Sunday, November 28, 2010

So... I cut off all my hair

For my senior year of college, all my friends were preparing for the real world: updating their resumes in InDesign with crisp fonts, buying their very first pant suits and big girl shoes, setting up a LinkedIn account and eliminating those beer pong photos from Facebook.

I, on the other hand, grew my hair out -- didn't wash it for a few months -- and got a new tattoo.

It was right around month three of the oily, dredding do that I got a bit of a talking to from my parents, friends and professors about the "real world." I washed my hair, cut out a few snarls, bought my very first brassiere and was ready to take on the world as some sort of an adult.

Well, I am happy to report that I survived that and came to realize that it wasn't actually true. As it turns out, being myself is working out just as well.

So, I like foul language just as much as I did when I discovered it in fourth grade. I like short hair and I like beer. I also know how to write my way out of a paper bag, can take a photo in focus and hit a deadline. I think I can do all of those things hairless and happy and hold down a job.

An important announcement

McDonald's delivers here. That is all.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Man up and cry

As always, I learned something when I wasn't in the mood to learn anything.

When I am too tired, too hung over, too lazy, too hungry or whatever, I always try to tell myself that I never regret going to church. Last week was no different.

Fr. Peter, international director of JRS, was in town for one night and was nice enough to celebrate a small Mass for the staff. It was a long day, and Ollie and I had JRS stuff to do that night. My mind was not in the right place to pray or listen or open myself up.

But, God had other plans.

Fr. Peter was speaking about the Gospel and how Jesus wept for the fate of Israel. He saw the troubles His people faced in the coming years and the sin and the hurt and the pain. He loved these people so much that He cried for them.

I sat, thinking about this for days. Here is what I have come up with. See, I don't cry... or at least I try not to. I want to be the strong person. I want people to be able to cry on my shoulder, not the other way around. So the few things I have seen since I've been in Bangkok that have made me cry, I just give myself a few minutes and force myself to move on.

But, as it turns out, that isn't the right move. Like Jesus in the Gospel, I suppose I should allow myself to cry. Because it's through that expression that we can find compassion. So, if it's good enough for Jesus, I suppose it's good enough for me as well.

So, moral of the blog is this. Man up and cry.

Sunday, November 21, 2010


There are few words I can use to describe a night on the town with Ollie. Complete champion. Like Halloween in Bangkok, the Festival of Lights in Bangkok was an experience.

  • Beers
  • Tuk tuk rides
  • Tattoo shop for a consultation
  • floating our "offerings" down the river
  • Pheasant eggs
  • Sparklers
  • McDonalds
  • Hair cut
So... The Festival of Lights is on the 12th full moon of the year. Traditionally it is to pay respect to a water god, but now it's just an annual celebration with street food, music and contests. I didn't know until after the fact that it is just for fun, no religion involved. It's good to know, though. Because had it been a serious ceremony that I would have disrespected everyone there by knowing nothing.

We bought our "krathongs" complete with incense and a candle from a street vendor. I sprang for a yellow one, because I'm fancy. We stood in line with every other falang and had some gentleman put them into the water one by one. Very cool.

Friday, November 19, 2010


Checking out some different magazine designs, these were my favs.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Bangkok don't know nothin about Christmas

As I was walking to work this morning, a mustache of sweat beads gathering above my lip in the humidity, I realized that it's kind of the Christmas season. I was reminded when I walked by a convention center and saw a towering Christmas tree on the lawn. It had perfectly spaced silver ornaments hanging from perfectly trimmed limbs.

Nice try Bangkok, but making it look that perfect means you clearly don't get it.

So, to all you Omahans out there. Please don't inform me about the Griswold-esque decorations people have sloppily hanging from their homes. Don't remind me how white twinkling lights on shrubs look under a fresh blanket of snow. And please don't list the Christmas songs KGOR will be playing 24-hours straight after Thanksgiving. I don't want to hear about it.

Besides, I won't be around anyway. I'll be getting a massage or $1 meal or enjoying any number of the things Thailand actually does right... just not Christmas.

This is what a Christmas tree is supposed to look like, Bangkok. Notice how you have to cut off 30 percent just to fir into the house. You have to tie it to the window because it's so lopsided. It is about the same width as length. Christmas is meant to be just a little bit tragic...

Monday, November 15, 2010


As I look out over the sea of dirty clothes where my floor used to be, the Beastie Boys come ringing through my head. "Girls... all I really want is girls.... to do the dishes, to do the laundry, to clean up my room..."

