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Showing posts from July, 2012

So, What's in my Purse?

I carry a green purse with me everywhere I go.  Most times I also carry a backpack with a two-litre water bag.  So, what am I lugging around with me?  I know you're dying to know.

In my purse:

Passportcombmini-wallet for charge card, debit card and health insurance cardmini journalsecond book of same size to carry Bible memorisation codes and names of people I pray forTrident, sugar-free gum--orchard peach/mango flavouredLoperamide Hydrochoride caplets for diarrhea relieffunnel for use on squatting (and dirty or wet sitting) toilets, since I can't squatBen's Insect Repellentfresh ginger root (for nausea and unsettled tummy)tweezers for removing leeches from skin in the junglepen and stylus for my iPhoneBody Glide--an anti-chaffing stickplastic no-name container containing Anti-Monkey Butt powder also for chaffingNeutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-touch Sunscreen SPF 66Rexall baby Diaper RAsh Cream for if the previous two products don't workGeorge's Daily Moisturing LotionT…

A Day in Singapore

It's nearly 7:00 p.m. the next day as I write.  I've spent the day in bed out of exhaustion and knee joint pain but our day in Singapore was worth it.  Although JB (Johor Bahru, Malaysia) is separated from Singapore by only a causeway across the Johor Strait, sister cities one could say, travel between them is more complicated than moving between the twin cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul because one is also crossing an international border.  Still, the crossing each time was easier than when our friends Mo and Bob who live near Chicago came by bus to Winnipeg and were held up at the US-Canada border for about seven hours.

Thursday was chosen as our day to go because Bena's mom had to be taken to the Singapore airport in the morning.  It just made sense to piggyback our trip onto hers.  She's gone to Thailand for a five-day seaside vacation with her niece.  Because Bena and Boy were both working, Konrad had the honour of driving us and did admirably.  He might have s…

Waiting for the Ferry, Rushing for the Bus

Coming "home" from Pulau Tioman, a tropical island in the South China Sea, was an adventure.  The ferry was scheduled to arrive at 9:30 a.m. but we were instructed to be on the wharf half an hour early.  There were dozens of us waiting...and waiting and waiting and waiting.  Malaysian time, we were told.  Finally the ferry came at around 10:15 but after taking only five people, it closed its doors and took off.  What did this mean? Apparently it was full, but the next ferry wasn't scheduled to arrive till 4:30.  Would we have to wait that long?  We had tickets for this boat!  Some time later someone from the resort came to us to say it was aware of what had happened, and had arranged with the ferry service on the mainland to send another ferry just for us.  It would arrive at noon.  

Tom and I opted to stay on the wharf and I refused to leave my post at the top stairs down to the water's edge where the next boat would arrive even though it was in the sun.  I wore a ha…

Swimming with the Fishes

Paya Resort, Paya, Tioman Island, somewhere in the Malaysian waters of the South China Sea. 3:15 p.m., Sunday, July 15, 2012
I’m sitting on the front porch of our beach-front chalet in a cushioned rattan armchair, my feet up on a second chair like it but covered by a cushion to protect them from the sun, semi-enclosed by a decorative railing, surrounded by a bed of large, red flowers, watching the other tourists—mostly Asian—pass by on the sidewalk a couple metres in front of the porch and having a clear line of sight to the beach that’s only a few steps beyond it.  A group of snorkelling students are out by a heap of giant, tide-smoothened rock.  The main dock for the village is out of view to my left and so many interesting boats of various sorts and sizes move past my sight. 
The hedge of flowers close to me is inviting all sorts of interesting insects including a black and white swallowtail butterfly, a couple of others I didn’t see clearly enough to describe, dragonflies that don…

The Jungle Story Part 1--Teman Negara

Tahan Guesthouse, Rm 8, Kuala Tahan, Teman Negara, Malaysia Wednesday, July 11, 2012, 5:30 p.m. It’s 5:30 in the afternoon on our first full day in Teman Negara.  I’m sitting under the mosquito net over our bed, fan oscillating above me (I’d like it to stay pointed at me but that feature on the fan is broken), looking out the open doorway to the patio and beyond that to the simple mosque next door and the “mountain” covered with jungle behind it. 
Tahan Guesthouse is a simple, rustic place, painted with bright, happy colours and a mural of flowers on one wall of our room.  There is no air-conditioning, no wifi, no toilet to sit on.  The floor is covered with the sort of plastic some people use on their tables and the mosquito net has holes in it.  Still, we have our own washroom and shower and a balcony.  Also, we’re closer to the river than many other places and that’s an advantage when you’ve walked further and tougher terrain than you’ve done in years.
Yes, that’s what I did today.…

The Misadventures Begin

Today is Sunday.  After church, Tom, me, Ma Mu and Sarah (a friend of Konrad's from church) went out for lunch.  The restaurant we went to this time specialises in steamed fish and Tom was eager to try his favourite--grouper (which the travel guide says to avoid because of some health issue I don't remember but I guess we're ignoring that advice--I already have so many dietary restrictions that I don't want to make more trouble than needed).

