Monday, December 21, 2009

Kyle's Recital

Here is some video footage from Kyle's most recent piano recital.

Here we go a-caroling....

The third grade students in my school surprised me on the last day before vacation with some caroling outside my office. They are so cute!!!

Naivete Exposed

I had no idea. I mean, I should know for goodness sake, but I didn't. Not really. Not until I saw it close up. Not until I touched it, smelled it, laughed, cried and prayed with it.

In the daylight, Penang is a tropical island paradise. It's sun and beaches and food. But at night a different Penang emerges. A Penang that is hungry and lonely and lost. When the shopowners pull down their metal gates for the night a new tenant unrolls a tattered blanket and curls up in the doorway. After the food stall owners serve their last customer, a new customer looks to be served.

The island paradise suffers from a nocturnal blight in the form of the homeless and the sex workers. I got to see this with my own eyes when I volunteered at a local shelter called Kawan House. My school and church work to help out and donate money and goods to Kawan House. Here is some info about the place from their website:

Kawan (which means ‘friend' in the Malay Language), is a drop-in Centre situated at 37 Love Lane, in Georgetown, Penang. We serve the street based community whether that be those who are homeless, drug users, sex workers and people from poor backgrounds. The Kawan ministry provides free services such as breakfast, lunch, bathing & laundry, a rest area, hair cutting facilities and referrals to other service centres. We can serve around 100 people each day we are open.

A team from Kawan goes out onto the streets of George Town every Wednesday evening to build further relationship with people on the streets and we run a street church service on Saturday mornings where around 25 people attend.

We also run a charity shop to serve the local community. We have seen that the streets of George Town is a harvest field that is ripe for harvest, yet the workers are few.

One Wednesday night I got up enough nerve to join these wonderful people in their work on the streets of Penang. It was a humbling experience to say the least. I met so many people, and they were kind and sick and empty. One man sleeping on a park bench, saw our small group walking and recognized the group from previous weeks. He called out to us and asked if we would pray for him. The experience was real and raw. One woman in our group was in the middle of a heartfelt conversation with a prostitute when the conversation was cut short because the prostitute had a customer. This same prostitute has a 5yo daughter who is often in the room during "business hours".

The work that the people at Kawan house do is remarkable. They feed and clothe and minister to the forgotten ones. It is hard to think of the Christmas season in the same way as before after seeing this. As we celebrate the birth if Christ this year, take a moment to pray for those who will not be opening any gifts.

Kyle LOVES doing Homework

Can't you tell?

Thanksgiving in Penang

I have to admit...I was looking at our first Thanksgiving in Malaysia with some trepidation. We have always celebrated Thanksgiving with the same family members, the same food, and usually around the same table. But this year it would be completely different and I was sad about that. I couldn't find the right kind of cornmeal to make my famous cornbread stuffing and turkeys here are hard to come by and expensive!

Shortly before the holiday arrived, another family that has been working at Dalat for several years invited us over for thanksgiving dinner. We were very happy to join them rather than spend the holiday alone even if the menu included ham instead of turkey (that's how most westerners end up celebrating here). The big day finally arrived and when we arrived (sweet potato casserole in least I oculd find my ingredients for that!)...we were surprised with a REAL turkey dinner!

Larry and Debbie and located and bought a turkey and gave us a little taste of home. It was such a great day. This is a pic of our kids and their kids gathered around the table to eat. I have so much to be thankful for.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Facing My Fears

I did it!!! I drove across the Penang bridge without any sedatives whatsoever. :) It was scary but pretty cool at the same time. I still wouldn't want to do it often but at least I know I can do it without having a panic attack!

Halloween Malaysia-Style

Halloween is not a recognized holiday in Malaysia so imagine how bummed out my poor boys were when they realized there would be no trick or treating this year. But Dalat did not let us down! Because we have so many North American families working at the school (and many attending the school) Dalat organizes its own trick or treat parade! My boys were so happy! However, costumes are an issue since you can't really find them here very easily. Luckily for us, we have tons of superhero dress-up clothes and we were able to provide costumes for our boys and a few other kids as well. It also lent itself to some very creative homemade costumes.

All the kids wore their costumes to school, paraded around the campus and then went trick or treating later that night. It was a little piece of home for those of us feeling a little homesick.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Leader of the Pack

I got John a motorcycle for his birthday. He has wanted one as long as I have known him but I have always thought they were too dangerous. Well in Penang EVERYONE has a motorcycle. But the good news is it is a very small island and the roads are pretty curvy and pretty crowded so there aren't any places to "open it up". Also, the government regulates the motor size on the motorcycles and so they aren't as fast as some you see in the U.S. All that to say, I finally caved! Here is his baby.

