Search

Shaun and Trina are Sweating

Join us as we eat curry, go on adventures and fight the evil travellers' diarrhea.

No dress rehearsal, this is our life

It blows my mind that on a Saturday night I can be at a mamak stall watching Malaysia in the Olympic Men’s Badminton Final and the following Sunday morning I’m in a room of Canadians eating pancakes and maple syrup, drinking Crown Royal and live streaming The Tragically Hip concert.

For all you nonMalaysian readers, a mamak stall is a essentially an outdoor restaurant that serves the traditional food of Malaysians of Tamil Muslim descent. So we ate delicious garlic naan, tandoori chicken and dal curry as we hoped national favourite Lee Chong Wei  would bring home the gold (and maybe a Monday stat holiday). Unfortunately, it wasn’t in the cards. We sipped our teh ais (local iced milk tea) and watched seemingly impossible digs on the edge of our red plastic chairs. Despite his grit and determination, Lee was beaten by China’s Chen Long in two close sets.

For our nonCanadian readers, The Hip are basically the iconic Canadian band of the past 30 years. You’ve never heard of them because they didn’t make it big south of the border. Artistry was always more important than huge commercial success. When they played Saturday Night Live in 1995, they didn’t even play their top charting songs. Instead they sang about a shipwreck  (Nautical Disaster). The songs of the Tragically Hip basically were the soundtrack to my high school and university days. Recently their lead singer Gord Downie was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer and so they went on a cross Canada tour ending last night in their hometown of Kingston, ON. 

Their significance is hard to explain to anyone under the age of 30 or not a Canadian. I tried to explain it to my cab driver on the way to meet up with fellow Canucks. I tried to explain to a well-meaning Kiwi friend who good-naturedly wore a Rider shirt to the occasion. But try as they might, they just couldn’t get why we are all crazy for the music of this guy in a Jaws t-shirt, sparkly pants and a top hat.

The lyrics often don’t really make sense at a logical level. You just feel them and they define you. And you go into a big ugly cry when Gord Downie sings . . .

“Okay, you made me scared, you did what you set out to do
I’m not prepared, you really had me going there for a minute or two
He said, you made me scared too, I wasn’t sure I was getting through
I got to go, it’s been a pleasure doing business with you”

. . . as he waves goodbye.

I really wish Malaysia had won that Olympic Gold. I could use tomorrow off to emotionally recover.

Trina

 

 

A visit to my home

IMG_0121[1]What does home mean to you? Is it a physical place where you have a bed and cups and a plant? Is it a figurative place where your family and friends are all together in the same place? Is it your country, your province, your city? Or is it a combination of everything and everywhere you’ve been (c’mon, you need a good bed)?

Home to me has come to mean different things over the last few years – mostly because I’ve spent so much time away from mine. And the longer I’m away, the stronger the connection I have to it. Because like all the paradoxical aspects of being human, absence from something (and somebodies) truly does make you love it (them) more. Absence make memories of the Prairie winter seem bearable, and the reunited conversations more deep with laughs that seem to last longer.

While I know it’s all a bit of a mirage, my favourite vacations have been to Regina, Saskatchewan. My home. And this summer was no different.

The familiar smells, sounds, sights and faces put me at ease, while every breakfast, brunch, lunch and supper was filled with old friends (and new a nephew), new stories and a familiarity that can’t be faked.

And while it’s always so tough to leave, I always feel fortunate to have those roots to miss and come back to. Living abroad you meet a lot of people who don’t have that sense of home, that sense of belonging, and they seem lost and searching.

Living in Malaysia and Sri Lanka, I’ve no doubt built connections to those places, but I’ll always be a foreigner – not just in the eyes of Sri Lankans or Malaysians, but in my own soul. And that’s okay because I really love being a visitor, I really do hate winter (I remember that now) and I really love being a tourist in my home.

Until the next time, my friends. Thanks for the visit and in the words of my niece Annabelle – “See you soon.”

