We are woefully behind on posting since we came back to the United States. Despite having almost constant access to computers and the Internet, we have focused our time on seeing family and friends. Even for me, it is hard to say, "Mom, I know you haven't seen me for two years, but I just have to get those Obsessions posts done..."
So, without anymore excuses, here come Asia's obsessions:
India- Spitting. An easy one. The average Indian might spit 1200 times per day. And we aren't talking about small little bits of spittle. We're talking about pieces of lung the size of a fist. Sure, lots of Indians also have a paan habit (think chewing tobacco, but different ingredients that also happen to make one's spit Kool-Aid red), but even those that don't chew still spit. And before the spitting comes a noise that sounds like the regurgitation of a cow. Wait, most Indians don't eat cow, so a goat. Like hawking up a goat.
Sri Lanka- Water tanks. What is a water tank you ask? Well, I'm going to tell you even if you didn't ask. A water tank is a man made lake. Sri Lanka has a lot of areas that are at altitude and are very wet for part of the year, but very dry for the rest of the year. So, starting a thousand years ago or more, digging giant water pits became the prerequisite for growing any large city that wasn't on the sea. And they did it with gusto. Some of the cities have dozens of lakes that are far larger than many dammed lakes in the US, and they were all dug out by hand. Or maybe with hands and a rock and maybe a chisel, but you get the point. Good job, ancient Sri Lankans!
Malaysia- Tourism posters. If all the Asian countries were elementary school students, Malaysia would get the "Tries Hardest" certificate at the end of the year. Not only are tourism posters in nearly every window of Malaysia, they are in nearly every hotel and vaguely related travel business everywhere in Asia. They must have printed millions of them. And that makes it even sadder that more people don't visit Malaysia, which really is a spectacular country.
Singapore- Rules. Singapore has rules for everything. And fines for not following most of them. The list of fines in the subway cars was as long as my arm. (We especially appreciated that one of the highest fines was for bringing the smelly durian fruit on the train.) If you like to conform, consider moving to Singapore. If you have ever voted Libertarian or are a card carrying member of the Tea Party, consider vacationing somewhere other than Singapore.
Indonesia- Cats without tails. Didn't see that one coming, did you? We saw hundreds of cats in Indonesia and every one of them had some or all of its tail missing. We can only assume that people think they should not have tails and take it upon themselves to cut off the tails with whatever sharp instrument is laying around when they see a cat with tail intact. We thought that we might see this in other countries, but it was really just Indonesia.
Thailand- 7-Eleven. Think of all the 7-Elevens you have ever seen. Multiply that number by 100. That is how many 7-Elevens are on the average block in Thailand. It used to be a joke in New York that Starbucks would often have locations right across the street from one another. 7-Eleven in Thailand might regularly have three stores on a block. I don't understand how they stay in business, especially since they are more expensive than most Thai businesses, but they all seem the thrive. Since I love Slurpees, I thank the Thai people for making cheap Slurpees available everywhere.
Burma (Myanmar)- Gold leaf. I had never heard of someone's job being to hammer gold until it was gold leaf. In Burma, that ranks as one of the most popular jobs. Where does all that gold leaf go? Buddhists in Burma buy the gold leaf and then rub it onto the Buddha statues (or anything else that they believe should be gold) at the Buddhist temples. This keeps everything bright and shiny. Oh, I should point out that only men are allowed to do this. Women aren't allowed to touch the Buddha statues, but can buy some gold leaf and have a manly man rub it onto the Buddha.
Cambodia- Angkor Wat. It seems sort of lame to be obsessed with your biggest tourist attraction, but Cambodia unquestionably is. It adorns the flag, half the stores in the country are named for it, and it inspired enough awe that even Pol Pot didn't destroy it. And Pol Pot destroyed just about everything in Cambodia.
Vietnam- Motor scooters. The average person in Vietnam has 3.2 motor scooters. Approximately. Through a quantum trick, they ride all of them simultaneously. So, while Vietnam has only 80 million people, 250 million people ply the roads on motor scooters at any given time. And most of those 250 million are going down the road that you want to cross. The streets of the large cities look like a moped convention.
Laos- Fruit shakes. I try to find something deeper than a food for country obsessions, but fruit shakes made with fruit, condensed milk, sugar, and ice are what hold the country of Laos together and makes the whole country so friendly. That's pure speculation, but locals and tourists alike can be found drinking delicious and cheap shakes all over the country, and we were certainly fans. For those who are not feeling happy enough after a regular shake, many places seem to offer "happy" shakes, which come with whatever drugs they happen to have in stock (pot in most places).
China- Crotchless pants. No, China isn't turning into 1980s New York. Any child under the age of three in China wears pants with a giant slit down the crotch and no underwear underneath. This allows them to go to the bathroom anytime and anywhere they like. And I do mean anytime and anywhere. Let's say the kid is waiting in a busy ticket line inside the train station with the parent and needs to go to the bathroom--that's what those pants are for. Number one or number two? Doesn't matter. Does the parent clean it up? No. It stays there for others to step in. While China seems likely to take over the world one day, we hope they get rid of crotchless pants prior to that.
Mongolia- Chengis Khan. Yeah, I thought it was Genghis Khan, too, but not in Mongolia. This founder of the Mongol Empire is known for uniting the nomads of Mongolia, declaring war on anything that moved, killing about a bajillion people, and creating the beginning of the largest empire the world has ever known. That, of course, makes him the hero of Mongolia. Based on our experience, I don't see the second coming of the Mongol Empire anytime soon.
There you have it: the obsessions of Asia. Disagree with us? Too bad. Write your own blog. Or leave us nasty comments about how we disparaged your country. That's why our home address isn't on the blog. Well, that and we don't have a home yet...