The Always Evolving and Partially Unwritten Five-Year Plan

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Feel the Burn

Exercising in Asia isn’t like home. First of all, it is so hot that many people (myself included) have a hard time exercising even in the early morning or late evening because of the heat and humidity. Playing tennis or ultimate frisbee makes my core body temperature heat way up and my face turns so red it gets almost purple. People that aren’t causasion constantly ask me if I am alright when I work out here becuase my face turns a truly unnatural shade of crimson. When Dan left for the US, he ponied up for a gym membership for me at the Fitness First right here in Mont Kiara, (thanks honey!) which is a brand spanking new club that just opened.

Here are my observations working out in Asia for 5 months:

1) Pale Giant

When I take classes at the gym here I am almost always the only westerner in the class. (I am a big fan of taking classes as it humiliates me into doing better than the person beside me.) That means I am a good head taller and about four shades paler than everyone else. Can you picture it? The instructors of these classes pretty much always comment on at least one of three things:

1) How tall I am (I’m only about 5’7″, but I really do feel massive here)

2) How long my arms and legs are

3) How red my face gets (sometimes they stop the entire class to check on me!)

So, as you can see, I blend right in.

2) Come one, come all

Another thing that is different about the classes is that there doesn’t seem to be a “type” that works out. For instance, in a hip-hopish dance class that I take, it is not unusual to find me shaking me groove thing next to a 60 year old man or a Muslim woman with her wrists, ankles, and head covered. When Lady Gaga comes blasting out of the speakers it is ON, no matter what your age, religion or culture in this class. How’s that for diversity?!

3) Proximity

Now, if you know me, you know I have issues with personal space. As in: I need it. A lot of it. And, if you have been to Asia, you know that in general personal space isn’t something that is valued all that much. I have several “rules” that help me with my personal space issue that have been developed through months of trial and error. First of all, when running, I always try and pick the treadmill that is on the end so that only one person can be next to me at all times, instead of being sandwiched in between two sweaty people. Usually, even though the other 30ish treadmills are open, someone picks the one beside me. I’m not joking. Second of all, during a class, I always try and position myself with the perfect amount of space in between me, the wall and the person next to me, so there is no possible way that someone can even think that they can squeeze in that open space. It’s a tricky dance to have to do before every class and even with meanish stares, it usually doesn’t work and I end up being smushed with my personal space invaded.

4) English as a Second Language

For most of the instructors, english is not their first language. So, in addition to the most enthusiastic instructors in the universe shouting out Jane Fonda like phrases that always make me giggle, you also have cute grammatical errors like, “Lift you feets in the air!”

5) No Easy Way Out

In addition to being enthusiatic, these gym rats are SERIOUS. You know when the instructor says, “For those of you who want an easier option do this…” Well, you better not even think about doing the easier option becuase it’s just not done. I don’t care if you are a 90 year old granny with arthritis, you don’t take the easier option in Asia. Yikes.

It’s a long way from a getting a workout in a rowing shell or walking by the Chattahoochee River with Henry, which is how I would workout at home, but it will do for now. But if you happen to see a tall white girl with the crimson face wedged between the wall and another sweaty person, just know she isn’t going to pass out, just keep on going and make sure she isn’t taking the easier option.  For those of you overseas, how have you had to change your workout routine? Any habits you are going to take back with you to your home country when you go? Any personal space issues where you are? I know I’m not the only one out there!

Here we go….similar to the instructors at the gym here!

One. Singular Australian Sensation.

One.

Singular sensation.

Every little step he takes.

One of Broadway’s most famous productions was coming to Singapore and we were going!

Before the show, Dad and I found yet another amazing restaurant in Singapore, called Pizzeria Mozza.

Mozza in Marina Bay Sands. Highly recommended!

We didn’t know it at the time, but it turns out that “Mozza” is an American chain out of California and had some seriously good salad, bruschetta, and pizza.  Our brushetta had squash and real bacon on it. Yes, real bacon. It sounds gross, but I assure you, it was heaven on crunchy bread. I think it had been so long since I smelled squash and bacon that I could close my eyes and be transported to the Thanksgiving table. Ah, pork and cold weather vegetables, I miss you so.

Mmmm…..I’m making these next Thanksgiving dinner!

As for the show itself….well, I thought it was a little disappointing. At first, I wasn’t exactly sure what it was, but now I think I can pin it on one minor flaw.

They were Australian.

