Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Okay laugh at me if you must

I went out to the airport last night to meet Jane. I checked her email for her flight details probably 8 times. Because departure from where ever is not the same day as arrival, I checked so often. Leaves Narita 5:55 pm arrives 12:45 next day.

I was out there good and early, and flight 803 was delayed two hours. I sat there getting sleepier and sleepier. Then around 1:30 am I checked the email details once more and actually read what it said. Leaving Narita Wednesday, arriving Thursday. I was 24 hours early!!

I even took my iPad to a guy waiting for the same flight, and said this does say she is arriving tomorrow, not today. I couldn't believe with all the checking I did I didn't read it properly. I find that very disconcerting. Scary even. What else do I inadvertently mis-read.

So I grabbed a cab home, to bed at 2:30 am!!! and waiting another 24 hours. I will be going out soon - Wednesday night for Thursday am arrival.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Singapore is great until you have to deal with the bureaucracy. Then URGH

We have continued our lease with the owner, our landlord. We have a card for the property that allows us to use the gym. It expired Jan 24. Going to the gym today the office saw the date and said we could not go to the gym. We need 4 pages of forms, signatures from our landlord,  proof of the stamp fee ($250 a government grab) necessary for any lease or any update. I said it is going to be really tough over Chinese New Year. It is really big here, and everything closes down. She had no sympathy, she knows us well, but "too bad, so sad".  URGH URGH. So until we get this ridiculous paper work done, we can not use the gym. We are paying rent, but no facilities without this damn card. URGH again.

Mostly we don't rub up against this kind of thing. Of course we were deluged with it when we first arrived. Frustration added to our toxic mix of adjusting to life here. But since then, not much. But when it happens I get a roiling in my innards. The frustration of no movement, no exceptions, no humanity. It must be awful if you are living here for ever. I can handle it for the short term and will not miss this when we move home.

Did I say? April 25. Home by May 1. What a May Day!

Monday, January 27, 2014

Green School second time around. And oh ya, Tim got bit by a dog

Tim and I went to this green Green School in Ubud Bali, Indonesia. In fact we went for a weekend, but the one thing we did was a tour of the school. And a cooking class.

The Green School was started by a John and Cynthia Hardy ( big jewelry in Europe and Australia)  who were living there and wanted better schooling than they saw offered. So they started their own! It is 4 years old, has pre-school to graduating high school. They use the circle principle in gatherings, where you are in a circle. It teaches wonderful communication, and an equality (no row one, front or back) 330 students, from 133 countries!!! YES. 

The curriculum has three principles, community, academic and business. They have green studies; they plant and harvest produce for their dining room , they run a cafe and coffee shop to teach business, and they learn to love and respect the environment. There is a bursary program to include local kids, 10% now and growing. 10% of the staff is bi-lingual, Indonesian and English. They have a program to save endangered species. They  have taken an endangered starling population from 8 to 84.

They have a resident cow! I could go on. I was knocked out, needless to say. 

I meet a mom waiting for her boy. She is 71, and has an 11 year old son. At 60 she had in vitro, but carried the baby herself. To term. At 60!! 

So Tim is in the midst of a course of rabies shots. Not convenient when traveling. In Ubud, Tim went to pat the hotel dog, a very old mutt. I think he is probably deaf and blind and so bit a tiny puncture wound in his hand. I have seen the dog at the hotel three times over the last year, and am sure he is not rabid, but you have to follow the protocol.

The hotel sent Tim to a doc who gave him two shots. We then got to Philippines and he had to hunt up the medication and find a place to have it administered. So off to the hospital in Puerto Princesa. Then he had to buy a cooler, and more medication to carry the med to El Nido. And a lengthy conversation with them at out hotel in El Nido to see if they could administer the shot on the island. Which they could do. So we arrived with the anti-dote, and she went to give it and the syringe broke. 

They had to find more med, get it sent out ( a 1 1/2 hours boat trip out) and managed to, so he had the shot on the same day. He is now on the phone trying to find the med here is Singapore, and find someone to give it. Each of these is costing money, this third one about $300. Then he has one more in a few weeks. An expensive greeting to the dog.

This is out of order with our trips, but you don't care. My friend Jane Morgan arrives tomorrow night. We will have 3 days here, (Chinese New Year) and head to Myanmar Feb 1-8. Yangoon, Bagan, and Inle Lake. Then back for 2 days and off to Hanoi. We will take an overnight train from Hanoi to near the Chinese border and see hill tribes, and the foothills of the Himalayas. I am like a kid at Christmas. Can't wait.

here is batman at our apartment window

So I am in the kitchen working away and look up to this out my living room window. 

