on Friday, September 21, 2012
Apparently there have been some protests against my country here because of a certain film that some silly person made.  Anything political here usually happens on friday afternoons, after all the men get riled up after prayers at the mosque.  I'm not sure if anything interesting happened here, because I spent my afternoon in bed and in the pool.  I love fridays.

Malaysia in popular culture

on Tuesday, September 11, 2012
Malaysia is not very well internationally known.  Obviously.  The only reference many of my American friends know is from the movie Zoolander.  Side note: I didn't know until recently the movie was banned here because of the its plot to kill the Malaysian prime-minister and its depiction as "impoverished and dependent on sweatshops".  All Asian releases of the movie replaced the name "Malaysia" with "Micronesia".  Seriously, Malaysia, you need to learn how to take a joke.  But the story gets even better, because Owen Wilson got to meet the Prime minister (rather, the prime minister had the privilege of meeting Owen Wilson) earlier this year.  

Malaysia does also not appreciate a good show.  Malaysian regulations state that "all performers are to wear clothes without obscene or drug-related images and be covered from chest to knees. They must also refrain from jumping, shouting, hugging and kissing on stage".  There was a boycott of Avril Lavigne performing here 4 years ago.  "Her onstage moves were considered too provocative for Malaysia's teenage population".   The Pussycat Dolls performed and were fined $2857 for "flouting decency regulations".  Gwen Stefani said she made a "major sacrifice" by changing her wardrobe to reveal less skin.  Mariah Carey protested the regulations by wearing jeans and a t-shirt for her entire show.  Erykah Badu, on a different note, was banned from performing because she had a tattoo of the word "allah". Christina Aguilera and Beyonce gave up here and rescheduled for Indonesia.  Jennifer Lopez is set to perform here in December; perhaps she's looked on more favorably because I haven't heard anything as of yet.

I guess I make it sound like Malaysia is only known for its censorship.  But it's also known for positive things, too.  Like being the site of Survivor season 1 and *almost* winning Olympic gold in men's badminton this year.

But wait, there's more!  Prince William and the Dutchess of Cambridge are set to arrive in 2 days as part of the Diamond Jubilee Tour.  Malaysia is a former British colony, after all.  I'm rather disappointed in their venue selections, but probably because I'm jealous I can't join in the fun.

Things I'm loving lately

on Saturday, September 8, 2012
Internet:  Suri's Burn Book.  It's the only HollyWood gossip I allow myself to read, from the perspective of 6-year old Suri Cruise.  It's hilarious.

Music:  Pickin' On Series.  Because everything's better as Bluegrass.  Pickin' On Coldplay is my favorite.

Books:  The Tomorrow Series by James Marsden.  I've been craving Young Adult books for their easy, usually exciting reading.  I'm eating these books up.  I've finished 3 in the series so far, but I accidentally read them out of order (I didn't figure out till mid-way through my 3rd book that I had read Book #1, Book #4, then Book #3.  It was still exciting, though the ending was kind of a giveaway.)

Food: Tangled Thai Salad with Peanut Lime Dressing.  The dressing is the BEST.  I'm eating it right now, in fact.

SP Half Marathon

Reuben and I ran a half marathon last weekend.  It was a small, local race.  I had to get special permission to register to run, because I wasn't Malaysian.  They didn't want a bunch of foreigners coming in (a.k.a. the Kenyans) to win all the prize money.  But they didn't have anything to worry about me, of course.  But run I did.  The race began ridiculously late - almost 7am (once the sun comes out, you're a goner in this heat!).  We do most of our long runs starting at 5-something in the morning so we can be mostly finished before dawn.  Luckily, it was a perfectly overcast day and wasn't too bad.  Unluckily, they only had 2 water stations during the race and one in the last kilometer ("water stations" - two were carbonated beverages - Malaysians love their isotonic drinks!) Luckily, I packed my own water!

I ended up running a PR and making 6th place (womens)!  I won 100rm ($33USD).  I was happy and shocked.  My time, although great for me, was nowhere near competitive in any other normal race.  I have other fellow runner friends here who would have blown me out of the water.  Had it been in the US, I probably would have placed 400 out of 500.  But nobody else has to know that.

There's my name!
I won just enough to pay for the race registration fees

And now that I have reached the height of my competitive prowess (ha)  I need to take a break.  I've been developing a case of achilles tendonitis in both legs since the beginning of the summer.  For now I'm going to be doing lots of icing every day, but also looking into seeing a sports doctor or acupuncturist.  And lots of cross training and less running.  Today I did the stationary bike for 30 min and swam for 30 minutes.  2/3 of a triathlon!
My next event is the Run/Bike/Run Powerman in PutraJaya (October), and the Penang Bridge Half Marathon at the end of November.  NO chance of placing there.

