Thursday, May 31, 2007

My 31st Post

Ok, my goal this month was to average one post a day. I had something else I was going to post here, but Trien showed up at the Internet cafe, and is hungry. I know better than to keep a hungry pregnant mommy waiting too long, so this will have to be my 31st post instead. That way I will reach my goal, and Trien will be happy.

Cheers!

The Best Ice Cream in Taiping



Continuing my tour of the culinary wonders of Taiping, today I look at the hawker stall that serves the best ice cream in Taiping. It is located in the same complex that I wrote about in my post about "The Best Roti in Taiping." If you take Bukit Larut as north, then it is located in the southwest corner of the complex, the second stall in from the road.

It was after drama practice. I was walking by the Lake Gardens, waiting for Trien, so we could eat dinner. That's when I saw Jesse, the guy from New Jersey who lives in Pokok Assam, which is just outside of town, talking to a western couple. He left before I could catch up with them, but eventually I caught up the couple.

When I taught in on Jeju Island in Korea, any time you saw a westerner, you talked to them, because there were so very few of them around. Its a habit I've gotten in to, and haven't been able to break. So I introduced myself to them. They were Australians, and had lived in Taiping for a few years before going back home. We chatted while I was waiting for my wife, who hasn't yet broken the habit of being fashionably late, (at least fashionably late for a Filipina, which varies considerably from what us Americans consider "fashionably late").

When she arrived, we chatted for a couple minutes before they had to leave. They asked where we were going, and we said we were going to the circus grounds hawker stalls to eat. They recommended the place pictured above saying it had the best ice cream in Taiping.

They were right. The place has great ice cream. There are crudely painted pictures on big plywood signboards of the creatively named ice cream dishes offered. The best thing to do is to see what interests you, and ask what is in it. The owner speaks excellent English, so don't worry about any communication problems. He can tell you exactly what is in each item. They all have ice cream, of course, then some variation of fruit and topping. When I say fruit, I mean lots of fruit, both fresh and canned. I had a banana split, Trien had some wild exotic confection, and it was well worth the 8 Ringgit total we paid for them. If we had the same thing in Kl, we would have paid at least twice as much for something not nearly as good.

I repost the map below to remind you where the hawker center is located. Click on it to see the full sized version.

Bon Appetit!


Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The Most Dangerous Animal in Malaysia

I doubt this is a native species, but these guys are so cute they are dangerous. I have no idea where they came from, but I don't think they came running out of the jungle. They must be tame, as they let me get really close. They were roaming around the school, near the workers hostel where we first stayed when we moved to Taiping. As far as we know, nobody there or in the teacher's quarters keep rabbits.

I'm just lucky Trien didn't see them, otherwise we probably would have two new pets!

Monday, May 28, 2007

It's Interesting, Jake . . .

I have gotten to know Jake, who is from Taiping, through writing this Blog. He writes his own Blog, Stupid Malaysia, about the corruption and stupidity in the Malaysian government, and how difficult it is for non-ethnic Malays here. While I have come here to work, escape an unfair system, and for peace of mind, he has gone to the USA for the same reasons.

It seems that in some ways, at least, we are living parallel lives.

Jake has put a posting in his Blog, about how ironic it is that we went to each others countries to get away from what we both see as immoral and corrupt governments.

I left the USA, because life wasn't good for me there, and I needed a change of scenery. I had lost my job, broken up with my girlfriend, yada yada yada, and was stuck in a rut. Most of all, I felt that I could not live there anymore and give my implicit support to a government which I consider corrupt and immoral, despite all its trappings of self righteousness.

Plus, I hadn't been treated well by the government in the USA, in part because of my political activities and beliefs. I was watched, and had my phone tapped. Me, an ordinary law abiding citizen, whose only offence was some unpaid parking tickets. Yet still, The government felt I was a threat, and treated me as such.

Not that the government here is much better, especially in its treatment of non-bumiputras.
Jake does a good job of exposing those things in his Blog.

Jake went away from here, and found peace and contentment in the USA. Good for you, Jake!
I have come here, and I see all sorts of corruption and injustice all around me. That gets me really pissed off, but I am only a guest here. I will have to move away from here soon, because the immigration laws won't allow me to get permanent residence or my wife to work. Not unless I can come up with $150,000 US, and then they will welcome me with open arms, and palms outstretched.

