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Shaun and Trina are Sweating

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

Fun tidbits about New Zealand

Spending the past three weeks in New Zealand was wonderful. We knew we were travelling to a place not that different from Canada but still found ourselves surprised by the number of similarities. However, those things are boring. What’s interesting are the quirky differences that make New Zealand stand apart. Here are our favourites in no particular order.

  1. There are way more sheep than people. According to Wikipedia, New Zealand’s population is approximately 4.5 million and as of 2007 they had 39 million sheep (which is way down from the 70 million in 1982). In fact, dairy farming overtook sheep farming as the #1 agricultural industry in 1987. How many cows are there? 5 million – still more than there are people!
  2. The kiwi isn’t just a fruit. It’s the national bird and New Zealanders love it so much that they
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    I can see why people might identify with this cut little guy with powerful thighs! (Image from New Zealand Birds Online. Great spotted Kiwi. Adult. Mount Bruce Wildlife Centre, September 1975.)

    have taken its title as their national nickname. We learned that kiwis don’t

    fly, are nocturnal and had no predators until ferrets and other despicable creatures were introduced to the region. Ironically the stoat, ferret and opossum were introduced to deal  uncontrolled rabbit population (also another failed species introduction). Now the kiwi is endangered. But luckily the human Kiwi’s are on the case. Their love of their cute feathery friend is strong and an extensive campaign is in action that makes a Hollywood ending seem very possible.

  3. The duty free limit when you arrive is 3 litres of spirits and 6 bottles of wine per person – the most of any country we’ve ever visited.
  4. Thanks to The Simpsons everyone knows when you flush a toilet south of the equator the water flows the opposite direction as it would in the Northern Hemisphere, but did you know the light switches and locks are also opposite?  Or at least they are in New Zealand.
  5. The start of summer in New Zealand is not very hot. New Zealand is south of the equator and is located southeast or Australia, so while we heard of the record breaking temperature of 40 degrees in Adelaide on Christmas Day, Auckland reached a very comfortable high of 23. At night it could get downright chilly (10 degrees). Luckily when tenting, I could still feel like I was sleeping in Malaysia because my Canadian sleeping bag is rated to -20.
  6. Weather forecasts are nondescript. A typical summer day will be described on the radio as “rainy”, “fine” or “quite fine” with no mention of temperature at all.
  7. New Zealanders sure love their adventure sports and the outdoors. It makes sense since both the founder of bungee jumping (A.J. Hackett) and Sir Edmund Hillary  having called this country home.
  8. “Wh” in the indigenous Maori language is pronounced like “f” in English. So place names such as Whakatane, Whakahoro and Whakapapa become so much fun to say!
  9. The country is made up of both a North and South Island. In this trip we stuck just to the North, but the stunning vistas, friendly people, good food and active adventures have us dreaming and scheming about a return trip to the South soon.

Trina

*Note: Photo credits for the featured image go to our friend and traveling bud Jeff Ormrod who snapped this shot while we were in Cornwall Park, Auckland. That’s right a park in the middle of the city has sheep!

 

 

 

 

Adopted by a Kiwi family for the holidays

When you can’t be home for the holidays to celebrate with your own family, the next best thing is to be adopted by someone else’s – thanks to our friend Hannah’s mom and dad for hosting us (and three other strangers to them) for an entire week.

By staying with these lovely Kiwis, we got to know a whole lot more about New Zealand culture, hospitality, and even started to better understand their language 😉.

Spending the holidays here we even picked up a few new traditions.

Christmas breakfast with champagne (we had no trouble embracing this one) and then continuing to eat and drink our way into a Christmas lunch with all the trimmings was simply fantastic.

And, we were in for a feast beyond your wildest imagination – just look at the menu!

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There was also a White Elephant gift exchange in which I acquired a regulation sized American football and Shaun got a handy sleeve for keeping a bottle of wine cool. Not to mention we were all gifted with chocolate-coated pineapple gummy candies, which are apparently a New Zealand specialty.

But of course, the best thing about the holidays isn’t about the things you acquire. It’s about the special moments with people. Moments like being gifted a kiwi bird Christmas ornament from one of Hannah’s aunts, hearing her uncle’s old stories about his days as a high school sprinter and talking cattle shows with her grandpa, all make you realize just how universal family is.

Then, when you return home from vacation to discover your mailbox full of Christmas letters and cards, respond to Happy Holiday texts and throw in a couple special Skype calls, you know you’re never very far from your own family.

