Thursday, December 19, 2013

oh my, off again. Langkawi, Malaysia

We are off for the weekend to Langkawi. It is an island up the far north west corner of Malaysia. That would be just south of Thailand and facing west to the Andaman Sea. On a clear day, a really clear day, you might see India.

So Malaysia 101.
It consists of the peninsula south of Thailand, of which the island at the very tip is Singapore. The northern border is Thailand. Singapore is the south. But across the strait from Singapore to the south are two Malaysian states, Borneo , and Sabah., 240k to the east across the China Sea. We are going to the northern most state of Kedah, to the island of Langkawi.The population is Bumiputera (souls of the soil) (indigenous, aboriginal) Malay, Chinese, Indian, Arab, and Eurasians. The state religion is Islam.

We have been to Malaysia before. We went to Georgetown on the island of Penang. We went back with the kids last Christmas. I have been to Sarawak, Kuching, and Sabah. Langkawi is supposed to be fabulous for snorkelling and diving. It is a duty-free zone. Since 1990 the government has groomed this area as a tourist destination.  It is known for it's wide, long, white sand beaches, and clear water. When we first arrived in Singapore, a friend sent an attachment to "10 most dangerous bridges" - one being on Langkawi. I certainly hope to suss it out. Apparently you take a cable car ride to the top of one mountain, and there is a bridge joining it to other peaks of other mountains. I sure hope I can find it.

We plan to meet Rod and Nancy for dinner there! They happen to be going to the same place as we. It will be fun to hook up out of town.

So I hope to report on the bridge, and amazing fish and coral. I will toast you all as the sun sets across the Andaman Sea, and Indian Ocean. I will think of you as I cover myself with suncream, to head out snorkelling in the hot equatorial sun. I'd better stop now.

Friday, December 13, 2013

a lovely birthday

I had a lovely birthday. It is always so wonderful to see where I am compared to last year. Like I can survive a birthday away from my kids. And actually have fun, and be happy. I am such a sap.

Had a great evening of the 12th. Tim was off, and I said I wanted to go meet an author at this amazing book store down on Orchard Road. The way I learned of it, I love. I have this friends here, Clare. She is the wife of my osteopath and runs the office. While waiting for my appointment we chat. Early on in my stay here I was saying I didn't know where to begin to go travelling. She promptly emailed me a 2 page list of where to go, what hotels to stay at, what tours to do. A goldmine of information.

The other day I was there and talk turned to books. I mentioned that I had read The Garden of Evening Mists, loved it, and led it for my book club (which I join with almost perfect attendance by Skype the next morning of their meeting) What?? Yes, they meet Tuesday night, I sign in with them Wednesday morning. Yup.

So within the hour she had sent me a list of wonderful sounding books about Asia. And information on a Meet the Author with Tan Twan Eng, author of my book, the next night. I was thrilled to meet him, as you can see.

I got a signed copy of his first book The Gift of Rain. It was a great evening. Then I suggested to Tim a restaurant for sushi after. It took us ages to find this particular restaurant, and it turned out to be very high end. $200. So I said thanks, that is my birthday dinner. (It being the night before my birthday)

So the next night we went to a movie downtown (Chinese Puzzle - terrific movie) and my actual birthday dinner was hot dog (with COLD wiener), pepsi, and popcorn. Tim got off the hook on that one!

My dear children sent me a beautiful bouquet of orchids. The flower deliverer must have the best job. He brings surprise and big smiles when he delivers. Aren't they just gorgeous?

We went wandering along Orchard Road. It is a destination on tour busses because of the Christmas lights. It is over the moon as only Singapore can do. The whole street dripping with lights. This tree is about 50' tall, and changes colour, red, purple, blue. There is a door at the base where you enter to meet Santa.

Tim at this moment is putting up our Christmas tree. Borrowed from our friend Norm. We are doing a turkey Christmas dinner the 24th. That 's when Tim and Norm and Rod are off. At this point Tim is to be sitting in the Bangkok airport for most of 25th. We go away 20-23 to Langkawi for a beach holiday, so I have ordered a 15 lb turkey, a beef roast, and a ham, all roasted, to be picked up 24th. I just heat it. I have frozen the squash, will do potatoes ahead, went to Marks and Sparks for pudding and sauce, so the meal is done! HA

10 days to go. Stay warm. I am!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

just looking at my palette

I have been spending a great deal of time looking at my life, my palette. I have taken a meditation course. I have been meditating for years, but each time a do a course another layer of the onion peels off and insight comes.

Well, I am in a very good place. We come up to Christmas, a very romantic time of year, filled with memories of past Christmasses. Well, two years ago Christmas in Vernon, with the kids, but me with this whatever it was, spending all day on the sofa instead of out on the hills skiing with my kids. And saying goodbye to them, bruised from Mom's passing a month earlier, my physical state which was very painful and with only questions about just what was going on. It was a pretty intense Christmas. Off to Singapore, the unknown, away from kids, away from siblings to share grieving with, to a depth of loneliness I had never experienced before.

Last Christmas, still in pain, not wanting anything to do with Christmas, putting my head down and ploughing throughout the season. And then in January the kids came and it was wonderful. I was still in pain, but I had those endorphins racing around because I was surrounded by love and surrounded by recipients of my love.

I have this marker that in February I was at the osteopath's and I reported I was without pain. I have no idea what happened, but I was in pain in January when the kids were here, and then one morning in February I woke up, got out of bed, and was shocked to realize I did not have to prepare myself, exercising my legs to weight bare, I could stand and walk like a real person, not a 95 year old. I really think it was the endorphins of my kidlets around me.

So here I am, with Christmas coming. I am doing a Christmas eve turkey, ham, beef roast dinner for orphan Canadians. Some pilot friends of Tim's who are available. Tim is in charge of putting up the tree and decorating it. He did that last year, knowing I did not want one. He put it up while I was in BC and i came home to the Xmas tree. He did a beautiful job, and it wasn't really that bad to have it up. The kids were coming soon so all was well.

So a marker in the year. Where am I? Well I would say I am one of the luckiest people in the world. I appreciate that my body works the way I want it to. I have yoga classes I can attend every day if I want. I have a gym that is cold, and I can go down there every day to cool off! HA I can take classes (cooking, meditation, tai chi, whatever. To appreciate something as simple as getting out of a chair with no excruciating pain, to get up after a movie and be able to walk out without waiting for legs to say okay. I appreciate every move. My sleep is better than it has been in ten years. Doctor here changed a medication I had for sleep and I now sleep deeply, and so can restore my health.

The travelling we have done it unbelievable. When we find 5 days off, we kind of throw the dart at the map of SEAsia and see where to go next. Every month we go somewhere. It really is a dream existence.