Malaysia could be a great country, and a great place to live. Yet because of the narrowmindedness and corruption of the "Little Napoleons" who are in charge, it never will be.
Which truly is a shame. Because if they were truly intent on promoting the "racial harmony" they like to spout on about in this country, there wouldn't be a brain drain, and Malaysia would be a the major power in ASEAN politics.

Jake has made me think. I am not just a citizen of the USA, I am a citizen of the world. To quote Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.:

"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

My Encounter With Malaysian Wildlife: The Flying Snake

I was walking home from school on Friday, when I saw one of the cats that hang around climbing up the chain link fence in the parking lot, intent on something. Something had caught these stupid cats attention, which with these cats could only mean a potential meal. When I Say stupid, I mean stupid. They all look the same, so they probably are inbred, with some inborn mental defect. Usually, I don't mind cats, but for some reason I have a hatred for these particular ones. Probably because they serve no useful function, other than laying around by or in the dumpster, gorging themselves on the garbage when the monkeys aren't picking through it, and walking around like you don't belong in their apartment complex.

One of them had climbed up the links on the fence, and was looking intently at something. The others were sitting there waiting for their pal to bring it to them. Feeling the way I do about these cats, of course I had to go investigate, and shoo them away.

What was it that had them so fascinated?

It was a snake, a long thin one. I didn't want it to become their next meal, as they are fed well enough from all the garbage they eat from the dumpster that they don't need to torture and eat what might potentially be an endangered species. I chased them away several times, then ran upstairs to get my camera so I could get some pictures before they came back and the snake was eaten, or otherwise disappeared.

I ran in the apartment, and grabbed the camera. Trien asked what I was doing, and knowing the way she feels about snakes, I just said I had to get a couple of pictures of something downstairs. If I had told her that I was going to take pictures of a rather long snake in the parking lot, she would never leave our apartment again.

I was in luck. When I came down, the cats were gone, and the snake was happily making its way along the top of the fence. I was able to get as many pictures as I wanted. The snake watched me. It was wary, but not threatening or aggressive. Still, I didn't get too close to it, or try to be Steve Irwin.

I was careful, because didn't know what kind of snake it was. Here in Malaysia, snakes of all different types are plentiful. We have everything here from 9 meter long pythons, to king cobras, vipers, you name it. I am no herpetologist, so as far as I knew it could have been an extremely poisonous carpet viper or something like that.

Later on when Trien and I came down to get something to eat, the snake was gone. It was only after I saw it was gone that I told her what I had been doing. I showed her the first picture of the snake, and she refused to see any more.

I don't know if the stupid cats got it, or it climbed up in the tree, but it wasn't there anymore. While Trien has gotten over her fear of monitor lizards, and even enjoys watching them swim in the Lake Gardens, snakes are a different thing. The mere mention of one sends shudders up her spine.

Later on, I went to the Internet cafe, to see if I could find out what kind of snake it was, and if it was poisonous.

What was it?

As far as I can tell, it was flying tree snake, specifically a paradise tree snake. They are not poisonous to humans, only to geckos and the other small prey they feed on.

Their unique feature is that they can flatten out their bodies, and fly from tree to tree.

Later on, when I told Trien that it was a flying tree snake, she recognized it right away. She said that when she was growing up, there were many of them in the trees in and around her village..

No wonder she is so scared of snakes. I would be, too, if the snakes around my house came flying out of the trees!

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Doctors Report- Our 26th Week of Pregnancy

We went to see Dr. Jeya yesterday for our monthly checkup. I couldn't wait to see those cool ultrasound scans of our baby in the womb. For me, that's the whole highlight of the visit. I like to see them so much, I usually ask Trien if we can go earlier than our scheduled visit. I want to see the baby. If I ask her a couple weeks before, of course she says no, even though she's as anxious as I am to see what our daughter looks like. If I ask her a couple days before, she'll sometimes give in, and we can see our baby on the screen.

Trien and I told Dr. Jeya about the gas pains, which made her and the nurse burst out in laughter. I know they really look forward to seeing us, as we are usually good for at least a couple of chuckles. That was probably why we got to go first, even though there were a couple others in frot of us. They needed the comic relief. Anyway, after they composed themselves, Trien had the ultrasound scan.

