A home from home!
PAD protestors seem to have taken a leaf out of the organisational
book of old-style Western protests such as Greenham Common in the UK
(established outside an American Air base for some years until its women
protestors won!) by making their temporary homes inside the Government House
compound as comfortable as possible. Amenities, mostly generously donated by
supporters, have created what now seems to be an extremely well-organised
tented village, with most, if not all, “mod cons” considered necessary for
the 21st century protestor. And they’re not starving either – the concept of
food parcels has taken on a new meaning with dishes such as sautéed chicken
with chillies and basil, Thai style noodles from a highly regarded
specialist restaurant, McDonald’s hamburgers and chocolate doughnuts being
ordered up from popular eateries and delivered to “tent city” for the
delight of the demonstrators.
The technically minded have found ways to tap into Government House’s
supplies of electricity, which is being used via a forest of extension cords
to run televisions, laptops and to charge mobile phones. What next, a sound
and light show? Perhaps that won’t be necessary, as entertainers, including
singers, are alternating on stage with rousing political speeches, and the
anti-government TV channel owned by the People’s Alliance for Democracy’s
leader, Sonthi Limthongkhul, is heard blasting round the clock from
scattered TV sets in the grounds. Not exactly a quiet night in, but
certainly a social one.
Even basic needs are being taken care of – supporters have trucked in
portable toilets and showers, thoughtfully providing shower curtains to
protect protestors’ modesty. Medical attention is no problem either, as many
doctors have taken time off from their hospital jobs to join the protest. On
call are surgeons, dentists, anaesthetists and a psychologist, who may find
himself extremely busy if the protest eventually fails. More trivial medical
needs are being supplied by several first aid stations, who are also handing
out free shampoo, soap, mouthwash and razors. For stressed out
demonstrators, a massage parlour has been set up, where they can get a
relaxing one-hour massage for 100 baht. Given the strains of protesting and
the proximity of the service to such a large number if potential clients,
this enterprise would seem to have been the business plan of the decade!
The ingenuity of the human race in difficult situations is well on display,
but there is one small problem that hasn’t been solved yet – the smell of
urine and garbage which hangs over the early 20th century Government House,
modelled after a Venetian palace. 14th century Venetians wouldn’t have
minded, but perhaps another well-wisher might consider sending in a huge
supply of French perfume and a few thousand litres of disinfectant!
At the point of writing, uncertainty may be setting in and the “fun” element
in Tent City may be evaporating, even though Sonthi is exhorting his
followers to stand firm in the mud which used to be a manicured lawn. An
amorphous “government” may be harder to focus on than a moonlighting TV chef
who’s just got the sack. Or, by next week, it may all be over. We hope.
I’ve long said that the relationship between an expatriate and
her country of residence is not unlike a love affair. At first,
everything is new and exciting – it’s a sensory overload of sounds,
smells, tastes, tactile sensations... You are often at a loss of what to
do or say, but you really want to learn more, to deepen your
communication, to achieve a level of mutual understanding. Slowly but
surely you learn...and you start to really love this place where you
live. Sometimes things happen that you don’t understand, but you shake
your head and laugh and say, “Oh, that’s just Chiang Mai.”
Time goes on and you settle into a comfortable symbiosis. You and your
city now seem to understand each other – you know how to live together
in harmony. You know what times he’s busy and what times he’s free (i.e.
when it’s safe to cruise comfortably through the streets and when you’ll
be stuck in traffic sitting in the broiling sun or pounding rain for
hours on end).
More time passes and you realize that those little incidents that happen
that you used to laugh off as cute and endearing now are starting to
annoy you. You used to love the guy selling the dried squid who rides
slowly down your street on Saturday mornings, ringing that bell to
announce his presence, and bringing with him the pungent smell of old
fish. How quaint. How wonderfully exotic and interesting.
Little by little, though, you’ve found yourself starting to cringe at
the sound of that bell and plugging your nose to block out that
sickening smell that you know will follow. It no longer seems
interesting or exotic, only annoying.
More and more things like this start happening- and you find yourself
complaining more than you used to. And suddenly you realize – this isn’t
working... I’m not happy anymore. It’s time to end this. It’s time to
move on. It’s over.
The inevitable period of indecision follows – “Can’t there be some way
to make this work?” you ask yourself. We’ve been together for so long,
we’ve had so many good times together...
In the end for me, with Chiang Mai, there is no way to work it out. I’m
more than a little heartbroken, but there’s comfort in knowing that it’s
time to move on. I will miss my life here more than I can say and seeing
pictures of the Chiang Mai valley will always send my heart into pangs
And so, it is with great trepidation that I take my leave of this place.
