While you're toasting the end of the world tonight in Seattle, a man in China is hiding out in a giant yellow ball. (Screenshot via youtube.com)
While you’re toasting the end of the world tonight in Seattle, a man in China is hiding out in a giant yellow ball. (Screenshot via youtube.com)

The end is near! And for Seattleites that means going out with a bang.

It’s almost December 21st, the day the Ancient Mayans predicted (sort of) that the world would end.

Or maybe John Cusack just starred in a movie about it and we’ve officially lost touch with reality.

Either way, Elysian Brewery is serving up Rapture Heather Ale, KUOW is spinning REM’s “It’s The End of the World as We Know It, and SIFF is helping our imaginations run wild with an apocalypse film festival.

My personal favorite end of the world activity is The Snoqualmie Family Nudists invitation to “Go out the way you came in… naked” at their End of the World Party.

Which leaves me wondering, how is the rest of the world living out their final days?

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The Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan is temporarily home to over 60,000 Syrians waiting for the fall of President Bashar Assad and the civil war to end. (Photo by Joseph Mayton)

ZAATARI, Jordan–As the Syrian civil war and the fight to remove President Bashar Assad unfolds, more than half a million people have fled their homes during dangerously cold winter months.

There are roughly 60,000 Syrians in the Zaatari, one of the largest refugee camps that sits just across the Jordanian border.

According to a recent UNHCR report, more than 1,000 people have arrived in the last two nights alone.

It’s freezing. The tent flaps are tightly closed to protect the cramped living quarters against the winds. As the sun went down, the al-Dayat family huddled around the small burner making tea to stay warm.

Here they wait for the inevitable downfall of Assad.

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My second cousins John (center) and Nakon (right) show me family pictures with familiar faces during a reunion/introductions of sorts in Bangkok, Thailand. (Photo by Dacia Saenz)

BANGKOK, Thailand– They were complete strangers, but it instantly felt like a family reunion.

One week before I departed for my first international reporting trip, my grandmother Cece and my great aunt Karen casually drop to me on Facebook that, oh by the way, I have relatives in Thailand.

Come again?

Now I’m from a long and proud line of auto factory workers, mechanics and nurses from Flint, Michigan. But other than trips to Canada, I was one of the few people in my family to travel and live outside the U.S. since our ancestors came through Ellis Island. Or at least I thought.

So to learn that I have Thai relatives was not only a major revelation, but one that profoundly altered how I view my family in the world.

But the facts were fuzzy at first. I wasn’t exactly clear how my little branch of the tree spanned to this corner of the world.

So I sent a Facebook message and a few days later I was off to meet these mysterious family characters in the bustling city of Bangkok.

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Jess Mack, a Seattle native working in Bangkok, was excited to don Americana colors to watch the election returns. (Photo by Sara Stogner)

BANGKOK, Thailand–As the elections unfolded yesterday in the US, a small huddle of Americans glued their eyes to the CNN report, broadcasting the returns in a mostly empty bar here in Bangkok.

The American-owned Roadhouse BBQ was one of only two bars in the city advertising an election watch. Yet in a city packed full of expats, only a dozen trickled in around 10am.

Among them was Jess Mack, a Seattle native working on a campaign with the UN to end violence against women in the region.

“It’s been interesting being here and talking to people from around the world and in Bangkok,” Mack said. “People really care about what’s happening in the US because our foreign policy has an impact on everyone in some way.”

Mack was ecstatic when the news came via her twitter feed that same-sex marriage and the legalization of marijuana had been approved in Washington State.

A young Spaniard roots through a dumpster in a photo by Samuel Aranda that ran on the cover of the New York Times in September.

The photo made me stop short, my coffee cup hovering a few inches above the newspaper. A young man in jeans and a Barcelona soccer jersey bent over a Dumpster rummaging for food.

Spain is suffering 50 percent unemployment among young people, the article explained, and hunger is on the rise.