We got quite a surprise. What Trien thought was the baby's head, turned out to be her butt, and what she thought was the the baby's butt, turned out to be her head. Our daughter has literally turned upsidedown. So when Trien was having her gas pains, and asked our daughter to move her butt, she was a good girl and did exactly what she was asked to do. When she said "No, move the part down there," our daughter did that, that was her head, not her butt! When Dr. Jeya showed us how the baby was positioned, then things started to make sense.

We have a good daughter. Even in the womb, she does as she's asked!

The ultrasound scan wasn't as exciting this time as it normally is, because of the change in postion of the baby's body. Of course, being turned the way she is makes her more difficult to see. Her head is turned toward mommy's back, which meant we couldn't see her facial features, or much of anything else.

All we saw in the scan was an indistinct, amorphous mass, that Dr. Jeya said was our baby. A couple of times I could make out a leg, or an arm, and I did see her heart beating, but nothing was easily recognizable. There was something round that she said was our baby's head, and said it looked normal. She took measurements of it and said that our baby's growth was normal. That was a relief for Trien, because she is worried about having a huge baby that would make delivery as pleasant as being forced to watch C-Span.

As for me, I wasn't too anxious. I wasn't expecting to find our daughter had suddenly grown another head or anything. Our baby was still a girl. There had been no sex change in utero, or anything else. Not that I have any problem having a daughter. In fact, I am really looking forward to having daddy's little girl. The only problem I have now is waiting for her to be born!

The blood work we had taken last visit came back normal. Which means we don't have AIDS, hepatitis, jungle rot, cooties, or any other kind of infectious diseases, and neither does the baby. That's a relief! Not that I was expecting anything like that, but as with any kind of test, there is always some anxiety before you get the results.

So everything looks good. Mommy and baby are doing fine. It's just daddy who's going stir crazy, waiting for her to be born!

Friday, May 25, 2007

Week 26 of Our Pregnancy

The other night Trien gave me a big scare. She was laying down in bed, and got up to get some coco butter to put on her tummy, to stop the itching and to prevent stretch marks. When she did, she had pain in the lower right part of her abdomen, about where she says our daughter's butt is, somewhere close to her appendix.

That put me in a near panic. After two previous misfires, of course I am very concerned about her physical well being. She lay back down, and I immediately sprang into action, to attend to her needs. I asked her what she needed, and she said she didn't know.

So I went into the other room to pray. I was nearly frantic, worried that she might be going into premature labor, the placenta was detaching from the uterine wall, her appendix had to be removed, or some such disaster was in the midst of happening. I figured the good Lord was the only one who could help us now. I spent a few minutes begging him to have mercy upon us, and heal whatever condition was causing this pain. And why not? Prayer, and the good Lord, have certainly done miracles for me. My doctor in the USA will testify to that.

After composing myself, I wiped the tears from my eyes, asked her what she needed, and rubbed her tummy. She wasn't sure what she needed. Maybe the baby was in the wrong position. Maybe she was pressing on the wrong place, and if she moved, the pain would be gone. Trien started talking to the baby, and asked her to move her butt. The baby did move, but moved what Trien thought was her head instead. Then Trien pointed to the area that she wanted the baby to move, and asked her to move a little bit. Again, our daughter did as she was asked. Still, the pain was still there.

Our monthly check up was the next day, and Trien asked if we could go in the morning, instead of during the afternoon. Go in the morning? I was ready to call someone to take us to the hospital right then and there. If need be, I was going to stand in the middle of the road around the Lake Gardens, and force someone to stop and take us to the hospital.

Then she said she thought it might be gas. My solution? Go make some ginger tea. Trien's reaction?

"Do you know how to make ginger tea?"

Of course I do. I was the one who introduced her to it, and taught her how to make it. I put in a little honey, she drank it, and felt better. A few minutes later she went to sleep. As for me, it was a while longer before I was able to do the same.

The next morning I woke up and got ready for work. I asked her how she felt, and she said she still had pain, but it was better. She said there was no need for me to take off work to take her to the doctor. Not that I would have missed anything anyway: there was no teaching today so the kids could clean up their classrooms and dorms before they headed home for the midyear vacation.

After school I went back to our apartment to throw some water on my body and change my shirt before we headed out to the makan stalls by the Lake Gardens for lunch, and then to the doctor. I asked Trien how she felt. She said she was fine, and that it was just gas.

