A WTF DIY Project Idea for 2016

Is 2016 your year of creativity? If it is, I’ve got an idea for you.

After traveling in Southeast Asia, I came home for the holidays. I walked in, put my stuff away, and looked around at my room. My walls still hold the same paraphernalia from high school. At that time, my motto was “if you like it, stick it to your wall.”

I have layers upon layers of concert posters, magazine cutouts and photos. I had flags of eight different countries and souvenirs from all around the world. I started to take it all down. 2016 is time for a fresh start for a room I might never live in again. Right?

Some of my stuff went to Goodwill, some of it I threw away, and other things I saved if I’m ever a high school Spanish teacher. I’ll have a bomb room if I ever am. Then I found a box of goodies. Small pieces of paper. The use of these goodies doesn’t correspond to any of the above options-especially not being put in a Spanish teacher’s room.

These things should be recycled, reused, and re-gifted. What are they? 

In high school, and again in college, my severe acne led my dermatologist to prescribe accutane. Pumping a thorough dose of Vitamin A into your system, it has several damaging side effects that I chose to deem unimportant.

The time I took it in high school gave me chronic bloody noses that usually hit around 1:15pm in Algebra II. My teacher usually excused me from the room with a hand pointed towards the door and wailed if it appeared I would touch anything. “There are health concerns!”

There are worse effects than bloody noses. The medication has the potential to cause severe birth defects if a patient becomes pregnant. This means proving two forms of birth control, taking monthly sexual education quizzes (not very effective if you ask me. Lots of room for cheating, and if you get an answer wrong they tell you what the right answer is before you retake the quiz), monthly urine pregnancy tests at the dermatologist (they don’t appreciate it when you decorate the cup. “We only need your first and last initial,” they scolded me), and best of all, visible reminders. The paper “goodies” I found in my room.

IMG_0421
Pill covers. 

Each pill was individually wrapped with a cover. On the cover, there was a silhouette of a pregnant woman in a big red circle outline and a cross through it. Seeing the paper each day was like having a small voice in your ear yelling “DON’T GET PREGNANT!”

Years after taking my last “don’t get pregnant” pill, I was once again confronted with them. I had saved them all in a decorated box that was a gift from a friend.

Seeing them now inspired me to do something. In these half inch strips of anti-pregnancy was potential. Potential for creativity. Potential for making people think, “What the f***?”

My first order of business was to create something that unites my interests. Because I love the world (do I?) and sexual education (I was a sex positive au pair and an informational language assistant), I decided to make a world map covered in the strips.

In my head, it was going to be aesthetically pleasing, maybe even provocative.

IMG_0423
My empty canvas 
What resulted from the brown glue I found in my parents’ desk drawer and the small size of the paper was like a Pintrest fail.

IMG_0417
It somewhat resembles the world, doesn’t it?
I didn’t give up after the first try. Inspiration for my next project came from the presence of my brother-in-law to be. He was spending his first holiday at our house as her fiance. A warm welcome was necessary.

IMG_0439
You can tell by the look on his face that was touched by the gift. 
This one still had the same low-quality glue and green dry erase marker and one of the letters is significantly smaller than the other. That aside, I’d argue it’s definitely a step above the previous project. Is this progress?

The third try was a greeting I sent to a friend I met while traveling. I wanted to wish him a very special 2016. All I want is for it to be pregnancy-free.

IMG_0459

Finally, I wanted to send a thank you to a friend who had recently come to dinner. I knew he would appreciate the gesture.


This won’t be my last project. If you get a strange looking envelope with no return address, maybe you’re not infected with a chemically ridden terror tactic but rather a warm greeting for the coming year.

Until then, they’ll be here, in this box.

IMG_0420
I’m here when you need me. 
Anuncios

But Don’t Play With Me…

…’Cause you’re playing with fire.

“It’s clear they’re really talented, but it’s still awful to watch,” Lance said. “It’s same same, but not different at all.” Lance, our “outrageous Kiwi/Aussie friend,” was referring to the nightly fire shows on Koh Phi Phi, Thailand (you met him in this post about Vodka and Paolo, Phi Phi beach dogs).

