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Shaun and Trina are Sweating

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

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

The unemployed travel guide

Showing my parents the world's highest curved suspension bridge supported by one beam.
Taking my parents across the world’s highest curved suspension bridge supported by one beam. Look it up. It’s in Langkawi, Malaysia.
Here's the bridge. Very curvy.
Here’s the bridge. Nice curves.

Unemployment has its perks. A lot of them actually. If you can adapt to the constant mooching (no problems for me), receiving financial assistance from your wife (check) and develop quick, witty responses to the daily – “how’s the job search going?” (none of your f&!*n business), then you’re all set.

For the past two months, my unemployedness has allowed me to play host to both sets of our parents. I know that doesn’t sound like everyone’s cup of tea, but when the only daily human interaction you have is with high school kids, you welcome any and all company. And, as an added bonus, our parents are also very nice people who are happy to pay for stuff. They’re welcome anytime.

It’s actually pretty ironic that by moving to the other side of the world we’ll be spending more time with our parents than we did when we lived 10kms door-to-door. That’s hard to remember when you’re saying goodbye at the airport, but when you sit back and do the math, it’s not even close.

You also get to know people (especially your parents) on a different level when you spend a month together. Witnessing things like your dad getting up at 4 a.m. every morning to do pushups and situps in your living room or your father-in-law shaving on your couch are priceless moments.

It’s also fun to see your family step out of their comfort zone and experience so many new things all at once – food, heat, culture, smells, traffic, smells, people, monkeys with constant boners, smells…and the list goes on. It’s bonding on a whole new level, and it’s honestly one of my favourite things about living overseas – sharing the experience with others.

So, while being an unemployed travel guide doesn’t pay well, it certainly is rewarding and pushes me to keep exploring my new home too.

That’s why when we invited all of our family, friends, co-workers and strangers to visit us before we left, we meant it. We know the plane ride is long, but once you get here, we promise you a true travel experience that you’ll never get at a Mexican all-inclusive.

If you’re still not convinced about my tour guide credentials, just ask my mom how her Malaysia trip went. I promised no hospital visits this time, and I delivered.

Okay, the pitch is over. Time to get back to Netflix…I mean my job search.

Here are a few more pics from my parent’s visit. Later.

Shaun

Quotes from cabbies

I get irrationally excited when this image flashes on my iPhone screen and I've successfully booked a cab ride.
I get irrationally excited when this image flashes on my iPhone screen and I’ve successfully booked a cab ride.

One of the best parts of living in another part of the world is the random encounters you have with various people. People who make you smile, people who make you laugh and people who leave you pondering life. This past week as Shaun took his parents on a road trip, I’ve been making my way around a lot by teksi (Bahasa Malay for taxi and one of the 10 words I’ve learned). Here are some of the random conversations that have ensued.

Conversation #1:

Cabbie: What kind of a car do you drive?

Me: A 2007 Suzuki Swif

Cabbie: (He didn’t notice I left off the T.) Why don’t you drive a nicer and newer car?

Me: Cars here are way too expensive and have you not noticed the roads are a bit bumpy? It’s better to own a cheaper car then you don’t worry about it as it inevitably becomes wrecked.

Cabbie: That actually makes sense. I just thought all white people owned nice cars.

Conversation #2:

Cabbie: You’re from Canada? Do you know that show where they pull pranks on each other?

Me: You mean Just for Laughs Gags. Yes, that’s filmed in Canada.

Cabbie: You people are very mean to each other.

Me: That’s just French Canadians.(sorry to our Quebecois friends)

Conversation #3:

Cabbie: How much is your rent?

Me: (quoting a little bit less than I actually pay)

Cabbie: Ah, that is very high! I can get you a much better deal. (Awkward conversation ensues about his buddy that I should meet in some obscure location. I politely take the info, usually in the form a sketchy business card, and leave.)

Conversation #4:

Female Cabbie: Where are you from?

Me: Canada

Female Cabbie: Oh, I love Canada. You’re new president is so hot and he has great hair!

Looking forward to the next teksi ride,

Trina

 

 

 

Valentine’s Day and Varicose Veins

 

Just three days in a bandage and one week in this fashionable stocking and I’m good as new!
 Just over a week ago I was getting my varicose vein removed. A procedure that would have meant days off work and 6 weeks of wearing compression stockings in Canada was done here by laser and four days later I was running. The doctor used local anesthetic, talked to me the whole time about skiing and running and allowed me to see my veins at the end, but he wouldn’t let me take them home as a souvenir.  For the record, they looked tiny, a bit slimy and pink. Not at all like something that contained a potentially dangerous blood clot. A few hours later and a hefty bill for insurance and I was out the door. 

No wait times, a fancy hospital, and state of the art treatment- private health care certainly has its advantages. Being from Saskatchewan (home of Tommy Douglas , the founder of MediCare) that statement feels blasphemous.   Is it fair that “the rich” should have better access to healthcare? Not really. But when you’re insurance is paying and you’re in Malaysia, it’s easy to go to the dark side. 

Yesterday was Valentine’s Day. A day somehow synonymous with the love and the center of the same circulatory system can include bulbous varicose veins. The day of overpriced chocolates and cards. Like all holidays, the celebrations and customs make perfect sense – right?

 It wasn’t until the lady who cleans our house sent me a text “Happy Heart Day Ma’am Trina And Sir! Thnks For The Love” that I even realised what day it was. 

This led me to wonder if “heart day” is even a thing in Malaysia. So I googled it of course and this is what I found courtesy of Wikipedia. 

Islamic officials in Malaysia warned Muslims against celebrating Valentine’s Day, linking it with vice activities. . . . . Wan Mohamad Sheikh Abdul Aziz, head of the Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jakim), which oversees the country’s Islamic policies said that a fatwa (ruling) issued by the country’s top clerics in 2005 noted that the day ‘is associated with elements of Christianity,’ and ‘we just cannot get involved with other religions’ worshipping rituals.’ Jakim officials planned to carry out a nationwide campaign called “Awas Jerat Valentine’s Day” (“Mind the Valentine’s Day Trap”), aimed at preventing Muslims from celebrating the day on February 14, 2011. Activities include conducting raids in hotels to stop young couples from having unlawful sex and distributing leaflets to Muslim university students warning them against the day. 

On Valentine’s Day 2011, Malaysian religious authorities arrested more than 100 Muslim couples concerning the celebration ban.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Valentine%27s_Day

I also found out that while the Muslim population does not celebrate the day many other Malaysians do.  The Malaysian Star reports that the MasterCard Love Index  Survey (there is really such a thing) found an average of RM730 (US$201) were spent on buying a gift (http://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2016/02/13/malaysian-men-spend-more-on-valentine-than-women/).

Tonight the KL tower is lit up red (maybe for Valentine’s Day or for Chinese New Year) and I have my foot propped up with a compression stocking no longer required. Life might not always have straight forward answers, but it’s the twists and turns of seeming hypocrisy that keeps it interesting. 

Trina 

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