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Shaun and Trina are Sweating

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

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

 

Digging the perfect toilet hole and staying with the rich and famous: all in a week’s work

Talk about a world of dichotomy. One moment I’m out of cell phone reception, toileting in the woods and bathing in a river and the next I’m at a 5-star resort that is rumoured to have hosted Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt. Let me explain.

The week started with our school’s annual Malaysia Week. This essentially is a chance to take education off site and into the real world for students. For the group of 16 middle schoolers I and two other teachers were in charge of, this meant jungle survivor skills. You might be wondering what certification and expertise I have in jungle survival – well, none really. Unless you count the time as part of a university class I was stuck alone on a Northern Saskatchewan island battling killer bee like mosquitoes and a thunderstorm of epic proportions. I did survive that – barely.

Thankfully, a local company called most of the shots and I was able to focus on the students themselves. It was a wonderful week in which I saw the students grow and learn with the tasks presented to them. They hiked up a “mountain” further than many thought they could handle and experienced beautiful panoramic views, they cooked their own meals over a fire and most of all, they learned the importance of teamwork. I returned to KL at the end of the week feeling proud and exhausted.

Knowing just how rewarding but tiring these weeks can be, I jumped at the chance to take advantage of the residents’ package in a nearby island resort. Myself and 3 colleagues enjoyed 5-star service, delicious food, yoga, massage and jungle trails (without having to poop in the bush). I left feeling re-energized and very fortunate.

As a person in the top 2% of the world’s income (if you make $35,000 CAD or more / annum, you are too), choice is my luxury. I can choose to sleep with my feet hanging out of an Asian-sized tent or in king-sized bed comfort. What a paradox!

Trina

Malaysian headlines – (Warning snake photo is included)

This 8 meter long, 250kilogram snake found by construction workers in Georgetown, Penang Malaysia might be a world record.
This 8 meter long, 250kilogram snake found by construction workers in Georgetown, Penang Malaysia might be a world record. Photo credits – Herme Herisyam/ Malaysia’s Civil Defence Force as used on http://www.telegraph.co.uk

Sometimes a great way to learn about a country is to read its newspapers. Other times the news headlines leave you even more perplexed. What on earth do today’s headlines say about Malaysia?

“Kevin Morais was smothered to death before being stuffed in drum: Pathology expert”
Read More : http://www. .com.my/news/2016/04/138783/kevin-morais-was-smothered-death-being-stuffed-drum-pathology-expert

“M’sian jailed in NZ for pouring bucket of boiling water over colleague’s head”
Read More : http://www. .com.my/news/2016/04/138811/msian-jailed-nz-pouring-bucket-boiling-water-over-colleagues-head

“Obese man transported to hospital by lorry”
Read More : http://www.nst.com.my/news/2016/04/138789/obese-man-transported-hospital-lorry

“8-metre long python dubbed “longest in the world” found dead in Penang”
Read More : http://www.nst.com.my/news/2016/04/138730/8-metre-long-python-dubbed-longest-world-found-dead-penang

If one were to derive cultural insight into today’s headlines, one might think that Malaysian’s are obsessed with cruel and unusual assaults on people and extremely gigantic animals. Strangely, both the snake and the obese man in the articles weighed the same amount (250kgs), but I think that it’s safe to consider that an eery coincidence.

If anything, in this world of instantaneous bombardment of information, Malaysian journalism is just guilty as anyone of sensationalising the news to get their readers’ attention. Why do you think we used the giant snake photo? Stats on this blog could use some boosting too you know. (The warning is for my mom who hates snakes and ironically, might be the only person who reads our blog.)

Here’s hoping I don’t encounter any snakes like that or any snakes at all when I go camping in the jungle next week with 20 middle school kids.

Trina

 

Sri Lanka the sequel

The train ride to Galle was still cheap, slow and a great place to eat vadais and take in the ocean view.
The train ride to Galle was still cheap, slow and a great place to eat vadais and take in the ocean view.

