Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Things you can do in Bangkok but not in Amsterdam

  • Go to the Grocery store and have the clerk greet you with a smile and say - Home Delivery, Madam?
  • Pick up a super sweet Thai Iced Tea from a lady in a cart by the side of the road that she carefully wraps in a napkin and puts in a special little plastic bag "Sling" so you don't get your hands wet from the melting ice.
  • Get an hour foot rub while drinking a cheap "Chang" beer for less than $3 complete.
  • Have the lady at the work cafeteria remember you and greet you by making your favorite salad of chopped chicken "Laab Gai" with "Extra spicy, kap khun ka" (a far cry from the MSF Cafeteria)
  • Be thankful for a 32C degree (90F degree) day .... because its a break from the heat!
  • Consider going to a tropical island for the weekend idly and discard the idea because you can't be bothered to sit in a taxi for two and a half hours.

As popular as Durian in an Airplane's overhead compartment

Ever get the feeling that no one wants you around? I'm trying to get to Pakistan to help with the "Gender Marking" process and its rather unfruitful. Difficult to get visa, difficult to get anyone to respond to emails or phone calls, I feel rather useless...  In a bit of a funk, I went to the grocery store at lunch and bought some durian on a whim. For those not familiar with durian, its a delicacy in Thailand and SE Asia and rather notorious for it's "aroma".

According to Wikipedia, "the edible flesh emits a distinctive odour, strong and penetrating even when the husk is intact. Some people regard the durian as fragrant; others find the aroma overpowering and offensive. The smell evokes reactions from deep appreciation to intense disgust, and has been described variously as almonds, rotten onions, turpentine and gym socks. The odour has led to the fruit's banishment from certain hotels and public transportation in southeast Asia."

But that's not all! 

'While  "the smell of the ripe fruit is certainly at first disagreeable", later descriptions by westerners are more graphic. British novelist Anthony Burgess writes that eating durian is "like eating sweet raspberry blancmange in the lavatory."[23] Chef Andrew Zimmern compares the taste to "completely rotten, mushy onions."[24]Anthony Bourdain, a lover of durian, relates his encounter with the fruit thus: "Its taste can only be described as...indescribable, something you will either love or despise. ...Your breath will smell as if you'd been French-kissing your dead grandmother."[25] Travel and food writer Richard Sterling says:
... its odor is best described as pig-shit, turpentine and onions, garnished with a gym sock. It can be smelled from yards away. Despite its great local popularity, the raw fruit is forbidden from some establishments such as hotels, subways and airports, including public transportation in Southeast Asia.[26]
Other comparisons have been made with the civetsewage, stale vomitskunk spray and used surgical swabs.[27] '

So I had a couple of bites. Creamy - sort of the texture of a ripe avocado or a steamed artichoke heart. And a perfume-y taste... I would say similar to almond/rosewater. But three bites was enough. Its rich. So what do I do with it now? I need to segregate it from the rest of the house. 
"Throw it away," advises my friend Lauren, "Preferably in another country." 
I double-bag it and put it out on the balcony. I gaze over at the pool - 12 stories down, maybe I could toss it down there. 

Then I realize - I should keep and finish my durian. Because today I feel unwanted, ignored, and useless - about as popular as a durian in an overhead compartment of a plane on a long-haul flight.  So maybe instead of that old childhood song "Nobody loves me, everybody hates me, I think I'll eat some worms" - I'm going to eat some more durian.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Somali Region, Ethiopia (video)

From my September 2009 trip to Ethiopia and the Ogaden region. Hanging out with some camels down at the watering hole.