Runner Life.

“Man, do runners love running. They love everything about running. They especially like talking about running. After running, talking about running is the #1 thing runners seem to like. Also, is it just me or are runners crazily cultish about their running? Like, if they find out you’re a fellow runner, there is nothing you could do to sever the relationship. You could murder an elderly man and the only reaction would be, “See you at Red Coyote this weekend!” In summary: though very clearly insane, runners are sort of adorable and infectious in how enthusiastic they are.”

via JustRun via The Lost Ogle

Remember a little blog post called The Road? This is your update. I was concerned being only on week 2 of Couch to 5k when I took off to Bangkok to pick up my Mom. Turns out, running while traveling can be pretty freaking awesome. The constant change of scenery and overzealous enthusiasm for life led to a constant renewed energy for my hobby. I never got bored because there was always a new route to explore and things to take my attention away from the fact that my mind and body were still getting re-used to the idea of running again.

First of all, the Couch to 5K program. In a word, impressively-doable. The short intervals were easy to keep me in gear, but enough of a challenge that I felt the improvement (ie pain) each week. There was only one week that I needed to scale back and do a repeat of a run, but it was my own fault (running in Thai heat late morning without breakfast and being properly hydrated, not a good idea) not the program’s. It helped that you only run three days a week and are encouraged to take off days/rests when you feel is necessary.

And a side note to myself/any other PCVs thinking about how weird the locals will find you for running… they already think you’re crazy. It might as well be for something that’s good for you. My Thais were surprisingly chill about my running. Mostly a lot of encouraging thumbs up and ‘strong, strong’ comments as they passed me on their motorbikes. I’m pretty convinced the people on The Road were a different species of Thai as no one, not once, called me farang or gawked annoyingly. Which only made me wish I had discovered Road and the people occupying it earlier in my service.

A side note from the side note is how amazing it was to run before the rest of the tourists come out from their hotels and to see a city come to life like a regular citizen of such a place. Even if you’re not running, I would definitely encourage travelers to get up at least once at the crack of dawn to experience a new place this way, like the locals do. One of the most memorable parts of my visit in Chiang Rai was running by a little old Thai granny doing aerobics in her front yard and her telling me how ‘strong’ I was. I invited her along for the rest of my run and her booming laughter had me smiling until well after I finished exercising.

Ok, one more side note and I’ll get back on track. The blog track that is. Running while traveling has to be one of the coolest things. Ever. Over a two-week period, I was running in the fields of Isaan, the streets of Chiang Rai, the mountains in Ban Rai, and the beach in Cha Am. Each time it felt like there was a completely different personality to the run. It was almost like getting to know a fascinating new person at various parties. You might run a little slower getting to know one another at first, but the renewed vigor you feel at the end makes it seem well worth the effort.

I was so amazed and proud of myself for actually finishing C25K in Thailand that I decided to jump into the next step of a 10k with Suz’s 5K to 10K. I liked my C25K electronic/club music, but Suz keeps you motivated with 90s hip-hop/R&B classics like Big Poppa, Baby Got Back, and Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It. There were times this program felt a little inconsistent in the jumps of intervals you were supposed to run week to week, but it did help me get to running a full hour. At this point, I was starting to get a little obsessive, running every other day, and like most new converts to running, took things a little harder than I probably should have. It started with my first bad cold in nearly two years time, then after pulling a hip muscle slipping on some wet concrete and the following severe lower back pain, I fell out of shape a bit as my time in Thailand was coming to a close.

With so much to do before I left and the subsequent transition time in America with family and friends and things to do almost every day, it wasn’t hard to lose my lungs. Well, the cold weather didn’t help either. I was struggling with a puny fifteen minute limp along session on the treadmill and was not happy about it.

Luckily the weather has steadily improved and so have my running times. And there are also these wonderful things called apps and real roads that help me figure out how far I’ve been running and what my mile pace, things I couldn’t quite take advantage of when I was on the dirt roads cutting through rice fields. I’ve been nerding out a bit over it. Enough so to dedicate an entire post to talking about how much I’m enjoying running again.

