Melbourne Has A Problem And It’s Called Throwbacks: Here Are The Most Overplayed Songs

There’s a terrible pandemic that’s been plaguing Melbourne’s nightlife. I know what you’re thinking. When are they going to get a hold on the bar fights, the girls taking their shirts off for free drinks and the absolutely exorbitant ‘price of vice’

 
I’m here to tell you those are the least of our worries. What’s really wrong with Melbourne mainstream nightlife is their unhealthy obsession with “throwbacks.”
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Gertrude Street, Fitzroy.
In the cultural capital of Australia, throwbacks aren’t just for Thursdays. Throwbacks are for Monday mornings, Wednesday evenings and Sunday nights. Throwbacks aren’t even throwbacks. Define a decade, a time! Anything!
They are overly played songs from the 00s and even 2010s that everyone and all the girls with crop tops and flannels tied around their waists decided were millennial “classics.” At first it’s fun (I’m not innocent in this. I enjoyed it when I first got here). At first that song reminds you of getting ready for school in 6th grade on a cold winter morning while you eat Reece’s peanut butter cup cereal.
Then, you hear the same 10 songs night after night, day after day… the songs loose their nostalgia provoking quality and an irrational annoyance starts to brew deep inside.
There’s nothing like too much of something to suck the life and meaning out of it (wish that was the same case for my dessert addiction. Sugar, you’re naughty!). That’s why people (=me) hate Top 40s songs. What once had any potential of being good is smashed on the ground like Andy Samburg throws cake when the same handful of songs are played on repeat for 9 hours while you make salads (not speaking from personal experience here, not in the least bit). Whoah, that’s a mouthful! A mouth full of complaining, that is.
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Just me, a camera, two women and a background full of throwbacks. Taken in Melbourne CBD. 
(I’m considering emailing this new slogan to Victoria’s tourism office: “Melbourne: where it’s better to be an elitist hipster than loose any semblance of happy memories of all those songs you once loved.” Would love for you to write your thoughts about it in the comments section.)
If you’re dying to go out in Melbourne, you don’t even have to move from your seat to feel what it’s like. Just put these 10 songs on repeat for as many hours at a time as you’d like. Then, imagine the screams of the wasted bar patrons as “The Next Episode” beat drops.
You may hate me after you read the list. You may think “she’s off her rocker! These are great songs!” Think what you want. Then listen for 10 hours and let me know how you feel.
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Which song listed below do you think were in their heads as they embraced? 

1- Ginuwine- Pony

2- Dr.Dre – The Next Episode

3- Usher- Yeah

4- Akon- Smack That

5- 50 Cent- In Da Club

6-Justin Timerlake – Like I Love You

7- Mary J. Blige – Family Affair

8- Shaggy – Wasn’t Me

9- 50 Cent- Candy Shop

10- Ludacris – Move Bitch

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Photo Friday: 10 Times Yasmine Made America Great Again

I recently started my own page on BuzzFeed Community (check out my first article on Michael Jukeson’s amazing 365-day RV trip across North America called The Loving Year). I had to do the normal things to create my profile – add a thumbnail picture, write a short bio, add my website. But then it came time for the banner… and I was inspired.

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My Buzzfeed Community page

What came about was a picture I took last year in Lisbon of me hair flipping in front of a super cool door. And what better slogan to accompany such wild hair flipping than Trump’s “Make America Great Again.”

After all, what else is Yasmine doing while she trots around the globe? All those naughty things simply project her vision to “Make America Great Again” and how her presence abroad is making it even better. Trump recently won my home state, a victory that positioned him as the GOP front-runner. Meanwhile across the globe, Yasmine recently changed her clothes on the tram because she was going to be late for work. Seconds later, she stood up and as the tram came to a suddenly halt tumbled onto the twiggy girl in the seat in front of her.

The day after Trump’s big win and another day of making salads in sweatpants while young professionals said “cheers!” at happy hours across Melbourne, I got lots of encouraging messages in my inbox: “thanks for the great people of your state Allison, for making America great again!” they said sarcastically.

I wondered what it would be like to compare the things that I do with this slogan.What does my image around the world looks like with this slogan slapped on it? Like my all time favorite go-to sassy face: how does this compute?

1- When Yasmine didn’t get enough pasteis de belem in Lisbon

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Some pictures where I’m making America great again are more recent than others. There were a slew of excellent choices among my collection of photos from Ibiza.

