What Noone Told Me About Muay Thai

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When I first started training Muay Thai, I did it for exercise, slowly falling in love with it, and eventually leading me to fight. After deciding to fight, I knew it was going to be a whole new level of the sport physically, but noone told me how much I was going to cry, or feel, or be mentally challenged.

Amongst the emotional struggles for me was frustration and anger, as well as thinking I wasn’t good enough or ready. These emotions came out as tears, which I wasn’t expecting. I have never been one to have a hard time expressing my emotions, or crying when I’m upset or angry, but in the middle of training? In front of a gym full of people? That was different to me.

I’m in the middle of fight training right now for my 4th fight, and after having time off from fighting because of injuries, I almost forgot how emotional I get. I cried in the gym two days in a row.

The first time I cried, I was sparring with Aof. He’s an experienced fighter, a young Thai man who I usually enjoy sparring or clinching with. He can go very hard, but for the most part, I always feel like I can handle him, even if I’m just defending and getting a couple shots in. This particular day, we went a bit harder than usual. I heard my main trainer, Sanook, saying things to him, and I can only assume he was telling him to put on the pressure to get me ready for my fight, which I can appreciate. But, it felt different this time. It felt like Aof was trying to get me to my breaking point. He liver kicked me twice, broke a contact lense into three pieces in my eye. He could feel my frustration. He knew I was giving him everything I could. He knows that there is no contest in our skill levels, and as a crowd formed around the ring to watch us sparring, he began to go harder, proving that he was dominant, and I could never win. To me, that was obvious the whole time. I didn’t understand why he felt like he had to prove that to everyone. It pissed me off and my anger took over. He was able to get me in a position I couldn’t get out of without him breaking it, and the whole while, I’m struggling, and he’s laughing, along with another young Thai fighter, Big.

I completely lost my ability to conceal my emotions – anger, embarassment, frustration, doubt – and by the time the tears started rolling, he finally let me go and I sprinted out of the ring trying to hold onto whatever dignity I still had, while every spectator watched. In that moment, I questioned if I was even ready to fight again. I had forgotten this part of training.

I let the jai lawn (hot heart) take over, instead of keeping a jai yen (cool heart), and that embarassed me. It’s something I actively remind myself of – keeping a jai yen. I realized I needed go back into the gym and keep going, even though I was so angry and humiliated. As soon as I stepped back on the mat, nobody had even skipped a beat. Nobody asked me if I was okay – it was as though everybody either felt bad for me, or they were shaming me for my jai lawn. Or maybe I was just completely overthinking the entire thing.

As training ended, I did abs on my own so I could get out of there early. I didn’t want to be there any longer. I cried on my way home, feeling sorry for myself and vowing to do better the next day.

Entering the gym the next day, I still felt a little bit awkward about the previous day’s event. Everyone acted normal, except for Aof. He wouldn’t even look in my direction. Training was fine, and it came time for clinching. One of the trainers joked that I could clinch with Aof and I just said “no, thanks!” opting to clinch with Big. Before we could even begin, I heard Big and Aof talking and laughing, recognizing song loy (200 baht) and sam loy (300 baht), meaning they were talking about money, or making a bet about something. I immediately didn’t have a very good feeling.

The next thing you know, Big is completely annihilating me in the clinch. Once again, I felt helpless, but continued on, not wanting to give up or give Big and Aof something else to laugh about. He unleashed the beast on me, and I crumbled, already pretty shattered from the previous day’s disasterous sparring session. I turned away, and just sat at the back of the ring, trying to control myself, as Big and Aof errupted into a laughing fit, probably figuring out who owed the other money. I was really upset and their reaction just brought on a ton of hot tears rolling down my face.

Nook, the oldest trainer at the gym, came over to me and in the limited English he knows, really tried to make me feel better, telling me mai bpen rai (don’t worry). I could truly sense his genuine compassion and I appreciated it, but was unable to say that. Sanook realized I was really upset and came over, first just asking if I was hurt because at this point I was bright red, unable to catch my breath, and tears streaming – a hot mess. I just unleashed a straight sentence of profanity, which I have never done in front of anyone at the gym or any Thai in general, not caring at all how it made me appear. I was so so angry that Aof and Big’s goal had not been to help me or teach me, but to hurt me mentally and maybe even physically.

Sanook assured me that crying is part of the process and it’s okay to be upset – that if I were to ask any trainer in the gym if they had cried during their early Muay Thai days, they would say “yes, of course.” He emphasized this point, and told me to look at Bas, our 12-year-old fighter, who cries almost everyday. I reminded him that Bas is 12 and I’m 26, but it made me realize that even though we are different in age, we are still at the same point in our Muay Thai careers – just beginners.

