Monday, October 29, 2012

thousands of words

The very crowded beach we had to contend with.
The infinity pool, the pavilion "living room" and to the left the dining room.
Jane thinking she is a pretzel. The face is a grimace, not a smile. HA NO, it was great and hilarious fun. Honestly!

Speaks for itself.

Such lovely happenstance

I mentioned that when we were in Bangkok, we saw traditional Thai dancing. In fact there was a photo of the dancers in my last post. It was lovely. Not touristy, but very fine dancing. What it meant I did not know.

This morning I went to my Monday morning lecture put on by FOM (Friends of the Museum) and it was about Shadow Theater.

What is the connection? Well!! The Thai dancing was telling the same stories that Shadow Theater does! So this morning's lecture was absolutely fascinating to me. She was explaining what I had seen last weekend!

The speaker was excellent. I can not believe the calibre of these lectures. (sometimes too good and I get lost in the details, and the facts and figures) But today!

Waylang Theater (waylang means ghost) is common to many cultures in Asia. It dates back to 1200 AD! In Thailand, China, Malaysia, Indonesia, and the oldest from India. In different forms: puppets,and dancing, for example. And the stories are variations of each other.

The Shadow Puppets are beautifully constructed. Made out of buffalo or goat hide, beautifully intricate designs are tooled in the leather. They are held up to the stage with sticks of buffalo horn. The segmented limbs have sticks of buffalo horn.The face is always in silhouette. The profile tells whether the good guy (small nose), the bad guy (hooked nose), the hero, the clown (big round bulbous nose), body hair, colours (black=bad guy, red= passion, gold= beauty, royalty, white=noble, youth). In the Islam faith they could not resemble humans, so they are more symbolic.

Each puppet is unique, and the puppeteer might have hundreds to use in his performance. He lines them all up before the performance starts, so he has easy access to the characters. There might be many puppets of the same character, telling different things at different points in the story.

The puppeteer not only amasses all the puppets, sits cross-legged for the duration of the performance, (8        hours, YES 8 hours) he memorizes all the stories, has to be coordinated with the musicians. He is a sacred story teller, but as well, a philosopher, giving social and political critique, teaching about hygiene, even birth control, rituals and traditions. After all this was 1200 AD. He is the local newspaper, school, and entertainment.

He would prepare for this marathon performance, by meditating and chanting a mantra, because he would need incredible strength and control. The lecturer mentioned that one Indian story was as long as 4 times "The Iliad AND "The Oddesy" together!

I wish I had a photo of the shadow dancers. It is very iconic. And if you are curious I am sure you could google "shadow dancers". I think you can tell I loved the talk. I loved the syncronicity of having seen the Thai dancers just last weekend. It explained for me their very unusual dance style, very contrived articulation of their arms, wrists, hands, and fingers. Why just like puppets!

I realize how lucky I am to have these amazing opportunities. To go to Bangkok, see Thai dancers, then go to a lecture and see what it was all about.

