Decidedly urban couple who quit their jobs and successfully backpacked their way through Asia for a year. They met Buddha, drank baijiu and learned to master the squat toilet. Now appearing in a new life as ex-pats in Singapore.

Food Wars

Food Wars

The fastest way to gain a few pounds is to tell a Malaysian that you enjoyed the food in Singapore. Immediately you will be forcibly carted off to a century old noodle restaurant to discover just how much beef and broth you can possibly fit in your stomach. And while your trying in vain to digest your first meal, your Malaysian hosts begin to cast aspirations that the next meal might be even better. Not two hours later you find out that dreams can come true, then you fall into a deep Thanksgiving-worthy coma only to be roused for an ice cream.

Ummm.. Beefy!

An extra five pounds is certainly preferable to a fist in the face, which is what might happen when you start drinking in South America.

The fastest way to make an enemy in Peru is to mention that their national drink, Pisco Sour, is originally from Chile.  And no matter how much you kick back in Chile never insinuate that, technically, the grape brandy in their favorite tipple originated in Peru. In fact, don’t talk at all, just shut up and enjoy that frothy bitter sweet concoction sent down from the Gods of alcohol.

All smiles until you mention the pisco!

Food and drink are heated topics worldwide, every country believes that their food is the absolute best. (And they’re all wrong, the award for best food in the world has already been given to San Francisco.) As usual the Middle East brings some very impassioned, very loud voices to the great food debate.


My favorite meal

In the Middle East this dish isn’t doomed to linger on the appetizer list. It’s not a dip or a salad or a less-fattening alternative to mayo on your sandwich. Hummus is a meal meant to tide a working man over from morning to night. Huge steaming bowls of creamy, olive oil soaked chickpeas are served alongside massively fluffy, steaming hot pita and perhaps some deep fried falafel.

Hummus in Jordan

It takes a lot of work to arrive at point where you can lift the last bit of bread and wipe it across the naked bowl to make certain that the last vestiges of hidden hummus are properly consumed. Most westerners can simply not eat that many beans in one sitting.


Hummus with Fuul

Hummus scooped with raw onions and crunchy pickles. Hummus covered with fuul or whole chick peas. Hummus served with meat, hummus with mushrooms, hummus with tahina. I ate it all. Everyday. That is, until I discovered just how many calories a blue-collar bowl of hummus contains. A lot.


There is only one dish on this menu - HUMMUS!

I refuse to state which (non-)country had the ultimate bowl of this deliciousness for fear of destabilizing the entire region and causing The Great Hummus War.

And because I’m such a peace loving person let me warn you now: no matter where you eat this be careful how you say it. It turns out that my American accented “hum-us” sounds suspiciously like “Hamas” in Arabic…

Named after my friend, Emily Hummus


Are you there God? It's me, Kristine.

Are you there God? It’s me, Kristine.

Jerusalem is a heavy destination.

Mount of Olives

For Jews it’s the cornerstone of the world, the location of the Holy of the Holies and where your prayers go straight to heaven. For Christians these are the streets where Christ walked, where he healed the blind, ate his last supper and eventually died for the sins of the world. For Muslims it’s the third holiest city after Mecca and Medina, where Mohammed ascended to heaven.

The city was destroyed by the Romans, sought after by the crusaders and remains a core issue in the Israeli-Palenstian conflict.


Site of Christ's cruxification and entombment

Entering the city walls is like entering a spiritual vortex where millenia of religious struggle weighs upon you. And then there are the guns. Lots and lots of guns.

Virgin Mary in her Church

Groups of Orthodox Christians dressed in bright colors and headscarves wander alongside orthodox Jews with huge black hats and curly sideburns who brush past Muslim women covered in all-encompassing black dresses. Everywhere you look there is a different sect, a different set of beliefs, a different uniform, a different way of worshiping God.

At every church, every temple, every wall there was a person covering their face, crying, or rubbing their religious accoutrements against a holy stone, or kissing the building. Groups of tourists carry a huge cross to recreate Christ’s final steps. They stop along the way to drop their cross in the same place where Jesus fell for the first time or pause to pray at the place where he met his mother.

Tourists recreating Christ's crucifixion

It was a lot to take in and the intensity of this religious furor left me depleted and bewildered. I expected to feel some connection, some familiarity with the rites and rituals of my upbringing. Instead I felt as confused as I was when I cleansed my soul in the Ganges, entered the Masjid Negara or meditated my way towards enlightenment. It all felt foreign to me.

And mixed in with all that religion, politics is simmer just underneath the surface. Little kids run around aiming plastic pistols at each other. Gates to the Temple Mount are guarded by men with machine guns and when they see a non-muslim heading to entrance, they block the path with their gun. All religions are allowed to the Western wall, but to get there you pass through metal detectors. Groups of Israeli soldiers with guns mill around the plaza.

There are way too many guns in what is supposed Holy Land.

Streets of Jerusalem

Squabbles between different sects of Christianity is not unheard of. Five different groups of Christians claim ownership of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre – the  site where Christ was crucified – and run the site by ‘status quo.’  Everyone must agree before changes are made to any common area but agreements rarely happen.  There is ladder from construction that took place in the 19th century still leaning against the building. The can’t agree to move it.

The Western wall (The Waiting wall)

I spent several days wandering the old city contemplating WHAT DOES THIS MEAN. Surrounded by all that religious piety and political tension, I felt exhausted and not at all uplifted.

Finally I decided that it doesn’t mean anything – it’s OK that I don’t want to carry the cross down the Via Dolorosa or believe that my prayers at the Western wall go straight to God. It was enough to be there and witness, once again, the diversity that exists in our world and remember that I don’t have to understand everything.

So after four days in Jerusalem, I said a prayer for my Grandma and I felt comforted by this quote from the 14th Dalai Lama,

I don’t think there could ever be just one single philosophy or one single religion. Since there are so many different types of people, with a range of tendencies and inclinations, it is quite fitting that there are differences between religions. And the fact that there are so many different descriptions of the religious path shows how rich religion is.”

(Pics of my first few days, no photos of the temple mount because my camera fell out of the bus and broke.)