It’s been 3 years since we left this quirky little island nation. A lot has happened in those 3 years. In our lives, we’ve moved back to Canada and then to Malaysia. In Sri Lanka,  post-war growth has continued and in January 2015, the seemingly impossible happened, the longstanding president Mahinda Rajapaksa was defeated in a peaceful, democratic and monumental election.

In our recent week long visit, change was noticeable. Yet things have remained the same, like we never left, like it has remained frozen in time. How do I even begin to describe it all? Well, I’ll attempt as best as I can.

  • People still stare. The Sri Lankan ability to unabashedly gawk, ogle, peer, and gape is parallel to none. Since I love people watching,  I quickly defaulted back to embracing this license to stare. * Note: Creepy stares also still exist and fortunately in my week visit I didn’t encounter many, but these stares are still not cool Sri Lanka – not cool.*
  • Although not everyone felt the need to comment on my weight with the obligatory “You’ve gone up a bit” or “You’ve gone down a bit”, I did have one memorable encounter. Trying to save face for his friend and thinking he was paying me a compliment, a Sri Lankan I just met told me with a huge smile on his face that his friend didn’t recognise me because I’d gotten very fat. Who knew that “fat beyond recognition” could be a compliment!
  • Infrastructure has improved yet the traffic is just as chaotic. More cars means widening the paved roads, more traffic lights, and a few more “expressways”. However, there are still people, bikes, cows, elephants, water buffalo, tuk-tuks, etc. on the roads and the newest highway in the South has had it’s share of problems including elephants breaking through the barriers, and farmers drying their rice and grazing their cattle on the road.
  • Prices have risen and tourism seems to be booming. Luxury items are heavily taxed so this is felt when you are a tourist. Most of this is to recoup high amounts of debt incurred post-war in projects such as an airport, a convention centre, a highway and a hospital all in the South that remain empty and unused. But I can live with this because the price of a rice packet and a sweaty ride on the 174 bus have remained affordable.
  • Business appears to be booming. Government laws are more transparent in their operations, but people are suspicious of the transparency. Ironically, people aren’t sure how to operate in a world with less bribery and under the table dealings. In the words of a local businessman we met, “You need a bit of corruption for things to run smoothly, but not too much – around 10% corruption is perfect.”
  • The food remains delicious. Some of the hotels we stayed at were dumbing down the spice a bit, until they saw us eating with our hands and heard us commenting about the lack of spice making it less delicious.  The chef at one guest house went out of his way to make my favourite dish of string hoppers, dahl curry and extra spicy coconut sambol and brought it to us the next morning. He was delighted when he could see for his own eyes that we really could handle the spice.
  • Most importantly the friendly faces and visits we had with old friends made us truly feel like we were back at home.

The visit made me realise just how special this place and it’s people will always be to us. We are so lucky to have formed lasting friendships and now that we live only a 3 hour flight away can truly leave saying “Gihin ennam!” (the Sinhalese phrase for goodbye that literally translates as “I will go and come”).

Trina

Running in Malaysia’s heat

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The Malaysia Women’s Half-Marathon started at 5:30am to try to beat the heat.

The beauty of running is that you can do it anywhere. I love that no matter where I live or vacation in the world I can always lace up my runners and head out for some exercise and often a bit of an adventure. A different experience and challenge comes with every run.

Running in Sri Lanka, proved to be challenging. The heat and humidity was one thing but there were also other variables. Brushes with stray dogs, avoiding an elephant gone loose,  and  creeps in bushes were all reasons that I more frequently opted for fitness classes at the gym.

Running in Malaysia is relatively common. I was pleasantly surprised to notice locals and expats alike frequenting parks for morning and evening jogs. Racing events, fun runs and even triathlons are frequently organised and unlike the Colombo Marathon – they actually have finish lines!

So what is running in Malaysia like?

Well – it’s hot! The first thing you have to come to terms with as you train for races is just how much the heat and dehydration factor into your times. I recently read that 60% is the average dip in performance by runners who lose 2% of body weight in sweat (Runner’s World , South Africa, March 2016). By the time I’m near the end of a long run, my clothes are wring-out-able and my runners contain pools of sweat creating a squish-squish metronome effect marking my cadence. Gross!