Anniversary quiche

on Wednesday, September 5, 2012
Today's quiche

The morning after our wedding which was exactly 2 years ago, we enjoyed the most delicious quiche in the world, thanks to Wendy at SpringRidge B&B.   Thanks to my wonderful husband who I begged to acquire the recipe, I'm hoping to make it an annual (or more frequent!) tradition.  Today, September 5, our two year anniversary, the tradition continues. I have included the recipe below.  Do yourself a favor and make this.  It's basically fool-proof, with two rules:  don't substitute the Gruyere cheese and definitely, definitely use fresh rosemary.  

Wendy's Quiche (from SpringRidge B&B)
1 1/2 cups half & half
3 eggs
1 cup shredded Gruyere cheese
1/4 cup sliced/chopped ham (I've never added this)
Herbs from the garden (rosemary is critical/any other optional)

Mix all ingredients together, and pour into an unbaked pie shell.  Bake at 350-360 degrees for 30-35 minutes until the quiche does a little 'puff' at the end of the cooking time. You'll know when it looks right, and it is very forgiving if you don't!


on Thursday, August 30, 2012
Some days I absolutely love living here.  I wouldn't want to be anywhere else.  Other days, I want to go home, to the U.S., immediately.  Let me go quickly pack my bags, and I'll see you tomorrow.

Homesickness comes in waves and gets worse around holidays.  I generally have productive ways to work it out, like calling someone on Skype or sending someone a little care package in the mail.  It also gives me a good opportunity to focus on the people back at home and pray for them, so that I'm not just thinking about them sullenly and becoming a blubber of a mess.

Other days, when I'm just living life and not thinking much about where I'm living it, I get a little flash of a memory from home.  The longer I am away from WA, the more I am starting to realize how so many of my memories of my home (I still consider Yakima to be home because Reuben and I, until we came here, never had a place that felt like "home" to us) and of childhood are connected to senses.   The smell of freshly cut grass and the sound of a lawnmower.  A slight (and I mean slight) chill coming through the bedroom window.  Having a good burger.  Drinking iced tea.  Listening to the music at Starbucks.  It returns me to things at home that I don't get to experience here, like how I can recognize who's coming in the house (Yakima) by the way they shut the front door.  Smelling the evening's dinner as my mom is cooking it.  Spending evenings lying in the grass watching the stars.  Having to walk around the entire house before I find my mom working in the flower bed.  The smell of Target (trust me, you would miss it too!)  The feeling of warm clothes coming out of the dryer.

Despite all that we've left behind, there's so many new memories we're making, that I'm sure we'll miss when we're back in the U.S.   Things like our morning runs and evening walks, going down to the pool whenever we feel like it, eating mangos endlessly, and never feeling cold.  Eating the best food Asia has to offer. Maybe not the karaoke, fireworks, or prayer calls from the mosque that last far into the night though.

Sun rising

Sunday market

Asia is all about the night market.  On any given evening of the week, there will be a night market (called a pasar malam) somewhere nearby.  They start around 7pm but really kick into high gear around 9.  I don't know how late they go because...I don't stay out that late.  And to be honest, we hardly ever go to the Tuesday night market that's just a mile from our house.  I've seen enough of the same cheap clothes, watches, and plastic kitchen appliances.  The only thing we normally get there is food.

Malaysia also has morning markets, but that's just your typical "buy your fresh produce" market.  Grab the eggs, chicken, fresh veggies, fruit, and then I'm out.  My bags are usually so heavy I don't linger long to look at anything else.

Penang has a day-time market (unheard of!) that takes place in Georgetown on the last Sunday of every month.  I would consider it more of an "arts and crafts" fair.  It reminded me of a farmer's market back home, except that nobody sold produce.  It's fun to "go local" and see what trinkets and gadgets people come up with here on the island.
Celebrating creativity and heritage.
People had tables full of food, locally-made paintings, quilters, wood carvers, handmade soaps, shoe "bedazzlers" (for lack of a better word), and all sorts of cheesy-looking arts and crafts, like the kind I would see at a church craft fair (no offense).  There was also live jazz.

This is the "Beatrix Potter and the Dutchess of Cambridge" table.
The market was right across the street from the historic Eastern & Oriental (E&O) Hotel (est. 1885), so we popped in to wander the grounds.  I love old colonial style architecture.  