2- Looking my most beautiful in Ibiza, I am what else but promoting….

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3, 4, and 5-Giving Americans a positive image at Ushuaia’s ANTS party last year

3- Cuddling up to the giant ant statue just mean’s I want to….

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4- Falling asleep at a club is just another way of convincing you that I can….

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5- Being that person at a party is only mean to show that I …

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6- Sticking the behind out for America in Porto, Portugal =

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7- Feeling the irony of the street art in La Jolla, California repeats…

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8- Being a good global citizen whilst sitting on a bench in Ibiza everyone knows I…

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9- Celebrating street art here in Melbourne tells the world I…

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10- Getting close to Uncle Sam when he made an appearance in Ibiza communicates my desire to…

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14 Reasons Why Phi Phi Is The Best Place On Earth

I recently wrote an article published on Pink Pangea where I discuss how Koh Phi Phi, Thailand surprised me. Whereas I normally shrink away from party destinations, I got off the ferry on Koh Phi Phi, reluctantly paid my 20 baht entrance tax and went with the flow. I didn’t fight the parties and I didn’t judge the wild partiers. I didn’t beat them, I joined them.

And I had a blast.

In the Pink Pangea article, I discuss the fellow travelers, the activities, the nightlife and the accommodation, but there is so much more. I loved all of the strange occurrences and odd details. If you think you’re not into Phi Phi, consider these 14 reasons why it’s the best place on earth. And think again. And then maybe decide it’s not. Like you were right all along. YOUR LIFE, YOUR DECISION.

1. Vodka the beach dog and Paolo her beach dog son

Read this post. Enough said. A furry friend to comfort those hangovers and a mischievous attitude to inspire your inner-prankster.

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You already know. Unforgettable.

2. Hot Diving Instructors

You are walking barefoot through the pedestrian-only streets. You pass a tattoo shop to your right and glance to your left, only to be caught off guard by the most beautiful Swedish diving instructor you’ve ever seen. “Hey,” he says. “How are you doing today?” You think he’s interested and you slowly approach him. Little do you know he’s only trying to get you to pay for his diving classes. What a tease.

After this happened several times, I wasn’t any smarter. I was still lured in by the tan skin, man buns and sparkling eyes. My sister was waiting for me at the Indian restaurant we were eating at while I ran to the ATM. I passed by a delightful half Australian, half Dutch 20-year-old and almost stopped on the way there and on the way back. Good thing I was hungry, because if not, things might have gone a little differently…

3. Being Barefoot

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Yeah, I’ll take a sunset (even if it’s cloudy) with a glass of wine and that view!

Who needs shoes? Especially when you’ll probably take them off to dance with more freedom and leave them in an unsuspecting location.

4. Dancing massage parlor employees and ladyboys

Walking from Stones Bar to “town,” we passed by a massage parlor after massage parlor. Many of them are also rumored to offer “other” services. Because we are female, they very rarely assaulted us with their shrill “masssaaaaaaaage” cry that males complained of. Instead, we often gave each other the nod. After dark, they played loud music and danced, and when I joined in, there was hooting and hollering.

5. The Best Ice Cream

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I believe the only word to describe this is “YAMMY” (that’s “yummy”)

There was always a long line to get the ice cream made right in front of you. Using a cold stone slab, the makers poured milk and other sugary goodies on top. Then, the let it freeze for a few seconds before curling the flat rectangle of milk and candy into a roll. Topping it off with whipped cream and caramel, it’s delightful. There were two stands on the island, one on the “party” side and one on the “less party” side. Here is a video if it being made.

6. The Best Chicken Tikka Masala I’ve Ever Had

There was a Burmese-run Indian restaurant close to Ao Lo Dalam beach called “Royal Indian Palace” near the side “street” of massage parlors. I’ve never been to India, but I can assure you this was exquisite. With garlic naan on the side, I inhaled the oily sauce and rice. Unfortunately, my sister had a dismal meal at the same time and wasn’t happy about my abundant exclamations of “HOW GREAT IT WAS.” She often goes for the healthier option and is disappointed most of the time.  I went back for a second round before I left for Krabi and aggressively suggested it to all fellow travelers.

7. Carts Carrying Luggage

You’re either rich or lazy if you hire a small, Thai (but probably Burmese) man to carry your luggage to your accommodation in a cart. Or maybe I’m judging and your hotel offered the service anyway.