The last time I was in Spain was the spring of 2001. I was 21, living it up on a strong dollar. The euro was on its way, but in the final months of the peseta rent was 40 dollars and a trough of Sangria cost a few bucks. My Spanish friends, one of the first generations to grow up in a dictator-free Spain, seemed as apathetically confident in their futures as 20-something Americans.

How things have changed. Fast-forward to a US election hinged on economic issues and the Great Recession, a time when the country anxiously awaits job reports, politicians use food-stamp stats against each other, and numbers like 47 percent and 1 percent are code for bitter class divides.

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Seattle Globalist co-founder and columnist Sarah Stuteville starts a new weekly column in The Seattle Times today:

Corina Bakker of local band the Tempers delivers her “Free Pussy Riot” message at the Comet Tavern. (Photo by Sarah Stuteville)

Friday night at The Comet Tavern on Capitol Hill: the music pounds, the bathrooms stink and Russian politics are the topic of the night. I’m at a benefit show for Pussy Riot — a punk rock band arrested in Moscow last March for protesting in a church — and experiencing the passion of new Global Seattle.

Our city has always had an international orientation. Global industries (logging, shipping, planes), an international border (Canada counts!) and a diverse population (even before Columbia City started promoting itself as one of the most diverse ZIP codes in the country) were part of our identity long before The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation awarded its first grant or The Seattle International Film Festival screened its first foreign film.

But as a kid growing up in Ballard in the 1980s and 1990s, Seattle still felt like a small city with small city sensibilities.

Poster for The Other Side film by Lorraine Levy

Babies accidentally switched at birth.

From Mark Twain to the ABC Family Monday night lineupit’s a familiar plot device – and a usually a pretty cheesy one.

But French director Lorraine Levy successfully adopts this clichéd premise in her third feature film, The Other Son, which opens Friday at the Egyptian Theatre.

Levy delivers a story about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that is provocative, humane and refreshingly free from the dogmatic lexicon that tends to inform the way we think about the region.

Scotland launches breakup campaign after 300-year relationship with England

Scotland First Minister Alex Salmond holds the agreement on a referendum on independence for Scotland, which will usher forth the most dramatic public breakup in modern history. REUTERS/David Moir

There’s nothing worse than ending a long-term relationship.

You have to tell your friends and family and decide who’s going to keep that TV you went halfsies on.

But that’s just what the Scottish National Party wants after successfully initiating a referendum for Scottish Independence.

However, in this episode of “Sally Jessy Raphael,” the family is the undecided voters of Scotland, the friends are the rest of the world, and the TV equates to transitioning an economy into financial independence during a worldwide crisis. No big whoop.

The official breakup won’t even be decided until 2014. That means two years of public marriage counseling and duking it out over who said what and who cheated on who drama that is sure to rival the Tom-Cat breakup.

Students hold pictures of schoolgirl Malala Yousufzai during a tribute at the Pakistani Embassy in Abu Dhabi. Yousufzai, 14, was shot by the Taliban last Tuesday for speaking out against the militants and promoting education for girls. (Photo from REUTERS/Ben Job)

The name Malala Yousufzai was new to me until recently.

But the power of her words wasn’t.

Back in 2009, when her hometown in Swat Valley was virtually under Taliban control, Malala, using the pen name Gul Makai, wrote a diary that was published and broadcast on BBC’s Urdu language radio service.

In it she described the Taliban’s atrocities, their violently enforced decrees against girls’ education, and how she would try not to attract Taliban soldiers’ attention while making her way to school each day.

I would listen to her chronicles broadcast on BBC Urdu every evening with my grandfather in Pakistan, before I moved to Seattle. (The older generation in Pakistan prefers getting the news from BBC because of it has more credibility than local news sources).

I was in awe of Malala’s courage and her steadfast stance on girls’ education in the face of an enemy that is as brutal and savage as she is innocent and sweet.