Shaun

IMG_0018[1]

 

 

 

Balik kampung (returning to our village)

Copy of IMG-20160701-WA0008
Breaking fast during Ramadan is serious business in Malaysia. People get all their food ready and then wait for the signal that the sun has officially set. In Kuala Terengganu where we were visiting this week, the signal was a cannon blast. Once that puppy explodes, it’s game on and all you can hear is slurping and burping. It’s an outstanding communal experience.

 

It’s Canada Day. It’s (almost) the end of Ramadan. And it’s time to celebrate (and eat during daylight hours)! So like everyone in Malaysia right now, we’re returning to our village (balik kampung) – Regina, Saskatchewan for a visit.

After a short 26-hour flight, we’ll be laughing and eating with our family and friends. It’s an exciting time for us. We haven’t been home in over 11 months, the Riders just started their season (with a loss) and we’ve got a new nephew to meet.

Surprisingly, some Malaysians will take just as long driving to their small towns on the jam-packed highways this weekend, but not surprisingly, they’ll be just as excited to hang out with their peeps. They even have a song for their annual pilgrimage home and we think it sums visits home up nicely.

As a wise man named Randall once said, “People…are people.”

Happy Canada Day and enjoy these pics of our recent trip to Redang and Perhentian Islands in northeastern Malaysia. Two beautiful places.

Shaun

Shaping young (Asian) minds

There was a short time during my university days that I thought about getting into teaching. However, as soon as I got accepted into journalism school, that idea disappeared and I turned my attention to writing headlines and not missing deadlines.

Fast forward almost 20 years and I’ve suddenly found myself in a classroom teaching middle school kids English. Like my blossoming coaching career, my teaching gig came out of desperation as my slightly-employed status isn’t exactly paying for our flights home this July.

13413936_10154141358120330_1026939248_n
Here’s my class hard at work. It’s all about digital, interactive learning these days. And lots of bean bag chairs.

But, thanks to teaching 8 kids English for 3 hours a day over 15 days in June, I’m making enough cash to get back to Regina and will have a bit left over to pay for my Par 3 punch pass once I arrive.

Never having taught before, my first day was scary. But, with Trina teaching in the room beside me (and planning my entire first week of lessons), I really couldn’t go wrong. And the kids are pretty cool too – they always listen to me when I talk about hockey or winter.

Here are a few thoughts from my first two weeks:

  1. Having a Yoshi and a Toshi in your class can get confusing.
  2. Word games like Pictionary and Catch Phrase are gold.
  3. Sarcasm and irony are lost on English learners – and I use those techniques a lot.
  4. Kids will do anything for a Tic Tac or Menthos.
  5. None of the kids knew what a tuque was or had heard of Gordie Howe.
  6. They all knew Muhammad Ali.
  7. Grade 6 boys love feats of strength – one of the boys could pick me up slightly off the ground gaining the class’s instant respect.

All in all it’s been a fun experience, but I’m now certain that I didn’t miss my calling all those years ago. I also have even more respect for what teachers do. I can’t imagine having a class of 30+, or having to deal with deadbeat parents or simply entertaining kids for 5 hours everyday. It’s an exhausting, noble profession that I’ll be glad to retire from after the end of this week.

Shaun

 

 

 

 

 

School’s out for summer!

image
My home group and I pause for a photo op on the last day of school.

Actually, school has been out for over a week now. We’ve been sticking around Malaysia, teaching fun activities at summer school during the mornings, and then getting into shenanigans in the afternoons. The following are a few anecdotes to give you a glimpse into our lives as of late.

The trip to the car wash

We pulled the Swif into a local car wash. Ten men immediately started hosing it down in water and soap. It only took 15 minutes and the equivalent of $3CAD for a thorough inside / outside wash. A few minutes in though, one of the workers asked Shaun to come over. It seems another costumer had left them the keys to move his car. The car was a standard  and no one there knew how to drive it so they called Shaun over to help out. Unfortunately, Shaun didn’t take me up on the chance to learn to drive stick in my 1984 Hyundai Pony all those years ago. So he told the men this and surrendered the keys to me. They all watched in amazement and laughter as I moved the car for them. When I gave them the keys, the worker responded with “Thank you, sir!”.

