Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Hmong crafts

Thailand is not a signatory to the 1951 Convention and there is no domestic legal protection afforded to asylum-seekers and recognized refugees undergoing the UNHCR refugee status determination process.  The practical reality for asylum-seekers and recognized refugees in Thailand is that, in the absence of valid visas (the vast majority do not have this), they are formally considered illegal aliens; they have no authorization to work; their children do not go to school.  And they are subject to deportation and detention.  The African asylum seekers/refugees especially stand out in Bangkok and are more prone to extortion by local police.

It makes for a  not so good environment, veritable limbo for years.  Families literally go underground.

Some of the Hmong asylum seekers are raising money with a craft sale.  I love Hmong embroidery, and I could not resist buying a few tree ornaments and cards for the holiday presents.

Friday, November 23, 2012


2012 is nearly gone!  There's so much I'm grateful for this year.  I'm grateful for all the small adventures this year has brought: the travel, the move to another country, a new job that has reminded me to be open to learning new things; and yes, now that I have had more distance, even the tumultuous experiences of my last few months in Cambodia.  

I'm also grateful for the quiet moments in my day that ground and replenish me: early mornings in my light-filled apartment (usually, accompanied with papaya lemon curd toast), when the day is wide-open; my walk home from work, with the sky overhead burning red and cool air stirring; evenings spent cooking with Ethan in our tiny Thai kitchen, with the produce finds from the local market.  I'm grateful for the presence of so much love in my life, of my family and friends - and my soon-to-be family, who has been super supportive (i.e., wholly responsible for any movement on the wedding planning).

This is my fourth Thanksgiving spent out of the country.  I'm finding that there's a part of me that wants to ensure that next Thanksgiving is different.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Honeymoon Daydreaming, Pt. 1


Isn't this just ridiculous? 
Our honeymoon destination is a constant topic these days.  While Chile and more specifically, Chilean Patagonia aren't my top pick, these photos are convincing. 
Also, we've spent a chunk of time mountain-gazing at the Hindu Kush and the Himalayas, so I guess more mountain time would be appropriate.  That second picture just kills me.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

A night at Mr. Jones' Orphanage

A few weeks ago, my friend Rachel visited from London.  We met in Cambodia a few years ago during those first few months when everything was new. We explored the city together.   We even survived Rabbit Island.  

One evening in Bangkok, Ethan, Rachel and I headed to the Thong Lor neighborhood to sample dessert at Mr. Jones' Orphanage and Milk Bar.  The decor is just as strange/interesting as the name - saccharine and sweet, a throwback to an orphanage playground in Old England.   In the day, when the sun is brightly shining through the windows over the enticing displays, it looks playful.  In the evening, it can be a little eerie and melancholy.

But it comes highly recommended.

As tempting as it sounded, we decided against the Custard Cow's Poo, and instead we ordered the date and apple cake, which was moist with a crunchier crust.  Just perfect.

They showed us to our table on the second floor, which is so small/short that we were required to practically crawl to our seats. Ethan is over 6ft, so I felt especially bad for him.

 via trendzap

Friday, November 16, 2012

Old habits, new habits

 via Saks

Damn. That was an exhausting week.  I haven't done that in a while.  It feels so good when I know I've poured myself into something and there's a little movement.  (I'm talking vaguely about a case.)  But at the same time, I'm often left drained. Wiped out. A big ball of mush.

I'm also not so good with certain cases.  Gender-based persecution. Female genital mutilation. Rape. Forced marriage.  Honor killings.  When I sit in a room across from a young woman with this kind of story, a small part of me comes unhinged. 

I took refuge this week in the small meals and conversations with Ethan, dark chocolate bars, Vietnamese coffee, and my new habit of going to my rooftop gym in the early morning for a quick run on the treadmill.  I've noticed that seeing the Bangkok horizon, early in the morning and under the golden sun, is a good salve for the hub-bub on the ground. 

And one night, I was happily distracted by the Steven Alan sample sale.  I tried to pull the trigger on a few items, but they don't take Cambodian visa.  I took that pause to re-evaluate my need for yet another dress.  Pass.  

This item below, however, may be a good addition.  It looks very much like an ivory silk Mayle blouse I left Stateside.  

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Candystore Collective. And the ground shakes.

Candystore Collective, based in San Fransisco, is having a closing sale and offering 40 percent off all their brick-and-mortar and internet stock, including all Dream Collective baubles.  Tempting. Use code: thebig40sale.

It's Sunday morning in Bangkok.  We woke up to our condo swaying.  I had flashbacks to earthquake drills in primary school.  A 6.6 magnitude earthquake hit Mandalay, Burma and rippled through to Bangkok.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Glad that's over.

via NYT

I was jittery all morning (by the time the polls closed Stateside, it was Wednesday morning in Bangkok).  I was glued to my computer, watching the play-by-play.  Suspense drives me crazy.  It also sucks being the only American in the office on such an American day.   

Last election, I still lived in Northeast Portland.  I remember walking through the neighborhood - Obama signs on all the lawns, cold mist hanging, Halloween pumpkins lingering on the porches.

Now that it's over and I have screamed and laughed in celebration, I can perhaps get back to the growing caseload of refugee appeals on my desk.  Hello, Iran.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Bo.lan Farmers Market and Roast

The Bo.lan farmers market is held on the restaurant's grounds every first Saturday of the month.  It was my first time.

I made out like a bandit:  I picked up two gorgeous loaves of bread (a dark rye with pepitas and a sourdough with chili - both are nearly gone), stuffed peppers with ricotta, passionfruit and lemon curd, organic veggies and herbs, and a sharp white-wine mustard.  

Local cheese.

Juice concoctions - the beetroot mix was particularly delicious. Look at that color.

Fleur de sel.

Rosemary soap.

After the market, we had brunch at Roast, where I had a PROPER cup of coffee - good enough by Portland standards.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

One day in Darjeeling

Some Bangkokian friends tell me that it is autumn in Bangkok.  While it's true that the nights are a little cooler, it's still really hot and humid here (no surprise). 

Can you believe this is the third proper autumn I've missed (and technically the fourth continuous autumn I've spent out of the US)?  It's no wonder that there are days when I simply ache for the small things the change in season brings: the growing briskness in the morning air, cozy sweaters and jackets, woolly socks, tights under my summer dresses, mugs of steaming cider, the crunch of red and golden leaves under my boots, the talk of holiday events looming, Thanksgiving Day. . . 

(I know those things await when we return to the US and at that time, I will probably wax nostalgic all my experiences here.) 

Today, it's the actual cold I miss. 

The closest memory of cold I have is the two weeks of cool, drizzly, jacket weather spent in Darjeeling and Sikkim province.  

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