FZ150i upgrades

Shortly after getting it he hooked up with a group of motorcycle enthusiasts here. They are all Malaysian except for him and they have been very warm and friendly and they are very excited to have an American in their group. They even invited him to a day trip to the Sedim River in Kedah on the mainland. It was a 3 hour motorcycle ride there and then they went swimming in the river, hung out for a while, then rode back. He had a great time and has made some new friends. They are planning more trips in the upcoming weeks. It's a good thing gas is cheap here!

The No Petting Zoo

We had another 4-day weekend (we get at least one long weekend per month due to various religious holidays) so we decided to take the kids to the Lost World of Tambun in amusement park with water slides, rides, and a petting zoo. This meant we had to venture off the island and onto the mainland and then find our way to this place which was about two hours away. We got slightly lost but we finally found it. It was absolutely beautiful and the kids had a blast.

The best part by far was the petting zoo. It was interesting and bizarre at the same time. We've been to petting zoos know...some bunnies, some sheep, a cow or two. But this place was NOT like that. As we walked in, the first exhibit was RACCOONS!!! I was like, ummm...what? You don't PET raccoons! You AVOID raccoons. In fact, you sometimes pay a company good money to GET RID OF raccoons! The funniest part was when the tour guide told us they "imported" the raccoons from the U.S. I almost fell over laughing! I told him, "Wow, I would have brought you one for free!"

Other "unusual" animals at this "petting zoo"? Porcupines, skunks, boa constrictors, hedgehogs, and monitor lizards. Obviously their idea of a petting zoo and my idea of a petting zoo are VERY different.

There was also this incredible aviary with some of the most unusual birds I have ever seen. We got to feed them and they swarmed us and ate right out of our hands! It was so fun. John also got to hold a 18 foot burmese python and Kyle had a huge scarlet macaw on his shoulder. And the entire park was carved right out of the center of the jungle. As we were looking at all the venomous snakes and vicious lizards, I asked the tour guide where they imported the animals from. He looked at me quizzically, pointed to the jungle right behind us, and said "we just go out there and catch them!"

OK, time to go kids.....

Sunday, October 4, 2009

We're Not in Kansas Anymore!

So I had a major "culture shock" moment this week...

There is this Indian restaurant across the street from our school that is very popular with the staff. The food is awesome and inexpensive. The waitstaff all know who the Dalat staff are and my family and I eat there probably three times a week.

This is an outdoor restaurant of sorts. It is a long rectangle covered by a roof but no walls. At the far end there is a small "play area" for kids that has a swing and a teeter-totter. It is over dirt, though, and it is the rainy season so it can get pretty muddy.

My kids were down at that end playing while John and I waited for our food to come. Alex apparently fell off the swing and splat! right into the mud. We didn't see it but Kyle ran up to us and told us that Alex fell off the swing so we naturally ran to see if he was OK. What we saw next is something I would NEVER have seen in the U.S......

Two waiters had picked Alex up out of the mud (he was covered in it, literally) and had taken off his shorts and shirt and were rinsing them off with a hose. The other waiter was rinsing Alex off. They then laid out his shorts and shirt in the sun to dry and sent him to us to his underwear.

Now I ask you, if this happened at say, Applebee's in the U.S., if your child got covered in something like, I don't know, ketchup I guess, and you weren't right there to clean him up and your waiter who "knows" you (as in you are a regular) took your child's clothes off to rinse them out, what would happen?

He would be arrested of course.

But not in Malaysia! :) They definitely have the "it takes a village to raise a child" mentality. No one in the restaurant even blinked at the whole scene including the fact that my son ate dinner in his underwear!

John and I thought the whole thing was hilarious, Kyle was mortified but puberty seems to make him mortified at everything these days! And of course, Alex was not hurt and thought eating in his underwear was awesome.

I am definitely not in Kansas anymore.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Malaysian Sunsets

Here are some pics of a Malaysian sunset taken from our balcony panning from right to left. Try not to be TOO jealous. :)

Our Newest Additions

Meet our little cuties...Max and Ruby.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Another Malaysian Adventure

We had a long weekend because of Hari Raya (a Muslim holiday) so we decided to make use of our vacation day by going for a “walk” with some friends. The Chans are avid hikers and invited us and another family to go along with them. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. If you know me then you know I am a girly girl…a manicured, pedicured, designer-purse-carrying, afraid-of-spiders girly girl. I don’t camp. I don’t like to “rough it”. Sleeping on the ground in a tent is NOT a vacation, it is a punishment in my eyes.

