Chiang Mai FeMail
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Health and Fitness Part 5

Frazzled farang lady in awe of flip flop control

Chiang Mai’s new “green” Friends

OPINION

 

Welcome to the FeMail page - after a very hot and probably very “wet” week!
We hope you all enjoyed the New Year festivities, and appreciated the cooling effects of five gallons of water in your face every five minutes! CM Mail staff, of course, weren’t so lucky, slaving away at hot computers didn’t give us much time to celebrate, and the only water that was around was the five gallons a day we were drinking! Never mind, by the time you read this everything will be back to (comparatively) normal. Which leaves us wondering what we do now for entertainment. You could do worse than join in with the events planned for the, (very long), run-up to next January’s Charity Rooftop Party, explained in detail elsewhere in the paper. Great food, good company and a good cause. While you’re enjoying yourselves, though, spare a though for the families of those killed and injured on the roads this Songkran - it looks as though figures are higher than last year, and, as usual, involve mostly motorbikes, drink driving and no helmets. No surprise there, then. Wouldn’t it be great if, by next year’s Songkran, someone somewhere in government had forced the police to take this seriously and help stop the annual carnage? Don’t however, sit on a hot stove waiting for that particular miracle. See you next week!

Health and Fitness Part 5

John Bailey
As we get older, our bodies begin to stiffen up, due not only to reduced elasticity in the tendons and ligaments which enable joint movements but also to shortening of the muscles which power these movements. If you have been overweight for a good few years, the joints themselves may be starting to deteriorate. Not good news! One of the most effective and simplest therapies is stretching, which should always be done before and after your regular exercise session. It’s also useful when you get up in the morning, and after any activity which makes your joints feel stiff. “Carefully and thoughtfully” are the watchwords here, whatever position you choose. Your entire body should be “in line”, with hips and shoulders firmly set. Try to feel the stretch starting from the centre of your body, and extending outwards. Always stretch gently and smoothly; if you need a reference, just watch a cat or dog stretching when it wakes up - you’ll soon get the idea!
There are two motivations for stretching, maintenance and improvement. In terms of fitness, maintenance stretching should be done after your warm-up and before exercise; each position should be held for 5-10 seconds. Improvement stretches should be done after exercise and your cooling down period; positions should be held for at least 20 seconds in order to lengthen ligaments, tendons and muscles. These stretches will also help to disperse lactic acid build-up in muscles, and the resultant aches!
I hope to dedicate an entire article to the controversial subject of healthy eating and subsequent weight loss; in brief, for now, you should note the following points. Firstly, you should try to reduce your total fat intake, and increase your intake of wholegrain cereals -brown rice and pasta is useful here. Of course, your intake of fruit and vegetables should also be increased, organic produce is preferable. Your intake of simple sugary foods must be reduced, and most importantly, you should try to eat appropriate amounts of a balanced diet in order to maintain your ideal body weight when you have achieved it. Remember your BMI! Eat when your body needs it - stop before you are full - listen to your body, it will tell you what it needs! And remember that it’s not your body which tells you that you need a banana split or similar every day, it’s your mind! In addition to the above, your salt intake should be reduced, and your alcohol intake should be moderate…
Here’s the good news - the average Thai diet covers 90% of the above requirements, and it’s a lot cheaper to provide than farang food! Particularly if you stay away from McDonald’s and similar establishments. Encouragement comes when you start to lose that weight, your activity level increases, your dress size decreases, and you start to feel so much better. At this point you should be monitoring your energy levels, your sleep patterns, your heat tolerance and your general sense of well-being. The more you enjoy the improvements, the less you’ll want to lose them!
Next week - more about the do’s and dont’s of dieting, and the basics of “pumping iron”!

 

Frazzled farang lady in awe of flip flop control

Judy Harcourt
Many years ago, whilst teaching 7 year olds in California, I had a very bright little Vietnamese student. One day, she began her creative writing story like this:
“I woke up in the middle of night with much hungry in my stomach. I put on flip flop and go downstairs.” I was always entertained by her writing, but this time the story really intrigued me. I sat back and thought about her ability to wake up, in a groggy state, put on her flip flops and go downstairs in the dark. I knew, with my farang agility, I would have made a much faster trip down the stairs, landing on my head!
The phenomenon of not having to wear enclosed shoes is a fascination to me. On my first trip to Asia, I noticed a smartly dressed lady on the streets of Singapore with looooong toenails, painted beautifully. I thought, with my mouth gaping open… “How wonderful to be in a forever flip flop weather zone!” That became my goal in life. Flip flops, year around, mean “Never to having to say you are cold!”
Feet look different when they have never known anything but flip flops. Once, while riding in the back of a passenger truck in Laos, I was rather bored. I began noticing the feet of the Lao people. They have the fattest toes! I bet they could walk on quick sand! Their feet enjoy the freedom that no Western foot has ever known. Glancing down at my sorry toes, imprisoned in pointed spike heels of the 60’s…I realized how lucky Asian feet are.
When walking into the school, in Chiang Mai, with my monk students, I would pause to slip off my shoes at the steps. In that interval of time, they walked half way across the entry hall. Next time, I watched them! They can walk up to the steps, kick off their flip flops, and with slick grace, step out of them. They never have a second of hesitation, it is as smooth as silk. As easily as Thais can slip them off, they seem to be able to keep them on with genetic ability. Sitting on the back of a scooter, side saddle, with their mini skirt attracting the attention of everyone behind her, a Thai girl can dangle both flip flops with precision and no loss. They are not holding on, but rather more concerned about their skirt and their hair. In four years in Chiang Mai, I have never seen a flip flop in the road. Now that’s a wonder…
Even more astonishing is the 3 year old on the back of the scooter, eating an ice-cream, and dangling both feet with flip flops. Their little toes know just the correct tension it requires to keep them on. They seem unconcerned that a slight release of pressure would send their flip flops into oncoming traffic. That’s amazing! I wonder, “At what point does a Thai mother know that they are capable of flip flop retention?? Is there a certain age? Do they have a flip flop coming out party?”
However, I learned yesterday that flip flops can stop world progress. While shopping in the deliciously air conditioned Central Department Store, I approached the escalator. Suddenly, three little Thai girls attempted to step on, only to have the stairs stop abruptly. Puzzled, we all looked to the top, where people motioned us not to step on. One guy looked rather guilty. After an interval of time, they motioned us to come on up. Those little Thai legs had trouble with the high steps, and there was a lot of gasping and complaining going on. At the top, the mystery was solved. A young Thai man was standing in embarrassed posture, with half a flip flop in his hand! The cute lady clerks were all gathered laughing, his self esteem was shattered. He had miserably failed the “flip flop control” test.
Ok, ok, ok, upon ending this, I now have to retract a former statement. Yesterday, I DID see ONE lonely flip flop in the middle of an alley by Sompet Market. Lying there, in the dust, it told this story. It was huge! Obviously, it belonged to a male farang, not quite up to par in flip flop retention ability!


