I had now officially taken up Muay Thai (literally, Thai boxing). It’s an excellent workout and the instructor really pushes you, tailoring your training to your abilities. Interestingly, I was almost always the only man in class and, by then, had always been the only foreigner. The classes were never more than six people and there were three instructors, so they took three of us on while the other three rest and then switch. The warm up workout was excellent and the gym owner, Wee, usually trained me himself. In four lessons I’d learned more than I did during two months of Muay Thai in Ottawa. Wee actually told me that I was progressing quite well and that he thought I could learn a lot in the time I would be spending in Bangkok, so that was encouraging.
Honestly, given that I didn’t do much cardio and that my muscular endurance wasn’t very high, I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to keep up, but my fitness level was definitely up to par and they knew how to push me just hard enough, often finding ways to make things a bit more difficult for me, given that my fitness level was typically higher than that of the other students. So, I was learning something new and specific to the country—this is traditional Muay Thai with few modern flourishes—getting an excellent workout and it was a lot of fun. As with surfing, I’d taken to it quite quickly and looked forward to more.
As for the teaching, it had been rather challenging. My class of older kids, in particular, were spectacularly lazy and difficult to engage. Basically, I had to find ways to teach them the actual material while making them feel as though they weren’t learning anything at all. Their favorite thing was “free time”. At the time, they were paying closer attention as mid-terms were coming up and some of them were panicking. I had to create those mid-terms, though, and the school’s expectations were . . . well, fantastical. I’d asked my coordinator, “Do they want this particular format or do they want the students to pass?” Her answer was, “Both,” which wasn’t realistic, but I’d get through it. I’d just have to teach them the answers ahead of time.
I was actually thinking that a place like Japan, where the attitude to education and achievement was at the other end of the spectrum (to sometimes tragic effect), might be a good place for a second year. I’d originally thought I’d want to go to Hanoi, but maybe Japan would be a good change of pace before returning to Southeast Asia for a third year. . .
Anyway, the following weekend I was off to Phuket, to the south, to explore its Sino-Portuguese Old Town and the nearby islands.