This sort of situation is a part of earning your stripes – being broken down in the gym so that it doesn’t happen during an actual fight. I understand this, and have understood this since training for my first fight. This time just felt different.

I’ve been at Lanna a long time, and the trainers and fighters have become my family and support system – a home away from home. I rely on them emotionally, especially when I have a fight coming up. This felt like a betrayal of sorts. I told a friend about it and she mentioned that they were just acting like “brothers”, but I’ve never had siblings, and I honestly still can’t figure out if they were trying to help me or hurt me.

As a couple of weeks have passed, and Aof and Big fail to acknowledge my existence anymore, I can’t help but wonder what really happened. Sanook says they just think I’m mad at them and don’t want to reach out to me, but it makes me wonder if there are layers of Thai culture stacked on top of this situation that I will never understand. All I know is that I would hate to return to the U.S. in April never talking to my “brothers” again.

Huay Tung Tao

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I wanted to write a post about one of my favorite places to go in Chiang Mai that is a little bit off the beaten path, but is easily accessible if you’re up for a short motorbike ride.

ผลการค้นหารูปภาพสำหรับ huay tung taew

Huay Tung Tao is a little lake that is off of Canal Road in Chiang Mai. It’s about a 15 minute drive from the Huay Kaew area of CM, and totally worth it. You can take a songtaew there, but I personally think it is easier and faster if you take a motorbike.

If you’re in need of a motorbike for your adventure to the lake or anywhere else, you can visit Vanessa’s Motorbike Hire, which is conveniently located in the Huay Kaew area, where you can easily hop on Canal Road and be on your way to the lake. Vanessa and Robin, the couple that owns the shop, are wonderful people and will help you with whatever you need. I have been renting from them for almost a year, and whenever I have had an issue, albeit super minor and only once or twice, they have taken care of it quickly and efficiently. Additionally, they just really care about you. I’ve gotten into two very small accidents and they first and foremost wanted to make sure that I was okay – there weren’t even questions about the bike. My first accident, I hit someone’s car and Robin was available to talk on the phone, offering to even come out to the scene which wasn’t necessary, but a very nice gesture. He even followed up with me later that day to make sure everything turned out okay. It gives me peace of mind to rent from people who are caring, honest, and just great people. The prices are reasonable, as well.  I couldn’t ask for a better deal.

Anyway, you’ll have to pay a 50 baht entrance fee, unless you go before 6:30 am. Now, you’re probably thinking, why on earth would I want to go before 6:30 am?! Well, it’s a really nice place to run – we run around the lake for the morning muay thai training session and it’s just a nice view with sun rising and the peacefulness of it all.

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Another way to enjoy the lake is to have lunch at one of the little straw huts! I always enjoy having lunch at the lake – the view is beautiful, the food is amazing and you can just lounge around for hours. You can stuff yourself with some fried fish with herbs, which I highly recommend, dancing shrimp (live shrimp that are put in a bowl with chili and herbs, and the spice ends up killing the shrimp – sounds weird but it’s actually delicious), and some beers and then take a nice relaxing nap. It’s the perfect way to spend a lazy Sunday.

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Second Fight and all the Feels

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Leading up to my second fight I was training really hard, but I honestly didn’t feel confident or mentally ready. Two of my trainers were pushing me mentally to a point that I didn’t feel prepared or good enough to fight.

I had been putting in the work physically — sprinting and running, faster padwork rounds, correcting a lot of technique with knees/punching, my stance, etc., but their voices inside my head were constant.

When you spend so much time with your trainers, you cultivate wonderful friendships, and you can joke around and have fun. But, there comes a point when the joking sometimes doesn’t feel like a joke anymore and feels more like criticism. Okay, so what if my punches aren’t my strongest suit? I work on them to get better, but when someone is constantly making fun of you because your punches aren’t what they want them to be, that doesn’t make you feel very good. You laugh it off, but those ‘jokes’ linger in your head.

Training takes a lot of space in my mind. If I have a bad day at training, I usually can’t just leave it at the gym — I take it home with me. I think about what I did wrong, why I didn’t feel my best that day, and how my trainer looked at me like “what’s wrong? what are you doing?” I put a lot of pressure on myself and when I don’t perform well, I’m left feeling like shit.