Game of Thrones Night -Ramadan Style

image
This is what our street looks like from 3pm onward as people park everywhere and anywhere to zip in and pick up food from the Ramadan Bazaar in preparation to break the fast.

For the entirety of Season 6, we’ve been getting together with a few friends for potluck and watching all the newest episode of Game of Thrones every Monday night. Never mind the fact that I haven’t watched a single episode of the previous 5 seasons, I enjoy the company and the good food. This past week, we decided to check out the Ramadan food stalls. Hundreds of stalls have sprung up in the streets for just the occasion and families stop by all day to pick up food for their evening meals.

Ramadan is the fasting month in the Islamic calendar which marks the conclusion of the Islamic year and the ends with Hari Raya, a celebration at the end of the year. During daylight hours, Muslims refrain from taking in food or drink. When the sun sets (around 7:30pm here), it’s time for iftar, the breaking of the fast which coincides with the call to evening prayer. Every night is truly a celebration with family and friends as they break the fast together.

We were intrigued to see the full event in action and to sample lots of Malaysian Ramadan Food (click on the link for lots of examples of this delicious food). However, we were disappointed to find that by the time we sauntered down at 8pm all the stalls of the bazaar were packing up. It seems we underestimated just how important adhering to the timeline was when you’re fasting. Luckily, there are still 3 weeks in which to partake.

Watching a Malaysian Movie

Set in 1980, Ola Bola is about the struggle of the Malaysian national soccer team to qualify for the Olympics. This movie has all the Hollywood style sport’s movie clichés including the obligatory training montage. However, you can look deeper in this film to see much more about Malaysian culture. The film includes four different languages, and subtly addresses issues of race within the nation as it looks into the grit, determination and teamwork that it took for a team made up of all three Malaysian ethnic groups (Chinese, Indian and Malay) to become victorious.

Receiving training tips from a local

When hiking in Fraser’s hill area, we were accompanied by a friend of a friend who not only helped us to find a trail that was off the beaten path but also gave us many tips along the way.

  1. When you stop hiking, change your shirt and hang the sweaty one in the bush. The sweaty shirt attracts bees.
  2. The best drink you can have for muscle recovery is Essence of Chicken which is as far as I can determine is like chicken broth. People here swear by it. It was even given to the players in the movie Ola Bola and Shaun’s co-coach for cross-country and track Coach Nada gives it to his athletes.
  3. The best way to carb load the day before hiking is to drink 7 or 8 beer. During the hike, you might want to have one beer or a shot of whiskey for pain relief. Finally,  a good pint or two after the hike will help you to hydrate and recover. Who knew the magic of beer?

Looking forward to more shenanigans in the coming weeks of summer.

Trina

Taxi stand theatre

taxi line
No need to hail a taxi on our street – especially if you’re visiting the Bangladesh embassy.

You wouldn’t think the Bangladesh embassy would represent big business for cabbies. But with 600,000 Bangladeshis already living in Malaysia and an estimated 1.5 million on the way in the next few years, there are a lot of people who need a visa. And the taxi drivers are cashing in – lining up from dawn until dusk and whisking hopeful folks to get their next bureaucratic stamp or letter.

Up until a few months ago, I didn’t even know we lived across the street from this embassy. Visitors used to enter from the street at the back. In fact, I rarely saw a cab on our street at all.

But, as more and more Bangladeshis move to the country and Malaysia attempts to crackdown on anyone living here illegally, the numbers have swelled to the point where they needed a larger staging area and a wider sidewalk for the cabbies to park on.

