Monday, October 27, 2008

Back in Canada - Andrea's Wedding

We're home!

Ahhh... it is wonderful to be back in Bolton & talk person to person with all of our family.
Now we have to hurry & get ready for so many wonderful events this summer. Andrea's wedding, Adam's wedding, Danaca's wedding, Kathyrn's wedding, Heather's wedding reception, Aunt Berte's 90th birthday celebration. Whew ... we're glad we're home to share in all of these celebrations.

Andrea's wedding was spectacular. Andrea & David worked so hard at every detail. We had nothing to do but sit back and enjoy the celebration of their new life together. The Doctor's House and Chapel in Kleinberg, Ontario is a beautiful setting. The weather was perfect - a slight touch of rain in the morning, beautiful sunshine for the afternoon pictures and a bit of rain while we danced. The temperature was perfect. Andrea looked beautiful in her gorgeous gown and David was so dashing in his top hat. Despite David's newly broken leg he hobbled about quite well. The chapel ceremony was lovely with prayers, poetry and song by Curtis, Marijke and Mark-Jan. Father Larry was a very pleasant minister who made the short but personal ceremony very meaningful.

All of the bridesmaids & ushers looked and performed wonderfully. Andrea and David are so very fortunate to have such wonderful friends. The reception, dancing and mingling were perfect. We had a superb time. The food was spectacular. The Doctor's House did a magnificent job on the wedding meal.

Andrea & David started off their married life with a beautiful honey moon in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. They now live in a "small"apartment in Toronto and they are continuing with their extremely busy lives. Andrea is an ERW with the Dufferin Peel Catholic School Board and David is a media buyer. They are both very involved in theatre productions and are currently in the CATS performance at the Fairview Theatre in Toronto.
We are now pondering what roads our newly retired lives will take. Stay tuned & we'll let you know.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Good bye Malaysia

We cannot believe that one year has passed since we started out on this most wonderful adventure in Malaysia.

We have been very busy finishing our lessons, meeting with staff and consoling students who did not make the final grade to come to Canada. There were a few students who worked so hard during the year but missed the cut off 80% that their sponsors needed to sent them on scholarships to a Canadian University. These students were heart broken. We are very happy to hear that most of them have been given wonderful educational opportunities in Malaysia that may lead them to Canada or the United States in a couple of years or others who are in wonderful University programs in Malaysian Universities. We wish each of them success.
The Taylor's University College graduation was a lovely affair. There was a great deal of pomp & ceremony that was planned for these very deserving students.

It was extremely difficult to say good bye to the ICPU staff. We had a magnificent time with all of them. They were warm, friendly and very helpful. We miss them dearly. We would have loved to stay for another year to continue to work with them.

On June 13th we were packed and ready to return to our family and home in Bolton, Ontario. They 24 hour flight was long but our excitement about seeing our family sustained us through the hours. Our reunion with our loved ones was beautiful. It was wonderful to hug & kiss each one and know that they were safe and prosperous.

Malaysia, the people, the staff, the students and our travels throughout Asia will forever remain in our memories as one of the best years of our lives. We are so thankful that we had the opportunity to experience this wonderful adventure. It was truly a magical year!

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Mike Was Here

This was the visit of our life in Malaysia. Mike arrived on May 13 in the evening and we had sooo! many plans. Unfortunately we had to teach during the day. Mike went to the pool each morning where he had a workout in our small gym and a swim in the pool and then he joined us after our teaching duties were over. He would sit around the pool reading (ask him about the book "Scarecrow") before meeting Kim for lunch around 1:00. Kim and Mike went off to explore KL in the afternoons. Bill had classes until 5:00 so we would all meet for supper and then more exploring in the evening.

Mike and Kim prepared for their assault on the city with a tour on the Hop-on-Hop-off bus. At each turning Mike would say that he wanted to return here or there. Together they managed to visit the usual exotic locales...Batu Caves, Bukit Bintang shopping area, the national museum and the national mosque, and together we all visited KLCC (the twin towers), the Central Market and Petaling Street night market. As with all of our guests we spent a sunset in the Traders Hotel Skybar where we watched the Petronas Towers light up like a couple of crystal jewels as darkness fell.

