Monday, December 31, 2007

Sightseeing in Malaysia and Singapore

While waiting for my wedding photos, I'll show you some photos from the places we took everyone sightseeing. You can check them all out by clicking on the photo albums link on the left. They're in the file labelled "Wedding trip with family and friends".

The first picture is of Hartleigh at the Jurong Bird Park in Singapore. She volunteered to be the perch for a vulture.

The second one is of my friend, Sara, demonstrating how her boyfriend's nephew will enjoy playing with his new Christmas present.

This Sara at the Cultural Village near Kuching in the Borneo part of Malaysia. It's like a homestay where tourists can stay in the traditional houses of the Borneo aborigines. A few people of each group also stay there to run the homestays and answer questions about how their people live. If you ask the right questions, it can be really interesting. The tattoo uses a traditional design of the Melanyu people (I think). It made Sara feel very fierce even after it washed off.

Here's Mom, Dad, Leo and I on a traditional bridge at the Cultural Village.

Friday, December 28, 2007

One Wedding photo (more to come later!)

Many of you have been asking about the wedding photos. We haven't got them back from the photographer yet, but here is a a preview from the Kuala Lumpur reception. From the left, there's Hartleigh's friend Arania, my sister Hartleigh, the bride Dara, the groom Leo and Hartleigh's husband Andrew. The picture was taken by Arania's fiance, Terence. Thanks Terence for sending us the picture!

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Photos of my Singapore apartment

Here are some photos of my Singapore apartment. It's still a bit bare but my mother sent me my pictures and rugs that I have collected through my travels. Over the years I have found quite a few things that I liked well enough to imagine them in my home, but I had never found a place I liked well enough to go to the trouble of sending for them. Singapore, however, fits most of my requirements.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Socialism can rock!

I was reading my October edition of The Atlantic when I came across the name The Correspondence Publishing Committee. It was in a review of a book about cricket (and many other things) called Beyond a Boundary by CLR James. James was a cricket buff, Marxist, black activist, Pan-Africanist and a lover of literature. He founded two Marxist splinter groups: the Johnson-Forest Tendency, a faction of the Socialist Workers' Party, and the Correspondence Publishing Committee, an off-shoot of the Workers' Party. As the author of the article, Joseph O'Neill, pointed out, the first sounds like the name of a bad rock band and the second sounds like the name of a cool rock band. Both are catchy and have an element of meaninglessness, but The Correspondence Publishing Committee is snarky. It sneakily jibes at the meaninglessness of most committee work. If there is anything rock-and-roll is against, it is committees.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Meet Zorro!

Unfortunately, Lumos has returned to the SPCA. He was a very noisy cat, much too noisy for a person who lives in an apartment. He has now been adopted by someone else and I hope that he has happier now.
Leo and I went back to the SPCA last weekend to try and adopt another cat. Leo fell in love with Zorro above. He's a big muscular cat, definately a hunter. Every evening he pounces on the geckos and bugs which come in through the windows. He's much mellower than Lumos. He usually likes to postion himself somewhere with a good view and keep his eye on everything around him. Leo, especially likes his mouth. It curves upward more than other cats, which gives him a very cheerful expression.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Chinese Lion Dance

Bloger just added a new feature: showcasing videos. I've tried this before on other sites. After a week or so, the video would no longer work. We'll see what happens with the Blogger version.

I shot this in 2006 in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. There's a sizable Chinese community in the capitol. This a short portion of one of the best lion dances I have ever seen. Lion dances are usually part of Chinese New Year celebrations. The dance cleanses places of bad luck and invites good luck. Here the lions are reaching for the ang pow (a red envelope with their payment).

Sunday, August 19, 2007

New addition

Meet Lumos -- the newest addition to my Singapore home. He's a 4 year old male cat, although as playful as a kitten. His name is from Harry Potter. Wizards say "Lumos" when they want their wand to become a light. He really reminds of light with his ginger coat, big lanteru-like eyes and light-hearted personality. He's also a true Asian cat. His tail ends in a ball rather than tapering like most Western cats.

For the past several years I have felt like I was camping in my various apartments. I always knew that I'd be moving on in a year or two. Singapore is the first place where I have felt at home. Lumos's purr is a confirmation of that.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Photos from Bali

Here are the pictures from my trip to Bali last May/June. Follow the link at the bottom to see them all.

