Friday, December 28, 2007

Christmas Day 2007

The table laid out with our Christmas feast! (That's John's little head in the background).

Most of the gang gathered in the living room... they are on the 11th floor and have an awesome view!

Anne's friend Sheila was visiting (they were friends at university) so we got some pictures of just the girls. Sheila -left, Anne - right, Me - back.
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The End is Near

We can hardly believe that the end of 2007 is upon us! I really need to think about posting more than twice a month because we take too many pictures and see too many things to write about in between. We hope everyone enjoyed their Christmas festivities and we're happy to post some pics of our celebrations online for you. We were actually pleasantly surprised with John on Christmas day... being not quite 2 years old we assumed there would be some screaming and end-of-the-world tantrum throwing. But John really enjoyed opening all his gifts and playing with each thing (even the toothbrush) so it was a tear-free morning. Actually, our whole week was quite relaxing and lazy.

We spent Christmas Eve at a friend's house (Mark & Tracy Friend) helping make an amazing seafood dinner with three kinds of shrimp, hush puppies, flounder, sushi, pasta with red or fresh mushroom sauces... more food than I can even remember. We all agreed the best part was helping to prepare everything (and of course the eating, that goes without saying) and thankfully they have kids who could entertain John while we busied ourselves in the kitchen. There are plenty of pics in the web album of the festivities.

Christmas day we enjoyed a visit with Michael's family on the web-cam and lots of lazing about doing nothing in the morning. After John got up from his nap we headed over to another friend's house, Anne & Tiny (he's our branch pres.) for yet another feast! Unfortunately I was neglectful in my picture-taking duties on that day, so we don't have any from their home! But I will get Anne to email me a few and I'll post them as soon as I can get them. This was an awesome traditional feast with ham, turkey, mashed potatoes, rolls, veggies, sweet potatoes... all the comforts of home. Anne is from the Philippines but her husband is American so she is used to cooking traditional American fare, especially on the holidays, for her husband. They had invited quite a few people from the branch and we realized that between the 10 or so people attending there were 6 nationalities represented: American, Philippino, Malaysian, Chinese, Nigerian, and Egyptian. Quite a diverse group! We had a lot of fun just relaxing and talking, and ended the evening (perfectly, in Michael's opinion) watching "Napoleon Dynamite" and grazing on the table full of desserts.

OK, OK, so aside from the obvious gluttony of our celebrations (we all ate WAY too much food) our Christmas was really perfect. We weren't overly-bombarded with commercialism that began right after Halloween, we didn't have a lot of pressure to share gifts with every neighbor in our apartment building, we don't even have a lot of seasonal decorations that need attending to... there was simple gift-giving among a few people, there was time spent with friends, there were quiet moments of contemplation to remember the birth of the Savior and read scriptures of the prophecies announcing his coming to the world. Now, I am a sucker for traditions... I love playing in the snow and drinking hot chocolate, I love caroling, leaving cookies on people's doorstep, wrapping presents... the whole ball of wax. But the most palpable thing missing from this year's Christmas was literally the spirit of the season. I've commented about this before, but because this is a Muslim country there is simply a different feeling in the air here. There is just no other way to describe it. And I have really only noticed it lately because there has been something lacking at this time of year that usually I count on as part of tradition. I think that because a vast majority of people in the US are Christian and are celebrating the Christmas season with basic religious principles in mind, it creates a truly tangible feeling that comes from the Holy Ghost. Admittedly, possibly most people include Jesus Christ in their celebrations only momentarily or even superficially, attending mass or some sort of religious ceremony and not making much more effort than that. However, regardless of the amount of time spent or the depth of it invested in spiritual matters, I still believe that most people at one point or another will have their thoughts directed to the Savior of the world at this time of year. And because of that, people truly carry the Spirit with them. On top of that, people are more prone to service than probably any other time of year, which means they are obeying gospel principles taught by Jesus Christ, regardless of whether they recognize it or not, and the Lord is bound to bless them, usually causing an increase of those good feelings, i.e. the Spirit... THAT is the true spirit of Christmas. I think that is why there are so many wonderful memories, so many songs written, such a big deal made out of this particular season, because we all love that feeling we get. Truly, Jesus Christ is
"the light [that] shineth in the darkness...the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world" (John 1:5, 10).

We really wish you all the best at the end of this year and hope that the Spirit of the Lord stays with you throughout the coming year as well. We could probably all use more of those good feelings during more months than just December.
With love from the Malaysian Weists...

erin, mike, john & baby
Dec 2007

Saturday, December 15, 2007

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...

Dec 2007... so far

So it is already the middle of December and we can hardly keep track of where the time is going! We're measuring time mostly based on how soon the baby is coming and it seems like it's bearing down on us like a freight train at the moment. We have been keeping busy by getting ready for Christmas, getting involved in our branch, getting ready for baby... it still feels strange to not have the usual accompaniments to the season (snow, eggnog, a piano to play Christmas carols...) but we have been pleasantly surprised with the apparent celebration of Christmas here! There are Christmas trees in all the shops, they play American-style carols over the PA systems, (it was hilarious walking down the aisles last time we were shopping, singing along to "Santa Baby"), and there are twinkling lights all over downtown. The traffic is even reminiscent of home during ridiculous jams from holiday shoppers... I was even coming home last night from a Visiting Teaching dinner at 11:30pm and sat in traffic for almost 20 minutes because the roads were jammed! (That's something we had to adjust to here-- the late schedule... people eat dinner after 8 or 9 and then shop afterward. Some of the streets look like the middle of the day with people thronging on the sidewalk... seriously, who buys luggage at 11:00 at night? Apparently Malaysians do.)

But Michael & I agree that by FAR the best Christmas moment we've had here was on December 1st, we went to do our usual grocery shopping and about DIED when we walked in the store... there, in the check-out lines, each cashier was wearing a jauntily-placed traditional fir-trimmed Santa hat... which would have been great in itself, but the icing on the cake was seeing the young girls wearing their headscarves underneath the santa hats!!! Seriously. I've never kicked myself so hard for not having a camera, although it may have seemed slightly offensive to take their picture. We were so disappointed when we went the next time, armed with camera, the hats were nowhere in sight. It was just such a hilarious juxtaposition that I will never forget that image as long as I live. So, we hope the rest of you are having memorable Christmas experiences. Sometimes we really do miss the snow, so go play in it a little for us.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

It's December already!!!