Ciao for now

Wednesday, October 24, 2012


We had a great time in Bangkok. Flew Friday morning, back Sunday, put it together in hours, on Trip Advisor. We flew on Tiger pass $25 there, more back, but positive space, which is so nice to KNOW you are getting on. Surprisingly good food. I am not going to break my neck to have leftovers for Tim to take to work. The pilots get hot water free, Tim takes his own tea bag, and a meal of leftovers in a glass dish, and they heat it for him. The food was so good served on the flight, he would do better buying a meal.
Bangkok is known for its sleazy taxi drivers. So we went to the airport taxi stand, and got into a cab, with the unhappiest driver I have ever seen. First, he did not know the hotel, not a good sign. Then he didn't know the street it was on. hmmm.... Finally found out on his radio, so then I wonder about the hotel I have chosen. I went to Trip Advisor, and picked Bangkok's 2nd best hotel. #1 was $400/night  and #2 was $123. So I picked #2. Turns out the cabbie didn't know it because it is pretty new. It was on Embassy Row, very quiet area, and the hotel itself was wonderful. I love when as soon as you check in they all call you by name very time you come through the lobby. I have said before I am being completely spoiled by the caliber of hotel we are staying in. The hotel had offered a ride in to the city in a Jaguar XKE for $400. Tim put his foot down. pout pout... a chance of a lifetime! So a cab cost $4. But in unbelievable traffic. We noted the smoke coming out the ears of our already grumpy cabbie. The traffic in Bangkok is unbelievable. No big registration fee for a car like in Singapore. The fee neatly keeps the number of cars down.
We went out for dinner Friday night to a hotel downtown that I had heard had the best Thai food. The Shangri-la. Our hotel took us by shuttle to the BTS (Bangkok Transit System). He let us out, and we had no idea where the actual station was. Everything is in that funny Thai alphabet. After much wandering we realized we had to take a pedestrian overpass to the station. (would have been nice to get a clue of that before being dropped off!).
We meandered our way around the station and got on the train. At rush hour. Crowded. Like we hear of Japan, but no white glove pushers. But it was wild. Manoeuvred a transfer and got off down town  with an hour to spare, so we took a free shuttle boat to a shopping area Asiatique. Many many stores of souvenirs and eating places. Getting off the ferry boat I missed the dock, because my stupid knees don't bend as much as needed sometimes. So my other shin hit the metal edge of the wharf. And I am in long white pants. hmmm......
A wonderful meal at Shangri-la, with Thai entertainment, dancers with elaborate costumes. Touristy but classy. I was told at our hotel that they had a dress code. Long pants, and shoes not sandals. I didn't bring shoes, only had sandals. But I had my pretty jewelled (Jill) sandals, and they passed muster. In fact there were flip flops at the next table. I didn't think to put on bug juice, or to bring bug juice to a city. A jungle yes, a big (7 mill) city no. Big mistake. They found one leg under the table. One leg about 20 bites, Other leg 1 bite!
The next day we did a tour with a guide and driver. More expensive than we would have like ($300) but we had so little time. It was good. But I came down to the lobby, and our guide said "you can't wear that. It is inappropriate". Yikes. Leggings, a white long top and a scarf to cover my sleeves. No leggings. So I put on my bloody white pants from the night before, and off we went. The Emerald Buddha. The Reclining Buddha. The Golden Buddha.  Then a riverboat ride (like a long boat in Pukhet, or a bum boat in Singapore- a beautifully designed boat to cut the waves of the ocean or busy river.
Getting in to the boat, Tim got in to take my hand, and the boat guy took my other. I stepped in to the boat and he did not let go of my hand, so my compromised ROM shoulder was pulled way back further than it should or could go. I yelled "Let go" about 5 times before he did. Ouch. I had like whip lash pain in my shoulder girdle and neck for days after. I wasn't called Jane for nothing. Calamity Jane.
The level of the water had many homes and docks under water. You can only imagine in rain storms, and that terrible flooding of last year. Catastrophic.
The water is sludge brown. But many out fishing. At one point we were taken to a dock to get some bread to feed the fish, and the catfish  swarmed the boat. Yuck.
We read the Saturday  Globe and Mail. The hotel offered over 70 newspapers. They must print it off the internet. So we lolled in bed Sunday morning feasting on the G&M Saturday paper. It was sumptuous. I do miss my G&M.
We came home at night to treats in our room. One night, a little snack of sweet mango rice in banana  leaves, the next night, a gorgeous fresh mango. You don't get that at Holiday Inn.
It was a lovely weekend. Bangkok is big, old, dirty, and a city of contrasts.

 the river looks better at night
 my beautiful Saigon jacket
 traditional Thai dancers
 yet another gold temple
 the river in daylight, beautiful river boats, sludgy water
 Reclining Buddha, those are his toes to the right of the picture, his head way off in the background
the stairs of the overpass to the BTS. Am I drunk? Those stairs look slanted. Or the sidewalk does. Or.....