Trina

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Here we are pictured with our host parents in front of the Christmas tree. Shaun is wearing the shirt gained from a trade negotiation with John one night over whiskeys and reciting lines from “Dances with Wolves”.
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More of the happy crew sporting their Christmas cracker crowns.

A road trip through Thailand

Never been on a Thai road trip? Here’s all you need to know.

Eat. Drive. Eat. Drive. Eat. Eat. Eat. Sleep. Repeat.

A huge thanks to our Thai friends – Luck, Tong, Ja, Dang and Bum (I love their nicknames) – for showing us another great time this past weekend. It was only 4 days, but we saw more than we would have over 3 weeks if we would have been by ourselves.

Thais are beautiful and generous people that love having fun more than any other people I’ve met. They also love pork, 7-Eleven and taking pictures in front of everything they see.

I can’t say a roadtrip through Thailand is relaxing, but it sure is filling.

We’ll be back soon – once my gout subsides. Up next, a Christmas in New Zealand.

Happy holidays everyone!

Shaun

 

How to fix a coffee maker in Malaysia

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Kenwood makes stereos and speakers in Canada. Why not sell coffee makers in Asia?

It started in May with a small pool of water on the kitchen counter. Our coffee pot had a small crack that had been slowly growing over many weeks and the dam had finally burst. Damn.

Normally, I’d toss out the whole machine and start over. But, this was no ordinary machine. This was a designer Kenwood coffee maker that cost us over 100 bucks just a few short months before.

So, I found the local service centre email address and sent off a request for a replacement pot. A few days later I received the very helpful and cryptic response – ‘yes.’

Okay….”May I order one please”?

A few days later – “Yes. It will take 32 months to arrive.”

Me, immediately – “That’s almost 3 years? Where is it coming from, Mars?”

A few days later – “I mean 2 months. It costs 100 ringgit.”

Me, immediately – “Oh, that’s better. Please order me one and let me know when it arrives.”

A few days later – “Yes.”

And with that, I let the universe decide if we’d ever drink coffee at home again. Amazingly, exactly 2 months later, I had the shiny new coffee pot in my hands. And then two days after that, I had an even bigger pool of water on the counter. Wtf?

The new pot was fine, but the coffee maker itself was leaking like a sieve from the bottom. This was not right, so I fished out the receipt and the warranty and realized it was still covered for another few weeks. There was still hope!

The next day I drove the 36 minutes across the city to the service centre and proudly presented my warranty, bill and leaky machine. They gladly accepted and were in awe of my warranty luck.

A week after that visit, I made the journey back to pickup my newly repaired machine, and then sadly, a week after that, I found myself making the journey back again with another leak.

It was during this 3rd or 4th visit that I realized the staff knew by my name.

“Hi, Mr. Shaun. Back again? Aiyo…this machine is cursed.”

I felt like I should have been bringing in coffees for Mimi, Fairuz and the rest of the gang. But, I really couldn’t do that because, well, you know…(At this point, do I have to remind everyone that I’m unemployed?)

After the second leak dropoff, it was two months (just a few days ago) before I heard back that it was fixed and ready to pickup. By now, our French press was in full effect at home and I had almost completely forgotten that we ever had a coffee maker in the first place. I think it was a coping mechanism from the PTSD.

I reluctantly went to pick it up and at least say hi to my buds. Amazingly, the leak was fixed. Airtight. But, sadly, there was no heat. Not good for making coffee.

I admit I was ready to wave the white flag and throw everything off our 13th floor balcony. I was broken, belittled and befuddled. But, after some soul searching and swearing, I decided to give it one last push. I could taste the freshly brewed coffee beans.

Taking pity on me, the service centre staff set up a special, personal appointment with just me and the technician. They could tell I was getting desperate and I needed some extra attention – and possibly a therapist.

Sporting some sweet gold chains and a slightly popped collar, I immediately knew the technician was my ticket out of this coffee maker hell. I don’t know why because normally I hate dudes that look like him, but this guy was different. Yes, he was a shit hot, but he also oozed confidence in all things caffeine related. It seemed like he could roast a coffee bean in his armpit. He was my saviour.

In just 10 short minutes huddled in his little workshop at the back of the service centre, I watched him masterfully change a small fuse inside the machine and fire up my leakproof, Kenwood coffee maker for the first time in almost 6 months. It was glorious.

I’m happy to report that the machine is still humming along nicely a couple days later. I have no doubt that in a few months time something else will go wrong, and with the warranty now expired, it will end up in the trash.