I feel very much in the home stretch. We look at heading back in April. We can start work on Southwinds come May, so that is our marker. But before that, we will spend Dev 20-23 on the beaches of Langkawi, the northern west coast of Malaysia, on the Andaman Sea, looking out at India, if we had really good eyesight. It has wonderful diving/snorkelling. Tim has 12 days in January and we have to throw some darts for that. And then 12 days in March. More darts. My girlfriend Jane Morgan comes in February. We are going to go to Myanmar, and then probably the north part of Vietnam. Pretty fine. eh what?

This morning I got a Skype from my sister in law and brother. It has made me so happy. A video Skype with family back home can feed me for days. That deals with the feeling of loneliness that I have in spite of this wonderful life. Family and friends are where it is at, no matter how full the palette is.

My blog records the number of "hits" I get. My numbers have lessened. It is my nightmare that I will be forgotten and when I come home looking to be back in to the fold, life will have moved on and nobody knows me. Not quite that bad, but it does play with my anxiety about coming home and building my connections again. If you lovely people wrote me and maybe let me know what is up in your lives ( as I bare all of mine to you), your could help me with my anxiety level. HA

Happy preparing for the holidays. Stay warm , I certainly am.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Indonesia again! This time Bali; Ubud,again, and Lembongan.

My friend Gwen is visiting. She was leading a yoga retreat I went to in Vernon at Sparkling Hills. We hit it off and got together a few times after, and I said, if you are thinking of travelling to Asia, know you can stay with us. Not knowing each other very well, she has come, been on her own adventure to Malaysia, for two weeks. Then we went to Indonesia for 6 days. City and beach. It was lovely.

The rice paddies are lovely. They are planted by hand, seeds thrown. When they are about 6" they are picked by hand, transplanted in another field that they can flood by very simple irrigation. You see these planters with a huge bag of shoots, and they use their thumb to make a hole, and plant the small plant in. Individually. It is back breaking work. Then the plant grows not unlike a wheat stalk. They  harvest the plant, beat out the rice kernels ( I didn't know that rice was grown this way) and they use the dried stalk too in gardening. Nothing goes to waste. (except plastic in the water)

This is a door frame in our hotel room in Ubud. The Honeymoon Guesthouse. It seemed weird to be checking in there with a girlfriend. HA
This is the door frame in to the bathroom, that has a red wardrobe through in the bathroom. Beautifully hand carved teak wood.

 The outdoor sitting area of our room. Lush tropical landscaping, felt very like a beautiful villa in the country. One block from the main street.

The two yogis, on a beautiful trip throughout the rice paddies. The terracing is truly lush.

Visited the green School in Ubud. Started by two Americans who had moved to Bali and wanted a good school for their kids. Started for them, and now a school of 300 kids, 12 grades. The school makes no footprint. Recycles, composts, uses gray water, grow their own veggies. All buildings are bamboo. As are the desks, chairs, tables. Really an amazing school. All events/classes are on the circle principle. (you are in a circle, for equality, communication, etc)

This is an amazing bridge at the school. made of bamboo, spanning a river on the grounds, in the jungle.

Just what you can do with your leftover egg shells.

In Lembongan, an island 30 minute ferry ride from Bali. Very near where I was when Tim and I went to the Gillis in October. They are unloading supplies, in wicker woven baskets, on their head, from a boat with outriggers, that takes the ocean weather very handily.

Went for a motorcycle ride around the islands (there were two joined by this bridge. It was a single lane, and I just hoped no one was coming the other way. Somebody would have to back up.

On the motorbike, through very narrow lanes in the town. This woman had to duck in a door way to let us pass and her basket I had to duck.

Oh, just another sunset in Bali! Our hotel, drinking a coconut/rum drink, watching the day slide in to the ocean. Reading emails from home -12' at Silver Star, cold and wet in Ontario. Well, folks, I toasted you all.

The two of us snorkelling. We went to 5 spots. First location the water was so dirty with plastic detritus it was depressing and I got right out. Went to a wall off a huge lava cliff. The warm Pacific Ocean meets the cooler Indian Ocean, and makes for a very special diversity of fish and coral. Not the colours of the Caribbean, but the fish were plentiful.  The currents where these two temperatures meet can be very strong, at a one site our boatman threw us a line to get throughout the current back to the boat.

We stopped in an idyllic bay, these grass huts the only thing there. The snorkelling was great there, too. At one site, off the mangroves, a shoal of coral, our driver threw out food and the fish came by the thousands. I was surrounded by hundreds, oh no thousands I said, of those beautiful tiny blue/green fish, and those black and white with yellow. Obviously I do not know the names. But it was very exciting. And the racket they make eating. The water is filled with a ticking like static, which is them eating.

There is a seaweed farming operation in Lembongan. They have "fields" in the shallow water where they grow the seaweed. Any stray bits of seaweed that get washed ashore are collected. These women walk continuously along the water's edge picking up the little stray bits of seaweed, fill huge bags, and come back for more. They pass by every 15 minutes or so. They then put it out to dry on big blue ground sheets, and it is sold. To be that carageenan that we see in the ingredients, that thicken things. It's a product of seaweed.

Singapore is starting to rev up for Christmas. I really have trouble thinking Christmas when it is still hot and humid. 
Went to an afternoon movie. "Captain Phillips" It is GREAT. And so decadent to go mid day. I am just starting to get used to this semi-retirement life style. Of course I am not fully retired because I have a very busy job planning trips every month. HA
Happy snow shovelling! HA I'd better be careful. 

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Thought I'd try this format. Cambodia

This is the spire at the memorial in Phnom Penh, to the thousands that lost their lives to the maniacal evil of Pol Pot. How could one man spearhead such devastation in a matter of 3 years. How did it happen? I am reading a book that helps to answer that question. Under the Banyan Tree. I do recommend it. Cambodia had just come out of the devastation that the Americans wrought, bombing indiscriminately to try to attack the Viet Cong, hiding in Cambodia. So rampant bombing of innocent Cambodians. The war was over, they thought they now had peace. Black attired young "revolutionaries" took over the cities. Young boys, from the jungles, promised food and a job, came in, armed with huge machine guns, to move urban population to the countryside. Effectively rendering education, jobs, gone. Indiscriminate killings of the educated class. Pol Pot, a mad man, paranoid about allegiance, massacred the population, 3 million of a country with the population of 11 million. One in 4. The average age in Cambodia is 21. A whole generation killed.

This is the memorial to those 3 million lost. It is a tower, very simple, very awesome, filled with skulls! And bones. It speaks very simply to the devastation of the genocide. The power is in the simplicity. There are no words. I am having trouble with words.