Now, every afternoon, I have wonderful theatre to entertain me. Here are my favourite scenes:

  1. Cabbies jumping the queue – This is not cool, but still is attempted at least a few times per day. The result is shouting. Lots of shouting. And maybe a slam on the offender’s hood. The line jumpers don’t put up much of a fight though. They often just slyly park down the block and try to entice fares with some high-pitched whistles and taxi cab telepathy.
  2. Milling about – Taxi drivers and Bangladeshis apparently love to mill about. Even after they stand in line for who knows how long getting their documents in order, people come outside the gate and just stand around some more. Even the cabbies seem enamored with waiting . I’ve seen 20 cabs lined up and even more are waiting to get on the sidewalk. I love a good mill.
  3. Celebratory hooting – The occasional hooting and cheering comes from inside the embassy. It doesn’t happen every day, but when it does, it sounds like someone just scored a golden goal. I really have no idea what they’re happy about, but I imagine it to be celebrating someone actually getting a stamp in their visa – or maybe they have a side cock fight going on to keep people entertained. Either way, I always join in on the cheer too.
  4. Food vendors – Entrepreneurs abound in KL. So, the moment the taxi line forms, there is a little guy (or guys) on a food bike ringing a bell and selling snacks and drinks. Great business. I should probably apply.
  5. Only men – Women are obviously too smart to take part in this gong show.
  6. The boss man – I’ve identified a few taxi line supervisors, however my favourite guy sports a mullet and tight jeans. He struts around the sidewalk barking out orders, trying to entice people into cabs and shouting at anyone daring to jump the line. He reminds me of a Malaysian Bruce Willis, if Bruce Willis had a mullet or any hair at all.

Now tell me. If you had this excitement to watch every day, would you really want to get a job?

Peace and love.

Shaun

Getting physical in Kuala Lumpur

Tight shirt
This is a free shirt the hospital gave me after my physical. I think they were trying to mock/motivate me to lose some weight for next year. “Good luck squeezing into this, tubby.”

It’s known simply as “The Executive.”

No, it’s not the double-breasted raincoat created by Morty Seinfeld. Rather, it’s the all inclusive, deluxe, all-day, annual physical exam that comes free with Trina’s health insurance. We’re talking bone scans, ultrasounds and wired up running on a treadmill.

I got my first “Executive” last week and I have to admit I went into it pretty cocky. I mean I’m down about 20 pounds from my Regina days and I’ve literally been running around with high schoolers all year. How could I be unhealthy? Well, let me tell you.

The Executive, officially called the Better Man Health Screening Service, starts off at an alarmingly rapid pace. I was whisked between about a dozen nurses in only a few short minutes. In that time, I: peed in a cup, had my blood take, had a vision and a hearing test, was measured, weighed and had my fat percentage calculated, underwent a lung test by blowing into a plastic tube; and was examined by a doctor (fully clothed).

Apparently, genitals don’t exist in the Malaysian medical community? Ah well, I’ll inspect my own.

It was a whirlwind, but so far everything was on track. It wasn’t until the treadmill run when things started going south.

As I started running shirtless with wires attached to my nipples, everything felt normal. But, then I felt the sweat. And more sweat. And even more sweat, until it was flowing like Guinness on St. Patrick’s Day.

Now, this was normal for me. I’m a sweater. But, this was not apparently normal for the nurse with me in the room. With big round eyes and mouth agape, she kindly asked:

Nurse: “Are you having chest pains?”

Me: “Haha, no.”

Nurse: “Would you like to stop?”

Me: (becoming slightly annoyed) “No. Why?”

Nurse: “You are sweating very much. Are you not used to running?”

Me: (thinking: let’s race, beatch!) “I’m fine.”

After the test was finished, she kindly handed me a dozen or so paper towels and actually said, “wow” when I handed her the sweaty suction cups. I admit it was a bit gross, but I still hope she slipped and fell on my sweaty trail.

Once that humiliation was over, it was time for all sorts of scans and rays to be pushed through my body. With that complete, it was time to discuss the results with the same doctor who had examined my clothes earlier.

I thought for sure my excessive sweating would come up, but it didn’t. What did come up was that everything looked normal except I was overweight (I must have been obese back in Canada) and it appeared I was eating too much protein (eggs, peanut butter and nuts are my staples) as my uric acid levels were high. Nothing serious, but I’ve got to watch out for the gout!

While the weight thing bugs me, it doesn’t surprise me. And even though I was hoping to be labelled the healthiest 37-year-old man ever, it’s nice knowing that nothing should kill me in the next year. In this case, it’s good to be average.