Time has seen to fly by here and we can hardly believe that the end of the year is so close! We had a great November with some fun activities, although they were slightly curtailed by Erin's attempt at novel writing. Thankfully it is December and she can take a breath to begin to enjoy the Christmas season! But first we'll recount you with some short tales of our Thanksgiving adventures.

On Thanksgiving Day we decided to treat ourselves to a very non-traditional feast (really, when will we get the chance again?) and we went out for lunch at an Indian place our friends had raved about. It's called Mumbai Grill and it really was excellent - we can hardly wait to go back! We feasted on 3 kinds of naan bread (butter, garlic & cheese), John enjoyed eating mound after mound of rice with his hands, Michael ordered Butter Chicken Tikki Masala, and Erin had chicken with a thick cashewnut paste.

And of course we had to get a couple of mango lassi to drink! Woo! It was a serious Thanksgiving dinner. I, for one, enjoyed not having to cook anything, just enjoy time with my boys (and I'm sure baby-girl enjoyed it in my tummy), John loves it anytime we can get out and he can show off for other people, and Michael wanted something exotic and different, so we all had a really great time.

The weekend after Thanksgiving we went to a REAL dinner with other Americans at our church and seriously pigged out on turkey, ham (real ham in a Muslim country is a rare treat and we were embarrassingly thrilled about it), sweet potatoes, salads, rolls, pumpkin pie, the works! We don't know how people got half of the stuff, but most of them work for the American Embassy here so they can probably get things shipped that we can't.

John hardly ate a thing... he was just so excited to be around a gaggle of screaming kids. This is a pic of him with his favorite friend Zach. He's the only boy at church close to his age (they're about 6 months apart).

I think he got tired of it eventually, though. At one point I went to check on him (the apartment of the family that hosted the dinner was HUGE and I had to wander a bit to find him) and eventually I walked past a darkened bathroom and started to walk away and I heard him whimpering for me in there. He had apparently wanted to play hide-and-seek but no one knew it. I have absolutely no idea how long he had been waiting in there, poor thing. Sometimes it's so hard being a kid when you can't talk yet.

All right, that's probably enough adventures for one day. Although it is probably worth mentioning about the HINDRAF (Hindu Rights Action Force) rally that went on a few weeks ago. Consisting mostly of Indians that gathered, some media outlets reported as many as 10,000 supporters came, hoping to deliver a petition to the British Embassy on a Sunday afternoon. The Malaysian government was not happy about their plans and had vehemently forbidden them from gathering, suggesting something about inciting racial tension. People gathered anyway and the riot police were called in, eventually using chemical-laced water hoses and tear gas to drive the rally away. Honestly, we were hardly aware of the goings-on, except for the fact that our apartment (and our church) are located about a mile away from the British Embassy. The street where it is located was entirely blocked off and anyone (especially Indian) attempting to enter it was immediately arrested. Wisely, our church leaders decided to cancel meetings that day and instead encouraged us to worship in our homes. Not the least of their concerns, I'm sure, was the fact that we have quite a few Indians in our congregation who would have had considerable trouble just getting to church, regardless of whether or not they were participants in the rally. As we watched and read about some of these things unfolding, we were reminded how grateful we are for the country where we were born. There are many rights, responsibilities and blessings that we often took for granted in the United States and we recognize more and more that it really is a promised land. Just another thing to add to our growing list of things to be thankful for.
As always, click on the picture below for our family photos. Once again, they're mostly of John... it's a good thing we're having another kid soon because we need someone else to liven up our photo albums.
Nov 2007

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Late October Pics

Nanowrimo has completely taken over my life this month, and Michael has been extremely supportive in helping with housework and taking care of John (well, he's always like that, but this month it's more apparent) so that I can make a mad scrambling dash to the finish as we near the end of the month. I'm something like a ridiculous 8,000 words behind right now, but I wanted to relax and update the blog instead of stressing about writing, so here we go about some of the cool things we did this month. (Granted, they are few and far between because I've mostly been writing.)

One pretty cool thing that comes to mind was a recent visit we made to the Cultural Craft Complex on Jalan Conlay, near KLCC. We posted pictures of it on the first visit we made a while ago and we wanted to go back to see our friend Fauziah who was making us some batik Christmas cards. We took a taxi to the complex and when our driver pulled in, there were guards standing in the road who wouldn't allow him to pull up to the front of the building. We thought that was odd, knowing there hadn't been a problem before, but noticed several buses standing by and assumed they needed the room to accommodate some large groups. The taxi pulled off to a side driveway and we went over to see Fauziah, letting John run around for a while. Before leaving, we decided to step into the main gift shop, something we hadn't done the first time around. There were still a few odd things we noticed, like that fact that there were a few members of the press wandering around with badges, and that there was a small group surrounding the front entrance playing instruments. Not giving it much thought, I left Michael in the gift shop to wander around while I found a bathroom where I could change John's diaper. When we came back, Michael grinned at me, saying

"I figured out the reason for all the security, and why they wouldn't let us pull in the front." I was confused because I really hadn't given it much thought, but he quickly explained,
"Uh, the Prime Minister is here."
Blank stare from me. "What? What do you mean?" Pregnancy makes me sort of slow.
"I mean the Prime Minister is here. Of Malaysia. He and his wife are right over there."
"Huh?" I still didn't believe him.
Sure enough, glancing in the corner of the store, I saw a small entourage of about 10 people gathered and I only assumed the Prime Minister of Malaysia was one of them because I had absolutely no idea what he looked like. I felt like I was intruding on some sort of private ceremony and wanted to get out of there. Honestly, I was surprised they even let us in the building. I think having John with us makes people think we look harmless.

Anyway, we sort of crept out, thinking we'd go see some other parts of the building, but right behind us came - lo, and behold - the Prime Minister himself with his wife. And their entourage of course. Well, at least now I sort of know what he looks like. After wandering a bit themselves, the PM and his posse left, quickly swept away in several plain, black cars.

The whole place seemed to relax after that and I noticed several large groups of brightly dressed performers swarming toward the buses we had seen at the entrance, chatting noisily as they boarded. Apparently we had missed a great cultural show of some kind, although I'm not sure we would have been allowed in anyway. John could not have possibly cared less. He found a small pond full of goldfish and he happily busied himself pointing at them making fish faces and exclaiming about the bubbles they were making. So that was our big experience that day. We went out to buy Christmas cards and ran into Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. Go figure. Oh, and as is standard fare, we didn't have our camera with us.