On a walk near our hotel, (the White Mansion, the old U.S. ambassador's house, where helicopters landed to help remove Americans during the revolution 1970) in a gate of a house, a group was celebrating something, with music, and incense , and prayer. Lovely. Cambodians are so friendly. They invited us in. But having no idea what it was about, we just listened for a bit.

We went out for a walk one evening. It was other years a celebration of Water Festival. But two years ago, the influx of country folks to the city, and the crowds, caused a bridge to collapse, and people were killed. So they cancelled it last year and this. So instead of countrymen coming in to the city, many left for the country to visit family. But crowds still came to the river. The street was so full of trucks, people like sardines in a can, motor bikes with whole family on one motorcycle. The congestion! And that was with the gathering being cancelled and many not there.

Here we are with out Vernon buddies, Rae and Brian. And Tim taking the selfie. A new word in the Oxford Dictionary.

I am so in  love with the Asian children. But look, how could you not be. Barefoot, pant less, but the world's best dimples!

A stop on the road side to buy a treat. On our long 7 1/2 hour drive to Siem Reap- speed boat cancelled so hired a car. Long trip. Oh my.
But stopped for flat rice. They take rice, and stand on a log to stomp it with a teeter totter type thing to smash it flat. Then they toast it and it is sort of like pop corn. But only sort of.

This little pixie will go far. She picked me out of a crowd at the night market. Grabbed me by the hand. Hello. What's your name? Where are you from? Will you buy me some food. I don't want money, just food, please. My mother has a baby, no food so no milk for the baby. So sucker Jane was led in to a store and she pointed to Similac. I have heard that these kids do this, and when you leave they sell it back for the money back. After all it is $25! But she was so cute, I bought it. Then she wanted some treat for herself. I balked at the chips, then the candy and held firm on the Similac only. I would love to know if it really was for a baby, and I would love to know how she makes out in life. She was GOOD!

How can you not fall in love. No clothes, But eyes to die for. They love seeing themselves on the screen of the camera after you have taken the pic.

A group of lovely spirited kids.

I absolutely LOVE the lotus ponds. They are beautiful. The lotus is so important to them. They eat the flower as a salad. The stems steamed as spinach. The corms, the roots. AND they are so beautiful.

At the airport. A chanting chorus of monks, and praying people listening

Thursday, November 14, 2013

I am from BC not Toronto

Home has been in the news often in the last few days.

I listen to BBC World News. Canada/Toronto is rarely in the news. I remember the fear when I heard that the stage had collapsed at a rock concert that I knew Elizabeth was going to. It was amazing. She happened to send an email saying here is a link to the band I am going to hear tonight. I listened and got up to get my morning coffee and heard on th BBC of the stage collapse and one person killed. I texted Elizabeth to say tell me you are okay. She did and she was. All of that happened within an hour. It did make me feel I wasn't so far away.

The mayor of Toronto hits the BBC news. Even the audio of his ranting and swearing and grade school grammar! Now, when asked where I am from , I say BC. Well I do live there, and in fact am no longer a tax payer in TO. But if I were I would sure want to vote next election.

Canada is in the news about our PM not attending the Sri Lanka summit meeting. I am embarrassed to say that I traveled Sri Lanka, just the south and middle, but was unaware of the political history of war crimes in crushing the Tamil uprising in the north. Well Harper isn't, and so is not attending.

Then the cracking of the huge porn ring that is out of Toronto. OMG

So folks, I am from BC.

My friend Gwen has been here. We had 3 days. Did Chinatown, and a reflexology and neck rub, did Little India and did a oil treatment and head massage, and spent a day at the Gardens By The Bay. I like her style. The tasting the atmosphere by having massages. We are planning the day before she heads back to BC to go to the spa in Indonesia, where we jump on a ferry downtown, cross in one hour to Indonesia, Batam, where a spa picks us up, we have 3 treatments and lunch and ride back to ferry and we are back in Singapore 8 hours later. AND it costs $125!!!

She now is off to Malaysia for 2 weeks.

We meet Rae and Brian, our other guests, tomorrow in Camdodia for 5 days. This is like juggling a chess board. It might be that although Jensens and Gwen are both here, that they don't meet each other. And what are the odds, they are all from Vernon!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Next stop Phnom Penh

My life is not really that crazy busy, but I have had time this trip to read up a little on Cambodia before we get there. So here goes…

Kingdom of Cambodia. Nice ring to it, eh? I find I know very little about the places we have been visiting, just familiar references to a name here, a place there. So a bit more than that.

Cambodia we all know from the Killing Fields. And that awful evil that was 1975-1979.

Cambodia is an ancient country, used to be huge, most of Thailand, some of Burma (Myanmar), all of Laos, Vietnam. It was at it's zenith in the 11th Century. I visit these countries, and think they are backward, not developed yet. I am embarrassed to admit that. They were sophisticated, educated, artistic, well governed countries, or kingdoms, sometimes, way back then.

The recent history is the French took over 1863, Japanese occupied during WW II, French again 1945. In 1953 the French left and Sihanouk took over. There was a resultant split in Vietnam in to north communists, and south supported by US. Viet Cong hid in Cambodia, to strike the South from hiding there). So the Americans bombed the … out of Cambodia. There was a coup in 1970 and Lon Nol was leader. It is said that all the Americans knew about Lon Nol was that his name backwards was Lon Nol!

Pol Pot came to power in 1975 and his reign of terror and evil lasted 4 terrible years. Paranoia about allegiance caused barbaric slaughter of over 2 million Cambodians. The trial for the leader of the camp  (of horror), Duch, was as recent as 2010!

The guide books say it is difficult to absorb the horrors that are in the museums. I know in Saigon, I left moved to tears, half way throughout the tour of the museum. I am expecting to be very moved by what I see next week.

I have a ziploc of small ziplocs of all my 13 different currencies from the travels so afar. When I went to dig out my Cambodian money, (having been there in January with the kids), I couldn't find any. I went to the money changer today, and he said you buy $US for Cambodia. Duh! What a memory I don't have.

Cambodia has a long way to go. 35% literacy. The poorest country in Asia. There are a lot of charities in Singapore to aid Cambodia. One is a group Tabitha, that trains Cambodian women in sewing, and they sell purses, scarves, souvenirs. There are programs of visiting volunteer dentists and doctors, programs to send eyeglasses.  50% of the population is under 21.

We will visit the Killing Fields, the War Museum, in Phnom Penh, then we will go to Siem Reap, to visit beautiful Angkor Wat, the world's largest religious monument dating from when Cambodia was a thriving civilization.. The contrast is breath taking.

