Can you believe this is Montana in February? We had packed our snowshoes, but going for a hike seemed to make more sense.

Can you believe this is Montana in February? We had packed our snowshoes, but going for a hike seemed to make more sense.

You’ve got to love that teachers’ now get a week of vacation in February. With last week’s temperatures in Saskatchewan being around the -30 mark no excuse was needed to get the hell out of dodge. The fact that friends had found a sweet deal to ski in Bridger Bowl, Montana sealed the deal. Here are the top reasons to escape to Montana in February:

1. It was 16 degrees Celsius in Bozeman last Saturday when we arrived. That’s nearly 50 degrees warmer than it was in Regina today. Unbelievable!

2. They still had snow in the mountains and you could enjoy a mid-afternoon beer out on the patio.

3. Beer is cheaper than water. The only thing cheaper than the beer might be gas. A full tank of gas was $20. I don’t remember it being this cheap since high school when  I was driving around a 1984 Hyundai Pony and blasting Billy Ocean, Taylor Dane, WHAM! and other cassette hits my dad had ordered from Columbia House. (For the record, I went to high school in the 90s but drove the “80s mobile”.)

4. We had great company going with us. Scott and Shay had a luxury suite at the C’MON Inn with a full kitchen and offered us an all you can eat and drink package at a sweet deal thanks to Scott’s Costco run. Trevor and Kim kept us all on schedule and Cheryl and Miguel regaled us with tales of Miguel’s days as “DJ Mambo Fly”.

5.  The radio ads are hilarious. Among other useful PSAs, we learned  how to properly carry a concealed weapon.

6. We’ve got photos to prove fun was had by all!

Trina

The KL city center skyline at night.

The KL city center skyline at night – not too shabby!

The news is now on Facebook and trending on Twitter (does one retweet make it trending?)- We are moving to Malaysia!  Months of job applications, skype interviews, drafting pros and cons lists have gone into this decision. In short, it’s been an emotional roller coaster, but when I was offered one of my top choices in schools, positions and destinations, it was just too good to pass up!

As we broke the news to close friends and family, reactions have been all over the map. Calvin and José asked if they could buy our car and my dad asked, “Can I hunt big game there?” Although those question don’t make the following list, I have compiled the answers to your most frequently asked questions.

FAQs

1. Where is Kuala Lumpur and do they have electricity?

Kuala Lumpur (KL) is the largest city in Malaysia. It not only has electricity but it is bustling city of 1.6 million people (6.9 million Greater Kuala Lumpur). It is  modern, “westernized” (for lack of a better word) and multicultural. In short, KL has all the modern conveniences of Regina plus better shopping and more direct flights.

2. What will the weather be like?

The weather is some of the most consistent in the world. It’s basically Sri Lankan hot all the time. Check the forecast at anytime and it will be 30 degrees. The differences lie only in the humidity. I don’t know that we’ll be sweating quite as much as Sri Lanka though as air conditioning seems to be very common.

3. What and where will you be teaching?

I have been hired as the 8th grade learning resource teacher. For those of you who are not teachers, essentially I work with the grade 8 teaching team to support struggling learners. The school I’ll be teaching at is The International School of Kuala Lumpur (ISKL). The school is populated by over 1500 students grade K-12 over two campuses. In eighth grade, there are approximately 70 students. Students at the school are from all over the world. For more about the school, including a virtual tour check out their website: http://www.iskl.edu.my/

4. What will Shaun do?

Shaun will pursue his life-long dream of living off of my money. I expect he will have the house clean and supper on the table after my long days of work. In all seriousness, Shaun will find something to do. He’ll either get a job writing or saving the world all while working on his tan.

5. How long will you be gone for?

I’ve signed a 2 year contract. It’s difficult to say what will happen after that point. We are open to any and all possibilities.

6. Where will you live?

It will be just like International House Hunters (at least in my head it will be). The school will put us up for 10 days in a hotel and they have contracted an external company to help us find a place to rent. Since we have never really grown up, we will likely be looking for a furnished apartment style condo.