Now, you know, I LOVE me some Australia! The people, the food, the country, everything. I don’t want to jeopardize my possible dual citizenship that I’m sure they are going to offer me any day now. Rest assured, I am still madly in love with Australia.

But, for a Broadway show set in New York city, those Aussies trying to do American accents weren’t quite right. Or, in the case of the sassy Puerto Rican girl, not right at all. I realized that this was my problem about half way through and checked back in the program and sure enough, it was an all Australian production! I wonder if every other nation feels that way when Americans make lame attempts at foreign accents. Before I moved overseas, I had never heard anyone “do” an American accent, so this is most likely the case. Get back to me if this is true or false.

Regardless, we got a picture to match with our Wicked one from a few months ago…(well, minus Dan) 😦

And got this gem of some kiddies posing with the sign too…

Their moms took about 50 shots of them! And who wouldn’t?!

And don’t worry Australia, I still love you and you are still invited to my birthday party.

(If you are over 25, did you used to say people weren’t invited to your birthday party when you were mad at them as a kid? My sisters and I used to do it all the time! Do kids still do this? I thought it was pretty effective as a six year old.) 

Teachable Moment

I go to physical therapy for my shoulder about 2-3 times a week. Almost every time I have been in there recently, I have seen a man dressed in the traditional middle eastern Muslim attire that looks a little something like this:

He is usually with his wife who is dressed in the long black robes and walks behind him. They don’t smile or make eye contact with me, and I feel a bit intimidated by them, especially the man.

Now when I visit the physical therapist, I look a lot like I just finished running 5 miles. I always come in my running shorts, an old rowing t-shirt and my hair pulled back into a ponytail. I’m also pretty sweaty from the walk over.

At first glance, I didn’t think we had much in common, but one day last week, both the man and I were waiting on the doctor and were sitting in arm chairs next to one another (quite close in proximity, I might add) and he started a conversation with me that went like this: (Note: for visualization I was wearing an old Peachtree Road Race shirt, workout shorts and running shoes, he is in the above outfit)

Dubai Man: “Hello.” (thick middle eastern accent)

Me: “Hello.” (American accent)

Dubai Man: “Are you from Malaysia?”

Me: “Ummm, do I look like I am from Malaysia?” (kinda of joking, smiling at him)

Dubai Man: “No.”

Me: (seeing that he didn’t get the joke, or was choosing not to laugh) “Oh. No, I’m from the United States.”

Dubai Man: “Oh, United States.” (I can’t tell if this is a good or bad thing.) 

Dubai Man: “I’m from Dubai.”

Me: “Oh, Dubai.” (I don’t really know a lot about Dubai, plus I didn’t want him to have the upper hand.)

Dubai Man: “I come here for 10 days. For treatment.”

Me: “Wow.” (I remember now that my doctor said there was this guy that was flying in from Dubai to see the doctor. Who flies to another country to see a doctor? People from Dubai, that’s who!)

Dubai Man: “What are you doing in Malaysia?

Me: “I’m a teacher.”

Dubai Man: “A teacher?”

Me: “Yes, a teacher. I teach little kids.”

Dubai Man: (looking away and shaking his head) “God help you!”

AMEN BROTHER! (I mean, I didn’t say that last part, but I was thinking it. Especially as the days creep towards summer.)

Later on when I walked out of the office, he was waiting for a taxi with his wife and he gave me a huge grin, a big wave and said, “See you soon friend! Have a nice day!”

I’m not saying I’m getting an invitation to a Christmas or Ramadan dinner, but I think we had a moment. I hope we get a chance to talk again next time and I think we both agree that no matter where in the world you do it, teaching can be a pretty hard job.

On a related note, last week was Teacher Appreciation Week (or the week before, depending on who you ask) so make sure that you take the time to thank a teacher that your kids have now or maybe one that inspired you earlier in life. There was a write up about one of my favorite English teachers of all time last week which was a wonderful tribute to him and all that he did for so many kids over the years at Milton High School. My top three teachers were Mr. Friedman, Ms. Hammock, and Mrs. Serkedakis. I loved that they made me think and wonder about not only the subject area they taught, and the world around me. They gave me confidence to do things I didn’t think I could do and I loved going to their classes (most) everyday. Do you have a favorite teacher that you still think of and smile? What was it about that teacher that you loved? Do they know how much you enjoyed their class? Drop them an email or letter to let them know. I bet it would make their day.

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