Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The Vietnamization of Normal

This still isn't normal, and I hope it never is!
They look like little molars. 
Traveling to a new country, into a new (albeit temporary) job/career, has entailed a lot of major changes for me, but none has been more surprising than discovering the ability to adapt to changing circumstances. Sooner or later, you find yourself becoming a part of your environment, and your environment makes up an integral piece of your reality.

It was in the past few months that I've noticed that my version of normal has been undergoing some serious behind-the-scenes upgrades. New motifs have been trotted out, old relics have been (temporarily?) retired, and a new synthesis is being created between my outer and inner worlds.

So today, I thought I'd draw up a quick illustrated guide to my new "normal" - the elements that have slipped so far into the background that they can only be identified by scanning the negative spaces around them, the supporting pieces that hold each in place. The moments when, for just an instant, I forget to marvel at the world around me, when the wondrous and bizarre become mundane and nothing more than background static.

Without further ado: Things That Are Now Somehow Normal

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Teacher Ben's (Very Late) 2013 Year in Review

Exhibit Food-1: This Tuesday picture smells like a savory slow
cooker makes your house smell on cold February evenings. Real good.
*I've sat on this post for far too long... it was much weirder and prone to tangents in it's original version and I was just never happy with it. Here's the heavily-edited version I'm ready to share - finally! Just in time to write about second semester!

2013 Report Card
Subject: Teacher Ben
Semester: Fall
Year: 2013
Transcript taken: 3/2014
Location: Public Schools, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Teacher Ben: Grand Teaching Authority, employers, and parents, welcome. Spanish Inquisition, I wasn't expecting you, but welcome.

Grand Teaching Authority: Welcome. Please state your name for the record.

Teacher Ben: Teacher Ben

GTA: Do you know why you are here?

TB: This hearing is being held to briefly summarize and characterize my first year in the ESL teaching field, document my journey, and generally be a postmortem for setting goals in 2014.

GTA: I see you've brought visual evidence and a cat on a leash. I love leashes on small animals. Would you like a biscuit before we start?

(At this point, the Reader is invited to hit the jump and join our group down the rabbit hole of Vietnamese ESL teaching for a transcript of the entire Report Card...)

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Resolution Check-in: Self-Maintenance

 Hey no, neighbor! Let's see how I'm doing on that massive New Year's Resolution list, eh?
1. Maintain myself like a real person 
Seriously, a real person. That means not being scared of the barber, no more fried spring rolls for dinner, and you know what? I've got to get running again. The air here is hazy and polluted, but I just miss the run too much. It's time to tighten up my personal time schedule and re-commit to becoming a healthier, more presentable person in 2014. And note to self... buy some real dress shoes, mmkay? These moccasins are not acceptable for professionals.
It may not look like I'm following through based on the photo at left, but I promise you, things are progressing! The whole list sounds intense, and I've set some big goals for myself, but I've made some progress on this front (and, indeed, on so many of my resolutions!). I'll use this type of column to help document my progress on each of these goals, or to help myself understand why I've changed them from January and set new ones.

Click through to see how I got so colorful!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Cambodia: Phare, the Cambodian Circus

After our fantastic Indian dinner at Curry Walla, we availed ourselves of one of Siem Reap's most highly flaunted attractions - Phare, the Cambodian circus.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Cambodia: Amateur Foodies Run Amok

Oh... rice. Hello.
The food and drink we enjoyed in Cambodia was enjoyable, but not life-changingly memorable... with three very notable exceptions.

Rice is THE primary crop here (and pepper, if you go to the Kampot region) and, with the kingdom still in a rather steep process of post-war recovery, frankly the cheapest - the result is the "rice with stuff" syndrome, but kind of bland. Rice with chicken. Rice with pork. Rice with beans. There's not much deviation. I've had these dishes hundreds of times before in Vietnam. In many ways, it was staples, and not much else... the 'meat and potatoes' of SE Asia, the 'bread and butter,' but not much in the way of a historical 'jam' to spread on top. In other words, it was good and nourishing but kind of boring - although you probably could have guessed I'd say that, after spending some time exploring the ridiculously intricate palette of Vietnamese culinary traditions.

But... BUT. He said, Three Things! Three Really Great Things! Read on to see just what I did think was AMAZING, and what I'll do again in a heartbeat next time I'm in Siem Reap.