Teaching the children there was an entirely different experience. They were motivated to learn English because they wanted to communicate in it with people that spoke that languge. Most people say they want to learn English for that reason, but their more immediate goal is to score high on an exam, enter a prestigious school or get a promotin at work. English lessons are usually centered around a topic that assumes the students know about the world outside the their immediate experience or have free time. So a lesson might be about current events, favorite books, cultural differences, dream vacations, hobbies or pets. The school children in East Bali knew only about life in their village. They might have only once been to the district center. The district center would be conidered a village by most people in the world. They spent most of their time helping their families survive. Everyday they would haul drinking water, collect grass for the cow, weed the garden, collect firewood, mind younger children, etc. They didn't have the free time that most young people have. They don't really have their own possessions; they share everything with their brothers and sisters. They don't have the time to devote to a hobby. All the animals in their homes have a utilitarian purpose. Most available materials aren't suitable because they assume the children know who are Shakespeare and Gandhi, about being in a cafe, have bought something in a department store, etc. This made an interesting challenge to build the lessons and materials around a topic that would be relevant to them and not require too much explanation from the teacher.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Reception Venues

The top two photos are of Tamarind Springs Restaurant where we will have the Kuala Lumpur reception on December 9th. The restaurant is surrounded by green jungle on almost all sides which gives it a wonderful intimate feeling. It's also on a hill and open to breezes so it stays cool naturally rather than exposing people to air conditioner drafts. The menu is Indo-Chinese rather than Malaysian. The restaurant has consistently won awards and is ranked in the top 100 in KL.

The bottom picture is where we will hold the reception in Kuching on December 8th. It is a gallery in the parish hall of the church where we will hold the ceremony. We chose this spot because it is pleasant, casual and also convenient for the older members of Leo's family. The food here will be more Malaysian. We'll definately have some Kuching delicacies such as, seafood, fish and wild fern salad.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Getting fit at the National University of Steps

A popular name for NUS around campus is the National University of Steps. The campus is situated over a series of hills. All of the buildings on campus go up and down to accomodate the terrain. Many of my classes next semester will be in the Faculty of Engineering. They have about 10 buildings all linked by covered walkways and staircases. It's a bit like an MC Escher painting. Today I went looking for the discussion room I'll be using for tutorials. I went up some stairs that climbed a hillside to the engineering canteen on the ground floor of one building. I went out the other side, up some more stairs and ended up on the 4th floor of Engineering Building 1. After going along an outdoor walkway, I ended up on the 6th floor of Engineering 1A. Down another a small flight of stairs and I found a cafe on the 2nd floor of Engineering 2. I gave up looking for the classroom by myself and stopped to have lunch. On the way back, I got lost and went up and down 4 more flights of stairs to reach my office out-of-breath.

In Malaysia, I drove almost everywhere because buildings are spread out like in the US and there are seldom sidewalks or other safe places to walk. My first week here in Singapore felt like the first few days of a backpacking trip -- my feet swelled, blisters developed, knees ached and I was often winded. Now during the second week, my muscles and joints are no longer complaining and I'm not as often out-of-breath. The National University of Steps is making me fit after the soft life in Malaysia.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Wedding Dates and Venues Finalized

On my last weekend in Malaysia, Leo and I finalized our wedding dates and venues. Here's the low-down for all of you who are planning to fly in.

December 4th Leo and I fly to Kuching for the wedding rehersal and registration.

December 8th 11:00am wedding ceremony at St Joseph's Church in Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia with a lunch buffet afterwards in St Joseph's Gallery.

December 9th evening reception at Tamarind Springs restaurant in Ampang, Selangor, Malaysia. Ampang is a suburb of Kuala Lumpur, the capitol.

If you would like to come earlier or later and visit with us, arrange your tickets so you fly in or out of Singapore. My new apartment has 2 spare bedrooms, so you are welcome to stay with us.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Moving! New Job!

There has been a lot of changes in the past few months -- getting engaged in April and at the end of this month, I'll be moving from Malaysia to Singapore to take a new job. I'll be working at Singapore's National University(NUS). It's been ranked among the top 20 universities in the world by The Times of London and among the top 3 in Asia by Newsweek. I have always wanted to work in a university, but it is often very difficult to get the first job. Three years at NUS should open many doors for me.

I will be a lecturer there at the Centre for English Language Communication (CELC). Most of my students will be non-Singaporean undergrads and graduates who have enough English to pass NUS's initial exam but not enough to earn a degree in their disciplines. The Centre also hosts conferences and publishs a journal. So, there will an opportunity for me to continue to conduct research and perhaps get published again. I start at CELC on 2 July. If you would like to see more about where I will work, you can look at the NUS website at

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Being in Bali

I'm on a sort of working holiday during the school break in Malaysia. A friend of mine has done volunteer work here for the East Bali Poverty Project for the past 3 years. EBPP works with a group of very isolated hamlets on slopes of one of the biggest volcanoes on Bali. The Indonesian government didn't know of the hamlets' existence until the late 1990s. As a result, the people there had no schools, health care or access to the outside world. Some hamlets had an almost 50% infant mortality rate and a high rate of mental retardation. The mental retardation was mostly caused by iodine deficiency. The people grew only corn and cassava. Cassava hinders the body's ability to absorb iodine.