Friday, May 16 was the start of a long weekend (no...not the May 24 weekend) and we had a trip to Kuching, Sarawak, on the island of Borneo planned. We flew out Friday night and back on Monday night. The intervening three days were an exotic but quiet time. Kim and I reminisced about our school days when Borneo was the most remote place on the still seems to be althought the capital city, Kuching, is a modern developing place. On Saturday we booked a private tour of a traditional longhouse with a guide who is written up in the Roughs Guide. Desmond showed us the real side of traditional life in the old long house style as well as some mor modern accommodations in rural villages. We sat on the floor of a row house drinking home brewed rice wine. Each family makes it after the rice harvest for use in the June 1 harvest festival. Later, at the longhouse, we met the families who graciously allowed us to enter some of their homes. We had lunch with the chief while sitting on the floor of his "door" "Door" is what each of the living compartments in the longhouse are called. Each belongs to a different family and there are 73 "doors" in the one long house. All generations live in the long house. An elderly man climbed a tree to get a fresh coconut for Michael to drink.

On Sunday we wandered around Kuching and checked out the local markets and shopping areas. All towns and cities seem to have outdoor markets and ethnic quaters where anything can be haggled over until the right price is reached...we probably agreed too soon and spent too much. Mike managed to get a gift or two out of it.

On Monday we spent time at the oragutan sanctuary where these animals are brought from captivity and household pets to be reintroduced to the wild. It is a very successful program. Afterwards we went to the Cultural Village. This is their version of Pioneer Village in Toronto. We saw examples of all of the main tribal homes. There are 26 orang asli (indiginous people) in Sarawak; each tribe has a slightly different living style although we didn't see 26 samples.

Throughout the second week we continued the exploration of KL. Mike and Kim took an evening to travel to Melaka, one of our favourite places in Malaysia. On Friday night we took a first class bus to Singapore. After the guest house we occupied in Kuching we decided to stay in an upscale hotel in Singapore. It was expensive but worth it. On Saturday, we took the usual Hop-on-Hop-off tour. We followed up with shopping in Chinatown where we were able to get a pile more gifts. In the evening we had a Singapore Sling at the Raffles Hotel. This is wherethe drink was invented. Then we trundled around Clark Quay and had dinner. Sunday we went to Sentosa Island and saw many attractions. In the late afternoon we simply had to sit by the pool to read, relax and recover.

Monday we were back in KL and Mike and Kim returned to Petaling Street for more shopping. That evening Bill met them with Mike's luggage and we went for dinner before the final trip to the airport. We were so sad to see Mike leaving but we were also bouyed by the knowledge that in two and a half weeks we will be home to see you all first hand.

Mike, thanks for coming over. We saw our experience in a whole new way and we loved sharing it with you.

Noises Off

We returned from Australia at the end of the midsemester break and followed up with a weekend in LAgkawi. In betrween we beegan work on the set of "Noises Off". Mark and Erin, a cople of our young colleagues had been working on cast and rehearsals since August. Steve designed an outstanding set, especially considering the very small space into whch we had to fit it. Throughout the onth of April we worked weekends and then daily on the set with the help of some very committed and enthusiastic students. April 26 saw us move into the theatre and deal with all the little things that pop up under such circumstances. By May 7 the staff was invited for the dress rehearsal and all tickets to all five performances had sold out.

The play was a hit. We could have run this show for another month with a full sell out. The cast was full of enegy and after the audience warmed up (they didn'y quite know what to make of a British farce) they became engaged and thoroughly enjoyed the show. It was a real pleasure working with our stage crew , above, who acted like a well oiled machine... a truly high performance team

After the finnal show we torn down and shipped off the set. We had a little time to relax before Mike arrived. That's why this entry is so late!! Really!

