Welcome to this week’s Femail page. A success story, that amazing
Canadian couples efforts to help the victims of Nargis - and they
were only here on a visit - amazing timing, don’t you think! Another
story from our favourite frazzled farang lady - this time it’s those
lovely little tree squirrels - in the UK we call them tree shrews
although they don’t live there - they are so, so cute. And a
reminder to motivate yourselves to continue with your fitness
Good things and bad things this week; the appalling genocide in
Burma continues, (no surprise there, then), and here in Chiang Mai,
we’re asked again, this time at a major seminar held last Friday, to
give our comments and suggestions to the Mayor about ways to improve
the city we’ve grown to love! Surely this must be a “first” in
Thailand - to be considered by the local authority to be citizens of
what is now our home town rather than just “guests”, with the
temporary status that word implies? And actually being asked for our
suggestions and opinions…Wow! Let’s hope that concept spreads as far
as the government, although we won’t be sitting on a hot stove
Question - why does it seem easier for women to form a community in
the real sense, across language and other barriers, than it is for
men? Answer???? Maybe it’s because we women don’t need language to
communicate. Aren’t we lucky! Have a good week, and don’t forget to
email either Khun Boong or this paper with suggestions to improve
our local environs here in Chiang Mai. Email addresses are on the
Welcome to Chiang Mai page. Go for it!
Motivation, motivation, motivation!
A timely reminder of the most essential aspect of any exercise
regime - MOTIVATION. For some people, sadly the minority, no problem; for
the rest of us humans, (myself included), coming to terms with the
requirements of your exercise regime and following it through is not always
as easy as it seemed at first!
The bottom line goes like this - how badly do you want to be an achiever;
how badly do you want to lose that extra weight, improve your health and
change your lifestyle for the better? That’s it. The rest is up to you.
In my own past experience, setting real, achievable goals from day one is
the most effective way to avoid the “I’ll just skip today’s session” hump,
which inevitably hits in after you have been exercising for a while. Today’s
session become this week’s sessions, and time passes quickly! Setting goals
to help you get over this is referred to in the trade as the “S.M.A.R.T”
approach - in that your goals should be Specific, Measurable, Agreed,
Realistic and Time-Based. For example: Specific - I will focus on losing 20
kg in 6 months; Measurable - I will check my weight every week, my BMI every
4 weeks, and keep a log of my exercise programme; Agreed - I will agree to
the above with a) myself and b) my trainer, or doctor, or husband, etc;
Realistic - Having thought this through, I believe that I can achieve what I
need; Time-based - The time that I give to achieving my goals, (e.g. one
hour per day five times per week), will be maintained. The beauty of this
approach is that you set your own goals; you can change them if you wish, as
long as you stick to your new plan.
Of course, we are all human; some days you may have other priorities, or
feel a little stiff, or sore, or even fed up! At this point, even the
single-minded amongst us need a coping strategy. Try music - play something
which makes you want to move or even dance. Keep your trainers just outside
the front door - we get to do this here anyway - find a training partner and
agree to call her half an hour before you are due to meet at the gym, then
switch your phone off so that you can’t change your mind!
Tell friends that you are at the gym at certain regular times in the week -
it’s as good as a “do not disturb” sign. The best coping strategy of all,
though, is just to remember how good you feel, both mentally and physically,
after your workout! Rome wasn’t built in a day - but it did get finished,
and it is beautiful…
If you really are feeling low on energy, do try to get to the gym anyway, s
even if you exercise on a reduced level, you are maintaining your continuity
- very important. Individuals tend to work out their own motivational tricks
and strategies - some very bizarre ideas have been presented to me in the
past - as long as something works, no problem! Remember that you are setting
out on a journey which will eventually result in a whole new, and much
healthier, way of life. There are bound to be ups and downs along the way,
the same as in life itself, and I can promise you that the longer you
exercise regularly, the more you will feel the benefits, and the fewer
problems you will have with motivation!
I had intended to write about diet and upper body exercises in this article
as a follow-on from last week, but seem to have run out of space! So - next
week we will cover those topics - in the meantime, give your motivation more
than one thought!
Frazzled Farang Lady
In Awe of Wat Squirrels
When you think of wat animals, you usually think of dogs. Lying
around in the sun, occasionally looking up the skirt of a scantily dressed
tourist. Life is slow and peaceful. Their only annoyances are the wat
chickens, who intimidate everyone.
The real cartoon characters are the wat squirrels. They lead an enchanted
life. That’s because wats have lot of trees, and no little boys with sling
shots. We used to live on the fifth floor of a guesthouse that overlooked
Wat Lam Chang. It was a show every morning. Wat squirrels are early morning
critters, up and running by the time we poured our first cup of coffee. They
ran with frantic nervousness, as if their day had started with a double
espresso. Their habit is to do all the shopping and household chores in the
cool of the morning, and do no work in the afternoon, smart tropical
We always ate breakfast at our window, watching the squirrels’ version of
Cirque du Soleil. In the fresh air of morning, they raced up and down, and
across the trees, with endless energy. After running from tree to tree, for
a grand finale, they always ran to the top of the red tile roof of the
temple. With expert balance, they raced along the spine of the roof, at
dazzling speed. Pausing at the end, they flicked their tails with tremendous
attitude. They had plenty of equipment for their high wire act, as telephone
and electric wires are plentiful in Chiang Mai, useful for traveling around
the squirrel neighborhood, for outside shopping.