IMG_9919
“I’m so done with these fire shows.” -Vodka

What was once a way for Samoan warriors to demonstrate their strength, the fire performances made their way to the Thai islands and turned into a staple (free) activity for cringing tourists.  A German employee at Banana Bar told us that although many of them are Burmese, the performers are “like Thai celebrities.”

Rightfully so. Every night they suffocate in the overwhelming stench of gasoline and more likely than not get third degree burns- without flinching.

IMG_0115
“I can’t watch you guys do this.” -Cat on Phi Phi

They stand barefoot on the wooded platform and drip sweat for four hours. Meanwhile, drunk and overly confident tourists who jump into the mess for a free bucket end up suffering for weeks to come. Just read this article by a guy (a self-proclaimed “dumb-ass”) who weeks after the incident still had a “festering burn.”

What happens at a fire show?

Our first night staying at Stones Bar, we were lured in just like all the other tourists. From our dorm room we heard the DJ put on his set list (which was ‘same same’ every night, a YouTube mix of deep house) and scream, “ARE YOU READY, PHI PHI?” Our first fire show was just a few feet away. We walked out and sat on those plastic, orange lounge cushions with awkwardly placed headrests.

We watched as the long-haired boys dipped the ends of their sticks in gasoline and lit them on fire. Most can be described as scrawny but muscular. With tattoos and piercings, they have a kind of bad boy look to them. A confident, relaxed look. It’s like their eyes are saying “I’m playing with fire but I don’t give a f***.” They were spinning the sticks in circles, to the front and to the back, and eventually throwing them in the air only to see them fall on top of them.

IMG_9932
Imagine this, but in human form. Perhaps not so drastic.

Aside from around six adult performers, Stones bar boasts two miniature performers. Both of them look around five years of age. They are put on people’s shoulders, jump on peoples’ backs, and used to adorn a formation like a star on a Christmas tree. The older one is 11, and he won’t let you forget it. “How old are you?” Jennifer asked. “ELEVEN! ELEVEN!” he replied in a half scream, half hiss.  Just like Vodka, he attracts a parade of mainly (drunk) girls who try to give him a hug (#guilty) and ask him lots of questions. During the show, the other performers put the small children in charge of walking around with the tip bucket. I gave lots of cash.

The show was impressive. The performers are talented. Even the young ones have a hand-eye coordination I never will. But just like Lance mentioned, it was hard to watch. I could imagine the pain of the burns, the sweat and the exhaustion. I worried about another childhood lost for a local 11-year-old. My sister and I stayed for the first part of the show and left the beach to see live music in town.

The next night, we started in the same way as before. We got dressed, walked outside, grabbed a drink and watched the Stones Bar fire show. But soon after it started, we decided we had seen the exact same thing the night before (and would see the exact same show for days to come). Looking down the beach we noticed that several of the bars had fire shows.

This night, we came to find out that the further you go down the beach, the more professional and intricate the performances become. If the fire shows boys lived in the Midwest, the Stones Bar boys’ appearance would be described as “jail bait” and those at Ibiza Bar “wholesome.” At Ibiza the performers never dropped sticks and followed along to the music in choreographed steps. At 4Play they impressed the crowds by doing bodybuilding with weights on fire. There appeared to be a hierarchy and a clear physical difference in the performers. I had a lot of questions.

Who are the performers?

I wanted to know who were the performers, and why did they decide to pursue this profession? Was it the fame? The prestige? The celebrity status? The chance to drink every night? Why were there only male performers? (Although, I did see one female Western tourist performing at various bars. Go, girl!)

A British employee at Banana Bar said most Western female tourists get with them, or want to get with them. A lot of them have Western girlfriends. A Brazilian, who worked at a snorkeling tour company who claimed to give you weed along with your snorkeling equipment, didn’t have a high opinion of them. “They think they own the island,” he said as he shook his head. “They are assholes. They punch dudes if they try to get with a girl they are looking at.” Perhaps he was speaking from personal experience.