7. Can we come and visit you?

malaysia_map

Here is a map for your easy vacation planning reference!

Ok, maybe this isn’t one of the most frequently asked questions, but it should be! Malaysia is a tourist hub and inexpensive at that. (We will have an extra room or two for free lodging.) Attractions in Malaysia include scuba diving, beaches, hiking, orangutans, great shopping, amazing food and two of the most hospitable tour guides http://www.tourism.gov.my/en/experiences

 

 

There’s still a lot to do in the next six months before the big move and I’m sure a few more blog worthy entries will keep you informed along the way.

Trina

 

Here we are on a Cuban beach surrounded by hundreds of Canadians.

Here we are on a Cuban beach surrounded by hundreds of Canadians – who are just off camera.

Hi. It’s been awhile. I hope you’re doing well. I’m good, thanks.

Life is humming along as it tends to do. Sleep, work, eat, laugh, poop, repeat. That’s really what’s gone on the past couple years – not always in that particular order.

Life is good, if not a bit boring and unbloggable. Not a bad thing, just the way it goes.

To break things up, we’ve taken a few nice little trips since we stopped sweating in Sri Lanka. Our most recent get away was supposed to be to Honduras over the Christmas break. We were going to spend two weeks on the beach staying with our friend at his island villa. Sounds nice, right? Not to mention we love mooching off of the others (see our European trip in the summer).

Well, it didn’t quite turnout that way thanks to an unnamed heartless airline (United) cancelling our flight to Denver for three straight days and then not having any availability for the next week. Shit.

Long story short, after much swearing and tossing of 3-day old packed luggage, we made the best of it and booked an all-inclusive, week-long trip to Cuba leaving the next day. Not the trip we had planned, but the forecast was for sun and the price was right (especially since United refunded our Honduras flights).

Cuba, not Cuba

We’ve both been to all-inclusive resorts before. They’re not our favourite places, but you really can’t go too wrong when it’s 30 above and there are 17 free bars. And it’s -30 in Regina.

The first couple days were great – swimming, scuba diving, snorkeling, judging others – all things we enjoy very much. But, by day three, we were looking to escape the fake resort life (and I was getting tired of beating Trina in tennis). So with Havana over 700 km away and only resorts for as far as the eye could see, our only way out was renting a couple of one-speed bikes with baskets on the front and pedaling for as far as our legs would take us.

With only 750 ml of water, sandals and no shirt or food, we sped away on bikes we borrowed from a security guard at the neighbouring 5-star resort. We had no map and were going to a place Trina vaguely remembered reading about online – Cayo Guillermo. I had no idea what was there or how far it was. I only knew that we were making it there or dying – whatever came first.

Not that Trina and I talked about it first. It’s just kind of an unspoken rule that whatever we do will eventually turn into some sort of an endurance challenge.

After about 30 minutes of pedaling in the direction we thought was the right way, we came up to the first road sign that said – Cayo Guillermo 38 km. We both saw it and we both said nothing. We just kept going.

At the the 19 km mark, we stopped for a sip of water and had the silly conversation about whether we were going to keep riding. We both knew the answer – neither one of us would ever signal that we’d had enough. And to tell you the truth, it was a great little ride. Yeah, my butt was sore and I was severely dehydrated, but the weather was fantastic and we had escaped the buffets and the poolside aerobics.

While there wasn’t much to see other than another beach, some resorts and a flock of flamingos in Cayo Guillermo, it was well worth the 5-hour, 100 km bike ride. (Even though I contemplated just laying down in the ditch and letting nature take its course at about the 70 k mark.)

We were actually gone so long that a search party was sent out from where we rented the bikes Apparently the other tourists don’t go that far? Wimps.

Anyways, we had a very nice week and we’re already planning our next escape.

Happy 2015 everyone. Enjoy some pics of the trip…

Shaun

This is the best shot I can find of most of the VSO gang at Mark and Sewandi's wedding. Shaun is MIA though.

