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.