The Non-Local’s Guide to Drinking Like a Local

(If you’re here after reading that interview with WordPress, then I apologize. You were mislead. Although being complimented for a witty writing style is  uh, a compliment, it’s also an absolute falsehood. If anything, I inconsistently post about camels, and brunches, and make references to bands I hope only a select few with understand. You’ve been warned.) 

It might be Monday. No wait, it’s definitely Thursday. There’s probably no sense in trying to remember. You’re drinking to forget it, anyways.

The area doesn’t matter. Downtown bars, an overworked financial district, that shady alleyway between your favourite barbeque place and your wife’s most recent hair dresser. You’re not going to a “bar district” or really, a place with any sort of atmosphere at all for that matter. You’re choosing a bar based on its proximity between work and home. Halfway is ideal but being particular is not of this time. By now, the only decision you’ll be making is choosing between the blue and red plastic picnic sets which can comfortably seat about four but will inevitably be crowded with the entire accounting department before the night’s end.

You loosen your tie. It has small rhinestones sewn into its diagonal pattern. It was a present from your wife’s mother. The baby pink is a little much but you wear it anyways. You still don’t know if it was a thoughtful gift from the in-laws or a malicious attempt to make you look more feminine in your buddies’ iPhone pictures. Soon, you’ll be too drunk to care.

Given it’s a weeknight/ weekend/ any day at all, drinking is not something that is eased into. But it’s not a race either. It’s a matter of fact activity. And it has to be done.

You’re comfortable with your position at the table. Not nearly the oldest but middle-rung enough that others still (falsely) believe you to have seniority. This works wonders in the office but becomes truly beneficial during these post-work gatherings. Strategically, you have placed yourself next to the company’s newest hire. You know for a fact you’re 5 years his senior. He is a recent microbiology engineering graduate. This is his first benefits included, I’m-already-regretting-this, full-time gig. What this basically means is he’s attentive, goal-driven, and eager to please. He’ll do anything to secure his spot among the thrones of the picnic table seat of state. He foolishly believes that he has a future in middle management. You don’t have to fill your glass once because of this.

Grilled pieces of meat are ordered and cooked. Garlic cloves, red pepper paste, a couple sides of kimchi. Wrapped together in sesame leaves, you pop golf ball-sized portions into your mouth two at a time. Hmm, golf. That doesn’t sound like such a bad idea. You present the option of a round of simulation golf once the meal is finished. With Korea having the largest population of indoor golf centers in the world, you know there has got to be a joint around here somewhere.

The idea quickly becomes fleeting as three green branded bottles are brought to the table. Soju. There’s no point in trying to describe this beverage as “something like vodka but worse.” It translates literally to burnt alcohol, and most who consume it drift into this delayed catatonic state of uselessness and incapability. It will take about 30 minutes for the effects to truly set in but until then, you feel content, rosy, and yearning for another.

There are a group of foreigners at the adjoining table. They’ve chosen this spot because the pretzels are the freshest in the neighbourhood. They haven’t eaten dinner and will probably just continue to snack on these salty twines because the waitress is so damn attentive and refuses to catch glimpse of the bottom of the bowl. The same goes with the pints.

Your English skills are still pretty admirable, considering you’re on your fourth pint. You ask where they’re from and then enthusiastically tell them all about your 2-day visit to Niagara Falls when they reply “Canada.” They nod in politeness. But suddenly they are speaking too fast. Like clockwork, the effects of soju have hit and your brain can no longer conjugate the verb “be.” Your fingers aren’t much help either as you attempt to translate simple conversational questions on your phone.

They become disinterested. You become insufferable.

Time passes and you’re stumbling into the bathroom with three of your buddies. Strength in numbers, right?

Someone has to catch the last subway home. The new hire is too heavily engaged in a fast-paced texting conversation which you believe, judging from the amount of heart emoticons being sent back-and-forth, to be his girlfriend. Your glass is empty.

You search for your own phone and fumble with the attached microchip. The occupation of key-cutter has long been phased out since the introduction of key codes and plastic chips. This serves as a key to your home and the ultimate access to your bed. It slips through your fingers once more. Why did they make these so ridiculously small? You open your Galaxy III or Universe I or whatever phone has now been marketed as the smartest. It does more than just tell the time, but that’s all you really need it for right now. 3:23 AM. Shit.

Your co-workers pile into cabs. Some pausing to release the contents of their stomachs before making the journey home. You dodge piles of red and pink as you cross the street and hail your own.

You lean your head back on the fancy pleather interior of the taxi. You mentally prepare yourself for tomorrow’s work day. You have already justified the purchase of one of those overpriced hangover-cure drinks that leave your teeth coated in sugar and your gut too rotted to remember the fact that you have just spent the last four hours filling it with burnt alcohol.

You crack your eyes open just in time to see your apartment building pass by. Shrieking loudly, the cab driver halts and demands the fare. You’re home.

