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

Any Questions??

Life happens - an update

Health, Fitness and Weight Loss

OPINION

 

Welcome to this week’s Femail page! Not much space left for the intro, so - a couple of timely reminders and a very interesting quote! Reminder one - The Chiang Mai Ballet Academy’s annual performance takes place this Sunday at Kad Theatre, Kad Suan Kaew at 1:30 and 7 pm, featuring two ballets, the classical La Bayadere and the jazz/modern Peter Pan 2008. We’ve seen the rehearsals - it’s going to be an unmissable treat for those who’re into the Dance! Reminder 2 - our very own Judy Harcourt’s plea on this page for YOUR questions - so that we can all have fun rushing about finding YOUR answers! The guys have “Dear Hillary” (!), it’s about time we had our own Q&A as well, don’t you think?
Now for the interesting quote - “Last week, Dr Arthur Robinson, of the University of Oregon, announced to a packed press conference in Washington that 31,000 scientists (yes, 31,000!!!) had signed an online petition challenging the conventional; wisdom that global warming is being caused by man-made CO2 emissions. He said that he was aware that critics would claim that the list was phoney, but emphasised that all signatories had been carefully vetted, and that at least 9,000 had legitimate Ph Ds.” OK, global warming may well be happening, but isn’t it slightly egotistical of the human race to assume that we can actually wreck a millions of years’ old system that we, as yet, still don’t really understand? And that, even if we could, anything we could do to reverse the process would do any good? Save the planet? Hardly. Save our own thoughtless, acquisitive, greedy, power - hungry use of nature for our own ends - sounds more like it!

Any Questions??

A message from our favourite frazzled farang lady, Judy Harcourt
“Hey, all you other Farang ladies!! We are hoping to start a column of questions and observations by ‘ladies’, (I use the term loosely) in Chiang Mai!! Address your questions of interest on any aspect of living in Chiang Mai, and our panel of experts will try to answer them!! Let’s hear from you…Send your emails to [email protected]

 

Life happens - an update

Over the last two weeks’ issues, we have chronicled the amazing efforts made on behalf of the victims of Nargis by two young Canadian short-term visitors to our city.
Unfortunately, as they were due to leave, having raised $13,547 and organised its distribution in the Irrawaddy Delta through the Shelterbox UK registered charity, Kelly contracted a nasty dose of Dengue Fever; as a result they are now on medically extended tourist visas, staying in Chiang Mai Ram and hoping that Kelly will be well enough for their revised departure date of June 5. Apart from the practical difficulties this has caused, their allocated finances for this part of their trip are now in ruins! We received this email last Wednesday - it seems a timely reminder about the real Chiang Mai and its people. We thank these two wonderful people for what they have done, and wish them an onward journey full of delight and happiness. They deserve it!
“Until recently, travelers from all over have hailed Thailand as one of the friendliest places in the world. However, I have received increasing reports that Thailand’s tourism industry is eating away at the friendly nature of the people and the land. And our first few days in Thailand (sadly in Bangkok) did nothing but perpetuate the sense that Thailand has fallen way off the friendly-scale. Once in Chiang Mai, though, we saw another side to the story. And now - I get it!
When we decided to do whatever we could to help the victims in Burma, we approached the owner of the internet café we had already spent some time at. We asked him if he knew where we could rent a truck. Immediately, we were introduced to a friend who has a truck, and who would be willing to drive with us to the Thai/Burma border to drop off the supplies. He would not charge us for gas or usage… instead his biggest expense is time. So we would pay him by the day, which was sure to be a fraction of the cost to rent. But the café owner, TJ, didn’t stop there. When he discovered we are Rotarians, he exclaimed “My father used to be a Rotarian! I can call the president of the Chiang Mai Rotary club. He is a very powerful man, and he can help you,” and “off to the races we went!”
But hold your applause - there’s more. He then proceeded to chauffeur us all over the city of Chiang Mai; to Rotary meetings, to the mall for supplies, and on various errands. If we ever suggested that we would take a taxi and spare him, he became angry with us. And on the few occasions when he couldn’t drop everything to drive us somewhere, he got one of his employees to take on the task.
And so, a relationship developed over the following two weeks of our fundraising and aid relief efforts for the victims of Cyclone Nargis in Burma. TJ spoke very good English and served as a translator for us more than once. We met his beautiful wife and daughter, and visited the gift shop that his wife owns and operates. Now, both TJ and Ou visit Kelly & I daily at the hospital. They bring us fruit, good company, and just today they gave us a bag full of gifts that they were going to give us when we left, which was supposed to be last week. TJ continues to drive me anywhere I need to go, and scolded Kelly yesterday for letting me go to the train station by myself to cancel our tickets instead of calling him to pick me up and take me.
TJ, like many Thai people we met, is a very modest and humble person. Before taking us to some of the Rotary meetings, knowing he would be in the company of big business owners, he told us that he doesn’t belong. “I’ll just wait in the car,” he said.
“No, you absolutely won’t!” we said. “We need you in there to help us communicate, and besides - you are embracing the meaning of Rotary with your generosity and dedication to a good cause! You do belong.” Once in the meetings, he was astonished to discover that these people enjoyed talking to him. “That man,” he said one day, pointing with a shaking finger to a fellow who had made efforts to chat with him “is the CEO for one of the biggest computer companies in the city. He is a famous man. A powerful man. And he wanted to speak to me! And he is so nice! Look - the hairs are standing up on my arm from being in his presence!” he exclaimed, flush in the face and clutching the man’s business card.
Is it this unassuming and modest nature, (even in the big business people), that gives the Thai people such charm? There is true respect in their greetings and wais, and never a desire to step on anybody’s toes. Generosity is extended in whatever way possible. And always, even if a stranger passing on the street - a big smile in return if you have one on your own face. Quite frankly, the expats we have met stand out garishly in comparison, despite how nice or genuine they try to be. Try as these expats may, the gentle nature of the Thai people we have met is as yet unmatched. We believe that had we not embraced the Burma relief efforts in the way we did, we would not have experienced this level of Thai hospitality - the kind that people say is dead. And the Thai friendliness we saw extends way beyond the efforts of TJ and Ou. Members of the various Chiang Mai Rotary Clubs offered their individual help to us in a variety of ways, from establishing contacts, to donating money, to the efforts of Thitiphan - the Rotary president TJ spoke of, who was a real leader for us in helping the woman who has washed our laundry a few times gives me a big hug whenever I come by. For no reason at all, she hugs me and giggles. She is hands down one of the sweetest people I have ever met, and we can hardly even have a conversation with the language barriers.
TJ & Ou have been our Thai family, supporting us through some very tough times in every way possible, in the absence of our own families who are so far away. And of course when we told them this, they simply blushed, laughed, looked away coyly, and tried to find yet another way to help us. As only a modest and generous Thai person would do. Who says Thai hospitality is dead? Somebody who either never left Bangkok, or who didn’t stop long enough to see what the place is all about. Take a side step off the tourist bandwagon in Thailand, and you may find something you never anticipated. True friendships and genuine hospitality.