I don’t know how or why, but running has become a constant in my life as I make my way through segueing myself back to life in America. It’s become a time of meditative reflection that I never look forward to until I’m knee-deep in things and realize how necessary it is for my sanity. Maybe it’s an addiction to the endorphins, but I totally understand and nod enthusiastically at the above quote. It’s amazing the people you connect with when you’re out and about exercising in the world. Maybe even yourself?

With the Pittsburgh marathon a few weeks ago, I saw many former classmates and friends have been taking the plunge into long distance running. I’m hoping to join a race sometime in the fall, fingers crossed for a half marathon! For now, I’ll keep lacing up and taking in the scenery in this Runner Life.

T.G.I.P.W. (Thank God it’s Poop Week)

The rest of the world may celebrate Animal Planet’s Shark Week with 24/7 shows of the natural predator, PCVs have to be on the look out for a different one. Over the past two years, we’ve been exposed to all various kinds of water conditions and ways to store food. And let’s not forget the parasites. I’ve had more stomach/digestive issues in the past two years than rest of my entire life put together.

Enter Poop Week. To avoid widespread tropical diseases Americans generally have no immunity built up for, we go into Bangkok to poop into a cup for three days. Not the same cup mind you. And not really a cup either now that I think about it. It’s more like a prescription bottle. While we wait around to empty our stomachs, we have physicals and other medical check ups.

The real reason I’m more than excited for this though is for mental check-ups rather than physical ones. With six weeks left, my brain is not really ‘here’ anymore. And I have a really bad attitude lately too. I have no patience to be called farang, told I’m so beautiful because I’m white every day, being stared at for doing completely normal things, or the general hijinks that happen in life in rural Thailand. I’m craving pizza, cheese, and anything not Asian food so badly my mouth waters on a nearly daily basis. Basically, I feel like a ticking time bomb, trying not to explode when someone offers me fried fish one last time.

Going to Bangkok will provide me an opportunity to decompress the build up. I’ll be able to get my western food fix, unload my issues with Thailand with fellow PCVs, and, best of all, be anonymous again. I hope this will be another refuel for the very last leg once I arrive back to site. It’ll only be another five weeks of school after that and I have my plane ticket to fly back to Pittsburgh the week following. Excited isn’t a strong enough word.

I am NOT looking forward to packing though.

My Thai Kitchen: Grilled Cheese

A simple American classic that I didn’t realize I could easily recreate in Thailand with a little forethought when in the bigger towns surrounding my little one.

Butter and bread I can get in my favorite little snack shop owned by another teacher from my school, both cost about a dollar. At site there isn’t much variety except for plain white bread from a brand called Farmhouse, but I’ll take what I can get. Cheese is obviously difficult to find at site, but luckily the two towns closest to me have slices of processed, shitty American cheese, but again, I’ve stopped being picky in Thailand. I try to buy a package or two every time we go into either of these towns so I have some backup and don’t feel bad about putting two slices in each sandwich.

Something note about the butter in Thailand (or at least the affordable for PCVs kind) is that it tastes a little, bizarre. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but it is edible. It just changes the taste a bit, so there is an adjustment there when making something like grilled cheese when the butter is a big component. Another funny thing about Thai butter is there is a kind with sugar in it! And I don’t mean lightly dashed throughout, but large sugar granules and it has very different in taste to it, compared to the plain kind as well.

Pink means sweetened in this case.

Evidenced by the blackened teeth on many children, Thais love things to be extra sweetened (most people won’t drink unsweetened milk and Thais usually give me a look when I ask for plain) and will put huge, heaping spoonfuls of sugar in nearly everything (I do mean everything, especially those dishes you think are so healthy get maybe three or four scoops of sugar). It’s actually a pretty serious problem as diabetes levels are soaring as diets move more towards sugary snacks and processed food.

But back to grilled cheese goodness. I don’t remember where the inspiration came from, but once I had my wok, I was ready to get grilling. It takes a difficult balance to get a ‘low’ heat setting on my on-off cooking device. And unfortunately, there are quite a few burned sandwiches and fingers. Because of this, the sandwiches don’t get too hard or stiff like Mom always did so perfectly. I’ve also started adding tomatoes occasionally for an added dimension and they can be so easily acquired at my market.

Melty, cheesy goodness is so rare to find in Thailand.

One day I hope to get brave enough to start adding meat to my cooking repertoire (still not brave enough for that) and step up to a croque monsieur instead of grilled cheese. For Thailand though, this is an amazing, doable treat from home.