But that’s okay. It was all worth it for the friends I made at the Kenwood service centre on the 3rd floor of Citta Mall on the west side of Kuala Lumpur. You may all be slightly incompetent at your jobs, but you brightened my day on every one of the 8 trips I made out to see you (and sigh at you). God bless.

Let’s drink coffee.

Shaun

It’s all happening…and everyone’s afraid

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I’d be pissed to share the Hall with this guy if I was a wrestling great like Koko B Ware, George the Animal Steele or Kamala the Ugandan Giant.

It’s been awhile. In the months since I last wrote, a lot has happened. I mean a member of the WWF Hall of Fame is now the President of the United States (not to mention a racist, misogynist, narcissist and generally revolting human being). But hey, Hillary had a private email server set up in her house, so the election result makes complete sense.

Once that wall goes up, and all the Mexicans and Muslims are kicked out, and the KKK opens up an office in the White House and protecting the environment becomes a distant memory, we’ll all be able to rest easier. USA! USA!

Fear and ignorance still carry the day in 2016. We shouldn’t be surprised.

Here in Malaysia, most locals just shrug at Trump. They’re used to being governed by dictators and crooks and overall boobs. All they want to talk about is the ‘hot’ Canadian prime minister with the nice hair who can dance the bhangra. That, and the Just for Laughs Gags TV show, which runs on local stations here and is a big hit. Malaysians love pranks. Makes sense. We all have our priorities.

Anyway, I guess when I say ‘a lot’ has happened, it’s relative. In my life, not a lot has actually happened.

  • I’m still underemployed (I actually got turned down for two jobs in one day – beat that fellow losers!)
  • I’m still playing hockey (we beat the Malaysian national team a couple weeks back and I scored the winning goal. Likely the biggest moment of my illustrious hockey career next to playing in the Junior C All Star Game in 1998). I should really retire now.
  • I’m still coaching at the school and the cross country team actually finished in second last place in the final race. Goal achieved – and I’m now coaching the junior boys basketball team and the middle school track team. Maybe one day I’ll get paid for something I’m actually qualified to do?
  • The highest point (and really my saving grace) is all the travelling we’re still doing – Borneo, Thailand, Indonesia and Taiwan in the last couple months with Thailand (again), New Zealand, Vietnam, Japan and Hawaii coming up over the next couple months. No time for a real job.

On my way through the Taipei airport, I came across this real-life escape chute.
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I can’t help but think we could all use one of these from time to time – especially with the Million Dollar Man now in charge of the free world. Take care, peeps.

Shaun

Annoying things and pet peeves

I always appreciate knowing the things you can’t do in a cab. Notice that not only can you not pass gas in this cab, but you’re also not allowed to take a picture of the sign telling you about it. Shaun broke at least one of these rules!

Dear Malaysia,

It’s not you. It’s me.

You’ve been a relatively easy place to live and I appreciate all your modern conveniences. I love the amazing selection of food you offer and although your weather can be sweltering hot at times, I’ll take that over -50 any day.

Therefore, when I find myself getting annoyed by petty matters , I have to remind myself that no one is perfect and relationships are all about compromise. So I’m not about to break up with you. I just need to get a few things off my chest so we can move on to a greater understanding of each other.

Sometimes your idiosyncrasies make me laugh like your need to post signs to tell me all the things I cannot do.  Don’t fish in the local park lake (even though there is a monthly fishing derby). Don’t stand on a toilet seat. Don’t pass gas in a cab (see above picture).

Your radio public service announcements can be confusing. For example, I now know I have to sort my trash into 11 different categories or I could be fined, but I have no idea what the categories are or where I can take them to be recycled. And why go from no recycling program at all to 11 categories? I’m also not entirely convinced that escalators are as dangerous as you claim they are. But I’m glad to learn the solution for all your problems is to “stay positive”. If only it were that easy.

These are all little annoyances I can overlook. But what I really NEED to know is why is it ok to clean a bathroom by just splashing water all over the place and leave everything wet? How can so many of your citizens not signal and when they do, they signal one direction but go the other? Why do certain individuals think it’s ok to drop garbage from their balconies? How can you be upset with Indonesia about causing haze conditions one minute and the next have residents burning tires in their back yard?

That is all.

Thanks for listening. I’ll work on not projecting my entitled views as a guest in your country if from time to time you could just dry off the toilet seat for me.

Trina

Cheating death: How Malaysians prepare you for a hike

We managed to make it to the top unscathed and were rewarded with views of these amazing limestone formations unlike any other in the world.

