Shaun and Trina are Sweating

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

The world needs more poetry, salsa dancing and dreamSS

This poetry performance resonated beyond the words.

We enter the Sinhalese Bar in Ipoh through sliding saloon style doors. Is this the Wild West? What’s with those doors?

The doors are not the only decor faux pas. The insulation pink walls and mint green tiles immediately have our senses on high alert. But there are an aunty and uncle serving beers, a group of men gathered in the corner playing a lively game of cards, and friendly smiles from a diverse Malaysian group reading poetry that greet us. “There is only one rule.” We are told. “Everyone must read a poem.” I contemplate turning right back out the door. However, something seems inviting in the paradox of Indian, Chinese and Malay Malaysians all gathered in a beer station for The Other Festival.

What that meant – we had no idea. It turns out that The Other Festival is a mix of food, art, poetry and music in the Old Town of Ipoh (about a two-hour drive north of KL).

So being good sports, we read poems aloud to the crowd. Then, we stayed for a performance done to live music by a local poet. The words were in Bahasa Malay, so I have no idea what she said. But she held the audience captive. Even the men in the corner, who had become increasingly loud as they drank their Tiger beers, stopped for a moment to listen.

The next weekend, the same friend and I attended a Latin Ball for charity. We got dressed up, had our photos taken with a parrot and salsa danced the night away.

A few days earlier, Shaun and I met a local man and his wife who followed their dreams to set up their own coffee shop. He spent 5 years making a transparent espresso  machine and quit his job in IT to follow his passion. He’s only been open a few months, but dreamSS cafe (the extra “s” is for extra luck) is roasting their own coffee beans and baking their home cooked meals with love.

Then just today, I received a message from a friend that Sierra Leone is officially ebola free.

“Peace be with you Trina! Good to informed you that the Ebola virus is over. We reached 42 days last Saturday without a case. So we are free from pains and stress. We are hoping to see a good 2016.”

George is a Sierra Leonean teacher who attended the peace curriculum course I was involved with in Freetown in 2010. In spite of all the obstacles that his country has been faced with, he has made it his personal mandate to teach a message of peace and love to the next generation.

It’s moments like these that have me believing in humanity. Some are simple and others more profound. It’s moments like this that I desperately cling to when I hear of another terrorist attack and the subsequent ignorant comments directed at refugees. We are all flawed, but we all also have the capacity to spread a message of peace and love in the everyday things we do.


No job, must coach

Here's the country team that traveled to Bangkok. I was still hoping we placed first, but they knew we had wrapped up 6th (out of 6).
Here’s the country team that traveled to Bangkok. I was still hoping we placed first, but they knew we had wrapped up 6th (out of 6). It was a development year.

I’m a crappy coach. Whether it’s been in sports, work or just life, I’m not good at translating how to do something to another person. I’ve known this for awhile, but it’s really come to the forefront since it’s become my part-time job in Malaysia. And now that my cross country coaching season is over, I’ve been tapped in to coach the junior girls basketball team. Uh oh, God help me.

(Truth be told the last time I coached anything was 17 years ago when I helped coach the Riffel basketball team immediately after I graduated. And all I really did then was hang out with my friends who were still on the team and run in the drills with them. No real coaching took place.)

The problem with me and coaching isn’t that I don’t like kids or don’t like sports or even that I don’t know about sports. The problem really is that I dislike, and am a bit afraid of, telling people what to do.

I mean, what makes me the expert to boss someone around about how to run a motion offense or use BEEF when their shooting or run 50 suicides? I certainly haven’t put in my 10,000 hours at coaching yet (see Malcolm Gladwell for that reference), and my mind simply works best in slow motion, which doesn’t lend itself to implementing a press break on the fly. And lastly, how/why do I care about any of it?

Just because I’m greying at the temples and played high school sports in the 90s, does that really make me qualified to coach anything?

Well, apparently in Malaysia it does, and I really have no choice but to go along with it because it’s one of my only paying gigs at the moment.

And to tell you the truth, while I’m no good at it, I do kind of enjoy the challenge and the weirdness of it.

I mean four months ago I was sitting in an office all day writing about Canadian farm financing and now I’m yelling at teenage girls to get back on defense. (God, I hate it when we get beat down the court!)

Maybe I will get used to telling people what to do after all. I’ll let you know how it goes. Now, where’s my f’n whistle?

Coach Shaun



Commercial culture?

In the last few months, we’ve been lucky enough to travel to a few different destinations in SouthEast Asia. With my daily youtube yoga routine (ok maybe not quite daily), I’ve also been privy to random ads from each country. This had me wondering, do commercials reflect a culture? If so, we might be in trouble. Here are a few samples to see what I mean.

Indonesia (skin whitening deodorant)

I’ve seen skin whitening products in many Asian countries. The obsession with becoming whiter seems strange to us, but is it any different than tanning beds and bronzing cream in Canada? Look out, skin bronzing deodorant might be the next craze!