"How do you know it was just gas?"

"I farted a couple of times this morning, and I felt better."

She has gas pains, and I'm ready for electroshock therapy, in need of large doses of psychotropic drugs, and find God.

When she gives birth, it looks like she won't be the only one screaming!

Hopefully, we'll both survive it!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Pictures of the Day: Rugby in the Rain and Monkey Crossing


I had to wait to go home from work yesterday. First off, we had a meeting. Mr. Wong had to gave a thirty minute presentation of a three day workshop that he had to give to local primary school teachers. It wasn't easy fitting three days of material into thirty minutes, but Mr. Wong did his best. At the end of his presentation, he was all hyped up and out of breath, but he made it through only a little worse for thewear.

After he finished, Puan Zuraidah had to give a presentation on how we are supposed to do and mark our oral evaluations of the students. In my case, that is the lowest set of form one students. I don't mind doing speaking evaluations, as I had to do them every month for my students in KL, and also to evaluate incoming students. They are more fun than sitting there watching them do written tests.

Just as soon as I was going to leave, it started raining, as hard as it usually does here in the tropics. Which meant that I had to hang out in the staff room until it finished, and slog home through the soggy ground by the Lake Gardens.

After it stopped, I passed by the athletic field near the front gate. These guys pictured above were playing rugby in the waterlogged field, and having a great time doing it. In New Jersey, we would call what they were playing , "smear the queer", which I know isn't politically correct to say anymore. We would get a football, and throw it up in the air. Whoever caught it had to run, and everyone else had to try to tackle him.

I was really good at it, so good that when I caught the ball, I had to turn around and close my eyes. Then everyone else would hide. When they said they were ready, I had to turn around and run, while they jumped out at me from behind trees, bushes, cars, or whatever, and tried to tackle me. Even then, they still couldn't get me down, because I was quick, fast, and when you put a football in my hands, I run without fear.

To me, the most fun you can have playing football is in the mud, sliding and slopping around, and getting all dirty.

These guys couldn't play in mud because, hey, this is the tropics. Everything grows like crazy here. There are no muddy athletic fields here, because you tear something up, it grows back right away. Okay, there are rice paddies, but there aren't any locally. You have to go to Kedah, the rice bowl of Malaysia, if you want to see that.

It didn't matter that they weren't the best athletes in school, they were just having fun for funs sake. No competition, no trying to see who was the strongest, the fastest, or the best, nothing.

That's the way it used to be when I was really young, but I lost that sense of playing just to have fun. Wow! You know, I'll have to try that some time!

Then, this morning I was walking to school. As I came around the bend, there was a troop of monkeys directly in my path, waiting for the traffic to pass so they could cross the road.

Now, these long tailed macaques aren't big, but you have to respect them. Yeah, they may be cute, but they are wild animals, and you have to respect that fact. If they feel cornered or threatened, they will react accordingly. If you get too close, they will snarl at you and make threatening gestures. They may be small, but they are strong. I wasn't about to go walking right into the middle of the troop. So while they waited, I waited, too. While waiting, I got out the trusty camera, and took a couple pictures.

The first picture shows that, "It's good to be the king". While the others are waiting to cross, the "headboy" is having a little ook-ook with a female. It seems that he can just have his way with any female any time he wants. In the meantime, a couple of the young monkey's are taking big chances and running right in front of the passing cars. A couple of them just missed becoming road pizzas by millimeters, and gave out the monkey distress call after making it safely. I know there is an object lesson there somewhere, but I will let you come up with your own conclusion.


After the "headboy" finished, he took his position at the head of the troop. That didn't stop a few of the younger ones making suicide runs across the road. The majority of them, though waited for him to make his way across, and followed him. They all made it across safely, with no problem. Again, I know there is another object lesson there, or allegory, make of it what you will.


It's good to slow my life down sometimes, and notice things around me. When I do that, I find there are plenty of life lessons all around me. Sometimes I can learn more in a few minutes of quiet observation, than I can by reading a book, or taking a class. Then there is always something that connects deep within me, and I know that God has spoken, if only just in this quiet, little way.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

TV Drama in Taiping

I was walking home last week, when I saw some activity in the Lake Gardens by our place. The road passing in front of our apartment was closed off by some RELA officers. There was a box truck parked by the side of the road, and a bunch of people milling about. Of course that meant that I had to go and see what was happening.