This is the best shot I can find of most of the VSO gang at Mark and Sewandi’s wedding. Shaun is MIA though.

It seems like forever ago, and yet just like yesterday that we were all sweating together in Sri Lanka – a group of quirky VSO volunteers. We came not knowing what to expect out of Sri Lanka and through all the adventures, we helped each other deal with the perceived insanity. Our collective experience brought us close together despite our differences. Upon departing Sri Lanka, Shaun and I promised we would visit in Summer 2014 . Before we knew it, summer was upon us, many of our VSO friends were back in their respective homelands and we could finally afford to travel to Europe thanks to the art of freeloading.

First up, there are Marjorie and Richard- the quintessential British couple. They speak proper English (Marjorie even flutters her eyes when doing so), love tea and cake and say everything is “brilliant” (but they can’t understand why we say everything is “awesome”). Marjorie and Richard live near the magical land of Hebden Bridge. After a couple years of Marj’s vivid descriptions of the place I expected unicorns, and I must say it didn’t disappoint. Okay, there were no unicorns, but there was the Tour de France passing through and lots of fireworks. Former volunteer Texas Bill also joined in on the festivities, and he is not the quintessential Texan. He did not wear a cowboy hat or bring a concealed weapon to the party.

Then it was off to see Mark and Vindy (aka Sewandi ). Shaun was the best man at their wedding in Sri Lanka and you may recall posts about the big event. The happy couple had just moved into a new flat a few days before and we were their first house guests – a big honour. This meant we were force feed copious amounts of rice and curry. No oil lamp was lit, but this too was a truly auspicious gathering. I only was able to stay the one night but Shaun stayed on and got the star treatment as the couple guided him through many tourist destinations. Mark was prepared as always when they arrived off the first bus to pouring rain and had no umbrellas or rain coats. He did however have 50lbs of books and journals with him!

In the meantime, I was off to Italy to meet, Sonalee and go on a cycle tour of Tuscany. I taught with Sonalee in Sri Lanka, and we became good friends over spin classes and margaritas so it seemed a natural fit to meet for a cycling tour that included vigorous climbs with frequent breaks for cappucino, gelato and/or wine. The scenery was amazing, the weather was hot and the conversations were fantastic.

Shaun met up with me at the end of the cycle trip to hike through some of the most picturesque parts of the Italian Riveria. This was only after hanging out with VSO Beth and Jo for a week. There he was beat in golf, trapped like a beached whale on the shore of Brighton (he couldn’t walk to the others because the beach was too stony and he’d lost his shoes) and called to BBQ duty.  After bragging about his Canadian barbequing expertise and agreeing to cue up a meal for a large party of guests, Shaun met his match as the barbecue used briquettes. The night was saved by an oven and booze – lots of booze.

Next up was Amsterdam, the home of Hans and Els. There we partook in all traditional Dutch customs such as touring windmills, riding bicycles everywhere,  eating piles of BBQ at a Suriname festival and being cheap. Hans and Els tried their best to get us into all the museums for free by giving us their passes. It was going very well until the Van Gogh museum where the lady at the counter foiled our entire plan by asking Shaun his birthday. Shaun couldn’t remember Han’s birthday except that he was born in “the hell of 63″ a reference to a Dutch film we all saw together at the foreign film festival in Colombo (long story). When the counter lady (who didn’t seem to bat an eye that Shaun would be born in 63) asked,”What day sir?” A flustered Shaun replied, “I don’t know,” as we quickly retrieved the cards and slunk away.

London was the next stop. We played the role of the stereotypical tourists snapping selfies in front of key landmarks. A highlight was meeting up with Beth, Jo and Joao at a Sri Lankan restaurant. The restaurant did not disappoint as it provided the authentic Sri Lankan experience. Most of the menu items were not available, the waiter was completely confused by our requests, the room was hot and humid and they had giant cold Lion beers. It was easy to feel like we were right back in Sri Lanka. The atmosphere was complete when Shaun and Beth shared an earlier recording they had made entitled “The Sounds of Sri Lanka”.