I live on the 23rd floor

Window cleaners!!!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

This is so great it takes a post a day

So the island hop. On a boat with 6 others. A big boat, could take probably 20,so I had lots of room. I. Have my own mask and snorkel, so I was given fins, and in a net bag to carry my stuff. They help me in to the boat, carry my gear, supply fluffy warm dry towels. So from this you know what is usual on a trip like this. Crowded, wet, on your own for gear and towels. So back to paradise.
A trip of about half an hour, to a white sand beach, backed by steep limestone cliff. Snorkeling is fabulous. Schools of fish go parading by. You just float there and they come to you. The coral here is more colorful the best I have seem in Asia. Orange, turquoise, lime green, lavender, mauve, and deep electric purple.  Amazing.

Then a hop to another island called Isla Blanca. Guess why! It is rimmed in the whitest powder sand. It looks like to site for a Malibu rum ad! Most of the island is under high tide. But for us a beautiful deep beach,, had been raked by the resident security guard, pristine. We lolled there, all 15 of us, two boats from the hotel. The boat staff even carries my gear, towel, snorkeling stuff, bag to shore for me. And of course collected it when we left. This is how the rich people do it. No wonder they look so good. Their people carry all their stuff for them. Amongst other things!
I was on my own for this adventure because Tim was diving. They have a dive master who was already booked our first day here. So he added dives for Tim between his scheduled dives. So Tim has done 5 dives and acquired his deep water certificate, advanced dives. He is allowed to go down to 30 meters now.

This resort does anything and everything to please. Not like what we found in Manila or Puerto Princesa. There, they seem quite grumpy. But here it is like Club Med. They all know your name and greet you every time they see you.

We come to our room at night, the bed is turned down, a little leaf on the pillow that had written on it "Sweet dreams Ms Jane Mr Tim". And there is a page with a story on it. A bedtime story. One about how a single Mom learned to support her children by weaving coconut palm leaves to make money. Last night about a single Mom who now has a thriving business to support her son, and it is collecting pop cans and recycling them. Always the theme of conservation. They have their own generator, clean their own water, very conscientious about their garbage and our part in all that.
Today I had a guide take me snorkeling. It is much more fun to be with someone, particularly someone who can point out stuff. Like a turtle, about 12" flying through the water. A turtle is the most graceful in the water. Like a plane soaring on the thermals. I saw a clam about 18" . And then the most exquisite fish. This really is the best we have seen here.

We had a picnic lunch on a secluded beach. I was taken there, Tim dropped there from his dive. We had grilled fish, prawn, octopus, pork (belly ugh) and a pomelo salad (I love pomelo but don't buy it because Tim has a med he takes that says no grapefruit. So I have been digging in to the pomelo here at the buffet meals. Then a boat comes and brought us back.

It is story perfect here. Fancy, but simple. Conscious of foot print, yet very luxurious. A perfect balance.we sit on the beach, in shade, looking out at the limestone islands jutting out of the sea. We are in this perfectly protected bay. I can see there are white caps out there. There is supposed to be a thunderstorm tonight. We leave at 9 in the morning.

Look how the roots are above the sand. I imagine a strong wind would topple this one.

Our tiny perfect little island

These are the villas for family. Out over the water. They reminded me of Bigwin boathouse on Lake of Bays.

Tim arriving from his dive to meet me for our solitary picnic lunch.

A quick simple little picnic; prawns, octopus, rice in the banana leaf cone,  pomelo on the right (giant sweet grapefruit) raw salmon (that's how fresh the fish is!)

The happy picnicers
The storm is supposed to clear out this light overcast and be sunny for the next three months. Actually the light over cast is perfect, no sunburns, not gallons of sun cream, and the temperature is a perfect 25'. With sun I imagine it would be pretty hot. I only wish we had the bright turquoise water.
Tomorrow is a travel day, back boat to El Nido ( an hour and a quarter a long way!) then a 5 hour van drive (yucky) to Peurto Princesa, one hour flight to Manila and a 4 hour flight to Singapore. A long travel day. I hear your groans of sympathy! HA

