Archive | March, 2012

Protein Bars at WOW Gym!

29 Mar

After some reflection time, I decided to go up to the top floor of the Paragon Mall.  I stumbled upon a fitness gym called California Wow. I was hungry and decided I would buy me some protein bars. I walked up to the front desk.  Before I was able to say anything, the man behind the counter put his hand up in front of my face and said, ‘Can’t come in. Members only.’  If this scene were in a movie, it would look something like this: Caught by security lazers! white man infiltrating, white man is infiltrating.  Calling all stations.  Prepare to approach suspect like a pack of confused dogs; talk shit about him in Thai; remember to glance back and forth at your colleagues in stupid bewilderment.  Bonus points for anyone who calls another staff member to look confused in front of the strange white male who has clearly no business in a members-only fitness club.  


‘No no, I don’t want to become a member,’ I said.  I just want to buy some protein.’


A pack of 4 staff members, 3 guys and one lady, escorted me to the window that displayed various shakes and boxes of protein bars.  They all stared at me as if I were an outlandish brute.  One of the ladies handed me a variety of flavors, while one of the guys stood and watched.  The box was 1300 BAT and each bar was 350 BAT.  I tried to haggle with them for a cheaper price for the box, but the personal trainer would not give in.  Fine, I’ll take 4 bars!  But I want to see the nutrition information first.  Of course every bar had a barcode sticker right over the carb, calorie, and protein content.  I rummaged through every bar in hopes of finding one bar without the damn sticker in the same place.  Another man with the came over to join in on the concerted collective effort of playing the popular game of ‘Crowd the white foreigner, look confused, and invite more people to come over and look confused.’  Finally I just ripped the sticker off to see.  I agreed to by four bars.  ‘Shouldn’t someone be on the floor of the gym?’ I wanted to ask them. ‘Aren’t there people who need to be trained?  Or are you having too much fun passively interacting with the exotic animal that wants to buy your food?’ As I was handing the lady money, another girl skipped over to me.  So add another person to the fiasco, and we’re up to, um let me see, 7 employees plus me.  The entire staff of gym staff stood there in a circle with me in the middle.  The new girl who just arrived looked at me and then opened her mouth to smile and I almost had to shade my eyes from the glistening shine that reflected from her silver braces.  Her eyes squinted as she smiled and said, ‘you want to become member?’


“No no, I’m leaving tomorrow,” I said.  “I just wanted to buy some protein bars.  Thank you.”


But this one was determined to squeeze some money out of me. “I give you good deal on membership!’


‘How about you give me a good deal on a box of protein bars and we’ll call it a day,’ I said.  ‘I’m not staying in Thailand very long!’


‘Oooooh!’ she persisted.  ‘How long you stay?  I give you good deal.’  Her trained saleswoman smile didn’t cease.  It was so awfully unconvincing.  The only true thing here was the fact that her teeth would soon to be straightened.  That’s it. I took my bars and said farewell.  This story is an example of one reason I personally love traveling.   When you go to new cultures, you’re bound to encounter silly experiences with others.  Thank you, Wow Gym staff for giving me an interesting experience buying protein bars.  


The Wind (Combined Excerpts from Traveling to Thailand and Current Musings)

27 Mar

The Wind (Combined Excerpts from Traveling to Thailand and Current Musings)

One of the coolest traveling experiences I ever had was in the jungle of Northern Thailand.  I lived in a small village with a total population of 20.  I was accompanied by a group of 12 other tourists, mostly Europeans.  They all slept inside a wooden room built just for passing tourists like us.  But I decided to sleep outside under the stars with our tour guide, Tok.  As I fell asleep, I heard a gentle caress of a warm wind pass my face. Though I was so far away from home I felt safe.  I felt grateful to have been given the opportunity to travel and experience such wonderful cultures so different from my own.  And then I had a really cool thought.  I mused: t


The wind is a superb traveler.  It possesses an unstoppable ambition to see the world.  The wind travels to the highest and coldest altitudes, to the lowest and hottest deserts, into dark caves and canyons, across rivers and oceans.  It has no fear of its path.  Or maybe it does posses fear.  But at least I know it doesn’t fear its fear.  It only knows the basic formula of expanding itself: to become One with the place that it travels to.  As terrestrial travelers ourselves, we could learn a thing or two from the wind.  The wind takes chances – with the unequivocal guidance of nature’s wisdom.  And so should we attempt to travel to new cultures, to listen to our heart’s desire to harmonize with people in places we could only fit into our imagination.  And when we find ourselves in a new country, we should be fearless to try to speak the native language.  And there are thousands of languages out there. But they should not be reduced to expression of words and body.  There is also the language of play, the language of music, the language of radio-silence, the language of meditation, the language of smile, a language of thought, and language of love.  In other words we possess the capacity to express ourselves in so many diverse ways. 


Loris Malaguzzi, one of my heroes in the world of education, wrote a poem called the 100 Languages of Children.  It’s always inspired me to do my best as a teacher of children.  But now I see how it applies to any person who dares to be like the roving wind: 


The child is made of one hundred.
The child has a hundred languages 
a hundred hands 
a hundred thoughts 
a hundred ways of thinking 
of playing, of speaking. 
A hundred, always a hundred 
ways of listening 
of marveling 
of loving 
a hundred joys for singing 
and understanding 
a hundred worlds to discover 
a hundred worlds to invent 
a hundred worlds to dream. 
The child has a hundred languages 
(and a hundred hundred hundred more) 
but they steal ninety-nine 
the school and the culture 
separate the head from the body. 
They tell the child to think 
without hands 
to do without head 
to listen and not speak 
to understand without joy 
to love and marvel 
only at Easter and Christmas. 
They tell the child 
to discover the world already there 
and of the hundred 
they steal ninety-nine. 
They tell the child that 
work and play 
reality and fantasy 
science and imagination 
sky and earth 
reason and dream
are things
that do not belong together. 
And thus they tell the child 
that the hundred is not there. 
The child says: 

No way.  The hundred is there!

This poem inspires me to travel the world and share our unique languages.  It teaches me how to make the most of my experience by becoming one with the people who are the bricks of the cultural house that stands in every country, unique in its language, value system, religion, and way of mind.  What’s the point of being the typical tourist?  How much can one learn by only going to museums and important places that the travel agent or Lonely Planet guidebook recommends? The wind interacts with the environment as it sees fit.  And so should we.  It knows that in the Caribbean it will be a hurricane or a tropical storm.  It knows that in the valley it needs to be a tornado.  It knows when to be a warm light breeze, and a tailwind for birds and airplanes.  The wind is such a savvy traveler that it doesn’t even know that it knows.  It just is.