So, the day of the fight rolls around. I’m already not feeling good, as one of my trainers had told me just the night before, “I don’t want you to fight — I don’t want you to get hurt.” I had to work that day, so I went home after school, rested up for an hour or so and then started to get ready. I went over to the gym around 7:00 pm, ate dinner and then waited until it was time to go to Tha Pae Stadium.

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There was some confusion about my opponent that day, so I was a little uneasy, thinking I was having a rematch with the girl from my first fight. Turns out, I fought someone completely different. She was shorter than me (as most Thai girls are), and my trainer told me she was a bit intimated because of my height, but that didn’t prove to be a problem for her in the end.

I fought 5 full rounds, (again!), and lost on points. I was extremely disappointed and that’s an understatement. We went to the back to take off my my gloves and my trainers just started on me with criticism. I looked at Amy and she knew I was starting to get really upset, so we asked for 5 minutes so that I could go to the bathroom. I couldn’t hold in my tears before we got to the bathroom stall and when we got inside I just cried.

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I thought I did so much better than my first fight, hadn’t I? Hadn’t I taken direction a lot better? Was I THAT terrible that they couldn’t give me a small pat on the back — or at least not yell at me? By the time we got back out there, everyone had left, except one trainer. They thought I had just left instead of going to take a few minutes alone.

Amy and Joe tried to reassure me that I did really well, especially compared to my first fight, that they thought I had won and that after watching the video, I would think I did a lot better, too. But at the time, I just felt like an asshole. I let my gym down and I let myself down, for the second time, and I wanted to crawl in a hole.

2 losses in a row — my first two fights — what a fucking wash. Some of you reading this probably won’t see any of this as being a big deal, but to me it is. When you train your ass off, work so hard towards something, dedicate a huge portion of your life to it and then don’t see the results you thought you would, you get discouraged and start to wonder if it’s even worth it or if you should just give up.

I also hate when people yell at me in public, so when two of the trainers were yelling at me in between rounds, and as soon as I got out of the ring, especially after I had just lost, I was very embarrassed. I am not the type of person who is motivated that way. One of the other trainers noticed that I was not responding well while being yelled at in the ring and we locked eyes and I could see a little bit of sympathy, and he quietly gave me a tip or two. I was thankful for that.

When I came out of the bathroom, we finished taking off my hand wraps and I just wanted to get out of there, but was then criticized for the next hour by my trainer, while still at the stadium and on the way home. By the time I got home, with a black eye already forming, and not being able to really move my jaw, I was ready for a very hot shower and to not think or talk. I couldn’t sleep because everyone’s negativity was swirling in my head and I couldn’t shut my mind off. I probably got 3 hours of sleep and then had to wake up and go to school.

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I fought on August 15 and now, almost two weeks later, I am feeling really unmotivated and I just don’t feel like being in the gym. I’ve still been going and banging out sessions, but there’s no heart in it. After watching the video of my fight, I could see how much I improved. I even thought to myself that it looked like I had won that fight. But, I can’t help hearing those discouraging voices in my head.

I love my gym — they are like my family — but I am holding onto some resentment from this fight and I wish I wasn’t. The head trainer from my gym didn’t come to the fight because he was teaching a private session (he is one of the hardest workers I know and admire him for that), but didn’t tell me couldn’t be there, which disappointed me. I could have used his calmer nature to help level me out during the fight.

I just felt like my gym (maybe not everyone, but my main trainers for this fight) wasn’t behind me for this fight — that they didn’t believe in me — and that is the biggest mind fuck. I feel like the people who train me everyday, who I put my ultimate trust in with this sport, who are not only my trainers, but my friends/family, weren’t supportive and they should be the MOST supportive out of everyone, win or lose. It almost feels like a betrayal of sorts.

After this experience, I’m learning that I need to be my own cheerleader — I can’t rely on others for that. I can’t depend on others to validate that I’m good enough or that I can succeed in this, even if they are the very people who have gotten me to the point of actually fighting. I also can’t take things so personally — I’m sure they aren’t even thinking about any of this anymore, but I still am, and I can’t let go of it.

I still love my trainers, I still love my gym and I still love Muay Thai. I’m not trying to insult my gym or my trainers in the least — my loyalty lies with them –and there’s a part of me wondering if I should even publish this post. But, this is what’s happening and these are my feelings toward it — maybe others have felt the exact same way as me, who knows? Through blogging, you share the good and the bad, and although this wasn’t the most positive experience, I’m hoping something good comes out of it.