Sorry, womankind, but at this point in time, I just need a woman around who will be disgusted with me when I am not smart enough to be disgusted with myself.

Anyone want to move to Bangkok?

Top three songs to explain my predicament:

1. Girls -- the Beastie Boys
** quote above

2. A Man Needs a Maid -- Neil Young (thanks for reminding me, Abby)
"I was thinking that maybe I'd get a maid/ Find a place nearby for her to stay/ Just someone to keep my house clean/ Fix my meals and go away."

3. The Shape I'm In -- the Band
"Has anybody seen my lady/ this living alone will drive you crazy/ oh, you don't know/ the shape I'm in."

Sunday, November 14, 2010


For my 200th post, I'd like to write a few thoughts on my home. I have spent most of my life in protest of the things America represents and the things the American government does in our name with our money.

But something has been sticking in my brain over the weekend.

On Friday, I interviewed a Sri Lankan family for an in-depth I am working on. The parents, three daughters and aunt are recognized refugees seeking to be resettled.

When the 17-year-old daughter asked Oliver and me where we are from, I responded "America." she gave a smile and repeated what I said with excitement. I moved on to my first question and forgot about the moment, but I keep thinking about it.

I thought people stopped romanticizing the United States back in the Ellis Island days. I was puzzled to think this bright, young woman would think anything special about my country.

If I read the situation correctly, she may have some drastically exaggerated ideas about the US, but she may also have a point. Perhaps America really is to be admired. At least, in comparison to the region I now find myself.

I just can't think of why at the moment. All America has going for it my mind is that it's not here. I'll keep pondering.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Ah, to be 18 again...

So I'm not a teenager anymore, although I still act like one.

After spending the last few days interviewing some teenage refugee girls, I realize I completely took for granted that stereotypical, American, Bruce Springsteen kind of teenage experience I really had. Below are the top five things I appreciate after speaking to people who were robbed of the classic high school experience.

1. School dances. I was always the last resort for my friends who couldn't get real dates. We'd get all dressed up and hang out at school. No pressure. Just dong the twist and then leaving early to eat at Burger King in tuxes and dresses.

2. Getting well acquainted with the back seat of a Buick. What a dope I was. But at least I had the freedom to make stupid decisions that have now turned into hilarious stories.

3. Cruising. Man, when I got that first set of wheels -- the bright blue Mazda minivan -- I was on fire. We loaded all the guys in the back, eating Sonic Burgers and blasting Ray Charles, Ben Folds and Immortal Technique. And let's not forget driving through random alleys at all hours of the night, street racing in or slower-than-molasses POS's, and flipping that SUV into a ditch in Iowa.

4. Dating. What a tragedy. I wince to think of the people I was interested in back then. I was actually seen in public with some pretty interesting characters on my arm. But what is being a teenager without the train wreck of your first love?

5. The diner. Saturday mornings at the diner. Throw a few dimes in the juke box to hear Otis Redding or Buddy Holly over some eggs and a Coke (yes, Coke for breakfast. Get over it). There was nothing more liberating than hopping in the car, license still hot off the printer, and getting to go out to eat with the guys.

So yeah I was spoiled. And after reading over the list, my life seems way more like "American Graffiti " than I make it out to be. Perhaps that's what makes Omaha amazing.

All in all, I now have a new perspective on being a teenager and deep sincere gratitude for my memories. I know now that not every 18-year old girl gets to make those kinds of memories.


So my first story with JRS is up on the international site now. (READ IT HERE) Regrettably, the only thing I knew about Burma before I came here was a vague geographical understanding mixed with the latest Rambo movie. That's honest.

So I spent last weekend reading and watching as the people of Burma were forced to participate in a sham election, controlled by the military junta.

The day after the elections, around 20,000 people fled Burma after violence broke out. They crossed the river into Mae Sot, where JRS (and dozens of other NGOs) work in refugee camps.

I wrote the story and then rewrote it every time I got new information, waiting to get approval to publish it.

What was interesting to me was the fact that I am now covering news with a strict angle: JRS. I am no longer at a newspaper with minute to minute deadlines. I am no longer writing for a general audience and I have to write certain things in a certain way.

While it can feel frustrating, I'm interested in figuring it all out, like a puzzle. In the mean time, I think I should re-watch Rambo... bone up on my knowledge about Burma.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Pete Seeger saves my sanity

Consider this a bit of a response to my last post.