EBPP has been showing the villagers new farming techniques to prevent erosion, irrigate and fertilize organically. They have also introduced new crops such as tomatoes, spinach and potatoes. All of the children and women of child-bearing age receive iodine supplement tablets and they have been educating the villagers about bacteria, parasites and how to prevent them. The villagers also had trouble with water. In the rainy season there was too much and in dry season there was too little. They built a series of reservoirs to store and manage it. You can see more of their work and projects on their website at

Some of the villages requested EBPP to set up schools for the children since the nearest ones were a 3-4 hour walk. The children have 1 hour a week for English and this is where I am helping the foundation. The children have such little knowledge of the outside world that most of the English teaching resources available wouldn't be suitable for them. The children don't know about modern conveniences such as TV or telephones. They don't really understand concepts like hobbies or occupations. Nobody in their village has the time or resources to devote to hobbies and everyone they know is a farmer. The villages and the foundation wants them to have some knowledge of English so that the children can communicate with foreign donors, fill out forms and read simple things such as an instruction pamphlet or the directions on a bottle of medicine. My plan is to help the education team plan a syllabus to organize what the children should be learning over an extended period of time and to help them make their own textbooks and other classroom aids.

So far, it has been very interesting to think about ways the teachers can overcome the special problems they face in the villages. So interesting that I don't mind missing out on the typical tourist activities here on Bali.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Holiday on Redang Island

At the end of April, Leo and I took a 4 day holiday to visit the east coast of West Malaysia, specifically we headed to Redang Island off the state of Terengganu. We left after lunch on a Sunday for the 4-5 hour drive. It actually took us much longer because of a heavy downpour that slowed traffic near Kuala Terengganu (KT). KT is the capitol of Terengganu, which is considered part of the Malay heartland and is one of the more conservative states in Malaysia. We checked into a budget hotel in the center of town and after we dried off we set out to sample the seafood and see what kind of nightlife KT offers. In an essentially dry state, the nightlife consists of sitting in cafes until late drinking coffee or tea and snacking. The rain and the fact that Sunday in Terengganu is the first working day of the week didn't keep people at home.

The next day we woke up early to catch the boat to Redang. The seas were choppy and the sky overcast. The weather would hold for our entire trip, making this the one snorkeling vacation that wouldn't send me home sunburned. Our resort was a budget one -- clean but without too many amenities. We spent most of our time snorkeling -- going out once on the first day and twice more on the second day. The seas there were full of fish. We rented an underwater camera the second day and you can see some of the photos if you click on photo albums under Links on the side bar. There was much more than you can see in the pictures. It was difficult to keep the camera steady in the waves so many of the pictures came out blurry. The third morning at Redang we caught the boat back to the mainland after breakfast.

We took the inland highway back which cut through small villages and oil palm plantations. Cows, chickens and monkeys wandered along the sides of the road. We stopped frequently to sample and buy some local delicacies, such as keropok (chips made from fish, prawns or squid) and dodol (a taffy-like sweet made from brown coconut syrup). We also stopped for lunch at a roadside stall. There were several fire department vehicles parked along the road there. We figured if the place was popular with the local fire department, it would do well for us. It served very traditional Malay food and proved to be one of the best meals of our entire trip. The girls running were unaccustomed to serving many white tourists. I think they were surprised that I could not only eat Malay food but that I cleaned my plate. We arrived back to Bentong in mid-afternoon. I had only two working days until the weekend. My relaxed post-beach holiday state made those two days seem like nothing.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Santa Singh

One of my good friends here in Bentong died last month. He and his wife, Anthea, were some of the first friends I made. I met them almost accidentally in a coffee shop the first week I was in Bentong. They invited me along to their Sunday evening Scrabble game at Ted Miles' house, another friend. I have been playing Scrabble almost every Sunday ever since. Santa almost always got both v's and at some point in the game would have an excessive amount of vowels. Santa was a very kind man. He was a peacemaker who smoothed out other's rough edges or bridged gaps of misunderstanding. Ted, Anthea and I still play Scrabble every Sunday. I'll remember Santa whenever we sit down together, especially whenever I draw 2 v's or 3 i's.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Save the Date!

Leo and I have set a date. We are going to get married on the 8th of December at St Joseph's Church in Kuching. For those of you outside Malaysia, that's in Sarawak, East Malaysia. You might know East Malaysia better as Borneo. Malaysia shares Borneo with Indonesia. It has the most interesting architecture of any church I've visited in Malaysia so far. It is also very big. Plenty of space for everyone, please come if it is possible.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Getting Married!

Early on the 1st April, Leo proposed to me. That evening we had gone out to dinner with a friend and then taken her to the airport. When we got back to Leo's apartment, it was very late. I was doing the usual things one does before going to bed, when I turned around and saw Leo kneeling on the floor and holding a ring. Although we had discussed getting married before, he took me by surprise. I, of course, said yes. We are planning to get married in December in Kuching. Kuching is Leo's hometown and the capitol of Sarawak, a state in East Malaysia. We do not have many details yet, but I will let my friends and family know the precise date as soon as possible. I hope that you will be able to come. Kuching is a very multicultural city -- Malays, Chinese and indigenous people all have very vibrant communities there. If it's possible, reserve a few days just to see the area. I know not all of you have met Leo so I'm attaching a picture of us.

Monday, March 12, 2007