OK, honestly, that's the only exciting thing I can remember to write about now. Pregnant Erin needs to remember to write things down quickly after they happen otherwise they are lost to oblivion - or else I have to rely on Michael's memory, which is just as bad as mine. Below, I've posted a link for some Halloween pictures we managed to take. On Halloween day John still hadn't recovered from the cold he got while we were in Thailand and he had developed a pretty nasty chest cough, so we didn't want to take him out. Which was really too bad because one of our friends was having a trunk-or-treat at their apartment complex (they live in a large American ex-pat community) and a bunch of kids from church were going. But John had to miss out (good thing he's too young to care) and we stayed home making cupcakes and eating frosting instead. His pathetic "costume" consists of a sheriff badge I made him that says "Woody" and a plastic gun we got from friends at church. I love the fact that he's only 21 months and was totally enamored with his sheriff star. Kids are so easy to please.

Oh, that reminds me of another funny thing to report... a couple of weeks ago we were at the swimming pool of our apartment and we noticed an ENORMOUS rat climbing around in the bushes next to the pool area. For such a large sucker he sure could move fast, skittering around like... well, vermin. We finally scared him away, but I refused to go push the button to start the bubbles in the "jacuzzi" (just a small section of the pool that happens to have jet streams) because it sits on the wall where the rat was slinking around. John just got really excited, pointing and shouting about the mouse. Now whenever we go back to the pool, he looks over there, saying "mouw! mouw!" because he wants to see the adorable little rat again. Ick. (That was also the same day I saw a young girl, maybe 14 or 15 years old, in a full-body swimsuit covering all of her arms and legs, and some sort of waterproof veil on her head. At least she didn't have a face-covering... I'm sure that would have posed just a small drowning threat, don't you? Just when we think we've seen it all...)

Well, even though it's Thanksgiving, we hope you had a good Halloween. I'll try to be more on top of things once November is over. (And we'll post some pics of BOTH of our Thanksgiving dinners... one of them traditional, one not so much.) Being away from home will actually relieve a ton of stress that I normally feel after Thanksgiving once it is officially the Christmas holiday and we might actually just get to enjoy the spirit of the season! What a novel idea. Happy turkeying everyone!
Halloween (& more)

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Thailand Trip

This picture wasn't actually taken in Thailand... it's a flowering bush outside the train station across the street from our house. We just think the flowers are cool, so we had to put the picture somewhere. As usual, most of our pictures in Thailand are of John, so we are sorry to those of you who actually wanted to see pictures of the country but you'll just have to visit yourselves if you want a better glimpse. And we highly recommend it, too. Thailand is by far our favorite thing we've seen since we've been here. Both of us remarked, on our first day there, that for the first time in a while we actually felt like we were in ASIA. Somehow things feel different in Malaysia... maybe just because we're growing accustomed to the surroundings here, but really it felt like more than that. The people, the architecture, even the temperature was more of what I'd expected when we first moved here. Especially the people-- I can't remember the last time we were surrounded by so many warm, accepting, friendly people. Of course, it's a tourist town (Phuket) so they usually wanted to sell us something, but you could see it in their eyes and in their smiles that they were so open and wanting to help.
On our drive in from the airport, our taxi driver wasn't exactly sure where our hotel was located, so he apologized profusely and asked if he could stop and get directions from his friend, who was a travel agent. She came out and chatted with us, suggesting things we might like to do when traveling with an infant, and when our driver came back he was still apologetic (even though he spoke almost NO English) and brought us a bag of goodies to make up for the wait. They were a warm pancake-like treat, some with a sort of custard-ish filling, some with a combination of custard and sweet corn. (Sweet corn is a very popular treat over here... they have stalls selling things like coffee, donuts, and sweet corn-- just serve it up hot in a cup!) We though they were delicious and happily munched on them for the duration of the drive.
In Phuket, we stayed near Patong Beach, which is the largest and most popular spot, but thankfully we visited right at the end of the off-season, so there really weren't a ton of people there. Our hotel definitely wasn't busy, and we thought it was sort of a little tropical paradise.

The hotel staff certainly seemed to enjoy our visit and we couldn't get past the lobby without one of them reaching out to grab John and show him off to everyone else. It was fun to watch him with them, although admittedly mom got a little annoyed at mealtimes when we were trying to get him to eat he had 4 or 5 hovering waitresses as an audience. It was only frustrating because John got a cold the last 2 days there and we couldn't get him to eat anything. He just wanted to share his bread (or whatever he was holding) with the entourage standing around, and they were more than happy to take it from him, laughing at the cute American boy. sigh. We really did like our place, though, and would recommend it to anyone. Here is the website-- it was called Hyton Leelavadee.

Admittedly, we understood why it was still considered the low-season for tourists when we how bad the rain was. The pool pictures were taken one afternoon when I was sitting in a beach chair, relaxing under an umbrella, reading The Bourne Identity, while John & Michael splashed around the pool. Without warning, someone began pouring giant buckets of water over my umbrella... at least that's what I thought until I realized that it had started raining. Big, fat, warm drops drenched everything in sight. Thankfully the umbrella was large enough to keep most of me dry while I took pictures of John & Michael, playing in the pool, in the rain. John just thought it was cool, pointing at where the drops were landing in the water and saying "bubbles!" The locals there seemed used to it. We learned you just had to watch the shop keepers-- they could tell when it was going to rain and started pulling in their merchandise, or covering it with plastic. That wasn't nearly as educational, however, as DRIVING with the taxi or tuk-tuk drivers in the rain. (A tuk-tuk is sort of a flat-bed truck with the back covered by a roof and plastic down the sides where people can sit. You negotiate with the drivers how much you'll pay for a ride and hop right in the back. John thought they were pretty cool, and by the end could recognize them, even learning to enunciate "tuk-tuk" really well.) But apparently they are used to driving in the rain because they would TEAR along roads at break-neck speeds with a torrential downpour virtually covering their windshield. It about gave me a heart-attack, but I guess that's what seat belts were invented for, right?
OK, we'll close with a list of our favorite things about Phuket, although the list really could be a lot longer. These were just the things of note that will stand out on our trip.
  • fresh pineapple is heavenly... and fresh pineapple JUICE is nectar of the gods
  • the 2 things john liked most about our hotel: the resident cat and the hotel safe in the room. we didn't even need to bring toys.
  • michael & i learned that john talks in his sleep. i've never heard anything more cute in my life.
  • there are TONS of european tourists in phuket. tons. they catered to them in many ways, including crepe stands, reminiscent of several western european countries. they offered the traditional fare (nutella, banana, lemon & sugar... mmmm... remember paris, jared?) but also threw in some local variations, including pineapple & coconut, which i tried. the guy just hacked open a fresh pineapple and sliced it right off. can you just imagine?
  • the beach is always more fun when you have a bucket and NO shovel to make sandcastles because your hands get much dirtier. this was john's first time at the beach EVER and he had a blast!
OK, the picture link below shows the rest of our trip, mostly spent at the beach. Seriously, plan a trip right now. Go to Thailand. You will NOT regret it.
Thailand Trip


