It’s Time for the Best Of 2012 Awards!

Welcome to the Best Of 2012 Awards! And congrats on surviving reading my posts for the past year!   

How do I sum up these crazy past months? If it were a Mastercard ad, it’d look something like this:

Three pieces of Maltese filigree jewelry: 27 Euros

Feeding Coop on a monthly basis: 14% of India’s national budget

Working and traveling through 9 countries, contracting at least 2 diseases, being on crutches for 50 days in a country already notorious for its non-sidewalks, standing where no foreigner has stood before, somersaulting down sand mountains, eating wild honeycomb, having Helen Mirren give your dress the once-over in the ladies’ room, and becoming a sought-after palm reader in northern India: priceless

That said, here are the best, the worst, and the why-did-you-feel-it-necessary-to-tell-us-that awards for 2012.



Most awkward moment: I mean, everything. When none of the sarees at the wedding fit me? Picking apart the maggot-infested eggplants incorrectly? Having a stranger come up to you on the street and pull your Indian kurta down because you’re offending everyone? Being hit on by a married man–in front of all his relatives? Accidentally interrupting everyone at the temple who has come to get a blessing just because you’re a foreigner? Sinking into mud while rice farming because you weigh twice as much as the next man and woman combined? Explaining to your hosts that you can’t eat something because you’ll get massive diarrhea if you do? Saying no to a marriage proposal? I dunno, you tell me.

Most incredible view: Waking up with nomads to see snow-capped Himalayan peaks turn pink in the sunrise.

Best thing I ate: You expect me to list one thing? You gotta be kidding me. Here are a few of my favs: 

Malaysia: Roti Canai with beef and chicken curry dip, of course           

India: Sweet green onion-potato curry served with soft pouri; upma; peanuts from Ahmedabad, which were so good I had to give myself a daily ration. Until I noticed half of them had grubs inside (well, they tasted delicious at the time!); my coworker’s sister’s red pepper eggplant mash. Looked like poop, tasted awesome

Malta: Sfine?? bl-irkotta ??elwa (sweet ricotta-stuffed mini éclairs drenched in local honey). Ahhhh maaah gaaaawsh

The event people cannot stop talking about: Me in a dress at the red carpet 2012 European Film Awards. Compliments ranged from “not masculine” to “almost feminine.”

Best wildlife moment: Wild elephants that came out of the blue and stormed into a clearing below us–seen while hiking up a monolith in India. I mean, come on!

Only thought about my life: Wait, I have one?

Place to never visit again: Bangalore. Saw some pretty terrible stuff there, and plus, the city has little to offer in terms of being unique. Unless you want to try the McTikka “burger,” of course.

Moment I realized I was a cat lady: That did not happen in 2012.

When I came home from Malta, I was delighted to see… that my (much younger) little brother was loving college and not gaining too much more than the freshman fifty.

When I came home from Malta, I was saddened to see…that my mother was watching Gangnam Style.

Best comment from your boss: Me, to my boss while driving: “Have you noticed that there are a disproportionate number of, uh, little people on this island?” My boss: “You mean midgets? There must be a nest or something.”

Thing I’m still shocked about: How NYers are still the most interesting and simultaneously obnoxious people of the world. I need to get out of here.

Most uncomfortable sleep: That time in the Himalayas when I was sleeping in a hut with hay and no one who spoke a single word of English and then in the middle of the night a cow broke loose and wanted to snuggle and burst in and trampled our feet and because it was pitch black no one knew what was happening but because it was Asia no one particularly cared that some of us were now missing limbs and stuff. Yeah.

Best thing I never ate: The combo fried horse, quail, and rabbit platter. I think it was served with rice and cole slaw.

Most accurate word on what the Thai locals thought of me: Godzirra!

Best scuba diving experience: That was probably in Malta on the Um El Faroud, when we dove in and out of this underwater playground (as in the galley, an exploded part of the ship, a ladder escape, staircases) and then jumped off the bow of the boat, sinking down slowly to 35 meters in the most pure blue waters. Man, what a dive.

Best name: One of my students in India had the name Saddam Husen. I’m serious. We still chat online, and he’s such a lovely guy—and we have the same birthday. Adorable.

