We asked to spend a few hours with a Bedouin family near Palmyra, a city in the Syrian desert. None of them spoke English.
It could have gotten awkward. But language barriers are irrelevant when you’re around children. They are fluent in the universal language: fun.
If Las Vegas dealt in baklavas instead of money, it would look like Jasmatiyah Street in Damascus.
Everything is big and flashy. Nut-filled pastries are stack higher than people. Rolls of pistachios in vermicelli dough thicker than a forearm beckon stares of disbelief.
In one of many shops, bakers in ethnic headdress prepare halawat with ashta cream. A giant LCD screen above him plays a making-of-sweets promotional reel.
When we told our Couchsurfing host in Damascus that in Canada it’s customary to bring your own drink, and sometimes even food, to a party of barbecue, he looked shocked.
“What would you do in this situation,” I asked him.
After a hearty chuckle, he responded,” I would thank the invitation, but I’d stay far away from that party.”
After a certain point, the red-and-white markings of the Lebanese army were nowhere to be seen. Only green and yellow. We were in Hezbollah territory.
All around us were grassy hills flecked with white rocks. Some had traditional stone houses. It all looked very biblical. Our taxi had some engine trouble and the driver got out to check under the hood. I stepped out to take some pictures and the driver discreetly told me to stop.
After several months in countries where pyjamas are casual street wear and face masks are as banal as earrings (I’m looking at you, Indochina) it was a delight to arrive in Singapore and walk among such well-dressed folk.
It felt like the “work chic” and “party dress” pages of a BCBG catalog had sprung to life with thousands of women around me.
See post for a photo gallery.
In India, even the flower market is run by men. Strewn with refuse and dead flowers, it’s a place that doesn’t charm at first sight. The peeling walls are patched with old movie posters. “So this is the place my guidebook suggested,” I doubted silently.
But the merchants ask to be photographed, offer delightfully fragrant blossoms, and create skillful arrangements to adorn women’s hair or as offerings to the gods. And the experience transforms little by little.
See the post for a photo gallery.
A little shop in Airlie Beach sells pills, herbs and powders that can get you stoned, hyper, or horny. And it’s all natural and legal.
When we travel, we discover that the way we do things isn’t always the correct one. That our culture is only one among so many. And that human beings, fundamentally, have the same needs no matter their differences.
All this is very lovely. But when I hear an Indian burping loudly on the table beside me, it makes me, like my mother, want to scold him and follow up with a lesson on good manners.
When I see a man collecting audible phlegm in his throat before firing it with gusto on the sidewalk, I’m urged to start a little chat on the basics of hygiene.
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1. A motorcycle can easily carry a family of five.
2. The role of police is not to protect citizens, but the highest bidders.
why? Bribery has long been a part of Cambodian society. The police and the military have been known to kidnap and threaten citizens for cash.
3. The [...]
Whatever claim you make about India the opposite will also be true.
This makes it a pretty difficult country to write about. But by my own logic, it also makes it a very easy country to write about.
And yes, there is tons to report after a mere few days in the country. The problem is that few of it would go beyond the most cliché.