and subsequently read. Since then, the group have discussed a great variety of books, both fiction and non-fiction. It has proved to be such an enjoyable experience that the group has grown and continues to grow, to the extent that there has even been talk of the need to eventually split into 2 groups. However, everyone in the group likes everyone else too well to make that decision so far! No-one who wants to join the group is turned away, as long as they feel comfortable with the other members. Though most members are women, several are men, who are definitely not excluded! The group appreciates hearing many and diverse points of view.
The next meeting will be on Thurs. 3 April, noon, at Cake Cottage Restaurant; the book being discussed will be Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin. Anyone wanting more information can send an email to Janet Greenleaf at cmreadersgroup @gmail.com.