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Shaun and Trina are Sweating

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

A shared experience

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Our crew on Railay Beach in Krabi, Thailand.

Over the past month, we’ve had more visitors than any other time in our five years living abroad. To me, the best part about traveling and living someplace strange is when I get the chance to share this experience with my family and friends – so it’s been a good month.

My longest-serving friend of 35 years, Trevor “Schneidz” Schneider was the first to visit with his wife Kim and their two kids Leighton (7) and Adam (3). Growing up together in Regina, Sask, I can guarantee we never talked about one day meeting up in Kuala Lumpur – probably couldn’t even find it on a map. We actually didn’t make it past Moose Jaw very often or south of Dewdney Avenue.

But, fast forward a few decades and things have changed for both of us.

While I was scared about the 20-hour flight for the kids, I knew that once they landed in Malaysia it would be a sweaty, good time. And, after fighting off jet lag like champs, they were all ready for some Asian fun.

In no particular order, we laughed, drank, ate, swam, beached, got diarrhea, laughed some more, saw a monitor lizard eat a fish while fighting off crows, picked up some garbage, heckled some monkeys, got in a fender bender, rode in the back of a truck, searched for feminine hygiene products in a Muslim neighbourhood, and generally experienced some of Asia’s finest sights, smells and sounds over 14 days.

Even though I was seeing some places for the second time, it was all made fresh through their eyes, which easily made it the most memorable, meaningful experience in my time overseas. So much fun, so many stories and so happy to have had the opportunity to share this experience. I wish they could have stayed longer.

A day after the Schneidz crew departed, we welcomed a friend and former colleague of mine for a short stay. Obviously a very different type of traveler than the Schneidz’s, Kim attacked the KL attractions like no one I’ve ever seen. She hit them all and left us a list of hits and misses for future visitors. It was a treat to have her and also see Malaysia through her eyes – and somewhat delicate tastebuds and stomach. She’s a trooper with a huge heart and someone I have a ton of time for.

I hope all my old co-workers follow her lead! I’m talking to you Artie from Nor-town Bowling Alley.

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Amazed by the KL skyline and likely on the lookout for bees, which never appeared.
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Our Thai friends and us getting an early morning blessing from a monk at our riverside hotel just outside Bangkok.
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Adam lets loose at the Jalan Alor food stalls in downtown KL. Shirts are always optional when you’re partying in Malaysia.

Next up was meeting my parents for two weeks in Japan. Why Japan, you ask? Well, no, they don’t like sushi. No, they don’t speak Japanese. And no, they’re not secret ninjas. But what they do like is somewhat shorter plane rides to see their firstborn son and his first wife.

So, when my Mom told me her goal was met after finding me in the busy Tokyo train station, she really meant it. While her vacation expectation bar was set low (and Rob’s was even lower – I think all he wanted was to watch CNN in a different time zone?), we still managed to have a swell old time visiting Nagano, Tokyo and Kyoto.

Outstanding weather, sparkling clean spaces, polite people and gorgeous parks and temples were on order every day. Japan is a really special place and even though it has a lot of people going a lot of places at the same time – even Rob approved.

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Rob, Jude, Trina and I in a bamboo forest just outside of Kyoto, Japan. Trina was only allowed to join for a long weekend (someone has to make actual money at an actual job).

 

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Trina is skinny in this picture, so I didn’t have to delete it. This is taken at a famous temple in Kyoto.
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Shinjuku district in Tokyo at night – lots of shopping, strange bars, and bright lights. My mom bought a nice Japanese Seiko watch here. It was more than $10, so my Dad was not impressed. He only buys things under 10 bucks.
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These colourful carp windsocks were strung up everywhere marking Children’s Day on May 5. In Japan, carp are revered for their courageous ability to swim upstream. I guess their kids must be good swimmers too?

Up next is Sri Lanka in June to meet up with friends from our first years spent sweating. There will be stories. In the meantime, take care.

