March 2008

Our darling grand-daughter.
Born March 25, 5:55am. 8lbs 13 oz, 20″ long.
Breathing (and crying) normally now.
Finally got to meet her mother at 6:45am.

And we are so thrilled!


Nihiwatu means “pounding stone,” and the name is most appropriate. Topping Conde Nast ‘s list of top ten resorts of 2006 the resort’s most famous feature is the surf, which relentlessly pounds the shore of this remote island. Aussies love the place, shunning the tamer and more commercialized beaches of Bali, for the more austere surroundings of Sumba -if they can afford it! (see review at )


We loved it too (although we agonized somewhat over the expense), especially as we got a free upgrade to the villa overlooking the beach. We even tried the surf, Pam on a boogie board, Steve on a full-sized surf board. Pam got the better ride, delightedly screaming all the way in, to the cheers of the onlooking crowd. Steve got tumbled endlessly until, exhausted, he had to give up without once getting to his feet.


Several bruised ribs later, we contented ourselves for the rest of the week watching the Aussies effortlessly tame the waves, which curl left along the beach, and looking for shells and turtles at the water’s edge. We took an overland trek through the hills and rice paddies of Sumba to another beach where the waves were more manageable, where we had a picnic in the shade of a grotto overlooking the shore with our new friends Brian and Claire from Oxford.


Friends were easy to find at a resort where only ten couples are allowed at a time. Suppers were leisurely affairs, graced with laughter and stories, excellent food and attentive service from a kind and friendly staff. Beautiful surroundings, great food, new friends, laughter and sunshine: what else do you need for a great vacation?


Ok, so now we are coming back from Nihiwatu! A short week, but really amazing. We are parked in one of those marvels of the modern age: the internet cafe, searching vainly for news of our new grandchild. (Notice the absence of the gender-specific). This particular internet cafe is in Bali, which is why you are not going to get much of a post from here. There’s too much to do and see and little time to explore.

We will get you caught up on our fantastic week when we get back to KL. But we will tell that the waves are indeed something that you do not want to take lightly: they are awesome and very powerful and we are fortunate that all we lost was a hat. Three surfboards were snapped in half this week by the power of the surf. But they are also irresistably compelling, and we did have our own adventures, to be sure.

 That’s all for now. Think baby, and maybe it will happen!

Fortunately, even here in Malaysia the March mid-semester break pretty much coincides with our anniversary.  We were looking for a unique holiday and came across an article in Time magazine entitled “Waves of Bliss”.  Sumba Island is one of the islands in the Indonesian archipelago and is about 400 km east of Bali, in the Indian Ocean.

sumba-island.jpgThe eco-resort, called Nihiwatu, consists of  only seven bungalows and three villas.  There is a cliff-top spa and dining takes place in a beach front restaurant and in open air pavilions. 

The resort has a neat relationship with the local island people and it has established a charitable foundation which has virtually eradicated malaria in the villages, built clinics and schools and provides training at the resort along with employment for about 150 locals.

Our stay on the island includes a flight from Bali, horse back riding on the beach, a massage at the spa, visits to a local village and a trek to a hidden waterfall. Apparently the surfing here is fantastic, but the waves look pretty intimidating!

We know that this is an extravagance, and this not something that we often do for ourselves. But thirty years of marriage is worth celebrating, don’t you think?

“A wedding anniversary is a celebration of love, trust, partnership, tolerance and tenacity.  The order varies for any given year.”    


momanddad-web.jpgDespite what you may have read on these pages recently, this year has been about partnership. Our roles have been modified over the years as we have gone through mortgages and childbirth, career change and travel, but the fundamental understanding that we are equal partners before the Lord hasn’t changed.


Perhaps because we were older when we met (24 and 27) and more sure of ourselves, we could allow the other some room to grow and be the person God intended. I know we have both tried to do that. We know also that work and kids and church and family have always been trying to push us in the direction of their needs, so it hasn’t been easy. But here we are, thirty years into our marriage, and we are still attempting to foster that completeness in the other that fulfils us and accomplishes God’s purpose.

We have not made this journey alone. Our families, friends and colleagues have helped us with their support and encouragement. Our children have been an inspiration to us, as they have faced their challenges with courage, humour and compassion. And of course God has been there providing and guiding; His hand of grace and rebuke molding our lives after the kind intention of His will.