The month of November is upon us, which is why we will be slightly dormant for the next 30 days... it's NANOWRIMO! That stands for National Novel Writing Month, although it really has grown all over the world, so it should be INTER-National... but basically the point is to write 50,000 words (signifying the length of a novel) in 30 days, from 1-30 November. If any of you ever had the urge to pen the great American novel in 30 days, here's your chance to get started! Their site is HERE and that is where I'll be for the majority of the next month. Most of the things I write are gobbeldy-gook, but it's a good chance to put yourself under pressure and maintain a schedule for writing scenes, characters, settings, dialogue, etc. My cousin Heather is trying this year, so come join the fun!
(Oh, we'll also be posting pics & info. soon of our recent trip to Phuket, Thailand so definitely stay tuned for those. I think Thailand is a place that EVERYONE should visit at least once in their lifetime... we hope that for us it's more than just once! We really want to plan at least one return trip before our time in Malaysia is over. If anyone is looking for a vacation spot, we highly recommend it!!!)

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Things of note... of late

So we just finished the whirlwind weekend of "Hari Raya Aidilfitri" (commonly referred to here as just "Hari Raya") which basically means "Fasting Day of Celebration"-- it is a 3-day celebration that marks the end of the Ramadan month and the end of the daily fasting. (For more cool Hari Raya pics, click here).From what I can gather, it seems to be a time to celebrate the past month which has been a time of forgiveness, penitance, self-control, renewing friendships, and other forms of practiced piety. This holiday is HUGE here, a thing we were reminded when we went on a date Saturday night and it took us an HOUR to find a taxi. Either everyone was out, using the taxi services, or else all the taxi drivers had taken the night off. Thankfully we found a Hindu taxi driver who was not celebrating, although he took advantage of the situation and charged us about $10 for a ride that should have cost $4 or $5. That's OK, we got to spend a night out on the town and it was great. It actually wasn't as busy as we had expected, probably because most people were home feasting with their families. We had our first Malaysian movie theater experience watching "Bourne Ultimatum" (it was excellent) and noticed a few things about our time there.

First: no one has taught the theater owners about the ability to exploit your patrons by serving buckets of ridiculously salty foods so they are forced to buy gallon-sized drinks. Instead, we ordered popcorn and were suprised to find that not only was the largest size about a pint & a half, but they also didn't serve buttered popcorn--only caramel. It wasn't the annoying, hard-as-a-rock, can't-unglue-your-teeth kind so we actually enjoyed it.

Second: we understand that movies are extremely popular here, but shows sell out so quickly because the size of the theaters are about 2/3 the size of a regular theater in the States. It was a nice, cozy atmosphere, and what made it more so was the fact that the seats didn't go all the way to the front of the theater... the rows started a respectable 7-8 meters or so away from the base of the screen. Imagine that.

Third: you can tell what kind of crowd the theaters cater to based on the subtitles for the movies. Obviously it's an American movie, so it was in English, but then there were 2 sets of subtitles: Bahasa & Chinese (not sure if they were Mandarin or Cantonese). When the actors were speaking Russian or something, and it was translated to English, you sort of had to hunt through the THREE sets of subtitles to find your language. It was pretty amusing, actually.

So after our taxi mis-adventures of the other evening, we will probably opt to stay in for a while. Although we got season tickets for the Symphony, held at the Petronas Towers, and the first show is this Saturday, so we are excited about getting some culture. Of course, we're going with friends from church and THEY have a car, so we won't have the same transport issues... which makes the night out all the more appealing.

Before signing off, I had to write about 3 cool things from today that REALLY made us wish we'd had our camera on us.
1- While at the grocery store, we saw a sign directly above the butcher shop that said they had camel meat available. I know I learned at some point that camel's hump was a delicacy, but I'm not sure I care to find out for sure.
2- Also at the market today, I noticed that the local McDonald's vendor that is just a little booth selling only their ice cream (cones, sundaes, etc.) was advertising a new feature: they were proud to announce the "Green Bean flavored McFlurry or Sundae"... seriously. Green bean. Michael though it was a mis-translation but I don't think so. The ice cream in the picture was green with large cut-up-bean-looking chunks dotting the top. Apparently that's a delicacy, too. We did find out it's a special "limited edition" flavor, just for the celebration of Hari Raya.
(managed to find a picture online at

3- so you don't think we're suffering food-wise... we are often trying new fruits here because they're so fun-looking and exotic-sounding. This week we had starfruit and it was actually really cool. It's sort of bitter, sort of sweet, really juicy... Michael said it tastes like Pixie Stix. Sure, why not. I should have taken a picture of it, but we already ate it, so here is one I found on the net. It's even more fun because when you slice it up, the slices are in star shapes!

(one final note: one thing michael & i will be MOST thankful for in a few days is the end of the most noticeable form of celebration for hari raya: the lighting of fireworks. lots of them. ALL the time. apparently they've been banned, but people smuggle them in on the black market and don't make a pretense of hiding them because they've been going off non-stop for almost 2 weeks... sometimes during the day! we about had it last week when, at the beginning of hari raya we were awoken by 3 large rapid-fire fireworks bursts right outside our window at 4:30AM!!! apparently people REALLY love this holiday. i can handle a day or 2, maybe even a whole weekend, of fireworks, but when they come randomly and intermittently over the course of 2 weeks, and are expected to last another week at LEAST, i am ready to strangle the next kid i see with a lighter!)

Monday, October 08, 2007

Happy Fall, everyone! It's 88º today!