When I approached the performers before the show the next night, they weren’t intimidating at all. On the contrary, they were soft spoken. Unfortunately, I don’t speak Thai and their English language skills weren’t enough for us to discuss my pressing questions.

IMG_0138
My favorite performer. Cue cat emoji with heart eyes.

I wanted to sit down with them, but timing was difficult. The only time I found them was either right before the show when they were practicing, or at the end of the night when they were too drunk to form coherent sentences, let alone in English.

One night, after the music had been shut off, I was hanging out at the picnic tables at Stones Bar. I was just sitting and winding down when I was approached by a British tourist. He sat down on a tree stump next to me and put his arm on my back. “Take it off,” I said. He laughed and asked, “Do you want to go have sex with me?”

I rolled my eyes and told him he needed to leave. When he hesitated I stood up and turned around. I saw the performers sitting at the table behind me. Still annoyed by the British tourist, I walked up to them. “I want to talk to you but I don’t want to have sex with you!” I belted out.

One of men was kind enough to assure me we could just talk. He even answered a few questions as best as he could. Most of the performers at Stones are from the north of Thailand. They’re young –between 19-24 years-old- and only recently started. They start off training with the basic moves, then with determination graduated to be good enough to perform at one of the beach bars.

I still have lots of questions and very little answers. The next time I visit Phi Phi I’m planning a full ethnographic study. The gracious performers weren’t able to tell me everything I wanted to know, but one did confirm something I suspected.

“What do you guys do in the shows?” I wondered.

“It’s same same, all days.” He said. Like Lance said – same same, but not different at all.

Featured photo: One of the young kids on top of a fire pyramid. 

Want to see an interview with a performer? Watch this video filmed in Koh Tao by Jacques de Vos.

 

9 Worst Photos of 2015 + BONUS PHOTO

It’s close to the end of the year. This means you’ll be seeing the year in review: Best of… worst of…most memorable…

Here’s another list to add to the multitude, and hopefully this either makes you laugh or inspires you to make fun of yourself or someone you know.

2015 took me to many countries: Spain, Hungary, Czech Republic, Austria, Portugal, France, Morocco, Turkey, Greece, Italy, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam (obviously in no particular order, and clearly not in alphabetical order).

With lots of travel brings lots of photos. And with lots of photos brings lots of bad photos.

I’ve never been one to be particularly photogenic. Travel has only made me see this even clearer. If I don’t look downright awkward, I usually find myself somewhere between boring and too excited. We’re all overcritical of ourselves, this I recognize, but others have also confirmed my debility.

Take a look at the 9 worst photos I took in 2015, and let’s hope 2016 brings even worse ones. #Nothidingfrommyselfanylonger

1- When we were in that room in Morocco

ALY_0353
Beauty at its finest.

You heard the story (most likely you read it). We were in the same room for hours. Which meant ample time to showcase how that sweat and extreme heat transformed my face.

2- A great photo shoot in Laos

ALY_0750
Hottie with a body

The scenery in the rural area outside of Vang Vieng, Laos was breathtaking. My modelings skills were not.

3- When I wasn’t the only one in Finisterre

IMG_7540
We were meant to be friends. Except, she’s actually a great model. I must be a bad influence.

After we finished the Camino, Kimberly and I cheated and took a bus three hours to the coast to Finisterre. We cannot blame the exhaustion from the Camino, as by this point, we had relaxed enough.

4- When Sweaty Betty comes out to sunbathe

IMG_0113
This takes “what you actually look like at the beach” to a new level.

Enough said. Koh Phi Phi, Thailand, was hot.

5-When my sister tries to take a cheeky Snapchat

barcelona
I sent this to someone who replied, “total boner.”

6- When I’m sleeping

sleep
I’ll call this one “sleeping beauty”

I’m lucky enough to be able to fall asleep practically on command. I’ve slept in a number of moving vehicles and in front of many people. I can’t control the way I look, and more than that I can’t control who decides to capture those moments.

7-When I try to take a sneaky selfie

ibiza
Not as cute as I had intended

Last year in Ibiza my friends and I had a picnic at Cala Salada. Our Argentine friend grilled my beloved choripan. At least chimichurri wasn’t in my teeth at the time I took the picture.