So imagine my surprise when this “walk” to the waterfall in Batu Ferringhi involved multiple climbs up and down 45 degree slopes and thigh-deep treks through two rivers with nasty undercurrents. And let’s not forget the snakes. Yes, Malaysia is home to vipers and cobras and all manner of other venomous snakes. Our hike leader, Peter, told us that they won’t bother us if we make a lot of noise so imagine the ruckus I was causing!

Believe it or not, I actually enjoyed it. I was nervous and not really prepared but I got through it. My husband was not quite so lucky. On one particularly slippery slope, his foot started to slip and he reached out for the nearest tree limb to keep from sliding. Unfortunately, that tree was covered in sharp thorns. So he had about 30 thorns embedded in his hand and was bleeding quite a bit. We still have not been able to get all the thorns out.

But once we got to our destination, it was worth it. It was beautiful. It would be impossible to look at the beauty that surrounded us and say there is no God. We sat on huge rocks soaking in the sun while the kids swam and slid down natural water slides and caught fish with nets and had a blast! It was a perfect day. I would even do it again. 

Sunday, September 6, 2009

My Talented Son

Kyle loves playing piano. This is a piece he was working on last week and he wanted his family and friends to hear it. Enjoy!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Rain in Spain Falls Mostly in Penang

Well the rainy season in Penang is officially underway. It usually rains for a short spell each day anyways but now it is RAINING….a lot. Luckily, it is still really warm out so it isn’t rainy AND cold. Umbrellas are the new fashion accessory. And so are crocs or any kind of waterproof shoe. I bought three pairs of these in three different colors so I could be fashionable AND waterproof:

I hope all this rain doesn’t get depressing. When the “sweltering hot and dry” season starts (around November, I think) I will probably look back at the rainy season wistfully.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Part Tres....

Roti Bom: a delicious dessert that is similar to a crepe but thicker and covered in sweetened condensed milk. It is a little piece of heaven.

Ice Kacang: a Malaysian “dessert” that should be illegal. Picture a snow cone covered in red beans and creamed corn. YUCK.

Amazon: as in I feel like one. The Malaysian people are not very tall so even though I am only 5’6” I tower over most of them.

The maintenance and grounds staff at Dalat: these people are wonderful. Because of the daily rain, every morning there are wet leaves all over the place and every morning the grounds crew is outside with these weird looking brooms sweeping them up. And if something is broken in your office or in your home, they fix it RIGHT AWAY.

The kitchen staff at Dalat: These people can COOK. No frozen pizza and chicken patties at this school. Everyday there are various entrees for the kids to select (usually one Asian choice and one American choice) as well as stuff to make sandwiches, a salad bar and fruit. And NO SODA POP.

The after-school activities at Dalat: there are all kinds of after school activities here for kids AND adults…sports (like floorball, badminton, volleyball, soccer, weight-training) and crafts (knitting, origami, painting) and others (chess, computers, scouts, book clubs). There is always something going on and the campus is busy until it closes at 5:30pm. The campus remains open until 10pm on Friday nights for kids to come in and play drop-in basketball, floorball, play on the playground , and the ever popular four-square. And it is open on Saturdays and Sundays too! It truly is a community campus.

A side benefit of community: So my 11yo son is REALLY smart but REALLY scatter-brained. He could easily read a high school level text…if he could remember where he put it! Well, the other day he did a really good job on his math homework except he did the wrong page.  At first, his teacher told him he could re-do it and turn it in the next day (Kyle was glad he wasn’t going to get a zero). But that meant Kyle had to do two days worth of math in one evening (which had him freaking out). Well, that evening Kyle’s teacher called John’s cell phone and said he had been thinking about it and changed his mind and he wasn’t going to make Kyle re-do the assignment. He said just skip it and move on. That’s what they do here. We know each other personally, we have each other’s phone numbers, we see each other at church. Kyle is more than just a student to Mr. Davis. He is part of his community and it shows.

Little kids learning bahasa: My 5yo gets lessons twice a week in Bahasa which is the Malaysian language, He learned how to say “Selamat Pagi” (say-la-mot pa-gee) which means “Good morning”. Except that with the way Alex talks it sounded like he said “Sit on the potty”.

Practical Jokes: apparently we administrators do not have enough work to do because we spend our days playing jokes on each other. Like we went into Larry’s office and turned everything upside down. And Brian went around flipping everyone’s desktop on their computer screen upside down.

The neighborhood chicken: just the fact that chickens wander around aimlessly cracks me up daily.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Part Deux

Monkey gates: Our condo is on the fifth floor and we have this great balcony overlooking the ocean. In addition to the sliding glass doors to the balcony, there are also these metal gates. I thought they were sort of odd at first. Like what are they there for? In case someone tries to break in? We are on the 5th floor! Who is going to scale the side of the building to rob a home on the 5th floor? What I recently found out is that they are called "monkey gates" and they are there in case you want to leave your glass doors open for the breeze but want to make sure THE MONKEYS DON'T GET INSIDE YOUR HOME. WHAT??????

