Mo’ money, mo’ dinner

It’s been a long road, but here we are in October. 16 days left, but really, who’s counting? Some days I feel like we’ve barely just gotten here(not often), and some days I feel like we haven’t seen our own shores in years(kind of a lot). As Tryn put it before we left, you can do a lot of things if it’s only for a few months, which doesn’t sound all that long now that we’re on the tail end of it.

The really fun part about these last two weeks is that we finally don’t have to give a damn about money. Tryn got paid a few days ago, and she’ll get paid again on the 12th, so we can do all the things we’ve been wishing we could, but had to say no to due to needing to not burn through all of her paychecks. Although I should be honest, when I say “all the things we couldn’t do”, what I really mean is eat a lot of awesome food. We made another trip to Firehouse, known to some of you who have asked about it as Burger Heaven, and I think we were so happy to have red meat that the people at the table next to us might have been a little disturbed. Between the appetizer and the sheer size of the portions on the burger, I actually got full about halfway through, but there was no way I was leaving any of it.

We’ve also blown a nice chunk of money on training over the last few days back at Watcharachai’s place. I got to work with cranky smoking guy again, which remains as great as it was last time. He’s easily my favorite trainer to work with out of everyone I’ve been to. Mostly the thing that I like the most is how easy it is to get along with everyone here, which is helped by the fact that we all eat breakfast and dinner together. Also, everyone generally seems to be enjoying themselves even in the middle of gasping for air and wondering why 4 minutes is all of a sudden so freaking long. I also have to admit to being wrong about Bun, the guy I had a bad time with last time. Both of my workouts with him this time were really good, so maybe something was up last time.

It’s been a pretty good couple of weeks since I last updated, except for car shopping, which is probably an entire separate post’s worth of aggravation. Anyway, to let everyone know where we’ll be and when, our current timetable looks like this-

10/17- Fly out of Bangkok at 2AM(ugh), layover in Shanghai, get to JFK airport in New york at 2PM(time zones suck balls).

10/21- MS bike ride with dad and Jacob. 30 miles, so hopefully I’ll have kicked off the jet lag by then.

10/24- Flying back out of New York(yes, that is actually happening) to Hawaii for Bridget’s birthday.

11/1- Fly back to NY

11/2- Drive up to Rochester

11/3- Tryn’s slightly-delayed birthday party

That’s what we’re looking at right now, barring any kind of major schedule issues. Which there won’t be. Right, universe? Right.

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Like the Odyssey, but without being turned into a pig

Day one of the Big Training Trip is done, and I’m feeling pretty good. Mostly I’m trying to remember that I have two solid weeks here, so it’s okay if I ratchet the intensity up a little more slowly. Burning out is bad and wrong. Besides, I can overtrain anywhere, I’d sort of like to make the most of my time left here. I’m sure I’ll have some kind of amusing mishap soon, though, so don’t go thinking I’ve gotten TOO sensible on everyone. Eating KFC within 2 hours of training wasn’t my best idea ever, for instance. The trainer sure seemed to think it was funny when I let out an earth-shaking belch after getting hit in the body, so at least there’s that.

I realized yesterday that this will be the longest period of time I’ll have been by myself in quite a while. I think it’ll edge out when Tryn went to Florida by a couple of days, but I’m not certain. Either way, it’s sort of intimidating, stupid as it sounds. I’m not going to say I’m turning into a sitcom husband who’s completely helpless without his wife around to make sure he doesn’t accidentally burn the house down, but it IS a little bit strange after 5 years of not being apart for more than a few days at a time. Besides, there’s no stove here, so I can’t burn the place down without a lot more effort than forgetting about the oven. And to be realistic about it, I’m probably just going to do the same thing I’ve been doing in Suphan, just without Tryn in the room too. Farting around with old PS1 games on an emulator isn’t really a couples kind of activity.