Now, I’m trying to get myself back in a good headspace and for me that means taking a few days off from training and coming up with a plan of action to get back on track. I’ve decided that mental training, which I’ve read about on Sylvie von Duuglas-Ittu’s blog (8limbs.us) and Emma Thomas’s blog (undertheropes.com) is a good first step. I need to believe in myself more or else my thoughts will consume me to the point where a third fight won’t even be possible because of my lack of confidence and worry that I won’t win.

So, here’s to hoping third time’s a charm and a win is on the horizon.

**You can watch my second fight here: https://youtu.be/wkapjqiHYfA

Life in Chiang Mai and My First Muay Thai Fight

I haven’t written a journal post since I got back from Japan in April.I haven’t written a blog post for longer.

For some reason, I just haven’t felt that inspired to write. Maybe it’s because I’ve been so busy with school and Muay Thai or maybe it’s because I’ve been having a lot of conflicting emotions lately that I honestly don’t feel like putting down on paper.

But, I felt like maybe it was time to put whatever it is aside, and just start writing. It has always made me feel better in the past and maybe it is just what I need.

I’ve been calling Chiang Mai my home for close to 5 months now, and have been teaching amazing little 4 year old children for 3 months here.

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I adore them. Some days my cheeks hurt from smiling so much. They inspire me to be a better teacher and a better person. I always want them to have fun in my class and will do whatever it takes to make sure that happens.

I have one parent who I talk to weekly via LINE (a messenger app that all Thais use) and she told me that her daughter asks her to pretend to be me so they can practice English together at home. She also asks her mother to teach her small English phrases so that she can communicate with me more in the classroom. It seriously makes my heart melt.

I have such an unconditional love for these children. They are so innocent, sweet, and don’t have a bad bone in their tiny bodies. I don’t care if there is green snot running down their noses, or they pee their pants all over the floor in my classroom – I can handle it, and I honestly don’t even care. I would take that any day if it means I get to have the privilege of teaching and loving these angels on a daily basis.

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I sign in to work at 7:50 am, teach my kids and sometimes Thai teachers (2x a week), prep for lessons, write parent newsletters, record grades, etc. before signing out around 3:30 pm.

From school, I drive my motorbike straight to my gym, Lanna Muay Thai.

We’re currently in the middle of rainy season and the sky loves to open up mostly when I’m just leaving school to drive to the gym, so you can often find me wearing my flattering pink poncho while on my bike (insert monkey covering eyes emoji).

Once I get to the gym around 4:00 pm, I change my clothes and get ready to run. Most days, I run 6k, but if I’m feeling tired, I’ll cut that down to a 3, 4 or 5k  – depends on just how tired I am! After my run, I skip rope for maybe 10 minutes, wrap my hands, and shadowbox for 5 minutes. Sometimes I don’t have time to shadowbox and have to jump straight into sparring, which we do about 3 – 4 times a week. The sparring we do at Lanna is quite light, but sometimes us girls get to spar with the Thai boys, which is a treat because they all have so many fights under their belts. Some days they really try to kill you, which is fun and exhausting all at the same time.

We usually spar until someone tells us to stop, maybe 6 – 7 rounds, maybe more sometimes. After sparring, it’s time for bag work until a trainer calls you over for pad work. Then, depending on time, I usually go back to bag work after for a bit to work more on technique. To finish up, it’s time for abs and some arm/leg conditioning. All in all, our afternoon sessions last about 3 hours.

When I just started training back in September and was just doing it for fitness purposes, I didn’t put too much pressure on myself. That has changed. I’m not even sure when my mind changed from “I’ll never fight” to “I really want this”, but every day I’m trying to push myself to be better, learn more, run faster – the list could go on. It’s not even just the physical aspect of this sport – there is so much mental work that goes into it, as well. When my trainers started to train me for my first fight, they were relentless in making sure that I was prepared. I truly appreciate their dedication to making sure I wasn’t going to completely get my ass handed to me. But, that comes with a lot of prep work: long distance running, sprints, sparring every day, clinching every other day, crazy hard pad work sessions, endless drills on the bag, and getting mentally challenged at every turn.

I’m not going to lie, I cried and I cried a lot. I was frustrated because I didn’t feel like I was performing well, or that I wasn’t going to be ready, or that I wasn’t absorbing information quickly enough. I was taking my frustration out during pad work and not having as much fun as usual. I was pissed during most of those sessions. The trainers and the fighters could see that I was getting upset quite easily those days. Sometimes my eyes couldn’t wait until they got home to fill up, so I would get all teary eyed right there. They would joke around, but I took it more as being made fun of and I didn’t like it. They were testing me, and I didn’t know why at the time.