We finished up the grand tour back with Kamal and Ed. They are a couple we met in Sri Lanka who now live in Manchester. They were our first stop when we arrived and were our last stop before we flew out. Our time with Kamal and Ed culminated by taking in the production of War Horse. The show was great. We just hope that one day Ed will be able to fulfill his new dream of being a master of life size animal puppetry. Dream big Ed, dream big!

I’ll leave you with a photo montage.

Trina

An August trip of camping, triathlon and watching a Rider game with friends seems blog worthy - why can't I find the words?

An August trip of camping, triathlon and watching a Rider game with friends seems blog worthy – why can’t I find the words?

It’s been a really long time since our last blog, and that’s a shame. It’s a shame because we miss it. How is it that something that was so ingrained in our lives can just disappear? Thanks to an exciting game of “teacher’s versus world” flip cup and a trip visiting family in Calgary (long story), I’ve been missing blogging even more.

So naturally I decided to write a blog all about our summer trip to Europe. Ironically, since it’s been so long since I’ve blogged I forgot that WordPress doesn’t save automatically and I lost the entire post. After an exasperated “AIYO!” and other four letter words, I’ve decided instead to write a list of excuses that have prevented us from blogging since returning in Canada.

1. ” I don’t want to offend anyone”. – You can no longer be as candid or frank. Political correctness simply didn’t exist in Sri Lanka. Stereotyping and over-generalizing were simply a way to better understand the world. As long as all parties could share a laugh and some curry – all was good.

2. “Our lives are too boring now”.- Life in Canada is back to our norm. It is what we’ve always known and sometimes we feel people will find it too boring. Jokes about Regina will only get you so far.

3.”There is no time in the day.”- Entering back into Canadian life has also meant it’s back to Canadian schedules. While I think we are not running as crazily as we used to, long gone are my days of gym, tan and laundry. Not to mention, it’s never hot enough to sip G & T’s which I think aided in the creative process.

4. We have television. – Shaun was the primary author of our blog and his evenings are now dedicated to watching sports on TSN or Netflix.

5. We have iPhones – Those things can be so distracting with continual access to Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and other time sinks. Just last night I actually witnessed Shaun watching television, listening to a podcast, browsing the internet on his iphone, reading a book and eating a sandwich all at the same time.

6. “I’ve got too much work to do”. – This excuse is usually followed for me by writing lists and then procrastinating. Procrastination techniques include opening the fridge door and hoping a delicious snack will appear,  checking the weather, Facebook, Twitter and local real estate all on my iPhone, and ruminating about all the things I have to do and how there is never enough time. What can I say except that I think I am genetically predisposed to this disorder.

7. “I’ll write about it tomorrow.” – Since the words aren’t quite flowing in the moment – might as well try tomorrow.

8. “It’s too late to write about that now.” – In this age of instant media, I feel as though if we don’t write about an event the instant it happens, it is old news and no one will be interested. It’s gotten to the point where one wonders if it isn’t on social media did it really happen? Can you imagine hundreds of years from now when archeologists unearth this mass of ancient texts known as tweets, hashtags and status updates what they will think?

So now that the excuses are out of the way, I guess I should attempt to rewrite the blog about our Europe trip. . . although the Rider game is on in 3 hours and I should go for a run, go to yoga, write a university paper, get groceries – wait, maybe there is a delicious snack in the fridge.

Trina

True to my New Year's Resolution I decided today to look at the beauty of -40. Your not going to see a sundog in Sri Lanka.

True to my New Year’s Resolution I decided to stop and capture  the beauty of -40. You’re not going to see an ice halo known as a “sundog” in the tropics.

Another year has come and gone. It’s amazing to think that one year ago we were in the Himalaya’s drinking Nepali home brew and dancing around a camp fire with a troupe of super sherpas. This year we stayed a lot closer to home for the holidays. In fact, aside from an extended weekend ski trip to the hills where we discovered that it is still possible to hot tub in -45 degrees, we stayed right at home. It was nice to celebrate with family and friends.

