above is my 20 minute video Interview of Frances Watthanaya in Phutthaisong, Buriram – Isaan
Read about my trip to Giatbundit Gym in Phutthaisong here.
Talking with fighter, mother & wife Frances Watthanaya
When I first “met” Frances online she was living in Canada and finishing up her degree. She also is a mother to a young, intensely independent, little daughter named Parvati. And she’s a Muay Thai fighter who is married to another Muay Thai fighter and now that she’s finished her degree and the family has moved back to her husband’s hometown (or close to it) in Isaan, Thailand, Frances is doing even more: teaching English at a local school, training and hoping to fight more often (when we spoke she was getting ready for a tournament in China), helping promote for her gym, training fighters at the gym, organizing social media accounts that both promote and share the many things going on at her Muay Thai gym… the list goes on. And Frances does it all with the relaxed attitude of rural Thailand and the take-charge attitude of a woman who knows what needs to be done. She’s pretty amazing.
I sat down with Frances on the edge of the ring just after she’d finished training. There are a million things to talk to Frances about and I consider this 20 minute interview something of a “first installment” that I hope to continue on subsequent visits to Giatbundit Gym. For this first interview I wanted to know about how a 19-year-old Canadian woman ends up in Thailand in the first place, then met Boom, who would become her husband. Romantic relationships in gyms can be very complicated / complicating, but Frances and Boom have made it work on two continents – we discuss her experiences of moving from Thailand with Boom to Canada, having their daughter and finishing her degree, then moving the family back to Thailand and both her and Boom getting back into more regular fighting. It happens that Frances’ studies focused on Isaan and her first-hand experience and academic lens through which she views the many facets of Isaan’s place in Thailand and her place as a “falang” within it is very thoughtful and fascinating.
I think this is an important interview to watch because it covers so many things that just don’t get represented or talked about. Frances occupies a position that is at once incredibly unique – a woman with more years in Muay Thai already than most others from the west, but increasingly integrating herself into the lifestyle of not only Muay Thai, but fluency in the language, the art, the culture and the land of Isaan; but she’s also very approachable because she does not “shed” her western experiences in order to become anything, she just absorbs all of it. And as a woman who does so much, she both appeals and speaks to people from many different walks of life.
If you’d prefer to listen to the interview you can hear it with the audio player above. Right click the player if you’d like to save the file as an .mp3 file and treat it like a podcast.
visit the Giatbundit Gym website, Giatbundit on Facebook, or contact Frances on Twitter @Watthanaya