Best attempt at lowering my self-esteem: While a co-worker/friend (also from America) and I were visiting a student’s home, the guy’s uncle came out to meet us. He chatted for a few minutes, then looked down at us and back up. “You are fat,” he said. “What?” I asked, surprised at the sudden turn of events. “Fat. You’re fat. F…A…T.” he spelled out, assuming my “What?” had been me not understanding what he was saying. I tried to hold in my laughter, but it’s still a running joke there. If you get offended easily, do not come here. 

Worst thing I ate: Santol, a tree fruit with the texture of cotton balls and an aftertaste of acid. When mixed with fish sauce, shrimp paste, cilantro, red pepper, and other goodies, the result is, I mean, how could it possibly be anything but horrendous? I tried it two different times, two bites each. Trust me. Don’t do it.

Best statistic: In 2012 I slept in 65 different places.

Best comment on that statistic: “Well, that’s less than a HOBO.”

Best crisis averted: I almost didn’t get gelato in Italy. But then, just minutes before I had to catch my train to the Pisa airport, I found a place and got half cream biscuit/half amaretto cherry, as picked by the guy serving me. My look of ecstasy at eating ice cream around 11:30 in the morning must have shown on my face, for two bikers whizzing past saw my cone, shouted, and nearly crashed. Awesome.

Thanks for reading! Here’s to the unknown of 2013…let’s hope it’s good.



PHOTOS – Florida – (not my photography) – trip for food, fun, and bizarre activities


Well, what can I possibly say about this trip? It was pretty darn awesome in very odd ways. By now you probably have realized that I enjoy the not-so-touristy aspects of traveling. Why spend time on the tourist strip when you can get to know the locals, go hiking on the hidden trails, and eat at the neighborhood spots? So you can probably guess that when I took my older brother Timothy to Florida this December as his birthday present, it wasn’t to go to Disney World.

No, I had gotten us plane, car, buffet, and concert tickets to see one of the biggest oddity performances, brought to you by American culture. It was called the Singing Christmas Trees, and the story as to why this was the worst/best birthday ever is too long and unique to post here. Just trust me when I tell you it was a bizarre, sacreligious performance in the most religious of places. I, actually, am a very privately religious (or spiritual, if you like) person, but to me, this celebration of 250 people singing in a tree was a joke, and we were the only folks who had traveled that far to…well, not cry tears of joy. Out of (some) respect, I will post only one photo of the fiasco.

Other news: We had three buffets in two days, saw a wild armadillo, ate way too much other food, went swimming in a natural springs not 200 feet from alligators, went to a shooting range, saw megachurches, played mini-golf (my brother’s favorite), realized that Florida is the South, met some very sketchy rednecks, raced on a triple-decker go-kart track, and did so much more.

Many of the locals were not helpful.


“Excuse me, but where would you recommend eating breakfast around here?”

“Denny’s. Or McDonald’s.”

These are not my photos, but I hope you’ll enjoy them all the same. Timothy took hundreds of photos, but I’m saving you some time and vomit by only showing you 13 precious ones. You should start to get concerned around photo one. We visited some odd places that were definitely not on any tourist track. Nor should they be.

Photo captions labeled by number:

(1) It’s a pickled egg. No, it was not tasty.

(2) “Drink.” The noun, not the verb.

(3) Crosses on Christmas trees (with people singing inside!).

(4) An assortment of breakfast foodstuffs at the grill-your-own-pancakes state park.

(5) I was enjoying eating. And bringing the ’80s back, apparently.

(6) The water temperature was NOT a constant 72 degrees, contrary to the literature.

(7) Pork Uteri from the mega Vietnamese store we spent a lot of time exploring.

(8) My great friend Billy drove up to visit! I killed him on the go-karts, however, especially because some drunk gal rear-ended him and he spun around the opposite way.

(9) My bro. Goat head. Mexican store. That’s all you need to know.

(10) Me on the shooting range. I was able to get 5/5 in the bullseye after a one-hour lesson!

(11) Timothy looks like a killer.