Sunday, April 6, 2008


We just got back from a weekend in Langkawi with Matthew and Serina, our two Malaysian friends. While there we also got a couple of language lessons. We learned the Hokkien, Chinese words "kiasu", "kiasi", and "kiapor" which mean respectively "fear of losing", "fear of dying", and "fear of wife". And that is just the beginning of the fun. We also learned that Langkawi translates as "brown eagle" and that bird is the symbol of the island.

Langkawi is an island resort/paradise in the Straits of Melacca in north Malaysia. In fact it is almost in Thailand which can be seen across the channel from the eastern side of the island. Furthermore, the island has been at various times claimed and attacked by the Thais. The island is known for its beaches, its weather and its geological history, all of which made for a relaxing and interesting visit. It is in the very Muslim state of Perak. The citizens of Langkawi are lovely, calm, relaxed Malays.

Matthew & Serina belong to a time share travel group & they were able to access a condo in Langkawi - bonus!! They flew up in the morning, rented a car, settled into the apartment & then picked us up at the airport later Friday evening. We were very lucky & got an Air Asia flight for RM9.99 which works out to about $3.00 Canadian (each way). Isn't that amazing?

Langkawi is a beautiful island. Having a car is a must. The small city (town) of Kuah is on the east coast and the main tourist attractions are scattered throughout the island. Matthew was quite happy to do all the driving and act as our tour guide. He and Serina have been to Langkawi before.

We climbed 1500 metres or 500 stairs to the Seven Wells - a lovely tropical forest with a slow waterfall area. We visited a beautiful museum where the past Prime Minister has donated gifts he received from countries around the world. We did not expect much at first but the beauty of the world's offerings to the Prime Minister of Malaysia were wonderful. We did not really have enough time to do justice to the museum. We then took a boat tour of the only Mangove swamp in the world growing on sandstone. It was quite beautiful. We watched as our guide threw chicken skins onto the water surface and dozens of brown eagles swooped to grab the delicious chicken bits. It really was a marvelous sight. We visited a fish farm & Bill petted a sting ray. Our cruise took us out into the bay area within sight of Thialand where we could look back to see the geological wonder of the GeoPark - one of the few in the world. We also took a tour of a "bat" cave. Again, the overwemlming guano smell got to us but it was quite interesting. The bats, thousands of them, were all sleeping - thank goodness.

We had a delicious Russian - yes Russian dinner. Matthew & Serina, being locals also took us to a "stall" Indian restaurant for breakfast & a regular"stall" for lunch. Great food.

When we got home on Sunday evening we all went to a typical Malaysian Chinese restaurant & Matthew ordered the most scrumptious meal for us - tofu, chicken, ribs, vegetables - but nothing like we've ever had in Canada - fabulous.

Our quick weekend get away to Langkawi was super. It was so nice to share it with Matthew & Serina who are so kind & generous and lots of fun.

Sunday, March 23, 2008


We wanted to check off another item on our "500 things to do before we die" list.
We DID! A scuba dive on the Great Barrier Reef. Lady Musgrave Island is on the southern end of the Great Barrier Reef and despite some logistical difficulties we made a dive there.

Kim: I realized last Sept that I could not find my NAUI card here or at home in Bolton. We did three dives in Redang, Malaysia in September and they never asked for our cards. They just accepted our word. We did do a refresher lesson in the pool which was very good for Bill and me. Now, one would think that I should have got to work on a replacement card back then - but no, I did not do that. Last week in Australia as we were making arrangements to dive I remembered my lost card!! Dumb but true!