As we’re starting to wrap up, I’m beginning to see the trip as a whole as kind of a learning experience. Yes, I went overseas and found myself, just like the protagonist of all those dumb quarterlife crisis movies. Somebody kill me. In all seriousness, though, I feel a lot more prepared for our move to San Antonio after we get home now. I used to be intimidated by the idea of picking up and moving to another city where we didn’t really know anybody or where anything was. It’s a little hard to muster up a ton of nervousness after doing that in another country on the other side of the planet, especially when the population of the town combined probably knows about 20 words of English. By comparison, settling in down in Texas is going to seem like a vacation.

Something else I’ve managed to lose while we’re here is some more of my pickiness with food. I owe that in large part to the training camp experience. It’s a lot harder to turn your nose up at something if you just finished two hours of hard work and have another two ahead of you later in the day. They haven’t always been positive gastronomical experiences, but I’m getting better. I still won’t touch fish, though I have my allergy to excuse me from needing to get over how nasty it all tastes to me.

Maybe none of this sounds that significant, but everybody’s got different priorities. I mean, I’m sure as hell not making any progress with learning Thai, so I have to take my victories where I get them.

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Screw you, relativity

We’ve reached that particular point when you’ve got something big coming up when time starts playing games with you. We aren’t so close to heading home to seriously need to wrap everything up, but it’s visible enough on the horizon that it seems like it could be tomorrow. But, of course, it’s not. So, some days scream on by, leaving me wondering how we left another week in the books. ¬†And others crawl like snails, like going to work hung over the morning after a St. Patty’s party, which is an experience I’ve had the joy of going through myself. It was like this when we hit this point with the wedding, too. Some days there was no way we were going to get everything done, and some days we just wished it would get there already so it could be done with. I feel like I may have talked about this in an entry before we left, but here we are again.

On the upside, September is looking up. I’ll be heading to Bangkok for two weeks straight to put in some hard work at Fighting Spirit, so that’s sure to be awesome. In a panting, sweating, possibly bleeding, certain to be wishing for death kind of way, but that’s the cost of doing business to get better. And I think I’m getting better, but I have no real way to gauge that. Working with the Thais makes me feel clumsy and stupid, so I can’t really tell. I guess it won’t be too much longer before I get to see the progress I’ve made at home, but still, sometimes it’s a pain in the ass to have been here for nearly 4 months and not be able to tell if my skills have improved. Oh well, soon enough.

Some days I have a hard time deciding which I’m going to get fat on first when we get home- pizza, or steak. If only there were some way to do both at once.

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When endorphins aren’t enough

It occurred to me a few days ago that even though I’m in the homeland of muay thai, it’s not the most important thing I’m learning while I’m here. Don’t get me wrong, the technical tweaks are great, but the bigger, and probably more important piece of information that I’ve picked up so far? How to kick my own ass.

Thai camps do things differently than we do at home, which I expected. One thing I wasn’t quite expecting was the training structure. Or, more appropriately, the lack of it. At home, we have set periods of time when we hit the pads, hit the bags, spar, clinch, and cool down. Here, the only thing guaranteed to happen is your pad rounds with the trainers. Before and after that, you’re pretty much on your own to do as much, or little, work as you want. Feel like sparring one of the fighters? Grab your gloves and knock yourself out, if they don’t do it first. Want to go do 5 rounds on the bag and finish with 200 knees and 200 kicks? Great, just make sure you barf someplace off the mats. Feeling a little under the weather and want to call it quits after pads? Whatever you say, see you tomorrow.

The point is, you’ll pretty much get out of it what you put in. There’s nobody to crack the whip on you, and it kind of makes sense. At the end of the day, they know most foreigners are only here for a little while, and the trainers have their pros to tend to, who make their living and make the camp money by fighting. We just aren’t important enough to them to have them go drill sergeant on us, unless we can prove on our own that we’re there to work, not to go get drunk and find hookers as soon as evening training is over. They don’t care if your ankle is stiff or if you didn’t sleep well or if you have a little bit of a cough.

Anyone who’s ever heard me talk about Vision Quest knows that I got a boot in the ass if I slacked. Sometimes it was a physical one, sometimes it was a mental one. I didn’t know what “piker” meant before I got called one for wimping out, but I learned fast enough. So it was certainly an adjustment when I got here and found all that out. But, to bring it back to the beginning, the biggest skill I’m learning out of all this is how to cut out the middleman and cattle-prod myself into productivity. I mean, this time last year, you couldn’t have paid me to run if it wasn’t forced on me under threat of physical pain. Now I go 15-20 miles a week with no impetus other than knowing I need to. Go figure.