Also, I will be visiting Angkor Wat for the second time. I know I will see it so differently. But also, I know when I was there with the kids in January, I could not climb the stairs in the library, I was too stiff and "sick". I return now with legs that work. I anticipate enjoying the progress. (Incidentally, from January, not being able to do a lot with the kids, to February when I noticed I was no longer in pain, it is like the "curse" went away overnight. I don't know, but it was certainly between January and February. hmmm….. )

Mt friend Gwen arrives tonight and not sure how this visit will work. I think she plans to use our place as a hub, to travel out of. I will try to go on something with her. But our friends the Jensens are here too. Well not now. They are in Thailand and will meet us in Phmon Penh Saturday. we will do Phnom Penh and Siem Reap with them. I am glad we have 2 guest rooms. I am not sure that we will all be here at the same time. We will see. An interesting November to come!

Monday, November 4, 2013

yoga retreat

Well, it was as fantastic as it sounded.

Except I was sick. I had had a bug a few days before leaving. Tim had had the same one, and I got it a few days after him. An unpleasant digestive tract thing. Well, mine came back for a curtain call, three days later, my first morning there. How disappointing. Instead of trying all the things offered by the hotel, and doing all the yoga classes, I spent a lot of time in bed, just wishing this damn thing away. I am still doing that. It is 5 days later. Enough already.

We flew to Indonesia, to the island of Java, south and east of Singapore, and in the Southern Hemisphere, about 15'. As soon as you get off the airplane, walk to the terminal, you know you are in a third world country. The absolute chaos in the terminal is breathtaking. You come to immigration, there are no line ups, no wickets, no signage, nothing. Somehow we figured we "Westerners", the only ones on the plane, gathered at a desk to pay the entrance visa fee-US$25. Then to another crowd, and somehow past some uniformed men who did little, certainly did not look at our visa, and through a security desk with our luggage. No sign to pick up luggage, or where it might come, or anything.

But you know, some how, some how, it works. Amazing. And daunting. The crowd outside the airport was thick. To get through to our car was a feat. The heat was a reminder of third world. Why they don't air condition the outside of the airport the way Singapore does. A long drive along narrow roads, 3 vans, one with luggage, 2 with us, 14 of us. Winding roads, through one small town after another, each with their mosque and calls to prayer. No shoulders to the roads, many pedestrians very close to our vehicle, up and down and around very curvy road. 2 1/2 hours. A good half hour to get out of the airport traffic!

The hotel, MesaStila, is a wellness retreat on a coffee plantation. (the irony was I did not have any of their coffee- they don't do decaf, and I took my instant Starbucks decaf powder to an Indonesian coffee plantation!) The location was at the top of a hill. We looked out at volcanoes in the distance. The sunset was beautiful, not even so much the sun, as the mauves of the distant volcanoes. All around us were villages down below. Each village had their own mosque, and muezzin, sung from the minaret or loud speaker. The voices rise, and we , although feeling very isolated, were surrounded by the busy hub hub of the towns below.

The Salat, or Muslim Prayers are to be before sunrise, (4:15 a.m.), after sun passes the zenith (12:15), late afternoon (4:15), just after sunset (6:15), and early evening (7:15). The call is up to 15 minutes long, each town has their call at approximately near the same time. we above could hear all of them, overlapping. I found it just beautiful, but the hotel does provide earplugs for those who wish to blank it out. They have been singing these calls to worship, calls to communication with God, for 1000 years. The sound is so iconic.

The hotel is beautifully done. It has a main reception, which is an old train station, that was dismantled and rebuilt on the property. All the rooms are in fact houses, from around the island, brought here and rebuilt, and refurbished as lovely accommodation. Very elegant, spacious, cool tile floors, large decadent bathrooms, but very dark. Cooling, I guess, in the heat, but very dark.The wood carving breathtaking.

When I got to my room, with my room mate, whom I had just met, there was one bed. King size, but still one bed. When we were given our keys, I was Mr. Jane, so I guess they thought…. At any rate I had them make up our very elegant day bed, you know, where you loll and someone hands you apricots and cashews as they oil your body. So I slept alone!

I was feeling very limp but did muster strength to get to the spa. It was wonderful. I felt the whole retreat was a time warp, and we had travelled back a century, but a place warp too. To Turkey, or Mesopotamia, or such. My massage was a traditional Javanese massage. A steam bath, then a woman came in, washed me like a baby, washed my hair, gave me a back rub. I expected it to be a new experience. I expected to be very clean. But I did not expect the depth of relaxation I felt. It was superb. When done, I dressed and went to a room where I sat on a huge sofa-bed and ate dates, apricots, cashews, and drank ginger tea. It truly was fantastic.

We had a breakfast that was typically Asian hotel fare. Traditional Asian breakfast of rice, stews, chilli sauces, then also salads, and fruit. Also the western eggs, pancakes, crepes (with vanilla custard and chocolate sauce- a much nicer way to take caffeine and eggs in the morning). No lunch was served ( a restaurant was open if you wanted lunch) but there was afternoon tea- sweets -chocolate cake, pineapple strudel, delicious granola cookies. Then drinks and dinner, an appetizer, rice, and little bits of a fish stew, chicken stew, beef stew, a vegetable broth with greens. All lovely, but an awful lot of food.  Dessert was always a pudding/gelatin/dish, something you have to learn to love, I think. I bought a bottle of wine that would do me for the week. A muslim country, alcohol is expensive. An ordinary Australian Sauv was $120!!! And I didn't finish it. That is just how poorly I was feeling!

I did a side trip one day, to Borobradur, a huge Buddhist temple of the island. Long buried under ash and flood waters, it was discovered recently. It is huge, magnificent. But we got there at noon. It was 41', noonday sun. We rented umbrellas, for the sun. As we climbed the stairs- very steep- like the Great Wall. Those short people with little feet. The stairs are very shallow, only the balls of your feet fit on, but they are high, like to just under my knee- must be past theirs! Last year I would not have been able to climb this stairs. It was a nice measure of my progress.

I was so hot, my face was bright red. Really bright red. But we climbed to the top, and arrived at "nirvana" and there was a wonderful breeze. The view out to these volcanoes, it was beautiful. But then the climb back out of the breeze. A long hot day.

From Borabrodur, Buddhist temple, set in a valley where 3 rivers meet and surrounded by volcanoes. The eruption 2011 covered this in ash, but it has been restored. Lovingly.

The spa at the hotel. Not sure exactly what made me feel like I was a in Ancient Turkey.
But I did

Infinity pool, volcanoes in the background, surrounded by thick jungle, and plantations

I didn't realize that bougainvillias can grow in to huge 30' trees.