Regardless, it was hilarious. They frequently got caught behind drunk tourists or frightened people with their loud warnings. After meeting a sweet Thai woman who turned out to be an under-the-influence prostitute (she was still sweet, regardless of her choice of profession), we went with her from the Muay Thai Reggae Bar to the beach bars on Ao Lo Dalam. On the way, several carts passed. When she saw them coming, her eyes would get really big and she would find all of us and push us against a wall. When it passed, she would yell, “BEEP BEEP, CART, BEEP BEEP.” She knew what you had to do.

8. Tattoo Parlor Boys

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Sassy, kind, and spicy. Our favorite tattoo artists.

Flirtatious and goofy, the tattoo artists around the island were full of personality. There was even the Thai Jon Lennon, a tattoo artist who had long, straight, jet black hair and wore round glasses, a peace sign necklace and bell bottom jeans. One night, we bought buckets from a street vendor and sat with some of our favorites. One of the cutest would watch tourist go by. He often got a kiss on the cheek or a wave from some transplanted locals.

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Shout out to the employees of an antique store who gave us their extremely spicy pork and let us sit with them for a while one night!

9. Children Running Around at All Hours of the Night

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You already know. Unforgettable.

We love children. We love Thai children even more. While their mothers might be out promoting a restaurant or club, the kids would run around and scream. I had ample opportunity to throw them in the air, give high fives and chase them.

10. Asian Pharrell Williams

Every night at Kong Siam bar around 11:00pm, the most talented acoustic singer comes on. I asked his name on several occassions, and he said “We’re the Kong Siam band.” To which I usually screamed, “No, what’s YOUR name?!” He never responded. Maybe he’s had too many creepers in the past.

Either way, we went to go see him every night and listen to the soothing sound of his voice. His enthusiasm, happiness, and talent made our trip that much better.

11. The Tide

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Not quite ready to go. Give it a few more minutes and let the water level rise.

The extremely low tide resulted in boats being stuck in the beach. Right along side the washed up bottles, condoms and other ocean debris. We were laying on the beach one afternoon as a tour group went out to jump on a long tail boat. A few minutes later, the group came back. “Tide’s too low,” they said. “The boat is stuck.” After the water was coming up 45 minutes later they jumped back in the boat. I walking out to take a dip and save myself from drowning in my own sweat and saw everyone disembarking. Then, they all collectively helped dislodge the boat from the grip the sand had on it. A few pushes and shoves got it out of there and they were on their way to see monkeys!

12. Fire Shows

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Thailand’s Got Talent!

Besides the tattoo parlor boys (and everything on this list), nothing made me happier than the attitude and determination of the fire show boys. Read about them on this post.

13. There is a place called “Ibiza House”

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Is that a face of joy or dread?

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I will literally never be able to escape my past. Ibiza follows me wherever I go. I usually jumped over to their beach party at some point in the night and bumped to the house music. Brought back great memories.

14. WHO CAN EXPLAIN THESE

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Don’t judge a book by it’s cover? Could be sweet.

Everyday this pink painted devil made its way to different parts of the hostel. I don’t know who moved it, and I don’t know why. I asked the employees and they all shrugged.

I later found this fancy bug hanging out on one of the poles. Nice to meet you!

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LETHAL

Featured Photo: Jennifer and I with one of our favorite waiters at the bar Stockholm Syndrome on Phi Phi. If that name alone doesn’t elicit feelings of how ridiculous this island is, take a moment to let it sink in. And love it. This particular man could usually be found jamming to Usher’s “Yeah” or Pretty Ricky’s “Grind on Me.”

Benvingut, 2016!

Hello, 2016! Yasmine says, “HEY!”

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I’m walking into this year with lots of new ideas.

And hello to you, reader! I’m happy you’re here, I’m happy you’re alive, and I hope you’re feeling ready to take on your next challenge.

Thank you for reading Naptime With Yasmine in 2015. I hope you found it helpful, interesting, or any other adjective with a positive connotation.

I want to give a special thanks to all those who used google to search for porn involving au pairs. Your search led you to this article about my experience handling a child’s raging sexual curiosity and trying to handle it in a constructive way. You may not have found the porn you were looking for, but I hope you at least heard a new perspective on sexual education.

Thank you to everyone who wanted to know about what “tetas” and “Ibiza” would get you. Maybe you were looking for porn, maybe you wanted some wild party footage. Either way, you read this honest post about how going topless in Ibiza made me more confident in myself.

