Welcome to the FeMail page - after a very hot and probably very
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
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
Frazzled farang lady in awe of flip flop control
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
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
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.
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
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.