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Out of order

This trip report will be out of order. I am sitting at breakfast, alone, because Tim got up for a 7am dive. I am taking a leisurely breakfast because I will do an island hop at 9:30.
This is quite some place. We are on an island off shore of the island Palawan. I will tell you about our four days in Puerto Princess next post. I sit here in this glorious place and have to share it. as in the book I just finished, Amber Road, then you have double happiness. Mine and yours. I only wish I could attach photos. I will try but have never done so from my iPad.
We arrived at the ferry dock and there was no signage to match the directions we had been given. Nobody seemed to know anything. It was pouring a torrential rain. We were wet. All was well when a "greeter" from the resort arrived.
Our taxi across arrived. A combination boat. Hull like the typical outrigger. What a perfect design for the big water. Those outriggers are put to use with every wave. The cabin was wood, painted and reminded me of a Muskoa steam boat. Big windows. It was pouring rain. W were outfitted in a huge yellow cape, and then asked to put on a life jacket. Needless to say, under the cape. That was cute, putting it on under the cape. It was very slippery getting on the boat. I realize every time we have a transfer like this, that I could not have done it last year. I am so grateful whatever it was has gone.
The crossing was an hour and a half. We could see the island in the misty rain. It didn't seem that far away.
We arrived to a musical welcome. The staff was at the wharf. Singing a Palwan welcome, with instruments too. A necklace of woven grass, an intro on their Eco practices, garbage bags for biodegradable, and non, quite precise. Good to see. There can be such obvious waste at big resorts.
We have a water cottage, a room over the sea, on stilts. We look down at crystal clear water, with fish swimming (saw a gorgeous turquoise green 6" fish and will see baby sharks)
The room is not big, but very nicely furnished, and from our little porch we can watch sunrise and sunset.
That is when the sun comes out. There is a thin cloud cover. Weather is a perfect 75'. With full sun it would be way hotter, so I am happy. But sun and blue sky would give us turquoise water. The water is so clear the visibility is still good, even with the overcast.
The food is wonderful. So much for some restraint this week. This eating out means we eat more. Buffets are deadly. And really no exercise. Long ride in the van yesterday.
I am going to go back to my room and do some stretches before getting signed up on the island hop. To two island beaches for snorkeling
The resort is set in a bay, the outer edges being steep high limestone outcroppings, the innards of the bay white powder sand. Once here, most everything is gratis. Food, some water sport, snorkeling, rental of equipment. Dives are extra. There is sailing, kayaking, windsurfing, rappelling, hiking. It is low tide now so the beach is less than glorious but at high tide it is white powder. There is a pool and a spa, no just massage. Only massage, oh suffer me.
Off to cover in sun cream and off to island hop.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Have to get a bigger palette!

A few days ago I was having lunch with a friend. She asked where we had gone before Christmas. For the life of me I could not remember where we had gone. It was embarrassing and ridiculous. I know I have a bad memory, but yikes. I say my hard drive is too full. I think my blank palette is far from blank.

I am going to have to make a list of where we went when. My blog is like a diary to help me. But there are places I know I have been but can't keep them straight...Moalboal, Trawangen, Nikoi, oh it will take some time.

I know the first year we were here I think it was 13 currencies I had.

I have been busy with planning the next month. Tim and I leave Tuesday morning (he gets in from a flight he is working- an all-nighter to India) and I will meet him with his bag and we will get on a plane to Indonesia, to Bali. Me for the third time! To Ubud. I went with Elizabeth a year ago. She knew of it from her Anthropology at university. We loved it. Then I went with Gwen in November. Tim has decided it sounds interesting, so I will go again.

We will visit the Green School. I know to go for lunch there. They have the most fantastic cafe there. Oh the sweets. We will do a market tour/cooking class.

Home for an overnight and off to Palawan. It is a large collection of islands to the west of Manila. So we will fly to Manila, overnight at the airport and fly on to Peurto Princesa on Palawan. The diving and snorkelling is supposed to be great. I hope so. I actually have been disappointed. Nowhere here have I seen the coral like the Bahamas. The visibility is not as good either, but that is because of fierce currents as two huge bodies of water meet. Warm Pacific, and cooler Indian. Makes for much plankton.

We are there a week so I do hope it is good. 5 days at a regular hotel, and 2 nights at a very fancy place (I hope) where the hotel rooms are villas on stilts out from the beach. Has to be seen to be believed. I will document.

I have some photos of Langkawi. I don't have Tim's yet. They are much better, but these are a few of mine.

You have to imagine this beach with no one on it. Tim was snorkelling off the beach at a wall, and I was taken to the beach with some others. The snorkelling was off the beach. I went in ALONE. I was the only person on that beach. Then the boats started arriving. I was told there were 1,000 people at one point. There would be 2,000 the next day because it was a holiday! It was great that people could snorkel without knowing how to swim. The fish are right up to the beach.

 We took a boat tour along a river out to the ocean. It was along sand shores, with these magnificent volcanoes in the distance.

In a boat like this. Just us, our own boat.

Here's the happy couple.

