November 2009


Steve is the type of person who likes routines, in fact he thrives on them and routinely reassesses and revises his routines to make them work better for him.  I am more with Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis who said “The only routine with me is no routine at all”.

Nonetheless, I have a new routine.  There is a little lake near our condo with a lovely walking path and a group there doing Tai Chi every morning.  Not sure how it is organized but someone sets up a boom box and a series of people lead the exercises for about a half hour each.  There is always a very diverse group, with a wide range of expertise in Tai Chi.  So far I am the only  “orang putih”  in the group but they are happy to have me join in.
Subang Lake

If I leave with Steve when he goes out to work, I can get in a half hour of Tai Chi and a brisk walk around the lake before 8:30 when the sun is fully up.  By then it is pushing  30 degrees and too hot to be out. 

Those of you who know me are probably in awe of the fact that I have kept up this routine for almost a month. 

However, tomorrow I leave for a week in Cambodia, a long awaited break from this routine.


I was twelve when the Berlin Wall went up, forty when it came down. It was one of those markers of our generation, one of the things that defined us. It was Churchill who named Soviet control of Europe the Iron Curtain, at the close of the Second World War. If he had been re-elected, perhaps he would have got his way and continued the war in Europe against the Russians. The Brits in their inestimable good sense, wouldn’t give him the mandate, and the world entered into a long Cold War, marked by client states and hegemony. The Berlin Wall came to symbolize all that the Cold War meant: its division and suspicion, the restrictions and deceptions.

It seems a world away now, but when we were at school we were given training on what to do in the event of a nuclear attack. We were to scoot under our desks, put our hands on our heads and not look out the windows. It seems quaint and ridiculously ineffective, but that was the routine. It was called ‘duck and cover.’ Cuba had fallen into the Soviet block and they had placed in Cuba dozens of medium range missiles capable of hitting every city in the continental United States (except Seattle), including several cities in Canada, Toronto among them.

With several options open to him, including an airstrike on Cuba, followed by an invasion, Kennedy chose a safer route and opted for a blockade – technically called a quarantine to avoid having to go to Congress – and managed to avert a catastrophe. In order to coax the missiles out of Cuba, the States pulled their missiles out of Turkey, a quid pro quo that cost Kennedy a lot of military support, and depending on your level of paranoia, might have cost him his life twelve months later.

Years later Ronald Reagan, in one of the few acts of his presidency that I admire, stood in Berlin and challenge then Russian president Gorbachev to ‘tear down this wall.’  Two years later it fell, just two days before the Remembrance Day that marks two earlier conflicts, and the world for a while felt like a safer and friendlier place. Germany reunited and eventually elected a leader, Angela Merkel, who was born in East Germany. This is the twentieth anniversary of that historical event. The world has moved on to other, perhaps more intractable conflicts, and The Wall, and the existential anxiety that it produced for our generation, has become a fading memory. May it remain so.


Steve and I have been blogging for two and a half years, nowhere near the over eight years our son has been blogging and probably considerably less than many of our regular readers. Although it began with the simple idea of wanting to keep in touch with our family and friends back in Canada while we were in Malaysia, it has grown into much more than that, as we have found our voice through our writing. Now we share our thoughts not only on our travels in South East Asia, but also reflect on our cultural and personal journeys.

On the days when it feels like blogging is a lot of work, we are encouraged by a neat feature that we discovered about six months ago that we have been using.  It is called ClustrMaps, which you can find by scrolling to the bottom of our homepage. ClustrMaps creates for us a visual graph of our readership. Not only does it create a red dot for each hit on the site, but the dot increases in size with the number of hits.  We are also able to see a complete list of the countries in which we have readers. We are now at 86!

Each time we look at this graphic we see a new reader in some far off part of the world. We have readers now on every continent except Antarctica. We have several readers in both South America and India, two places in the world that we have yet to visit. We also have visitors in Alaska and Hawaii, and visitors in Korea and China.

We find all of this quite amazing; it certainly does reinforce the idea that this is indeed a small world, and a most interconnected one at that. Surely this can only be a good thing for human understanding as we learn more about who each of us truly are. Hopefully over time this will lead to greater compassion and a recognition that all of us are just one species, uniquely endowed with a capacity to envision God, and an inborn desire to know our Creator. Wherever you are in the world, dear reader, may God smile on your journey to find Him.

 Arab Quarter

Most people go to Singapore for the showy stuff: the Grand Prix or Raffles, the shopping along Orchard Road or the concerts at the futuristic Esplanade, and I do confess that is what we did as well when we first visited. This time we had a very specific goal in mind, to see Mel and Abel and wish them well. That we did, and it was as multicultural an event as you can get, an Indian Malaysian marrying a Mexican American at a wedding attended by Chinese, Indians and Europeans in the heart of Singapore. We felt right at home.

We stayed at a lovely little spot called Albert Court and in the morning we wandered off for breakfast in Little India, and had some dosai and dhal while we chatted to the locals. Then we strolled to the Arab Quarter for some shopping and a mid-morning tea of chrysanthemum flowers, ginger and rosehips. It was not showy, but it was very pleasant and relaxing, full of the charm of the East that we have come to really appreciate.

The five hours on the bus went very quickly as I had a pile of marking to catch up on. As Pam slept and read, the rolling green countryside whisked by the window. It had been five months since I was in Singapore, the last time being my birthday back in May. Pam doesn’t get down as often as she needs to, although that may change shortly as well. But each time I am impressed by how well that city works, while still managing to retain much of the culture and the ambience of the people who live there.

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