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Life outside the bucket

Going to school 6 hrs/day while I "vacation" in Chang Mai

sunny 75 °F

I've been practicing and studying hard these last 3 weeks. The Thai Massage School of Chang Mai is teaching me how to master using my hands, fingers, heels, elbows, arms, knees and feet to work on the energy, or Sen Sib, lines of the body. It's a full body workout for the masseur and the recipient!

WIth all that daily physical exertion, living life in Chang Mai has been a welcome change of pace. I have enjoyed waking up to an alarm and having a set schedule everyday. I even unpacked my trusty backpack and stored it out of sight under my bed. I'm not forced to wear dirty clothing that has been rolled up into a ball and jammed into the bottom of my bag. I've had the luxury of a cup of coffee and a hot shower every day. I've even snuck the afternoon power nap back into my life. Slowing down has made me a little homesick and anxious (in a good way) to return to NYC. I'm ready to jump back into over scheduled business mode! It's going to be difficult to prep myself mentally to hit the road with my overzealous, I don't need to eat or sleep, run around for 10hrs a day, sidekick, Micah. I'm going to have to put myself through a mini boot camp to get my brain and body back into shape so I can rejoin the whirlpool we call our Bucketbath. I'm also feeling a little anxiety over trekking through India and Nepal now that my big toenail has officially fallen off (remember that trek at Kawah Ijen, Indonesia?). Stay tuned for another Joanie breakdown video. It's an emotional masterpiece waiting to happen.

No sense in worrying over that now. I'm too busy geeking out over my studies at the moment. In addition to learning how to give relaxing 2 hr massages, I'm also learning how to treat chronic ailments, aches and pains such as: constipation, headaches, neck stiffness, menstrual cramps, anxiety and a long list of others. I had no idea Thai Massage had such healing properties. My roommate, and fellow NY'er, is also studying here with a master in Chang Mai. It's been fun to work on one another, exchange information, and swap "guess what I did at school today?" stories. We're also working on a new business venture once we get back to NYC. Sparkes Wellness meets Motivated Nutrition!

I can't wait to get home and share all of this new knowledge and test out my skills on each and every one of you! Chronic constipation anyone? I got this! Book your massage now!

$30/ 30min, $50/1hr, $75/1.5hrs

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I'm going to continue to enjoy my clean clothes, hot showers and afternoon naps as Micah sprints his way through Bangladesh over the next two weeks. (He's scheduled to fly out of Myanmar tomorrow.) I'm cheering him on. Perhaps he'll wear himself out and I'll be able to talk him into afternoon naps by the time we reunite!

Here are a few photos from my "vacation".

Sporting my Thai Massage scrubs

Sporting my Thai Massage scrubs

Wat in the old city of Chang Mai

Wat in the old city of Chang Mai

Thai Cooking class

Thai Cooking class

Elephant trek

Elephant trek

Sparkes Wellness and Motivated Nutrition

Sparkes Wellness and Motivated Nutrition

Posted by bucketbath 08:05 Archived in Thailand Tagged food indonesia travel india trekking thailand backpack new york bed house fun life school mai packing nyc neck bath relaxation hot dirt power chang thai nepal clean pictures energy breakdown showers bangladesh business massage rescue bucket exercise running clothing prep masterpiece wellness ijen nap study sen workout masseur healing whirlpool anxiety bootcamp mental jogging sprinting cheering geek heartaches stiffness cramps roommate sib masterthai Comments (6)

Burmese Sweat

Staying out of trouble while jogging in Yangon, Myanmar

Crumbling buildings, stained with ages of soot and mold, sag under the weight of their colonial past and the present’s dictatorial rule.

The Burmese walk the streets with deathly-pallid faces, painted with a powdered sun block to fend off the scorching sun. Their teeth and lips often stained blood red from chewing betel nut, a mild stimulant.

I arrived in Myanmar’s capital Yangon on Saturday to explore this misunderstood and demonized country, expecting to feel like I’m in the North Korea of SE Asia. But I’ve been pleasantly surprised to find the people warm, inquisitive and friendly. I cannot walk down a street without receiving a “hi” or smile.