Curry Mee Soup: seriously delicious. I want to learn to cook this.

Ferringhi Gardens restaurant: John took me there for my birthday. It was like eating dinner in the garden of Eden.

Stray animals: they break my heart. There are skinny, starving dogs and cats everywhere. It is so sad. We took in two 6 week old kittens that did not have a home. It's a boy and a girl and we named them Max and Ruby after the cartoon show.

My dryer: the first purchase I made when we arrived. Everyone here hang-dries all their clothes and I do NOT get it.

The Malaysian Postal Service: I hate them. They have my Kindle in post office jail and they won't release it.

220 voltage: we've blown my curling iron, one computer, and the charger for John's cordless far.

The architecture: there are so many varieties here. There are buddhist temples, hindu temples, muslim mosques, colonial buildings, newer construction, shacks, and mansions.

Prices: they are ALL negotiable...even at a huge department store. The price on the tag is merely a jumping off point. I bought a beautiful lamp today for RM100 that was originally RM170.

I am sure I will think of more later! :)

Friday, August 21, 2009

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Now that we have been here over a month it is time to look back at what we've learned so far...

The Good

The food: There is such an amazing variety of food here and it is all wonderful and CHEAP. Penang is known for its cuisine and food is everywhere and there is something for everyone. I don’t think anyone even cooks dinner at home judging by the amount of people who are dining out every night of the week and often three meals a day.

Customer service at food stalls: because there is such a plethora of places to eat, the owners of the food stalls compete heavily for your business. They will bend over backwards and even custom-make meals for you.

The weather: it is the land of eternal summer…85 degrees, sunny and humid every day. It also rains almost every day for about an hour. Very tropical.

The view from our home: staring at the ocean while I drink my morning coffee never gets old.

Air conditioning: thank God for A/C! Most places you go are air conditioned like the school, our home, the church, etc. I could not survive this heat without an A/C reprieve.

Our jobs: every day is different, new challenges, new surprises. It is interesting and exhausting. The students are wonderful. After teaching high school for a long, long time, I did not realize how fun it would be to work with the younger kids. You don’t even have to earn their love and respect; they freely give it along with lots of dirty fingerprints on your clothes from all the hugs.

Our colleagues: they aren’t perfect but neither are we. What makes them special is that there is an intentional and constant striving for authentic community. We love and help and encourage each other daily. We get upset with each other but we don’t let it fester or let it become divisive. We work it out. We work together, live near each other, eat together, attend church together, shop in the same places. With all that togetherness you can’t help but learn to communicate.

Our church: is an oasis from a crazy week. It is a congregation of about 300 expats . It is so nice to have this congregation because we all face the same struggles all week long and we can really support each other.

Our pool: beautiful, clean and the perfect temperature. Hardly anyone uses it but us because many of the condos in our complex are owned by people who use them as vacation homes only. This lends itself to a wonderful, quiet atmosphere.

Our ahma: she comes twice a week and cleans our home from top to bottom and irons all our clothes. It is heavenly.

The Bad

Customer service at restaurants: No one tips in Malaysia. It just isn’t the custom. The service at restaurants shows this. Our favorite Indian restaurant has incredible food and deplorable service. But we go there anyways because we are addicted to the butter naan.

The weather: what’s good about the weather is also what is bad. It is HOT…like sweat rolling down your back hot. And it is always hot. And rumor has it this is the cooler season. I can only imagine what the hotter season will be like. Again I would like to thank God for rain and A/C.

The cars: are tiny and ugly. Keep in mind I was raised in the Motor City and we take our cars pretty seriously. There are virtually no American cars here as they are too expensive to import to the island. So we have Korean and Malaysian brands. They all look exactly the same (like a go-kart with a roof). I am pretty sure our lawn mower in the states has a bigger engine. The good side is that they get incredible gas mileage. So their cars are functional only and not a stylistic statement (except for the very rich who all drive a Mercedes).