In other news, I’m legal! Hooray! It got cut right down to the wire, but with two days before my visa would have expired, we finally got everything we needed all together after two previous failed trips, and successfully got an extension on the third try. I wouldn’t have been deported or anything, but they charge you 500 baht for every day you remain in the country past your expiration date, when you start curdling and smelling bad, I guess. That’s about 15 dollars, which isn’t a ton, but Tryn’s not done until October. Which means we would have been looking at somewhere over 1000 dollars if it hadn’t been taken care of. Not really something you want to have to pay for if you don’t have to, I think.

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Halfway home

It’s pretty hard to believe that July is almost over and done with. We’re at 2 months and change until we’re back in the states at this point, and I’ve been following my jokingly-laid out original plan pretty much to the day. I was figuring on taking about a month to a month and a half to stop freaking out over being away from everything and everyone, at which point I would start to settle down into a routine, and by the time it came time to go, I’d probably wonder where the time went. So far, I seem to be right on track. August is probably going to roll right on by too, considering all the stuff we’ve already got lined up. Tryn has two long weekends, at least one of which we’ll spend hanging out on an island, and we also have some kind of giant, world-famous rave that’s in Asia for the first time ever.

On the getting-my-head-knocked-off front, Watcharachai Gym looks like it’s a winner, so hopefully I can stick around there for the rest of my time in Thailand. The head trainer spent all of my pad rounds with him doing some serious technical nitpicking, which as Tryn pointed out, is what I came here for to begin with. Of course, the other guy I worked with was a crotchety old Thai man who smoked between rounds, who represented the other half of what I came here for. I must not have been hitting hard enough for his liking, considering after the first two punches I threw he smacked me in the head with the pad and yelled “COME ON! POWAAA!” Followed immediately by me trying to keep my glee to myself, because he probably would have socked me again if I started laughing. Technical correction is great, and definitely something I need, but there’s something to be said for just going balls-out the whole time, too. Reminds me of a fencing coach or two that I’ve had. I also got to spar and clinch with some of the Thais, one of whom is a champion in his weightclass, and the other who has over 150 fights. I didn’t know either of these things before I started working with them, which is really probably for the best. I got completely ragdolled in the clinch by the first guy, who’s about 20kgs lighter than me. That’s 40-ish pounds, and I’m looking pretty good in the low 140s right now. Deflated ego Eric’s ego has been deflated. So all in all, it was a pretty great experience, although I may have overdone it a bit. I only intended to stay from Wednesday to Friday, but Tryn decided she wanted to come down after work and train too, so I ended up going through Sunday. Oops.

This weekend, we actually get to cook again! Which is a stupid thing to get excited about, but I really do miss it. We’re visiting one of Tryn’s friends from orientation, and for some reason, her house has a stove in it. I’ll have to hope that I haven’t slipped so much that I don’t burn the house down. They probably wouldn’t appreciate that much.

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Immigrant punk

I’ve reached a point where I occasionally have problems thinking of what to write here. There’s really only so many times I can tell everyone about training, or how hot it is, or eating parts of animals that I’m probably happier not knowing. So I’ll move onto a new topic- bureaucracy!

Last Monday, I went with Tryn to Ayutthaya(former capital of Thailand when it was still Siam) to do our visa extension paperwork. She had no problem, because she was also picking up her work permit, which allows her to stay through May of 2013, if we so chose to(we’re not). I figured mine should be easy enough, since my visa is a type O, which is sort of the catch-all for anything that’s not working, students, visiting family, or getting married. You know, O, for “other”. Shouldn’t be too tough, just fill out the form, tell them “My wife is a teacher who’s going to be here for another 3 months, so stamp me and I’ll get out of your hair, but you don’t have any left because you’re a government employee, so just give me the okay.” This should be simple.