I still can't get over the fact that it's actually autumn. Is it really possible there is snow in other places? Hard to imagine when it is perpetually around 90 degrees + the added bonus of humidity. Thank goodness our apartment has a swimming pool-- we usually head down there a couple times a week. One mention of "swimming" or "pool" and john is off like a shot, yanking on the front door handle, shouting "poo! poo!" at the top of his lungs. (He hasn't quite figured out the "l" sound on that word.) Everything feels great here until about 11:30am or so, when simply stepping outside can equal dripping in a pool of your own sweat. Nice.
Thankfully, the taxis & trains are pretty well air-conditioned... most of the time. Every once in a while we'll get in a taxi that is clearly not driven by a well-groomed driver, nor is he concerned about the condition of his vehicle. On the way to church one Sunday, I stuck my hand on a large, conspicuous wet spot on the right side of the back seat (thankfully I didn't sit right on it) and thus spent the rest of the ride jammed right next to Michael & John on the left side so I could avoid the affected area. These types of taxis also usually smell faintly like a foul mixture of cigarette smoke & urine. Yech. But those instances are the rarity and we are grateful to usually travel in relative comfort.
Mostly John

Honestly, when it is this hot, I don't know how all of these women wear the veils they do. A lot of them are silky scarf-like material that seems thin enough that it wouldn't be terribly oppressive in the heat... but some of them are dark, coarse, linen material, and with it wrapped around their head & neck like that with really no airways for it to breathe makes me start to sweat just looking at them. And that's just women wearing the veils... don't even get me started on the burqa. A full-bodied covering? That's just cruel. I guess you get used to it when you live in this type of climate... and though the dominant religion on this country is Islam, there are scores of Chinese and other foreigners who are Christian, Buddhist, etc. This week I noticed that at one point, standing in a train car, there were about 13 women (actually, mostly young girls) wearing veils & 5 (including me) without. Later that same day I only saw 4 girls with veils in the train and about 9 without. Kuala Lumpur seems to be quite a nicely diverse place-- although I'm sure it changes dramatically when you go out into other, more remote parts of the country. I know at our own church, since we arrived about 2 1/2months ago, there has been a baptism every week, except the last one, so the missionaries are definitely staying busy here. Yay missionaries!!! :)
OK, I know I said that I was mostly just finding things that I'm grateful for since we've lived here, but having said that I must make one comment: I've definitely found the down-side to air-drying your laundry as opposed to using an electric dryer. When there are clothes on it, our drying rack sits in the living room, right outside of the kitchen... where I make food... after washing all our bathroom towels the other day, we now have wonderfully clean, white towels... that smell like hamburger. Nice. Unfortunately, in a small apartment, there aren't a lot of other places to put the drying clothes where they won't be saturated with the smells of our dinner.
Finally, I had to include our harrowing adventure from this morning. All of the individual rooms in the apartment have locks on them (the bedrooms, bathrooms, etc.) and I have keys on my keyring that open half of them doors, and Michael has keys that open the other half. Well, somehow Michael's door to his study had the lock-button pushed down and John ran in there when he got up (he was trying to evade his father who was attempting to change his diaper) and he shut the door behind him, locking himself in the room in the process. The funny part is that Michael keeps his keys in his study, and those were the ones that opened that particular door. So there we were, crouched around the door, trying to get John to turn the knob (he hasn't figured out how to do that just yet-- he can only jiggle it back & forth) while he's stuck in there with the keys. We finally said a little prayer, asking that John stay safe in there, since we couldn't get to him, and to help us figure out how to get him out. Thankfully, we have a very smart little boy who is also a very good little helper and likes to follow instructions. While Michael was trying to jimmy the lock, I crouched down and gave John directions while watching his reflection on the wood floor, so I could sort of see what he was doing. It went something like this: "John, where's daddy's keys? do you see daddy's keys? they're on the desk. can you bring momma the keys? where are they? do you see them? on the desk, yeah. can you climb on daddy's chair? climb on daddy's chair, john... no not that chair, daddy's chair. go climb on daddy's chair. good boy. do you see the keys? where's daddy's keys? can you get the keys?" (i hear jingling of keys - yay!) "good job pumpkin! you got the keys! now can you bring them to momma? bring momma the keys. yes, climb down from daddy's chair and bring momma the keys." (pitter-patter of feet and jingling of keys toward the door - we're almost there!) "ok, no give the keys to momma" (i try pushing my fingers under the door but the gap is too small... instead i hear knock-knock from the other side, which is what john does when he wants his dad to open his study door) "no, pumpkin put the keys under the door" (have i even taught him that preposition? under? i don't think so. michael goes to get a piece of paper to slide under the door) "john, do you see the paper?" (he tries to grab it) "no, john put the keys on the paper. see the paper? put the keys on the paper. no, don't throw the keys on the floor, put them on the paper..." phew! finally he got them on the paper, we slide the paper out with the keys on them-- victory!

what an interesting way to spend the first 25 minutes of your day. so, for those of you without kids, that is the way you spend talking ALL day to a 19 month old baby. no wonder i am in heaven when we can get out and do things with ADULT friends. :)
Central Market

Well, since this has turned into a ridiculously long entry, I'll close now and you can click on the picture links to hear more about the actual goings-on around KL, as opposed to just the things going on in our house. there are some cool pics and explanations of the Central Market, which is my new favorite place to buy local goods and we will definitely be going back there, so stay tuned for more pictures!

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Just doing our small part...

In support of international bloggers everywhere trying to increase awareness about the political plight of residents in Myanmar, today we're just posting the banner. It's not much, but it's a small thing we can do for someone else struggling against oppression. Unfortunately, this is only one case among thousands in the world where people are denied freedoms by those with greater power. Maybe today is a day to be thankful for what we've been given... and to try giving a little back!

Sunday, September 30, 2007

OK, so this has nothing to do with our time in Asia, but my cousin Heather (see blog link on the right, under Heather & Paul) has a really fun blog that I love checking out regularly (and occasionally stealing ideas from!) so if you need a fun break from work or whatever it is you're doing at the moment, take a minute to create some cool pseudonyms for yourself. Personally, I think my Rockstar name & my Stripper name would be better off if they switched places.

1. YOUR ROCK STAR NAME: (first pet & current car):
Boots Pied (that's French for "feet")

2.YOUR GANGSTA NAME: (fave ice cream flavor, favorite cookie):
Chunky Monkey Chocolate Chip

3. YOUR “FLY Guy/Girl” NAME: (first initial of first name, first three letters of your last name):

4. YOUR DETECTIVE NAME: (favorite color, favorite animal):
Blue Crab (my favorite animal is whatever john has learned to imitate that week)

5. YOUR SOAP OPERA NAME: (middle name, city where you were born):
Snow Murray

6. YOUR STAR WARS NAME: (the first 3 letters of your last name, first 2 letters of your first):

7. SUPERHERO NAME: (”The” + 2nd favorite color, favorite drink):
The Amber Ribena

8. NASCAR NAME: (the first names of your grandfathers):
Edward Howard

9. STRIPPER NAME: (the name of your favorite perfume/cologne/scent, favorite candy):
Lemongrass Kit Kat

10. WITNESS PROTECTION NAME: (mother’s & father’s middle names):
Ann Miller

11. TV WEATHER ANCHOR NAME: (Your 5th grade teacher’s last name, a major city that starts with the same letter):
Howell Hanoi

