Travel: Hauling a 2- and 4-year old through 6 countries in 8 weeks

As we were leaving the region to move back home, I did a consultancy that took me to several capital cities to review national health programs. It was a great opportunity for all of us to say goodbye to friends, colleagues and places we've frequented over the past decade. So we packed up the house and shipped, sold or gave away our belongings, and took the kids on a two month journey through Southeast Asia. … [Read more...]

Insect cuisine: Ongkrong saek koo (Beef stir fry with red tree ant larvae)

The first time I had this dish was in Kampot, at a small stall by the side of a building away from the busy center of town. I loved it! Then one night I sat underneath a particularly bright light source and saw all the ants in my meal. After my initial shock, I managed to have a civil conversation with my Khmer colleagues about the food they had me eating. These ants lend a tangy taste to dishes, especially when paired with meats in a stir fry. I did end up finishing my meal that night, getting over it very quickly. All manner of insects make it onto the menu in Cambodia, so psychologically-speaking it wasn't the worst thing I've ever eaten, and besides it was rather good. There are several names for this ant -- Fire ants, Red tree ants, … [Read more...]

gray hair is cool

Several women in my family went prematurely gray, and since they were not slaves to the beauty industry I knew from an early age those strands which society hates so much would pop out soon. Sure enough, at the age of 12, they started. Remarks were plenty, but none (that got to my ears) were patronising about my choice to leave it be. (Frankly, the thought of that carcinogenic sludge on my hair or skin was less the attractive option than staying salt-n-pepper, never mind the time sink of perpetual coloring sessions.) Here in Southeast Asia, with the role of women as they are (subservient, servile, invisible unless spoken to), the pressure to look good is greater, which explains why the taboo of gray hair is so much worse than it is back … [Read more...]

Past Plagues Are Prologue

Disease is a fascinating study, a microbiological commentary and defensive mechanism to the stresses placed on our socio-economic environment. Given the Avian Flu situation here in SE Asia, I thought I’d dig up an article by Andrew Nikiforuk. It’s a well-written piece geared at the Toronto policymakers in response to the SARS scare several years ago. But in light of recent announcements by WHO on the possible pandemic Avian Flu presents, the editorial still bears relevance. Past Plagues are Prologue by Andrew Nikiforuk edited 10 Feb 2010: since the above link no longer works, here it is re-posted: Epidemics always teach us something, says author ANDREW NIKIFORUK. One SARS lesson is that we're too dependent on hospitals - which … [Read more...]