The Ugly

The traffic: The horrible, lawless traffic. I thought driving on the other side of the road and the other side of the car would be tough. That is NOTHING compared to driving when there are NO rules. Even still, I am getting used to the thousands of motorbikes who drive wherever they want. And I am getting used to people weaving in and out of traffic, straddling the lanes, randomly stopping and parking their car in a traffic lane thereby making everyone else have to go around them. What I am having trouble with is the people who cut you off within a fraction of an inch, people who think "merging lanes" means to speed to the end and then cut in front of you almost taking your front end off, etc. When asking around about the terrible driving behavior the answer I get is "It's a cultural thing. It's not wrong, It's just different." BALONEY. POPPYCOCK. BULL-PUCKEY. HOGWASH. HOOEY. MALARKEY. Rude is Rude in any language and any culture. When you drive in a way that endangers my life, it is not a "cultural thing" especially if you are trying to say it is "acceptable". Sure, it might be a cultural thing in terms of common in that culture but it doesn't make it acceptable to treat your fellow humans in that way. I am sure this happens elsewhere but I am not in those other places...I am here. I am from Detroit and I thought WE had aggressive drivers. HAH! Detroit is a bunch of old ladies compared to Penang drivers.

Customer service at stores: it drives me crazy. They stalk you. No matter what store you go into the salesperson literally shadows you everywhere you go. At one store I intentionally walked all over the store in a zig-zag fashion deliberately trying to lose the sales guy. But he was diligent. If I would have stopped too fast it would have been ugly.

Directions: as in no one knows how to give them. Their directions consist of “turn left at the big tree”. No one knows street names and streets randomly change names and direction.

The cost of “western” items: like a box of cereal ($10). They know what items us westerners can’t do without and they jack the prices like you wouldn’t believe. For instance, if we want to buy a turkey for Thanksgiving it will cost over $100 in American money. That is just ridiculous.

Public restrooms: seriously the most disgusting thing about Malaysia is the public restrooms. They smell awful. Some have “squat pots”. If you don’t know what that is, it is essentially a hole in the floor that you are supposed to use to ‘do your business”. I have not been able to bring myself to use it. They also do not have toilet paper. Instead most of them have hand bidets. A hand bidet is like a small shower head that you use to spray yourself clean when you are done with your business. And then I suppose you just drip dry? And, of course, spraying yourself means there is water EVERYWHERE full of disgusting particles and germs that I refuse to think about from other people who have ALSO sprayed themselves.

Durian fruit: I use the term “fruit” lightly. It is the most vile, revolting, putrid thing I have ever had the misfortune to smell. I didn’t even eat it. You can smell it from a block away and as soon as I do the bile rises. People here love it and I think they need to have their head examined. My boss says that Durian will be the only food available in hell.

The Just Plain Weird

Fish head soup: no I am not kidding

Construction: they build homes and buildings in the strangest places
Signs: we know “awas” means caution but if the rest of the sign is in Bahasa how do we know what to be cautious about? My other favorite was at a parking garage. It said “park at your own risk”. Since when did parking your car become risky behavior? Do they have a car-eating monster in there?

The staring: the people have no problem openly gawking at you or asking you private questions like how much you weigh or how much money you make.

The geckos: they are everywhere. But they are terrified of you and run away as soon as they can. Often you will walk into a room and turn on the lights and geckos will scurry away as fast as they can. I kind of wonder if they are in there having a party and I show up like the cops to bust them. There is NOTHING you can do to get rid of them so you just accept them as family members.

The good far outweighs the bad and the ugly we just try to avoid and the weird stuff makes us laugh. So overall things are going VERY well. But we miss our family and friends and are forever grateful for their support and SKYPE!

Friday, July 31, 2009

An Ode to High-Speed Internet

Although I am grateful for internet access, the internet here is so slow and unpredictable it makes us a little crazy at times...OK, a lot crazy. So here is a short clip that expresses how our slow internet is affecting our family:

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

"You Got Skinned!"

So a really nice guy on staff let John borrow his motorbike while we sort out the vehicle-buying mess. John wanted to take Kyle for a ride on the motorbike down to the "wet market" which is basically a farmer's market. Unfortunately, we only had one helmet. The guard at the gate to our condo complex let John borrow his to take Kyle. Everyone here is SO's really different. :)

While they were out, John stopped by a motorbike shop and bought a helmet for Kyle for RM40 (40 ringgitt which is about $11). When they got back to the condo and returned the guard's helmet, he asked how much John paid for Kyle's helmet. John told him RM40 and the guard shook his head and said "You got skinned."

Apparently, we were victims of the "skin tax" which means they charged us more because we are white. As it has been explained to us, this isn't a racist thing, it's just that Penang has a lot of expats and they tend to make quite a bit more money than the locals so it is assumed that we can afford to pay more. It's almost like a courtesy on our our way of contributing to the economy.

I know it sounds kind of strange but it's true. However, we were also told that once we are here for a while and become "regulars" at different places, we will get the "local" price for things. You learn something new everyday!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Tastebuds on Overload!