Myanmar (mobile phones – I think)

Aw, it seems that the Myanmarese are quite sentimental. Can you imagine if you were being proposed to and both partner’s parents showed up? I don’t think we’d have the same reaction.

Malaysia (KFC for celebrating Malay New Year)

In a nutshell, this commercial has you thinking that all Malaysia’s love fried chicken (this might be true) and that they wear toupees (yet to be determined).

Thailand -(fertilizer)

This ad leaves me absolutely speechless. This isn’t quite the same experience I had when living on a Thai rice farm!


Remember that one time I was a food critic in Malaysia…

Here's me at my first review with the restaurant owner Andrew and Yum List founder Monica
Here’s me at my first review with the restaurant owner Andrew and Yum List founder Monica. I’m not sure why they seem to be sitting so far away from me?

When you move to a foreign country (especially without a job), you have to be open to try new things. I mean, why else, would you move? Most times that just means eating crazy food, learning some phrases in a different language or getting lost on strange streets.

Other times, it can be much more random. Like when I found myself as a high school debate judge on Sri Lankan TV or when we had to track down a senior citizen wood carver from Kandy who took our $50, but never delivered our Buddha sculpture, or when I spent two years going to a Sri Lankan mental hospital everyday. Fun stuff.

My latest adventure in Malaysia is writing for a popular food and lifestyle blog (it has 6 million page views – about 6 million more views than this blog) run by a teacher at Trina’s school. Getting paid in free food and booze, it really is a sweet gig for me. While I’m certainly no foodie (I’ve been known to eat melted cheese sandwiches for weeks at a time), I think I’m up for the creative challenge.

Using words like scrumptious, palette, moist and delectable, have always been on my bucket list. And now I have the perfect reason – free potato wedges and Coke floats!

Take a read of my first review and let me know what you think. Any new food descriptors are welcome.

In all seriousness, the Yum List is a great site, and if you’re traveling to Southeast Asia, it’s a must read for the best places to eat and sleep.

My next assignment is an artisan pasta making class. Wish me luck. Ciao!






Myanmar: A week of grit and beauty

Stepping off the plane in Yangon, I realized I was some place very different than KL. First, there was no haze blanketing the city (a huge bonus), and second, the airport is the size of a high school gym, yet it still feels bigger than it needs to be.

Taking the 30 minute cab ride to the hotel, I felt as though I was in many different places all at once. I saw India in the random and beautiful chaos, traffic and grime. I saw Sri Lanka in the lush greenery lining the streets and the dozens of Buddhist temples that seem to appear on every block. I saw Thailand in the friendly faces always willing to help, yet not interested in taking your money (not much of it, anyway).

And taken all together I got my first glimpse of Myanmar. A gorgeous and vast country with extremely hardworking, sweet people that are peering over a cliff of exponential development and change – which brings with it both great hope and great fear.

My initial thoughts didn’t change much after spending a week walking, flying, running, boating and biking around. It was an outstanding place to visit at an exciting time in its history. Oh yeah, and the beer’s cheap too. Here’s what our week looked like…

Shaun (and a bit of Trina)


Not again. . .


While I waited in the airport for my next flight out Shaun and our friends in Myanmar sent a barrage of photos of the fun they were having.
 When travelling internationally most people check and double check their flight intinerary. Most people if they had the misfortune of missing one flight would make sure that never happened again. I am not most people! I’ve managed to misread my flight intinerary and miss a flight not once, not twice but thrice. Here’s how it all shook down.

The first time involved an understandable mix up of forgetting that 1minute after midnight was actually the next day. This meant no weekend getaway to Dubai. The next time was misreading the day entirely and winding up at the Bangkok airport one day too late. The consequence was a flight change fee, extra time hanging out with the Thais and being very tired at work the next day.

This time was probably the most ridiculous and I can’t even blame it on any form of impairment (which would be a better story). No, I was all packed and in bed by 11 the night before. I checked my itinerary twice, flight leaving at 8:35am, and promptly set my alarm for 5. It wasn’t until I was at the airport and looked up at the board of flights to see no flight to Yangon scheduled for 8:35. “(Insert profanity), not again!” I immediately thought. 

Turns out I was looking at my return flight not my departure. I was able to pay a flight change fee and after 12 hours in the airport alternating between various coffee shops and finishing a 550 page novel, I was off. 

Hopefully, the third time is a charm and I’ll learn my lesson but I’m not guaranteeing anything.


How much does Malaysia cost?

How far does 50 ringgit or $16 Canadian dollars go? Pretty far. And, I also have the same hat as this fellow.
How far does 50 ringgit or $16 Canadian dollars go? Pretty far. And, I also have the same hat as this fellow.