Drive-through fruit

on Wednesday, August 22, 2012
Thing I love about Malaysia #4,355: Drive-through fruit vendors.  We go to a man named Tony.  We go to him a lot, actually.  He knows our names and knows what we are going to buy.  Reuben really likes his mangos.  And Tony has the best mangos.  He "guarantees" his mangos and promises that he would take back ones that weren't good.  He's never steered us wrong.

Step one: Drive up to fruit seller.  At this point you have two options.  You can get out of your car and select your own fruit, or you can just point at the bunch of bananas you want from your car, and fruit man will bring it to you, at which point you pay just like you're going through a drive-through.  You don't even have to leave your air-conditioned comfort to buy your bananas.  All of the fruit is either locally grown in Malaysia or in a neighboring country.

How great is that?

Ramadan treats

People might have been fasting all day for the holy month (they wake up to eat before 4:30am-ish, and break their fast around 7:30pm), but that doesn't mean food wasn't still all over the place.  The difference is that all the food is takeaway (the Malaysian term for "to go").  Forget about walking into a restaurant; all restaurants drag the tents and tables to the streets and set up shop out there.
The party's out on the streets
We went to Little India last week and the Indian Muslims were in their full culinary glory.  Special treats are made just for the season that you can't find the rest of the year.  We have Christmas (and all the special goodies that come with the season), they have Ramadan.  

Reuben was in heaven.  He knew exactly what to look for and veered straight for a special fried-foods man.  This dish, which comes with a sweet and spicy peanut sauce for dipping, has a name that I don't know.  
This man has fried up for you anything you could possibly desire fried.  Except Snickers (yes, I did that in college)

Pick a chunk of fried prawns and he'll chop it up for you
We also bought a giant stick of bamboo that had sticky rice cooked inside, all wrapped up snug in a banana leaf.   The hard part was cracking open the bamboo.  Reuben got out our giant chopping knife for that chore.  I still have a mess outside on my balcony to clean up from that.  But it was worth what was inside.

Rice cooked in bamboo.  How do they do that?
Now I know why it is said that most people gain weight during the month of fasting.  

I'm back, world

on Sunday, August 19, 2012
I finished the Hunger Games trilogy this weekend.  Thank god, now I can breathe again.  My husband is thankful too, because I have been ignoring him lately because of it.  I've read lots of great books before, but none that swallowed me whole like this series did.  In an attempt to balance it all out (and because I still have a dream to read all the books in Oprah's book club), I picked up Anna Karenina at the library.  Oprah, after all, said it was the greatest love story ever written.  All 750 pages of it.  I don't know how long I'll last.  I don't know if I want to make it last that long.  I have discovered that I actually enjoy reading children's books and short stories.  I guess it's back to the Boxcar Children and Madeline L'Engle for me, then.

P.S. I just read that Anna Karenina is coming out as a movie this year.  None other than Keira Knightly and Jude Law, of course.    

Adili fitri

on Saturday, August 18, 2012
It's the end of Ramadan, the Muslim holy month of fasting.  All month, Muslim-owned businesses have been shut down or only packing take-away (How can you work in a restaurant all day if you have to fast??)  The non-Muslim restaurants ask "Are you Muslim?" before you are allowed to eat (eating during the holy month is against the law, you see).  People are tired.  People are lazy.  I would be, too, if I had to fast from all all food and drink until 7pm.  

The floating mosque, from the beach
We live just up the hill from what is known as the "Floating Mosque."  Built just before the 2004 tsunami, it didn't experience any damage from the disaster.  We're somewhat blocked from the building in front of us, but we can still hear the Imam (the Muslim priest) doing the prayer calls, 5x a day.  This year, during Ramadan, they added extra speakers and turned up the volume.  We've REALLY been hearing the prayer calls.  And instead of ending at 9:30ish like they should be, they've been going until 10:30 every night.  That might sound to nothing to a person who stays up till 1am every night, but I am not that person.  I go to bed early.  I'm really hoping that now that Ramadan is over, they'll crank the volume down a notch or two.  And stop when they're supposed to.

Yesterday evening, there was a big party down at our pool.  A live band, playing all the oldies and goodies.   They were competing with the mosque who could be the loudest.  I enjoyed the music from my balcony until the prayer calls started, and then everything was just cacophony.  The imam does not sound well with "Great Balls of Fire."