(12) The hushpuppies on this plate were absolutely incredible. We were so inspired, we made our own version for Christmas dinner. Not quite as good, but with a chipotle mayo, why the heck not?

(13) It’s a drive-through liquor mart. I guess Florida state legislators puzzled over how to raise the number of DUIs before coming up with this genius business. Crikes, man.

My Southeast Asia Trip Part 9 (But I’ve still got one more a’comin’. Note, not trip)! .

Hi everyone!

I was planning on sending an update while still in Vietnam, but alas, I didn’t have time to type anything before my flight left. I flew from Vietnam to Taiwan to Alaska to New York. It was a long and strange flight path to be sure, but just smelling that Palin-Alaskan air renewed my spirit and made me want to go shoot a moose and/or have an illicit baby, so believe it or not, I’m HOME! I spent one night in the city, then came up to where my folks live in good ol’ Pleasant Valley. I ate a lot. I started telling stories, then realized that I had written a good many letters home that I could share instead. Some got forwarded here anyway, so I have quite a few to share. I thought I’d get them out and show them to you just so you get a peek into some of my more personal rantings.

Oh, and here’s one more thing I’ve got to share, because I think it’s fascinating. Did you know that Christmas is huge in Vietnam? I mean huge. There are decorations nearly everywhere, holiday pajamas being worn, and salesgirls wearing filtration masks and dressed in prosticute little santa-ess dresses that barely reach the mid-thigh. It’s a naughty version of Christmas that just seems wrong. You know what’s even more wrong? The Vietnamese singing Christmas carols. You can order up your special holiday music performed just for you in one of two incredible ways: Sung in Vietnamese and syllabically misaligned, or, even better, sung in English like this:

Jin-gle bews, Jing-gle bews,
Jin-gle aw da way,
Oh whas Ph??? is is to rie
In a one hohse o-pen say, HEY!

It’s a terrible experience. Reading my note can’t be much worse. Enjoy!

Dear French people,
It’s not that you’re trying to be rude. It’s just that you’re in your own little world of superiority. You don’t even notice other people, and it’s almost as if you walk through us than past us. Normally when meeting people I can have a normal conversation and decide if you’re interesting or not. With you, it’s like you’re in a members-only la-la land. You definitely rub people the wrong way. You’re weird.

Dear Cambodia,
You are a place where futures are today and careers are hammock lounging. Even the monks seem to be lazy, doing their morning alms at 9, 10, or even 11 in the morning. When I see markets in any country, my heart starts beating faster as I always want to jump in and see what I can find. Here, in your country, I have no desire to. Everything is the same. You don’t even try to look different, setting up every stall alike. I know what you’re selling from 50 feet away and because there are only about 10 dishes to choose from in the entire country, I’ve had whatever you’re hawking many times before, which still doesn’t make it tasty. Other than your complete lack of enthusiasm for life, you also alienate everyone with your constant request for money and your most obnoxious taxi/tuk-tuk/moto drivers. Never before have I not wanted to get out and explore a city so much as in your capital city, Phnom Penh. Not only was there almost nothing to see, but the constant harassment one faced by simply walking outside was enough to make me want to stay inside. The fact that you people wage light physical assaults on your own kind in order to sell a $1 soda makes me feel a little bit better, but still makes me sad. As does the fact that there are always about eight of you all hired to do a one-person job. Look, I know you went through terrible times. I cannot even begin to imagine what the older generation of your country went through and lives with to this day. But at some point you have to have a reason for living, a purpose, something your country is known for other than a huge ruin that’s been there for centuries. Your current generation has to do something you can be proud of, or make use of, or something, don’t you think? While I understand how your horrific background has resulted in your complacency today, your in-your-face hunger for money simply alienates me, you’re full of no innovation, and you offer little that surrounding countries don’t do better. I’m sorry to say this, but I have no desire to visit you again.