At times it feels like life here is freer than in China since the Burmese government has less resources to truly constrict its people. With that said though, the government continues to subjugate the minority populations and enslave people in forced labor camps.

Everything I read said photography taking photos is risky – you can’t photograph government or military buildings (I wish I could have photographed the baby-faced soldier guarding a hotel armed with a bazooka), any infrastructure (train stations, bridges, etc.) and who knows what else.

Huge swaths of the country remain off limits to foreigners and even parts Yangon (Rangoon of old), the reason I was afraid I’d run into trouble during yesterday’s morning jog.

I stepped onto the betel-spit stained street, busses and taxis belching fumes into the morning’s chilly air. No motorbikes ply Yangon’s bumpy roads since a government ban went into effect a few years ago.

I headed south, then onto Strand Road, full of forlorn buildings, which parallels the murky Yangon River and hidden from view by the port’s towering, chalky white perimeter wall.

Past the bustling ferry jetty with vendors hawking fruit, razors, and vegetables. Crowds of loiterers crouched, drinking tea or eating breakfasts of noodles or rice.

Further down, men and women stood in lines, awaiting admission to the port and begin their workday.

I ran until the port ended and low-slung government buildings crouched behind barbed wire fences.

Nearby a line of parked gasoline tankers, some vehicles from the 60s or 70s with chunky front grills, waited outside a fuel depot.

People crooked their necks, scowled, smiled, laughed, pointed as I ran by. But fear curdled my gut: would I end up where I shouldn’t be?

I always carry a passport photocopy when running just in case of injury – but here in Myanmar it was my insurance card Uncle Sam’s got my back should something bad happen.

I kept running along the river, patches of shadows cooled the blazing sun until a man waved his hand in warning to turn around – up ahead was a barbed wire gate with soldiers patrolling.

I backtracked, ran down a dusty street, past a few police posts, ignoring them (and they ignored me) and found the bridge I’d earlier missed.

You’ve seen Boston or Tampa’s iconic suspension bridges, the ones that look like tipped modernist harps. Yangon has it’s own, the Pazundaung Mahabandoola Bridge, except it’s squatter and painted camouflage green. I bolted across, past 2 military garrisons surrounded by sand bags and barbed wire, over the Pazundaung Canal’s churning current into Dawbon, a suburb of Yangon.

Saffron robed monks walked down the street collecting alms and offering blessings.

I continued on the busy road with pickup trucks full of passengers crammed onto their beds and hanging off the back, to the Thaketa Bridge and back into Yangon. As I ran, I hopped around on the sidewalk, as if playing four square, to avoid the cracks and gaping holes.

The streets were dusty, red earth blew through the air. At times I pulled my shirt over my nose to avoid the grit and scrum of Yangon life. Past the police station, a red-bricked colonial-era building with dark windows and surrounded by two barbed and electrified fences.

Past Sule Paya, a 2000 year golden temple in the middle of a clogged traffic circle whose name means “the stupa where a Sacred Hair Relic is enshrined” and that might house one of Buddha’s hairs.

Past streets buzzing with vendors selling watches, tools. sweets. Past men wearing plaid lungees (a male dress), women in colorful hijabs.

Overhead the colonnaded buildings stood stoically, a silent witness to the travails that have befallen this country: war, oppression, dictatorship, poverty.

Maybe after Hillary Clinton’s visit here last month, things will change and life will improve. Maybe the fear I felt exploring the city’s streets, that the Burmese must feel and at times roils in protest (that the government violently suppresses) will ebb, leaving behind a people, a country, a nation ready for a better future.

Check out the map of the run below (and don’t forget to click satellite view).

Click here!

YangonRun.jpg

And don't forget to pre-book your authentic Thai massage for April!

$30/ 30min, $50/1hr, $75/1.5hrs

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Posted by bucketbath 07:03 Archived in Myanmar Tagged street travel square burma dirt smile asia myanmar running four betel jogging lungeel Comments (6)

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