Sunday, December 23, 2012

Egads Christmas is here!!!


I know I know, we look dumb and even dumber. But warmest Christmas greetings from very very very far away.

Boy, being here for Christmas really shows us what is important about Christmas. Not that we needed the lesson. It is ALL about family and friends. 

It is Christmas Eve here. It is 70', actually a very nice day. Light overcast so not hot. A lovely breeze. 
We will go to midnight mass at 9 tonight. I think I would like to go for a swim after, just because I have never done that on Christmas Eve before.

Tomorrow we will be part of a pot luck orphans Christmas dinner. Rod and Nancy are hosting. In spite of Rod flying tomorrow!! (a daytime flight needless to say). Nancy will use our oven for roasting the turkey. She doesn't have a big oven. When roasted we will carry it over to their building across the way. There will be anywhere between 8 and 14 for the meal. There will be apps, turkey, dressing, gravy, vegs, desserts. I bought a Christmas Pudding at Marks and Spencers and will make hard sauce. Several couples Jewish, so Christmas Pudding will be a new one for them!

Thought I would show you my beautiful flowers. The top photo is a gorgeous table arrangement from my dear kids. Since that was ten days ago, some flowers have been pulled, red and white roses. But it is still beautiful. The second arrangement is from Heinz and Sylvie. For Christmas. Bless their hearts. (They are the friends who were just visiting)

Our beautiful Christmas tree stands alone. A very few goodies under it, waiting til the kids get here. I think we will do a mini-Christmas when we get to Thailand. 

An update on  my tomato plants. Top plant has about 25 tiny (2" tomatoes on it. See second photo.)
Bottom photo is of my second plant. It has about 40 tomatoes on it. Note the look of fatigue. (Needs watering, Jane!) Because of the stiff breeze it dries out all the time. So having planted the seeds in September, now 3 months later, maybe I will have fresh tomatoes by Easter! HA! Please note my Christmas decoration on the stakes. I am just so creative. 

(And our red Christmas hats are in fact table napkins held on our heads with paper clips, and cotton balls held on with paper clips too. Necessity breeds.)

Don't want to sign off. Again, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. May it be filled with health, and filled with family and friends.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

OMG Christmas is coming

I just can not get my head around the fact that Christmas is coming. In 5 days.
I was away in Borneo and came home to a Christmas tree all decorated. I seem to not want to celebrate because it only accentuates that the kids are not here. For me Christmas is kids and family. But Tim wants Christmas, so we are doing Christmas. He got the tree given to him by Norm, our wonderful buddy downstairs. Norm is going home for Christmas, to Montreal, and both Tim and Rod are working one of his days so he has a week off. He had an IKEA tree and boxes of decorations so while I was away Tim put it up and decorated it beautifully. So I guess it follows that we will celebrate Christmas. Actually Rod and Nancy are doing a dinner on the 25th. So we will be a part of that. I will see what unfolds.
I must say, Christmas is everywhere here. Carols played everywhere, lights, poinsettias everywhere, and the stores and malls filled with chutchkas. I was downtown yesterday and you would have thought they were giving everything away. Line up to wait for a change room, line up at the cash to pay. I never am around in the stores for the pre-season crush. I make sure I have it all done way before, and we usually go away.