So, while the “Executive” wasn’t as classy as the double-breasted raincoat, it was pretty useful. I can’t wait to sweat even more next year.

Shaun

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6 thoughts on the Boston Marathon

IMG_2752
The marathon is everywhere in Boston. And it’s a big city to be everywhere.
  1. The Boston Marathon is fantastic. It’s one of those events you hear about growing up that you never think you’ll get to experience. While I would have loved to run it, being a spectator was also cool and let me take a wider view of the entire race.
  2. Why didn’t I run, you ask? Well, you need to qualify and I’m too slow. And not just by a little bit. My qualifying time is just over 3 hours, which is about 30 minutes faster than I could possibly run without serious blood doping. Luckily the times get slower with age, so give me another 20 years and I should be hitting my sweet spot.
  3. The 2013 bombing is still on everyone’s mind. Whether it was the thousands of police and military lining the entire route or victims of the attack running the race again for the first time (some with artificial limbs), you felt it. But not in a bad way. In a way that said ‘Nice try assholes. You’re going to have to try a lot harder than that to stop this thing. We’re crazier than you!” So good.
  4. 34,000 runners is a lot. I stood at the 20-mile marker for two solid hours and I saw only a fraction of the people running. It’s like a sea of humanity that is struggling to keep moving forward, but will never stop.
  5. The top runners (mostly Ethiopians) are fast. We’re talking faster than I could sprint over 60 metres – and they’re doing it for 42 k. They really are impressive athletes. Here’s a video of the leading ladies at the 20-mile mark: https://youtu.be/bwyqRVnFHyk
  6. Watching your ‘senior, ex-smoker’ dad run in the marathon is once-in-a-lifetime stuff. And the irony of it all is that if I didn’t quit my job and move half-way around the world, I probably would have missed it. Or at least most of the pre and post-game festivities. Regardless, I was happy to be there and I’m looking forward to the next big race (hopefully one I can run in too.)

Peace.

Shaun

5 countries in 5 weeks – making jet lag my beeyotch

IMG_2777
Now this guy has no issues with jet lag (or he’s on speed?). Also consider this picture taken in front of the Green Monster at Fenway Park was taken just 2 hours after running a marathon. Nice work, Rob.

Let me start by announcing that I’ve officially outfoxed jet lag. After crossing back and forth over two dozen time zones in the last five weeks, I am now immune to the sleep effects of travel.

It’s really not a miracle cure. All you have to do is stick to two simple rules:

    1. Sleep on the plane whenever possible. (I find a couple gravol and a double gin and OJ does the trick nicely.)  I’ve struggled with this at times trying to watch as many in-flight movies as possible. Resist that urge though and get some shut eye.
    2. No matter what time you reach your destination, don’t go to sleep until after 9 p.m. That means if you touch down at 8 a.m., get yourself a Red Bull (or 5) and soldier on for the entire day. It makes for a rough first 24 hours, but you’ll be set for the rest of your trip.
Foot wash
Getting enough sleep is crucial when visiting countries like Sri Lanka. Can you imagine my embarrassment if I would have missed this special request in a public washroom?

Now, if you’re flying a few hours here and there, beat it. Who I’m really talking to are folks that have experienced a 10-plus hour flight followed by a 5-hour layover and then another 6 or 7-hour flight (and then maybe another layover and flight if you’re going to Saskatchewan).

Those death marches are the closest thing to purgatory you’ll ever experience. Time doesn’t exist, your hair and toenails don’t grow and you unconsciously eat what feels like 17 rice and chicken freeze-fried dinners.

Nothing feels real on a 3o-hour flight, which is why it’s so important to remember my 2 simple rules.

I’ve had the opportunity to test my theory a lot over the past couple months by visiting Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Taipei, the U.S. – and Malaysia in between to do laundry. It’s been a good run and I’m happy to admit I haven’t missed a second of traveling fun due to jet lag (explosive diarrhea is a story for another time).

Up next, the grand daddy flight of them all, Regina! Wish me luck. I hope I haven’t jinxed myself.

Shaun

 

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 332 other followers