We actually took a chance and drove to a small town called 1770 to do our dive on the GB Reef last Tuesday. They had not sent out the large boat that takes people to the island since the Saturday before because of hurricane weather offshore and very rough seas on the way out. It was very iffy about trips. Finally on Thursday they sent out the boat but it was a very cloudy day and the seas had really been stirred up over the past 2 weeks with the storms. We did some snorkeling, an island tour and a glass bottom boat tour in the morning. The island is a coral and sand island and is a sanctuary to millions of birds - Kim was not a happy traveller. And ... it smelled so badly of guano. But ... it was really interesting & our delightful tour guide kept us entertained and informed. We went for our dive in the afternoon. Our dive master was great. He did his intro lessons with a couple of people in the am and we dove with 3 other experienced divers (very much our level of experience) in the pm. He accepted my word that I was certified. Luck was on my side. The dive was terrific. We saw a small sting ray about 5 feet right below us, a mid sized shark who luckily was not interested in us and glanced with annoyance at us & lazily swam away, a number of turtles - one which also lazily swam away from us. The visibility was about 30 to 40 feet. It was a bit murky because of the storms and there was no sun so we did not get the brilliance the sun brings to the reef colours. The reef was still very interesting and there were many beautiful colours on many sections. But, our main goal in Australia was to dive on the Reef and we did. It was great!

All in all it was a wonderful trip. We only had a week so we took a flight to the Gold Coast and didn't try to do too much. Sydney was 1000 km to the south & Cairns was 2000 km to the north. We decided that we would not try to do city tours - we've seen so many wonderful world cities. We made this trip a nature adventure. So, we rented a car and started driving. A day in Surfer's Paradise was exciting and as the guide book says "brash, glib and in your face". The place is full of the young and the beautiful (and Bill). Almost everyone, young and old, is well tattooed and pierced. There is plenty of shopping and the main activity, obviously, is surfing. The beach and the surf are breathtaking The golden sands stretch on for miles and the surf is mesmerizing. We walked for many kilometers along the beach - beautiful!

We travelled up to Hervey Bay on the Sunshine Coast and made a side trip to Tambourine Mountain on the way. Tambourine Mountain is a highland plateau , the name mountain is hyperbolic. It is a string of three small towns scattered among several national parks and conservatories. The villages are home to crafts, art and wineries. There are also several enticing restaurants to be visited. We took a tropical forest walk to a very scenic waterfall at Curtis Falls. It was very serene.

Hervey Bay is a sleepy little town that has, as its reasons for existence, the local retirement community and the jumping off point for Fraser Island. In its former capacity it has a local nickname of "God's Waiting Room" - there are so many retired people there. Fraser Island is the world's largest sand island and a world heritage site. It is wonderful! The ride over to the island took about fifty minutes by barge and we landed on the beach, really...see the photos! We toured around on a four wheel drive bus. There are no paved roads on the island. All roads are sand tracks and you could never travel it without a 4 wheel drive. Peter, our driver, is an encyclopedia of knowledge about the local flora, fauna and history. We were treated to a walk in the rain forest, although we had to stick to the sand road. A buffet lunch broke up the trip. We drove at 80 kph on a beach that is a legal main state highway as well as a landing strip for small aircraft. We visited a beach wreck - a large luxury liner that was beached on its way to Japan just before WWII and just left there. We waded through a dazzling fresh water steam - Eli Creek - so refreshing. Everything that day was so new and exciting to us. It was a fabulous day.

The next stop was quite further north on the Discovery Coast in a small town/village/park at the end of the headland of 1770. It is so named because it was the first place that Captain Cook set foot on Australia. This and the town of Agnes Water are mere dots on the landscape that serve the fishermen and trips to the Great Barrier Reef. In Hervey Bay and in 1770 there is LITERALLY almost nothing else to do. In Agnes Water we stayed in a little motel with a very interesting proprietor, Lex. He took time out to show us around at dusk to see the local kangaroos. It is so hot there, the kangaroos sleep in the shade all day and they come out at dusk - 5:30ish - and start grazing. You can see them along many of the side roads, in people's gardens and in fields beside the roads. We spotted so many families of kangaroos. Most just look up and stare at you and seem unfazed by cars or people. The ones we saw are wallabies. They are very passive and are not very dangerous. The large red kangaroos that are quite powerful and will jump at you are much further inland. Lex intends to visit Canada in the next couple of years and we hope we can return his hospitality. The last day was a whirlwind drive back to the Gold Coast with side trips to Noosa, a wonderful upscale version of Surfer's Paradise, and a river cruise in Brisbane. Brisbane is a beautifully well organized and clean city. The downtown core is made up of beautiful architecture and a wonderful, people-oriented waterfront. (OK - so we did one city!)

