Koreans, marshmallows, and the British

on Friday, January 30, 2009
I love Koreans. I was surprised to find many Koreans here and they are very hospitable, and very generous with their food. They also love barbecue, which is great because I also love barbecue. Last night we had a pool party. There happened to be a Korean party going on right next to us, and since I knew some of the people so I hopped right on over and they started stuffing me with me with pork. Yum. In exchange for the pork one of us Americans brought out some marshmallows. So, we ended up cooking the pork and toasting the marshmallows on the same grill. Koreans apparently don't toast marshmallows, or eat them either. But they sure enjoyed them last night. They couldn't understand why the marshmallow was taking so long when they were holding it a foot from the coals, but they were especially thrilled when they caught on fire. I like introducing people to new things, when they enjoy it. If the Koreans had hated the marshmallows perhaps I wouldn't have been so fond of the event. But luckily, it was a success.
Today I had yet another pool party (pool hopping is fairly common here among the expats), but this time it was with the Brits. I also have a lot to learn from these good-mannered and proper people. I learn new words and phrases from them all the time, like what it is to "have a tiff", and what they really mean when they say to "bring a pudding". Pudding is a general term for dessert, not just the Jell-o. Oh. This was my first "bring your own meat" party. I didn't really know what that meant, but I think I did the right thing by, well, bringing my own meat. I got to grill it, too, but I got distracted by the fellow grill-ers and burnt my chicken. Not that anybody cares or is particularly interested in this fact. Suffice to say, this was a delicious Korean and British barbecue weekend. Which reminds me, there is a Canadian barbecue tomorrow as well!! We'll see if I make it to that.

Makes me laugh

on Thursday, January 29, 2009

Chinese Temples

on Tuesday, January 27, 2009
A photo tour of Chinese temples

I found this makeshift shrine in a parking lot in KL. These small shrines are all over Penang. They believe that big trees like this have spirits inside. Looking closer you'll notice that it's not just the Chinese that venerate this tree; it's also worshipped by Hindus.

Lucky Chinese New Year

on Sunday, January 25, 2009
Gong Xi Fat Chai! (Happy [Chinese] New Year!)

The one thing that I have learned about the Chinese this year is how superstitious they are. Things that bring good luck, such as oranges and the color red, are in abundance, while the things that bring bad luck, are of course, not in abundance because everyone avoids them.

I made a major Chinese faux pas on Monday by cleaning my floor. Apparently I just swept out all my good fortune for this year, dang it! And by sweeping the dirt out my door, I just swept one of the family away. Oh man.

If I cried New Years Day, I will cry all year long. Luckily I made it all the way through the day. Good thing it wasn't Sunday. And not even children can cry, according to one source: "children are tolerated and are not spanked, even though they are mischievous."

There can be no reference to the number "4". In Chinese, it sounds like the word "death". Quote from website: "Instead of saying "4" of something, you can say "2 more than 2" of something. Good thing I am no longer 2 more than 22!

Some other taboos:

Getting a hair-cut in the first lunar month puts a curse on maternal uncles.

Saying words like "finished" and "gone" is inauspicious on the New Year, so sometimes people would avoid these words by saying "I have completed eating my meal" rather than say "I have finished my meal."

Buying or reading books is bad luck because the character for "book" is a homonym for the character "lose".

And don't give clocks or green hats as gifts. Clocks symbolize escorting someone to the grave, and green hats symbolize infidelity.

Oh man, so many things to remember. So many mistakes to be made this month!

Fireworks and Jane Austen

Tonight I'm sitting in my room reading Emma and drinking peppermint hot chocolate. As I'm pondering the curious dis-interest between Mr. Knightly and Miss Woodhouse (what will become of it??, the first of the season's fireworks are exploding right outside my window. Thus begins Chinese New Year...ugh. No good sleep for Erin for the next week or two. No Chinese food either, because all the restaurants are closed.

I read an article about Jane Austen yesterday which says: "She was not much of a looker." Apparently Jane Austen was so "ugly" that they recently had to change her picture on her books. Quite interesting.


Sea Monkeys and Mountains

on Saturday, January 24, 2009

Last week Reuben and I went hiking to Turtle Beach. It's a beach located in the National Park which takes about an hour to get to. It's not such a bad hike. It's a long day if you hike to the beach and stay there all day, but the hike isn't hard.

This week we also went hiking, with some new-comers to Penang. But it wasn't enough to hike to Turtle Beach; we wanted to go farther. According to the map there was another beach, Teluk Kampi, about an hour past Turtle Beach. Ok, I thought, I can do this. It's only an hour. Oh.my.gosh. The map failed to show the contour lines that show that the hiking trail goes up a huge steep mountain, and then back down again. Ok maybe it wasn't a mountain, but it was really hard!! It was practically a vertical incline, from my opinion. I thought I was in good shape, but it turns out that I'm not. I was the one taking the walk of shame up to the group while everyone else was waiting for me at the top. But after almost hyperventilating and several encounters with some really large, thorny vines (which are very conveniently growing in just the right places when you need something to hold onto) we got to the beach. It was beautiful, and unlike Turtle Beach, there wasn't any sea jellies. As we were sitting their 'chillaxing' I was thinking about how I could survive the hike back and kinda stressing over it. These people walk really fast. Let's just say, I wasn't at all looking forward to it, or tomorrow morning when I wake up all sore. I said a little prayer asking God to help me somehow endure the looming mountain awaiting me upon return. And wouldn't you know, isn't God amazing, He totally answered my prayer (of course He would!) Somehow we got on a different trail which didn't go over the steep slope AND we made a shortcut from Turtle Beach, so we hiked back in no time. It wasn't bad at all. God made us get lost to make it easier on us.
These pictures are from Turtle Beach, last week. These monkeys are EVIL...just look in their eyes.