Shaun

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And the winner is. . . a new / old Malaysia 🇲🇾

The polls closed yesterday at 5pm. Shaun and I were up late refreshing news sites with the poll updates and following the events on Twitter. News reports were conflicting. It seemed the two parties were still neck and neck when I went to bed at midnight. (Remember I still didn’t know when the holidays would be declared and was prepared for work this morning.)

I couldn’t really sleep and I did check the local media sites at 3am when it appeared that the tides had turned and it was official that PH and their 92 year old leader had upset the current government. The final count was 113 seats for the opposition and 79 for the ruling party.

I still didn’t know if it was true. It was only when I received the 5:15am text message from the school verifying that today and Friday would be holidays that I knew this was really happening.

But it wasn’t without some controversy. The swearing in of the New Prime Minister by the King was delayed. It was supposed to happen at 8am and then 5pm. However, King apparently wanted a different member of the opposition party sworn in as Prime Minister and Najib (the now former Prime Minister) was exploring some sort of loop hole in the constitution saying that Prime Ministers couldn’t be leaders of a coalition party.

Then at 9:30pm, while we were playing beer pong at a local pub, the swearing in did happen. The music was faded and all attention was on the big screen television for the ceremony. And at the moment the documents were signed to transfer the power, the crowd in the pub erupted (and it wasn’t because Shaun had made a good shot).

Trina

http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2018/05/10/official-dr-mahathir-is-back-as-7th-pm/

A Wednesday off to vote – what I’ve learned about today’s Malaysian election

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Political posters, flags and banners of the three major parties line the streets for what is anticipated to be one of the most important and most groundbreaking elections in Malaysian history.  I can’t help but wonder who will be assigned to clean up all the flags and posters when this is all over. (Picture from : https://csiprop.com/the-general-election-2018-and-malaysias-property-market/)

I have the day off work. So do millions of Malaysians. While I am spending this last minute “surprise” holiday catching up on school work and lounging around the house, approximately 14.5 million Malaysians are traveling back to the kampung (their home village) to exercise their right to vote.

GE14 (the 14th general Malaysian election) has been highly anticipated and today the country is buzzing. Here are some of the facts I’ve learned about the election:

  • Malaysia is a constitutional monarchy and a representative democracy with a parliamentary system. That’s a fancy way of saying they have the same political system as Canada and most other former colonies.
  • The current party who is in power has been in power since 1957.
  • The leader of the main opposition party used to be the leader of the current ruling party back in the 1990s (making him the Prime Minister). Now he is running as the leader of the opposition at the spry young age of 92!
  • Both parties are really coalitions of multiple other parties and have changed names several times. It gets very confusing.
  • There is a third party that used to be part of the opposition but broke off over different views on implementing the Islamic penal system. Some believe this party will split the opposition vote securing another victory for the ruling party.
  • Voter turnout is expected to be even higher than the 80% that voted in General Election 13.
  • With the exception of Sarawak, all state elections are happening today along with the federal one.
  • Everyone seems to be skeptical of the whole election process. The general public and the candidates themselves all seem to be worried about votes being lost, blackouts in previous elections, spam calls blocking politician’s phone lines and potential racial tensions.
  • Key issues for the people this election seem to be rising cost of living, low wages and continued stories of government corruption.
  • Many promises have been made during this election campaign including some made in the past few hours: no income tax for people under 26 and no road tolls for the first five days of Hari Raya (a Malaysian holiday).
  • And there is one more promise. The ruling party has promised Monday and Tuesday off work if they win. The opposition has promised Thursday and Friday off if they win. Either way, it sounds like I won’t be working much this May.

Stay tuned for the results.

Trina

Works cited for further reading if interested:

Looi, Florence. “Malaysia Election: All You Need to Know.” Al Jazeera News, Al Jazeera, 9 May 2018, www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/05/malaysia-election-180508052746428.html.

L.J., M.S. “Why the Malaysian Election Will Be so Tight.” The Economist, The Economist Newspaper, 7 May 2018, www.economist.com/blogs/economist-explains/2018/05/economist-explains-3.

