Saturday, May 7, 2011

The end of Southeast Asia

In a couple of days we will be in Nepal, eating yak steaks while climbing Mt. Everest with Yetis. Or Sherpas? I always get them mixed up. Interesting side note: while reading up on Nepal, I found out that yaks are notoriously aggressive and unpredictable, so always position yourself on the upper slope of the mountain when letting a yak pass, or it might push you off the edge. Apparently this is a common enough occurrence that it needed mentioning on wikitravel. Fucking yaks. If you can't trust a yak, then who can you trust, really?

So now that we're leaving Southeast Asia soon, it's time for another cultural comparison post! Huzzah!

Things Southeast Asia Has That I Wish North America Had

1. Noodle soup. Because holy fucking hell, Asians have perfected the noodle soup. Gloriously spiced and exquisitely umami (did I really just write that?), it is the ultimate food. I've become completely obsessed -- dependent, even -- and now we're leaving, and I just don't think yak soup will be the same.

2. Food stalls. In SE Asia, when given the choice, you should always go for the dingy alleyway stall surrounded by plastic chairs over a restaurant with walls. Why bother with things like waiters and silverware when a little Thai grandma can cook you a way better meal in 2 minutes right on the street for $1? And, to think, in Vancouver we're only allowed to have hot dog stalls and no other food stalls?! What about all the grandmas whose only wish is to feed everyone really delicious food? Think of how much better Vancouver would be, in pretty much every way, if we let them. That's my dream.

3. Traffic. The North American in me used to scream "That's awfully dangerous!" every time a pickup truck squeezed full of 30 people would dart into oncoming traffic to pass a scooter holding a family of five. Now the only thing that still bothers me is when we see a 10-year-old girl driving her little 5-year-old sister on a motorbike. Holy shit, there's nothing scarier than seeing that. As for everything else -- and I never thought I would hear myself say this -- I think I'm actually going to miss it a little. Especially...

4. Scooters. Renting a scooter for $4 and bazzing around the Indonesian countryside was one of my favorite experiences this year, even if we did fall off once. A++, would fall again!

5. Practical mindset. I really love the Asian mindset of "If it makes sense, I'm going to do it, even if it looks silly." For example, why don't more people wear face masks when they're sick to help stop the spread of germs? Are we really so self-centered that we'd rather get other people sick than to look a bit stupid for a few days? (Answer: yes.) Or, another example: we saw groups of grown men doing extreeeeeme hackey sack in the park in Bangkok. They're probably like, "Goddamnit, we're going to hackey sack like no one ever hackey sacked before!! YEEEEAAH!" And then they DO. But in North America, we're far too self-conscious to consider doing something like that, and as a result it has never entered my mind to go to the park and repeatedly kick a hackey sack 40 feet into the air for several hours. Not even once! Is that really any way to live?

6. Offerings and incense. This one is mostly for Bali. As a non-religious person, I didn't really see the point at the time, but I have to admit that smelling flowers and incense every day while we walked down the street was like a party in my nose. I've never smelled a nicer island. Religion 1, Marina 0.

7. Really, really ridiculously friendly people. Fuckin' over-achievers, making the rest of us look bad.

Things North America Has That I Wish Southeast Asia Had

1. Dairy products. Dairy isn't featured much in Asian cuisine. I miss the days when Ross and I would go to SaveOn Foods, buy 3 different kinds of cheeses, and have a magnificent feast consisting of cheese, crackers, and apple slices. That's probably why we've both lost weight since coming here.

2. Looser standards of dress. Asians dress quite modestly, and I've been trying to respect that by covering up the ol' extremities while we've been here. This hasn't been a huge deal since I don't dress very revealingly anyway (tutoring teenage boys for a living has thoroughly rid me of that notion), but it would've been nice to be able to wear shorts and a tank top when trying to sight-see in 96 degree heat without offending everyone and/or shocking them with my hilariously white legs.

3. Fast internet. I think we can all agree that having to wait an entire hour for How I Met Your Mother to finish downloading is hellish. How will I ever find out how he met their mother in these conditions?!

4. No hawkers. Today, just in the time it took me to cross the street, I had four people ask if I wanted a tuk-tuk ride. In Thailand, it would've been 4 people asking "You want massage?" In Indonesia, "You buy sarong?" I feel that I would've saved years of my life by just printing a shirt that says, "NO, I don't want sunglasses, fruit, socks, a sarong, a massage, a tuk-tuk ride, a manicure, or 10 bracelets for 1 dollar." (And for Ross, please add "or marijuana, or coke, or bitches." How come no one offers me coke or bitches?)

5. A relatively corruption-free political system. Corruption seems to be the norm pretty much everywhere (except NZ, because they're too boring for that sort of thing there). I feel grateful that no matter how corrupt we think our politicians are, we've actually got it pretty good. (Vice presidents who once shot a 76-year-old man in the face obviously excluded.)

6. Western toilets. I really don't understand the preference for squat toilets. Perhaps it's just the fact that I don't possess the leg muscles necessary to use them correctly, but I invariably end up getting pee all over my feet, and judging by the amount of urine all over the floor, so does everyone else. Bet you didn't think you'd be reading about me peeing on myself today.

7. 24 hour convenience stores. Because, as a North American, I demand convenience 24 hours a day, goddamnit.

I'm going to really miss this crazy place, but I'm also excited to be moving on to somewhere where I might possibly go a day or two without being embarrassed over how much sweat is pouring down my face. Soon: Kathmandu!


  1. awwwww sounds like you have experienced so much in the last several months. you're gonna be so bored about how unexciting and "same-same" Canada is! Miss you though, and please be careful of the yaks. I can't have you falling down Mt. Everest.
    xoxo Jenny

  2. Really been enjoying both of your blog entries. I have one tiny piece of good news for you- REAL food carts are popping up all over vancouver now (and in a bizarro twist, japa dog has opened a restaurant too)! The ones I've tried have all been excellent, too. So that's one thing to look forward to when you return :)

  3. Awesome! That is great news, I can't wait to try them all. <3