Chiang Mai’s new “green” Friends

New group supports integration and friendship

The aims of a recently formed new non- profit making group, Chiang Mai Friends, are very much in line with the reassuring nature of the city’s recently elected Mayor, Dr Duentemduang na Chiengmai’s statement that “we are all, Thai or foreign, citizens of Chiang Mai”. The group, composed of both Thai and farang members, and led by Khun Boong, are initiating three projects which they hope will benefit the whole community. The first is entitled “Feel at home in Chiang Mai” and hopes to be able to introduce Thais and foreign residents to each other in order to develop firm and long-lasting cross-cultural friendships. Boong is very aware of the need to correct the inevitable cultural misunderstandings and apprehensions which occur on both sides, often caused by language difficulties! The second project is relevant to the solution of these problems, at least in the future, as it is a “Cross-Cultural Education Project”. Boong is working with 11 schools in the municipality, and would like native English speaking volunteers to work with the children to improve their skills in English conversation and comprehension, and, during these sessions, to give the children some idea of the similarities and differences of life in their home countries.
The third project is under development, and is for an English Summer Camp which will involve not only children for the 11 municipality schools, but also children from the Ban Papai village in Doi Saket. The village children already benefit from volunteer teaching of English on Sundays; the Summer Camp will give them more chances to improve their conversational skills. Ban Papai is a self-sufficiency “green” village, and is the location where Boong’s other project, Green Chiang Mai, encourages visitors to plant Thai government-donated trees which will be maintained and cared for by the villagers. Over 300 trees have been planted so far; the aim of the “One Visitor, One Tree” project is to plant 2,000 trees every year.
The Chiang Mai Friends network is forging links with the local administration through the Mayor, and is committed to making the city a greener and more beautiful place for all its residents. For further information, or to join the group, please email Boong on [email protected] btsthailand.com, or visit the website at www.retirein chiangmai.com.


OPINION

Tess Itura
I had hoped, by writing this on the second “official” day of the Songkran festivities, to be able to report some good news on the annual Songkran road death toll as a result of the Mayor’s plan for a “Safe, Polite, Alcohol-free Traditional New Year”. No chance. A quote from an official of the Government’s Road Safety Centre, dated April 13, is as follows: “Chiang Mai achieved the highest number of accidents so far, with 61 highway incidents, from minor mishaps to more serious death-delivering incidents”.
All of which, it seems, were the result of drink-driving and speeding, and most of which involved motorcycles. The count began last Friday – in a brief three day period the New Year hopes and dreams of all those involved in those accidents, and their families, have turned to dust.
Everyone, Thai or foreign, is aware of the main reason – drink-driving. In the UK, the year-on-year annual total of fatalities across the entire country due to this utter stupidity and lack of responsibility is roughly the same as the Thai year-on-year figure of road deaths during the single week of Songkran. Penalties for this offence in Britain are severe, the alcohol-blood limit is about to be reduced again, police take the offence very seriously, and a driving ban of at least one year plus a fine of at least 2,000 is automatically imposed.
Here in Chiang Mai, where lives are no less precious, hoards of motorcyclists with family members, dogs and the week’s shopping precariously perched on their machines continue to drive happily and freely past police posts, their protective helmets left at home. Add to this receipe for disaster a good few celebratory glasses of the local lao or four or five bottles of Chang, and the Songkran death toll is assured. If you’re too drunk to walk a straight line, you’re a great deal too drunk to balance your motorbike! Particularly if you’re forced to swerve on a wet road to avoid the next drenching…
Law enforcement officialdom seems unable or unwilling to deal with this in a way which would at least discourage the less dedicated “drink and drivers”, or even get them off the roads for a short while, much less protect them, (and others), from themselves. Those of us who come from countries which seem to be fast approaching the “police state” status may well appreciate the “flexible” attitude to actual laws which seems to underpin Thai society, but in this case it is surely inappropriate. At the time of writing, there are four more days of festivities; it remains to be seen how many more deaths and injuries will become just another page of statistics.