Finding things

on Wednesday, August 15, 2012
Every time I go to a new store here in Penang (which is often), I take the time to go through the whole place to check out what they have, even if I'm not looking for anything.  Shops here are known for carrying the most eclectic variations of goods.  Most carry a little bit of this, a little bit of that, and then some.  But of course, when I'm actually looking for something, it cannot be found.  Until one day, many moons after my need for said product is gone, I discover it in some completely random place.

Popsicle sticks, for example.  I wanted to get them for school a few months.  My local mini-mart didn't carry them (a bad, sign, because they seem to carry 99.8% of my needs).  I went to the pharmacy and asked for tongue depressors.  They said I would have to order them in bulk (in the 1000s).  No thank you.  The "craft section" (hardly worthy of the term, its about 1 meter wide) at Tesco didn't carry them.  Apparently children here don't do crafts with popsicle sticks like we do in America...or perhaps that was just me. The not-so-friendly helpers at Ace Hardware couldn't quite understand what I was asking for, but all they had that seemed to fit my description was paint stirrers.   I finally gave up until a few days ago, when I happened upon them in an art supply store. And wouldn't you know it, I also saw them the next day in a stationary store.  They are now being put to good use in school.

Other elusive items:

Glycerin - This was only a difficult item to find because here it is known as "infant tongue wash."

Pipe cleaners (also known as "chenille stems")- Oh, popsicle sticks and pipe cleaners, the stuff of childhood.  I also looked everywhere for these for months, and found them this weekend in a stationary store, right next to the popsicle sticks!  Apparently in the "cheap and cheesy craft section".  Oh, how desperately I miss stores like Michael's and JoAnn fabrics.

Mason jars - I wasn't exactly looking for these, but I was pleasantly surprised when I happened upon them at Ace.  Ace Hardware hardware here is actually pretty amazing, although it's on the other side of the island so I hardly go there.

There you go.  More than you needed to know about popsicle sticks and pipe cleaners in Malaysia.


on Sunday, August 5, 2012
I signed up for my first triathlon with much hesitation and trepidation.  Mostly because I didn't have a bike yet and wasn't sure if I was going to find one to borrow.  That problem was easily solved by a gracious friend who loaned me her brand-new never-ridden mountain bike.  Not ideal for the road, but it would do!

It's called the Port Dickson International Triathlon.  Malaysia has very few triathlons (maybe 3?) every year, so everybody flocks to them.  We had lots of friends who had done this triathlon before and several friends who were doing it this year, too.  We decided to start with the sprint triathlon, which sounded a whole lot less scary than the full Olympic distance one.  750m swim, 20km bike ride, and 5k run.  I can totally do all of those things.  But the question was, could I do all of those things together.

I knew I was weakest at the bike ride (I had only gone on 2 practice rides before the race, and that bike was h.e.a.v.y!).  I was confident in the swimming but apprehensive about the open water.  We can't practice swimming in the ocean here in Penang because of jellyfish, so all I could do to prepare was to swim laps around my fishbowl-of-a-20-meter-pool.

The race


Reuben was terrified

The swim was great.  Exhilarating, even.  There was a big storm the night before that knocked out all the buoys from the water, so people just lined up for a quarter-mile along the beach and started wherever they wanted to.  All we were told to do was swim anti-clockwise around 2 big buoys way out in the water.  I didn't experience any crowding or getting swam on-top-of (like I was expecting) because I just stayed to myself on the outside of the pack.  The water was super murky so I couldn't see anything, but the buoyancy and the temperature of the salt water made it such a great swim.  No wetsuit needed!  In fact, they're not allowed!  I want to keep doing triathlons in the States but I think cold water would be the hardest part for me. 

Happy happy happy
He was much less happy.  Probably the bladder infection.
After the bike portion my legs were really stiff.  It seemed like I was practically crawling when I started running, but I just tried to keep a steady pace.  I got a second wind half-way through, and ended up passing a ton of people and got passed by nobody the entire run!  I shocked myself.  I finished with a great time!  

Did I mention that Reuben had a bladder infection?  He didn't decide whether to do it or not until the night before.  He's happy he did it, even though he came down with another infection the week after.

Conclusion?  I think I'm in love.  Triathlons are way more fun (and challenging) than any running race.  I would jump to do more if there were any, and I want my next one to be an Olympic distance.  My next step is to get my own bike, which we're trying to figure out now.

In the works: a lot, actually.  Two half-marathons, one Sept 1st and the Penang Bridge at the end of November.  There's also a Powerman (Run/Bike/Run) in October I think that Reuben has signed up for that I might do, if I can get a bike by then.  