I knew I brought my favorite possession along with me for a reason.

Pete Seeger sent me a postcard. He knows better than I do. While his post card doesn't say much, I remember the letter I wrote to him. It was about how he inspires me to do good for others and work hard. He simply said "Stay well and keep on."

His post card sits next to Saint Francis' prayer in my apartment. So I shall. Keep on keepin' on. God will be with me, even if my only form of prayer these days is in the form of angry accusations.

Where is God?

Yesterday, I read part of the JRS online retreat. This section spoke about God being present with the most poor. It was a reflection about God's choice to become man, and be with us as a poor person. Obviously, there are dozens of examples in the Bible about God being with the poor.

My question is this. If poor people don't feel God's presence, then what is the point? Sure, God may be there. Sure, I can (attempt to) see God in poverty because I am privileged. But if no one in these situations feels God's presence any longer, then is God still there?

How long can one continue to believe that God will exalt the poor? I can believe it my whole life, because I have been given a free ride through life. I can believe that the poor are closest to God. I can feel close to God if I choose to walk with the poor. But what about each individual? Is God there for people who don't recognize God anymore? And, if so, how?

As always, my solution is a simple one. I am going to turn on some Van Morrison and eat a stack of Chips Ahoy. Perhaps God will self-reveal through chocolate chips.

Monday, November 8, 2010

motorcycle taxis and Thai hospitals

I had to go to the doctor today. The cough I picked up in Rome (I bite my thumb at Rome) progressed into something a bit more disgusting. My coworkers politely suggested that I get medicine if not for me, for them.

So I rode sidesaddle on a motorcycle weaving through traffic, arrived at the hospital and proceeded to realize that I may be the most worthless traveler in the city.

Five solid observations from my day:

1. Instead of calling me Miss or Ma'am, the hospital staff referred to me as "madam." I think I like that better. Take not, America.

2. That feeling I get back home that people are laughing at me as I walk away is realized in it's full form here. Because they actually are laughing at me as I walk away. Every time. I am SORRY that I don't know my own weight in kilograms or my height in centimeters! I am 5 feet, 7 inches and 140 pounds. The way God intended. Because the American system of measurements, like God, is not based in logic.

3. I like how all of my pills has the Pfizer logo printed on each. They must think that's what makes Americans well: swallowing a healthy dose of the free market system.

4. Motor taxis are my new favorite way to travel. My heart leaps into my throat like I am on a roller coaster. But, unlike a roller coaster where the danger is false, I probably could get killed on one of these. And isn't that better?

5. Every time I see a person on the street wearing one of those swine-flu srugical masks, I assume they have the plague and automatically resent them for existing in public. Then I had to wear one in the hospital. You'd think it would have reformed my opinion. But it didn't.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Dancing at a lesbian bar

This was not as fun as Jonathan Richman made it out to be. In fact, there was no dancing... just funny looks, bad music and all sorts of miscommunnication.

Perhaps starting off the night drinking with an ex-Jesuit is a sign of trouble. But that's how it began. I went out for a drink with two friends from work, where, after a few drinks we decided that we should make a dating website for ex-nuns and ex-priests. That is my million-dollar idea. Get on board.

Then my friend and I went down to some clubbing district where all the women looked... too hot for their own good. The kind of women who would never make eye contact with me.

We wandered down the street, slightly drunk and still in our work clothes against the hoards of sequined mini-dresses, up-dos and stilettos, until we found our bar. The women-only lesbian club.

I walked in and before I could try out some of my award-winning pickup lines, our waitress shuffled us over into a corner of the bar behind the DJ where we were seemingly quarantined from the rest of the women. Either because we were white, under-dressed or non-Thai speakers.

After wriggling our way back into the populace, our waitress came over and explained in broken English that another white woman just came into the bar, and sat her next to us. The poor French girl looked confused as to why she was forced over to our table, but the waitress looked very proud of her possible matchmaking skills.

Needless to say, we left early. Not that the Thia chick band attempt at "I Will Survive" went unappreciated. Sigh.

Monday, November 1, 2010


I ate a scorpion. I had my feet eaten by fish. I tried three kinds of Thai beer. All in all, not too shabby for a city that doesn't recognize the holiday.

I was nervous since I haven't met any Americans yet, that my Halloween would be a total bust. But luckily, Bangkok made a solid attempt at the holiday and the Australian and Brit I was with were troopers, considering we all had to work the next day.

First thoughts on Bangkok

Hot. Humid.