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.