These photos are all out of order. My computer is misbehaving (still) so I am making do with these that came through. Hopefully my IT team that arrives soon, will help me fix this. So photos jumbled.
Women dressed in various tribal dress outfits
 George, an orang utan at the refuge.
 Our Christmas tree that Tim  put up and decorated. Pretty nice job, eh?
The market and a table of fresh chicken
 Soon to be put up on the table with his kin.
So I went off to Borneo. Where is Borneo you say. As did I. It is a very big island to the east of Singapore. Borneo that I learned about in school was filled with tribes at war, dressed in tribal gear, big ear lobes, faces painted, men in loin cloths, women bare breasted. And they were head hunters!!   Do you know they only outlawed head hunting in 1963!!!!!
When I came back from BC friends of ours had already arrived. Heinz and Sylvie, who were our neighbours in TO, then moved to Kelowna and are a little more distant neighbours from us in Vernon, BC. They are on a tour of Asia and came to Singapore for a week and then I went with them to Borneo. MALAYSIA.
Borneo is a big island, and is divided into the Sultanate of Brunei, Malaysia and Indonesia.  We flew to Kuching. A new airport in a city of 300,000. Just on the verge of an economic burst, I think.
Our first hotel was at the beach an hour out of the city, and very weird. We checked in , and saw NO ONE in the hotel. Dining room empty, shops closed, pool empty. I think they were all Muslim and at prayer. Because an hour later the pool was filled with families, swimming in their clothes. I felt very naked in my swimsuit, and was stared at. Actually clothes were allowed in another "family" pool, but not where I was swimming.Very weird. Our room was weird too and too expensive so we headed back to Kuching for 4 nights.
Went to a cultural museum. Interesting. Houses where we would see weaving, carving, how they lived, and then a show of dancing and music. It was very well done. In the trees and the jungle!
We had a car and driver, and did a tour of Kuching. Went to an orang utan rehabilitation centre. It is a terrible practice here of giving baby orang utans as pets. They are adorable. But they grow bigger and no longer wanted as pets. This center takes them and rehabilitates them to return to the jungle. Snow bears are another animal that they give as wee cubs, and then darn it, they grow in to big strong bears. So they take them and rehabilitate them to the wild. They also had crocodiles. No they are not given as pets. But they are studying them.
I did a cooking class which I loved. A trip to the market to suss out fruit, jungle food, identify all sorts of weird and wonderful items, then a class to cook Curry Chickrn, Midin (jungle fiddleheads, and a dessert with sweet corn. I did love the class.
Kuching was very interesting. I am hoping Elizabeth might like to go with me back to Borneo to a different area. You can do home stays, treks into the jungle by boats, hike into the hills to stay with tribal family. We'll see.
So I am beside myself with excitement, the kid are coming. (I think I have mentioned that). Alex and Heidi arrive the 29th. Elizabeth Jan 2. We have planned a trip to Georgetown Malaysia, and to Railay Beach, Krabi, Thailand.  Other than that, what unfolds remains to be seen.
Merry Christmas to all my friends reading this. You are steeped in snow, cold, and surrounded by things familiar. I envy you. I think of you all. And send you wished for love, health, and happiness.
Our Christmas will be very different. I think of it as a busy time, but to actually think of it as Christmas is a stretch. I'll see how I am as the day approaches.

Susan and David , two in my cooking class, from NZ, who taught at Vaughan Collegiate, and Forest Hill Collegiate, two high schools nearest in TO that Alex went to!! Then they moved to Muskoka and taught in Gravenhurst and Bracebridge!!! Did I hear 6' os separation? HA Then we met them on the boat river cruise we took that evening!

 My new best friend, a Borneo tribal dancer
Heinz and Sylvie Boshart, our good friends visiting from Canada.
Sorry for the photos interrupting my flow of writing HA.
I hope to keep track of the next few weeks and keep in touch. I see with company, I don't get to write my posts. Hope you are all being busy with family and friends.

Friday, December 7, 2012

A quick visit, and a very long trip home.

Am sitting in YVR airport waiting for my flight to Narita. Then I hope to catch one of three possibilities to Singapore. But it probably entails an overnight in the airport. Yuck, and cuching cuching. and it will be three days Friday morning out of Kelowna and Singapore Sunday evening. Bleck!
I came back to Canada for an AGM meeting with the strata. My friend Rae picked me up, and I had a great visit with her. And Jean who is renting our place there, had a pot luck evening. It was wonderful to see my ski buddies.What a wonderful group of lively spirits they are. I so look forward to when we are back and are doing the original retirement plan, of 6 months in Muskoka and 6 months skiing in BC.
A friend asked why not do a Skype for the meeting. We are a strata of three. I am president. To Skype 12 hours difference we could have skyped, but to run the meeting would have been tricky. And we already had one member of the three sending a proxy. So it is a helluva long way for a 2 hour meeting, but because it does not break the bank for me to do it, I chose to do the trip.
I have to say hearing Christmas Carols is starting to get to me. Verging on weepy. I had thought I would ignore Christmas and when the kids get to SG celebrate. But there will be nothing left in the stores January to do with Christmas, and the decorations now are all over. I think I am going to find it  harder and harder. Might cave.
Have been cold since Tokyo on the way over to here. I guess there is something to the blood thinning. Now I will go back and have to get used to the heat.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Before I go...

