Month: February 2013

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Food

I have decided that an entire post should be dedicated to food. After all, food is a big part of culture, and lets be honest, I love eating.

I couldn’t begin to name all the dishes I have tried on this trip. I can’t say them, let alone spell them. We have eaten mostly Chinese, Indian, some Malaysian, and today, Arabic. I didn’t know Arabic was a kind of food, but since the Lebanese man serving us called it Arabic food, I’m going to go with it. There were a couple of trips to McDonald’s thrown in there, but I like to pretend those didn’t happen.

Chinese food here is nothing like the Chinese food I have eaten in America. I’ve had mostly chicken and rice, and some noodles. My favorite so far was a fried noodle dish from a little stand at a night market. When we first arrived, I had some hesitation about eating at those kinds of places, but after ten days, I’m invincible, or so I like to think.

The Indian food has been delicious also, with different varieties of curry, vegetable dishes, naan, and a couple more kinds of bread that I can’t remember the names of.

The Arabic restaurant today was a feast of rice with several different sauces, lamb, chicken, hummus, olives, and fruit juices. It was probably one of my favorite meals since we’ve been here.

Sarah and I keep telling each other, “We should make this food at home. It can’t be that hard.” We find it amusing, anyway.

Penang

A couple of our days were spent in Penang, about five hours north of Charles and Jo’s house. The drive was breathtaking, with mountains, jungles, and even some elephants on the side of the freeway.

When we reached our hotel in Penang, it was clear we were staying in paradise, or pretty dang close. Our room was on the 7th floor, overlooking three swimming pools, gorgeous palm trees, and ocean as far as the eye could see. We couldn’t get to the beach fast enough.

The water was warm and the sand perfect. I could have stayed at the beach for days, sitting in the sand, letting the water rush up over me, wave after wave.

The second day in Penang was reserved for visiting Charles’ kampong (village) where he had lived while he was in the peace corps in the 60’s. He has many friends there and was invited to attend a Malay wedding.

At this point Josie was in misery, on and off, from her mosquito bites, 45 to be exact. Those mosquitos loved my poor girl. She would be fine one minute and the next be overcome with itching fits, crying out in misery. Her eyes were begging me to make it go away and i wanted with all my might to take those bites for her. It seemed there wasn’t enough medicine in all of Malaysia to keep her comfortable. She felt the most relief when we laid cool, wet washcloths on her bites. Because of all this, we decided I would stay behind with Josie, while everyone else traveled to the village.

Josie and I were able to spend some time in the pool, come face to face with a 1 1/2 foot lizard, and play at the beach. We also managed to get sunburned wearing SPF 50…oops. The rest of our time was spent with her sprawled out, draped in wet cloths.

Everyone came back with great stories of the village and the wonderful people there. I was sad to miss it.

Doctors and friends

I don’t know how many of you keep in touch with the doctor who delivered you, or your childhood pediatrician, but the Hirschman’s do, even if those doctors live on the other side of the world.

We were invited to have lunch at Andy and Sarah’s pediatrician’s house. I would write her name, but have no idea how to spell it. I know it starts with a V, so we’ll go with Dr. V. She is 90 years old, looks like she’s 80, and is sharp as a tack.

We were offered drinks; lemon tea, Coke, or mountain drink. The kids all chose mountain drink, thinking it was Mountain Dew. It was a very sweet caramel flavored drink, definitely not Mountain Dew, but it was tasty.

I sat in amazement listening to Dr. V tell stories of taking care of sick children. She spoke of the importance of love and psychological well-being, as well as tending to their physical needs. I could have listened to her speak for hours.

A huge Indian lunch was served with no less than ten dishes. This was probably my favorite meal since we have been here. I can’t even begin to imagine how long it would take to prepare a meal of that magnitude.

After lunch we were joined by the doctor, who delivered Sarah, and his wife. There were many more stories told, of which I only heard bits and pieces from the other room. But I do know this, all women like talking about childbirth and labor, whether American, Indian, or British. I suppose I could have jumped in with my own stories, but remember how I like to experience childbirth? I decided to sit this one out.

Our evening ended back at Charles and Jo’s house for another very large meal. I feel like I am constantly eating. Maybe that’s because I am. Many of their friends came from all over to visit, a couple of them we have even met before in Seattle.
All of the people we have met here have been very friendly and welcoming.

