December 2007


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I have always been a little in awe of Pam’s organizational skills. Yes, her varied career in administration has given her plenty of practice, but there is a gift there that I just don’t have. She moved the five of us to Bangladesh in six suitcases when our oldest was just five and I don’t think we went without anything we needed for an entire year. She organized our trips through Europe when we were in Germany with ease, booking ferries, flights, hotels and campsites on a day’s notice. She got us to Malaysia barely three months after we sold our house and moved into a condo. Who else would even tackle that? She is amazing.

So why should I be surprised at our accommodation in Siem Reap? It had to be the nicest place in the entire town. It certainly was the closest to the temples and the closest to the airport. It was also the loveliest and quietest little spot you can imagine; more like a spa than a hotel. We had a lovely room with a veranda by the pool, an intimate little restaurant and bar just steps away and sweetest staff imaginable. And this cost us twenty five dollars a night? Incredible!

I won’t disguise the fact that I have had a tough first term. I knew it would be. I have worked my little tail off to make the transition to a new culture, a new school, a new curriculum, and a whole host of new software. But three days at the Pavillion Indochine in Siem Reap has been a wonderful tonic to my weary soul and I am very grateful to have been there. Thank you, dear!

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When I was younger I wanted to be a folk singer, like Bob Dylan. Not an unreasonable goal for a sixteen year old growing up in the sixties. I taught myself some chords and some basic finger picking and with a bit of talent and a lot of gall I was on my way. But life is what happens while you are doing other things, and I ended up a teacher instead, which is probably just as well. Aging folk singers make pretty thin wages these days.

I never gave up the guitar though, serenading our children until they wouldn’t take it anymore and leading in music in a number of churches until I got too old for that as well. I made a tough decision not bringing my guitar with me to Asia knowing that the demands of high school preparation, not to mention luggage restrictions, ruled it out. I have missed it.

Last week I broke down and blew RM300 on a reasonbly decent Chinese made guitar (That would be $75 Can, spendthrift that I am). It was like finding an old friend. I’ve never been a very good guitarist, relying more on my voice than my hands to get by. But that doesn’t matter to me anymore. What matters is that I can sing a tune that is meaningful to me in a way that soothes my heart and encourages my spirit. Isn’t that what good friends are for?

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Pam’s ministry is in Singapore and Cambodia at the moment. We’re not exactly sure why the Lord chose to locate us in Kuala Lumpur. I did apply for a position in Singapore, but God chose Malaysia for us. Perhaps it is because KL is just about equidistant from those two endpoints: it is 5 to 6 hours travel time all told in either direction. It is also in the middle of those two extremes in terms of living standards: we can afford to live in KL, and we could not afford Singapore.

Through sheer dumb luck (I’m just teasing a response out of you. You know that, right?) my exam schedule gave me an extended weekend off, provided I worked like a little beaver on the marking. Since marking is one of those activites that is best done in an agony of intense activity, I finished in just under nine hours. Mission accomplished we headed for Singapore once again.

Once in your life you should visit Singapore, if you are able, just so that you can see that it is possible to build a city that actually functions properly. Recently voted among the top twenty ‘most livable’ cities (http://beaulotus.blogspot.com/2007/10/singapore-is-17th-most-liveable-city-in.html ) it is, in my humble opinion, much better than it is ranked by this Euro-centric magazine.

Its moniker is The Garden City, and unlike its American counterpart, it lives up to its name. Everywhere there are parks and greenspaces, and some of them, like the park in the east end, are just enormous. We spent three hours walking through it on Saturday, and didn’t get anywhere near the end of it. We did, however, get to a little cafe overlooking the lagoon watching waterboarders scoot around the lake on a cable wire device that provided the thrust of motorboat without either the noise or pollution – a typically Singaporean solution. The chicken wings were great, and the ‘show’ was very entertaining.

But even more impressive are the sidewalks. Understand that we live in a city where sidewalks are an afterthought at best: thin, broken brick affairs that endanger and discourage pedestrain traffic. As a result nobody walks in KL, and the narrow roads are impossibly clogged with cars. By contrast in Singapore the roads are wide, there is a clear verge between the road and the sidewalk, and another wider verge between the sidewalk and the buidings. Practically every verge is planted with graceful trees that provide shade and enhance the charm of the streetscape.

It is said that Napolean did more to transform France with his edict to plant trees on every French roadway, than any other decision he made. Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore’s visionary founder, has done the same for his country. We love the end result. Ok, so we can’t afford to live here; it is still awfully nice to visit for the weekend. And yes, we do appreciate what KL has to offer and are grateful to be here.

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