An outdoor "vita parcours"

The stones are the weight room! A sign warns to be careful of ants when picking up the rocks!

Some of the beautiful houses, many ready to be torn down, purchased by the hotel, and rebuilt as very lovely accommodations. Note very high ceiling, to deal with the hot air rising.

HUGE bamboo 100' high

 Our fearless leader, and her Mom. No.  Kate brought her daughter Scout. Scout is 10 months corrected to 8. She was 2 months preemie and when born was consuming 2 ml (that 's less that one tsp) every 2 hours. She is now a Buddha baby. There was another baby at the retreat. When I asked the age difference, the Mom said 4 months. Her Singaporean daughter was smaller than Scout. And I couldn't imagine she was 4 months old. She was 4 months older than Scout, and yet smaller. The Asian babies are little miniatures, tiny perfect miniatures. And Scout is not.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

just a quick note, a movie recommendation

We went to a movie the other night. It was wonderful. Singaporean made.

It won at Cannes. If you can see it, please do. It would be at a theatre that shows not mainstream movies.

It is called "Ilo Ilo"

Singaporean life that even I don't know about. I imagine it, I see glimpses of it, but this movie is right on. It has sub-titles, and funnily enough, translates the Malaysian, Mandarin AND Singlish.

It is the story of Ilo Ilo, a helper hired by a family that lives in a HDB building . Both parents work, they have a ten year old boy, and a baby on the way. So they hire help.

You get a portrait of the young woman hired, from Malaysia or Philippines, or… It doesn't matter. The movie follows this family through a very stressful period in their lives. The conditions that they all live in, the space that they live in, the stresses that they live with. I don't want to give it away, because I really hope you can get to see it.

But hunt up the movie, and if it comes to your town, do go see it.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Gili Islands

So we went to the Gili Islands. When I planned this jaunt, I booked a hotel through trusty Trip Advisor. When I got my booking confirmation, I did as usual, e-mail the hotel to ask for airport pick-up. I didn't hear back within a day, so I called them. Am I glad I did that. They don't do pick  ups from Bali Airport, where we were flying in to. We had to buy another ticket, from Bali to Lombok. There they would provide pick up. I was very happy that there were two seats left on the connecting flight. All's well that ends well, and we were met and transported to the hotel from the Lombok Airport.

What I didn't know was that we were going to just where I had been a year ago, on the yoga retreat I did. I should have known that because we had gone by boat across from Lombok to the Gilis to snorkel. What confused me was that there was a fast boat Bali to Gili Trawangan, where the hotel was, but it only departed Bali once a day, an hour before we arrived in Bali. So we missed it and hence another airline ticket to Lombok.

I thought I might give a little info on Indonesia. If I find it confusing, and I am here, you might need a little background. The reason I find it confusing is that some of the islands to the east of us are Indonesia, (we see Indonesia from our balcony on a clear day) but east of us are islands of Malaysia. But Malaysia is to the north of us. Okay, the islands to the east, some belong to Indonesia, some to Malaysia. I was in Kuching, Borneo, and that was Malaysia. Bali, known to most, is Indonesia. We were just to the east of Bali, flew in to Bali and then island hopped to Lombok, and by boat island hopped to Gili Trawangan. Indonesia.

Indonesia is an archipelago of 17, 000 islands, population 238 million. The capitol is Jakarta (which I will be flying in to next week!!!) The Dutch held Singapore, Sukarno took over in 1945, and Suharto in 1965. In 1998, Sukarno was unseated, and an election was held. Indonesia is rich in natural resources, and yet has extreme poverty. It rates 2nd highest country in the world in biodiversity. It is mostly Muslim.

As we drove from the airport, we could hear the call to worship in any and every small gathering of homes. The voices of these men who sing the call to worship, they are good. It is really a beautiful sound.

On our boat ride over to our hotel, the driver (captain?) had no lights on his boat, but he did have a small flashlight in his mouth. Until we hit a really big wave, and it was knocked out of his mouth (as we were knocked out of our seats) and full speed ahead, he bent down, in total darkness to find the flashlight. Certainly regained my confidence when he had it back in his mouth!

The waves were huge, and we arrived to a floating dock, in the dark. It was a precarious walk to solid land, suitcase in hand, rolling up and down on the moving dock.

The hotel was great, beautiful grounds, spectacular beach, outdoor shower, working aircon ( I say that because it was stinking hot) and on the edge of a strip of restaurants, bars, and souvenir chutchka shops.
We went on a dive, or Tim dove (dived?), I snorkelled. His dive was good, my experience was awful. They let me in in big waves, to snorkel, by myself, in the ocean. Then they TOOK OFF! I was not happy. I was not comfortable. So I snorkelled over to the nearest boat, swam up the outrigger of the boat, and asked them where my boat was. It was a ways away. Me, without my glasses, it was the blue one further away. So I snorkelled over to the blue boat, got out, and pouted. I was furious I had been left alone, no buddy, ("never swim alone") in the G.D. OCEAN. When I got back to land, I told the diver master how I felt, and he said, "Well, did you ask for a guide?" ???  No. When ever have I had to ask for a guide when I have paid to go snorkelling. He did not charge me.

The next day I  went snorkelling with a different company. There was a family from Australia. A mom, a dad, and 3 year old. It was big water. Waves higher than the side of the boat. When we were in the trough, you could see nothing but the wave coming. It was awesome. These boats they use ply the water beautifully. Basically  a big dugout with outriggers on the sides. The little girl was trying snorkelling. But she just wasn't ready for the equipment. So there she was sitting on her mother's back, Mom snorkelling, she revelling in the huge waves. It made me think of the wonderful Australian movie, The Whale Rider. We were in mighty big water. And did I say, out in the middle of the ocean? I did see wonderful fish, and a turtle. It is so special seeing a turtle. Way down, they are supposed to be breathing oxygen, what are they doing way down there?

Jane, very happy to be ON the boat after the swim alone. Tim in his cute little diving suit

A lot of fire wood to be carried by this poor chap

Don't you love the island mentality?

A coral tree. And I thought that hard coral I saw was dead. It is alive and growing on trees

A typical boat, outriggers, narrow body, wonderful in the big seas.

Our outdoor shower. The gourd was our one tap of fresh water. All other were brackish. So you shower in salt water, then with the gourd, rinse yourself off with the fresh water. Washing hair is a bit of a procedure. But you are outdoors.

I know, I know, looks pretty hard to have to put up with.