Dear Vietnam,
Compared to Cambodia, you are a futuristic country. You have such modern marvels as:

Things to do
Toilets and showers that aren’t merged closer than Siamese twins
Activities involving things other than sitting in a hammock
Styles other than pajamas
Places to go
The habit of brushing one’s teeth
Visitors other than the French
A few more things

But for you and Cambodia both, every single place is looked at not as a place of beauty, or a place to respect or be proud of, but as another money opportunity. I suppose that once again I can’t blame you too much for wanting money, but that doesn’t mean I can’t complain. You aggressively try to get tourist dollars at any and all points along a trip. At the beginning of a boat trip. On the boat. In the middle of the boat trip, when I’m stuck in a floating tourist trap. Before I get on the bus, just in case I changed my mind in the last 14.1 seconds and do want to purchase that giant tablecloth. Oh, we need a bathroom break? We’ll get out at this rest stop for 20 minutes, and that’s not to relieve anyone of the oddly settled meal we may have had the other night, but to get us to roam a handicrafts store and purchase something out of boredom, which I refuse.
On your good side, you have several things going for you. First, I’m always shocked that you can smile and welcome us Americans. Perhaps it’s because you won the war, but the fact that you don’t hate me and are able to treat me like everyone else is really shocking. I keep expecting an attitude change once your people learn that I’m from the previous enemy country, but apparently you have forgiven.
You have absolutely stunning views all over. My train trip gave me a look into the side that tourists don’t see too often, that is, your raw, wild countryside. It definitely makes me want to go back, but next time, take it easy on trying to get my money, will you?

Dear Kenny G,
I still don’t know why you exist.

Dear Tourist,
Sure you want to travel, to explore the world. That’s fine and all, but I bet you could get a lot more done if you didn’t spend a good chunk of your time bragging about where you’ve been and how many countries you’ve crossed off your list. Hint: You haven’t seen a country just because you’ve visited or even lived in the largest city for a while. In what way is that representative of a country, its land, its people? Oh, so you know exactly what the U.S. is like because you’ve visited NYC, eh? Goodness, try really seeing a country for what it really is.
If you enjoy taking the common tours and seeing the sites, that’s fine and dandy. I’m not saying I’m better than you, or that you’re a bad person. Just don’t pretend or tell others that you’re breaking new ground and seeing “undiscovered” places. You’re never gonna find ’em, and you know why? Because you, like everyone else, are using your Lonely Planet guide. “Oh, Lonely Planet is the best out there, and I really trust it.” That’s all well and good, but not only does Lonely Planet accept bribes for higher placement in its tour books (as I’m sure all of the guidebook companies do), but everyone, and I mean that almost literally, has them. Out of the hundreds and hundreds of people I’ve seen with guidebooks, only three, that’s right, three, have had a non-Lonely Planet guide. These three were all French, because the French are so superior that they also have their own guidebook. Essentially, what this means is that all of you travelers are reading the exact same thing. This means you’re all reading the same “secrets,” all going to the same “rarely visited” places, etc. And you think you’re exploring? The real adventurers I met were the couple who biked from England to Vietnam. The young woman who snuck into Tibet several times. The guy working several years in countries from Estonia to Fiji. If you want to do the normal stuff, that’s fine. Just don’t go telling me that you’re forging new territory, because you’re not at all. “Oh, we’re going our own way and doing the tour ourselves!” you say proudly, knowing you’re truly an explorer. You’re not, really. Sure, you’re taking the more challenging, exciting, and risky route, but you’re still all going to the exact same place in the end, doing the same thing, and haggling for prices with the same tourist-familiar guides. You know what village life is like because you slept over for a night. You witnessed a “real” tribal dance. You did this and that. Sorry, but even the government admits that these things are all set up to get tourist dollars, and that these ceremonies are rarely performed for real.
I’m not saying you’re not having fun, or not seeing things, or that you’re a bad person, or need to change your ways. I’m just saying, dude, don’t make it seem like you’ve actually explored, or gone off the beaten path, or met the real people of the country. Because, as it turns out, you haven’t been a trendsetter, but rather a follower like nearly everyone else.

Dear Cats,
You think your life is so tough, don’t you? Sometimes when you’re sleeping for your 25th hour of the day, one of your masters makes you get up and move to another couch. Or worse yet, you only get half of the tuna drippings. If it isn’t one thing, it’s another. Well you know what? Try thinking of those less fortunate than you. The cats in Thailand and Malaysia get their tails chopped off for good luck. Sometimes they get them knotted and then chopped, leaving one heck of a demented-looking stub. Few cats escape without such treatment. So consider that next time you whine about not having your premium Kibbles ‘n’ Bits served to you in a crystal goblet.