Thank you for being curious about the wild dancing in Ibiza. You were were looking for Ibiza raves, and you ended up watching new moves in the Ibiza Dance Tutorial.

These were some of my favorite articles to write. It makes me happy that you read them, no matter how you ended up doing so (Other favorites include: sexual assault prevention as a language assistant, when I was the au pair for a girl who cries for 45 minutes over eaten cookies, when I killed chicks, and the very controversial observation of the Leon separatist graffiti on the Camino de Santiago).

This month, look forward to more stories and observations about Southeast Asia and a series of stories on the warehouse I spent the last month working at. Come February, lookout for information on Australia, my next living abroad destination.

Feel free to visit the contact page for any information, article topic requests, or questions.

Have a meaningful, and most importantly, entertaining 2016.

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Bilbao, Spain.

Why I Loved Being A Tourist In Bangkok

It was the first time I saw a grandmother casually sitting on back a motorbike, unfettered by the daredevil drivers on both sides. It was the place where I witnessed my sister having a mini-meltdown (for very understandable reasons) in the streets as Thai people stopped and stared.

It was Bangkok,  the place that people love to hate. It even took Nomadic Matt a few years to appreciate it. People complain about its filth, grime and the absurdity of Khaosan Road (think of trashy Las Vegas, with overstimulating bright lights and sounds; but instead of strip clubs there are ping pong shows and sketchy massages).

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A man takes a closer look. Close to Silom Soi 20.

Despite the typical drawbacks of a major metropolis, I loved being a tourist in Bangkok. Starting and ending my trip there, this city was a gentile introduction to Thailand (I say gentle, meaning, not causing terrible culture shock) and a perfect location to close my Thai experience.

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Talk about traffic!

A place of great diversity and endless food options, I could find there what I liked most about each of the places I had gone. Silom Soi 20 (more on that road here) was the best breakfast food stall stand crawl I’ve ever been on, Thip Samai‘s pad thai will put all others to shame for the rest of my life and no other restaurant will ever compare to the educational benefits of Cabbages and Condoms.

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After you eat some red curry at Cabbages and Condoms, get your souvenirs! I did.
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Cabbages and Condoms is dedicated to sexual education. Yes, that is a Santa costume made out of condoms. #Genius.
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Words to live by.

Easy to transit through the city, public transportation was efficient and if it didn’t make sense to take it, tuk tuks and taxis were plentiful and relatively cheap (just make sure your tuk tuk driver doesn’t try to take you to his friend’s “gem shop“). Yes, traffic is bad. But as a tourist, it’s not common for you to be in a rush. It’s easy to be patient, and besides, there is so much to look at and take in that waiting in traffic isn’t an ounce boring.

I experienced significantly less instances of being offered goods or services (think: nothing compared to Hanoi or Hoi An) and I experienced no street harassment. I like visiting places where it’s easy to feel like you’re living your normal life. Or, rather, it’s nice to be in a place where so many people are going about their daily lives that it doesn’t feel superficially created.

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I want my durian. And I want it close to an adorable chubby baby, please.

It’s convenient, and sometimes you just want to easily find headphones or a neck pillow for your flight home (sometimes you just want Malaria medication!). The numerous markets are great places for learning about the diversity of Bangkok’s residents and simultaneously picking up gifts for people back home. Vendors patiently listen to your butchered Thai and strangers let you make faces at their children. No matter where Jennifer and I ended up-whether that be in a shopping mall watching in-line skating, by the river seeing a local capoeira group play or wondering what happened to Jim Thompson– it was a meaningful experience.

By the way, The Jim Thompson House was a great introduction to learning about Thai architecture. They even have a shuttle taking you from the main street to the Soi where the museum is located. It’s not actually that far, but what’s more fun than an electronic tuk tuk? Especially when the driver is racing down the side street barely classifiable as one lane, bumping to EDM while middle aged French and German tourists hold on for dear life.

Everyone who visits Bangkok (which, backpacking through Southeast Asia is…everyone) seems to have their favorite hostels. Everyone believes the one they stayed at was the best. If that tells you anything, it’s that there is no shortage of great, cheap accommodations in the city. I stayed at Niras Bankoc Cultural Hostel, close to the Grand Palace and Wat Pho (great massages!). The second time, I relaxed on the practically double bed bunks at Siamaze (it was also the perfect hostel to get sick at). Siamaze is further from tourist attractions, but close to the Skytrain, and had excellent tom yum soup ($1/bowl) a few feet away and adorable coffee shops nearby.