It might be the next time is after my yoga retreat. We have good friends coming October 28. Rae and Brian Jensen, our neighbours and very good friends from Vernon. But they arrive and I leave. Oct 30 I have a 5 day yoga retreat in Java, on a tea plantation. More suffering for me.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

It was a tug to come back this time

We did get on the 5:00 flight to Frankfurt. An overnight, sort of. Eight hour flight, getting in to Frankfurt at 1:00 a.m. on your body, but 7:00a.m. Frankfurt time. We went to Thomas Cook desk to leave a message for our nanny Annette. She came to us when Elizabeth was a baby, so 27 years ago. She was still growing in to herself. She was at the desk, (she does the graveyard shift, overnight, not very busy, so long) and we had a wonderful visit. She has grown into the most beautiful woman. OMG she is 47 now. They came to Bala 13 years ago, when her Sven was 4. He fell in love with our black lab Cailie. They went home to Frankfurt and got a yellow lab Kaylee! It was wonderful to see her, and catch up.

We then got a day room at the hotel at the airport, because our flight to Singapore did not leave until 10:00 at night. I managed to sleep a full 7 hours. Our flight to Singapore, over another night, was twelve hours. We arrived late in the day on Monday. So two days to get here. YUCK!!!!

I forgot to take my little remedy for this lengthy torture- pills called No-Jet-Lag. I have to say the transition wasn't bad. Problem is that you go to sleep okay, but then wake up in the middle of the night, thinking it is time to get up. Like the movie Lost In Translation.

Being back here, it has been interesting. I really feel I am in the home stretch. Muskoka was so beautiful, and the visits so wonderful, I really could have stayed. Life here is pretty amazing, though. Summer is great, and summer weather as you all head in to winter is pretty nice.  It will be hard to leave some things here, but easy to slide back in to life there. I have heard that the transition back home , for an expat, is harder that adjusting to living here. OY.

I have been planning a trip. Tim has five days off next week. We were going to go to Dubai. I thought we will never be back near here, so see something of the Middle East while we are here. But it is a 12 hour flight, and it costs over a thousand dollars. So canned that. We are going to Gili Islands. They are off the island of Lombok in Indonesia. We fly in to Bali and take a speed boat to the island. I was to Lombok last year on my yoga retreat. We hired a boat to take us snorkelling to some little picture perfect islands off shore. They were the Gilis. It was so picturesque I thought then that I have to get Tim here to dive. So... we will have 4 days away. The islands (three of them) are tiny (the big one 2km X 3km), ringed in white sand beaches, and you just swim off shore to snorkel. Full  report to follow!

Saturday, October 5, 2013

back again, well not really back yet, but heading back

Hey, hi.

It sure has been a while! It has been an absolute ball. Two months of fun, visiting my kids, my friends, got a trip to BC and Saskatchewan, many (but never enough) gorgeous spectacular, August/September days at Southwinds, and great days in TO.

I stayed at my daughter Elizabeth's when in TO. She and I were so busy we mostly just had morning coffee together. But then it worked really well, we did not trip over each other, or suffer from overexposure. She lives at Harbord and Ossington. A block walk to the subway, but a glorious walk to appointments at King and Yonge, or Bloor and Yonge, or up to Fairlawn. All places I would have driven to , if I had a car. But I walked in the perfect weather, and I saw TO as a tourist. I was wide eyed and wide mouthed at the changes, buildings missing, buildings replaced, so many streets under construction. The city is all under construction I think.

I had days at Southwinds. It was spectacular. I was swimming in September. Tim went swimming in October. October 3rd! We just had 5 very busy days up there, meeting with builders. Had 4 in, and with an architect's (friend) drawings, talked with each about what we thought we wanted to do. Southwinds is 12 years old, a total rebuild after a devastating fire. But the plan wwhich we replicated was 60 years old. So we thought we wanted to change the living space. We went from my original idea of "french country" to open up, which would have been way too much money, for the property we have, close to the highway and on a small lake. We got as far as tearing it down to the foundation and starting over. But we both were hyperventilating at the thought of taking down such a really lovely place.So we ended back at doing cosmetic. Landscaping, painting, changing a few things, upgrading bathrooms and kitchen. Much more worthy of the present place. I am very excited at what we will do.

We have engaged a builder to design and build a garage which we will start in the Spring when we get back. Also a landscaper to do hard scaping, and he is available in July (!), and I will do most of the planting.

Going back to Singapore now, I know it will be hard to stay with our plans for Southwinds. East brain/ west brain syndrome!

We are at the airport. Didn't get on the 10:00 to Hong Kong, did not get on the 2:00 to Narita, now hoping for the 5:00 flight to Frankfurt. Then hope hope hope to get Frankfurt/Singapore. This is a gruelling flight when all the connections are good. It is very tough with sitting around the airport all day before even setting out. Oh well, the price is right.

My sister Marnie was to come back with me for a visit, but she has a nasty knee (torn meniscus), so I hope it will be better in January when I come through and she can come then. I have a yoga retreat the end of Oct , to a tea plantation in Java. I will start working on a trip to India, a trip to Myanmar, and hopefully a cruise from Hanoi to Bangkok. Sounds pretty fantastic, eh what?

I had a lot of time to think about this adventure. Being out of pain sure makes life happier for me. I truly see how fantastic this adventure is. We are both very very lucky to have this chapter. Life is pretty damn fine!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

ah Muskoka is right

I am heading to the city for two weeks. I have had family, and girlfriends up and it has been fantastic.

Had Elizabeth and Steve up, and my niece and her two boys. Magic times together.

My book club came for the weekend. They handled all the food, I did absolutely nothing. We had gorgeous weather, fire in the fireplace, and ate our way through feasts for three days. I got to lead a book I had suggested, "The Garden of Evening Mists" It is about Malaysia and the Japanese occupation in WW2. I loved that the references to things Malaysian were not new to me because of my travels. I look forward to the rest of my life, having wonderful references to things that I have experienced on this Asian adventure. The book, by the way, is absolutely beautiful.

Then 4 of my ski buddies from Silver Star, who live in Collingwood in the summer, came over for three days. We had summer weather, were in swimming both days, and stayed in the water, not your typical September quick dip, admitting that oh yes it is lovely and "fresh". (read freezing)

I am off to TO. I have a meeting with friends on Toronto Island. My dearest friend Kelley died a few years ago and we planted a tree for her on the island. We meet every year to take our pics in front of the tree. Either the tree is growing taller or we are growing shorter. Actually I think it is a bit of both.