For those of you who know us, we thank you for your affection and your support. We wouldn’t be here today without your help. You have enriched our lives and given us strength. We sincerely hope that our marriage has been a source of hope and encouragement to you in your journey through life. God has been good to us in giving us to each other. We trust that our lives have shown you that goodness, for that too is His intention.

Malaysians went to the polls on Saturday and woke up Sunday in a democracy. No one can quite believe it. The ruling coalition, made up of mostly the Malay Party (UMNO) with a few token Chinese and Indian flacks, has ruled this country since independence in 1957. They own the media, both print and video, and have gerrymandered the electoral districts to ensure a majority even if they lose. In 2004 for example, they got 64% of the popular vote and 91% of the seats in parliament.

The only time they ever lost an election was in 1969, which was suppressed by a state-sponsored race riot resulting in a local bloodbath and a palace coup. The Internal Security Act, put in place in the late ’50s to deal with the communists, has never been rescinded and allows the governement to declare illegal any peaceful assembly and jail indefinitely without charge anyone they deem dangerous to the public good.

It is in this context that Saturday’s election took place. Without any support from the media, using only the internet, cell phones, and word of mouth, the word went out to give this arrogant, corrupt government a stinging rebuke that will rebound in this country for years to come. Democracy is coming to Malaysia. It will be messy and confusing, but it looks like it is going to finally take hold.

For a look at a local blogger who ran in the election – and won by 62,000 votes over the incumbent! – check out

A year ago today I retired. I spent a happy three months getting ready to move to and then settling into a new life in Malaysia. Basically just a summer holiday for a teacher, perhaps a little extended. It was nice, but it wasn’t real.

Then I started teaching. Again. I really don’t have to do this, you know. I could just retire. I wouldn’t make much, but it would be enough to live on. But I can’t; I love teaching. Yes, it is demanding and tiring and even on occassion, boring (very rarely). But it fulfils me in a way that I can’t easily verbalize or even rationalize. It’s like I’m wired for it. I’m hooked on the learning environment.

I do about three hours of prep for my classes each day, less if I have to mark. And its all fun. I read scores of online articles on everything that is relevant, and a fair bit that isn’t, but just interesting. Constructing a good lesson or a good test is like painting for me, as much art as science. Then I deliver the lesson. I’m like a kid unwrapping a birthday present. I bring out each little bit in turn, and like a bad comedian, internally giggle at each little success, each point that goes home.

When a student who has been struggling gets 90% on a test, it’s like I got it myself, I’m so happy for them. Marking bores me, and the hassle of dealing with admin who are only interested in making a buck off these kids is disheartening. But I love being in a classroom, and I love to learn, and so long as those things are true, I guess I’m stuck working.

If God has arranged some “Honourable Mention” awards in heaven, I am sure He has one in store for my friend Lalita for her faithfulness in leading our Friday morninimg_68531.jpgg Coffee Bible Fellowship.  This is the most unruly group of  women, almost impossible to keep on task as everyone loves to talk and everyone loves to have fun.  It is a never ending challenge for Lalita to keep us focused on Genesis when everyone knows that there is a Victoria’s Secret sale going on in PJ.  One person just needs to mention a physical problem and they instantly recieve ten diagnoses and treatment strategies.

I have learned so much from each of these women img_68551.jpgabout the joys and struggles of being a women, wife and mother in their own culture and really look forward to my time together with them each week.  I am thankful to have had the support of this group for the last seven months. 



Oh, and another shared interest is food and there is always plenty of that.





 I didn’t get to see very much of Thailand but what I saw was beautiful and only makes me anxious to get back there again.  We stayed in a small town outside of Chiang Mai at a rather basic hotel.  It did get better by the third night once we all discovered that our mattress were actually upside down and we really didn’t need to be sleeping on boards.

The CHE workshop was excellent and I met a really neat group of people who are serving in various parts of Asia.  Our days were packed from 8:00 until 5:00 and we learned an exciting, integrated strategy for giving villagers the tools for spiritual and physical health.

At the end of each day we headed into our little town of Hang Dong for supper at a local market and a chance to get to know each other better.  I look forward to working with a number of these people in the future, particularily Sandy, a retired Nurse Practictioner/Midwife from Australia, who has set up a clinic in a slum in Phnom Penh.

On Friday we finished early so one of the other participants, Pastor Marting, a lovely Lahu man, took us on a quick ride through Chaing Mai, a tour of  an Umbrella Factory and a visit his church and training project.  I arrived home late Saturday afternoon feeling pretty exhausted.  Maybe I am getting old.