During both of my stays, talking to people on the street was easy and people looked out for us. One tuk tuk driver even gave us tips on how to save money on transportation and how to spot one of his cheating colleagues. We (don’t judge us here) found ourselves at a Starbucks at the MBK Shopping Center near the National Stadium, and Jennifer quickly made friends with the employees. They asked us to complete a customer satisfaction survey (“You give me 7, highest rating,” one of them told me with a wink). One thing led to another, and soon they were taking selfies.

I didn’t even get to see everything I could of. I didn’t even do one third of the things I had set out to do (getting sick puts a damper on exploration). There seemed to be a huge cultural scene, with various art galleries and community centers. It’s a place that has so much variety and personality. You’re a tourist, but you don’t feel like you’re made to look at locals like zoo animals.

When we were at the airport, about to leave for Hanoi, I looked at an American trans woman chugging a beer, throwing her passport at the horrified Air Asia employee and screaming to a European tourist “GET BACK IN LINE, ASSHOLE,” and thought, this is a place where literally anything can happen. It’s a place I felt I could melt into. Kind of like I could melt into that sticky rice with mango. Yummy.

Things I didn’t do in Bangkok: Go to a ping pong show, go to Soi Cowboy, see Muay Thai. No particular reason. Or was there?

Featured photo taken in Bangkok. 

Human Rights Day: We’re Both Migrants, But For Very Different Reasons

Yesterday, I celebrated 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence with a post on Bilbao’s No Means No Campaign. Today, I’m celebrate Human Rights Day by sharing my experiences of encountering refugees while traveling, and how this changes my perspective on movement.

“Marhaba,” I told my two new Iraqi friends in Arabic. Hello. A simple enough phrase to break the ice.

“Ana assafir al sharq alaousat,” I said with a smile. The two Iraqis giggled. In my formal Arabic I had learned at college, I tried to say that I traveled to the Middle East. I actually haven’t, but I couldn’t remember any other words. Darn you, Al-Kitaab!

I was on a metro, accompanied by my sister and Kimberly. We had just come from Akdeniz Hatay Sofrası, a regional Turkish cuisine restaurant in Istanbul’s Aksaray District. “They are so conservative there,” our Couchsurfing host had told us when we passed it in the car on our first day. “They are all immigrants, many from Syria.” The people in hijabs and long, white tunics could have very well been. Turkey currently has an estimated 1.5 million refugees, most of them Syrian.

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Jennifer, Kimberly and I and our new best friends- the waiters at Akdeniz Hatay Sofrasi.
At the restaurant, we were the only women not fully covered. We were also the only women without screaming, crying children. The young, male waiters had taken a special liking to us. We even took a selfie with them. One patron saw us struggling and offered his selfie stick, which, in the end, caused us even more technical difficulties. This meant more time causing a scene in front of the presumably conservative families present.

The two Iraqis on the metro had struck up a conversation with Kimberly. I was sitting in a seat nearby when I overheard. Never missing a moment to embarrass myself and speak Modern Standard Arabic, I stood up and joined in.

“I’ve been here a few months,” Mohammad, the more vocal of the two, told us. “I don’t really like it.” I explained how much I loved Istanbul. I thought it was a beautiful, dynamic city with so much to offer. Mohammad shrugged.

We were traveling several metro stops-around 45 minutes-to get back to our Couchsurfing host’s apartment. As people rushed on and off, families disassembled and assembled strollers and my bored looking sister sat nearby, the four of us-Mohammad, his friend, Kimberly and I- continued to talk.

Life isn’t easy in Iraq right now. It hasn’t been for a long time. His story seemed to mirror so many others I had heard. Either on the news or in person, people fleeing violence all say the same thing. They are happy to be safe. But they just wish they could go home.

This is something often overlooked when I hear others talking about immigration. Many migrants (fleeing violence) aren’t thrilled about having relocated. It’s not something they would have chosen, but living with violence wasn’t an option anymore.

Like Mohammad, I am a migrant. Both he and I had left our home countries. The difference is that I left mine by choice. I had an easy, comfortable life at home. When I leave, it is to experience new things, people and places. He leaves to escape imminent death. I was standing in front of man who escaped violence that my tax dollars could very well have contributed to.