Although we saw only a small part, we would sum up Australia as CLEAN, green and breathtaking! It is a beautiful, inviting place and we would love to return for more extensive explorations. The people we met were so friendly and helpful. We loved our nature adventure!

Saturday, February 9, 2008


This past week we ventured off to Cambodia. Wow - what an experience. We had one "OMG!" moment after another. I don't know if we can do this trip justice.

The whole country has been set back to the Stone Age because of the devastation of the Khmer Rouge reign of terror 1975 through 1979. They killed off all of the intelligentsia, the academicians, the prosperous and the rich. They left the poor, the destitute and orphans. The people left had no skills, knowledge or industry. However, they have picked themselves up and have started to rebuild their country. It is a country of very young people. Twenty to thirty year olds are directors, managers, and they basically run the country's business. They are dedicated and committed but there is so much to do in every aspect. Tourism is their big boom so they have lovely hotels and some great restaurants. But, there are also many scams going on - so you have to be wary at every turn. Many countries - especially France and Japan - are investing in Cambodia so there are some areas of advancement. The health care system is abysmal. There is no sense or system of sanitation and litter is everywhere. Basic health care is poor in the cities and non existent in some rural areas. Our friend worked in mental health in Ontario and she is trying to help the people of Cambodia but she was told that although mental health is a huge problem - because of post war traumas, that is the least of their worries at this moment. They need health care professionals, clean water, supplies, better clinics, and most of all their population needs to be educated on basic health care and hygiene. We saw the most "Oh My God" things there - naked children everywhere, children begging on every street, vans with 20-30 workers perched on top of the vans with that many people inside too.

We flew into Siem Reap on Monday morning and once ensconced at the hotel we booked a tuk-tuk and driver for the day. This is a favoured mode of transportation that has a motor bike pulling an open passenger compartment. Because we started late (10:30) he only asked US $15.00 for the day.

We went to Siem Reap to see the ancient temples of Angkor Wat (and there about 300 other temples in the area). The temples are amazing, immense, ancient, awe inspiring. Our guide was fabulous and told us all about the Angkor empire and the advanced civilization that existed from 800 to 1400 AD. Most of the time we were slack jawed at the scale and beauty of the temples. Angkor Wat (which literally translates as "Holy Place" or Holy Temple") is the largest religious worship site in the world. The moat defining its boundaries is 180 metres wide and surrounds it on all four sides. The site itself has a perimeter of about 6.5 kilometres. The entire temple with its many buildings and towers is made completely of dry laid sandstone. The statues, carvings and bas relief are very impressive...because I can't find another word that suffices.

We also visited a former (1300s) capital city called Angkor Thom (which translates a "Holy City") with its Bayon temple. The temple is made up of 54 towers with four faces on each tower. They are supposedly of the many-faced god but the guide and guidebooks say they bear a striking resemblance to the king himself. We got a great tour of some of the bas relief sculptures here and we are impressed (again) by the unexpected depiction of the everyday life and the sense of humour of the artists. In this one you can see a tortoise, held by a woman, biting the rear end of the man in front.

The temple most familiar to North American movie goers is Ta Prohm...Angelina Jolie filmed part of Tomb Raider movie there. The trees in many of the temples grow right out of the rock and as a result the jungle has dismantled many parts of these monuments. It is such a shame. But Japan and Korea are heavily involved in the restoration of many of the sites. Some of the overall destruction is also man made. The country has vacillated between Buddhism and Hinduism depending on the preference of the king of the day. Many tolerated other religions but the people generally tended to follow the king. In times of change carvings and statues were sometimes destroyed or buried to be replaced by the new faith and its icons.