Off to Stratford with my chillens. Heidi, Alex, Elizabeth, Steve, Jill Foster, (Heidi's mom) and me. To see Romeo and Juliet, Waiting for Godot, and Fiddler on the Roof. I ordered these back in January, long before any reviews, so ordered Stratford-Lite. I do hope they are good. Pretty safe with the Stratford Festival. I have only walked out of one performance ever, but that was last year. I hope none this year. We are staying over at a B&B so it will be a lovely visit with the kids.

This stay in Muskoka had afforded me time to think about this adventure. I am so lucky. It is truly a wonderful experience. There are things I will miss when I come back to Canada, as there are things I miss terribly about here when I am there. Such is life. But it was so hard for both Tim and me, at the beginning, and now it is so great. We are two lucky people.

Bedtime stories, no book needed. A Callahan tradition passed on. Tim used to give the best story time, making it up along the way. Elizabeth has taken on the mantle.

Mommy Cindy reading with her two boys, Alexander, and Carter. What lovely names they have (my Alex's first and middle name. I told Cindy she can't have more boys, we have no more names!)

A lovely photo taken by a friend. Long Lake, an evening sky.

can't seem to download photos of the visitors I had. Maybe next time.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Ah Muskoka

I am at Southwinds, Bala, our new home. It is still with all the contents of my mother's place. I have to catch myself from calling it "mom's place" or "mom's bedroom", or...

I am alone. I came up from the city with Elizabeth and Steve who were with me here for 2 days. Now I am on my own, and with no car. I can walk in to town but do not relish walking back with groceries. (I hope my sister down the road will lend me her car for groceries.)

It is truly beautiful here. It makes me realize, though, that it is more fun to share something beautiful with others. The water has warmed up. I swim, but really just get wet and out. Swimming alone just ain't that much fun. I putter through drawers and closets purging the place of things that have been collected over the years. It is hard to make decisions myself about what to keep and what to purge. Alas, I have to do it.

I imagine the changes we are going to make. This place is only 10 years old. My parents' place that was built in 1955 burned to the ground in 2002. Insurance rebuilt it to be very like the 50 year old place. It originally was designed by my grandfather and his neighbour builder on a paper napkin. So although it is new, and in very good shape, it is designed for the kind of living 60 years ago. Very cutting edge for then, a teens' back room isolated from the adults in the living room. The result is a long (dark) hall and a door to the back half. We really hope to open it up, and have one great room with two living areas. That seems to be the way we live now.

I have booked some builders to come by when Tim gets here. In talking with an architect friend in TO, he has given some great ideas to work on. Also Elizabeth's boyfriend Steve and cousin Eliot, who have come up weekends and had the conversation "Oh the Callahans should do this and that". They are full of good ideas. It is a challenge for me to see past what it is now, because it worked so well for my mother so many years. But we will put our stamp on it, and live in it differently.

I have a series of friends coming up over the next 2 weeks. I look forward to sharing this glorious place with them.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

It's been a while

I am in Toronto at my daughter Elizabeth's. I was out to Regina for the weekend. My girlfriend Patty was celebrating her 60th birthday. I surprised her. She was surprised. Didn't know I was in Canada! (That tells me she doesn't read my blog! HA) When she saw me she had the classic "am I seeing a ghost" look.

Had a great weekend, superb weather, a party with the gang, a swim at the lake.

Headed then to Kelowna, and met by my friends there, Heinz and Sylvie. Had a wonderful visit with them. Saw their new condo. They made many wonderful changes to the condo I had seen last time I was there. It is beautiful, right on Lake Kelowna, walking along the beach, boardwalk, walking to everything. Wonderful.

Up to Vernon, stayed with Rae and Brian, and looked at the painting. We bought a VERY BIG painting in South Africa and had it sent to Vernon, Tim imagining a wall it might fit on. Well, it is very big. Bigger than I thought. We'll see where it will hang. Saw our place, being so well looked after by our tenants/friends Ron and Jean. We are very lucky.

Kelowna to Vancouver fine, but Vancouver to Toronto not. An equipment change, to a smaller plane,  rendered Air Canada with a long standby list. The joys of flying the way we do. My 9:00 flight became the 10:00. then the 11:00, then the 12:00. I finally made it out to TO at 1:30.

Missed a dinner (with Elizabeth, Steve, his parents, Ray and Jan , and brother Chris) but came directly to the restaurant and got dessert!

Have been loving walking everywhere. The weather is perfect September weather, crystal bright blue cloudless sky, cool in the shade, hot in the sun, and cooling down at night. It is heaven. Or taking the TTC. I am like a tourist here and having fun.

Off to a bbq tonight at a friend Val's, tomorrow to Hamilton, to a shower for the bride of the Sept 28th wedding we are here for, on Sunday afternoon.

Then off to Southwinds in Bala for a few weeks. Alex has lent me his car, I will drive it down next Thursday and get a ride back up to Southwinds Friday with my brother-in-law Friday. Then I will be at Southwinds without a car, for a few weeks. That is a first! I do like making do without a car!

Hang in with me. Do not fade away. I will be back to exotic travelling, I promise. I am now starting to look at Myanmar, and a safari to India, with a yoga retreat attached.

Stay tuned!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Oh I am happy

I am back in Toronto, and seeing my kids. I am happy.

Flight over was as painless as it could be. I had a positive space on Tiger to get to Hong Kong. Then a comfortable 4 hour layover to get bags, and go to Air Canada. I got "J" seat. We had bought a "J" pass. You don't need to know the details, but there were J seats empty and I got one.

Even better, there was one seat open on take off, so Tim could look at the load and know I was on. Whether I slept or not, I never really know, but much shut-eye, and felt pretty good upon arrival. Alex and Heidi were there to greet me. Oh it was so wonderful. We never meet the flight, we arrange to drive past outside and pick up. It was wonderful to see them as I came out the door.

A visit with them, dinner with them (Elizabeth was in Muskoka and expected back Monday afternoon).
I am staying at Elizabeth's and went to bed early, not bad sleep, and was up early. I left the house, Elizabeth's apartment,  just before eight. Apparently she had come down late the night before and was going to surprise me by showing up at 8 a.m.! Best laid plans. She saw I was out and thought I must have gone for a walk. By ten she was wondering where I was. I had slowly made my way to Yorkdale to get my phone set up. As soon as it was hooked up there was a message from her- where are you? I had spoiled her surprise.

But also a message came in from my friend Dianne asking if I could come to Collingwood the next day. Ski buddies were doing a golf/pot luck BBQ and could I see the gang. Alex lent me his car, and I was not too sleepy, so I drove up for supper Tuesday. What fun. To see about 20 of my BC skiing buddies. Wonderful happenstance that I could make it on such short notice.

Am heading up to Southwinds this afternoon for the weekend. Elizabeth and Steve are coming. Also my dear niece Cindy and her two boys (3 and 5?). Can't wait.

