Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Underground art

My commute to work is via a 20-minute walk, past sleeping dogs (so many of them on the sidewalk, napping), five beauty parlors, four Thai iced coffee shops, three tailors, and four 7-Elevens. 

But when I do take the subway (the MRT), I often take a gander at the small art exhibit underground, which is currently a collection of Instagram photos of everyday life in Thailand.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

The state of things.

I live in the land of dresses. You can't walk a few hundred meters without stumbling onto a sidewalk dress shop, or a shiny mall (my goodness, this city has so many and it boggles my mind how there can be such demand), or a vintage shop in an outdoor market, or an underground subway shop. The quality varies of course, but the colorful dress is ubiquitous in Bangkok.

I have been cooking in again.  Japanese curry tonight, more bircher muesli for breakfast tomorrow. I am dreaming of baked figs, of lentilles du puy, of rustic plum galettes - and I have not made chana masala in ages.  That needs to change.

I am growing more obsessed with Dream Collective, and I think a visit to the store is due this December. 

I am still thinking of my grandmother Martina and my visit to Zamboanga City, which is a culturally rich, but unstable, city in a region of the country where military presence is strong and grenade and/or bomb attacks occasionally make news (as they did during my visit).  I am thinking of my Dad's childhood home, on a parcel of land, green, overgrown with dense trees and overlooking the Sulu Sea.  

I am thinking of work, of sitting in a small room across a table from a woman seeking refuge.

I am thinking of wedding bands and honeymoon plans and small ceremonies held against the backdrop of the Rocky Mountains.    

I need to send in my absentee ballot!

A lifetime away.

Cathy McMurray's photos of the Pacific Northwest tug on my heart strings.  I've said it many times to so many people I've met - the Pacific NW in the summer and autumn seasons is magical. 
I lived in the Pacific NW for seven lovely years.  It feels a lifetime ago, but a piece of heart remains there.  Coincidentally, Ethan lived in Seattle during that same period.  We have a running battle between Portland and Seattle - and which city is better. 

But of course, Portland often wins.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

For breakfast: Bircher Muesli

I came back from the Philippines with several kilograms of dried fig from our fig tree in California - and bircher muesli on my mind. 

Eating bircher muesli is a habit I picked up in Cambodia.  There are many iterations of the traditional Swiss recipe.  One friend had a bowl of this in Switzerland that used condensed milk - she still raves about it.  The version I had in Cambodia did not use condensed milk, but was very creamy and always had grated apple on top. 
For my last batch, I used apple juice to soak the oats, added the dried fig, raisins and grated apple, plus a dash of bourbon vanilla extract.  After soaking overnight, the oats are plump and chewy.  I prefer a few spoonfuls of tart yoghurt to top it off and sometimes, a drizzle of honey.

Bircher Muesli
Recipe adapted from Fig & Cherry    


1 cup rolled oats (not instant oats)
Apple juice to cover mixture*
2 tablespoons raisins and/or other soft fruit
2 tablespoons sunflower seeds, toasted
Half an apple, coarsely grated
Dash of vanilla extract
Vanilla bean yoghurt 
nuts and fresh fruit, to garnish

1. Place the oats, apple juice, raisins/soft fruit, and vanilla extract in a shallow container.  Fold in grated apple.  A rectangle plastic takeaway container is perfect. Stir well.
2. Put the lid on and place in the fridge overnight.
3. In the morning, spoon into bowls. Stir in yoghurt.  Top with chopped nuts and fresh fruit.

*Some recipes call for milk instead.  

Monday, October 22, 2012

Dream Collective and Adjustment

  Dream Collective/Kathryn Bentley via Jeana Sohn Photography
Two months in.  

It turns out it is taking me just a little longer to adjust to Bangkok life.  Today, as I was walking home from work with C, a refugee lawyer who was previously based in Cairo, I confessed that it still feels a little strange to me.  She nodded, as we walked along the jagged sidewalks and maneuvered ourselves around bustling produce stands and lazy dogs.  "I get it.  It's too easy for you here, isn't it?"  I reacted instantly: "No, that's not it."  But after a few minutes of talking it through, C may have a point.  

Am I finally beginning to process the past two years in Cambodia?  And seriously, how warped is it that a life that is "too easy" could be this jarring? 

It's not that I don't enjoy Bangkok creature comforts.  I love the convenience in this city.  I love that the subway, right outside my door, can take me across this city with ease -- and I don't have to haggle with motodop drivers everyday over the cost of transport.  I love how easy it is to find certain items here - hello, rosemary and good avocados!  I love that hygiene standards are higher, that people actually have pets, and that vintage dress shops are numerous.  I love the local food in this country.  The list is long.

Still, and strangely, Cambodia has left an indelible mark, with its intensity, endless frustration and richness.  There are things I miss.  What a departure from last month. 

Zamboanga City

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Snaps of life.

Bael fruit tea making.  Sri Lankan lunching.  Small comforts in Bangkok.

All week, I've been dreading this trip back to the Philippines.  Throughout my childhood, the only times I've dealt with the death/near death of loved ones were when I was very young.  For  me, this is largely a foreign experience.  So this wave of apprehension and emotion has turned me into a little anxiety ball.       

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The Curio Shoppe.


via Wikstenmade (available at Spoonflower)

Wiksten fabrics are my distraction today.

The pace of life has quickened.  Work is busy.  My friend, Rachel, who I met in Cambodia, will be visiting from London later this week.  And it turns out I have to go to Mindanao next week to visit my grandmother - an emergency trip that will place me back in the southern Philippines for about a week.  It's been 4 years since my last trip to that region.

To be honest, I think the trip will be stressful and emotional; it's not exactly a vacation. But it will be good to see Dad.  

Weeks like this make me miss my family.     
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