12. SPY NAME: (your favorite season/holiday, flower):
Christmas Lily

13. CARTOON NAME: (favorite fruit, article of clothing you’re wearing right now + “ie” or “y”):
Strawberry Stretchy-Pantsy
(this is my favorite... it sounds like Sponge Bob's crazy cousin, or something)

14. HIPPY NAME: (What you ate for breakfast, your favorite tree):
Quaker Oat Pine

15. YOUR ROCKSTAR TOUR NAME: (”The” + Your fave hobby/craft, fave weather element + “Tour”):
The Writing Snow Tour

(my cousin & i had the same name for that one)
(if i can get michael to sit still for long enough i'll figure out his as well)

Feel free to leave comments on some of your own interesting names!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Cultural Edification

Beginning of September

I'm always on the lookout for interesting things to write about on our blog, particularly things that you don't see everyday living other places in the world (except for maybe in Africa, mom & dad). Some interesting news of note lately: there was an article recently commenting on the number of rapes that had been occuring in a certain area, indicating that it was clearly a problem that needed to be dealt with, and seriously suggested the return of the chastity belt to dissuade men from attacking girls in this way. Seriously. And that was front page news of a local paper. (It was in Bahasa, but a church member was telling us what it said). How would you like that to be the solution for crime in your community, hmmm??? The other interesting thing to note about that article is that there was a commentary article immediately below it that sort of tongue-in-cheek suggested that maybe the solution would be for the men to wear the chastity belts-- it was written in a way that obviously intoned that this was a ridiculous idea. Crazy! I mean, why go to the source of the problem when you can put the blame and responsiblity on the victim! Well, I can certainly say that I see things like that on a regular basis that have made me stop thinking about things I miss in the USA and start thanking Heavenly Father for blessing me to be born in a free land.

One other thing that I found this week that seemed interesting... I was looking at a movie times website (Michael & I want to go see Bourne Ultimatum, but it doesn't come out here until Oct. 11) and I noticed a guide showing visitors to the site how the ratings work... I think I copied them verbatim, so here is what they say:

U: appropriate for general viewing of all ages
18SG: for 18+ with non-excessive violent/horrifying scenes
18SX: for 18+ with non-excessive sex scenes
18PA: for 18+ with political/religious/counter-culture elements
18PL: for 18+ with combination of two or more elements

OK, aside from the obvious commentary on the subjugation of freedom of expression (you have to be over 18 to view counter-culture elements???) the more interesting thing was that as I scrolled down over the movies currently out in theaters, I was shocked to see that a VAST majority of those movies were thriller or horror type shows and were given a "U" rating! I clicked on the links for some of these movies and they look like your regular B-grade thrillers that would never even make it to the big screen in the US but go straight to DVD. (For example: "Dead Silence - English movie - A mad ventriloquist was buried with her dolls, but over the decades the dolls reapppear to seek revenge - Thriller." Doesn't that sound like a real family flick? Oh, or how about: "Forest of Death - Cantonese film - Mary and Steven work to investigate the truth following the rape/murder case of the Prime Minister's Daughter - Horror.") These are the kind of movies considered appropriate for all ages? And there is some question as to WHY there is so much crime and degenration toward women in this country? Sheesh. Even kids are desensitized to it from the time they can talk! I thought it was also interesting to note, the show "Evan Almighty" (a sort of modern-day Noah's Ark) was given an "18PL". Interesting. I did notice, however, that "Hairspray" (I mean talk about your counter-culture elements) was also given a "U"... I need to do some more research into who gives these ratings and how exactly they are determined... monkeys on a typewriter, maybe?

In the meantime, I hope that gives you some food for thought. Be grateful for the freedoms and general enlightenment you enjoy because there are certainly a lot of people who don't.

Pic explanation: they are building a sort of mini-mart outside our condo and we pass the construction site every time we leave to get a taxi or train. Michael loves walking by this sign and wants to know where we can get one.

(as always, click on the picture at the top for lots more interesting photos in our google slideshow)

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

happy rahmadan

Since Malaysia is a Muslim-dominant country, the celebration of Rahmadan becomes quite a central focus of living for everyone (whether Muslim or not) during the month. Rahmadan is most widely recognized as a time of fasting... observers eat only at night and obstain from food or drink from sun-rise to sun-set. I thought a picture of my favorite place in the supermarket would be appropriate, since it is food-related. This island is right in the middle of the produce section and as you can see contains piles of powdered spices-- Indian spices-- that draw me toward them & make my mouth water like Thanksgiving. There are countless curries, cumin, coriander, dozens of spices I've never even heard of before. If you want something you ask the worker standing at the end and they'll measure and weigh it out for you (I believe the prices listed are per kilogram). I usually make sure to walk by this little oasis, even if I don't need anything near there, just for the pick-me-up.

But back to Rahmadan...
As fervent observers might point out, there is more to this month than just the fasting... it is a time of strong spiritual awareness, of focusing on good deeds, moderation in behavior and thought, etc. I found this interesting tidbit on the web and thought you might be interested:

"Rahmadan is derived from an Arabic word for intense heat, scorched ground, and shortness of rations. It is an opportunity for us to scorch away all our misdeeds, transgressions, and other negative accumulations during the year."

Pretty thought-provoking stuff. So, how has this observance of Rahmadan affected our little Mormon family from Utah? First of all, office hours for our apartment have changed; second, we were planning on visiting the zoo last Saturday evening (where they are usually open until around 11:00pm on the weekends) but they are closing at 5:00pm for the remainder of the month in observance of Rahmadan (I'm assuming that's so people can get home to eat with their families after fasting all day); also, some of our taxi drivers have been slightly more irritable than usual; however, on a more positive note, there seem to be food stalls and buffets at local establishments springing up like weeds... apparently after fasting all day, people are ready to par-tay at night. So, aside from our postponed zoo trip, we can't really complain about "life during Rahamadan."
The pic below is the row of different rices that are available, also at our local supermarket... and remember this isn't even the full gamut... it continues on the other side as well.

(By the way, I want to thank everyone who emailed or posted comments on the site about their own horrific "toilet escapades" in foreign lands, as well as their personal cockroach nightmares. I have never been so utterly horrified in all my life. Thank you.)