Farms, Forks, and Foreigners: Eating Locally on the Road

Given the opportunity, I would have eaten palak paneer for every meal while in India.

No wait, that’s not true.

Given the opportunity, I would have self-constructed an IV-drip bag of the pureed green goodness and pumped my veins full of that stuff every time I was feeling low on vitamin D, cumin, or anything else blended into that glory bowl of curry.

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A Diwali Story (minus Ralphie Parker and the Red Ryder BB Gun)

Diwali is the Christmas of India.

Except with a lot more fireworks.

And you know, probably a few less Ferrero Rochers.

And since most Christmas evenings end with me gripping my stomach and rolling around in hazelnut-overdose agony whilst simultaneously surrounded by gold tinfoil wrappers, this whole firework-Ferrero trade-off is completely fine by me.

I mean yes, most holidays get exponentially better when they include golf ball-sized servings of whipped chocolate. And yes, these chocolates only seem to taste that much better when arranged in pyramid formation to resemble a seasonal Evergreen tree….

But again, Diwali has fireworks.

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The Do’s (and More Do’s) of Camel Riding in Jaisalmer

English’s greatest flaw is its use of directive language. 

Well, that and letting words like “irregardless” slide into our vocabulary to replace “regardless” without a second thought that they pretty much mean THE SAME THING.

Anyways, directive language.

I hate it.

And I’m sure you do to. (Or, at the very least, you were once just a little resistant to the whole idea of verbs like do, come, see, and go being your first set of instructions as a child.) And if in fact that’s the case, your youthfulness is calling…it misses you!

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Traveling as a Veg and the Solution to Charades

There’s no denying that when you travel, you are very likely to acquire a new and extremely valuable skill set.

No, it’s not the ability to fall asleep just about anywhere. And no, it’s not an increased aptitude for knowing where the best drink specials are, or even the closest (but really, cleanest) toilet.

 And it’s definitely not a knack for always remembering to stuff every available pocket full of napkins and toilet paper at restaurants which just happen to provide these luxuries for uh, free of charge.

It’s a new set of skills which will only increase your confidence as a traveler, make conversations with the locals more enjoyable, and confirm without a shadow of a doubt that you are in fact, a foreigner in a land very unlike your own.

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Failing to Meditate: My 5 days at an ashram in Rishikesh

“We’re staying in an ashram for 5 days on the skirts of the Himalayas. There’s no internet. Whatevs. I’m totally going to throw my mind, body, and soul a serious curveball, here.”

I ended an email with this threat to my meditative self, said a mental farewell to shotty internet connections, and made  my way across the Lakshman Jhula bridge in Rishikesh to an ashram in the yogi-centric part of town.

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Talad Rot Fai in Bangkok (Or maybe, Reasons Why Abandoned Stuff is the Coolest)

Geoje Island is South Korea’s second largest island.

And until this whole toothbrush thing really started, it was also my “home” for a little more than a year.

But beyond that silly lil’ quotation-marked italicized h-word, Geoje Island had something that only a few other places could list under their “must-see attractions” category.

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The Time He Fell in Love in Pai

“I think I just found heaven on earth,” he slurred in a thick South African accent as he slid two mojitios across the table.

He had only been in Pai for four days, the same length as myself.

After arriving with his girlfriend and scoring himself a job at arguably the sweetest bar in Pai, he giddily bounced from table to table.

From his willingness, almost eagerness, to make some serious grandiose statements about this paradise of a place nestled high in the Northern mountains of Thailand, it all seemed pretty obvious.

It was clear he was in love. 

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The Time in Ayutthaya with the Ruins: A Photo Essay on How to Get Lost

Now don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against Bangkok. Actually, I think I really like it.

However, I think it is kind of secretly telling that after less than 12 hours in the city, we were already pre-booking tickets to Chiang Mai for two days later.

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Questioning my Credibility at a Filipino Cockfight

I’ve been the dictionary-definition of a vegetarian (with varying degrees of veganism) for the last 4 or so years. And even though I can sometimes be strict with my daily intake of all things that make farm noises, I still wouldn’t really label myself as a vegetarian.

Labeling anything is a risky business. Labeling your own habits, motives, and consumption of farm noises…is even riskier. Plus, I’m probably not a veg for the “right” reasons. Sure, my moccasin footprint is smaller, my grocery bills are cheaper, and I have a legitimate excuse for refusing my mom’s chicken pot pie. But at the same, there are probably people out there with better reasons. You know, more legit reasons for becoming, practicing, and remaining a veg.

More passionate reasons.

More activist-like reasons.

More motivating reasons.

(Don’t get me wrong. I dabbled in the whole veg activism thing for a moment or two. I once even got a free sticker that proclaimed “Meat is Murder!” It helped seal my shotty battery into my cell phone. Functional advocacy at its best, I s’pose. )

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