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

my computer is still sick

I will do a post quickly. My computer is tired, needs some attention.
But I have no time to take it to the dr. My life is so busy. HA
I  got back from Lombok Monday night and Friday morning we are going to Bangkok for the weekend. I tell you, it is exhausting.
Sepoi-Sepoi was superb. Flight to Lombok, 2 1/2 hrs from here, as far again south as Bali. It is a big island, with a mountain range ridge across the middle. Upon arriving, in the dark, we had a 1 1/2 hr drive in a 12 seater van (we were 11) over this mountain. I tell you the s curves- yikes. It was like a ride at the fair, thrown one way, then the other. 3 women were quite sick when we got there, and if it had been any longer, I might have joined them. Me, who had gravol in her bag- just forgot to take it, and pass it around.
The 5 days were glorious. There will be photos to follow. When my computer is feeling better, and when the woman who took 400 photos sends some around, I will pass some on.
We did meditation 7 a.m., yoga 7:30 to 9. Breakfast at 9. ( at a dining room outdoors, a marble floor and grass roof, just like in the travel brochures.) Lunch at 1:30, then yoga 5 -6:30, drinks at 7 and dinner 7:30.
It was an exhausting schedule. Lots of sitting around in an outdoor living room, covered from the sun, and huge ceiling fans. I had a massage every day, I would say the best I have had so far. ($40 for 1 1/2 hrs) and I have had a lot! They were outdoors, in a covered wall-less pavilion. So breezy with ocean winds, and the ceiling fans, that at one point my sarong covering me blew off!
There was an infinity pool, fresh water, temp between 75-80. You could stay in for ever. I finally am doing crawl!!! This is a big deal, given the range of motion needed in the shoulders to do crawl. A huge benchmark for me.
Some of us hired a boat to take us snorkelling to the Gilli Islands. Mind blowing colours Varieties of fish, blue and green coral, just breathtaking. And a benchmark for me, I could get in and out of the boat on those funny little ladders.
We did one session of team yoga. You are partnered  with another, and you support each other, winding in to positions you would not be able to do alone. Apparently there is a photo of me doing something that amazed my poor old body. I will send it along when I get it.
You don't forget you are in a Muslim country. Call to worship seemed to go on all day and night. Awakened at 3 a.m., but to such a beautiful sound. And during meditation and yoga, truly lovely.
The property was beautiful, landscaping wonderful blooming hibiscus, bougainvillaea, and many I can't identify. Staff everywhere, smiling, bowing, ready to be asked to help you.
The bed turned down every night with a chocolate and a note from the yoga teacher who put it together. I had a good roommate, just met her there. A very interesting group of woman. All younger than me, most could be the age of my children, all with fascinating stories as to why they are in Singapore.
Well I'm off for a massage.
We head off to Bangkok tomorrow morning, back Sunday.
Be in touch soon.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

I wrote a post and just erased it.

But I do want to touch base before my yoga retreat. I am ready and waiting for my limo to the airport. Tim got this credit card that gives free limo to the airport. He uses it for work! And he is going to take me in a bit.
My yoga studio has a 5 day retreat at a private villa "Sepoi-Sepoi" Lombok, Indonesia. Google it if you want to eat you heart out. I will report back next week if I have found yet another paradise. It looks likely.
We celebrated Canadian Thanksgiving with the Canadian Association Singapore. They hold it at the American Club, (they do turkey best in Singapore). It was lovely. Tim was working and got there for pumpkin pie. I sat with two Singaporean families. One was Tim's emergency dentist. Actually had gone to UWO for his degree, then taught at UofT and moved back to Singapore. The other guy was born in Vancouver but his business moved him  back to Singapore! His son is at UBC Kelowna, and he was in the Okanagan this summer taking his son to school. It was lovely to be with Singaporeans, and their very well behaved children, girls 6-9. Sweet.
They do a turkey for each table. We had a 20 lb turkey for the 10 of us. They then package up the leftovers turkey for us to take home!
I am having fun with plants. I have a lovely gardenia (about 4' tall) in fragrant bloom. I have several jasmine. And I have started tomatoes. I have no idea if it will work, in this climate and with the winds we have on the balcony, but we will see. I have planted Datura seeds but no sign of them yet. I bought these seeds in TO and brought them over.
So think of me lolling on the beach and poolside at this private villa, doing yoga to stretch out the tense muscles of having to bear such stress! HA
Photos next time. My computer is misbehaving. Badly.