I realize some things I miss and don't miss. How wonderful to get COLD water out of the taps. Singapore taps never give cold water. I can have a shower that is "cold". It is cool only. I find the lack of variety in the weather in Sg means getting dressed is a no brainer. Tank top, pants, sandals. That's it. Here, should I wear a sweater? wear closed in shoes? socks?OMG!, umbrella. In Singapore a no brainer, rain doesn't matter because if you get wet you dry so quickly. And I can walk outside. I don't do a lot of walking outside in Sg because it is so damn hot. It is wonderful to stretch my legs outside. And the parks in downtown TO are wonderful. Everything is so lush, because of all the rain.

I won't be posting as often in the next 2 months. No exotic trip, just hanging with my chillens and sisters and friends. Yum. I will back to Singapore and "exotic life" HA early October. with my sister Marne!!!

My tel # here is 416 420 6112. If any Toronto types want to text or call. I would love to get together. I have time!

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Heading home soon - for a visit

I am getting very excited. I head home Sunday. 4 more sleeps. And then no sleep! On Sunday August 4,  I will try Singapore/Hong Kong Tiger Air. No, Tim is not flying it. Then Air Canada Hong Kong/Toronto I hope. If I don't get on Toronto, I will try to Vancouver. And then add another 5 hour flight to TO! Ugh All day flying, 24 hours later, get in August 4 at 6 p.m. Ugh.

But the price is right.

The laugh is that if I do make my flights I will get to TO and the kids are out of town. I believe they are going to Muskoka for the long weekend! HA.

Well, no excuse for not getting caught up on sleep.  I will be staying at Elizabeth's at Harbord and Bathurst.

I will go to a phone store, get a sim card, and a new phone number, which I will post here. No I am not all booked up. In fact my dance card is pretty empty. So I would love to hear from you (Who ever reads this) and get together.

It has been quiet the last few weeks. My days are yoga, massage and osteopath. Sometimes I do three things a day. Like yoga in the a.m., gym afternoon, and yoga in the evening. It seems the next day I am exhausted, and need tylenol. Damn. I feel so good when I do it, but the next day it does not seem like it was the best idea. Today I had a massage after yoga and personal trainer.

I am so keen to stay in shape, and continue to work on the stiffness I have. My osteopath is not sold on the fibromyalgia diagnosis and said I could really think that it will not return. All along I have felt it was what we used to call a physical breakdown. Too much stress, good stress, but too much. Time to stop. And boy did it stop me.

But I so appreciate a good night's sleep, and getting out of bed in the a.m. with out having to stretch in bed first. And getting out of a chair like other than a 90 year old. I am in some ways in better shape than I have ever been, in spite of the lousy range of motion. And I am the weight I was pre babies.

Hope to see lots of you SOON

Monday, July 15, 2013

I think I am overusing superlatives

Well, we went and swam with the sharks. Whale sharks. Vegetarians. They eat plankton. So far! It was wonderful!

We flew to Cebu, one of the southernmost islands of the Philippines. A three hour drive (long- very windy poor roads, through very poor villages) to our first hotel. Tim was to do a wall dive. That is where the bottom drops away and you go down the side of the wall. All sorts of fish and coral, and turtles nestle in the crevasses of the wall.

What was weird was we were the only guests. About 12 staff watching our every move, having nothing else to do. Tim had a good dive, with the dive master who was also the manager of the hotel. I had a massage. The people were sweet and happy and eager to please.

The next day we then drove 3 hours, along very windy roads and past much poverty, to where the whale sharks are. They come in to this one bay. The other side of the island has sharks that are dangerous. And meat eaters. But apparently only whale sharks are in this one bay. There is a national park there, and the visiting is very regulated. You go to an orientation talk, just a few minutes. But we are told to stay at least 4-5 meters away from the sharks. As you will see from the photos, that did not happen. If you had put on sun cream, there is a shower to wash it off. Do not touch them. And you have half an hour in the water with them.

Then in to a wooden dugout that had big out riggers on the sides, would seat about 6 and two fellows, park people, paddle you out. Then over the side and in the ocean with the gentle giants. I was the first off, and I think you will read the hesitation, for a wee moment. I stayed within the outrigger and the sharks came right up and visited.

Men in outrigger boats have vast amounts of krill to feed the sharks. They throw handfulls in the water where they want the giants to go. It is unnatural for them to feed swimming perpendicular in the water. But they do. And they stay there as long as there is food. The guys were great at getting the sharks to be just feet away. In fact one brushed up against me! The sharks open their mouths and suck in water and food. They sift out the food and water comes gushing out their gills. I hope you can see the water rushing in in some of the pics.

These gentle giants are 40' long, weigh 20 tons and live to their 70's. They all have a beautiful pattern of polka dots on their skin, but on one side at the back of the gill there is a little area that is different to any other, and their "signature". The government had biologists there, we talked at leangth with them. They have chipped some to track their movements. It was like the safari, an honour to visit them in their environment.

We ate dinner in a local's home one night. That was a treat. We went to the market, bought the food, and went back to her place to cook. It was really wonderful to see a home, small, a kitchen, sparse, and meet her daughter. They used a squatter outhouse, with no tp or sink. She was very enterprising and had some tv's and cable, and young teens would come after school to play video games. For a small charge. She had a huge sow in the back and sold piglets. She had chickens and sold eggs. She grows corn on the cob to sell. She has a little store. Many different ways to realize an income.The kids learn english at school. A precocious little Cheska wanted to practice her english. "You are beautiful."" You have a long nose". "You are very sexy." She wanted to know if she could come work for us in Canada when she finished school!

We visited a waterfall. It was truly a hide away magic place.  Way up a hill, then walk down the steepest road I have ever been on. It really was beautiful but the photos did not do it justice. They had guys come down to give you a ride up the steep walk. I took it because I wanted to get a motorcycle ride!

Our tuk tuk ride there was fun. I was in the back of a little side car in. I felt like a giant. The seat was so shallow (for short people) that I had to sit sideways and sit with my head down, bent over because I was too tall. Tim sat behind the driver "like a girl". Horns are used to say "here I come".

Really photos do not do these wonderful creatures justice.

I didn't take too much time to think about it, I just got in!

Holding on to the outriggers, communing with the gentle giants.

Aren't they beautiful, all 20 tonnes and 40 feet of them!

Here you can see the water being sucked in, with a fair force.

The waterfront at our hotel, lovely.

Here are two young girls, Cheska in the middle with Sexy Long Nose on the right.

These chairs are made of old tires. Weigh a ton, but can't speak to the comfort. Didn't try.