Last Wednesday night before I left for the Philippines, I had a think about if I should really be going. Considering that they were just hit 6 days before by Typhoon Haiyan aka Yolanda, I got on my flight with mixed feelings.
It may come as a surprise that our ultimate tournament in Manila scheduled for the weekend right after the typhoon didn’t get cancelled, but I’m glad that I at least was able to bring clothes and money to donate to people who are recovering. The tournament organizers rallied all tournament goers to bring donations of food, clothes, supplies, and of course money. There were teams and players coming from different parts of the Philippines, Singapore, China, USA, Canada, Australia, Taiwan, Japan, and probably other countries that I’ve missed. One Singaporean team gathered about 450 kg of donations to bring over! I’m not sure how much was donated in total in the end, but will update here if/when I find out.
I was happy to come and play ultimate and help out by donations, but then I also felt conflicted because I’m a foreigner and visitor during a critical time. In addition, I’m going to their country for my vacation while many people are mourning and picking up the pieces. They are still trying to figure things out in the aftermath. How can I continue as planned knowing this?
In short, I can’t. I couldn’t possibly ignore that the country is dealing with a crisis. But does that mean I should cancel my flights or change my flight to return early? I’m not sure.
I knew I had to be culturally sensitive to their situation, but I also didn’t know what to expect. When we got here, I realized that everyone doesn’t stop living their own lives. Yes, there is still a lot that needs fixing and there are a lot of people suffering, but in parts that weren’t affected, people are continuing on the best that they can. The places I’m visiting on this trip were not affected directly by the typhoon. Many people were very much affected by the storm, but there are also many who were not and have to continue on because that is the only thing they can do. They are still fishing, farming, leading tours, driving buses or jeepneys, working, laughing, joking, and generally just living.
Maybe there are people who would have canceled their plans. Maybe the clothes and money I brought are too minimal to really make a difference, but isn’t it still worth it to try? And wouldn’t it be better for their economy for me to continue as planned and be a tourist? Is a stable economy, which in this case depends heavily on the tourism industry, really that important right now or only if you are viewing things in the long term?
I’m slightly more than halfway through my trip now, and I am glad that I came. Maybe my contributions both to the economy and to the relief efforts are really minimal. But I think if everyone thought like that, I would like to imagine that there would then be a big difference felt by the country and the people here. Donations are not just for the material things, but also for a sense of community coming together for a common cause. Many households in certain parts of the Philippines rely on the tourism season for their livelihoods at least partially, and if fewer people came because of the typhoon, that may mean a tougher year for many families. These might seem like weak reasons to some people. But at least for me, coming here and meeting people here who have continued living their lives after the typhoon, I think it is probably enough for me to be happy that I didn’t cancel.
I would not have come with nothing to give. That is for sure. I collected clothing and cash donations from friends and colleagues, and made my own contributions. I would not feel ok with myself if I didn’t. But then there is the question of have I done enough? Is there even a tangible “enough” to strive for? How can I get there?
But I also feel this way whenever I visit a country where most of the people are living in poverty. How can I show up to their country with my money and nice things and travel around as if nothing is wrong? I can’t. I’m constantly aware that I’m different in terms of status. Sometimes I even feel a bit ashamed of that. These are still questions that I debate with myself each day that I’m here. I think we’ll never be able to reconcile these types of feelings and thoughts, but having them is a sign of being human and being able to relate to fellow humans. If that is ever lost, then I might as well put myself in the same category as a rich jerk who lives and travels with a sense of entitlement.
I haven’t figured this all out yet, and maybe I can never truly justify this vacation to myself. But, the Philippines is still beautiful, the place and its people! The kids still play and laugh in the water on the beach just in front of where I’m staying. The dogs still bark in the early morning, and the roosters still cock-a-doodle-do to their hearts content.
This basic bean dip is great for parties or potlucks, or just for a snack when you get home. It can go well with chips, crackers, or toasted bread. It is super easy and quick even though these instructions might look intimidating!
- beans (try any kind of beans! here I used kidney beans, but black beans also are great for this)
- onions (yellow or red work here, can also use shallots)
- olive oil
- other spices (optional, I usually add cumin!)