My North Korean twin

on Saturday, August 4, 2012
I'm loving watching the Olympics.  YouTube is the greatest.  One thing that I've noticed especially this year is how many shapes and sizes of athletes there are.  There's not a whole lot of variation within each sport, but between sports the differences are HUGE.  Think shotput vs rhythmic gymnastics, people.  There's some sports where it doesn't seem like you have to be in good athletic shape at all (shooting?) and then, there's beach volleyball in which you do have to be in incredible shape, mostly because you have to wear that bikini.

Then I stumbled on the Olympic athlete body match on BBC.  What is my Olympic athlete body match ?  A North Korean table tennis player, of course.  It's a fun app to check out.

Empty nesters

on Friday, August 3, 2012
Reuben and I have been parents for the past 3 weeks.  No, we did not secretly have a baby; we've been hosting two girls for the Dalat ESL summer camp.   I don't know what I was thinking when I agreed to do it; it was probably some fond memories of exchange students in my past.  We hosted two 13-year old girls from China.  One of them had some serious homesickness and was crying before she even entered our house for the first time.  She cried for the first 3 days; she and the other girl fought and yelled at each other for the first few days as well; finally, they learned to share a room with each other, thank goodness.  They were busy all day at school, and spent most of their evenings in their room, so the whole "homestay" thing was pretty easy on our part.  We definitely learned a lot about parenting (as much as you can by suddenly needing to care for a 13 year old) including things such as cooking for four (we have cooking for 2 down to a science!), arranging playdates, wondering when and if it's ok to leave them home alone, and how to still do adult things like try to have a long conversation with someone with children standing by absolutely bored out of their minds (I remember feeling this way when having to wait to go home after church with my parents!).

We said goodbye to them today, and I have to admit that I was excited to come home empty-handed.  If there is one thing that I have appreciated about living here, it is having our own place, all to ourselves.  Who knew it would feel so good to give away children?

Olympic fever

on Sunday, July 29, 2012
I love the Olympics.  Whenever they roll around, I try to watch as much of them as I possibly can.  I was here in Malaysia for the last summer Olympics in Beijing (was that really 4 years ago??), and Reuben and I went to KL for those few weeks because his mom has cable TV.  Now, we do not.  YouTube to the rescue!  They have an absolutely amazing channel that broadcasts all the events live.  That even we can stream online!

One of the local channels broadcast the opening ceremonies live, which was something like 4am-7:30am on Saturday morning.  It was fun to watch except for the fact that all the commentary was in Bahasa.  It happened before I woke up, but Reuben said that the commentators totally skipped over the entire country of Israel, like it didn't exist.  Then they made a big hoop-la over Palestine.  Yes, Malaysia would do something like that.  I generally forget about the Israel-hatred here; except, of course, when Malaysia was boycotting American products for its support of Israel a few years back.  Even though it IS my namesake, nobody ever says anything about it, and neither of us have encountered any problems.  C'est la vie.

We'll be trying to follow the Olympic events as much as we can, although most of them will be happening while I'm fast asleep.  I hope YouTube has recaps!

In my school

on Saturday, July 28, 2012
In some ways, teaching at LifeBridge is just like teaching at any other school.  The bathrooms are gross, the food is bad, and kids are coughing all over you and hanging on you like monkeys.  Teaching in a school full of Muslim children, however, is completely different than anything I've ever taught before.  A few observations:

Most of my students rock back and forth whenever they read.  They also like to sing the words they are reading.  They learned this in madrasah, where they learn to recite the Koran.  Swaying and singing are apparently part of their training!  It's all fine by me, as long as they are still learning to read!

Children are much more subdued when fasting.  I know I shouldn't be grateful that these kids have to fast from all food and water during Ramadan (which just started last week), but it does make my job a whole lot easier when they're sitting down nicely instead of jumping up and down and running around the room like they usually are.  I don't lose my patience over sleepy children as much as I do the rambunctious ones.

And last but not least, the biggest insult that one child can give to another is to call them a pig.  It seems kind of silly (as far as where I come from) when I hear it but I have to remember what that really means to them.  It's bad!

Happy Little Cloud

on Friday, July 27, 2012
I always knew I loved public television, now even more.  

You're welcome.

The kitten

on Friday, July 20, 2012

Reuben brought home a week-old kitten on Sunday.  He found it abandoned and being eaten by fire ants.  Total sob story.  He went to the vet and they wouldn't do anything and called the local SPCA to find out they put to sleep any kittens they receive under 2 months.  There's no animal shelter here in Penang.  So we stuck it in a shoebox (a laundry basket later became its home) and started feeding it milk with a syringe every few hours.