It also was a reminder of just how hectic this time of the year can be. Shaun and I both found ourselves setting guidelines to keep things simple this year. The commercialism and the expectation of perfection can be enough to drive anyone crazy.  Luckily I’ve learned over the years that the key to life is low expectations. If you are disappointed, you simply need to lower your expectations.

That leads me to my rant about New Year’s resolutions.  My resolution is to be less negative. Now this is a lofty goal since I believe resolutions are for chumps. But then again, I’m just going to be less negative not more positive. This is an important distinction as I won’t want to become someone who puts 21 exclamation points in a single Facebook post; that’s just not me.

So here are some ways I believe we all could be less negative.

* In Saskatchewan, in the winter, avoid all conversations having to do with the weather. They are a trap.

*  In the small window of time when the weather becomes warmer, drop everything and get outdoors. Build a snowman, go for a run, snowshoe, ski, toboggan, skate and sleep in an igloo all that very day.

* Move to Kelowna, BC, the magical land where real estate is cheaper and it has been only -1 all week!

* Listen to Ace of Base. If you are of my generation and female, you just can’t feel down when reliving this classic 90s school dance hit.

* See the humour in everything. Believe me it is everywhere. For example, when your dad lends you a calving sleigh to take a couple of Congolese kids sledding for the first time, but first uses it to take a deer carcass to them. Or when you try to explain that a traditional Christmas in your family means ordering Chinese food on Christmas Eve and getting together with your Jewish relatives.

* Watch Toronto Mayor Rob Ford apologize. It never gets old.

Happy 2014!

Trina

Grandpa Manuel and I take a break from the manual labour. How did I get so dirty?

Grandpa Manuel and I take a break from the manual labour. How did I get so dirty? And why is Manuel wearing my hat?

It’s been awhile. There hasn’t been much to write about in the corporate, Canadian world, which is why I decided to go to El Salvador in November for 10 days to volunteer on a Habitat for Humanity build.

I’ll do anything for some blog material.

The truth is the meeting to sign up for the build happened the week I got back from Sri Lanka in March. I saw it as a sign from sweet baby Jeebus and signed up before I had got my first pay cheque.

Needless to say it was an awesome time (as us Canadians always say) and it’s easily been the best decision I’ve made since coming home (the second best decision was buying a Grey Cup ticket, the third was remembering Trina’s birthday).

So, me and 37 other colleagues made the long journey down to San Salvador on November 8, and after a couple days relaxing on the beach, we spent 5 full, sweaty days working on 3 homes for 3 different families. We all paid or fundraised over $2,000 each to get ourselves down there, make a donation to Habitat El Salvador and buy the building material for the houses.

I know, I know. If you enjoy judging others as much as I do, you’re probably asking why we all just didn’t put our money into building houses in inner city Regina where the need is huge for decent homes?

Well, first off, it’s fucking cold in Regina in November, so the 30+ temps looked pretty good (sorry for being selfish). And, second off, I think you’ve got to do both.

For sure we need to take care of our own backyard, but the fact is we don’t live in a bubble anymore. Those days are gone. If you don’t believe me just look around Regina at all the new faces. What happens in Sri Lanka, or El Salvador, will eventually reach us here.  And instead of being surprised or outraged or ignorant when it finally does, why not search for a bit of understanding now, a bit of common ground.

And while I also know that a 10-day Habitat build is a small drop in the bucket, there was nothing small about it for those 3 families. Those three homes will completely transform those people’s lives forever.

On my build we heard the same thing every day from our family: “I can’t believe you came here from your country to help us. You don’t know us. You don’t speak our language, yet you spend your own money and leave your families at home to build us a house. It is unbelievable.”

To me, that says it all. It’s real. It’s simple. It’s human. And, it was great to be a part of.

Where to next?

Shaun