Pay me now or pay me later

One Saturday morning, that Saturday being today, my associate Brimbie and I made our way down Seattle’s garbage-strewn University Avenue. ‘Ah, feel that sun!’ Brimbie cried, but there was not really any sun visible. ‘You’re gonna tell me you can’t feel it?’ Brimbie asked.

No, Brimbie, I couldn’t.

Along the way to our destination, which was Café Allegro, I came across a cell phone that was broken in pieces on the ground. Using my razor-sharp wits to reassemble the phone, I began answering the text messages that had piled up on it as it lay in pieces overnight on the ground. In the meantime, Brimbie and I arrived at Café Allegro, where Brimbie lay his hands on a day-old doughnut and a bagel.

‘Would you like a bagel?’ he asked me.

‘No, I would not,’ I told him.

‘Would you like a doughnut?’ he asked me.

‘No, I would not,’ I replied.

‘Why not?’ Brimbie asked.

‘I’m not hungry,’ I explained.

‘Well why,’ Brimbie asked me, refusing the let the topic drop, ‘When I buy a doughnut and offer you a bite, you often take the bite?’

‘Because then perhaps I am hungry,’ I explained.

‘But if I buy a doughnut now and offer you a bite, you’ll eat that bite,’ he reasoned. ‘So I’ll just buy you a whole one.’

‘No, Brimbie.’ I told him.

‘But I owe you $6,’ Brimbie explained, ‘And I want to make it even with you. So eat the doughnut I buy you.’

‘No Brimbie,’ I told him solemnly. ‘I prefer to wait and collect the six dollars in a form that is better than a doughnut.’

And Brimbie gnashed his teeth, angry that he could not even up his bill with me via fried junk food. You see, Brimbie owed something, and he immediately wanted to pay up; I wanted to let the debt float about a bit until I could cash in the favour in some more useful or tastier form. He wanted me to pay now; I wanted him to pay later.

On the way back to Brimbie’s, after Brimbie’s hearty breakfast (of which no bites were taken by myself or anyone else apart from Brimbie), a call was received from the owner of the cell phone, and we set up a place to meet. On meeting up and handing over the phone, the fellow ‘gave me five’ twice, for a total of ten, telling me “You’re the man!”. He then said:

“If I ever see you around again, I owe you something.”

Now why couldn’t he owe me something right then and there? How do I know if I’ll see him again? He wanted to pay later; I wanted him to pay now.

It is just these types of philosophical and psychological dilemmas that we deal with every day in life, even on a Saturday morning in Seattle.


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Alliance Françaises of the World, pt. 5: Hanoi, Vietnam

The Alliance Française in Hanoi is a fancy place.

It’s in an Art Deco building, and has within it classrooms, an expensive café, an art gallery area, and a TV that plays FRANCE5 MONDE or something similar at all times. Students attempt to do their homework beneath the screen.

The library is on the second floor, and is quite nice– except for the magazine and newspaper section. The newspapers are years old, and often the magazines are as well. If you are aching to read an issue of Le Monde from some random date two years ago, they may have a gently used copy available at this location. Similarly, while the magazines are neatly ordered, the subscriptions for many of them expired years ago. I’m not sure who is super-interested in old copies of Sciences & Vie and prefers a ragged copy to just looking online, but again, this is the place to come.

You will find many Vietnamese students studying French within the library, constantly looking up words and cramming. One young fellow wanted to practice his French with me. I did so, but he couldn’t understand anything I said in French. He was then disappointed to learn that I wasn’t French, and recoiled when I told him my age.

BONUS: Open Saturdays, and the famous rice ice cream shop is a couple blocks over.

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veg food update: battambang, cambodia ii

How about a food status update? Longtime browers of this series of web-pages will surely recall my praising of Battambang, Cambodia’s riverside cafe “Mey Mey One of a Kind Shop” in last year’s Battambang roundup. Said shop was singled out for praise due to its friendly proprieters, generous portions, decent taste, and, well… total lack of competition.

Cambodia is a place where food is generally subpar rice and a charred, gristly piece of meat, usually some smaller animal. All of the food seems to be inferior, from the mealy, puny, misshapen fruit for sale at highly-inflated prices in the produce market, to the already-melted ice cream bars and nonexistant dairy foods. There are two possible reasons I can discern:
1. Cambodia’s agricultural land is naturally cursed and produces nothing but withered and unpalatable crops, which are in turn sold for high costs due to the inherent paucity of said foodstuffs.
2. Like the India of yesteryear, good things are grown, but only for export.
In any case, Cambodian food sucks.

