It is a truth universally acknowledged amongst my friends and family that my standards and expectations are far too high.
I once replied in a job interview to a question asking me how my friends would describe me with the word ‘snobby’. Surprisingly, I didn’t get a call back.
Living a non commercial tourist Thai life is challenging, but by no means beneath me and I am slowly but surely getting accustomed to a more simple and humble way of living.
As soon as we arrived at my temporary apartment in Bangkok, Mrs Usana whisked me away again to take me shopping, having been informed by Somsri of my concern at not having enough clothes suitable for teaching. The shopping mall was a bizarre experience, selling brands that would have made my ten year old self weak at the knees. Upon seeing the likes of Morgan, PlayBoy and Von Dutch, those that I hadn’t seen or thought of since the days I’d beg Mama J to take us to Tammy girl, I felt as if I were trapped in an early 00s Asian throwback. Bundling me into a fitting room, Mrs Usana and several sales assistants passed me skirt after skirt that were ‘polite’ enough for the classroom. Having paid between 100- 180 baht ( £2 – 3.60) for clothes on the Khaosan Road, the 500 – 1500 baht (£10-30) price tags of the department store lost in time seemed astronomical. Eventually finding skirts suitable enough for school, that were also flattering and cool enough for 40 degree heat (an impossible criteria), we headed to the food department, aka the hall of dreams. A Thai WholeFoods – Waitrose hybrid, packed with baskets of vibrantly exotic fruits, local produce, numerous deli, fresh meat & fish counters and actual Waitrose products.
That night, Mrs Usana took me out for dinner at a local Thai restaurant. As we walked down the road, I looked in fear at the options around us, praying that we’d turn a corner and stumble upon somewhere that would at least pass UK health and safety regulations. Mrs Usana led me into an open plan restaurant, where food was prepared on the street at the front of the shop. As we sat at a offensive green plastic table and chair set, the luxuries at the WholeFoods – Waitrose seemed like a sick, distant dream.
The food however was phenomenal, and a surge of guilt swept over me for my western (or west London) predispositions and insufferable snobbery. I’d ordered sugar snap peas that came in a sweet onion stock, accompanied by a grilled plate of the biggest king prawns I have ever seen. For dessert, I had a Thai dish that I’d first tried at The Ambassador; A small bowl of steaming sweet coconut milk, filled with small multicoloured rice dumplings.
After a whole week of not a single sit up, squat or exercise induced sweat fest, I relished in the fact that my tempory Bangkok apartment had a fitness studio. Donning my free runs and Nike pros, I skipped down the hall, ecstatic at the thought of burning off some of the excessive amount of coconut milk I’d consumed that week. Upon opening the door, my dreams were shattered by numerous obstacles blocking my path to thigh gap. Firstly, there was no air con and at 38degrees outside, the studio was an inferno. I sweated more in the five seconds it took me opening the door than I have in any SportsPark session.
Secondly, none of the machines actually worked. With caution, I switched on the treadmill before stepping onto it. Noticing that the buttons had been replaced with cut out pieces of paper stuck onto the mesh that covered the mechanics beneath, I quickly switched it off again before it even had the chance to start up. The cross trainer screen wasn’t working either, but figuring that it wouldn’t kill me to not know how many calories I was burning, I jumped on. The machine actually gave way as I got on, and I fell face flat onto the dusty floor.
Lying on the floor in shock (had I really eaten that much in a week that not even a cross trainer could sustain my weight?!) and disheartened, I refused to be defeated. Brushing myself off, I put my ‘happy’ Spotify playlist on shuffle and bemoaned having to use my own body weight as a means of exercising. But then ‘Crazy in Love’ came on and everything changed. If you’ve ever witnessed my Beyoncé booty shake or my winding & grinding in Mondial, you can imagine what ensued. In the broken and stifling fitness studio with floor length glass windows, I let loose for the whole of northern Bangkok to witness.