Should be is the key phrase. Eventually, we found out that I can only get my extension once my first 90-day visa is within a month of expiring. That takes me through August 2nd, which means today is the first day I’d be eligible to get an extension. This is something we found out once we’d already driven to another province to get there, and we only found out because Tryn’s co-teacher who came with us to translate told me while I was doing my form. And then, we only found out from her because Tryn had to tell her “You know, if Eric gets deported, I’m leaving too.” Because there were zero shits given about helping me out up until that point. THEN we were told that I was a week too early, which could have saved us the wasted trip if her dumbass co-teacher had bothered to let Tryn know before we went. So instead, I’m headed back down by myself at some point this week to hopefully navigate Thai bureaucracy and not get punted out of the country. Sounds like it’s going to be a great time!

It’s not all bad, though. I finally got my birthday burger, and it was totally worth it.

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The frogurt is also cursed

This past week has been a study in peaks and valleys. I can run without shin splints! Hooray! I have a day-long anxiety attack the day after. Boo. The burger place in Bangkok has a chili cheeseburger! Hooray! I have a horrific stomach ache all day. Boo. It’s time to go to the camp in Bangkok and do some training! Hooray! My wallet got stolen within 5 seconds of stepping off the bus. Boo. My trainer thinks my technique is solid enough to fight! Hooray! I have to lose another ten pounds before I get in the ring. Boo.

Despite that, this weekend will still be awesome. Sunday is my birthday, which I periodically forget about. After my 21st, I pretty much stopped giving too much of a crap about celebrating. Actually, I barely celebrated that one anyway. I don’t know, I’m just not much of a birthday person. I just want to hang out with people and eat something horrendously out of line for my fight diet. Tryn has informed me that I might just have to man up this year and give our friends an excuse to get drunk on a Sunday. I like to think I’m the kind of person who helps out other people when they’re in serious need, so I guess I’ll just have to grin and bear it.

Two days later, we have the two-year celebration of Tryn’s spectacularly bad judgement of character, also known as our anniversary. We haven’t got the faintest of what we’re going to do this year, but then, it took us a few minutes to remember what we did last year anyway. Which was mostly due to our celebration. Some of you might remember that our priest gave us a bottle of mead to take home, which we opened on our anniversary and drank throughout the day, and I feel like that kicks the crap out of stale wedding cake. So we spent the day buzzed and then went to the restaurant we went to after I proposed, so it was a good time all around.

These are generally the times of year I’ll sit down and take stock of where my life’s been and where it’s going, as opposed to new year’s. Mostly because new year’s is an arbitrary number on a calendar that doesn’t mean squat to me in any kind of practical or religious sense. Birthdays are birthdays(hooray, I exist!) and our anniversary marks the time me and Tryn officially joined our lives together(legally, anyway). Both of those seem a little more important to me than January starting. You know what the beginning of January means in Rochester? Another three months of winter, that’s what. Although in fairness, being snowed in IS an excellent time for the kind of navel-contemplating I’m doing here. Still, screw January anyway.

So let’s contemplate! I’ve sort of picked this up as a habit after once grumbling to Tryn on a birthday a few years back that it was another year of nothing getting done. She told me I’d gotten a job, an apartment, was paying my own bills for the first time, and had gotten engaged, so she was curious to know what DID count as getting anything done. I like to keep things a little more in perspective since then. So, what have I been up to this year? The big one is obvious- I’m in Thailand after three years of saving, planning, being excited, freaking out, packing, and throwing out. I mean, seriously, as major life goals go, this is a pretty hefty check off the list. We also have making the fight team back home at Vision Quest, which was something I was pretty sure I was never going to be able to do when I first started. Dealing with my depression-anxiety stew after years of not even knowing it was there, definitely significant. That was kind of like trying to fight a cloud of smoke, and as anyone I’ve sparred with knows, I really prefer to be able to punch back if I’m getting my ass kicked.

This year? Well, it’s time to fight here in Thailand, obviously. When we get home, picking up and moving and finding new jobs is the big goal, and both of us going back to school for something useful is right up there too. So I guess we’ll see how that all works out. As for the rest of this month, fuck the guy who stole my wallet, and let’s get on with the partying.

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