One day, I was sparring with one of the fighters, Aof, and he was just being relentless. I was starting to get tired and he was kicking my ass, and he kicked me in the liver, not once but twice. Anyone who has gotten liver-kicked knows the pain you feel when that happens, and sometimes, it’s hard to continue on. But I did. I was mad as hell. I came back with a vengeance, and ended up getting swept and falling really hard on my back — the wind was completely knocked out of me. That was my breaking point. Aof ran over to me but I did not want to be consoled or apologized to. I was trying to catch my breath and I knew I was about to cry — realllllly cry — so I jumped up as quickly as I could, ripped off my gloves, got out of the ring, and ran as fast as I could to the end of the driveway so I could cry by myself behind a bush. Pathetic, huh?

Bas, our youngest fighter (12yo), knew I was upset and came to check on me, and Aof followed, apologizing and hugging me. Yea, it was a shitty session. But you know what? It made me stronger. A lot stronger. And they were right to continue testing me — they wanted to make sure that I toughened up enough so that if something like that happened in my fight, I would be able to handle it and not run off crying. I understand that now and I appreciate it.

After weeks of working so hard to prove myself, Dang, our head trainer and one of my favorite people of all time, finally told me he thought I was ready to fight.

I was so pumped. I felt like everything I had worked so hard for finally paid off. He took my picture right then and there for the poster that promotes the fight and he sent that along with my weight to the promoter to set it up. I was on cloud nine.

Dang told me I would be fighting a girl we had seen fight at the Super Fight at Warm Up Cafe a few weeks prior. Our fight would only be her second and we were the same height and weight so it was a good match up. I watched her fight and took notes and tried to put together a strategy. I saved a picture of her to my phone and looked at it before training every day. I pictured her face in my head when I would go running, hit pads or during bag work. I wanted to kill her.

Fast forward the day of the fight — I see the poster that promotes my fight, but my opponent isn’t on that poster. I messaged Dang, asking why there was another girl on the poster, and didn’t receive an answer. I knew in my gut that my opponent had changed and it freaked me out. Don’t get me wrong, I had a couple sleepless nights and some butterflies in my stomach leading up to the fight, but overall, I thought I had been relatively calm (my mom probably would say something different), that is until I saw that.

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I had been planning on fighting the one girl, and just like that, it wasn’t her anymore. I felt like the rug had been pulled out from under me. I was strategizing against this particular girl for two weeks and now I wasn’t fighting her?! I decided that there wasn’t anything I could do about it and to just relax. It’s actually extremely common in Thailand for stuff like this to happen — most of the time, you don’t know who you are fighting until you get to the stadium the night of your fight.

I bought a new top for the fight and got lunch with Joe and Amy and then rested the remainder of the day until it was time to go to the gym. As soon as I got there, I was all questions about this new opponent: who was she? how old was she? how many fights did she have? when did they find out? Dang told me he forgot to tell me and then Gaan told me she was a champion — a champion?!?! I almost ran out of there. He started laughing hysterically and I felt a little better knowing he was just kidding around.

Before I knew it, it was time to hop in the truck and drive over to Tha Pae stadium. I didn’t feel that nervous though — I felt ready. This was it, what I had been working so hard for. We got into the stadium and I just tried to listen to music and not get too worked up. I saw my opponent and she looked young, a bit thicker than me and she had some of her hair shaved off on the sides. This is something Amy and I have talked about — it’s scary to have an opponent who has a shaved head. It makes them appear more intimidating.

Anyway, I got changed and Gaan started wrapping my hands and I continued to ask him questions about her. I asked him “how old is she? she looks so young” and he responded with “that’s because you’re old” and we all just started laughing. We laughed about that for a good ten minutes. It definitely broke the tension and made me loosen up.

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After my hands were wrapped and I got a Thai oil massage, I shadowboxed for a little bit to warm up my body. Sanook gave me a pep talk, which really meant a lot to me, and before I knew it, it was time to get in the ring. Dang told me “it’s just like sparring” and that was it. I don’t have a Wai Kru (dance that fighters do before the fight to honor their trainers and gym) yet, so I did a simple walk around the ring, wai-ing at each corner. Then, it was time for the first round.

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I felt weirdly calm. In high school, I was always scared shitless before swim meets or games because I felt such pressure to perform well. I would even throw up sometimes before swim meets. But I felt ready, and I felt prepared. The first round proved that — I certainly won that round. Dang kept saying to me “she’s scared of you! push forward!” I was throwing some head kicks and she was backing up.

