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.