This is the place where we spend a lot of our money:

No one really knows how to pronounce it so we all call it "SAB's". It is across from the school and it is hotspot for Dalat staff. It is primarily Indian Cuisine. This is the guy that greets you when you arrive:

They have this bread there called "roti" which I think means...ummm...bread. :) It is sort of like pita bread but a little thicker and a little softer and they make it a bunch different ways with different flavors. So we get the bread basket which has a variety of roti in it. Kyle and Alex love the garlic prawns (which are actually just really big shrimp). John and I love the Tandoori Chicken, the Chicken Curry, and especially Chicken Masala (which is not to be confused with chicken marsala). This pic shows a typical dinner at the restaurant. Everything, and I mean everything, is served with rice.

So for fresh fruit juice for the boys, ice tea for us, two orders of chicken masala and two orders of garlic prawns, we pay about $20. Not bad for some of the best food I have ever tasted! And this pic is just because my kids are cute!

Friday, July 24, 2009

My New Favorite Food

Curry Puffs!! They are these little stuffed pastry pocket type things with chunks of potato and curry spices and several other unknown ingredients (it's best not to ask). They are DELICIOUS.

Us versus the Tin Can

So the stuff we shipped has still not arrived...sigh...

Thankfully, the school provided us with some basic necessities until it arrives. So we have been getting by pretty well. One of the items in their box of provisions is this unknown contraption:

Using my exceptional powers of deduction and scientific logic, I determined that it is a bottle/can opener from the Middle Ages. Being the good sport that I am, and having food inside a tin can that I wanted to eat, I decided to give it a whirl. Unfortunately, it did not come with instructions for use. Bummer. So I jabbed, and poked, and prodded at the can with my ancient can opener to no avail. Since intellect was not getting the job done, I decided to go with brute force and called John into the kitchen.

He got the can open but the poor can suffered terribly....

I really can't wait for our stuff to get here so I can have a can opener from the last century or so.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

We Made it!!!

We are alive…safe and sound on the island of Penang. It has been quite a week…

Last Sunday- My brother and his wife dropped us at Detroit Metro Airport. We had 9 pieces of luggage plus 6 carry-on items which is, by the way, more than you are supposed to bring. What can I say, I have a lot of stuff.

We arrived at the ticket counter to find that our flight had been delayed by 3 hours which meant we were going to miss our connection in Dallas. And, of course, it seemed every flight was full. The ticket agent named Marsha worked with us for over an hour until she finally found a flight to Dallas. And our wonderful baggage guy Mike helped us make sure that all our luggage including the extra stuff got on the plane.

We arrived in Dallas knowing we missed our connection, knowing the next flight was completely booked, and praying for a miracle so we could make our next connection in Los Angeles. It came down to the ticket agent offering all sorts of free items to anyone who would volunteer to take a later flight and God graciously chose 4 people, exactly the amount of seats we needed. We sat waiting for the flight in the Dallas airport and having a huge picnic on the floor. My mom had packed us an enormous bag of food…and this wasn’t junk food, mind you….this was good food! We had pita bread and cheese and summer sausage and fruit and all sorts of goodies. And the boys found ways to occupy themselves while we waited.

Our flight arrived in L.A. and we knew we had missed our connection to Hong Kong as well and we prayed for yet another miracle. God pulled through for us again and got us on a flight at 2am to Hong Kong. The flight to Hong Kong was wonderful! I had all these nightmares about a 14 hour flight only to find that it passed by rather quickly. The service on Cathay Pacific was outstanding, the food was delicious, and we each had our own TV with all sorts of movies to choose from (the kids even had video games to play). We were kind of bummed that we didn’t get to sit all together but we were grateful for the flight.

The Hong Kong airport is huge and beautiful with all kinds of ritzy high-end shops and restaurants. Everyone was wearing face masks and all I could think was that either Americans are far too cavalier about this whole swine flu thing or the people in Hong Kong are way too hyper about it. We found some comfy benches and rested for a while and the boys found some friends to play with who were also waiting. Eventually we cleaned up, changed clothes and had some sushi then got ready for our final flight to Malaysia. That flight was uneventful and we arrived without a problem.

The school sent a welcome committee to pick us up and we were greeted with welcome signs and happy faces (theirs, not ours). I am quite sure that we looked like we’d been on a three-day bender as we had little to no sleep for 48 hours! Our host family, The Brewsters, took us to our new home and we fell face first into our beds. It was Tuesday night.

The next few days were a whirlwind. The Brewsters are so great and they drove us all over…to the grocery store, to the bank, to the appliance store to buy a dryer (there is no way I am hang drying clothes), to the mall to get handphones (cell phones), etc. They also took us to all these awesome outdoor eateries the locals call “stalls”. We have had the most amazing food! And they make all these fresh fruit juices, pineapple, watermelon, you name it. The food is super cheap too!