It was a moment (like so many I continue to have) of recognizing my privilege. I can easily flow in and out of borders. When I travel to new countries, the authorities at customs aren’t afraid I’m going to stay illegally and I am never stopped for random security checks. After landing in the airport in Stockholm, the officer at customs asked what I was doing and let me through without further inquiry. The Thai man next to me didn’t gain entry so easily. He was asked to present bank statements. When he couldn’t get wifi to access his accounts online, he was put in a holding room. I don’t know how long he was in there, or if he ever got through.

A few months after meeting Mohammad in Istanbul, Jennifer and I were in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. We werecraving Middle Eastern food, and we were in luck. A quick search on Trip Advisor pointed us to Taste of the Middle East, an Iraqi family-owned restaurant. The owners are one of three Arabic families living in the city.

We were seated by Ali, a sassy preteen who skateboards and played American rap music from his phone. There were six tables with four chairs each. Although the restaurant has become very popular, we were the only two eating that night.

Mohammad, the eldest son, was our waiter. The mother of the family, Muna, cooked our meal. We devoured a cucumber and tomato salad, baba ganouj, and shawarma. We were stuffed, but couldn’t miss a chance to have dessert. We had homemade baklava and mint tea.

As we ate, Muna, Mohammad, and Ali sat near us. Ali had a plate of food of his own he was scarfing down. Curious as to how an Iraqi family ended up in Cambodia, a country known for its brutal genocide, we began asking questions.

Turns out, many people have asked them before. After eating at the restaurant, I did some googling. Taste of the Middle East and the family have received significant media attention for their unique situation (and the light their case sheds on a recent Australian-Cambodian refugee deal). Phnom Penh Post, Reuters, SBS and even Munchies,VICE’s food website reported on the family’s story.

Mohammad told Munchies,“I’m from Fallujah…The worst place on Earth.” In our conversation, he wasn’t as direct, but he did express a deep sadness for his home. He explained that Fallujah was devastated. It was dangerous, violent, and opportunities were limited. After reading the news articles, I wondered how many times that Mohammad had told that story.

The family lived in Malaysia before relocating to Cambodia. They came on business visas and opened the restaurant. This opens a multitude of complications, and even more stressful, uncertainty about their future. While we were in the restaurant, a man visited. He sat at the table across from us and spoke to the family. Speaking in Arabic, I couldn’t understand the conversation, but I understood a few words: “visa,” “travel,” and “Iraq.” I used my incredible investigative skills and deduced they were discussing visa issues.

It wasn’t all serious, however. Ali grinned every time he saw Jennifer. “What do you like to do?” she asked. “Not much,” he said. “I am just here, in the restaurant.” The events of life turned our conversation somber yet again.

Ali doesn’t go to school. He already speaks near perfect English, among other languages. Unfortunately, the family can’t afford the tuition of the private international schools. They told us that Khmer schools were of very low quality. That leaves them with educational options.

Although he doesn’t go to school, he has managed to make friends in the neighborhood. Mohammad told us Ali has already picked up Khmer. “We’re worried he’s going to convert to Buddhism!” Mohammad joked.

Jennifer and I walked 45 minutes from the restaurant back to our hostel. On the way home, I thought more about my ability to move about the world. Mostly, I thought about what the family said about missing friends and family back in Iraq. I leave my country, but I can come back at a minute’s notice. I know with certainty that I will be able to see my family when I want. I thought about when I lived in Argentina and I missed home the most. Knowing my return home would come soon, I was able to continue studying, working, and enjoying Buenos Aires without an issue.

I was stuck on the idea that we both travel, but our reasons are so drastically different. Therefore, our outcomes become drastically different, too. Most migrants in new cities don’t spend time visiting the cultural exhibits or trying all of the restaurants in the city. Often, they don’t even have free time to learn the local language. Many leave without hope of ever seeing friends and family again.

For Human Rights Day, December 10, I want to remember Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

Article 13.
(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state.
(2) Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.

Mohammad, the Iraqi I met in Istanbul,  and the owners of Taste of the Middle East in Cambodia have the right to return home. Technically, they could go home now. But what life would it be? Would they have the space and the freedom to express themselves as they wish? Could they leave the house free from fear of being assaulted?

