Saturday, March 31, 2012

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Sawadee kha from Chiang Mai!

This week I started my Massage Therapist training course.  So, for the last week, I've been learning Traditional Thai Massage.  Class itself is from 8:30-5pm Monday through Saturday.  I usually get up at 6:45 though because I've been teaching yoga to some of the other students before breakfast.  It's almost funny to me how quickly that happened.  I moved into a dormitory Saturday night with 4 other Japanese girls.  One of them saw my mat and asked if I do yoga.  I told her I did and was just trained as a teacher in Rishikesh.  Her eyes lit up and she asked if I would teach her.  I said sure, we'd start Monday morning.  Well word spread fast because by Monday morning, there were 3 other people wanting to join in.  Luckily, we managed to find an empty room at the school we can use, so every day from 7-8am, I teach yoga to a bunch of incredibly supportive and sweet Japanese girls (and one boy).  It's been great!  Here's a picture of my girls.



After daily classes we are free to do whatever, but most people just eat dinner and practice what they've learned that day.  At least, until the weekend.  Apparently, the tradition here is to go to dinner Saturday night and then go dancing after.  (Score!)  So Saturday night we went out to an area of town that is just lined with small pubs blasting music of every sort and variety - most of it, live and local bands.  There were a lot of people from the school, and most of us spent the evening enjoying the sound of a Thai reggae band.  It was awesome.  I never pictured myself dancing like crazy to reggae let alone an Asian reggae band, but they had a great sound, and the lead singer was excellent.  He was great at involving the crowd in performance, and when he started singing Santaria by Sublime, I couldn't help myself.  I ran up on stage and started singing it with him.

If teaching Japanese people how to dance to reggae is fun, singing it to them is flipping fantastic.  Everybody started cheering and screaming "Wooo Kansas!"  (The nickname the Spaniard of the group gave me).  When the song was over, I went to get some water to soothe my aching vocal chords (hey if you're going to sing you gotta give it your all right?).  As I'm taking my first swig off the bottle, one of the Romanian guys from the school looks at me in utter disbelief and says "What is this?"  I was confused by what he meant at first, but figured it out after he gestured to my drink.  I explained that I don't drink alcohol, but he was still quite skeptical.  Being aware that my flagrant singing and uninhibited dancing throughout the night were not doing me any favors in convincing him, I told him, "I've never needed it.  I unwind quite well on my own."  He still seemed shocked, but accepted my oxymoronic sobriety.  He even added that if I told him I were a virgin, he'd actually believe that as well (Is it strange to anybody else that he correlated the two so closely?).  Haha, well he may have believed me, but he was obviously still shocked by that too. 

The next day I planned on going to the ward here in Chiang Mai, but the building locator on my phone failed on me, so that didn't work out.  Instead, I wandered around the city for a while and went to another temple up in the mountains near Chiang Mai (it's interesting to me how many of these major temples are up in or on top of nearby mountains).  There were a lot of statues and a lot of gold, but the best part by far was the traditional dancing done by some of the local kids.  Here's a taste.

video


I wouldn't have minded more time to explore the area, but classes started Monday.  Thus, instead of wandering all around Chiang Mai, most of my time has been spent squeezing, twisting, and contorting other peoples flesh.  I've been learning a ton though, and I'm excited to utilize some of my newly acquired skill.  To all my friends back home though - beware.  My hands have actually gotten stronger and I'm not quite used to it, so I may hurt some people in the process.  Be massaged at your own risk.

Outside of class, I've been spending most of my evenings hunting for clothing.  You see, in my rush to get out of Delhi, I had to leave almost all of my clothes behind (they were at the cleaners).  Klara was kind enough to mail them to me, but a few days after doing so, the DHL dealer told her the package somehow increased in weight and would cost another $40 to send.  Klara called me and asked what I should do.  I told her to forget about my clothes and get her money back cuz the guy was obviously lying through his teeth.  This is probably my biggest problem with India.  There doesn't seem to be much discouragement on lying in general, but lying to tourists for the sake of squeezing more money out of them is almost encouraged.  I have a low tolerance for liars, so as inconvenient as it may be, this guy not getting paid was worth the sacrifice of me not getting my clothes.  Besides, he wanted to charge another $40 on top of the initial $80.  All of my clothes combined would only be worth about $100.  You do the math.

So Tuesday I went to the market with a couple of the other girls to hunt for clothes.  We ate Vietnamese food and I walked around looking for SOMETHING that would fit me.  I didn't have much luck at this one, but this market was a great example of the stark contrast between Thailand and India.  It was far more modern, clean, and organized than anything I've ever seen in India.  And in India, you have to be able to barter or you'll get taken.  Thai people are much nicer, but also much worse at negotiating.  I almost feel bad negotiating a lower price......lol almost.  But the best thing about the market is the food.  They have a ton of local vendors cooking everything from chicken nuggets to crickets.  The worst thing I've seen thus far is probably the cooked clots they serve in certain curries.  It's similar in concept to the black pudding I had in Scotland, minus any added flavors or oats.  Yes, that's right.  It's just clotted blood, cooked and cut up into cubes......blech.  I had a hard time stomaching that one.  But most of the food has been somewhere between 'quite good' and 'absolutely delicious.'  That reminds me though, I think I have a problem.