Dear Mom,
Seriously, you really thought I’d lose weight?

Dear Karaoke,
It’s amazing what you say about a country. Somehow, through your corny music, you manage to represent the very being of every place I visited.
For you, Thailand, it’s mostly just happy music, though 99% of the time it’s about searching for love. Your country is infatuated with this constant search for love, but your tradition says you’re not allowed to show any of this love in public, so you don’t even kiss your hubby goodbye in the morning. Still, in the land of smiles, it’s the anyone-can-sing-as-long-as-he/she-wants, happy-go-lucky approach. Just like the country, in Thailand you represent happiness, a search for love, and a low-stress way of life.
For Malaysia, oh right, Islamic women aren’t really supposed to sing, so what few karaoke places there are remain dominated by male singers. One karaoke incident there recently featured two men who were arrested for the murder of Abdul Sani Doli, a man who apparently sang too long and got penalized for hogging the microphone. Messed up. I haven’t heard your music, but despite the natural beauty of your country, your corrupt government and the slightly peculiar ways of your people unfortunately describe you to a T.
When you play in Cambodia, you’re rather pathetic, and the fact that no one actually sings to you is quite sadly bizarre. Your music videos are a stretch, to be polite. Pretty much every video features the same stage full of people (often looking uninterested) and doing the same slow dance. They don’t even look happy when the low-def. camera is featuring them! I know the Khmer people went through a horrific event, but after 30 years, can’t someone try something unique? In this country, you really show yourself as the dull, uncreative, stuck-in-the-medieval-times country you are.
When in Vietnam, you are screechy and obnoxious, but varied. You show your soft side and your tough side. Not just a tad in-your-face, the Vietnamese version of you plays fairly nonstop. I’m not sure if it’s more or less palatable than the Cambodian version, but given that the Vietnamese language is pitch-based, I’m going to hand the annoying prize to Vietnam. At one point I really thought I was going to join the deaf community with your fingernails-on-chalkboard squawking. Your music in Vietnam is just like the country. Diverse, tough, victorious, yearning, and more.
All in all, I’m not a fan of your musi. But the ability for a country to display its personality through your medium is quite fascinating.

Dear Dead People,
Sometimes you’re open to new suggestions, and sometimes you’re not. I mean, when you’re alive. Well, I just want to help educate the public, and inform you that you now have two choices for burial. The Southeast Asian special is a more typical burial style, involving less luxury but more freedom of choice. Of course, you’re dead, so you ain’t got no choice, but hear me out. You can have your typical Southeast Asian burial where you’re wrapped in a simple cloth, placed maybe a foot underground, and given a huge stone coffin box to mark your spot. And you’re placed on a hill. If you’re in Vietnam when your time comes, hopefully you don’t mind sitting amidst the rice, because that’s where you’ll be. Cost of option one: your life.
But for a special offer of only 27 payments of $39.99 (plus shipping, handling, and your life), you can get bathed, dressed, and placed in a shelf-stable wooden coffin. And buried below the ground, not on a hill, because unlike the simple burial, please do realize that with any Poltergeist-like flood, ol’ granny cakes could come a’rollin’ through the front door wearing little clothing. And that’s just not cool.

Dear Temporary Mom in Malaysia,
You were so kind and generous in sharing your home, your family, your food. You taught me so much and helped me learn about your country and your people while I lived with you. But then you turned a tad crazy, playing the blame game, going on many a rant, and insisting you didn’t know hugely important bits of info related to, oh, life and/or my safety. I admire you tremendously, but yeah, you’re sort of crazy, and the fascination with mopping will always confuse me. It’s a somewhat useless, vicious cycle. You and all of Southeast Asia have this no-shoes rule, which is commonly known. But then you do the whole mopping thing, which causes me to slip and fall, and really doesn’t serve a purpose. You see, mopping removes hardened dirt and sticky stuff. Hardened dirt and sticky stuff occur when stuff gets dirty while wet. This doesn’t occur in normal conditions. But when you mop, it leaves the floor wet, and then the dirt accumulates from bare feet – no matter how clean – walking on a wet surface. You therefore have to keep mopping and mopping since you don’t ever let the floor dry before re-nastying it up. Also P.S., mopping doesn’t actually CLEAN. It redistributes things like dirt particles, crumbs, and hairs. Sweeping was invented for a reason. But thanks for making it completely nasty every time I walked in your house and especially your bathroom.