On Friday night, they have dinner and a movie at the school. Everyone brings a pot luck dish and then we watched a movie on a big screen outside. We had a chance to meet many other staff members and I got to have some girl chat time while the boys watched the movie. They didn’t make it through the whole thing though.

On Saturday another staff member named Barend (he’s from South Africa) took us to a place called Jusco, which is a lot like Wal-Mart, so we could get some other things we needed. It is attached to a great mall with some awesome stores and we had the most amazing sushi for lunch. Little plates of it spun around the whole restaurant on conveyor belts and you just grabbed whatever you wanted to eat. Way cool!

On Sunday we went to Penang International Church. It is a church filled mostly with expats from all over the place. The pastor is from Canada. He gave a great sermon and the people were really warm and friendly and the boys made several new friends. After church we went out to eat with the Brewsters at…Chilis!! Yes, they have Chilis here and a TGIFridays. I know, I know…it’s a cop-out, right? Honestly, after several days of eating wonderful food filled with spices my body has never had before, I needed to give my stomach a rest with some good old American food that I knew how to pronounce.

Today we had our first day of orientation and got to meet all the other new staff members. They all seem really great and the director, Karl, did a great job. It is all well-organized and everyone is really helpful.

So far our experience has been really great. It is definitely hot here and I have a feeling our electricity bill will be sky high as we make much use of the A/C. We love our new home and its spectacular views.

And now that our internet is finally working (that took all week to get settled) we can keep in touch with family and friends. School starts on Aug. 11!

Prayer requests: that we are able to find a car in our budget without getting ripped off, that our stuff we shipped to Malaysia gets here soon (we really need a lot of things in that shipment), that our transition continues to go smoothly, that our family and friends back home have some peace about our move, that we are able to represent America and Christians in a good light to a part of the world that may not appreciate either very much.

We miss you and love you all!!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Did You Know?

Since 2000 there have been 100 plane crashes that involved fatalities

Of those 100 crashes, 54 were due to human error

51% of planes crash during landing, while only 22% crash during take-off.

So it would seem that my life will be in danger for 73% of each leg of our flight (there are four). And if we do crash, there is a 54% chance that it was NOT mechanical failure...somebody just screwed up.

Why am I torturing myself with these statistics?

I am leaving in less than two days so please just pray that we don't get stuck with any pilots who had a bad day or just got into a fight with their wife or found out their teen was just expelled from school, etc. PLEASE. If we can mitigate the human factor then my chances go up so repeat after me: I DO BELIEVE IN FAIRIES! I DO BELIEVE IN FAIRIES! It always seems to work on the Disney shows, right?

Sunday, June 21, 2009


We are so lucky to have boys who are not picky eaters. In fact, they are adventurous eaters which is a good thing since the food in Malaysia is bound to be different than anything we are use to! One of their favorite foods is SUSHI. As a family we can put away a lot of sushi...we may need to get second jobs to support our sushi habit. :)

Thursday, June 18, 2009

How's Everything Going?

Friends, family, co-workers are all asking the same's it going? How are the plans for the big move coming along? Are you guys stressed out? Well, after a few months of tracking down paperwork, running from one place to the next to get all the stuff we need, and packing everything we own into plastic bins to ship over to Malaysia...all the while continuing to work full time, homeschool our two boys and work on my latest degree...yeah, we are a little stressed. Our son Alex described it the best:

Happy Trails to You...

Kyle and Alex had their last day of karate class today and got lots of hugs from their friends and teachers.

"Don’t be dismayed at good-byes. A farewell is necessary before we can meet again and meeting again, after moments or a lifetime, is certain for those who are friends."

Where Did it All Come From?

So yesterday was a BIG STEP in the "moving to Malaysia" process. John and my brother Ben loaded 53 rubbermaid bins that had been taped AND shrink-wrapped onto a Uhaul truck and drove them to the shipping warehouse. From there they will be driven by truck to Chicago, then by train to Los Angeles, then by cargo ship to Malaysia. A little voice in the back of my mind thinks I will never see these boxes again. It just seems implausible to this pessimist that it could all go without a hitch and my personal items will show up at our tiny island paradise safe and sound.

But after seeing the total on the shipping bill,(Yes, we went over our shipping allowance. Are you really surprised?) I realize that I have TOO MUCH STUFF. Even after giving things away and a big moving sale and packing things to store here in the U.S., I still had 53 boxes? That is just ridiculous.

Next question....IF my items actually do arrive intact, where on earth am I going to store 53 rubbermaid bins?

