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being in Canada only changes the temperature.

By | 2010, Asia | No Comments

So, what’s different in Canada that I couldn’t get in Thailand? Snow; lots – and lots – of snow. I’ll admit, I was used to the sun setting earlier in the tropics, but 4 o’clock in the afternoon is ridiculous. I presume this winter will be difficult for me to handle after the course of this three month venture, and not simply because the temperature differential will be over 60 degrees.

In Thailand, I remarked that the greatest failure we could achieve whilst at home was to ignore the things we learnt in the process of re-assimilating. Whether it’s a good thing or not, my first thought as I saw snow-covered Ontarian soil was ‘how do the poor live in this weather?’ Now, the poor of Canada are likely perceived differently than those of Thailand, Malaya, Luzon or Myanmar, but the fact remains that they live in comparable inequity from us.

Of course, that doesn’t need to be as depressing as it sounds – a reminder of a sad thing is most disappointing when it is acknowledged and then ignored; I intend to act on this reminder, as there is a fairly large bloc of homeless in my home city. And whether we see it or not, from BC to NFLD, there are people in our communities who could use assistance.

The snow was instant visual catalyst to remind myself I was in a different place than where I just was. For me, the next five months are about Canada. I hope you can find your own catalyst to remind yourself that you have the choice to be an innate part of your community, or a live one.


“Well, that was interesting.”

By | 2010, Asia | No Comments

All I can say after Thailand is
“well, that was interesting.”

The language barrier was incomparable to anything I have ever experienced, the cuisine was the most unique amongst all the countries visited, and the evident history – and awareness of it – was astounding.

Please allow me to dispel the belief that I have negative opinions about my experience. I mean only to say they were a challenge. I thoroughly enjoyed being given Thai lessons by my home-stay, even if the lessons extended no further than picking up an object and telling me its Thai name. I got used to the food, as it was reminiscent of that consumed in the Philippines. I haven’t told anyone this yet, but I am 98.76 % sure I ate scorpion in a salad one afternoon…Thai crab limbs are not that small and certainly not black…and that’s awesome!

Living in a Buddhist culture was enriching to the purpose of learning that Christianity is not the only faith to be fragmented and confused about what is going on in regards to its organisation. Animism influences rural Buddhism, while the royal courts are influenced heavily by Hinduism and the average Thai is somewhere in-between. Simply put, there is no uniformity, which is refreshing; not because I take joy from their confusion, but for the first time I view Buddhism in a perspective I can understand: human.

As for the King, [I am censored from my actual opinion because of a law that prevents me from saying anything that may paint him in a bad light, and while I do not have ill wishes ufor him, I do wish to comment on the fact he is the RICHEST Monarch in the world – look it up – and yet his people are quite, quite poor. I smell injustice.]

One night in Bangkok, all of us walked to a dinner prepared for us.
On the way, we passed through crowded street markets filled with the urban poor. I noticed one man that we all passed by who sat begging; he with one leg.
Some Thais tossed coins into his cup without looking at him.
As I began to pass him, I was compelled to drop to my knees, facing this man;
as I looked him in the eye, I gave him part of my wallet.

I was unable to stop crying the 10 minutes thereafter back to the hotel, which was made less – and more, if we’re considering my pride – embarrassing by April’s presence. God broke my heart for this man.

There are so many lessons myself or anyone can interpret from this excerpt of my life:
but just remember that our wealth was given to us for a reason.
Let’s use it for good.


Melaka is the new Malacca

By | 2010, Asia | No Comments

What is this blog about Malaysia doing here amongst the Thais?
Short answer, when this blog was due, I was suffering from a sunburn.
[And I’m tardy.]

Now, I mean an equatorial sunburn. Not a Canadian beach sunburn.
Those who were there – you know…
For those who weren’t, let me tell you this:
yes, you can get cankles from a sunburn,
and yes they can keep you from walking for three days.

But I would not trade that sunburn for anything.
Why? Well let me share something I learnt that awfully hot day in Melaka
-and if you get nothing else from this entry, then that is fine –

Melaka was the port of destination of ships from England to Korea, from the 15th century onward; it was hailed the Venice of the East.

Today it is simply an industrial port city, with dirty beaches,
and  its historical significance is lost on people.

This maddens me.

How is it my colleagues and friends in Ontario do not know a thing about Melaka?
Do you, the reader, know a thing about Melaka?
I can never know for sure.

All I know is I stood in the waters of a beach on the Straits of Malacca –  in the same waters that moved along the traders of Iberia, Britain, the Low Countries, Arabia, India, China, Korea and Japan. And in that moment, the reality of what I had read of this city came to life; this was once a great place.

I think we can all honour the city’s legacy by at least recognising it’s name when it arises in conversation. It has a worthy legacy, and our own ancestral history could be linked to the trade that once happened there.

Amazing to think that the world was small even 500 years ago.


Pearl of Hospitalities

By | 2010, Asia | One Comment

“Manila?! What ever are you going there for?” Those were the words of an expatriate I met in Hong Kong. I awkwardly replied “for anthropology”. I knew from that interaction that the Manila she thought she knew was not the Manila –nor Philippines – that I know.

If there is one unifying ethos of the Filipino psyche, it is that “Patuloy ang Buhay“. In English, it means “life continues“; it was immortalised by the artist Vicente Manansala, who produced a painting of the same name in 1947. This painting, depicting a funeral march amongst ruins, is most daunting (second only to Massacre in Ernita, by D Lorenzo – view with discretion).

The Japanese occupation is not the only period of national sorrow. Spain is remembered for 333 years of oppression; American presence is sometimes recalled an unwelcomed occupation that eroded the unifying culture created by the Spanish for the entire archipelago. Did you know that America bought the Philippines from Spain for US $20.000.000? Talk about a steal.

In spite of historic oppression, corruption and a growing urban poor, the people here are hopeful of a better future for their country. As Dr Jose Rizal said, “education will emancipate the [Filipinos]”; I believe that this is true. Intermediately, they refuse to accept defeat, and replace despair with generosity; to be welcomed in the home of a Filipino is an unrivaled experience in kindness.