 Passed a fishing ground for eagles. We watched them soar and dive, and it was wonderful. I can't remember if I have mentioned that we bought a painting in December. To take to Muskoka, It is of an Asian eagle, in this photo. They are a wonderful reddish brown with white. Beautiful.

Through a mangrove forest inhabited by these monkeys.
They were very close to us, and looked like they wanted to jump on.
They are cute. But they are wild.

I will hunt up some of Tim's.
My next ones will be Bali, and Philippines!
It sounds wild. It is.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014


I think I have said how good the orchestra is here. It is fabulous. The concert hall has glorious acoustics. The seating is grand. I love going to concerts.

They are doing a Richard Strauss festival- 150 year anniversary of birth. He is one of my favourite composers. When people ask who is my favourite composer. I have to qualify. J. S. Bach is all time favourite to play and to listen to, impressionists are a favourite to listen to, and Richard Strauss a  favourite to play. We bass players say it is a mitt full. Excerpts of his music are always on auditions. We say if you were paid by the note you want to play Strauss. As bass players what he asked for is very demanding.

So the SSO is doing Strauss for four weeks. I bought tickets for three of the four concerts, knowing I was away for one (Tim's holidays). Then it looked like I was going to BC for a meeting and would miss two concerts. So I sold the tickets to a friend.

Then my trip to BC was cancelled. There I am without tickets for these concerts. So I have bought another single to go with my friend who bought mine. I was there for a concert last Saturday. Heldenleben. Fantastic. Oh I love the music, I love the playing, and I love the hall. One happy camper.

When I got to the hall I saw who I thought was a bass player from the orchestra. So I went up and asked. Yes. So I was happy to introduce myself, and tell her how much I enjoyed the concerts. I would love if I could go out for a beer with the guys in the section. But alas. No.

I heard the best radio program last night. BBC World I have on all the time. Like CBC there is a lot of repeat plays of programs, an awful lot of football talk. But lots of info on Africa, Middle East, and not filled with US news. And wonderful documentaries.

Last night they did a documentary on twins. I being one, I found it fabulous. So  I have downloaded the podcast. I wonder if I will continue listening to BBC when I get home.

Tim and I are putting together our next trip. He has 12 days second half of January. We are going to go to Ubud Indonesia. I for the third time. I went with Elizabeth, at her request., last year this time.  I would not have known anything about it, but she had studied it at uni in anthropology. It is a beautiful city, on Bali, in Indonesia. It is soft, artsy, a yoga and meditation mecca, lovely. I went again with my friend Gwen. Saw the Green School that trip. Tim thought it sounded interesting, so he wants to go. I am very happy to go for a third time. I always see it so differently very visit.

Then we will go to Palawan,  Philippines. Palawan is an island off the west coast from Manilla. It is supposed to be the most amazing diving. So we will spend a week, staying at different places on the island.

Tim gave his notice today!!!!!!!!!  He will retire April 25. I am excited, and I know he is ready. It is just the right time. He said he feels like Pierre Trudeau, who apparently said I have the best job in Canada but it is time to retire. Tim loves his flying, but he is ready to go. He is a lucky lucky man to orchestrate his retirement when he wants to go.

That puts me in the home stretch. I do not want to wish away what the next 4 months bring, but I sure am dreaming a lot about Muskoka, and swimming at the lake, and sitting by the fire, and wearing socks and sweaters, and a scarf even.

Thursday, January 2, 2014


I hope all is well with all of you, whoever you are out there!!!, and that 2014 is a Happy New Year. And a healthy one. Boy that "healthy" is becoming more and more significant and meaningful for us as we grow older. I don't ever want to go through whatever it was I went through Dec '11 to Feb '13. It was brutal. They say you always forget the pain, and I have to some degree, although I do remember that it rang the pain bells, I saw white, and groaned at the thought of simply moving. Opening a door? Brushing my teeth? Holding a beer? Cooking supper? Going to the beach for supper? Blah Blah. I do remember all those things that hurt.

And out of that I have a constant appreciation of being able to do things easily. Getting out of a cab? Stepping up in to a bus? Chopping vegetables? Getting out of a chair hands free? I am constantly appreciative of being able to do tiny little everyday things easily. I hope I never lose that appreciation.

I faithfully sweat away in my yoga  class. Anyone who thinks yoga is easy is not doing it properly. I wondered at one point if I burned more calories in a class because EVERYTHING was so hard. But the whole thing with yoga is you take a position to that point of discomfort. I was at the point of pain, because of my stiffness. I now see the point at which you take the stretch without that pain. At the point of stress (the limit of the stretch) we are to relax in to it. The metaphor for life. Life has discomfort. Live with it calmly, with focus, with deep breathing and calm. HA. Well that is the idea.