- cayenne or chili powder or chopped up chili peppers (optional)
- red or green bell peppers (optional)
- tomato paste or sauce
Eyeball the proportions to what you think feels right, but generally, a can of beans could use about 1 clove of garlic and a small onion (or half a medium onion).
You can use canned or dried beans. Canned beans will not require cooking before making the dip, so it might be more convenient. Just drain and rinse before using.
How to cook with dried beans:
I used dried beans here. Dried beans require soaking overnight or at least 4 hours, then cooking in water for 45 minutes or more depending on the beans. Do not use the water you soaked them in to cook them! The gas causing and indigestible complex sugars are in that water. Dump that water out, rinse the beans, and fill the water to at least 1-2 cm above the beans. Heat until boiling then reduce heat so that it simmers. Add water if it gets low. You can add salt to the beans while they are cooking, but only in the last 10 or 15 minutes. Adding the salt too early can make the beans too hard and then your beans will never be tender. Ideally for this recipe, the beans are soft enough to be mashed but not falling apart yet.
1. Chop the onions and garlic really small.
2. Heat olive oil in a saucepan with medium heat.
3. Sautee the garlic for a few seconds until fragrant.
4. Add the onions and let them cook until translucent. Move them around with a wooden spoon so they cook evenly.
5. Add the drained beans and stir to mix thoroughly.
6. Let it cook for a few minutes while stirring.
7. Turn the heat down to low.
8. Start mashing the beans!
9. Add salt, pepper, and other spices to taste.
10. Turn the heat off and keep mashing the beans.
11. Add olive oil if the mixture is looking dry, or add tomato sauce or paste. Another alternative is peanut butter but I haven’t tried this yet.
Get it to the right consistency that you are looking for depending on what you will be eating it with. With chips, you might want it to be easily scoop-able. For spreading on crackers and bread, you can keep the consistency a bit thicker (See photo!). If you want to, garnish with some spices that you used or chopped up bell peppers.
If you are using red or green bell peppers, chop them up really small and add them in when the onions are about done and let them cook a bit to get tender. You don’t need too much, and definitely much less than the amount of onions you are using (maybe by half?).
Different beans will have different flavor profiles, so experiment with them and try different things. Some beans will have a naturally milder flavor and may need some more spices to give it a boost, while others can stand pretty much alone and taste great. You could also use fresh cherry tomatoes chopped up instead of tomato sauce or paste. Another tip is adding feta cheese (or any other crumbly cheese that melts well) in at the end to give some cheesy flavor and creamy texture. I’ve done this with cannellini beans!
This dip will be really good served hot, but can be served cold too. It will keep in the fridge for at least 1 week, but may not need to last that long This is a really quick and easy snack or appetizer, but interesting enough to impress your friends! Enjoy and let us know your thoughts in the comments! Also, let us know any requests for future recipes and how-tos!
Cafe Bicycle is another coffee shop in Bangkok that I recently visited on my trip to Thailand. It is tucked away under the Phloen Chit BTS station. It’s a cute cafe with a sustainability angle and modern vibe. It isn’t a very big place, but it is pretty cute and comfy!
I got a cafe latte for 75 THB. There are some tables outside if you prefer to sit outside, and inside there are several small wooden tables, tables along the window with stools, and one long family style dining table. I sat in the upper area where they had some more comfortable armchairs and shorter coffee tables. It can get a little chilly though, so bring a sweater if you are staying for several hours. I was there for so long that my hot latte turned into a cold one!
The latte was pretty good. I’m not an expert on coffee by far, but it was good and refreshingly different from the usual Starbucks. The food smelled pretty good, though I didn’t have any. They have a menu of salads and sandwiches. The sandwiches looked pretty good. They use ciabatta, and also seemed to have a vegetarian special. I’ve been eating before leaving my aunt’s place, so I haven’t been trying the food at these coffee shops, but if I come and spend more time in Bangkok, it would be nice to eat here!
Last semester, I signed up to be a part of the campus radio station at NUS, Radio Pulze (The Sound of NUS). I had a news themed show with one other co-DJ.
This semester I’m on with 2 other people and we are doing a food themed show! Please let me know your food recommendations for places to go in Singapore!!
Unfortunately, our radio station is still restricted to only students of National University of Singapore. However, in the future (next semester), it will be open to all of the public! If you are an NUS student and want to listen in, here is how:
I won’t be on the air this week, but starting next week I’ll be back!