So, I was glad to see that Mey-Mey’s is still going strong. I was again served a large helping of spaghetti-esque noodles in a peppery sauce; the price actually went down from 6,000r ($1.50) last time to 5,000r ($1.25), though last time I was given two dipping sauces. The teenage girl who works there told me “Big plate! Old customer,” though I seemed to have the same-sized portions as everyone else. It was still quite decent (excellent by Cambodian standards) and “Creamy Coconut Shake (special to Battambang)” still excellent. I’ve tried the noodle dishes elsewhere in town and find them to be nothing more than edible, and the coconut shake a bit heavy on the crushed ice, but Mey Mey does it right.

Mey-Mey by Night

When last dining at Mey Mey’s, I took the set-up to be a mother-daughter operation. On this visit, further family members were visible, including an animated and highly flamboyant father figure who called out to prospective diners, and a surly son who stirred the wok with a deep-seated rage.

On arrival, I was the only diner. Eventually some French, who appeared doubtful about life in general, consented to eating there after coming back four times and re-examining the laminated menu. There also appeared a number of toothless, beer-bellied locals who zoomed up on motorcycles and engaged in good-natured banter. One of the locals had a black cowboy hat on, and another wore a French football jersey. Finally, a bald and lanky tourist took a seat, stipulating that he only wanted “BEER”, proclaiming thusly with perhaps more force than needed.

WHAT HAS CHANGED: Prices went down, whole family cooking now, no street-beggars, fewer mosquito bites.
BONUS: There are about a half-dozen stray cats of all different colors and markings (including black and calico) that scurry around the area.

I’m happy to report that the real vegetarian restaurant in Battambang, VEGGIE HOUSE (formerly BATTAMBANG VEGETARIAN HOUSE) is still going and better than ever– what’s more, they’re now open for lunch and dinner and serving excellent (if not hearty) food. The prices have gone up slightly on some items, and the shop has moved one door down (though I wouldn’t have known it if they hadn’t told me), but the big news is they are now open for lunch and dinner: previously, they closed at 11am and often ran out of food before that time. The breakfast menu has a few new types of soup (3,500r-4000r, i.e., $1, including “Long Life Noodle”– not sure what that is), and the lunch/dinner menu (11am to 7pm) includes banh mi-type sandwiches and some rice dishes. Dumplings (1,000r each: 25 cents), which on my last visit were lacklustre, I now found to be excellent, especially the ‘shalty’ ones, which are filled with TVP-like morsels. The dumplings are popular and they run out fast, but if you warn ’em in advance, they’ll make extra for you. The dumplings are also quite convenient for bus trips, as the bus stations are right across the street.

Veggie House for life

Thank goodness for the ethnic Chinese in SE Asia! (They also watch Chinese television in “Veggie House”; CCTV plays while you eat.) Enjoy the free tea, free water, kind and gentle service, and great prices while you can. Iced milk coffee (50 cents) too!

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Filed under cambodia, food & drink, vegetarianism

indianisms, cont’d: Even I

(See explanation of Indianisms) / See all Indianisms

Even I for I too, I also. This one is hard to cite, since written references lack referents and context. In General English, even I means ‘I, out of all people’ or ‘contrary to expectations, I’ or ‘Surprisingly, I’: Even I make my own yogurt these days. In Indian English, it functions as I too or I… also:

Indian One: I am eating so much of parotha these days.

Indian Two: Even I am doing this.

The sense is not that ‘I of all people am doing this’, but ‘I do this also’. Here are some examples which I believe to be Indianisms that mean I also:

Hello madam, Few years back even i was having instant noodles daily as my evening snack, and also lays and kurkure. (source. The quote is in response to an article about the dangers of living off Maggi ramen noodles. Since we don’t know the background of the poster, even I in the sense of ‘I of all people’ doesn’t seem likely, but rather even I in the Indian sense: I also lived off ramen.)