We're not allowed to have pets in our building.  This kitten may be small, but it's very loud!  We had to close all the doors and windows to make sure we wouldn't get complaints from the neighbors.  Luckily the kitten had the good sense to sleep all the way through the night.  

Reuben just happened to go to the State Veterinary Department this week to fill out some paperwork for a friend who is bringing a dog from the states.  He found a staff person there who was willing to adopt it.  On friday, kitty went to her new home.  In fact, the woman who adopted her said she was a "good luck cat" because of its coloring and white/black face.  Hooray!

Something that doesn't belong

on Wednesday, July 18, 2012
Just another ordinary day of driving in Malaysia.

Something in this picture doesn't belong.

Sunday afternoons

on Monday, July 16, 2012
Sunday is my favorite day of the week.  My time on Sunday is precious to me.  We go to church, have lunch at our usual epic vegetarian restaurant, then go home.  Reuben takes off to teach for Sunday afternoons so I have the place to myself until.  Usually I take a nap, but I finally got my hands on the Hunger Games, and I haven't been able to put it down since Friday evening.  I finished it this afternoon!  Good thing, because it gave me a heck of a lot of anxiety this weekend!  The book is pretty much all my worst nightmares come true, the kind that you don't want to wake up from just yet because you want to hope that it can at least end well.  I devoured it.  

I also devoured this Stonyfield organic yogurt that I found on sale at Cold Storage this week.  Normally we just get the big tub of plain yogurt these days (I don't really care for homemade yogurt, at least how I know to make it!) and I'm pretty tired of it.  I usually don't like to drop 5 dollars on a single-serving container of "imported from the U.S.A." yogurt, but when I saw it on sale I practically bought them all. Yum.

How to grow a pineapple

on Thursday, July 5, 2012
I just discovered (silly me!) that you can grow a pineapple from its crown.  It takes upwards of two years to grow so we'd not likely see any actual fruit come out of it, but I wanted to see for myself if it would work.  There's lots of tips and tricks of how to grow one from the internet.  Within a few weeks of soaking the crowns in water, I have shoots (even though it's just a few)!

Roots: those tiny white fingers coming out of the base of the crown

The leaves on the crown are growing fast, but I don't think I'll put them in soil until they get their roots get more established, which could be another month or two at this rate.  

In other gardening nows, I also tried my hand at growing ginger!  It was as simple as buying some extra ginger at the market, soaking it in hot water for 8 hours, then planting it.  It took about 2 weeks to sprout.  I planted two kinds: one from Thailand (I think) and a smaller Malaysian variety.  I'm excited to see what the plant will grow into!

Happy 4th of July!

on Wednesday, July 4, 2012

 Happy Fourth of July!  I displayed my patriotism by putting up a flag banner on our balcony.  Finally, a reason to use it!  Sadly there was no bbq, I but I did make some delicious coconut muffins.  

What better way to spend fourth of July, though, with a fellow American!  My friend Susie from IslandWood is here with her friend who is working with the Peace Corps in Java.

We actually have quite a few American friends here, and I always dreamed about having a fourth of July bbq.  But this weekend we're out of town for our triathlon.  Maybe next year!

How to be a Malaysian driver

on Thursday, June 28, 2012
1. Forget turn lanes.  You can turn in them if you want to, but you can also use them for getting a few cars ahead and quickly merging back into traffic.  If the turn lane has the long line, you can make another one by going straight past the line, then quickly stop in the middle of the intersection.  Congratulations, you will have made it to the front of the line, at the expense of blocking all other traffic.  Note: you will get honked at by ME.

2. Red lights are optional.  If the light has just turned red, you go through it anyway.  If there's a break in traffic, you take it.

3. Don't wait for a break in traffic to turn onto busy road.  You will get honked at by the person behind you.  They also might pull up alongside you and make the turn before you.  Just GO.  In fact, the faster you turn onto the road, and the less you think about how not safe this is, the better off you will be.  The cars that are coming do not expect to have to put on their brakes to stop for you.

4. Park anywhere you please.  No space?  No problem.  Double park.  Triple park.  Whatever you need to do to.  Just make sure to leave enough room for at least one car to fit through, on a two way street.  But be sure that you turn in your side-view mirror.

5. An ambulance coming up behind you?  Perfect.  Tailgate it close enough, and you will manage to have smooth sailing through traffic.  Most likely, however, the ambulance will be stuck in the traffic gridlock just like everyone else.  Chances are it's not an emergency, anyway.