Dear Village in Thailand,
I complained about you left and right. Your food was terrible and I didn’t feel as useful as I could have been. Except for those things, though, you were exactly what I wanted. During my first week there, I went for a walk, turned a corner, and gasped at your beauty. Never before have I nearly hyperventilated at a view, but I did just that. Living there was stress-free. No computers, no hassles, no unnecessary anything. You knew these things existed but kept life simple and pure. We practically lived off the land, but with a few modern conveniences, such as electricity. Your people were very kind. Your teachers, very dedicated. The food outside your village, delicious. The rest of Thailand, absolutely beautiful. I may have complained while I was there, but you are what I thought about during the rest of my trip, and you’re what I wanted to go back to. I felt so safe, calm, and comfortable in this place so completely opposite my world. You are the most gorgeous place I have ever visited, and I will never forget you.

Dear Thailand Music Videos,
Just thought I’d drop you a line telling you that I really, really love your music videos. The fact that the people lip syncing and performing the songs are not the actual singers is a terrific idea, because who wouldn’t want to see Kid Rock act out a Nickelback song?

Well that’s all for now. You thought you’d escape with this being my last note, but no, I’ve got a summary coming next week. It just wouldn’t be proper to leave without reaching my full annoying potential, so you’ll be getting one more note from me.

And to answer your question, pizza was the first thing I meant to eat when I landed, but my brother brought me a brownie which was so good that I teared up. I’m not even kidding.

It’s really time to go now. There are people to talk to, lounging around to do, and, oh, a life plan to figure out at some point. But not now. Time to go and fill my hungry stomach with pure, fatty goodness.

For the second to last time,

My Southeast Asia Trip Part 7 (and I didn’t get eaten by a tiger)!

Hello all,

Well, it’s just about time to leave Cambodia. I didn’t even get a chance to go to Laos, which I had included in my itinerary, but that’s all right. My revised schedule now gives me more time in Vietnam, so I won’t complain. Yet.

Ok, so now it’s time for the “What are you going to annoy us with this time, Coop?” portion. Which is, to say, this entire note. Well, ladies, gentlemen, and hermaphrodites, it’s time to truly do something interactive. Remember those practice SAT tests you used to have to take? Yes, it’s test time. Please keep track of your score so that you can be sure to feel bad after an undoubtedly poor performance. Don’t worry; there are hints, answer keys, and even explanations so that next time, when it really counts, you don’t fail so badly. Not that you’re going to do poorly.

Because of the nature of the practice questions, the number of answers might range from two to five. Sure, this might affect your probability of getting a problem right by guessing, but then again, you should be relying on skills and not guessing, right? So many excuses, and you haven’t even started the test. Gotta improve your atttitude, dude.

Let’s start, shall we? Try not to exceed 40 minutes per question.

*****TEST START*****

Please pick the best answer:

1. Most wrong food seen since day 1 of my trip:
a. Fried cockroaches
b. Live skinned frog
c. Alaska reindeer dog
d. Sardinian maggot cheese

2. Newest dessert crisis:
a. Not having it
b. Having real sugar used instead of corn syrup
c. Lumps of odd jelly-coconut-rice concoctions topped with shaved ice and a raw egg

3. If you enjoy those holes in mini-golf where you hit the ball, it disappears into one
of several chambers, and then comes out in a surprise location and usually seems to
roll way right of the hole, then…
a. You should try hitting into a different chamber next time
b. You should have one a free game
c. You totally spelled “one” wrong there, idiot, but I guess spell check is always right, so nevermind
d. Mini-golf is exactly like real golf, right?
e. You’ll love bathrooms and sinks in Southeast Asia because when something goes down the
drain, you never know where or when it will re-emerge. I got a surprise the other day.