It was a film crew. In New York, there is nothing unusual about that. Taiping, despite its picturesque location, doesn't see much of the media, unless they are there to do a report on the zoo. I figured it would be cool to see how Malaysians do things.

It was the same as on any other set anywhere else in the world. They had put up a swing set as a background prop. There was a director, a couple of actors (although at first I couldn't tell who they were), the usual crew members, a photographer, and a few curious onlookers. The onlookers didn't seem too curious though. Most of the passersby barely even gave the proceedings a second glance, and the joggers barely broke stride.

The ones who bothered to stop and have a look were some Malays. There were a couple of families and a few people hanging around watching. The families must have been there for a while, as they had a picnic, and the kids were kicking a ball around and doing what kids normally do. Except during filming, when a production assistant made sure they kept still and were quiet.


(The white building visible behind the panel truck is in our apartment complex.)

The two actors were Malays, and they were filming a drama in Bahasa Melayu. When I showed some of my students the pictures, they identified them as Tony Youssof and Siti Shariza. They couldn't tell me much about them, other than Tony Youssof had done a commercial. They didn't know what they were filming, other than some kind of tv drama.










The kids don't get to go out from our campus without special permission from someone in charge. They were a bit disappointed that something like this was happening, and they couldn't get to see it.

It's probably better for the film crew that they weren't around. Otherwise, they would try to get into the middle of every scene, start acting, and want to be "discovered". How do I know this? Because I like to teach by example, and they get plenty of practice being hams in my classes!

Monday, May 21, 2007

My Article Has Pictures

Ok, I got a "pee review" on my Uncyclopedia article, by a fifteen year old kid from New Jersey. Which is cool, because that is basically what I am, at least at heart. You might question the wisdom of taking advice from a fifteen year old, but what the heck, I'll take it where it's given. Besides, at least someone takes the time to read my stuff. Maybe I have found my target audience, or at least one that understands my stuff.

I made some changes, mainly by adding some pictures. I hope it made it funnier. I'm still not done playing with it. The next step is to cut it down some, as the review said it was a bit long, and I agree with that. If anyone else wants to help out, with the article, go ahead.

I also started work on another article. The links in red are links to articles that haven't been written yet. I know my OCD won't let them go unwritten. It looks like I will end up writing a whole series of satirical articles on the Barnegat Bay area before I am through, whether I want to or not. That is, unless I can get my OCD under control. If I can do that, then I will probably end up writing a whole series of articles about something else!!!

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Happy Birthday Steve!!!


Today is my brother's 44th birthday.

Steve, I am proud of you. Despite the fact that we had one of the worst childhoods anyone could ever imagine, you made out all right. It makes my heart glad that you've made a good life for yourself. A pretty wife who is the worlds best cook, a beautiful genius of a daughter that you adore, a job you are good at and like doing- not many people have it as good as you. Count yourself as blessed.

I know we've had our differences in the past, and sometimes took things out on each other, but I am glad time has done its work, and healed old wounds. It's nice to be in contact, and have a brother again. It's nice to be a brother again, too.

Here's hoping you have many more years of the happiness you deserve. I'm not a drinking man, and neither are you, but if I was, I'd be raising a glass in your honor right now. Or more deservedly, the whole @#&*ing bottle!

So here's to you, Bro!

Cheers!

Monkeys and Monitor Lizards - My Daily Encounter With Malaysian Wildlife



Every day at work, or on my way to or from work, I have an encounter with the local wildlife, mostly monkeys. This certain morning, I was on my way to the canteen, to see what they had for breakfast other than fried mee or nasi lemak. A monkey was sitting on the gazebo, watching me. I had my camera handy, so I took a picture of him. When I did, he stuck his tongue out at me!


Later on after work, I was passing by the Lake Gardens on my way home. There were some large dark simian forms with long tails running toward the trees. (No, it wasn't George W. Bush and his advisers. I got close enough to make sure). It was a small group of Dusky Leaf Monkeys.