The 2nd, 3rd and 4th rounds are kind of a blur. I definitely didn’t black out, as some people say happens to them when they fight, but they just kind of morphed into one. She loved teeping (front kicking) me, and I couldn’t catch them or push them out of the way, which is something I’m currently trying to work on. She also was way better at clinching and throwing knees than I was.

5th round and she knew it was a close fight, so she tried to stay away from me so that I couldn’t gain more points.

By the way Dang looked at me, I knew I had lost. Usually, after the fight and before the decision, each fighter goes to the opposite corner to say thank you and get a sip of water. But Dang told me no, so he helped me get out of the ring instead and that was that. I felt disappointed, but it was also a good fight for my first one so I didn’t feel too horrible about it. You can watch the fight video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_UaYT6w5r5M&feature=youtu.be

There were tons of foreigners at the stadium who wanted pictures with me, and someone even slipped me a 20 baht tip (haha!). Most of my gym came to the fight, as well as the teachers from my school, so it felt really nice to have a lot of support. I also found out afterward that my opponent had some where between 4 – 10 fights prior to ours. I felt good knowing I could hold my own fighting someone with more experience than me.

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On the way back to the gym, I sat in the bed of the truck with Amy and Adam and we talked about the fight. I felt really accomplished. I had wanted to fight for so long and it finally happened. But I also felt a little sad – I was really concerned that Dang and the other trainers were disappointed in me.

Back at the gym, we had a couple beers and snacks and then called it a night. I was already a bit sore at that point, but nothing terrible.

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Now, I’m still dealing with a rib injury from that fight that will not seem to go away. It keeps getting tapped in training and it’s starting to act up again. Putting a hot compress on it and rubbing tiger balm into it seems to help, so I’m hoping it’s just an injury that will take a bit of time to heal and not something that is serious.

Since my fight, I took a couple days off to heal and go to Koh Samed with school, but now I’m back on the grind.

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The past couple of weeks, I have felt so exhausted and it has been really affecting my training. Running 6k and hitting pads just feels hard for me – I feel slow and my legs feel heavy. In addition to that, someone who left Chiang Mai on bad terms with me back in November is back for some time and is training at the gym, which makes things a bit awkward and brings up unsavory memories. Gotta love gym dynamics, huh? As they say, don’t shit where you eat.

My Lanna Muay Thai family is my core group here — they see me at my best, my worst, my sweatiest, and everything in between. They know by one look if I’m having a rough day or by one laugh if I had the best day ever. They are constantly pushing me and I love them for that, even if some days it may not seem like it.

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Between school and Muay Thai, I don’t have time for much else, but I love my life here. I like my routine and I like that I get to do what I love, whether that’s teaching or training.

That being said, it can also be difficult. When people from school are going on an adventure on a Saturday or going out for drinks on a Friday night after school, I usually have to decline. I don’t drink too much anymore because I don’t want it to affect my training but I also train twice on Saturdays (6:30 – 9:30 am and 4:00 – 7:00 pm) so going out the night before or trying to squeeze something in between is tricky.

This may make me appear to be uninterested in making friends or whatever they may think, but it’s not like that at all. I’m just focused on what I need to do. And sometimes that hinders me from fostering new friendships. Luckily for me, I have an amazing best friend here named Amy. She’s from Florida and her and her boyfriend, Joe, moved here about 3 months ago to train full time. We were a little wary of each at first (girls, right?) but quickly became close friends. I see her every day, talk to her via messenger when we’re apart, and I just enjoy her company. She teaches me new things all the time, she’s an amazing sparring/drilling partner, and our little dance breaks during training are my favorite (even though we get in trouble for messing around sometimes — hehe). I can talk to her about anything and I know that we’re equally there for each other no matter what. We just click — we get each other. It feels really good to have someone like that here because it’s been a while since I’ve felt like that.

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Lately, I’ve been really missing home. I miss having people around me who have known me and loved me for a very long time.

I miss watching movies, drinking tea, and sneaking chocolate with my mom on lazy Friday nights. I miss eating hot dogs and drinking beers with my dad by the pool. I miss snuggling with my fluffy little puppy. I miss going out for drinks with friends down the shore. I miss waking up to the bay right outside my window. I miss constantly having people to just hang around with.

It’s hard to constantly be in ‘making new friends’ mode — sometimes you just want to be around the people who understand you the most. Sometimes you don’t want to make friends with people because you know they’ll be leaving in a few short weeks anyway so you think to yourself, “what’s the point?”.