You are right. Even I felt that twists and turns are coming too early in this show. It’s not even 50 episodes I guess. (source)

Even I used their website to get in touch with them and was amazed at the response time. they connected with me within seconds!! (source)

Even I too receiving calls from +9234… (source: here we see too along with ‘even I’.)

Even I would like to know the same thing. Plz suggest me. (source)

Even I am taking the Basic Course in Graphology from Mr.Mohan Bose and i completely agree he is a wonderful teacher! (source)

I bought a mobile[…] the person from Gizmo assured me that you will get the mobile in 2-3 working days.  Now even I am following up with the[…] team but they also are not giving me any satisfactory answer. (source)

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indianisms, cont’d: to clear

(See explanation of Indianisms)  / See all Indianisms


to clear for to pass, as an exam, test, etc. In American at least, one cannot “clear” an exam.


Which entrance exam should I clear for getting a seat for B.Ed political science? (2011, source)

Two Muslims clear Indian Economic Service Exam 2010 (2011, source)

Within 5 Days of registration in this site, I have attemepted more than 100 Sample Test Questions and on the 5th day, I cleared the LLR test in Vadodara, Gujarat. (S. Battacharya, source)

“Students who are not able to clear HSC (science) board exams in these three trials will then be forced to prepare as per the new syllabus and appear for the exams”, Patel said. (source)

sir, i have not cleared the june exam…. so please do tell me whether i have to pay any fee or not for the december test…?? (R. Jain, 2011, source)

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indianisms: bucks

(See explanation of Indianisms)

Bucks for rupees, money. We certainly use ‘buck’ for dollar here in the U.S.; this use dates to the 1850s and there is speculation that it derives from ‘buckskin’, an American frontier currency (source). I can’t say if buck is current in other dollar-using countries, but it is certainly current in India, where no dollars are to be seen.


You will find a couple of fantastic instruments on the market that could assist put massive bucks correct into your banking account. (2011, source)

College boys turn to sex for quick bucks (R. Jain, Times of India, 2011)

McDonalds veggie something[:] 20 bucks. (K. Anand, via Tehelka, source)

That will be 5 bucks in Bangalore, meaning almost 60 bucks per litre :protest::cussingblack::screaming: (K.R. Raj, 2010, source)

What’s so incredible in that, many people in India live on 20 bucks in pocket a day. (G. Motghare, via TOI, 2011)

Subway is giving chicken ham sub for 50 bucks this month. Sub of the day is also great at 75 bucks. (P. Karol, 2009)

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money in Calcutta

NEWS ITEM: ‘Few takers for 1,000-rupee notes in Kolkata’ (Times of India, 16th August 2011)

The article states:

The city where the cheapest bus ride is five bucks and the base metro fare even cheaper doesn’t have much of an appetite for the ‘big note'[…] It’d rather make do with small change — there is a perennial shortage of coins in Kolkata[…]You would hardly find an ATM in Kolkata that dispenses 1000 rupee notes. “Customers here don’t like getting thousand rupee notes,” said an official of UBI. “Customers are apprehensive about the 1000 note. They fear the notes could be fake,” he added.

I will go one step further. Even 500-rupee notes are not wanted in Calcutta! Rs500 notes (like $10) are considered ‘big notes’ and roundly denied by shopkeepers.

I tried one day as an experiment to pay for things with a 500-rupee note. First I went to a bunch of Barabazaar restaurants. I tried to order Rs20 lassis and pay with a 500. I was turned away at three restaurants.

Next I went to three or four restaurants along Chowringhee. I was flatly turned away at each place as soon as they saw a Rs500 bill come out of my pocket. It is a big disconcerting: India is the sort of place where, in general, everyone is jumping over everyone else to sell you something, anything: but really, all it takes to make a tout go away is a glimpse of a Rs500 note.

Finally, on a whim, I bought a two-litre bottle of water (Rs25) at a Muslim stall near New Market. They made a big production out of it, going on at length about how I was cleaning them out of change, and then emptying a drawer of change, trying to throw in soap, shampoo, and “biscuit” as substitutes for change, but in the end I got my Rs475.

I went to take the metro (where, as the article notes, rides go for about Rs3) and when I got to front of the line I saw a poor fellow waiting there, looking sullen and dejected.

“I need to buy a metro ticket, but they don’t have change!” he cried, waving a bill around in the air. “Do you have change for a 500?”

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