Shaun and Trina are Sweating

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

Keep your eyes on the Thais!

Seven(s) highlights from a rugby rookie

7. Traveling with friends from New Zealand, Australia, America, and Canada meant there was always a team to cheer for.

6. Sharing accommodations with this same group of 9 friends made a two night stay in Singapore affordable and entertaining.

5. Seven-minute halves meant that even I could pay attention for the entire game.

4. Random costumes made for entertaining people watching (in between games of course). We were dressed as Muay Thai fighters but probably the best costume was a group of South African fans dressed as the “Mexican Wall”.

3. On day two, I had an excuse to wear my Rider shirt (the Canadian Football League and the 7s Rugby is pretty much the same thing right?).

2. After 10 hours of consecutive rugby watching, I finally quit cheering for “touchdowns” and “field goals”.

1. Canada beating the US 26-19 in the final moments was almost as exciting as the 2010 Olympic Hockey final! It was their first international win, a huge upset and I think this is a sign of things to come.



PSAs that will change your life


“Take at least 4 vacations per month for a happy life.” That’s my PSA to the world.

Back in the 2000s, I used to write public service announcements (PSAs) for money. Encouraging people to drive safely, buckle their seatbelts and learn how to zipper merge were all part of my job. A fairly rewarding endeavour that made me feel good and also had me listening intently to local radio stations to hear the fruits of my labour.

Even though my PSA creation days are over, I still enjoy listening to what people need to be reminded about over the airwaves.

In Malaysia, they love their PSAs. In fact, there are more PSAs than paid commercials on the radio. And while a few of the announcements are about driving, most are about other, more random, aspects of life.

Here are a few that have caught my ear and how they translate to a Westerner.

  1. Staying positive on social media will make your life awesome. (Translation: Don’t criticize the government on Facebook or else!)
  2. Remove the location from your photos before you post them online. (Translation: There are a lot of creeps out there. Be careful.)
  3. Manage your time wisely and don’t procastinate. (Translation: Malaysians are never on time, but they want to be…someday)
  4. Be careful on escalators. They can be dangerous. (Translation: There are more malls than people in Malaysia. That means lots of escalators and lots of injuries.)
  5. RSVP to parties and make sure to attend. (Translation: Lots of parties and not enough time. See: Time management PSA.)
  6. Practice common courtesy (Translation: Malaysians think they are rude. But in reality, they haven’t been to Taylor Field after a Rider loss on a hot Saturday night – which makes them all look like Mary Poppins.)
  7. Be less annoying and more people will like you. (Translation: Don’t be a prick. Wise words for us all to live by.)

There are hundreds more, but those are seven of my favourites. While none of them tackle the actual problems in Malaysia (taking down every tree in sight, corruption at the highest levels, a growing religious fundamentalist movement), they do all push people towards a higher purpose – which I respect greatly.

And who really listens to practical PSAs anyway? We don’t want to change our bad ways. We just want to think about being a better person and then move on to the next party or escalator.


Asian Tigers settle for silver

by Trina Cobbledick (KL’s senior ice hockey correspondent)

Hopes were dashed as the underdog Asian Tigers suffered a defeat this Saturday night against Jazura in the MIHL (Malaysian Ice Hockey League) gold medal game. Despite clearly having the better team name, the Tigers were at a disadvantage from the beginning. Their goalie had hurt himself playing golf, their best player got transferred to Edmonton and just moments before the game, they received a WhatsApp message that yet another player wouldn’t be able to come. “I was on my way but something big came up,” read his text.

Down to only seven skaters, the first period started off rocky with Jazura jumping to a 4-0 lead. It wasn’t looking good.But in the second period, the Tigers rose to the challenge. Their stand-in goalie made some unbelievable saves to shut out Jazura and theTigers pounced for two quick snipes. The scoring gap was narrowing. Would it be the next miracle on (Malaysian rapidly melting) ice?

Fans stopped mid-shopping frenzy to peer over the railings at the ensuing action. Riveted by the displays of athletic prowess, families ordered MacDonalds and children asked their parents “What’s this game, lah?”

“The energy was something else,” said center Shaun Humphries, “there must have been 10s of people in the stands.”

Humphries, who had a modified Gordie Howe hat trick of a goal, an assist and a penalty resulting in a black eye, noted he truly thought this would be the TSN turning point of the game.

Unfortunately, the third period did not bode well for the Tigers. Jazura clearly outplayed them making the final score 7-2.

When approached after the game in the mall lobby turned dressing room, disappointed team members conceded that they weren’t ready to think about next season yet.

“All we can do at this point is regroup, have a couple of beers and get home quickly where we can actually shower.”

Leeches and Sweat bees 

On any hike you have difficulties you encounter and obstacles you must overcome. That’s part of the enjoyment. Last weekend I embarked on a challenge with a Malaysian hiking group trekking and camping in the jungle. This group literally went off the beaten path. In fact, they hired local Orang Asli guides to take us right through the bush. Here are some of the things I learned along the way.

  1. Go on any hike through the jungle in the rain and you WILL encounter leeches. I’m not just talking about one or two around your ankle. This particular hike I must have pulled 20+ of those suckers off of me.
  2. Being equipped with a walkie talkie and machete comes in handy. Or if you are too cheap to get your own – at least hang out with others that have them.
  3. Hiking in the tropics is super wet. Your either wet from rain or wet from sweat. Take your pick. 
  4. Sometimes you are faced with sweat bees. That’s right these are a real thing! Unlike honey bees who are attracted to sweet things, these demented creatures prefer the smell of sweat which is not good news for one very sweaty, hiking Canadian.
  5. Sleeping in a hammock is much preferable to being in a tent in the sweaty / rainy jungle.
  6. You can still cook chicken and rice over a camp fire.
  7. No matter what culture you are from, tall tales abound at night. Superstitions, ghostly legends and feats of strength when encountering wild animals were told just before we tucked in for the night. 
  8. River baths are good but nothing tops that first shower when you arrive back home. 

