Sunday, May 29, 2011

Return from Chiang Mai

I'm back from Chiang Mai, Thailand, and what a short, exhausting, inspiring week it was. I met several people from the region doing incredible things, and, on more than one instance, I was blown away by the creativity of lawyers who do work outside the traditional practice of law. Besides meeting lawyers and law students working on rule of law issues in Vietnam, Laos, Malaysia and Thailand, I also met a fellow US lawyer who is initiating lawsuits to break patents in Thailand in order to increase access to affordable, generic HIV/AIDs drugs, which are often outside the reach of most Thai residents, despite the universal healthcare provided.

My colleague, Tourist (yes, that is his name), an intern at my organization accompanied me. It was his first time out of the country, and he took so many pictures, of the shiny Bangkok airport, of escalators and elevators, and all the fancy shops, of everything on the trip. The first time the plane landed, he beamed such a huge smile across the aisle at me, over the French travelers who were assisting him with his Thai visa paperwork, that I could do nothing more than laugh aloud. To be forced to see things through his eyes, through constant awe, cut away any jaded outlook I may have. It forced me to stop and look at things, and to consider.

And the small city was, indeed, lovely and peaceful: the old quarter with its decaying fortress, the moat surrounding it; the fried chicken lady situated just outside the moat, who, for 50 Baht (the equivalent of $1.75), sold you five pieces of chicken, sticky rice, and sweet chili sauce (seriously, yum); the ice cream shop I frequented; the green hills that greeted me every morning; the crazy-cheap food malls; the relatively clean streets; the order.

On the way back to Phnom Penh, I went a little nuts at the beauty counters in Bangkok international airport, and some of the results of that jaunt were a NARS Heat Wave lipstick, an orangey-red matte shade that will likely scream hooker in Cambodia (highlighted in J. Crew's S/S 2011 lookbook on all the models) and YSL Touche Eclat, which I swear by.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

A feast.

I've been in Chiang Mai, in northern Thailand, for a few days, and I'm loving the change of scenery. I'm staying at the office/house of a partner organization, which has a lovely courtyard covered with green grass, where I've participated in early morning yoga sessions. The house also comes with two resident (plump) dogs who are veterans at begging for food. They sit on the cool floor most of the day.

Two nights ago, we were tasked with contributing a dish to a potluck. A trip to the local market followed, as did hours of cooking and cooking in the hot kitchen. At one point, as I was chopping up vegetables for the soba salad, the burn of chili and oil permeated the kitchen, stinging my eyes and those of others and forcing us to stop for a while. Too many cooks in the kitchen.

The Americans and French worked on their mango and sticky rice and bruschetta dishes, respectively. Outside, the Vietnamese team constructed and fried salad rolls, while the Thai and Laotian team barbequed pork, which I could not stop sampling with sweet chili sauce. I have no idea what the Australians contributed. Mountains of noodles and huge pots of curry were also welcome additions.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Chiang Mai

I should be packing for my trip to Chiang Mai, Thailand. My plane leaves in 3 hours. I'm spending a week there for work, and the idea of modernity and civilization excites me -- that and the NARS counter at Bangkok International Airport!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Lateline on the Railways

ABC Lateline News finally aired the piece on the Railways Project! The community highlighted is the one I visited for two hellish days of legal aid assistance.

Zoe Daniels, Australian Broadcasting Corp. Cambodian Rail Line to Displace Country's Poor. A Cambodian rail line project involving AusAID and Australia's Toll Holding is under fire for offering meagre compensation for houses in the way of the tracks.

Transcript and news video here.


A few things on my mind tonight:

Thank goodness for Skype, which has allowed me recently to chat with friends across the ocean, as I turn in for the day and they begins theirs.

My insane, non-stop-talking family, I do miss you.

I went to the gym tonight, for the second time since I moved to Phnom Penh. Afterwards, I had a papaya apple ginger shake. I feel so healthy. Could I, should I make this a habit?