One of the most important things when moving to any country is to determine the cost of living – especially when you’re unemployed. And figuring out the cost of living can come in many forms. Like how much does a Coke cost? Or a beer? Or a human organ (who knows, you might need one some day)? While I haven’t been able to ascertain the cost of a used liver, I do have a pretty good handle on how much everyday things cost.

Put simply, it’s cheaper to live in Malaysia than in Canada. Outside of vehicles, pretty much everything else is the same or much cheaper. Here’s a rundown of a few things roughly estimated in Canadian dollars:

  • 1.5 L of Coke (they don’t have 2 litres here, they’re not gluttons for God’s sake) – $1
  • 24 beer – $28 (that’s the ‘special’ deal at a small local grocer who brings in Carlsberg from Thailand)
  • 1 pint – $5 (this can be as high as $10 depending on the place. However, if you hit up happy hour in some spots, you can get 3 pints for $10)
  • 1 litre of gas – 60 cents
  • 1, 2007 Suzuki Swif with 125,000 kms – $10,000
  • 1 year of comprehensive insurance for Swif – $400/year
  • Bottle of decent wine – $16
  • Chicken and rice supper – $2
  • Loaf of bread – $1
  • Steak supper – $10 to over $100 (we’ve found a great $10 steak, so no need to spend more)
  • Rent for a 1,500 sq foot, 3-bedroom, 2 bathroom apartment and a storage room for stinky hockey equipment – $1,500/month
  • Ice time for 1.5 hours of pickup hockey – $18
  • Power bill – $50/month
  • Home Cable/Phone/Internet – $45/month
  • 4 km cab ride – $3
  • Round trip flight to Myanmar – $170
  • A cleaning lady for 5 hours – $30
  • A house husband – Priceless

Anything else you’d like to buy, let me know. Take care.


A sneaky weekend getaway to Melaka in pictures

The Red Square
Brightly painted in red, you can’t miss the Stadthuys (Dutch for city hall) of Malacca. The rich history these buildings preserve is just one reason the city was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2008.

This weekend we decided to make a quick getaway. Once an inexpensive and well-reviewed guest house for only 50RM ($18 CAD) was found, we were off. A 2-hour journey in the Swif brought us to the historical city of Malacca. The port here used to be one of the largest in Asia and as a result was well positioned to enter mainland Asia. Traders from Portugal originally went to Goa, India, thinking that’s where the riches were, but they soon realized that the gold and other profitable resources could be more easily accessed from Malaysia. So, the Portugese came and took over the area, followed by the Dutch and the British. During WW2, there was also a brief ( 3-year) occupation by the Japanese, which is remembered as a terrible time in Malaysian history for the general mistreatment of the people.

Many buildings of Dutch and British design still stand today. Throw in the deep history of the Malay sultanates, the Chinese and Indian immigrants who have been here for hundreds of years, and you have a cultural melting pot. One that prides itself on its own unique customs, traditions, food and even an exclusive race called the “Baba and Nyonyas” (Malay/Chinese).  The pictures below show how all of this has played out today.


Upside to getting your wallet stolen

I should have heeded this advice more carefully I guess. Why is the woman twice the size of the man in the photo? Is she supposed to be a white woman?

Getting your wallet stolen sucks, especially when it’s while dancing in a club and taken out of your purse that doesn’t zip up – so cliché. But believe it or not, there are some positives that came out of all my identification being taken.

  • I had the perfect excuse to buy a new wallet and a cute little zip up purse specifically for dancing at the bar.
  • The experience of spending 3 + hours at a local police station to file a report was also enlightening. Highlights included typing out my own statement on a Pentium and printing on a dot matrix printer, watching some police officers sleep while the “system was down” and getting volleyball coaching tips from the head of security.
  • My wallet is no longer cluttered. In fact, the only thing in it is my Maybank card. That’s one way to simplify your life.

NOTE: I should clarify that I was lucky to notice my wallet was missing right away. My phone wasn’t stolen, my passport and other important id was at home and I was able to cancel all my credit and debit cards before anything was taken. I was only out about RM150 ($50 CAD).


A Sunday well spent

Local families frolic in the water at the base of the falls. They also have picnics of epic proportions on the shore. I’m not sure how they managed to trek the 5 river crossings with all their supplies!

It’s easy to spend your entire weekend relaxing in your condo, especially when you have a/c, a gym and a pool. However, then we wouldn’t have anything to write on our blog and what would be the point in moving to Malaysia then? So battling the traffic, racing with a dying phone battery (for gps) and despite foreboding signs like the one pictured below for trespassing, we managed to find the Chilling Falls hike.

Can you believe the guy has a scope on his gun?

The day included 3 hours of driving, 3 hours of hiking, and a picnic lunch. Oh and because the hike wasn’t as vigorous as expected, we threw in a 40 minute jog at 2pm in 37 degree heat. Stupid, but the terrain was really nice.


Create a free website or blog at | The Baskerville Theme.

Up ↑


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,298 other followers