I know there is no other city out there like Chiang Mai. There may be no
other place in the world I will love as much as this one, and I have
loved my life here, but I have to see what is out there.
I will miss Chiang Mai so much. I can’t believe this is ending.
Exercise for Osteoporosis cont’d – the programme
For those who missed last week’s column, or who need a small
reminder – please read the following:
For those who have already been diagnosed with osteoporosis, please ask
your physician firstly – here are my affected areas – and secondly –
does he approve of an exercise programme planned to help improve the
condition. If you have not been diagnosed with the problem, but wish to
take out some “do-it-yourself” insurance against its possible
development by way of exercise, do still check out first with a doctor
experienced in this field. Having said all this, here’s the programme!
Because this disease decreases bone marrow density, (BMD), and thus
weakens skeletal integrity, the focus has to be on the vulnerable
points. The answer is weight-lifting. At this point, please don’t panic,
as in some cases even one kilo weights are enough to get you started. It
has been medically proven that controlled extra pressure on the bone
stimulates the growth of density. The most effective way to achieve this
is by progressive weight training. However, there are several points
which need to be emphasised. Firstly, gains made in bone density will
only remain as long as the exercise continues. Secondly, it will take
between 9 months and 1 year to achieve a noticeable change in bone
density. At the same time, though, increases in strength, agility and
cardio fitness will be of specific and overall benefit.
With regard to cardio-vascular work there should be no high impact
exercises such as jogging. Walking and cycling are preferred options, as
is swimming, more about which later. If you have been previously
inactive, you should begin CV exercises gradually. Recommended is 40% of
your age-related maximum heart rate 3 times a week for 20-30 minutes,
gradually increasing to 70% for one hour divided into 3 sessions 5 times
For strength and for increasing BMD, start weight training with 1
repetition of 50% of the maximum weight you are able to lift in any
given exercise. Experimentation with weight levels is essential. Then,
gradually increase to 2-3 sets of 8 reps twice a week.
As regards stretching exercises, there are too many to detail them all
here, but these can be done lying down or sitting on a chair. The
emphasis is on stretching the back, hips and shoulders. A very definite
“don’t” – do not curve your spine forward – for example, do not try
sit-ups as during this exercise your spine is by necessity curved
Swimming could become your best friend – as could any other water-based
exercise – even simply waking in the water. This induces extra stress
and aerobic stimulation without risk, and is therefore highly
recommended. To sum up: progressive resistance using high loads with
fewer reps; plus stretching and trying to straighten hip, spine and
shoulders without bending forwards. Use any low-impact aerobic exercise
which improves your heart function. Ladies, be warned – neglect of this
condition can lead to severe spinal curvature!
A few final tips – take extra calcium and vitamin D in addition to your
doctor’s prescription. Cut down on coffee, as it depletes your calcium
levels considerably. Osteoporosis is an unpleasant disease with a habit
of sneaking up on you unawares, but your condition can be successfully
improved by the above programme in addition to an appropriate regime as
prescribed by a medical practitioner.
OPINION: Strengths and more strengths through communication
Having been “around town” rather more than usual last week, both
at meetings and events, I’ve been in a better position to reply to
comments in conversation about this newspaper. Of course, due to the
recent reduction in its size for commercial reasons exacerbated by the
economic downturn, quite a few comments were made! Many were
sympathetic, many were encouraging and promised continuing support, a
few were negative, although even these responded to straight-talking
about the aims of the paper to be, eventually and in kinder times, the
voice of the expat community here in CM.
I’ve always been the recipient of both constructive and destructive
comments, and have almost always been able to deal with the occasional
destructive ones in a positive manner, remembering the old English
saying, (now sadly out of fashion), “The customer is always right”! One
of the major criticisms has been the dearth of Chiang Mai-related news –
I should perhaps explain at this point that our tiny farang team here in
the city are spending most of our waking hours chasing up more current
local news items. One recent comment suggested that less than a third of
last week’s content related to Chiang Mai; having taken my gloves and
shoes off to be able to count, I discovered that, out of 58 texts, 28,
not including Around Town and Chiang Mai This Week, were Chiang Mai
related. Oh, and that didn’t include the puzzle page! So, we must be
doing something right! And will continue to do so, guys.
In the meantime, please keep talking to me! Stop my car, wreck my
evening, buy me a beer, bend my ear, anything that will give me and the
other guy the info we need to improve the CM Mail even more. These are
difficult times for all businesses; but it’s in difficult times that
businesses find and capitalise on their strengths! So – watch this
space. By the way, members of CEC will now find it easier to “watch this
space” – starting at last Saturday’s meeting, they will have noticed
that copies of the CM Mail’s last edition will have been distributed at
the end of the meeting. Yet another reason for attending!