I’ve also had to learn the hard lesson that some people I thought were my best friends maybe were just my friends out of convenience. Between the time difference and the distance, it takes effort to keep friendships alive when you live so far away. I am very lucky that I have wonderful friends who try to catch up when they can, but I do have others who seemingly can’t be bothered with trying to make an effort. It’s one of those things that nobody quite tells you before you move far away.

Don’t be fooled though — overall, life is great here.

Sure, I have my bad days just like everyone else — but when I’m driving my motorbike home after a particularly awesome training session, or when I’m in the mountains with friends and see elephants peeking through the trees, or when my students run over to hug me, or when Thai people see me running down the street in my Muay Thai shorts they give me a thumbs up or an encouraging smile, I feel really lucky to be here doing what I love to do.

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Island Time

Wow. Wow. Wow.

Time has passed so very quickly since I’ve been here.

Since the last time I wrote, so much has happened! Sorry I haven’t written a blog post in a while – I’ve been so busy taking advantage of every opportunity thrown my way that I haven’t had a chance to sit down and write about it! To sum up the past couple of weeks:

  1. I am now officially TEFL certified and can teach children! I taught 7 classes during my course and love the kids – they are adorable, respectful, and smart. When they show that they learned something from you, you can’t help but feel extremely rewarded. I can’t wait to have my own classes and see my little babies every day! 🙂
  1. I love love love Muay Thai. I ended up training 5 days a week and really couldn’t get enough of it. I really enjoyed seeing how I improved week to week and loved learning new technique. The gym felt like home to me – I was completely heartbroken when I had to leave Chiang Mai because the trainers and the other people who trained there became like family to me. We trained, ate, drank, laughed, attended fights, and hung out together – I’m in serious withdrawal right now. This sport has taught me so much already and I’m excited to continue training. There better be a gym where I will be teaching! But, no gym will ever compare to Lanna Muay Thai.
  1. I think I would really love to move to Chiang Mai at some point. I loved living there so much and really miss it. It’s the perfect city – small and manageable. It kind of reminds me of Philly in a way. I felt home there on our little street and can’t wait to get back. I loved training at Lanna and going to Doggy Monster bar for a Chang and seeing the same smiling faces every morning on my way to school. I’m definitely excited for Chaiyaphum since it will be so unlike anything I’ve experienced before but I know I’ll make my way back to Chiang Mai.

I am currently writing this post from Koh Tao! I’m here to get PADI certified so that I can open water scuba dive anywhere in the world – pretty cool and so much cheaper than doing it at home. After TEFL training ended we had orientation and now we are on a 2-week vacation! Started off in Hua Hin, which is really a strange place. Lucy’s boyfriend is doing his TEFL program there so we went to visit and we were really thankful that our program was in Chiang Mai. Hua Hin is just kind of dirty and strange. Very, very happy to have moved onto Koh Tao! We had to walk a little ways from our hotel to get to the bus and it was so hard to lug our baggage – I would be a horrible full-time backpacker. We took a 4 hour bus to the ferry and then the 2 hour ferry to Koh Tao. We had some Changs and made some friends on the ferry and then we were there! We got to our accommodation and were led up to our fan room – no air con, just a fan. SO HOT. We talked to our scuba school and figured out our schedule, then ate some dinner and got ready to go on a bar crawl! It was really fun. We met a bunch of people and bopped around a few different bars on the island. We woke up this morning, got breakfast, went to the beach and then started our scuba course. We had to watch a 3 hour video and answer some questions. Then we decided to switch rooms so now we have air con! Tomorrow we have to be at scuba school at 8 am so we are just laying low tonight. Can’t wait to get in the water tomorrow!

xo

kop khun ka!

Since I know little Thai at this point, kop khun ka (thank you) has been my go-to. I pretty much say kop khun ka and sawadee ka (hello) for every single interaction. Hey, at least I’m polite! 🙂

This week has gone by so fast! We have had class 9:00 am to 5:00 pm everyday and we’ve also had homework to complete. It’s a lot to learn in such a short time period but I know I will be very prepared for when it’s time to teach my own class in Chaiyaphum.

On Tuesday, I decided to join Sarah for Muy Thai at the training center right next to our hotel. What a workout and so much fun. My trainer’s name was Pele and he was not too thrilled to have a beginner to train. I’m not the most coordinated and it takes me some time to really understand, so he would kick me (not hard) and punish me with push ups if I really wasn’t understanding. He also told me I have a “pretty face, but stupid.” He was super motivating…

Any way, although Pele wasn’t the best trainer, I’m going back tomorrow to hopefully train with someone new. Can’t wait! Best workout I’ve had in a very long time – was soaking wet with sweat and feeling a little faint towards the end.