Friday, September 14, 2007

Super Cockroach

I sat up in bed last night, thoroughly enjoying my perusal of "Anna Karenina" when I was suddenly disturbed by insect-like buzzing and pinging atop our wardrobe dresser. Initially furrowing my brow at the disturbance, I dismissed the noise as perhaps a large moth and went back to my reading. The next time the flailing sounds came it was in the direction of the door, which lay directly in front of our bed, so I looked up at the wall above the door just in time to see a VERY larg dark-brown object scuttering along the wall until finally falling on the top of the open door. I wiggled squeamishly out of bed and crept closer to get a better look at what I thought was, still, a moth. My first thought, as the creature began to come into focus, was "whoa, that moth seems really round... I can't see the angles of its wings." Hmmm... weird... My subsequent thoughts went something like this:

Those look like feelers on that thing...
...are those FEELERS??
...that couldn't possibly be... that a COCKROACH?????

I found myself silently whimpering these helpless sentiments as I cowered 5 or 6 feet away from the door. The thing that unnerved me about this monster was the realization that it had flown to that position. Eargh.
I began feebly calling Michael, who was working in his office at the end of the hall, most likely wearing headphones as he usually listens to news or podcasts while working and doesn't want to disturb the rest of us.

"Michael," I half-whispered, not wanting to wake John, who was asleep in the internvening room.
Becoming panicked, "Michael, Michael, Michael, Michael!" I hissed out, hoping the repetition and anxiety in my voice would penetrate his headphones. Apparently it worked.
"There is the biggest cockroach I've ever seen in my LIFE!"
(To his puzzled look, I point animatedly) "right there, on the door."
"Whoa," he says in genuine surprise. "That really is huge."

We bantered back and forth a minute, he still standing in the hallway and me still in the bedroom, neither of us daring to venture any closer-- should we capture it in a cup? Try to smash it? Finally, Michael went to the guest bathroom and returned with a large wad of toilet paper, and there I am wincing in the corner saying "are you sure you want to do that??? It FLIES." Of course, he is a very manly husband so he was willing to grab it to save the damsel in distress. He crept, carefully to the door, tiger-like, and darted his hand out to grab the horrible monster. I managed to stifle a scream and turn it into a sort of whimper, but was utterly unable to contain myself when this post-apocalyptic nightmare suddenly leapt from the tissue in which Michael had capture it and began scurrying, no, racing would be a better word, in every direction, trying to evade his captor.

This larger-than-walnut-sized behemoth could most accurately be described as a mixed breed of cockroach, moth, cricket, and possibly small dragon. I am convinced that one of our neighbors is breeding these in an attempt to take over the building-- possibly the world.

So after much scurrying & galloping around the room, attempting to snare the beast, (under the clothes hamper, behind the door, nearly into the wardrobe) Michael snatched it again, this time with a much firmer grasp. I am proud to say that my hero only yelped once, and that was probably because I was squealing and bleating at him, wordlessly flapping & pointing and being absolutely no help at all, accidentally smacking him once with my flailing arms. I'm not proud of my behavior, but there you are.

Well, "Grody, the Super-Cockroach" as I have loathingly named him, was promptly flushed down the toilet at least 5 times, as I kept having visions of getting up in the night to use the toilet (which, in my current condition, I do quite often) and being attacked on my hind-quarters by Grody. Just to be safe, I have continued flushing the toilet every time I happen to walk by, smiling with satisfaction at our brave escapade.

Now, you may think, that because I have moved to Malaysia with my husband, I would be expecting, nay even welcoming, of such experiences, but I can assure you that every measure possible will be taken to prevent this from happening again-- including ferreting out the monster responsible for this awful cockroach-breeding conspiracy and feeding him to his experiment. Unfortunately I was unable to take a picture of Grody before he met his untimely & watery death, but I found a picture on the web that very accurately describes what he looked like to me:

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Finding Our Way

August 2007

We've got some more pics of our adventures in Malaysia. These are mostly from August... September pictures will be forthcoming...
Other exciting news is that we found an OBGYN and I've had to get out my maternity clothes. :) The hospital is literally just down the street (2 minute drive) so we should have no problem getting there. Some of you need to stop worrying that we're living in some hut in the jungle and I'm going to give birth by squatting down in the rice paddies. It's a first-rate hospital with ultrasounds & anasthetics & everything. The only difference is that I'll have to take a taxi when I go into labor... sounds like a movie in the making. :)
If I had the means I would love to document the lives of taxi drivers here. They are so poor, always supporting a family, usually with the wife working as well (like as a nanny for a foreign family like ours.) We are one of the few American families at church who don't employ a nanny, and really that's only because our finances won't allow it right now. The economy of the working class seems to revolve around either housekeeping jobs or taxi driving, so we are happy to contribute to at least half of those workers. Half of the time we want to yell at the taxi drivers because they are such crooks and try to rip us off (well, foreigners = money, so they see us coming a mile away) but then you remember what their lives are like and we try to negotiate instead. The best advice someone gave me here is: "This is Asia-- everything is negotiable." It's really true. Give someone a fair offer, banter around a bit, and you're likely to strike a bargain. We're still learning that art but hopefully we'll get the hang of things before too long. For that to happen we need more experience with the outdoor markets... I'll write more about these later and post some pics we got of Chinatown last weekend. It definitely deserves its own entry.

Friday, August 31, 2007

The Beginning

July 2007

Here are some pics of our preparations and first few weeks in Malaysia. I chose this picture as the album cover to announce (for those that don't know) that Michael & I are expecting another bundle of joy! (Or, if they came out John's age, a bundle of screaming temper tantrums.) We found this out AFTER we decided to come to Malaysia, and Michael thought I would change my mind about coming, but obviously he had forgotten who he married. Having a baby in Malaysia will only add to the adventure!

I also had to paste this picture here because it deserved further explanation. Thankfully we met a nice couple at a wedding in Utah that had traveled in Asia and warned us about these toilets. Most public places have a combination of western toilets with maybe 2 or 3 stalls with the "squatters" as well. So most of the time, there's no problem (although sometimes you have to watch because the toilet paper will be in a big dispenser in the front of the bathroom instead of the individual stalls, so you have to take it in with you, otherwise you're kind of stuck.) However on our first visit to Carrefour (the grocery store closest to our apartment) I was stuck using a squatter. Normally I carry a little travel roll of TP with me, but of course I found myself without it on this occasion. The interesting thing about the squatters in Islamic countries is that they use a hose to clean themselves off after doing their business, instead of paper. Needless to say it ended up being an uncomfortable, wet, and really hilarious experience. I'm kind of proud of myself that I managed to pull it off, but have thankfully only had to do that again one other time. I'm not sure how well it will work in a few months when my belly gets big... (BTW, click on the "mom-to-be" picture at the top to take you to our google web album.)