Tonight I am headed to Canada. I have to go to Vernon for the AGM of our condo. I am president, and we are only three units so one of us has to go, and Tim is busy flying.
I am going to leave at 1 a.m. tonight, and get into Tokyo around 9 tomorrow morning. I will have TWELVE hours to kill in the Narita airport - oh joy - and then get on AC to Vancouver and will arrive before I leave. Because of the dateline. Then I overnight in Vancouver and take a positive space seat to Kelowna the next morning. Because ski season is here, I can not rely on standby. My friend Rae will pick me up, and I will stay with her. She is in another unit of our condo. The meeting is Thursday morning, and Thursday night, Jean, who is renting our place is having a pot luck gathering for me so I can see the ski buddies who are out there already. Friday morning I head back to Singapore. Kelowna/Vancouver/Tokyo /Singapore. I will get back Sunday night.
Our friends Heinz and Sylvie will have arrived Saturday to an empty apartment. Both Tim and I will get back Sunday night. Of course I have to add I HOPE I get back because it is all standby. So many connections to make standby. The price is right but the comfort level suffers.
Medically I have had a good week. I have been told fibromyalgia dips and crests. I want to work very hard and prove their diagnosis wrong. But I had a dip a few weeks ago. Incredible fatigue just hit in a huge wave and I had to go to bed. Then the fascia all stiffened up again. But a week later I am better. Of course what I don't need is days in an airplane. But with lots of yoga, stretching, osteo treatments, massage, I get to feel human. I am determined to get rid of this. By working hard on stretching the fascia. In so many ways I am healthier than ever. Down 30  lbs, and when in a crest, very flexible. I am working out either yoga, stretching/cardio or swimming every day. So it  isn't all bad.
Had a workshop on meditation at my yoga studio. It was great. I love my yoga studio. It has saved my sanity and my body. I am lucky to have it. Both my sanity and the yoga studio!
I went on a tour to Bukit Brown "Brown Hill" A Mr John Brown bought an estate on a hill and when he died it eventually became a cemetery for Singapore. Volunteers, "Brownies", are busy giving tours of the cemetery to raise people's awareness of this incredible jungle in the middle of Singapore. A vast green space with monkeys, lizards, hundreds of century old trees and thousands of birds. The city is taking over a part of it (for now- soon all of it) to put through an expressway. The bodies buried in the cemetery, if not claimed by descendants, will be exhumed, cremated and ashes to the sea. To claim an ancestor, you then have the expense of exhuming them and doing what you wish for them. Very expensive. It is a tragedy.
But you don't speak directly against the government. This is a police state. So they hope enough people will do something (like write in TripAdvisor about this gem of jungle in the center of Singapore), that the government might change their plans. Good luck, but it does make them feel better. (I don't know if it made the news back home but Singapore Transit bus drivers, immigrants , who live in abominable conditions in government housing have gone on strike. 4 have been jailed for speaking out against the government.)
I learned so much about the history of Singapore. The graves were of settlers to the original port of the silk and spice trade, those who fought the Japanese occupation of 1942, those that built up Singapore in it's early days. My iphoto is misbehaving so I can't show you photos  but when it has finished it's detention, I will show you some pics and tell you ALL about it.
I also went to see joss sticks, paper figurines and traditional Chinese crafts. Amazing this: Only the Chinese diaspora has the true traditions of China. Mainland lost all traditions as a result of the Cultural Revolution. Singaporean Chinese are very proud of their practicing ancient Chinese customs. Joss sticks are incense sticks and part of the very important burial rites. Also the paper figurines. You burn effigies of things (a paper car, a paper  iPad. a paper house) and the smoke goes to your dead ancestor. You are wishing that he gets to upgrade in afterlife. So you send him a BIG house, or a BMW, or concubines or.... I saw a 5 story at least 30' high and 15' long being made for somebody who wants to really upgrade his ancestor.
It was lovely happenstance to learn about the cemetery and burial customs, and then see how they make what is part of the rituals.
Christmas is larger than life here. I think I am going to have to do something Christmassy. I wasn't going to. And I have to say when I hear some of the more poignant carols in the malls, I get a little mushy and I think it is going to get harder and harder. The kids don't come til after Christmas so I was going to basically ignore Christmas. In this equatorial Asian culture. But they are doing it up big, so I might relent.