6.  No carseat?  No problem.  All you need to do is put a "Baby on Board" bumper sticker on your car. It serves as magical protection your child that is sitting on the dashboard, on the lap of the driver, or is standing out the sunroof.
Baby bumper stickers are more common than carseats

Keeping cool

on Friday, June 22, 2012
I feel like I'm fighting a constant battle with the heat.  When I walk back in the door of our home I either jump into a cold shower, grab a glass of ice water, go down to the pool, or nap.  Sometimes all four of those things.   It seems that every trip out completely exhausts me these days, so I've slowly been developing some 'strategies' for staying cool.  Here are my secrets:

1) Frozen watermelon.  I could eat this all day, but it is particularly refreshing after coming back from a workout.  Frozen grapes are also great.

2) Baby powder.  I discovered this from Reuben.  It is great at absorbing moisture and keeps you feeling dry and fresh.

3) Neck coolers.  Sure, it looks weird having a big wet thing hanging around your neck, but they feel fantastic.  My mom made some for us.

4) Sleep on the floor.  Reuben's actually the one that does this.  The tile is cool and he sometimes takes naps directly on it.

5) Freezing water bottles.  I froze my water bottle 3/4 full last night for my run this morning, and it had completely melted with 15 minutes of starting to run.

6) Homemade frappuchinos.  Especially of the coconut mocha kind...yum.

Cooling down with my neck cooler and frozen watermelon

The week

on Thursday, June 21, 2012
The past two weeks of school since coming back from our break have been completely exhausting.  Overhauling the literacy program and changing everything has been tough on both the kids and me.  Finding a way to bring structure into the class has been a slow learning process, and every day I'm getting closer to achieving it.  I've been trying out new things every day, and every day the kids are totally confused and I am totally frustrated that they don't understand me and my instructions.  I was terrified going into today because it was all interactive activities, but I took a preemptive step today with each class and made sure my instructions were translated into Malay.  It made a HUGE difference!  It was almost organized chaos!

These are the older students.  I can't get a picture of the younger ones because they won't keep still long enough to be anything but a blur in my camera.  
I'm tired.  I plopped down and onto my computer when I got home, and I saw this link: 21 pictures that will restore your faith in humanity.  Do yourself a favor and take a look.  It made me smile.

What also makes me smile?  This:

I love cartoon sea creatures.

the haze

on Monday, June 18, 2012

Around this time of year, the air starts to get really hazy. An article in the newspaper this week describes how it's expected to get worse in the coming days, due to "peat and forest fires in the Riau district of central Sumatra".  It doesn't smell like smoke at all, but I wonder what sorts of bad stuff we're breathing.  If it's any comfort, they have mobilized the National Haze Action Plan (whatever that is)!

Feels like home

on Saturday, June 16, 2012
 There's a handful of retail stores here in Penang that I can walk into and completely feel like I'm back at home.  Starbucks is one of those places.  So is The Body Shop.  Banana Republic.  Forever 21 (am I 18 again?).  Borders (not closed here!) and the Gap.  It's amazing how each brand can precisely recreate one of its stores anywhere in the world.  Even the smells!

Thank you for making my day today, Gap. 
This shot could be taken in a Gap store anywhere in the world right now!  
Even though much of their clothing is manufactured in nearby countries, the prices in these Western stores are usually higher here than they would be in the States.  Even worse with the fact that there are rarely any sales or clearance stuff.  Go figure.  At the risk of sounding uber materialistic and superficial, hanging out at the Gap was just what I needed today.

A little bite of home

on Wednesday, June 13, 2012
Hello Washington, I miss you (not you, Red Delicious)

One of our grocery stores put up a Washington apple display in their produce section.  A little slice of home, except it's mostly shrink-wrapped Red Delicious apples or Granny Smiths.  Would you be a fan of Washington if that was all you knew?  They also have imported cherries from the U.S. (probably from CA, maybe now from WA now that their season has just started) and apricots (one of those tiny things costs $2!)

They love plastic wrapping fruit!
I might be tempted to be missing out on harvest season in Yakima this summer, but then I remember what fruits we can buy locally.  Not too shabby!

So many types of mangos!

Things I did

My school break is officially OVER and, like every other year of my life, I wasted it.  I did make a 'to-do' list to guide me along, and here's how I did:

1)  Join a gym, or at least do a trial week.  Did it, with a love/hate relationship.  It's a little too pricy for me to continue, though, and I think I'd be too lazy to make it worth it.   

