Archive for January, 2007

A Turkish Cooking Lesson

January 29, 2007

Courtney and I love Turkish food. It would be hard not to after spending 9 months in the country and sampling everything possible. Perhaps my favorite contribution to Turkish cuisine is the “doner kebab,” usually lamb, but sometimes beef or chicken cooked on a vertical rotating spit. The meat is used in a variety of dishes, but it is always good. While in Turkey, I often wondered about the process of preparing and cooking the meat. I wanted to bring doner to the States! (crossman are you still in?)

So why am I talking about Turkish food in the seaside resort of Nha Trang in Vietnam? Interestingly enough (oddly?), a Turk has found his way to this beachy locale. Murat, a self described “madman” (his response to why he lived in Vietnam), proudly boasts of having the only Turkish restaurant in Vietnam. His food was excellent, and Courtney and I were happy to have a break from Pho Bo, the national dish that is a rice noodle soup. Even more bizarre than finding the Turkish restaurant was that our attempts at speaking Turkish did not strike Murat as the least bit unusual.  We had a couple of meals with our new Turkish friend, and I told him I wanted to know how to make doner. “10:30 AM tomorrow,” he said. With that I had a date to learn one of the most essential items of Turkish cuisine. It’s more detailed than I thought, but perhaps some of you will get to try some day.

Now I just need to find a way to import a machine from Istanbul.

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Go Fly a Kite

January 23, 2007

On the island of Ko Phangan in Thailand, Courtney and I waited for enough wind to allow us to take kitesurfing lessons.  All of our waiting (4 days!) was in vain–you need at least 10 knots to fly these kites!  I’ve been wanting to try since seeing the huge and colorful kites on Lighthouse beach in Chatham. 

Enter Mui Ne Beach in Vietnam where the wind blows everyday.  From about 10:30 to 4:00, one can count over 30 kites in the air.  We decided to take the plunge (quite literally at times) and spent the next few days (5 hrs of lessons) learning the basics of kitesurfing.  It is definitely not easy, and the sheer power of the kite can be intimidating, but it is a lot of fun.  The lessons progress from flying a small kite on land to “bodydragging” in the water with a larger kite and longer lines before finally trying to incorporate the board.  My attempts at getting up on the board resulted in a lot of swallowed sea water, but I think if I have another day or two I’ll get it.  It is one of the more fun sports to watch–check out this video below.

January 23, 2007

Kite Surfing

The Cambodian wiffle

January 14, 2007

I’m generally a big fan of haircuts in foreign countries.  Though it requires a certain leap of faith, I’ve been happy with the results.  In Armenia, my barber cut the hair of the national soccer team and spent well over an hour ensuring that each of my hairs was the correct length.  In Turkey, $5 got you a shave, haircut, and bizarre lighter-to-the ear technique.

Given my past experiences with the international barbers and considering I hadn’t had a haircut since October, I decided to give Cambodia a go.  At 2500 riel, or 70 cents, the price was certainly right.  I caught a few stares as I walked in as most “barang” (foreigners) go to the more expensive salons from what I gather.  I would soon find out why.

After a brief exchange, I communicated I wanted a shave and a haircut.  The shave came first and I soon realized I was in trouble.  Soap had replaced shaving cream and the new blade felt like a month old Bic.  Still, after some pain and watering eyes I did have a clean shave.  I was hoping for the best for my haircut when the barber began nonchalantly lopping large clumps of hair off my head.  The point of no return was passed and I soon realized my fate:  the dreaded Cambodian wiffle.

Pictures may or may not be forthcoming, but I’ll just say my very own parents had a good laugh at my expense when we last spoke via videophone.  Courtney says I look like 007, but I think she is just being nice.  I feel more like I’m six and wearing “jams” shorts than an international spy.

Never again?

January 13, 2007

Never again?, originally uploaded by edward_casabian.

January 7th marked the 28th anniversary of the end to the genocide in Cambodia. We spent the previous day in the Tuol Seng genocide museum, known as S-21 during the period of Khmer Rouge rule from 1975-1979. The museum tells the story of the horrifying prison camp, in which only 7 people are known to have survived out of the 14,000 held captive. It was a sobering experience, similar to a visit to Dachau in Germany or the Armenian genocide museum in Yerevan. Pictures show events that most people would not think possible; one exhibit showed the skulls of victims and identified the method in which they were killed (many were killed with blunt objects as the Khmer Rouge deemed bullets too “expensive”).

S-21 was but one of many places where the terror of the genocide was realized. In total, the Khmer Rouge killed nearly a quarter of the population of Cambodia. You can see the genocide everywhere you look in Cambodia; just a few days earlier we visited the city of Battambang. Courtney and I hired moto drivers to tour the city. We saw killing fields where people were thrown to their deaths. We listened to our guide, Baht, tell his story during the period of the Khmer Rouge. Though he considered his family lucky (only his oldest brother was killed), listening to his stories it is hard for me to consider anyone lucky who lived in Cambodia during this time period.

During our visit to the genocide museum, I sat down and began leafing through a comment book for visitors who wanted to write their impressions of what they had seen at the museum. Overwhelmingly, the message was clear. People from all over the world wrote that we can never let this happen again.

And yet it is happening now in Darfur, but there are things people can do. At the very least, send a webfax to your senator and congressman or sign a petition. Visit websites like Save Darfur and get a sense of what is happening there. Also, Nicholas Kristof of the NY times has written extensively on the subject.

It is all too easy to say or write “never again” but if people really mean it, there are plenty of opportunities to make never again a reality.

Angkor Wat: A “new” seventh wonder of the world?

January 7, 2007

Angkor Wat, originally uploaded by edward_casabian.

I think so…

check out http://www.new7wonders.com and vote. The ballots close on 7/7/07 and considering that Angkor isn’t in the best of shape, it could probably use the funding that may come with the new status….

In addition to checking out all the temples here in Siem Reap, we celebrated the New Year (a full 12 hours earlier than all you east coasters). Although the Cambodians celebrate their New Year in April, there were more than enough travellers to make it a fun filled evening. Beer cost a mere $1 and we even had some champagne!