They usually stay high up in the trees, and are shy. (The monkeys, that is, not Dubya and friends). When they come to the Lake Gardens, though, it seems like they will come to the ground and chase each other around for fun for a short while, before heading back to the trees and hanging out. I have tried other times to get a decent picture of them, but because of the shadows and their movements, I was never able to get a really clear shot. This guy was sitting in the perfect angle to the sun, and held still long enough for me to get a good picture.


After that I walked across the road, as they are doing work on the curbing and the sidewalk, and I got tired of climbing around the piles of rubble the workers left everywhere. Then I saw a big monitor lizard, being jabbered at by a common mynah. It must have measured five feet from nose to tail. Pretty impressive, but not as big as the ones we saw when we visited the Perhentian Islands off the coast of Terangganu. Those ones were massive, the size of large crocodiles. I swear, the biggest one must have been seven feet from nose to tail, and weighed more than I did. It was like being face to face with a real dinosaur, and Trien was terrified.

This one, though, was a midget, comparatively. It would have been easy for me to pick it up with one arm. Once he saw me, he ran for the riverbank.


Next I ran into this smaller monitor lizard. It was about three feet long from nose to tail. This one wasn't so eager to get away from me. It let me get pretty close, and posed for me, before it started moving away.


I could almost swear that it wanted me to take its picture!


What's a walk around the Lake Gardens without an encounter with one of the local troops of long tailed macaques? These guys seem to be taking note of the license plate number. Maybe they got a particularly nice treat from these people, and want it for future reference.

















These guys were doing what monkeys usually do, being curious and playing around. The one on the silver car is hanging upside down by his feet from the roof, and looking in the window. I checked it out, and the window was shut, so he couldn't get in. There must be something awfully interesting or tasty inside that car. He spent the whole time I was there looking in the window like that!

It's all just part of the daily routine, but an interesting one, nonetheless.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Uhhhh . . . I Think We Found Our Guy

Something I found at Viral emails. Is it me, or does this guy look surprised?

My Uncyclopedia Article


Ok, I have been writing my article for about a week now. It is not finished, and I am still playing with it. I will probably be editing it and rewriting it for months, like I do with most stuff I write. What the hell, I might as well let other people see what I am doing and get some feedback on it. Here is the link to my entry in the Uncyclopedia.
Let me know what you think!

Friday, May 18, 2007

Our 25th Week of Pregnancy


Ok, we've now made it through the first week of the third trimester. Trien's tummy is getting big. It looks very cute. Her fellow Filipinas tell her that she is not that big for six months, and that makes her feel happy. Still, she is worried about getting fat.

When I married her, I wasn't asking for a supermodel trophy wife. I just wanted a super wife, which is what I have. I tell her all the time, "Don't worry about getting fat, I'll still love you even if you do get fat." The most important thing is that her and the baby get enough of the right nutrition, and in the right quantity. She hasn't been gorging or dieting, and seems to be eating a normal amount. It's just that when your body is undergoing all these changes, it's normal to get a bit paranoid.

The baby is getting more and more active now, and not just because she is getting bigger and therefore the movements are easier to feel. The periods of activity are getting more frequent. They aren't necessarily lasting longer, it is that she is getting active more often. Unfortunately, one of those new times of activity is right after we turn out the lights. You can almost set your clock by it. Bedtime comes, we get settled in, and boom! The baby starts doing the rhumba in double time.

Of course this means my wife has more trouble getting to sleep at night. That means we both have trouble getting to sleep. It is no longer comfortable for my wife to sleep on her right side, because that's where the baby's head and body are. She can only feel comfortable on her left side, where the feet are, or laying upright on her back.

Getting to sleep now entails a lot of shifting around, moving pillows, and getting her tummy and her "hug pillow" (which is really an oversized bolster), in the right position. She twists and turns and flops around all over the bed, and I end up sleeping on my side with my face scraping the wall. On the other side, there is either her or a pillow in my back. It's not unusual now for me to wake up, and her feet are by my head. The other night, the only way she could get comfortable was to sleep crossways on the futon which serves as our bed, with her feet hanging over the edge. I had no choice but to sleep the same way, and I have to admit, it was pretty comfortable. It was pretty disappointing the next night when she went back to sleeping her normal way, and I had to go back to drooling on the wall.

The thing is, I know it is only going to get worse as the due date gets closer.
I can ride it out though. It's just another one of life's great adventures!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

My Uncyclopedia Article


Ok, the past few days I haven't been putting the usual amount of work into this Blog that I normally do. It's exam time, and I don't have as much work to do. Right now I justthave to babysit students during their exams. So I should be able to put even more work into my postings here, right?