2) Get a haircut.  Check!  I went to the Salon just down the hill from us and, through a friend's recommendation, had my hair cut by "Joe".  He was fantastic!  One thing I never really thought of before is that because Malaysia is so ethnically diverse, they have to learn how to cut ALL types of hair.  No more worries that they wouldn't know how to deal with my Western hair.  My hair was cut above my shoulders and I am loving it.  It's so much cooler, dries so much faster, and is so much easier to wash!  
3) Go to the dentist.  The only one on my list that I didn't even try for.  Reuben did manage to get there, though, to have a tooth pulled.  
4) Do an online course through Reading Rockets that covers strategies to teach reading.  Did it, and it was super helpful!  Who knew learning how to read was so complex?  I also started making my way through the Revive our Hearts podcast series.  
5) Get my Long Term Social Visit Pass.  Started, but not finished it.  We went all the way to the state immigration office on the mainland only for them to give us a form that needs to be stamped by a commissioner of oath and a security bond.  That means going back to the island to the court house and to the income tax offices.  We managed to get all of that done, but we have to go back to the first office to actually file.  This is the thing I hate about Malaysia; anything having to do with paperwork is super inefficient!  We'll have to do all of that next week, probably, since my visa is expiring on July 4.  

6) Watch another season of 24.  We finished the last half of season three, and started season 4.  To be honest, I'm getting really sick of Jack Bauer.  Can't he just have a day off or at least stop for a cup of tea?  We also bought a few movies and the first season of Monk. 

Some other things we did:
-Saw the Avengers
-Planted ginger and preparing a pineapple crown to plant
-Started using the stationary bike in our gym.  I guess I'd better try biking if I'm going to do this triathlon in a few weeks.  I'm regretting leaving my bike shorts back in WA!  
-Finished reading through the Bible!  Reuben and I started back in 2010 shortly after we got married and it's taken us this long to make it through the OT and Revelations (we did the NT first).  I'm now starting a topical study on the Prov 31 woman.  
-Made pineapple jam


on Saturday, June 9, 2012

My grandma is turning 95 tomorrow.  The family hosted a milestone birthday party at my aunt's house in CA.  She has never been one for technology, but I was able to Skype with her this morning.  I haven't seen her for years and years, and she's never even met Reuben before!  Reuben asked what her secret to living 95 years is, and she said "eat well and get lots of rest".  Sounds like a good philosophy to me!

I did a little research to see what was happening in the world when Grandma was born.  In 1917:

The U.S. declares war in Germany (WWI)
Albert Einstein publishes his first paper on Cosmology
Houdini performs buried alive escape
JFK is born
Charlie Chaplin writes, directs, and stars in several short comedies

Can you imagine?  The Wright Brothers had made their first flight only a decade before, the World Wars had just begun, and the Model T Ford was just getting started.  Penicillin hadn't even been discovered yet, Malaysia was still a British Colony, and women hadn't earned the right to vote.  What would it feel like to live through all those changes?  I'll be 95 in 2078.  I wonder what the world will be like then.  What an intriguing thought!  

the national sport

on Monday, June 4, 2012
Last friday evening we played badminton.  Not the backyard kind of badminton with cheap rackets and plastic birdies (that always flew over into the neighbors yard).  The serious kind.

Every Malaysian knows how to play badminton.  Nearly half of the gear in the sports stores here are dedicated to badminton.  Did you know badminton has special shoes?  And that badminton players are called "shuttlers"?  I didn't even know how to spell badminton until a few days ago, which is why I am trying to type it as much as possible now.  Badminton!  

Playing doubles on the badminton court

Malaysia's only Olympic medals are badminton (4 to date)!  Lee Chong Wei, the silver medalist at the Beijing Olympics, is now a national hero.  We often drive past the "National Badminton Stadium" when we're in KL.  When Reuben was in Atlanta for the 1996 Olympic games, what sport did he go see?  Badminton, of course.  Badminton, badminton, badminton!

Consensus: it was pretty fun.  The people I was playing with were gracious enough to be patient with me.  The gym was wicked hot, though, and they don't open the doors or turn on fans in order not to disturb the trajectory of the shuttlecock.  They start at 8:30 and play till around 11.  Whew!  That's way too late for me.


So random

on Wednesday, May 30, 2012
Jambalaya for two.
Morning time

Another epic fruit bowl
I ended up with a massive amount of fresh herbs this week.  I froze them into ice cubes to easily throw them into dishes later.   Hooray for sage, rosemary and thyme!

My mother brought a massive amount of Peeps with her from several different holiday seasons.  I naturally started with what I thought to be the oldest ones, and that is why I had a snowman peep in my hot chocolate last night.  Oh, for comforts from home!