4. Euphamisms used by non-English speaking individuals, translated, and referring to
a. “Big girl!”
b. “You have a big daughter”
c. “Strong”
d. “Sir”
e. All of the above

5. Decade my hair is in on this trip:
a. The 90s
b. The 00s, which don’t sound cool
c. It will always be stuck in the 80s

Answer key, problems 1-5:
(c) A and B were expected, but the reindeer dog still scares me. D doesn’t exist here, silly. But it does exist.

(c) A raw egg. Come on!

(e) Just let it be and where protective clothing next time.

(e) Old news

(c) (Don’t) look at any photo of me to verify


6. Worst retaliation at a roadside stop:
a. Being called a cracker
b. Being told you’re pretty
c. Being cut in line many times when you really gotta go
d. Having a live tarantula put on you if you don’t buy fruit or bugs from the whining young hawkers

7. Horns, which are used on a basis of about 6 honks per minute, honk in what two
a. m2 and octave
b. P4 and P5
c. M3 and tri-tone
d. unison and m6

8. The game show, “Let’s Stare at the White Chick” is not an actual show played in
which countries?
a. Just Malaysia
b. Just Cambodia
c. Just Thailand
d. All of the countries above, plus America and every other country I’ve ever visited

9. Cambodian food is so varied and unique, it’s as inventive as…
a. Dyson was for vacuums
b. Swiffer was for brooms
c. Something else really inventive that’s not cleaning-related
d. It’s not varied or unique at all. It’s boring as eep.

10. Cambodian food is so repetitive and unflavorful, in fact, that to see a food one
hasn’t yet seen by the third day in the country means…
a. You’re dead
b. You’re deaf, but since this has nothing to do with it, you have no taste buds.
c. You’re blind
d. You’re both deaf and blind
e. Though warranted, it’s unfair to insert a Helen Keller joke here, given that the woman
accomplished far more than most of us every will, starting research organizations, campaigning for
civil rights and liberties, travelling the world, becoming an author, and much more.
f. Insert Helen Keller joke here.

Answer key, problems 6-10:
(d) The Khmer food at the Ithaca Farmer’s Market is a million times better than the stuff here. Plus, there’s variety, which is something the people here don’t quite understand.

(a) Duh.

(d) Obviously.

(d) Yeah, it’s unfortunate. I was excited the first day, but quickly realized that everything after that was the same.

(e) Be prepared to tell me an awesome Helen Keller joke to redeem your point


11. Thailand is lacking in bread : crime ::
a. I am lacking in portion control : sad
b. Cambodia is lacking in everything : life
c. Just a and d
d. Just a and b


12. I’m exactly 12 hours ahead of EST.
a. True
b. False

13. I really, truly, have finally gotten a tan.
a. False
b. False


Okay, so this is really obnoxious, but it only gets worse from here. Start your practice timer now after a 15-minute snack break, preferably during which you should consume some type of food you know I can’t eat here and then brag about it in some RE: email.



13. If you’re on a bus in Cambodia and there are two motos and a car in front of you
going 83 km/hour, plus a truck coming towards you at 91 km/hour, what will your
bus driver do if he’s only capable of accelerating 3 km/second and there are only
114 metres between the first moto and the oncoming truck?

a. Pull out a calculator to measure the time until impending doom
b. Keep driving
c. Close his eyes and pray to Buddha while snacking on some dried fish strips and caressing his belly
like Khmer so enjoy.
d. Triple pass for no particular reason.and not pull back onto the right side of the road until the
truck and the bus are two seconds away from a head-on collision

14. What is the square root of i?:
There are two square roots of i: (1/[square root of]2)(1 + i ) and (-1/[square root of]2)(1 + i)

Should I know this? No, really, it looks like a joke question and as if it’s fine I don’t know it

when I first look at it, but if I look closer I realize I studied this in skool and it’s not that hard, and
now I feel guilty and dumb for not remembering, and I don’t even want to continue this test and
don’t know why I keep answering these questions. I think I’ll stop. After the next one.