8-When it’s sunset in Cala d’Albarca

ALY_0405
Those sultry eyes

My family came to visit me in Ibiza, and little did they know the pickings for their Facebook albums would be slim.

9-When you ask someone something at the wrong moment

IMG_7790
Where’s the…

Those are also my “don’t look at me” eyes.

You’re in luck. Number 10 is a bonus photo. It’s a throw back from 2014, but it was too good not to share. I was randomly looking at a friend’s Instagram when I saw a gem. At the time when this photo was taken, I didn’t have an Instagram yet. It was a big surprise to stumble upon this last August.

10- When its so bad it doesn’t even look like me

IMG_7714
Love me or leave me?

If They’re not the Same, Why Do You Say ‘Same Same’?

Same same, but different. Same same. Same Same…but different.

It’s the name of a 2009 German film (probably tear-inducing based on the trailer I just watched). It’s the name of a song in the 2008 Bollywood film, Bombay to Bangkok (you’re going to want to watch this music video). It’s on T-shirts all across Southeast Asia. It’s even name dropped in the infamous film The Interview.  Apparently, it’s become so widespread that it’s being used in the English hybrid spoken in the UAE.

Just like penises, it’s literally everywhere.

Traveling around Southeast Asia, you hear it all day. Travel forums such as Lonely Planet‘s or Travelfish‘s are host to lots of confused travelers’ questions on its meaning and origins. You even hear it so often that fellow tourists start to pick it up. I saw my sister cringe in annoyance every time a white person responded “same same but different” about something such as New York v. San Francisco, where any other response would have sufficed.

When it comes to the meaning, it’s not terribly difficult to understand. When we asked our hostel manager in Ko Lanta what it meant, she explained that its used to explain two things that aren’t technically the same thing, but are similar and differ slightly based on quality. Samantha Loong found that while traveling throughout Southeast Asia, many of the countries had similar spices, similar customs and languages. But, they all had elements that made them different. Thus, “same same but different.”

Urban Dictionary lists three meanings. Two of them are listed below:

  • Used a lot in Thailand, especially in an attempts to sell something but can mean just about anything depending on what the user is trying to achieve.
    Q “Is this a real rolex?”
    A ” Yes Sir, same same but different”
  • Pertaining to the nature of lady-boys in Thailand.
    When the two breasts look same-same like a woman’s but the dong is still there.
    Bob: I was grinding with a girl and I think I felt a lump.
    Jack: Same same but different.

In North American English, we’d say “it’s the same only different.” Or, if you’re my uncle, you’ll say “similar yet not the same.”

We asked the same Ko Lanta manager where this phrase comes from. She mentioned that she believed it was a popular phrase prior to the opening of a restaurant of the same name, but boomed in popularity following that of the restaurant.

This phrase, most notably associated with Thailand, has no direct Thai translation. According to Wikipedia, it’s a marker of Tinglish, an imperfect English form used in Thailand. I was always perplexed as to why there are two “same’s” in the phrase, when it’s not a natural thing for neither Thais nor native English speakers.

I wanted to find a deeper explanation; a more detailed linguistic ethnography. All searches have failed. It will not be a life goal to report on its origins, and once and for all, inform all travelers on its history.

Regardless of what it means or where it came from, the phrase “same same but different” actually holds a much deeper meaning. Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw’s children’s book Same, Same But Different teaches children that although they are culturally distinct, in the end, they are really the same. There are common factors that connect us all, and only minuscule details that make us different.

Just like James Franco’s character explains in The Interview. We are all same same, but different.

Featured photo: Meat at a stall at Silom Soi 20 in Bangkok. Different types of meat? Same same, but different.

#16DaysofActivism: The No Means No Campaign in Bilbao

To commemorate the end of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence Campaign, I want to share photos of a violence prevention campaign in Bilbao, Spain.

bilbao 60
Bilbao is the new Las Vegas

16 Days of Activism runs from 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, to 10 December, Human Rights Day. The fifth goal of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals is gender equality. These 16 days are meant to bring light to the violence that women and girls face around the world, solely because of their gender. Citizens, policymakers, and educators are taking a stand.