Promchertchoo, Pichayada. “Malaysian PM Najib Promises Special Holidays, Tax Exemptions If BN Wins Election.” Channel NewsAsia, 9 May 2018, www.channelnewsasia.com/news/asia/malaysia-election-najib-promises-holidays-tax-exemptions-ge14-10214840.

My tiny Thai story

“Hello TINAAAAA”

nasal greeting; music to my ears

the gaps in language

the many years passed

the cultural differences

all

disappear

over

Shared meat on a stick, cold beers and laughter

as monks

and BBQ

float by in boats

Writing with a full heart and belly,

Tinaaaa

One bath tub of water

When your building puts up a sign that tells you there will be water disruptions March 6-8, you don’t think too much of it. You know the building has back up tanks. You know there is plenty water in the supply. It’s just routine maintenance. But you still fill up your bathtub with water the night of the 5th, just in case.

The routine maintenance was completed ahead of schedule. However, when they went to turn on the taps again, 5 more pipes burst – aiyo! That was on Tuesday night. Our building tanks lasted us until Friday morning.

Turns out that “just in case” has come. You really don’t realize just how much you use water until you have to go without it. In case you are wondering, here is what one bathtub full of water will get you:

  • 3 bucket showers (not including washing your hair)
  • 8 essential toilet flushes
  • 3 sinks full for dishes
  • 4 bowls full for hand washing
  • watering 9 tropical plants (which are clinging to life. Our cacti are loving it though.)

Here’s hoping that the water is restored soon since the bathtub is nearly empty. I’m definitely not taking water for granted again!

Trina

Fishing Malaysia style

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No fish were seriously injured during this adventure. All were thrown back to grow nice and big. This was apparently just a baby.

Sometimes we do things just for the blog potential.

While I do enjoy angling from time to time, it’s not my favourite hobby. However, when our local fishing friend D-Long recently asked if we’d like to go fishing one Saturday afternoon, my first thought was – “This will make a great blog – I’m in!”

Located in the jungle and about a 40-minute drive from KL, the fishing spot in Hulu Langat resembled a watery driving range complete with a rain shelter, picnic tables and a canteen. (You could also spend the night in one of the 20 or so cabins right on the lake.)

We were even assigned a fish caddy that helped us bait the hook, net our fish and even casted for us when our arms got tired or we needed a beer break. (We also treated ourselves to a fine spread of olives, deli meats, fresh bread and Pringles – actually all I brought was the Pringles. Our bud Jeffyfish brought the rest.)

For about $25, we fished our hearts out for 4 hours, and even managed to reel a couple of ‘baby’ fish in thanks to the skills of D-Long and our fish caddies (who happened to be from Myanmar). The fish fought like Northern Pike, but looked like aliens. Here’s Trina bringing one in gracefully…

D-Long
This is our fish guru D-Long. He knows what the fish are thinking and feeling.
Row fishing
All you need to do is find a spot on the deck and cast away.

All in all it was a great way to spend an afternoon with pals pretending to be a Malaysian sport angler.

Shaun

The big one

The privileged immigrant: A glimpse into a random world

2018-02-26-PHOTO-00001156My life is strange.

To be honest, when I was young, I never really thought about what my life would be like at 39. It was all kind of a black hole after university for me. I suppose I just assumed I’d have a steady office job, a house, some kids, maybe even a dog – 0 for 4 if you’re keeping score at home (although I do care for 9 semi-healthy tropical plants and 6 cacti if that counts for anything).

Looking back, I think my default life was knocked off the rails when Trina talked me into visiting Thailand in 2004. It was disorientingly hot, the food was crazy spicy and I had a severe bout of e-coli – an obvious no-brainer to become hooked on the foreign life.

When I got home and was telling my family all about the adventure, my Grandma was the only person with the nerve to say what everyone else was thinking – “Shaun, I never knew you were so stupid.” That still makes me laugh. And while I agree my intelligence is low, what I experienced there changed me for the better.

Over the following years, we would prove my Grandma correct on many more occasions with trips to Kenya, Peru, Argentina, and finally with our 2-year move to Sri Lanka where we started chronicling our journey on this blog, and our almost 3 years now living in Malaysia.

