July 2008

 After school on Friday, Steve rented a car and made the four hour drive down to Singapore to join me for the weekend.  It worked out well to have a car there as it enabled us to pick up some packages at the airport and explore the east coast and the northern part of the island.  In the Orchid Gardens there is a water garden that has some of the most spectacular flowers and grasses that we have ever seen.




On the way home we detoured to Port Dickson, which is on the west coast Straits of Malaka, just outside of KL.  Found a lovely, quiet beach where Steve spent the afternoon marking essays while I relaxed and swam.  Who knew that there was a retreat like this just outside the city.

After about four months of bantering around slogans for our Women’s Ministry Conference, we finally came up with the perfect one.

I spent last Thursday and Friday in Singapore and it was great to get back to the TWR office to catch up with the things I had missed while in Canada.  Our conference planning committee met and the details are starting to come together very nicely.

We have women signed up to attend from Cambodia, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Philippines, Taiwan, Vietnam, Thailand, India, Indonesia and Singapore.  We are very grateful for our  home church, West London Alliance who has covered 60% of the cost of the accomodations for a week long stay in Singapore for women who for the first time will receive training and resources to use in counseling listeners from their own countries.

Although all of the women speak English well enough to translate scripts and write reports, it is not the heart language of any of them.  We have planned a very full week that would be a challenge for even a native English speaker, so we will need some real wisdom and sensitivity in ensuring that the ladies are not completely exhausted when they leave.




In the midst of all the travelling and moving around, we finally found the time to make use of a 30th Anniversary gift from our friends Ken and Susan.  Last night we both enjoyed a one hour Amoaras Relaxing Massage and it was wonderful!




We have shared many adventures with Ken and Susan this year and it is a privilege for us to count them as friends.  Their ability to understand Mandarin and Cantonese often came in handy and their familiarity with the culture challenged  us to experience things that we would not otherwise have considered. 

It was all wonderful, except for the durian, of course. 

They are heading back to Toronto at the end of the month to resume their teaching careers at home and we will certainly miss them.

Living life without a car certainly has it’s merits, mainly financial, and we really don’t miss it terribly.  However there is one major downside and that is the fact that we have not seen very much of the incredibly beautiful Malaysian countryside.  You can rent cars here very inexpensively and very conveniently, as they deliver it to your door.

On Saturday we, along with our friends Gary and Kveta did a great day trip to Fraser’s Hill (actually seven hills) which is just about 100 Kms outside of the city.   The hill station is 1500 feet up in the Titwangsa mountain range and was built to provide a place of retreat away from the heat and humidity of KL.  It is named after a British pioneer who came in search of gold but found large tin deposits instead.

Today it is a sleepy little settlement that has streets and rockery planted with lovely flowers and a network of nature trails and jungle walks that can be done in the relative coolness of the mountains.  We were able to see plenty of wild life, ferns and flowers in the forest and even saw (and heard) four massive hornbills take flight.

Our first week back has been a flurry of actvity, not the least of which was our move to a new apartment.  It was not a long move as it only involved going from Tower One to Tower Two of our complex.  With Steve back at work, I managed this move using a large suitcase on wheels.  I must have made forty trips but fortunately was able to vary my route somewhat so that people would not think that I had completely lost my mind.

Here we rent our apartments “furnished” and each landlord has their own definition of furnished.  So although the actual apartment structure is identical, this one comes with a full kitchen, built in cupboards with drawers, sofas that are actually comfortable to sit on and a dining table that seats more than two.  Thanks to our friends Bill and Kim, who lived here last year, it also comes with some added touches that make it feel very comfortable and bring back memories of some wonderful evenings spent here with them.



On Saturday night we had five people over for dinner and actually sat at the table together over a home cooked meal.  After a year of cooking only with a microwave, it felt wonderful to be able to entertain again.  Cooking is still a little tricky as ovens are not widely used but at least a stove top offers many new options.

Gosh, it is good to be back in Malaysia. My two thoughts on going back to Canada were: 1) It’s cold here! and 2) Where is everybody? The country is empty! Malaysia is not crowded like Bangladesh, but it is lively, and the streets are always full of people. Funny what you get used to.

Speaking of people, we got together at the Boulevard last night for a barbeque. It was a get-to-know-you for the new staff, all thirteen of them. Along with the eleven hold-overs from last year that makes two dozen ex-pats in this program. That is still a shade less than the 80% called for by the Ontario Ministry of Education, but probably close enough to pass certification for this year.

They are a pretty interesting bunch. Sandra was hired out of Oman where she had been teaching, Craig and Beth out of China, Farshad out of Korea where he and his family had been for four years. Gary and Kveta, who joined us in January were hired out of Papua New Guinea. Getting together with this bunch is like doing a verbal tour of Asia!

Even those who come from Canada have pretty interesting stories. Colin went to school in Mexico and has travelled extensively in South America. An amateur photographer, his photos of Peru and Bolivia are about to go up in a gallery in Toronto. His aunt is the famous Canadian guitarist Liona Boyd and his mother, Vivian, and I were in the school orchestra together at Kipling Collegiate. What a small world!

The Brownings, both Robert and Elizabeth, spent many years abroad, and their thoughts were far more poetic and insightful than mine. But while I share none of their artistry, I do share their longing for the warmth and happiness that the concept of “home” conveys.

These days I am not certain where home is. I just spent two weeks in Canada, but I live 50 weeks of the year in Malaysia. My children are in Canada, but my wife and most of my life is in Malaysia. I not sure that I am suffering jet-lag so much as I am suffering heart-lag from bouncing around so much emotionally. It is disorienting and debilitating.

I’m sure our children are going through the same thing. Dave and Liz live in Calgary, but many of their friends and most of their family is in London. Jon and Nic are now in Waterloo, but many of their friends are in the States and none of Jon’s immediate natal family is around.

But when we are together, as we were a weekend ago in London, it is a wonderful thing that just fills my heart with happiness. Watching my “children” splash around in the pool at Al and Shelley’s place was worth the dozens of hours in cramped airplanes just to get “home.” Which goes to prove that the heart knows better than the head where home is.