Views from the South China Sea

I am far from beach bum material. Nonetheless, our time there was too short. And why is Malaysian food so yummy? More later.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Travel Legs

We returned from our short holiday last night, and not until I stepped foot in busy, chaotic Phnom Penh did I fully appreciate the air of calm and peace that has enveloped me the past week, a tranquility that has stayed despite the rather hurried travel schedule. There was a lot of movement on this trip. It went something like this:

-Flight from Phnom Penh to Kuala Lumpur (Peninsular Malaysia)

-Flight from Kuala Lumpur to Brunei Darrusalam on the island of Borneo

-Ferry to the island of Labuan

-Ferry to Kota Kinabalu (Malaysian Borneo)

Strangely enough, and I forgot that this tends to be the case with me, the constant movement and exploration just feels right. It puts me at ease and there are a few things that feel more natural to me.

There were, of course, many quiet, still moments, many of which were spent sampling local cuisine, staring at the lapping waves of the South China Sea or the encroaching mist on Mt. Kinabalu.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Mother's Day!


I am thinking of my mum and grandmother who are traveling in the Philippines at the moment. I miss them.

I am thinking of my dear friends Cherlou and Alex, who just welcomed their first son, Bradley. I hope to meet him someday soon!

I am thinking of baking oatmeal popovers soon.

I am thinking of the holiday this week - the King's Birthday. Ethan and I are flying to Kuala Lumpur in Peninsular Malaysia, then to Brunei Darussalam, where we plan to begin a somewhat hurried (though fun) overland journey to Malaysian Borneo.

I am thinking Vivian the cat has taken over our house. (Her kittens died, which really bummed out Clarisse and me.)

I am thinking this week will be busy -- much wrap up from last week's field visit, a visit from an amazing colleague based out of Bangkok, and other things.

365 days, week #18.

Poipet. I spent Thanksgiving last year in this seedy border town. I usually can find some pleasure in most places I visit, but this city may be one of the few exceptions.

The day after I arrived back from Koh Kong, I was back on a bus to this town. Our team spent the week there. These were long, tiring days. We baked under the unforgiving May heat, finding temporary relief in the occasional short showers that cooled temperatures, but also exacerbated some of the unsanitary conditions in these villages. This was a week of talking -- talking to affected households to learn about the impacts of the ADB-funded Railway Rehabilitation Project, talking to widows, talking to a mother of ten children, who fears her family will not have a home to move to, talking to people dismantling their homes.

Again, I'm afraid this local grievance mechanism appears to be broken. Deeply impoverished, people in these communities are generally afraid to complain. That's just Cambodia. Overt coercion and, in the absence of that, a general culture of fear of complaining against "the powerful" abounds. And again, as in other communities, many people cannot read or write, let alone draft complaints and access mechanisms created for recourse.

An impromptu legal aid clinic/training took a few of our evenings. We worked not in the villages, but in our hotel rooms, where those brave enough to lodge dissent shuffled in and out of air-conditioned carpeted rooms, in the hopes that they could pore over their words on paper with the help of a friend, a father, or a daughter who could write.

But, there were other good moments. The children. They run barefoot on the ground in these slums, amongst a trickle of dogs, motorbikes and bicycling children. One stole cookies from my bag. But that's fine -- I eat too many Bonne Maman treats anyway. Their laughs and smiles are infectious.

Monday, May 2, 2011

365 days, week #17.

Chances are you've never heard of the Cardamom Mountains, or of Koh Kong province. Until recently, I had never registered these places, even though I live in Cambodia. Even though the Cardamom Mountain rain forests, situated in the southwest region of the country, near the Cambodian-Thailand border, are considered to be one of the most species-rich natural habitats in the entire Southeast Asian region, home to Asian elephants -- and, unsurprisingly, the subject of several land disputes involving encroaching mining companies and sugar plantations.

Ethan and I visited the region for the extended weekend. (Note: In April and May, the calendar is riddled with Cambodian holidays.) What unfolded before our eyes on the bus ride was mountainous scenery, dense and green, as far out as the eye could see. (Note: Must spend more time in this region.)

Some pictures:

1. We visited a mangrove forest and allowed ourselves to get lost.

2. The bathroom in the mangrove forest.

3. Ants, more mangrove forest.

4. Fishing boats

5. Another Cambodian sunset
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...