Around the globe, 1 in 3 women has experienced some form of gender violence. Like the rest of the world, Spanish women grapple with physical and sexual violence, and many activists have brought attention to devastating femicides. Read the Spanish Ministry of Health, Social Services and Equality’s 2015 Report on Violence against Women to learn more about gender-based violence in Spain.

Semana Grande de Bilbao

This past August, I visited Basque Country. Yes, this is same trip as the Pitbull incident. The day that Pitbull didn’t accompany us, friends and I went to Bilbao to see the last weekend of the annual celebration, Aste Naguisa.

Aste Naguisa is a 9-day festival celebrating Basque-ness. Political and neighborhood organizations set up tents.  In these tents, participants drink, play games, and see performances. Walking around the endless pedestrian-only streets we saw the organizations’ massive murals and artistic takes on pop culture, consumer society and world events.

bilbao 54
It’s the Basque spiderman
bilbao 62
There’s a lot of references going on here. The Basque Uncle Sam?
bilbao 55
Protest for Spain’s anti-protest law
bilbao 61
Play on consumer culture.

The narrow cobblestones streets were filled with overflowing tapas bars, street vendors and loud music. Those celebrating the festival wear purple scarves.

bilbao 15
The scarf the party goers wear

The protagonist of the festival is Marijaia, who, surprisingly, is burned to celebrate the end of the 9-day event. Marijaia means “lady of the party,” and she is meant to symbolize optimism and dance.

bilbao 42
Happy and dance-loving Marijaia here to say “hey!”

She comes in different shapes, forms, and versions.

bilbao 8
Marijaia even made an appearance at the Guggenheim cafe in Bilbao

The above photo was the first Marijaia I saw. At first I thought she was just a fun decoration. Then I realized her significance. Below is an example of a smaller version, seen in a shop window in the central distinct.

bilbao 16
Mini-Marijaia in the house, throw your hands in the air!

Marijaia was everywhere. But among the tents and crowds, I noticed a different version of her I hadn’t seen before. This Marijaia was purple, with a winking face with the words, “Egin Keinu bardintasunari” (Make an equality gesture) under it. At the bottom, it reads, “Ez beti da Ez,” or “no means no.”

bilbao 13
One of the posters of the campaign in the city center.

The campaign “Ez beti da Ez,” financed by the Bilbao Town Hall, had the support of 880 businesses located on the grounds of the event. The campaign distributed 700,000 napkins with the phrase, “¡Ez beti da ez; no es no. Insistir es acosar. Acosar es agredir¡” (No means no. To insist is to harass. To harass is to attack) to be placed in those restaurants.

bilbao 28
Some of the napkins I saw at a tapas bar I visited.

The directors of the campaign also distributed cards with emergency phone numbers and had a hotline available for people to report violence. Buses on certain lines throughout the city were also decorated to spread the word on preventing violence, and to provide information for those who needed to report.

bilbao 23
One of the buses in Bilbao’s center.

It struck me as impressive that the local government was able to make this campaign so visible. Everywhere I saw a billboard, a poster, a sign, a napkin. The message “no means no” was unavoidable. It was loud and clear, just as the campaigners intended it. Their goal was to make the event for all people and free of prejudice and violence of any form. Festivals are for joyous celebration, not for chauvinism and aggression.

As my friends and I joined hundreds of people circling around teams competing in traditional Basque games, I couldn’t help but notice a huge “no means no” sign behind the crowds.

bilbao 37
The winking Marijaia gives her message

I walked around the people as an announcer was speaking in Basque. When no one cheered when expected, she switched to Spanish and said, “So no one speaks Basque here?” As she continued, I saw a few girls holding a cutout. It was a giant, winking Marijaia with her face cut out. Festival goers could show their support for the campaign by inserting their faces in the sign.

bilbao 48
Traditional Basque games that were going on as I observed the cutout

For 16 Day of Activism, I celebrate this campaign. I celebrate the town hall’s creativity in associating a revered cultural symbol with consent and equality. Violence prevention efforts are more effective when they are continuous and consistent. I hope the campaign served to remind people to respect others. I hope that in case someone was in danger, the campaign’s hotline was there to help.