After Muy Thai, I showered, got ready and joined some classmates at the bar downstairs called Doggy Monster Bar for a couple beers before heading out to a jazz bar called North Gate in downtown Chiang Mai. Tuesday night is improv night, so people from all over come and jam out with each other. Such a fun time and really great to hear people from all different places playing with each other. There was even a beat boxer from Chicago!

Wednesday night we had a lot of work to do – we had to prepare for our first practice lesson (Flashcard method) that we gave in front of our class today. We wrote out our lesson plan, created cheat sheets and practiced our lessons for hours.

The practice lesson today went well! We were split into smaller groups for the majority of the day and due to some extenuating circumstances, I was the only one that had to give my lesson to the entire class – SCARY, but I guess it was good to get the practice with a bigger class because tomorrow we actually go to a school and teach our 50 minute lesson to LIVE KIDS! I’ll be teaching 17 year olds.

My lesson consists of a warmer, context setting, picture preview, core dialogue, vocabulary expansion, and communicative activity – for all you teacher nerds that care about that! 🙂 My topic is countries and food, which is of interest to me since I love traveling and eating, so it’s a fun lesson!

After class today we all took a swim in the pool and finished our lesson plans. Then Lucy and I had plans to go visit the University Market and park (Chiang Mai University is right up the road from our hotel) so we started to walk and it began down pouring! We were able to find refuge under a bus stop overhang and stayed there until the rain stopped to a drizzle. We then thought it would be best to head back towards our hotel and find dinner. We stopped into this little whole in the wall – all of the best places here are holes in the wall that serve the most amazing and freshest food for $1 – 2 a meal – for a meal of grilled chicken, papaya salad and sticky rice. The chicken was amazing – you can just tell that it is the freshest chicken you’ve ever eaten and that it was probably killed a couple hours ago. If that isn’t farm to table, I don’t know what it is.

As soon as we got up to leave, it started to down pour again and this time, it was harder than we had ever seen it. The restaurant owner insisted that we take her umbrella (who does that?! so nice!!) and when we refused (we couldn’t take her only umbrella!) we agreed that we would stay in the restaurant until the rain slowed (we got to hang out with the owner’s cute dog that resembled a gremlin – total win). We waited a couple minutes and then darted to an “everything” store as they call them here and bought a couple of cheap umbrellas and waded through the rain all the way back to the hotel. Not gonna lie – very fun and very wet.

I just finished my last run through of my lesson and should get some sleep before my 6:00 am wake call.

Goodnight!

xo

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Delicious soup I had for lunch yesterday!

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The context setting portion of my lesson plan.

First Day of UniTEFL

First day of TEFL class is finished! 🙂

Had a great time meeting everyone in class – there are lots of Americans, as well as some British, Australian and one New Zealander.

Everyone is super nice and we had a lot of fun today in class. We learned about the history of learning second languages and the different teaching methods that have been developed over the years to help teach second languages. We did some icebreaker activities, as well as had to get up in front of the class to get us used to public speaking with hand gestures, eye contact, projecting our voices, etc. We also learned a little bit about the Thai culture and got a “warm-up” on how to speak Thai – this is not easy in the slightest. I struggled – hard. With time I know I’ll get better, but the today’s practice was not pretty.

After class, my classmate Chris and I took a walk to the mall to get our Thai SIM cards activated for our phones and to take a look at the gym. The woman at the phone store was so helpful, which was great for us because we had no idea what we were doing. The gym was very nice but a little expensive for a gym! It’s around $60 a month and at home I was paying $20 a month – interesting what is inflated over here and what isn’t. After the mall, we walked back to the hotel and got some dinner on the way. We stopped at some food vendors and got lightly fried octopus in a chili sauce – SO GOOD! I also got an iced green tea, which I have missed so much since my trip to Thailand in March. These are my favorite drinks here and probably full of sugar, so I will definitely need to find a gym if I keep drinking them 🙂

We also checked out the Muy Thai training center that’s behind our hotel – really, really cool. I may train there one day just to see what it’s like. Everyone that was training when we walked in seemed very nice so it would be cool to go watch/train.

Went to a bar with Chris to celebrate first day of classes with some Changs! There are a few small bars right downstairs from our hotel – very convenient!

xo

Chang Chang

Chang Chang