The market

I looked forward to going to the farmer’s market and experiencing how the locals shop. Not all of us went, just Edmund, Coleman, Judah, Josie, and myself, being led by Charles, of course. There were all the vegetables and fruits that I’m used to seeing, and then some. Probably the most fascinating was all the seafood and meat.

To say the smells were strong would be a serious understatement. There were dead fish, live fish, fish with heads, and some without. At first, the kids were enjoying looking at all the amazing sea creatures, especially the huge squid that were having the ink squeezed and washed out of them. But then there were those whole chickens again, all lined up in a row with their heads hanging over the edge of the tables. Men were chopping up the chickens on a block of wood behind the tables. Chopped to order.

Next was the beef. Every part of the cow you could imagine was displayed for the customers to pick through. Coleman pointed out the cow’s head that seemed to be staring us down from the back of one of the trucks. I think Judah’s head was beginning to spin.

A nice woman was cutting up what looked like some sort of rainbow gelatin dessert. She kindly offered a piece to each of the kids to try. Josie couldn’t refuse the beautiful colors, so she lead each one of them over to give it a try. I didn’t try it myself, but by the looks on their faces, it was not what they had expected.

It was getting warmer, smells were getting stronger, Judah’s stomach was getting weaker. Did I mention the motorcycles driving through the middle of the market? Judah thought he was going to be sick, so it was clear our “hanging with the locals at the market” was over.

Petaling Jaya

While in Petaling Jaya, we did some sight seeing in the city, visited the university where Charles has been working, and have met many friends of Charles and Jo’s. I am amazed at how many people they know from all over the world, and how far people travel to visit them. I’ve had conversations with people from India, Malaysia, and even Colorado. You heard me right. It turns out, Jo’s housemate from the peace corps in Malaysia is now living in my birthplace, Colorado Springs, right down the street from my grandma. Crazy.

We visited the medical clinic where Andy’s sister, Sarah, was born. This is a little clinic wedged in between restaurants and other businesses. After that visit, I have decided that my mother-in-law is one of the bravest women I know. I don’t know what makes a woman, who has given birth in the comfort of a hospital in the United States, be perfectly content delivering in a small local clinic in Malaysia. Then again, I am a woman who likes to have the most modern medicine available to keep me in the least amount of pain possible during labor. And when I don’t have time to receive that modern medicine, I kick and scream and say bad words. Therefore, I have the utmost respect for Jo.
We ate Indian food at a restaurant next to the clinic and drove around more of the city. The day ended the way most days have here; the kids getting drenched, running around outside in the rain. Always a great way to end a day.
*Some of the formatting and photos are a little funky since I’m writing from devices other than my computer. 

Malacca

We drove from Singapore to Petaling Jaya (PJ), with a stop in Malacca, and a few other places. We are here during Chinese New Year, so there are lots of added decorations everywhere we go. Every time we see something red and gold Josie reminds us it’s for Chinese New Year. Traveling around in a 14 passenger van, with no seat belts, going 70mph, can be absolutely terrifying. I choose to sit in the back seat and not look forward. I’d rather not see all the potential accidents. Not a lot of safety laws around these parts.

In Malacca, we walked through Chinatown, did some shopping, and ate chicken rice. I knew this would be an interesting experience when I saw the boiled, whole chickens in a metal bowl, necks hanging over the side, eyes staring up at me. We sat at a table squished amongst the others, the only white people in the whole place, and waited while our chicken was chopped up in the same room. It was served on one big platter along with a plate of balls of rice. Not exactly the chicken fried rice we are used to, but delicious, none the less.

Walking through the streets of Chinatown, we did some more shopping and dodging cars and motorcycles. We had lunch at some friend’s of Charles and Jo’s. The kids played soccer, ran around in their yard and got eaten by mosquitos.

Charles and Jo’s house is lovely and spacious. They have a great set up for us here and I think one of the kids’ favorite things to do is run around outside in the afternoon downpour and finding little geckos.

Singapore

After a surprisingly good night’s sleep, we woke up to an impressive breakfast spread served up at the YMCA hostel in Singapore. The food was spread out buffet-style, eggs, hash browns, fruit, cereal, hot dogs, beans, and salad. A variety of options!