Do you also want to wink for equality?

On these 16 Days of Activism, I hope everyone takes a moment to understand the challenges women face around the world. Your education shouldn’t make you feel powerless, however. One of my favorite quotes is by Charles Dickens:

No one is useless in this world who lightens the burden of anyone else.

Each of us has a chance. A chance to lighten the burden of someone else. To step up for those who have been pushed down.

  • Read here for my tips on handling subtle micro-gender-based attacks, especially in the classroom.
  • Read here for tips on how to confront abusive language.
  • Read the U.S. Department of State’s blog on three ways you can participate in 16 Days of Activism. Your activism doesn’t have to end after the 16 days. Use this tips to be an advocate for human rights all year.
  • Read here for how you can help others by being at peace with yourself
  • Gear up to celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8
bilbao 36
Feminism was present and vocal at the festivities

Featured photo: A mural at one of the tents

When T-Shirts Say Odd Things: Southeast Asia

While traveling, evidence of globalization (or “Americanization”) is blatantly apparent, and the prevalence of U.S. popular culture is everywhere. It’s a strange feeling to know that your T.V. shows, musicians and celebrities are popular and widely distributed. Even in remote locations young girls know who Justin Bieber is. On Halloween, my sister and I were sitting in a cafe in Vientiane, Laos. One Top 40s hit after another played over the speakers, and there were obnoxious spider webs and witch posters on the walls. All I was craving was to feel some ounce of local culture. It seemed to be much  more of challenge to hear local music, and much easier to feel just like we were back in the states.

(An interesting read: on her blog Sunshine and Siestas, Seville-based blogger Cat describes watching her adopted city transform before her eyes. In her article “When Living Abroad Starts To Feel Like Living In America,” she says she’s “seeking the Spain I fell in love with when I studied abroad in Valladolid and the Seville that existed in 2007.” Although traveling abroad is completely different than living abroad, I relate what she’s feeling. Reading her article reminds me of how I felt in many parts of Southeast Asia: can I just escape the U.S.? Western culture? In my case, I traveled to experience new and exciting things, not fall into a trap of popular culture that was never “my culture” in the U.S. to begin with!)

With the invasion of popular  U.S. music and T.V. shows comes the mass diffusion popular phrases (think: especially bad words and drugs). While teaching English in Ibiza, I paid particular attention to my students’ wardrobe choices (see this post for especially inappropriate phrases). If it wasn’t cats, weed, or naked girls, my students enjoyed hashtags and sassy phrases (“I don’t need a man”).

Like Spain, my travels throughout the rest of Europe showed me that English phrases on T-shirts were in abundance. From Italy to Istanbul every now and then I would cackle with delight at an oddly-placed utterance or incorrectly written English. On a bus in Santorini, Greece, I once saw a man wearing a cotton T-shirt with bold, black letters that spelled “AGGRESSIVE.” A bit too brash, are we?

Asia was no exception. Linguistic invasions were everywhere to be seen. Part of what makes the use of my native tongue in popular fashion so entertaining for me is when it feels out of place. By that I don’t mean “it’s out of place for a Thai woman to have an English phrase on her shirt.” No, that’s not what I’m referring to (unfortunately. I wish I saw less U.S. culture and more Thai culture!).

What I mean is, taking a  common phrase and placing it a T-shirt in a way that is inauthentic to the U.S. Taking a popular phrase, and using it in a way that native speakers never would. Let me give you an example (besides “AGGRESSIVE.”). I have often heard non-native speakers overuse the phrase “that’s it.” (Let me preface this rant by repeating, I am not shaming language learners. As an ESL teacher and language learner myself I admire peoples’ strength and resilience in the language learning process. That doesn’t mean I still don’t find it funny.) 