Map Me.

I found this photo on and thought it was sort of cool because it shows where we live. Well, sort of-- if we lived in a big dirt pit. Obviously it is an old image because everything is still under construction, but our building should basically be where the "C" marker is on the map. (I couldn't get the map to save how I wanted it, so you have to click on "View Larger Map" and zoom in right over where the blue markers sit.) The main street on the right of the image is Jalan Jalatek (jalan means "street") and the tracks right next to it lead to the Setiawangso LRT station, which is the train line we take into the city.

View Larger Map

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Welcome to Malaysia!

We have finally made it! Michael, John & I lived in hotels (3 different ones) for a month looking for an apartment that we could afford and that was close to public transport and that didn't give us the heebie-jeebies. Well, we have definitely found one and have now been here for a week, thoroughly enjoying the freedom of apartment living (as opposed to a hotel) most noticeably because now John has his own bedroom and lots of other rooms to run around in. We also purchased the best investment we've ever made and bought him a $10 tent at Ikea. He sits in there and talks to himself and reads his books... just like mom. :)

Anyway, so I thought I'd share some thoughts with you on life in Kuala Lumpur, for those of you interesting in a glimpse of Southeast Asia. Unfortunately, we only have this tiny snapshot of Kuala Lumpur (KL, for the locals) and I know that the range of climates, cultures, even economies, varies greatly outside of this area. Malaysia is divided into 2 main islands-- the East island and the mainland. KL is on the mainland, and the surrounding areas (including Cyberjaya) are strong corporation bases, thus creating far a more affluent society than on the East island, which is where the farming is done. Those rural areas still contain dangers of tropical diseases because of the poor conditions-- no running water in some places, no proper waste removal, no sanitation education, etc. Quite a different picture than here in KL where the downtown shopping malls have stores like Coach, Mont Blanc, Gucci, Chanel... Of course, even here in this thriving metropolis there live the extremes of society. For example, we live in a security guarded apartment, there are 2 swimming pools (one of which is exclusively for our building), playgrounds for children, air conditioning units and fans in every room. Right outside our windows, if you look out from our balcony, there is a construction crew building 3 or 4 new units. However, if you look down, at the base of these construction sites, you will almost without fail find a series of what look like huts (and that is, in fact, exactly what they are) made of cardboard, corrugated metal siding, any sort of discarded material you might find that will provide shelter, and that is where these construction crews live. They are poor foreigners, mostly from Indonesia, who come here with nothing, find a job doing construction, and live right at their work site. We'll see them out in their skivies in front of large basins of water that they've constructed, taking their bath in the evening. You can see the same sight out on the main roads where they're expanding the highway, or any other sort of building going on. So we have definitely seen both ends of the stick here and are learning more and more how grateful we are for what we have.

That leads me to my next point (although it seems slightly incongruous with what I was just talking about) but this is a segment I like to call "Things I Always Took For Granted" and it basically lists things that we had in the States that we don't have here. That doesn't necessarily mean that other people don't have them here... just that WE don't have them. It might make you stop and think how grateful you are for things that you never thought about. For example, I bet you think hot water is a pretty natural thing. Well, apparently not because we only have it in one room in our apartment (for our shower, thankfully) and that is only because someone drilled into the wall, connected the wires to a heating unit so that water flows through it and is heated before it makes it out the shower head. And for that I am eternally grateful, but I never realized how obnoxious it would be to wash dishes with cold water. Point number 2 of things I took for granted is an oven. This place came complete with a refrigerator and a propane stovetop with 2 burners in the kitchen. Thankfully we were able to find a microwave/convection oven/grill at our local Carrefour (we've decided it's like the Food4Less of KL) for about $300. Which means I have about 1 square foot of space in which to heat, toast, grill, or bake food. Be thankful for your modern kitchen appliances! Luckily I only have to cook for 2 people (and one little person) otherwise I don't think we could manage it. Point number 3 is a drier. I'm sure many of you have done without one at some point or another, but in a humid climate it is extremely difficult to get things to dry on a hanging rack in less than 4 or 5 hours, which is all the time I have if I'm washing John's bedding and need to get it back in his crib before he needs to sleep. I could certainly provide more on this list, but maybe I'll make it a regular installment... just so you can be reminded of how many things you really have to be thankful for.

Next entry I'll try to write more about what life is like for us here, and maybe include a fun story about trying to get John, a diaper bag, and all my shopping bags into a taxi by myself (because I have to take a taxi to the supermarket) and how I swear each time that I'm not going to do it again. I'll also try to keep lists of the food we're discovering. I will tell you one thing a friend at church showed me that has been wonderful-- they have cans of tuna with various flavorings and sauces in them, one of which is Kari Tuna (curry tuna-- see my language skills are improving as well... by the way, they call the local Malaysian language Bahasa, which literally means "language"-- I think that's funny)... anyway, we use the curry tuna on sandwiches, over rice, really with anything we can think of, and it is delicious. We're still trying to attune John's tastebuds to the spiciness of foods over here and so far he is having none of it. If he gets even a hint of curry (which is usually filled with chilies) he'll spit out whatever is in his mouth and start scraping his tongue with his fingers, looking up at us like "What is the matter with you? Get me some water right now." Sigh... so right now I'm thankful that I can buy peanut butter to make him sandwiches.

I know it's time to quit and go to bed because I can hear the call to prayer. We live just a few blocks down from a mosque and the Muslim call to prayer is broadcast quite loudly, obviously because it's calling people to come to evening prayers. It's actually rather hauntingly beautiful and I enjoy hearing it throughout the day. We learned something interesting about the men who are chosen to give the call to prayer-- they must be married, with at least one child, because it shows maturity and trustworthiness-- that they can handle responsibility. A single man is considered more irresponsible who has not yet proven himself to be reliable or stable enough to fill this demanding and revered calling. There are always new things to learn and life here is certainly never dull so that is another thing for which we can be grateful. We'll try to post more pictures, but right now our internet is maddeningly slow (it took almost 1/2 hour just to download those 3 pics) but we want you to enjoy the visual feast of KL so we'll see what we can do about that. By the way, if you can see it, there is a gigantic flag on the hillside outside our balcony (in the pic below)... it is the Malaysian flag and it has been flying EVERYWHERE for the last month because they are celebrating Merdeka, which is the 50 year anniversary of their independence from Britain.
We love & miss you all... we also love the emails and any pics you can send us so keep 'em coming!