Other than the sweat factor there is also the “random Asian man trying to prove something” factor. This phenomenon happens only when I’m not running with Shaun. It starts by me passing a random guy and then that same guy speeding up to pass me for a few hundred meters. When he slows down and I’m about to pass him again, he is remarkably finished his run and starts into a series of bizarre cool down stretches.

Other obstacles to look out for are crowds posing for the group photos and protruding selfie sticks. It’s amazing how oblivious people can be to their surroundings when there in the midst of an intense photo shoot.This is especially evident when running through KLCC park. I figure I’ve photo bombed hundreds of tourist group shots in front of the Petronas Towers. Once despite his best efforts to weave in and around all the people gathered for wedding pics on the path, Shaun blindsided a guest and lambasted her with a healthy splatter of sweat.

When I opt for the “monkey loop” around a golf course near the school, it’s pig-tailed macaques, monitor lizards and wild boars that you have to look out for. There’s never a dull moment.

With all this running, it’s also fun to enter the occasional race. Recently I participated in the Putrajaya Aquathlon and the Malaysia Women’s Half-Marathon. Both events were remarkably well organised and had epic prize giving ceremonies at the end. There’s nothing like a trophy and a life-sized gift certificate to keep this runner motivated!

Trina

 

 

 

 

 

Adventures in job hunting

This is where I do my best job searching.
This is where I do my best job searching.

“Oh, you’re looking for a job? Well, you’re white. Don’t worry. You won’t have a problem. People love hiring white people in KL.”

This is an actual quote that I’ve heard more than once since moving to KL seven months ago. And it usually comes after I’ve explained that I don’t have a work visa, and before I even tell the person what I do.

While I don’t doubt what these people tell me, all I can say is that I haven’t been hired yet – and I still have white skin (Although it’s now slightly tanned thanks to our pool. Maybe I’m not white enough anymore?).

Full disclosure though. I haven’t been giving this job search 110%. Yeah, I’ve kicked a few tires, but I’m also not completely ready to give up sleeping in, drinking coffee all morning, or most importantly, taking advantage of Trina’s abundance of vacation time.

Having said that, I have followed up a few job leads. Here are a couple quick examples…

  1. International hotel and condo developer – This lead came from an owner of one of the restaurants I was reviewing. After mentioning he was friends with the son-in-law of a guy who ran a billion dollar multinational based in KL, I was pretty excited when he agreed to introduce me. While I did have a brief email exchange with the son-in-law (also the head of HR), it didn’t go much further than passing along my resume and some talk about a work visa and not breaking any laws. Strike one.
  2. Volunteering with local non-profits – Surely volunteering my time would be easy, right? Not so much. I’ve made 3 unsuccessful attempts to volunteer. One never made it pass my initial email, one died at the first meeting when they found out I wasn’t a lawyer (not sure why they thought that in the first place?), and the other organization required board approval to bring me on as a volunteer to help them write tweets, Facebook posts and website copy. I’m still waiting for the board’s decision and that was 6 weeks ago (they must be busy approving more important decisions like which light bulbs to change or what type of toilet paper to use). Strike two.
  3. Linked In applications – There are a lot of huge companies based in KL – Samsung, AIG, IBM and those are just the ones I can see from my balcony. And, many of them are looking for PR people on Linked In. I’ve applied for a half dozen of these positions and I’ve only got 1 response back an hour after I applied to tell me they already hired someone. Quick service. Now, I’m not even sure I wanted any of these jobs as I’d likely be working long hours for very little money. So, I think it’s a blessing that I’ve been shutout. Strike three.

The good news is that the restaurant on the first floor of our condo is hiring, and now that I’m a restaurant connoisseur, I’ll be a shoe-in. Sure it only pays in chicken rice, but at least it’ll get my foot in the door.

Shaun

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