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Don't Waste Your Life

Another amazing video by John Piper and the folks at www.desiring


Sunday, June 7, 2009

Our First "Malaysian" Experience

It just so happens that there is this couple at our church and the wife was born and raised in Malaysia and travels there frequently. They invited us over for dinner and cooked us an authentic Malaysian meal. It was DELICIOUS! Now we are even MORE excited to go! Especially if the food is that good. They told us all kinds of stories and information about Malaysia and showed us pictures and books that they have about it. It was a wonderful evening. As we were leaving they gave each of my boys some Malaysian money (10 ringgets each). They were thrilled! That is about $6 in American money.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Nana Candy and Kyle

My mom always has candy of some sort in her purse and she always gives it to the grandkids when she sees them. It is such a common thing for her that Kyle began calling her "Nana Candy" when he was just a little guy. He still does. Today the two of them spent the day together golfing and shopping at antique stores. I love that Kyle enjoys spending time with Nana Candy when other kids his age would rather be plaing video games. They had a blast (but Nana Candy beat him in golf by one much for those golf lessons!).

Sunday, May 31, 2009

One More Reason to Live in Malaysia...

SHOPPING!!!!! They have some really cool malls there. One that will be really close to us is called Gurney Plaza. It is 7 floors of shopping paradise.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Karate Kid

Our other little guy, Alex, tested for his yellow belt today in Karate. He did a great job and we are really proud of him. We are hoping to find a good karate studio in Penang for him and Kyle. But, come on, it is Southeast Asia...there HAS to be a karate studio somewhere, right?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Our Last Birthday in Michigan

Today is Kyle's 11th birthday. I can hardly believe it. It sounds so cliche to say "where have the years gone?" but it is so true. The most significant thing that happened in Kyle's life this past year was his baptism. He gave his heart to Jesus and Pastor Paul baptized him in Lake James in NC (my mom said it doesn't count unless you have mud between your toes! lol). We are so proud of you, our handsome little boy!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

One Thing That Freaks Me Out....

This is the Penang Bridge. It is about 8 miles long and connects Penang Island (where we will live) to mainland Malaysia. I hate bridges...really hate them. And this one is really, really long. Yes, it is beautiful, yada, yada, yada, but I may need to be sedated to go across this bad boy.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Goodbye Ordinary!

I wonder when we first bought into this?
So satisfied with status quo?
Have we convinced ourselves that this is all there is?
All that is within me says we were meant to break free
and live like there's no tomorrow,
Love extravagantly,
Lead a life to be followed,
Goodbye Ordinary.

We were never meant to compromise,
Settle for mediocrity,
This life was never made to be a waste of time.
All that is within me says no more just existing

No more complacency
No more just settling this time
Goodbye to atrophy
For we were meant to be alive.

(by Mercy Me)

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Why are you moving to MALAYSIA???

We get this question a lot...often from people who haven't the slightest idea where the country is even located. I could list the countless reasons why we want to do this but I thought I would do it with pictures instead of words. One picture is the view from our living room in Malaysia. The other is the view from the bedroom at sunset. Enough said. 53 days and counting.....

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Adventure Continues....

Next Stop: Penang Island, Malaysia!

That's right. In 56 days we will be boarding a plane for our new home...a small tropical island off the coast of Malaysia. We will be working at Dalat International School. Heather will be the Elementary School Principal and Curriculum Director. John will be teaching Computers. Kyle will be in 6th grade and Alex will start Kindergarten. Please pray for us as we start our new journey and especially for the boys as they transition from homeschooling to being in a classroom.

Dalat International School:

A view:
View Larger Map

Some videos about it:


"You may not be sure that you want your life to make a difference. Maybe you don’t care very much whether you make a lasting difference for the sake of something great. You just want people to like you. If people would just like being around you, you’d be satisfied. Or if you could just have a good job with a good wife, or husband, and a couple of good kids and a nice car and long weekends and a few good friends, a fun retirement, and a quick and easy death, and no hell—if you could have all that (even without God)—you would be satisfied. That is a tragedy in the making. A wasted life.

You don’t have to know a lot of things for your life to make a lasting difference in the world. But you do have to know the few great things that matter, perhaps just one, and then be willing to live for them and die for them. The people that make a durable difference in the world are not the people who have mastered many things, but who have been mastered by one great thing. If you want your life to count, if you want the ripple effect of the pebbles you drop to become waves that reach the ends of the earth and roll on into eternity, you don’t need to have a high IQ. You don’t have to have good looks or riches or come from a fine family or a fine school. Instead you have to know a few great, majestic, unchanging, obvious, simple, glorious things—or one great all-embracing thing—and be set on fire by them." -John Piper

Friday, May 1, 2009

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler,
long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth.
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same.
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood,
and I--I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
-by Robert Frost