“Hopefully you all are fit because this hike is extremely difficult and one false move could leave you plummeting to your death on rocks sharp as knives.”

These were the opening words of our guide Jasper as he began the orientation to our 3 day, 2 night Pinnacles hike.

Fortunately, we were prepared for the melodrama because the day before our caving guide Donny prefaced the tour by graphically describing how a man on his tour once floated down the river smashing into a rock to have his entire shin split open gushing blood everywhere. Donny followed this story by telling us not to think about that as we embarked on our adventure.

It seems Malaysians everywhere either think we want to feel as though we are cheating death to get our monies worth or they are very worried about being sued so they disclose any potential risk. Either way it makes for entertaining briefings.

In the case of our hike, it was gruelling but not quite death defying. Besides the hordes of weird bees who don’t sting but are attracted to sweaty clothes, the summit of 2.4 kms literally straight up (Malaysians don’t like to waste their time meandering on terrain with a less direct route) was an enjoyable challenge.

Trina

Visiting the Cat City

This painting was part of a contest display within the cat museum. It’s all part of a master plan to make the city “clean, beautiful and safe” in the next 5 years.

October break has begun so Shaun and I are off exploring more of Malaysia. We’ve started in Kuching, the capital of Sarawak state on the island of Borneo. Imagine our surprise when we learned the city has the world’s first cat museum (yes, there are others).

The museum itself was located up a hill in their modern city hall building. We were perplexed until we learned the story behind the city’s name. Years ago when James Brooke, the first English sultan, arrived here from India, he attempted to name this the port city “Kuchin.” Unfortunately the locals thought he was saying cat city “Kuching”and it made sense because there were a lot of cats by the river. So the name stuck.

“The appreciate of cats is engraved deep in the human soul, and is of ancient origin.” – entrance to the Kuching Cat Museum.

Once inside we weaved our way through hordes of school children to view the ceramic cats, cat movie posters, bios of famous people with cats, stuffed cats (by what appeared to be student taxidermists), photos of cats dressed up and playing in a rock band, and of course, a giant display of Whiskas.

We learned superstitions such as:

“Cats must be prevented from rubbing its body against a corpse lest the evil influence

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We think this really is a corpse!

present in the cat’s body enter into the corpse.”

And “One of the most effective methods for rain making is to soak a cat in a pan of water until it is half drowned and this will surely produce an abundance of rain.”

Both of these old wives tales are accompanied with photographic reenactments. No cats (that we know of) were harmed in the making of these photos but the verdict is still out on the corpse.

Now we’re off to Mulu National Park and we don’t know what “Mulu” means . . .

 

Are we all speaking English?

Privileged ImmigrantsWhen you live as an expat (or privileged immigrant), you meet people from all over the world. One of the best parts of living and working overseas is learning from others you meet. You learn different perspectives, different customs and since I’m terrible at learning different languages, I at least learn the different slang expressions. The following are just a few of my favourites.

Lah (Malaysia) – This Malaysian word is difficult to translate into a literal meaning. It is as difficult to explain and as culturally significant as “eh” is to Canada. It’s use transcends boundaries and meaning and logic becoming an integral part of the spoken language. The following are some examples of how it may be used.

According to Urban dictionary: ” [Lah is] a slang used mainly by people of South-East Asia (Malaysia and Singapore mainly) to complement almost any sentence available in a social conversation. Examples include:

A: Hey, can you lend me five ringgit?
B: Sorry lah, I need money to pay for my cab and lunch-lah.

Can (Malaysia) – Rather than answering yes to request, Malaysians simple respond with “can”. It’s quick, efficient and to the point.

A: Can you help me for a minute?
B:Can, lah.

What to do? (Sri Lanka) – When a situation is beyond your control or you simply don’t feel like creating extra work for yourself, the phrase “Karana mokada?” which translates as “What to do?” is your stand by. This is  a great phrase when used properly, but can be extremely frustrating when someone uses it in a situation when there is a clear action to be taken.

Level best (Sri Lanka) – This is better than your best. It’s almost like giving 110% – impossible!

Proper (England) – Only the English can get away with asking for a proper tea or going for proper exercise. The rest of us just settle.

Chilly Bin (New Zealand) – a container in which you can keep drinks and food cool. In Canada, we would refer to this as a cooler. Example: “Shaun and Hannah took the chilly bin of beers to continue the party from one house to the other.”

Aiyo! (all nations) – a universal term of calamity both large and small.

Trina

 

 

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