Guess that Ladyboy

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s time for a game on Erin Flew the Coop! Many have heard about the illustrious ladyboys of Thailand and after a fellow Volunteer forwarded this as an email, I thought I would share to test your skills. Every year there is a beauty contest held in Bangkok between the guys and gals to see who is more beautiful. Take a look at each photo and try to figure out which of the pair is a guy and which is a girl. The answers are below, good luck!

 

 

 

 

 

All of them are really beautiful aren’t they? You can easily see how someone could think they were all born as females, but in fact all of these people were born as men. Ladyboys are generally accepted in Thai society, but as for any legal status or gay marriage rights, there are still steps forward needed to be taken.

10 Drinks We Can’t Wait For

With that food we’re so desperate to gobble, you need something to swig along with it. Here is our follow-up to the foods, drinks we can’t wait to gulp down by the gallon.

Again, Jeff is bold, I’m italics.

Rolling Rock

Wine: red, white, violet I don’t care, anything to savor over dinner

Red wine, pinot noir, shiraz and the dry wine I drink with pasta

Mountain Dew and Diet Coke… just once to remember what they taste like

2% milk

Vanilla Milkshake with Reeses’ added in

Newcastle

Hot Chocolate on a cold day

Tap water (I took it for granted)

A beer at a bar with my friends

A Grain Belt or Summit beer at a St. Paul Saints game

Some fruity shitty alcoholic drink to have while dancing like a fool with other young people

Real black coffee – not an Americano, but a dark cup of coffee from my own home or a locally owned coffee shop and maybe a shot in the dark (cup of coffee with a shot of espresso)

A glass of ice-cold 2% or whole milk to have with any kind of warm dessert

Fitger’s Oatmeal Big Boat Stout in Duluth

British Breakfast Hot Tea with my Mom

An A&W root beer from an A&W stand/restaurant

A pitcher of sangria at an outdoor bar

Any beer that’s handed to me by a friend

Tap water without thinking about it

Click here to see the Sprinkle’s list of beverages.

10 Foods We Can’t Wait For

A fellow PC Thailand blog, Sprinkles in Thailand, posted this ‘salute to our gastronomical brethren overseas we offer this: The Top Ten Things We Want to Eat When We Get Home.’ They are a married couple and though Jeff Jackson and I are not, sometimes it feels like it. Upon Jeff’s suggestion, we’re teaming up for another post together (remember that Walmart one?) for our respective food and drink lists we daydream, drool, and talk about. As with Morgan and Dan’s blog, we came up with these separately and then mashed them together for rainbows, sparkles, and unicorns.

Since I can’t seem to figure out how to make columns in WordPress, Jeff is in bold, I’m in italics.

J: Bratwurst with Silver Spring mustard

E: Cheeseburger from the Aspinwall Grille

My pancakes with real salted butter and Aunt Jemima syrup

Pizza, preferably from Milanos in the downtown branch

Papa Murphy’s pizza hot out of the oven

 

Breadsticks from the place I don’t know the name of, but call ‘the breadsticks place’

A baked potato with butter, pepper, Lawry’s and more butter

French Onion Soup (One each from Panera Bread and Max & Erma’s for Saturday lunch with my Mom)

Three scrambled eggs, quality & healthy wheat toast (with butter) and half a pound of bacon, three strips mixed in with the eggs with the greased used to lubricate the pan and flavor the eggs

Pasta… Cheese Tortellini, Chicken Alfredo, Lasagna, Spaghetti with meat sauce, real meatballs

A bowl of Corn Chex (with 2% milk) lightly sprinkled with sugar

Fruit not from Thailand: green apples, strawberries, seedless green grapes and oranges

Jimmy John’s No. 9 sub sandwich – I’ve forgotten what it is, but I know No. 9 = delicious 

Homemade mac and cheese

Mom’s homemade lasagna

French fries and to dip into a vanilla milkshake, preferably at King’s

Raspberries

Grilled chicken on a Cesar salad

Hot, fresh-out-of-the-oven, peanut butter cookies

The homemade creation titled ‘Greek shit’ on a cold Fall day

Just reading the list reminds me of more things I’d like to add to it. Stay tuned for the drinks version!