Hi, my name is Cherie, and I am a mango addict.  I realized this Wednesday as I went hunting for mangoes after class like a junkie looking for a fix.  I pandered to every shop nearby but either they didn't have them (lol or they didn't understand me).  To make matters worse, I saw mangoes EVERYWHERE.  They're in season and the tree's that fill people's back yards are stocked.  But fences separated me and that delicious fruit wherever I looked.  One did dangle right above my head on the path I was walking, but was just out of my reach.  Bah.  Finally, I resorted to visiting one of the locals I've become friends with.  Her name is P Kan and she's a tuk tuk driver that lives nearby and runs a shop out of her house.  She's an incredibly funny and sweet, with a bubbly yet sassy personality.  It was a long shot, but I asked her if she has just one mango in stock.  She shook her head apologetically, and then offered to let me borrow her motor bike to go to the market.  I thank her for the incredibly generous offer, but since I don't know how to drive one, have to turn it down. Feeling quite defeated, I head back toward my house.  I don't get too far before P Kan is calling after me though.  Turning around, I am greeted by her beaming smile and 2 beautiful mangoes.  She hands them to me, says she forgot she had a couple in her kitchen, refuses to let me pay her for them, and sends me on my way.  What a beautiful woman!

Upon my triumphant return to the house, I find out we also have a few mango trees in our backyard.  There wasn't anything ripe yet, so my journey wasn't really in vain, but I now that I know, I'll be checking those trees daily.  Mmmmmm mangoes.  I may have a problem, but I figure it's one I'm allowed to have as long as I'm here.  Part of me justifies it by telling myself it's better for me than cookies....lol but in reality there's probably more sugar in the mango than a cookie.  Haha and I may or may not have made cookies Friday night so that's probably irrelevant.

In my defense though, I made them for Yukari.  Yukari is one of my roommates and graduated from the course today.  I promised her last week that I would make my crack cookies (oatmeal, toffee, chocolate chip, coconut cookies).  Thanks to the amount of expats in Thailand, I did find all the ingredients, and even made a double batch.  But I soon realized I had a problem.  The only oven known to exist in the neighborhood doesn't actually work.

An oven...something I had taken for granted as existing in most homes.  Not so here in Chiang Mai.  It makes sense I guess.  It's already hot enough here, and Thai cooking is all done on an open flame.  Who would want something as costly and hot as an oven in their house?  Luckily, crack cookie dough is almost as good as crack cookies (sometimes better if you're in the mood), so I just rolled the dough up in to little balls and served them chilled at the communal dinner we threw for Yukari's last day of school.  Needless to say, with such a hodgepodge of people and culture, dinner itself was quite the production.  The appetizer - Japanese pizza.  The main course - Spanish omlette.  The dessert - American crack cookies.  Yum....

Oh, and to top the whole evening off, Julia (one of the French students) brought her Ecuadorian husband to dinner.  He's a great salsa dancer, and I actually got to dance some salsa with him.  Salsa dancing in Thailand...life is soooooo good.

Well that brings me up to last night.  This week we went to The Riverside for dinner on a catamaran.  There were 14 of us in total, so the majority of passengers were from our party.  I wish I could capture that memory in my mind forever.  Candle lit dinner, great ambiance, delicious food, and wonderful people all in a wonderful mood.  Even before leaving the dock, we saw a bunch of Chinese lanterns were released across the river and watching them float up up and away reminded me of the light ceremony in Tangled.  Just gorgeous.  Oh, and there is that high I experience from just being out on the water (another nice bonus). 

Despite overeating, we did go out dancing afterward.  14 people in a taxi is an experience I thought I left in India...I thought wrong.  We basically piled into the back of a truck, body to body, and went to the same dance halls as last week.  The variety in such a small area still impresses me.  I'm a little in love with one of the DJ's music selection at Zoe's so I spent most of my time there, but there was a rock band this week, a Golden oldies band, more reggae awesomeness, house music, and of course some more modern Top 40 kind of stuff.  I love the lack of pretentiousness in these clubs.  They played songs I haven't heard in years and mixed them in perfectly with the more recent hits.  If it's a good song, it gets played, no matter how outdated it may be.  I absolutely love it.

Well I think that brings us up to date.  I was going to give my final assessment on India, but this post is long enough already - so I'll save that for next week.  Till then....sawadee!

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