How would we use the phrase “that’s it”? Maybe your friend asks you to recall the name of your doctor. You can’t remember, so you tell her, “can you read of a list of them from google?” As she’s reading, she says one name that resonates. What do you say? “That’s it!” Or, in another circumstance, you might reply “that’s it” to a waiter who is taking your order and asks if you want anything else.

I overheard and spoke with people who used “that’s it” as frequently and as carelessly as one might say “yeah.” For instance, I asked, “Are you going to the store today?” One person responded, “that’s it.” The next day I spoke with a French-Canadian on the beach in Thailand and I commented, “I really loved the music at Blanco last night.” He remarked, “That’s it.” (Did he want me to stop the conversation? Was that really it?)

Imagine “that’s it” on a T-shirt. This is what I mean when I say it’s a strange sensation to see an English phrase utilized in a different way than how native speakers might use it. I imagine it’s just as weird for French people to visit middle America and see rural communities donning graphic tees that say things like “Moi Je Joue” and “C’est la vie!”

Unlike Ibiza, I wasn’t as brave in documenting the English phrases I saw in Southeast Asia. Instead of taking photos, I wrote them down. If I remembered, I took notes on the time, location, and circumstance. Because I didn’t meet the people who wore these T-shirts, I have many questions. I wish I could have asked them some. Did they speak English? Did they chose the shirt because it had an English phrase on it? Do they like English? Do they also wear T-shirts with Thai, Lao, Khmer, or Vietnamese phrases on them? Do they think it’s cool?

Below are the phrases on T-shirts that I saw. I have in parenthesis the location and any details I could quickly take notes on. I have in bold the most entertaining or confusing ones. How they are reprinted below is exactly how they appeared.

  • Oops (Bangkok)
  • Sunday (Bangkok)
  • Hi (Bangkok)
  • Welcome to the jungle (Hue)
  • About you (Hue)
  • Young and dangerous (Ho Chi Minh)
  • Bone me like you own me (Phnom Penh)
  • If you met my family you would understand (Phnom Penh)
  • Do you want my heart (Phnom Penh)
  • I’m not a victim Id rather be a stalker (Phnom Penh)
  • Friend everybody like me (Phnom Penh)
  • Here 2 party (2 standing wolves looking like skinny pandas pointing to each other. Worn by an old woman seen in Cambodia)
  • Recycle or will eat your pants (Luang Prabang, young girl)
  • “No drama” (middle-aged man Luang Prabang)
  • Fickle (middle-aged woman in Vang Vieng)
  • No thanks or sorry (Asian tourist in Vang Vieng)
  • Dont look Back  (written backwards. Vientiane man on motorbike)
  • Love ‘em and leave ‘em (young woman in Vientiane)
  • Fundamental academy of coffee and tea (mid-thirties man at restaurant in halal district of Chiang Mai near the mosque)
  • I’m naughty (young Asian tourist in Chiang Mai)
  • I’m free (Sunday night market Chiang Mai, young girl)
  • What’s your message (Sunday night market Chiang Mai, young girl)
  • Project rebel (steet in chiang Mai, woman in her 30s)
  • Grumpy cat (older Asian tourist in Pai)
  • Affection what a terrible emotion to give (young girl on flight from Chiang Mai to Phuket)
  • “Today is the day” (middle-aged woman in Ko Phi Phi)
  • Summer remedial reading 2011 (man on Ko Lanta )
  • Cheap gang (middle aged man phi phi )

I’m in favor of starting of movement of balancing the scales. If English, in all it’s forms – musical, fashion, entertainment -, has to overrun other cultures, I vote for us to change the scene stateside. Who is in favor of finding awkward or incorrect phrases in Turkish or Swahili and distributing them? Me! Who else? I’ll be expecting your message.

It’s about time other languages got their fair share of credit. And it’s our time to write something incorrectly. My only hope is that a Turkish tourist will visit the U.S., see our new fashion statement, and go home to write about “how stupid the Americans really are.” Dreaming big here.

Top photo: A decoration I saw in Pai, Thailand. Doesn’t make sense, but A for effort and A++ for spreading love and appreciation!