Each restaurant we've gone to is unique and so, after we'd settled at the table, I went exploring with my camera.  An old server (I'm 60 and still working, he boasted--60 isn't old for us but he did look old) liked my picture taking and kept pointing to things I could photograph.  One place seemed out of bounds but when I saw other customers headed in that direction I decided to go too.  It was another sitting area but you have to understand the culture here.

A restaurant is not necessarily in a building with four…

Tailor, Massage, Night Market and Lots of Walking

It’s nearly 6:30 a.m. and I’ve been up for an hour.  It was my bladder that woke me, but once awake, I could hear the distant call to prayer from the local mosque.  Judging by the headscarves worn by women, about half the population is Muslim here in Johor Bahru (JB), Malaysia.  The Muslim women dress in many bright colours and some wear pants.  There are whole kiosks that sell the head coverings that one just pulls on over the head and other whole kiosks that sell jewellery to accent them—often long, dangling and glittery pieces that are pinned just under the chin.  I’m tempted to buy one but I’m not sure how I’d wear it. 

It’s also raining outside—pouring, actually, and the wind was quite strong when I got up and looked outside, though it seems to have calmed for the moment.  It’s still dark; the sun won’t rise until about 7:30 or 8:00.  I’d like to be in a place with a lot of light but Tom is still sleeping beside me and Bena’s brother, who so graciously gave up his bedroom for o…

Life in a Johor Bahru Suburb

It's been raining a lot since we've arrived in Johor Bahru, and last night was a terrific thunderstorm.  This is not a bad thing, because it's keeping the temperature down.  Bena's mom says this is "good weather."  There is air-conditioning in our bedroom but the rest of the house seems to be cooled with fans only.  So far it's been quite bearable.  If anything, the air-conditioning in our room makes it too cold, even when I had it set to 24C (75F?).  
Konrad and Bena live with Bena's mom and brother in the home Bena grew up in.  It's a spacious home for what I expected for Asia, with a living room / dining room combined, a small windowless room off the dining room and a small kitchen which they use very little, except to boil water for drinking.  Upstairs are three bedrooms.  We've displaced Konrad and Bena from the master bedroom with private bath and (never used) balcony.  They're using Boy's room (what they call Bena's brother)…

Last Leg of the Journey

As we were flying, I was eager to look at what passed below us and was particularly interested in our approach to Beijing.  I've heard stories about how big, crowded and smoggy Beijing is and was watching for such a place but we never saw it.  We were obviously approaching the city because we'd diminished altitude substantially, but we were still flying over farmers' fields when Tom pointed to an odd-shaped building.  "What's that?" he wondered.  The building was shaped like two capital Ys connected to each other at the bottom of their stems.

My first reaction was that it was an airport but I couldn't see any planes and none of the supporting industry one expects near a major international airport so when we continued to fly past it, with no indication that we were going to land, and since we continued to see farmers' fields, I concluded I was wrong.  I was wrong (about being wrong)!  It still seems to be an odd location for an airport and I'm gue…

Arriving in Asia

9:53 p.m. Manitoba Time; Somewhere over the Sea of Okhotsk, 3 ½ hours and 1630 miles away from Beijing Our path has followed the Pacific Rim, north along the Alaska coast, across the Bering Strait and down the coast of Russia.  Most of the time it was cloudy, though at one point I saw a dark expanse and was sure it was the ocean with a row of atolls or islands—maybe the Aleutians.  I was so excited!  Then I realised that the ocean was really part of the jet’s wing and the row of islands consisted of reflectors on the  wing. 
But finally the cloud cover broke and we could see land below.  Glorious land!  But WHAT land?  China?  Russia?  I mistook the large peninsula hanging off the north eastern edge of Russia as Korea and concluded we were over China, until the attendant informed me that this was Russia. 
The land was barren but mountainous—not like the Rockies of Alberta and BC but mountains that looked more weathered and worn—from 32000 feet up, they appeared to be bucolic hills that…

Over the Pacific Ocean

I love the amenities available now to air travellers.  We’re flying over the Pacific Ocean and there’s an AC power outlet on the back of the seat in front of me.  So cool!  On our flight from Winnipeg to Vancouver, there was a USB outlet for each passenger and I was thrilled.  Then I discovered power outlet ports in the departure waiting area at the Vancouver airport.  There were a number of them, each with eight outlets.  How wonderful!  As someone living in the digital world, these no-longer-perks-but-necessities have been a welcome sight.
The past few couple weeks I’ve been busy getting ready for our trip.  The most important has been walking daily so that I could build up my stamina and strength for all the walking we expect to do.  It’s paid off!  At first I was walking about an hour at a time.  Then I was walking an hour followed by laundry, ironing and errand-running.  I experimented and found that I could add another hour’s walk to every second day.  This past Friday, I spent t…