In the past six months alone, big things have started happening for the immigrant community is Seattle.

President Obama announced a new deportation deferment policy for undocumented young adults. The Seattle City Council created the Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs and a new Washington State Voting Rights Act could significantly increase voting participation among immigrant communities.

Rich Stolz, the new executive director at OneAmerica, has prioritized immigrant voter participation in the upcoming election. (Photo via OneAmerica)

Stepping into the middle of it all is Rich Stolz, the new executive director for the immigrants rights organization OneAmerica.

I spoke with Stolz, a veteran of immigrant rights organizing for national campaigns, about what he sees as the future of immigration reform in Seattle.

(OneAmerica is hosting an open house tonight where members of the public can meet the new director.)

Corina Bakker of the Tempers delivers her “Free Pussy Riot, F**k Mitt Romney” message at the Comet last weekend. (Photo by Sarah Stuteville)

The music is defiant, the bartenders studiously inattentive and the balaclavas sequined.

If it weren’t for the smell of grilled onions wafting in from the hotdog stand outside and the cold beer (instead of warm vodka) I could still be in Moscow.

But I’m at the Comet on Capitol Hill watching Corina Bakker of The Tempers growl out “Free Pussy Riot!” in all of her ecstatic, bloody-kneed and mini-skirted glory.

This is one of at least three benefit shows for jailed Russian punk band Pussy Riot in Seattle in the past few weeks.

And around the corner on 11th Ave a huge feminist mural featuring Free Pussy Riot graffiti and fliers has taken over the entire side of an abandoned building.

This is all to say that Seattle is a real Pussy Riot kindofa town.

Seattleites gathered for a sold-out same-sex marriage debate at Town Hall on Tuesday, October 3. The program, which aired on the Seattle Chanel, featured (from left to right) former King County Executive Ron Sims, Washington United for Marriage advisor Anne Levinson, Preserve Marriage Washington Director Joseph Backholm, and Sen. Dan Swecker (R-Rochester). (Photo by Sara Stogner)

Washington State could be one of the first places in the world to legalize gay marriage by ballot this November.

Currently there are only 10 countries that have legalized or recognized gay marriages, but all have done so through parliaments and governmental bodies.

Maryland, Maine and Minnesota are also voting on the issue that would move the U.S. an inch closer to becoming the 11th country on that list.

If last’s night debate at Town Hall is any sort of litmus test of the issue, Referendum 74 to legalize gay marriage has a fighting chance.

Singapore mixes Asia’s most expensive drink 

The “Jewel of Pangea” is a $26,000 cocktail from a Singapore club and Asia’s most expensive drink.

When a club dangles a one-karat diamond as a “garnish” on a drink, you know they’re taking lavish excess to a whole new level.

And that’s just the tip of the decadent iceberg for this $26,000 cocktail made with Hennessy, champagne and edible gold flecks served by a gloved mixologist…from a steel suitcase.

It’s a very small comfort to know that somewhere in this world you can have your gold and drink it too.


Alma’s friend Viradeth meets his biological father for the first time on a recent trip to Laos. Viradeth, Amber and Gabriel ate dinner with Globalist columnist Alma Khasawnih to share stories of meeting new family members abroad. (Photo courtesy of Viradeth)

There is nothing quite like the stories that unfold when good friends gather to share an honest, home-cooked meal.

For this special dinner, I hosted four of my friends to eat, drink and talk about their travels abroad in search of family they have never met.

I made vegetables in green curry with coconut milk, served with cauliflower as rice, and sautéed okra in garlic, onion, and tomatoes. For dessert we had mixed fruit, served with strawberry vegan ice cream.

This dinner happened to be a mini-reunion; each one of us had traveled in the past year to meet with family. The travels were filled with first times. Amber went to Nigeria to meet her father’s family. Viradeth visited Laos to meet his biological father and his siblings. Gabriel went to Ethiopia and met his mother’s favorite aunt.