15. In the capital city, Phnom Penh, I…
a. Got grabbed at by taxi drivers and had to physically tear them off of me and my bag
b. Got attacked by a crazy man with a screwdriver
c. Got hit by a moto while crossing the street
d. All of the above

No, seriously, I’m 150% serious when I say I don’t even have a semi-serious injury from being hit by a moto.
150% minus 50% for the “semi” in semi-serious means I’m 100% okay.

150% divided by 2 for the “semi” in semi-serious means I’m only 75% okay.

Neither of the above rules apply, because semi-serious doesn’t include missing limbs, which I don’t have, missing, that is, plus, how can one be over 100% of anything?

Wait, where was the actual question?

C and D

Answer key: Problems 11-15:
(d) I miss good bread. Also, Cambodia unfortunately has little to offer.

(a) Now you can definitely plan when not to be online.

(a) or (b) I carry the rare gene that allows me to get skin cancer in a fraction of the time it takes tanners to do so.

(a) Technically the right answer, though in pre-practice tests, 86% of the participants picked (b). Then committed suicide. Only 27% of those attempts were fruitful.


Non-question question: (e)


Please read the story below:

I went to an island with a travel buddy. We got a bungalow with a bathroom. We took a long bus ride up to the jungle after that. Then we came back to Cambodia’s capital city, Phnom Penh. I had fun. I write good.

Please answer the following questions and choose the best possible answer according to the story above.

16. While going to the bathroom in the beach bungalow, I encountered…
a. An unexploded land mine
b. A scorpion
c. Someone’s missing arm
d. A mini Procompsognathus

17. When on the bus trip, I asked the bus staff when we would stop for a bathroom,
and in response, the bus promptly…
a. Stopped at the next rest stop, clean and complete with toilet paper
b. Pulled over one minute later at a luxury patch of brush on the side of the road

18. When given bathroom stalls to use, Cambodian men prefer to:
a. Pee on the way to the stalls
b. Step around to the back of the stalls and go there instead
c. Pee in a third location that’s smack in public
d. Pee at any of the above locations, then lift their shirts and rub their bellies as either a way to
cool down or show off their stunning nastiness

19. While dining in the jungle, the meat used for meals, despite being a few days old
and (of course) not refrigerated, was perfectly edible because, quoted from our
a. “I never get sick.”
b. “I just cooked it the other day and it doesn’t smell.”
c. “I just killed the possum.”
d. Insert some other choice else here when you’re not being hit on by Nigerian men in the internet
cafe in which you’re typing. It really is hard to think, and he just proposed to me

20. After exiting the bush after my multi-day jungle trek, I emerged with:
a. A pre-engagement ring from the amazingly attractive, chain-smoking, teeth-stained, gaunt,
nasty old ranger
b. The amazement at having seen two wild elephants, a wild tiger, and a leprechaun.
c. 72 cuts, scrapes, and bruises on my body
d. 72 cuts, scrapes, and bruises on my body, plus three Brangelina-inspired adopted Cambodian

Answer key: Problems 16-20:
(b) Oh, COME ON. I know a scorpion isn’t as exciting as the other choices, but come on, I saw a scorpion!

(b) I can’t even describe it. Oh, and it happened about 4 more times on subsequent trips.

(d) Best answer, and the belly patting is grosser than the urinating.

(b) or (d). Equally correct and good choices.

(c) Adopting normal Cambodian kids is so last year. I’m waiting to adopt until I can get a feral child from the African bush.

****END TEST****

How’d you do?
1-20 correct: Have you looked in a miror lately? Yeah, you shouldn’t.
21 correct: You cheated, not unlike how Jamal Malik did in Slumdog Millionaire.

I hope you learned a little something here. Don’t feel too badly about doing poorly, okay? As long as you use what you learn and do better next time. Will there be a next test? Of course not, but be prepared just in case.

Since I was on an island and also in the jungle, I really didn’t get a chance to get online. I’m in Cambodia for only one more day, and then it’s off to my last stop, Vietnam! I’ll be coming home in December.

I hope all is well, and stay away from (a) motos, (b) H1N1, and (c) Alaskan reindeer dogs that aren’t certified kosher.

Much love,