Health, Fitness and Weight Loss

The weight you carry versus the weight you lift!

John Bailey
Consider this - you are heavier than the weight you were designed to carry… therefore your whole body is under stress and out of the balance intended by nature! Your leg muscles are over-developed in order to support your weight, and your upper body muscles may well have deteriorated due to lack of use. Prolonged and regular cardio-vascular exercise will eventually get your weight down, but you will still be left with reduced muscle fibre in your upper body. Any activity employing the upper body muscles is, obviously, helpful, but the specific use of weights is the most effective manner to deal with this problem. And, remember, fitter muscles burn more calories…
For this to be really effective, you will need a gym instructor who knows his/her stuff, as I can only generalise in a brief article. There are, in any well-equipped gym, machines which are designed to mimic free-weight exercises; these you should use, but do remember that they have their limitations as your body will be following the actions of the machine and everyone is built differently. Also, you will probably be sitting on the machine, and will therefore not be employing all of your core strength muscles to stabilise yourself. These machines are a great way to get you started, but try to move on to free weights when possible.
Free weights allow your body to follow its natural line of motion and, whether you are standing or sitting, they force you to stabilise yourself using your core strength. This will result in a good posture and real strength in the areas of the abdomen and lower back. Whether you are using a machine or free weights, the following will apply. Use 65-75% of your 1 rep maximum weight; start with 2-3 sets of 8-12 reps; don’t pause for more than about 1 minute between sets. Increase the reps to 20-25 before you even think about increasing the actual weight, and don’t struggle - if you start to lose your posture, decrease the weight and start again. Always exercise the largest muscle group first; always, always breath out on effort; practice any given exercise first with a very light weight and build steadily and gradually. Enjoy, and don’t forget to stretch after you finish your routine.
As for diet, in a sense, DON’T! Eat moderately and sensibly; stay away from simple carbohydrates such as sugar, avoid animal fats, cheese, butter, fatty meats, etc. Eat little and often (like the Thais do!) when your body tells you to, and, especially in this climate, drink plenty of water. Lastly, and most importantly, don’t expect miracles -your body needs time to adjust and respond to your new regime. Results may not be always be immediately obvious, but if you keep going you’ll find that it’s all worth it!


OPINION

We noted last week, in the UK Sunday Times, no less, an article related to the recent opening of what was described as a “Human Zoo” in Pattaya, featuring members of the Kayan sub-branch of the Karenni peoples, known colloquially and less than respectfully as the “long-necks” or, even worse, the “giraffe women”. Tourists who used to have to visit Chiang Mai or Mae Hong Son to view these dubious delights can now access them by taxi from Bangkok, or by an even shorter journey from Pattaya itself. A representative of the local administration is reported to have dismissed accusations of exploitation; and is said to have remarked that to be in the so-called “village” is better than starving to death.
So, that’s the choice for tribespeople who wish to retain their ancestral customs - to be gawped at by tourists with doubtful motivations in exchange for a few baht per month and a rice allowance; to return and face death in their home country, or to be imprisoned in refugee camps with no respect for either their human rights or their customs and traditions.
There is an argument which states that if tourists do visit these villages and buy the plastic-wrapped factory-made “ethnic crafts” on offer, at least the women receive a percentage of total sales with which to supplement their meagre allowances. This, however, does not convince, and depends on the “generosity” of the entrepreneurs who organise these tourist traps for their own profit on the backs of refugees from an evil empire, that of the Burmese junta. The United Nations High Commission for Refugees has its own concerns about the situation, but, because these people have no rights in law, they are dependent on tourists to live - take away the tourism and they starve. Pressure is needed to persuade the Thai government either to grant them citizenship or allow them to resettle overseas. The existence of such “villages” is a stain on the reputation of the country in which they exist.