December 2008


stephen_harper_prime_minister

Harper seems to have survived his recent brush with international notoriety and now has about seven weeks to burnish his tarnished image before facing the wrath of parliament again. We do follow Canadian news over here, although it rarely hits the front page as this recent incident did.

The reason for that is obvious: it is so reminiscent of Asian politics! Thaksin in Thailand and Mahathir in Malaysia have both gone the same route, and Harper’s arrogance is well understood in countries that have suffered from similar excesses of ego over the years. The difficulties of mounting a concerted coalition of the disparate opposition parties against such arrogance is equally familiar in this part of the world.

The irony, of course, is that Canada has been wont to look down its northern nose and sneer at the contemptuous politics of Bush and Reagan only to find that they have somehow seemed to rediscover their electoral spine while in Canada we seem to have lost ours. Let’s hope that our American friends treat us with a little more understanding in this embarrassing time than we have shown them over the last few years.

Thosai

Steve has a wheat allergy. It’s not crippling, but it is inconvenient. Think of all the things that are made of wheat: bread, crackers, pizza, pasta, bagels, donuts, cake. Just a few things, right? Have a look at the box of cereal in your cupboard, or check out a few next time you are in Loblaws. How many of them don’t have wheat in them. Let me save you the trouble, there is only one, Rice Krispies that does not have wheat. And yes, they do get a little boring.

Here in the East it is particularly inconvenient as roti canai is practically the national dish. That would be bread (wheat) and an assortment of veggies for dipping. How delightful it was then, on our recent trip to Singapore to discover dosa (or thosai), a combination of rice and chickpea flour. For about 2 bucks Canadian you can get enough dosa and dhal to satisfy the most ravenous appetite. Pam likes hers stuffed with potato and cauliflower with a masala sauce. We both like to find out of the way food stalls with an authentic ambience. Throw in some freshly squeezed limes or mangoes to drink and you’ve got yourself a feast. Eat your heart out McDonald’s, fast food never tasted this good back home!

pam-in-singapore

We are in Singapore so that Pam can meet with her colleagues at TWR and Steve can get a couple of days R&R before heading back for a round of administration duties to wrap up the term. We had the privilege of witnessing the wedding vows of our friends Karen and Moaz on the weekend and headed out last night for a look at the Christmas lights along Orchard Road.

I don’t think either of us will ever get used to the idea of Christmas in the tropics. There is something almost surreal about strolling down the avenue in shorts and a light top in the early eveing when it is still plus 30 degrees and seeing Christmas decorations. We stopped alongside this enormous three story tree outside a Christian department store called Tangs and went inside to browse the ornaments. We have two tiny trees in our apartment in KL, but found nothing that small. They had Christmas balls the size of five pin bowling balls and peacocks that were even bigger, but nothing tiny. They do Christmas in a big way.

Everywhere you looked there were decorations and carol music on every corner. Store windows had displays of winter clothing and the Salvation Army were out with their kettles. Everything you would expect to find back home except for the palm trees, the shorts and the sandals, and the heat. Oh, for a little snow!

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