A couple weeks ago my best friend from childhood came out to Thailand (her first international travel in 15 years) to visit me in Chiang Mai. Upon her her return to New York she sent me a link to a blog that someone she knew had passed to her, written in the first-person by a 28-year-old Brooklyn-ite, Neil Chamberlain, who had traveled to Thailand to train in Muay Thai camps for two months. The blog chronicles his experiences in two camps: one in Bangkok – Jitti Gym, and one on the island Koh Samui at Lamai camp.
Neil is a good writer. The fetishized “other” of being in a foreign land is eroded under the wording of his own self-conscious foreignness and the other westerners around him. He depicts his trainers as breathing portraits and brings to light details of his surroundings in a way that is at once able to bring you there with him, but always still behind the window pane of his own transience in that space. He does not assume to reveal anything about being a fighter, a tourist, or about his subjects other than what he has revealed for himself.
Sadly, two weeks after returning to Brooklyn from his time in Thailand, Neil was killed in a hit-and-run. His writing is published posthumously by a friend of his, with a short introduction to each “part” explaining this odd story. I have only read the first two parts of the four that have been published but I look forward to more. Neil’s experiences are not mine, but there are flashes of familiarity in what he sees or feels, the characters with whom he engages or chooses not to. I appreciate that when he set out to immerse himself in something different, he was brave enough to bring a pen.
Neil Chamberlain’s Blog:
Figthing + Otherwise: A Travelogue of Muay Thai and Its Collateral Hazards