Purple toes and corners

on Thursday, January 15, 2009
So I was cleaning my house other day, mopping the floor and minding my own business. All of a sudden the corner wall of my kitchen comes out of nowhere, and my pinkie toe lands squarely into its sharpest point. Of course I was trying to mop as fast as possible, so the velocity of my toe hitting the wall was quite high and I heard it pop upon impact. I hobbled around for a little bit, and then went back to my business, but the pain wouldn't go away. My toe kept getting bigger and bigger and more colorful as the day progressed. The next morning it was a rainbow of purple, blue, black, and green. I iced it and popped some ibuprofen, and it seems to be doing better today. I was able to play tennis, at least.

My apartment has tile floors and steps in really random places. There's a 2-inch step down into the kitchen, and another 2-in step down into the laundry hall. There's also a step down to my bathroom. It's hard to get used to at first, but you get used to them after awhile and forget about them. Then someone new comes to your place, someone who is not familiar with this series of steps. When I see them tripping over them all, I just have to laugh because that was me at first, too. My toe incident, although it involved a corner and not a step, has renewed my fear of these small vertical ascents and I'm terrified of sharp corners.

Singapore signage

on Monday, January 12, 2009
There's all kinds of things you can't do in Singapore. I don't normally chew gum, but just because of the fact that it is illegal in Singapore, it made me want to chew it. There are lots of things that you can be fined for, like not properly flushing a toilet, jaywalking, littering, etcetera. Monkey feeding is quite serious. Although I saw a lot of jaywalking and only one policeman the whole time I was there. Singapore Daredevils. Apparently though, they are quite strictly enforced. They still practice caning and hanging as punishment. Here are some signs that caught my eye:

And just in case you didn't know:

This last one was taken at the Singapore zoo, where in November of 2008 3 tigers mauled a man to death:

Strange things happening

on Friday, January 9, 2009
As soon as I come back to penang all these wierd things are happening to me. I'm having crazy dreams. Last night I was attacked by a polar bear. This morning I got my first ever blister from running. Malaysia is boycotting America, and I'm considering calling myself Canadian from this point on. Today I ate a hard-boiled egg that had a double yolk. Maybe that's super common, I don't know, but I've never come across one in a quarter of a century. I looked it up and this is what Wikipedia says about it: "Double-yolked eggs occur rarely, only leading to observed successful hatchings under human intervention, as the unborn chickens would otherwise fight each other and die." Upon further research I discovered that double-yolks are unlucky, and apparently there will be an imminent death in my family. Uh oh. Both of these unborn and unlucky fighters were delicious in my salad, however.
Then, upon arrival back to Penang, Reuben discovered something strange about this honey. The "honeybear" was apparently left open on top of the fridge and somehow the poor gecko squeezed through the hole. It drowned itself in honey. I hope it had a good swim and died happily, but it serves him right for contaminating my American honey. I normally wouldn't care, but Asian honey tastes like crap. Even after several weeks, (although no one can confirm when this actually occured) his body is perfectly preserved. Maybe it's kind of like amber, the stuff that all the Jurassic Park mosquitoes were preserved in...which, if you recall, were the source of the DNA for all those crazy dinosaurs. And in case you were wondering, geckos float in honey.

And of course I threw out the honey right after I took the picture. I picked up the trash can to throw it in there, and out jumps a gecko and lands right on my bare foot. Scared me to death. The geckos are out of control!!

Smells like Target

on Thursday, January 8, 2009
I'm back! From a rather exhausting 3 weeks in KL and Singapore. I hate being a tourist. More about that later...I have more pressing news to attend to.
This afternoon I picked up two packages that were waiting for me at the post office...full of Christmas (a little late) and birthday stuff for me. My sister gave me some pjs. Not only are they cute, but they smell delicious!
This is because they are from target. I have no idea how Target makes it so that its stores all over America ALL smell the same. It's not that it's scented nicely and I would never want to capture the fragrance in a perfume; it's just...refreshingly Target-y. Just the smell conjures up good feelings. I wish that it could smell this way forever, but I know that I eventually have to wash it and the smell will be washed away forever. Then it'll get moldy because that's what all my clothes do here. I miss Target. All of you target shoppers please stop for a moment of appreciation next time you enter one of its stores. The rest of the world has no such experience. I'm looking forward to a hardcore Target run when I get back sometime in the distant future.