It’s been a fantastic ride so far – as much for its adventure as for its challenges and difficulties negotiating life so far from home. Truly our most memorable moments have been some of the most difficult and bizarre. While Malaysia has been relatively tame compared to other locales (see: Sri Lankan psychiatric hospital), we still have some very unique moments. Here’s a sampling from the last week:

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  • We went to watch a Chinese movie to mark the Year of the Dog. Entitled “A Beautiful Moment”, the film did not disappoint even though it was difficult to determine what the beautiful moment actually was. Sitting among a raucous crowd of locals, we were treated to extreme overacting, corny music and English subtitles that included the words “douche bag” and “retard.” All in all a great, if not confusing, time.
  • To celebrate our recent 14th wedding anniversary (we got married when we were 10), we decided it was best if we ate at a place where we couldn’t see each other. Dining in the Dark is a restaurant in KL where you eat in complete darkness and your server is visually impaired. (Our server was named Marco and you can bet we played Marco Polo). While it took all of my concentration not to spill, I managed to get all four delicious courses mostly into my mouth. The only trouble spot came at the end of the meal when I had to take a pee and Marco was nowhere to be seen (or heard). After a mild panic attack and Trina laughing heartily, I yelled out Marco’s name and it turned out he was right beside me all along! You win, Marco. You win.
  • One of Trina’s students recently invited us to a fancy celebration of Kuwait’s national and liberation days on February 25 and 26, respectively. The latter marking the Desert Storm War, which freed Kuwait from Iraq’s control in 1991. The party was highlighted by delicious lamb biriyani, shawarmas, dates, pita, hummus and other fine middle eastern delicacies. While alcohol is forbidden at Kuwaiti shindigs, we were able to take the escalator down one floor to quench our thirst after the feast. Thank you KL!

    Next up on the agenda is a comedy show featuring Canada’s own Russell Peters, coaching track and field in Singapore and playing hockey in a mall. No defaults on the horizon. Take care.

Shaun

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Random things I’ve learned while traveling Asia with my parents

  1. You can order umbrella hats from the Philipines.
  2. Only 6% of China’s citizens have passports.
  3. Ants are more dangerous than snakes in the Vietnamese jungle.
  4. Exchanging guns for televisions is a viable government gun control measure.
  5. The streets of Laos smell like BBQ pork.
  6. Wifi is available in cabs in Vietnam.
  7. You can zip line with a steaming kettle.
  8. If you set your mind to it, you can acquire a brand new pair of rubber boots in Malaysia.
  9. A trip to Tesco doesn’t reduce the symptoms of Costco withdrawal.
  10. You can ask a taxi driver anything and it won’t phase him.
  11.  When in a pinch, a good foot soak in a wok will do the trick.
  12. You can get a club sandwich anywhere. Some are good and some are very, very bad.
  13. Bad value for taste coffee in Hong Kong is at 7-11.
  14. Eight degrees Celsius is damn cold when your only heater is the size of a giant steamed bun.
  15. Your parents will always be your parents no matter how old you get and that’s pretty special.

Trina

Celebrating driving away evil with coconuts, spears and body piercing

In case you missed it . . .

Shaun and Trina are Sweating

Ever feel like smashing a coconut midweek? How about walking for 6 hours in a trance with hooks in your back pulling a silver chariot? Me neither. But for many Hindu devotees, this spiritual undertaking is an integral part of Thaipusam festivities.

The Hindu festival of Thaipusam is celebrated on the full moon of the Tamil month of “Thai” (January/February) which happened to be Wednesday. According to Wikipedia, the festival celebrates the goddess Parvati giving her son Murugan a spear to get rid of an evil demon. And Batu Caves just outside KL happens to have the world’s largest statue of Murugan with his spear in hand. What better place to celebrate the vanquishing of evil?

Since I had the day off work, I figured I would squeeze into public transit and check it out first hand. The experience was one for all the senses.

“Whether insensible, outmoded, stimulating or…

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