Sunday, September 11, 2011

Yummy Yummy

We like to eat out here a lot. :) It's hard not to with all the good restaurants around!

Checking out the menu at our favorite Lebanese restaurant...

My handsome boy

My other handsome boy out in front of the restaurant (and check out that double rainbow in the background!).

 This is us at the "steamboat" restaurant where the grill and steamer for your food is built right into your table. You just pick what you want and cook it at your table. Not sure how this is different from cooking at home???

This is Prema and her two beautiful daughters. Prema is Natalie's nanny and she is like family to us.

 John and Natalie ordering food from a place called Mustafas. They have the BEST tandoori chicken on the whole island!

This is called "Nasi Kandar" which is basically a buffet set up at Indian restaurants every day. The food is de-lish!

Chinese New Year

This was our second Chinese New Year since moving here and it was just as loud and just as fun as previous years! Of course, after two weeks of nightly fireworks, it started to get old. :)

I think this is supposed to be Confucious? He gave my kids chocolate "gold" coins at the mall.

This was fun to watch. These guys were doing this act where they balance this huge flag on their forehead and then toss it back to the next guy who catches it on his forehead. Why? Who knows. But it was cool.

The yearly Lion Dance

This is called the Luminous Dragon Dance. This picture definitely does not do it justice.

Staff Retreat

Every year Dalat holds a two-day staff retreat right before 2nd semester. I loathe group retreats of any kind. I am an introvert (but I play an extrovert on TV). I don't like skits, or role-playing, or silly games where you have to carry an egg on a spoon. I am the perennial party-pooper. But the retreat is mandatory and seeing as how I am one of the principals, I need to be there.

Once there I decided that if I was going to be forced to play goofy games in teams with other adults, then by golly my team was going to WIN. I may not be social but I AM competitive. :)

One trivia game, one impromptu skit, and one cake-decorating contest later... and my team emerges victorious!!

The Snake Temple

You can't live in Penang and not visit the Snake Temple. It is what it says it is... a temple for snakes. They roam freely throughout the temple as you walk around. The story is that the incense keeps them docile so they don't bite which I think is a bunch of malarkey (unless that incense is of the cannibis family!). But they don't bite... I think.

There is also this little show they put on for you where this guy who obviously needs an MRI purposely provokes the cobras so they will spread their hoods and bare their fangs all for the entertainment of tourists. Seriously? I found myself wondering if he actually applied for this job or if it is some sort of work-release program?

Either way, it was both fascinating and terrifying to be inches away from poisonous snakes.

The entrance to the Temple

The incense they burn

Yep, that's a poisonous snake...

And this us standing ridiculously close to it

Uh, ya think?

Crazy Malaysian snake dude

Yes that is Alex touching a poisonous snake. I am expecting a call from Child Protective Services any  minute now.

Thanks for the warning.

Tropical Spice Garden

Over christmas break we headed down to the Tropical Spice Garden. It is so beautiful and you can buy all kinds of fresh spices there. I bought real vanilla beans and used them to make my own vanilla extract. You can also take cooking classes there and learn how to use these locally grown spices to make traditional Malaysian dishes. That is still on my to-do list!

Thanksgiving 2010

Last year when Thanksgiving rolled around we had our first bout of homesickness. But good friends invited us over for thanksgiving dinner and we didn't feel so lonely any more. Well, this year we decided to pay it forward. We hosted a Thanksgiving dinner for any Dalat family that didn't have anyone to spend Thanksgiving with. One family responded. Then two. No big deal... we can fit 15 people in our house. But by the time Thanksgiving day arrived we had 45 people!

So we rented out the community center. Four huge turkeys, mounds of mashed potatos, countless desserts and YES, my famous cornbread stuffing (we had to special order corn meal) later...

What a great day. My favorite moment was with this one family who had recently arrived from Texas and they were feeling pretty lost. When the saw the cornbread stuffing their faces lit up. Food from home!  It was such a blessing to be able to do this. We said a prayer over the meal and then gave a charge to all the new people that next year they would pay it forward too.

Yes, Thanksgiving in Malaysia includes swimming!


Edited from Wikipedia: Deepavali, popularly known as the "festival of lights", is an important five-day festival in Hinduism occurring between mid-October and mid-November. For Hindus, Diwali is one of the most important festivals of the year and is celebrated in families by performing traditional activities together in their homes. Deepavali is an official holiday in India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Mauritius, Guyana, Trinidad & Tobago, Suriname, Malaysia, Singapore, and Fiji.

The name translates into "row of lamps". It involves the lighting of small clay lamps filled with oil to signify the triumph of good over evil. All the celebrants wear new clothes and share sweets and snacks with family members and friends. 

It commemorates the return of Lord Rama, along with Sita and Lakshmana, from his 14-year-long exile and vanquishing the demon-king Ravana. In joyous celebration of the return of their king, the people of Ayodhya, the Capital of Rama, illuminated the kingdom with earthen diyas and burst firecrackers. The festival starts with Dhanteras on which most Indian business communities begin their financial year. The second day of the festival, Naraka Chaturdasi, marks the vanquishing of the demon Naraka by Lord Krishna and his wife Satyabhama. Amavasya, the third day of Deepawali, marks the worship of Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth in her most benevolent mood, fulfilling the wishes of her devotees. Amavasya also tells the story of Lord Vishnu, who in his dwarf incarnation vanquished the Bali, and banished him to Patala. It is on the fourth day of Deepawali, Kartika Shudda Padyami, that Bali went to patala and took the reins of his new kingdom in there. The fifth day is referred to as Yama Dvitiya (also called Bhai Dooj), and on this day sisters invite their brothers to their homes.

What's most interesting to me about this holiday is the number Christian Indians that celebrate it. Although it is most definitely a Hindu religious holiday in origin, Indians of all stripes celebrate it. Kind of reminds me of Christmas in America. We were invited to a Deepavali celebration at the house of a man named Balu. He works at Dalat and we were the only westerners there.

This is the worship temple inside their own home.

He collects antique Sitars.

We were also invited to a large community celebration with clowns, singers, dancers and TONS of food.

This is me with Natalie and her amah whose name is Prema.

Handsome boy.

Japanese School Exchange

Here on the island there is a small population of Japanese and they all send their kids to the Penang Japanese School. This school teaches in Japanese but also teaches the English language. For many, many years our school and their school have been participating in an exchange day. This year we went to their school and participated in traditional Japanese games, crafts, and ate Japanese food. At the end all the kids held hands and sang We are the World which was SUPER CHEESY... lol... but they were cute!

Penang's Botanical Gardens

Alex's first grade class went on a field trip to the botanical gardens for their plant unit in science and I went along as a chaperone. The botanical gardens here are so beautiful and full of interesting creatures like monkeys and monitor lizards and snakes. :)

It sure was hot that day!

All my little cutie-pies doing their leaf rubbings.

Just the night before, a tree that was rotted inside from termites crashed onto a few trucks.

It was the highlight of the day for the kids!!

Crazy kids.