We drove around the city for a bit and ended up in little India. Our driver and his friend are both Indian, but one from Malaysia and the other from Singapore. It was nice to have a local guide us through the Indian market, taking us “behind the scenes” where some men had just received a shipment of flowers from India and were making all sorts of beautiful decorations with them.

Lunch was in an open food court. There were many variations of noodles, chicken and rice, fruit juices, oh, and Herbal Crocodile Palm Soup. What??!! Coleman insisted he wanted to try it. No way. Plain rice was about it for him.

Singapore is known to have the world’s largest ferris wheel, called the Singapore Flyer. I’m not sure if it’s still called a ferris wheel when the “car” is all enclosed. Either way, it’s 541 feet high and gives you a view of Singapore and Malaysia as well. Totally amazing.

When it was time for dinner, my body was telling me it was time for bed, but we hung in there, getting more of a driving tour of the city. The architecture is beautiful, with so much color complimenting all the lush, green trees.

Gymnastics in Singapore

I wasn’t kidding

Ready or not, here we come

We’re all getting ready to go on a pretty big trip for mid-winter break, and the following week. We are traveling to Malaysia to visit Andy’s parents who are living there for the school year. We leave on Saturday and here’s the thing; everyone keeps asking me if I’m all ready to go. If by all ready they mean all clothes and items being laid out neatly in suitcases, then no. If they mean ready to get the heck out of this cold, rainy, dreary weather, then yes. I’ve never been more ready.

But honestly, we’re two days out and I feel like I should be freaking out right now. (Charles and Jo, if you are reading this, don’t worry about us. We’ll be good and ready. And if we forget anything, we can just make a quick trip to Target, right?)

I really have been checking off tasks to prepare. Promise.

Emailed teachers to get missing work for the kids.

Told neighbors we’ll be gone for two weeks, so send us an email if someone is loading our stuff into a big truck.

Returned library books.

Emailed coach/art teacher/piano teacher/dance instructor regarding our absence.

Hair cuts.

Registered Josie for kindergarten. (whilst mourning the days when she asked for her poppies)

So, aside from physically placing all the clothes in our suitcases, I think we’re ready.

Mornings

Most of my mornings are spent waking up later than I should, racing into the kids’ rooms saying, “You guys have to get up right now or we’re going to be late. We have to leave in half an hour.” This statement is followed by unintelligible words and moans. Repeat 3 times. I make coffee, throw together some breakfast (that’s on a good day), yell out reminders for PE clothes, violin, and library books.

I always start the car 10 minutes before we have to leave because I can’t stand getting into a cold car. It’s just one more thing to make me crabby. This gives me enough time to run inside, pour more coffee, bark out a few more reminders before we all climb in the van.

I shouldn’t really say all because the order is usually Josie, Coleman and me. Then I sit waiting. Then I get very impatient and let out my own unintelligible words and moans. Judah makes it out of the house which leaves just Charlie. This is the part where I annoy any neighbors who haven’t left for work yet or might be trying to get a little extra sleep, by honking my horn to remind Charlie of my irritation. Eventually he makes his way out, taking his sweet time, and we are off.

Notice I said ‘most of my mornings’, but not all. Yesterday was one
of those mornings where the stars were aligned just right or God just
decided I needed a little extra kindness. I woke up 5 minutes before my
alarm went off. Coleman was already awake and getting out all the
ingredients to make pancakes for everyone. The other three woke up the
first time I asked, instead of having to be yanked out of bed after the
fifth. Coleman served up pancakes for everyone. There were no fights
over syrup, resulting in spilled orange juice. Everyone made it to the
car sans horn honking.

It was just one of those
mornings where you wish there could be a hidden camera documenting the
perfection that you know will most likely last no more than 10-12
minutes. I felt good about it. I felt good about life in general. I was
happy. All was right with the world…until I spilled my piping hot
coffee all over my hand while getting into the car. Re-enter
unintelligible words and moans.

You win some, you lose some.

This is what I feel like on a beautiful morning when all is going right. Let’s say 5% of mornings (that’s optimistic)

This is how I look the other 95% of mornings.
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