Thanks for a great weekend to my new friends. 


Really Japan? – Anecdotes behind the generalisations

Japan is efficient.


Everyone talks about Japan’s incredibly efficient transportation system. So when we planned to travel from Haneda to Narita airport, fly to Hokkaido and be back to Yokohama for a conference all within a few days, I didn’t think it would be a big deal. There were regularly scheduled shuttles, trains, and buses. All run like clockwork. What I failed to take into account was that Japan also has many rules.

Japan has a lot of rules.

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I just figured that being as efficient as “Japan is” the Haneda -Narita shuttle would be running until at least midnight. It didn’t even dawn on me that you could view the entire schedule online (online schedules in Southeast Asia aren’t exactly reliable). Had it I would have seen that the shuttle finished at 10pm. But all was not lost, we could take the train and then catch a public bus.  The rule we weren’t anticipating was that items over 1 meter in length aren’t allowed on the city busses, and our friend had a snow board with her that was well over the length allowance. It didn’t matter that it was now 1:30am and we had waited 90 minutes for that bus. It didn’t matter that the bus was practically empty. Rules are rules, and unlike travel in Malaysia, you can’t pay someone a few dollars to come to your rescue. We tried to politely argue our case, but couldn’t help feeling bad for the poor bus conductor who was growing increasingly uncomfortable, avoiding eye contact and hoping we would just go away. So that is what we did.

Japan is expensive.


We ended up taking a taxi, the remaining 50 km. That cab ride cost us an astronomical $200USD!! But we’d learned our lesson and Shaun became a master of reading all transportation schedules online from that moment onward. And for the record, the trains really do run like clockwork. We never made another transportation blunder.

Beer is cheaper than in Malaysia.

original_url: 8EB1443D-2A47-4FF8-B3E9-1523453E453BThankfully our first stop was a city named after a beer (or is it the other way around?). Sapporo, the fifth largest city in Japan, is located on the northern most island of Hokkaido and is home of the Snow Festival. There we rediscovered winter running, introduced our American friend to the word “toque”, ate copious amounts of curry and ramen soup and drank Sapporo beer. We did all this as we took in the unbelievable snow and ice sculptures (all for free!) We even got a day of skiing up further north in Niseko (not for free).

Japan is clean and orderly.

img_1017The entire time I don’t think we saw a single piece of litter. It blew our minds that they had on the corner “sand stations” where people could help themselves to little bags of sand to spread on the nearby sidewalk if it was too slippery from ice. If we did that in Canada people would go crazy taking truck loads of this free sand for their own driveways. It would be complete mayhem.

On the trains, everyone is eerily quiet. There are no kids screaming, no music planning, no randomness that you’d expect on a subway. Instead everyone is reading. You could hear a pin drop it’s so quiet. I actually felt like we were being rude because we were talking.

Japan is beautiful and the food is delicious. 

These final two things mean we will be back some day to enjoy the beauty of the seasons and get our fill of ramen and sushi.



Mistaken for an American living in a Muslim country

My heart is heavy as I sit down and write this entry. As an educator, I normally try to keep my political ideologies to myself, but this is different. This isn’t about speaking against any political party. This is about speaking up against hatred.

As I hear the news of the American travel ban against seven of the poorest Muslim nations of the world, I feel just sick. These bans affect immigrants some of whom are refugees who have feared for their lives and spent years and years in camps subsisting on very little as they were vetted and waited approval to finally have the chance to restart their lives. Now their hopes are crushed.

I think of our good friends Calvin and José who literally fled by foot from Congo hiding in the jungle until they reached safety in Uganda. It took seven years of returning religiously to the temporary Canadian immigration office at the refugee camp before their papers were finally stamped with approval. They and their two infant boys could rebuild their lives. Can you imagine the devastation they would have felt if that would have been revoked?

You fear extremism. Well this is exactly how extremism gains power. It gains power and support through desperation. And by turning away the very people who need our help the most, we are reaffirming the propaganda of terrorists.

I say “we” because when you live in a Muslim country and you look and sound like an American you are lumped in with these ideas. In Malaysia, Shaun and I have have been treated with the utmost kindness and respect by people. And we, as guests in their country, continue to be greeted with warmth and smiles. However, I can’t help but wonder if there is underlying suspicion now too. Strangers I encounter in the day to day must have moments in which they wonder if we could share these racist sentiments. For this I feel shame.

I also say “we” because it’s not enough to expect saying “I’m Canadian” will absolve us of this guilt. We cannot be satisfied in simply knowing we don’t appear as racist as our neighbours to the south and then sit back feeling proud. I recently read a Maclean’s magazine article that really got to the heart of Canada’s racism problem. Just because it’s not being tweeted doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

So I choose to speak out in my small way. I choose to teach the children of 70 different nations at our school that hatred and bigotry are not okay. And I challenge myself to be present with kindness in my daily interactions.

I know it’s not much, but it’s necessary.

And in the meantime, I just might start adopting a New Zealand accent.


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
    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.


*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.


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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.

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