My last post I had said I would report on the bridge in Langkawi. IT WAS CLOSED. I was so disappointed. I knew about it from an attachment someone sent me titled WOLRD'S TEN MOST DANGEROUS BRIDGES. Well I guess that is why it is closed. We took the cable car up the mountain to where the bridge was. The ride up was good and the view of the islands and volcanoes, of Indonesia breathtaking. The bridge looked great. To another peak.

But it was closed for repairs. There were redoing the walkway in glass !!! Now that would be cool! But it has been closed for a few years. And I didn't actually see any workmen working on it. I was very disappointed. Tim was not. He, a pilot, is afraid of heights. Go figure. Plane doesn't count. You are in something very safe. But the edge of our balcony? No. "Dangerous bridge"? No way.

Our hotel was less than fantastic. I am getting used to the standard we have had often. A tough standard to maintain. This place was probably wonderful 30 years ago. But it is a tired old lady now. But I did have a very interesting conversation with the concierge to help with planning things to do. She wore a head scarf, but had green eyes. Her accent was tough to place. Well after fun chatting we learned she was German and married a muslim form Langkawi. I asked her how she felt about wearing the hijab. She was very forthright. I had heard that women find it very freeing. The opposite of what I would think. She agreed. She pointed to my gray hair and said "you see I don't have to worry about that!" She was a red head going fray. I bet she would be a very interesting person to talk at length about the many questions I think about now, about life in the Middle East. (Ever notice the men wear long WHITE dishdash, the women are covered in a BLACK burka. In the heat!

At one point we rented a motorbike. Now I had gone for a ride in Lambongen. But the driver, a kid, knew how to drive the bike. I went with Tim. He said he was learning. It was hair raising. I had this ridiculous helmet that wobbled all over, and often over my eyes. I felt like a little kid, in a great big oversized helmet. Driving on the left hand side always made left turns easier that right turns. But a great way to see around. I think of Tim as pretty cautious, but I admired his adventurous spirit on that one.

We met Rod and Nancy for a supper. A beautiful place Bon Ton. If I went back I would stay there. The rooms are refurbished small homes from around the island. The meal was great, the desserts to die for. As Tim and I were waiting for the cab after dinner, I chatted with the maitre d'. I asked how many times he had been asked when he was going to publish a cook book. Well didn't he start printing out his recipes for me. He handed me a bundle of maybe 20 recipes. Then we wandered through the gift shop, and as I ws getting in to the cab, he came running out, "you can't leave yet. I am printing you more. " And I was given another bundle. "Recipes are to be shared" he said.

I guess this is winter at the equator. The last few weeks it has been warm but with a breeze.  A good strong one. A breeze is what makes the difference. A hot day with the sun, 80' can be a lovely 75' with a breeze. And that is what it is these days. (Of course if you take a very cold day, say -20' and add a breeze/read wind it will be a lot colder. So it does make sense.)

For Christmas I did a turkey Christmas Eve. Our dear friend Norm, the reason this whole adventure happened, was over, Rod and Nancy, a young Canadian captain and his lady (Joel Ford who  when he went home to Canada just before Christmas and came to customs, the guy read is name. And guess what he asked? Are you related to....?) Because we had been away until the day before I ordered a roasted turkey. Tim picked it up 3 hours before our dinner, it was roasted,  cold and in vacuum wrap. I had no idea what to do with it. It turned out fine, but the stuffing was with fine bread crumbs and was like a sausage stuffing/pudding. The gravy was "turkey sauce" HA. Not gravy. But it was a great evening.

New Year's Eve, we had a progressive evening. Nancy (Rod flying) Norm an  hour later,  Olga (another pilot) an hour later, and friends from downstairs later so by midnight we were 9.  Midnight was quiet. Last year all the ships in the Straits let off flares. This year instead of hundreds. there were maybe 20. And no fireworks from Marina Bay Sands. Not sure why.

So 2014 is the year we come home. Just a little excited. Looking to plan a few more trips before April. Have Myanmar and Vietnam with a girlfriend in Feb. Tim and I are undecided about January 12 days. Would like to do volunteer in Philippines but don't know how to sign on.  But looking at Dubai, Great Barrier Reef, Maldives, Philippines diving, Laos, oh my.

I was to come home for an AGM in BC January 8, but we voted to waive the AGM. SO not gruelling short trip home, but then I won't get to see the kids and friends and sisters, as brief as visits would have been. So more time to plan trips. HA

Happy and HEALTHY 2014.