Discussing refugees, asylum seekers, and migrants of any motive is a complicated topic, much more complicated than I am able to explain in this post. While traveling, we meet all types of people. In my travels I’ve come into contact with Burmese in Thailand, Vietnamese in Laos, Iraqis in Istanbul, Syrians in Greece, Moroccans in Spain, Senegalese in Paris, Indians in Rome, Swedish in Portugal. Europeans, North Americans, Australians and Kiwis can be found in plentiful numbers all over the world.

All of those mentioned are in a way migrants. But all are for different reasons. While traveling, coming into contact with migrants made me reflect on the circumstances in which I embark on the world. We all have the right to leave and return to our countries, but can we?

Small side rant: Many fellow travelers judged us on craving Middle Eastern style food in Cambodia. That’s not “authentic”! What’s more authentic than seeing how a country truly is? If that country involves an Iraqi family, I am getting a real sense of the city by visiting their restaurant and speaking with them. They belong to the city now, too.

Featured Photo: Arabic language globe at the Istanbul Museum of the History of Science and Technology in Islam. 

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Love Is Sticky Business: Thai Sweet Sticky Rice With Mango

I remember the first time I tried sticky rice with mango. It was September 2014 in San Francisco. Two friends and I went to have lunch at a Thai restaurant. Chatting and laughing, before I knew it I had inhaled my red curry and I thought my stomach was going to explode. Although I thought I couldn’t eat one more bite, one of the girls ordered Khaw Neaw Ma Muang, or sweet sticky rice with mango.

My first thoughts were, how could you make a rice dessert? How could it that be good? I was completely ignorant to the fact that rice was the base of most Asian desserts, and to the fact that many times in Latin America I had eaten sweet rice. Had I ever heard of arroz con leche? Yes! And I loved it.

I took a spoonful of the soft, literally sticky rice and started to chew. It was smooth, sweet and creamy. Sometimes the taste of coconut takes me immediately to the feeling of a beach and sun on my skin. After that first bite, I was hooked.

 

Sticky rice with custard in Bangkok

 

I had three days left in my visit to San Francisco. Each day when I saw a Thai restaurant I went in to see if they had sticky rice with mango. Each day I was more disappointed than the next. All of the restaurants claimed that mangos were out of season, so no they didn’t have any. This is the United States, I thought. One of the worst offenders of food entitlement, where we can get whatever we want, whenever we want, regardless of the environmental consequences. The one time that I’d like to be a perpetrator, you’re telling me no, no I can’t?

Disgruntled (I WANTED MY STICKY RICE) I left the city, daydreaming of the sugary coconut flavored warm rice. It wouldn’t be until October 2015 when I landed in Bangkok that I would try it again and fall more in love than I thought possible (Ibiza wasn’t great in the winter for food diversity).

 

Sunday market in Chiang Mai, Thailand

 

Bangkok was one giant playground with temptations on food carts on every corner. There were even more possibilities than I imagined. You don’t just have to have sticky rice with mango. You can have sticky rice with custard, sticky rice with bananas or sticky rice with nuts.

I discovered that there are even more unexpected twists to this dessert staple. Chefs take various plant leaves and extract their juice to create natural food coloring. Rice isn’t just white, either. We’ve had green, blue, and purple sticky rice.

Our creation at Asia Scenic Cooking School in Chiang Mai, Thailand

 

I’ve taken every advantage of the endless supply of fresh mangos and sticky rice. Chaotic markets, upscale restaurants and cooking classes a know that farangs -foreigners- can’t resist the sticky. It’s everywhere. A fact that has become a love/hate relationship. It’s become somewhat of a black market exchange: I trade my money and my figure for a blissfully satisfied palate.

Ko Lanta, Thailand

 

When I return to the U.S., I’m going to do my best to recreate my newfound food obsession. Part of me knows that it won’t be the same. I wouldn’t feel the humidity of Thailand when I reach for the spoon, or feel the sun making me sweat through my armpits as I let the coconut taste dissolve on my tongue.

At my cooking class at Asia Scenic Cooking School in Chiang Mai, we learned how to make sweet sticky rice from the recipe in the photo below.

 

Recipe for sticky rice with mango at Asia Scenic Cooking School

I also found a recipe (with special instructions for people living in the U.S. on where to find essentials to make it) on the blog The Garden Of Eating. She had a similar experience to mine when she first tried the dessert- undeniable love. I’ll probably try to make it at home following her advice.

Do you like sticky rice with mango? Have you tried it with any crazy colors? Send me a picture!