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.