Friday, October 5, 2012

It's almost a year

It is almost a year since we came first to see Singapore to see if we wanted to do this whole adventure. OMG How life has changed since then.

We came, and stayed with our friend Norm, who lived in this very building. Tim and Rod (Rod and Nancy stayed in a hotel downtown) wrote some tests for Tiger, I was to find an apartment. I didn't look far. I saw three apartments in this complex, two 2 bedroom, and this 4 bedroom. Wanting a big balcony, this was the only choice. Tim came home, and I reported to him, that already I had already blown the budget. He saw the place and agreed.

The day I got back to Canada, my Mom died. Then after the funeral week later, the mad packing up of the family home of 30 years. A lot has happened in a year.

When we were first here there was a very distinctive bird call. Not sure the bird, black with yellow on the wings. The call, first thing in the morning is kind of "oh no, oh no" It disappeared around March, and I thought the sprayers for mosquitoes has done them in. But they are back. And dumb me, I think, why would they migrate? It's the same all year, they don't have to leave. Well bright light that I am, I finally figured they have come from somewhere! So they are back for the "winter" from where I do not know. They could save themselves a lot of trouble. If they like it here for the winter someone should tell then it stays like this for the summer too. Oh, well. You know we say "bird-brain"!

Have been busy this week. A lecture Monday morning with my FOM group, at the Asian Civilization Museum. A lecture on Assam, a province in the very extreme north east corner of India. Quite special, filled with many many varied tribes. It is surrounded by Himalayas on the north, mountains on the south, and a river to the west that flows to the Ganges. It is a little pocket of India. Filled with the diversity of many tribes. The lecture got a little detailed and more than I need. But even taking away a smidgen of what was presented, is wonderful.

Then a group of us went for lunch. That's what I love.Love school for the recess! Such an interesting group of women, coincidentally all from Canada. But all here for different reasons, and living at very different life styles.. And all here by contract. I was the only woman here by choice. I came by choice, and more importantly, will leave by choice. All the others move when their company tells them to. Regardless of if their kids are in high school, and they don't want to move. Or they are sending them to Fort MacMurray. From Singapore to Fort MacMurray? Yikes! Talk about feeling you are on the moon. The saving grace they will probably meet up with others they have met before  on this ongoing chessboard called expat living.

I have started with an osteopath. He is working on loosening the muscles around my rib cage, to help me breathe more deeply, hence sleep better. The sleep seems to be the thing to fix, to fix everything else. I have done sleep studies, and tried the machine, which made no difference. I guess there is a new exciting field about pain and nerves and the brain. Why folks, I'm on the cutting edge. Last night I took the full meds allowed (I keep taking less hoping to wean off0 and I slept til 9:30 a.m. Not since teen years!!!

We had a friend of Tim's for dinner this week. Olga is a Russian, beautiful lady, with a law degree, and worked corporate, then realized she wanted to fly. She now trained for Tiger with a new born! When I saw how hard it was for Tim, a very experienced airline pilot, I do not know how she could have done it. She is wonderful and hilarious. She got her miles flying in Africa, and brought photos of Botswana and Namibia. We now know where we will go on our slow trip home in Jan 2014. South Africa, Namibia, and Botswana. It looks spectacular.

Thursday I took a tour of a Buddhist Temple. I took the MRT to the end of the line, and I actually saw the edge of this concentrated living space. The "burb". There is a new temple built that is spectacular. It is very green, no gold Buddha, but much local stone and teaching rooms. Their thrust is to educate. They have an aging membership, and are looking for youth to join. They offer classes in violin, tai chi, languages, origami, calligraphy, you name it. I wish I lived closer. They served an excellent vegetarian meal, too.

So you can see my week has been busy. I am starting to cook a little more. The sun has changed with the season and my kitchen is not bathed in direct sunlight late afternoon, so it is a bit more inviting. Plus a friend gave me her slow cooker (she had had it in Scotland). I think of a slow cooker for cold evenings. But it is perfect. I get the meal in in the cool of the morning, and plug it in, no heat pouring out like at the uninsulated oven, and, voila, supper cooks in the heat of the sunny kitchen, but I'm not in it.

Ciao for now