In northern India, I was charmed by details like Tibetan-style windowpanes and doors.
Sunday, September 23, 2012
This city can be a lot to take in. With its shiny malls, high-rise buildings, ubiquitous vintage shops (and shops in general), aromatic food courts, and bustling nightlife, I sometimes feel overwhelmed.
This weekend, Ethan's friend Adam visited us from Taiwan, which was an excuse for me to partake in some of the city's offerings, including a rooftop party (watching a lightning storm sweep through the Bangkok skyline is kind of awesome!), a dinner at Som Tam Bangkok (which is quickly becoming my favorite E-Sarn/Isaan restaurant in this city), a visit to one of my favorite food courts, Or Tor Kor market, for duck noodle soup, and some good old-fashioned boutique strolling.
Can I just say that the last 2+ years in Cambodia feel so far away? If it weren't for the fact that you tend to run into Cambodian asylum seekers in Bangkok, it would be too easy to disconnect from my memories of Phnom Penh.
Tuesday, September 18, 2012
Sunday, September 16, 2012
Bangkok is so different from Phnom Penh. There's really no comparison, though this month has felt like two worlds colliding into one - the Western, modern world I lived in most of my life and the Southeast Asian experience of the past few years.
Moving to another city/country is always wrought with flux. In moving, I neglect the small details that previously held my life together (e.g., having a bank account, knowing which co-op/grocery store to buy the freshest produce, having a favorite coffee shop, a favorite restaurant, a favorite neighborhood, etc). It's a matter of re-learning and re-exploring --and trying to piece together a routine that works. It's both an uncomfortable and exciting feeling, one teeming with insecurity and hope.
So far, my work has managed to be challenging and heart-wrenching, but the environment is much more collaborative and supportive than the previous. (Also, my personal safety and security is no longer an issue, so that is a plus.)
Also, it's an insanely feminine office (most of the lawyers are female). Fresh flowers brighten up the office. So often conversations veer towards food and dress and lovely, frivolous things- a nice counterpoint to the practice of refugee law. Just the other day, one colleague brought fresh-baked bread, a huge chunk of cheese she recently purchased from Switzerland, and the most delicious salami I have had in a long time, which she found in a small shop in Florence. I was loving it!
The rest of this year I am going to focus on savoring small joys (such as exploring this huge city) and keeping a healthier balance of work and life. There's a wedding to be planned (and my honeymoon) and that alone is way over my head.
Thursday, September 13, 2012
After Kolkata, we headed north to Darjeeling and then farther to Sikkim province, which is a teeny tiny province with an interesting mix of Indian, Nepali, Tibetan, and Bhutanese cultures.
It's a stunning part of the country. As it was monsoon season and travel was invariably done by private jeep (up and down winding roads, with oft-precipitous drops), we were concerned about landslides and getting stuck. Also, the rainy seasons made for stubborn clouds that obscured views of the Himalayas.
But one day, for a few minutes, the clouds parted long enough to glimpse this view of the Himalayan mountain range, set against the glowing sunset. On a clear day, you can see Mount Everest, along with Mount Kanchendzonga.
These pictures don't do justice.
Monday, September 10, 2012
We flew to Kolkata, once the capital of British India. And Kolkata, how do I describe it? Where do I begin? Heat, noise, a constant movement of people, a sea of aggressive yellow Ambassador taxis that will run you down in their path, a level of destitution I have never witnessed before - BUT so much more than that. In this city, we found incredible food, a rich literary, artistic, and educational heritage, crumbling buildings taken over by trees, and so much color and life. Certainly, that's only scraping the surface.
At times, I found it to be too much. One day, we took the ferry to Howrah Bridge (one of the busiest bridges in the world, I have been told) and crossed by foot, amongst the crowds, automobiles, stifling fumes, before finding ourselves at the flower market. Suffering from sensory overload and dehydration, I stumbled into a small eatery for a few minutes to just sit down, in the air-conditioning, away from the noise.
Another day, there was a taxi strike and the streets were considerably easier to walk through. (Otherwise, crossing the street caused me stress because these cabs would not slow down or stop!)
It was intense and incredible.
Sunday, September 9, 2012
Wednesday, September 5, 2012
It's late. I cannot sleep. I've just returned from dinner with a friend's (with whom I worked in Cambodia, but who has since moved to NYC) girlfriend, who is visiting Bangkok for a conference. Earlier in the week, that same friend emailed me, commenting that he had met another colleague (a lawyer who lives in New Delhi, who I met in Manila last May, and who was visiting NYC for work).
The world gets smaller and smaller.
Also, I'm thinking of our two-day layover in Singapore and all the fabulous food at the hawker centers.