One morning, during breakfast, a squirrel climbed to the very top of the
fifty foot palm tree, in the middle of the wat. We watched with awe, our
spiraled pineapple halfway to our lips. Blinking only twice, he had a solid
look of determination on his face. He paused a few seconds to fuel up his
courage. Then, with wild abandon, he threw himself into a tree at LEAST 30
feet below. Flailing wildly through the air, he made a perfect landing. He
hung on to the swaying branch, as we gasped with astonishment. As he proudly
raced across the temple roof, we realized something shocking. He WASN’T a
flying squirrel. What a guy!! What courage!!
A week or so later, while swilling green tea and chasing slippery mango
slices around our plate, we saw another squirrel speeding up the same palm
tree. We focused on his brave assent, anticipating it to be a repeat
performance of the harrowing leap the week before. He paced around in the
top of the tree, with all the nervousness of a shoplifter. Then he looked
around and sniffed again. Then he turned and sniffed again. We realized he
was stalling. He inspected the entire top of the tree, buying time while
trying to gather nerve. Suddenly, the little coward ran MORE than halfway
down the tree. He made a pathetic jump into a dense branch about 10 inches
away. What a disappointment!!! No victory lap on the temple roof for that
little under achiever!!
Settling back to our diced mango, wrapped in disappointment, I had a
sinister thought. I bet if we stir-fried him, he’d taste like chicken!!!
Thank you, World!
A very welcome report was received late last week from the Canadian Rotarian
couple who, during a brief visit to Chiang Mai, became passionately involved
in the relief efforts for the victims of Cyclone Nargis. Despite trials,
tribulations and bureaucratic chaos and confusion, they inspired 77
organisations and individuals, both Thai and foreign, to contribute towards
the total raised of $13,547! Their efforts are now focused on distributing
the funds to the disaster victims through the UK Rotary-inspired charity
Shelterbox, whose representatives are on the ground in the Irrawaddy Delta.
Donations to the website are now closed, and donors will be kept in the loop
as regards further progress. A quote from the couple includes this message:
“Thank you again. Without you, we would not have been able to make such a
difference to the victims of Cyclone Nargis, which has ravaged a nation, and
whose victims are still suffering”.
Contrasts are all around us, provided we open our awareness and feel -
looking is not enough. Even in our home countries this was true; here in
Thailand it is even more true. Everyday journeys provide opportunities; the
kids selling garlands at the traffic lights as we drive our extended
“Chelsea Tractors” into town for an evening meal with friends at a
well-known restaurant; the roadside food vendors, their customers feeding
themselves on a budget and providing the nightly meal for the street dogs
with the leftovers; the Burmese labourers in their thrown-together huts on
the yet uncompleted moo baan, hoping that the rain will stop so that they
can get paid a few baht for a day’s work and eyeing the fish in the nearby
lake in case it doesn’t stop.
Contrasts - the world and its governments’ amazing, freely given generosity
at the time of the tsunami; the world’s less freely given generosity at the
time of Cyclone Nargis, logically explained by a fear that money will end up
in military pockets, and the goods will end up being sold in markets in
southern China. And the biggest contrast of all at this present time -
between one closed and non-democratic society’s reaction to a mega-disaster
and its dead and desperate, and another’s.
China’s reaction to the need for outside help to deal with the effects of
the earthquake in Sichuan province, and its comparative honesty in admitting
casualty numbers, has surprised many, particularly after its behaviour
during the procession of the Olympic torch around the world, and in Tibet.
An emerging world leader, as many experts are tipping China to be, needs to
do just that - emerge - and to do it in a manner that the rest of the world
does not find threatening.
In contrast, who in the world was surprised at the Myanmar Junta’s reaction
to the devastation and death caused by Nargis? Very few, we suspect, and
certainly no-one in governments, the UN and aid agencies. Yet, as
condemnation and anger grows, both worldwide and in Burma itself,
governments and the UN do what they are comfortable with - form committees
to form more committees, and talk, talk, talk whilst people die, die , die.
All over Thailand, civil groups, small aid organisations, churches, NGOs,
and ordinary people who find that they “have to do something”, come together
with one aim - to relieve suffering, and prevent, if possible, ethnic
cleansing on a huge scale of the 60% of the Irrawaddy Delta’s population who
belong to the Karen peoples. In Bangkok, a man sits in government, and
accepts a Burmese general’s statement that all is well - his military can
handle all that is necessary. Contrasts.