One of our side trips was to the floating village on Lake Tonle Sap. The lake is a source of almost half of the country's protein because of its abundance of fish. The floating village is the living quarters of many of the fishermen. The poverty is staggering. We travelled down a dusty gritty dirt highway that is undergoing widening. Along the verge were houses made of sticks. Many are just platforms on fragile stilts and having a thatched roof. The more splendid ones have grass or stick walls. Children run about naked and often adults sleep away the day on the platforms…evening is for fishing. We climbed over three other boats tied end to end to get to the one we were to ‘cruise’ on. The ten minute ride down river to the lake was punctuated by small canoe like crafts pulling alongside and children of four to seven years old jumping aboard to sell everything from bananas to coke for ‘one dollah’. The local schools were also floating, built on large barges and including a gym on the second floor for basketball and football (soccer). Once on the lake we were again approached by beggars and sellers but this time most were Vietnamese. The fishermen and their families live aboard permanently anchored boats and barges. They paddle out onto the lake in small canoes, fish and sell their catch to some of the shore people who arrange transport to the cities. But the destitution is visible in almost everything. We wonder at our luxury and the morality of gawking at their lives. But we know that without the tourism they might have no life.

By the end of the second day we were templed out and had arranged a bus ride to the capital, Phnom Penh. This was a high grade coach; we're not sure what made it high grade except that it was more money (US$12.00). It was cramped and hot because the further you are back on the bus the less the air conditioning is effective. Six hours is a long ride but we got a lot more of the flavour of the country. Kim commented that it's the "Three Little Pigs" over and over again. We'd pass a brick house followed by a stick and then a grass one; but most of the houses were of stick or grass with a number of wooden structures thrown in.

Phnom Penh initially gives the impression of a modern city. Then we learned about the almost total lack of sanitation. In a few pockets the odour of urine was very strong. That aside, the people are wonderful. We found them polite and helpful when our language differences allowed for communication. Everyone, though, made a stab at English which is good because we had no idea about Khmer.

We did a preprogrammed walking tour of the downtown as laid out in the 'Roughs Guide'. At Wat Phnom Penh we ran into a scam of people standing on the stairs trying to collect 'one dollah'. When Kim pointed out that a couple of locals had entered without paying, the response was something like "They're free you one dollah!" We walked on to another stairway and got the photos we were seeking. The area was very crowded and the predominant population was of beggars on the stairs. The central market is a rabbit warren of narrow walks between overpacked stalls mainly selling clothing. The floral part of the market was magnificent and we noticed subsequently that many people here loved their flowers. The local shopping mall was next and we had heard and we confirmed that they have escalator trainers standing by to instruct visitors in the art of the moving stairway. The National Museum was our last stop of the afternoon. It contains a large number of Khmer sculptures from scattered temples.

We made a considered decision to avoid the Killing Fields and S21. Most will know of the former. The latter is a high school that the Khmer Rouge turned into a prison and torture centre. People taken there rarely ever came out except to be transported to the mass graves at the Killing Fields. Maybe we were squeamish or just cowardly but we felt no compulsion to see the remnants of that regime when other evidence was all around us.

We met friends Steve and Pam for dinner at the FCC (Foreign Correspondents Club). This is where the journalists came to file their stories and take a rest during the Vietnam war. The food was great and the company better.

On our last day we took a tour of the Royal Palace and the Silver Pagoda. The pagoda is named for the fact that the entire floor is tiled in silver. They are, of course, protected by carpet over most of the area. All of the architecture is wonderfully Cambodian except one building. There is a French colonial building in the middle of it all. It was donated by Napoleon III after his empress Eugenia had used it during the dedication of the Suez Canal. It is ugly and out of place in this setting but has been deemed a national heritage building. I guess they won't be getting rid of it any time soon. We finished up our trip with a little shopping and a drink at a sidewalk cafe on Sisawath Quay for some people watching.

This has been a revolutionizing experience and we feel the need to do something to contribute to the rebuilding of this ancient and destitute society...but what?