Well, not quite. See, I found this other site, Uncyclopedia. It is a parody of Wikipedia. It has all sort of articles written as wikis, that you can read, and go ahead and edit if you want to. It is the answer to the collaborative writing project I was trying to start in this blog awhile ago. The number of people who participated in that project?

One.
Me.

While I would have liked people all around the world to have taken part in it, it looks like it's not going to happen. It has gone into terminal hibernation, and who knows if it will ever be revived?

From now on I think I will look to sites like Uncyclopedia and Wikipedia to get my collaborative writing fix. If anyone knows of any other sites that are worthwhile, please let me know.

Meanwhile, It's a lot of fun to surf through the Uncyclopedia and read the articles. Some are really good, and make me laugh out loud. One that I was reading today, and thought was pretty hilarious, was this one. The title alone is enough to give you a good laugh. Others aren't so good, and are more stupid or insulting than funny. The one I thought was in particularly poor taste is the one on my home state, New Jersey. It's in such poor taste, and so badly written, that I am not even going to link to it. If you want to read it, you'll have to find it yourself. That's what you get with wikis. Sometimes you get brilliance, and other times you get utter crap. Most of the stuff is somewhere in between, in your typical bellcurve pattern.

I am currently writing an article for the Uncyclopedia. Hopefully, it will fall more towards the brilliant side of the curve, than the total crap side. When I am finished with it, I will link to it, and you can read it, comment on it, improve it if you think it's crap, and hopefully get a good laugh out of the whole process. I am going to show a copy of what I have to my chief editor, my wife, and see what she says. After I get her feedback, I should have my article finished in a day or two.

Until then,
CHEERS!

John

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Our Filipino Family's Video Chat News

Yesterday was a historic first in Trien's family history. It was the first time she and her family ever had a video chat.

That was not easy, as nobody in her family is really computer literate. Most of her family has only seen a computer from the other side of a counter at an office. Her sixteen year old sister Emily has at least actually touched one, but barely knows how to more than turn it on.

They texted Trien on Sunday, saying that they wanted to chat on Monday, because it was election day, and everyone would be off. She called them back, and they set up a date, at 2pm.

Mama went with Em-Em, and they got to the Internet cafe an hour early, because they were very excited. In the interim, Em-Em read her e-mail while Mama watched. After Trien got to our local Internet cafe, they chatted for over two hours on Yahoo! messenger. It wasn't that they had so much to say, it's just that Em-Em can't type that fast, so it took much longer than it would otherwise.

After they turned on the video cameras, Mama started crying. I asked Trien why, and her first response was, "Because she missed me," and the second was, "I don't know." That is unusual, because usually the latter response comes first, to give the person questioned a few seconds to think and form a response.

I think Mama cried because Trien showed them her pregnant tummy. Being a mommy herself, I think Mama was touched now that her oldest daughter, the one they thought was never going to get married, was now going to have a daughter of her own. Mama is that kind of sweet emotional woman, and it follows that her daughter is, too.

As for news, it seems that somewhere in the world, I am having a good influence on someone. Her two nieces and nephew are going to school everyday, and not playing hooky, as was the case when we were there in December. Back then, they weren't interested in school. If they went in the morning, half the time when they came home for lunch they wouldn't go back. Now they go every day, all day long. Why? Because Auntie Trien told them Uncle John said you have to go to school every day. Now she is back here with me, she calls up the house, and the kids want to talk to me to make sure that I really said that. She tells them that they can't speak to me, because A) we wouldn't be able to understand each other, or B) she tells them I am in the toilet. Which means that the kids must think I am aphasic, and have some sort of chronic digestive disorder. I think she is afraid I might say something in jest, and they would take it seriously. Something along the lines of, "You don't have to go to school, you have to live there." The result would probably give Mama and Papa a heart attack.

One of the reasons the kids gave for missing school was they didn't have pencils. Before I left, I bought them a big box of pencils. Now they are almost gone. I have a whole bunch of pencils that I have been saving from different conferences that I have been to this year. Trien's friend Lisa over in Tanjung Bunga, Penang, is visiting her family in the Philippines next week, and will be in Cebu for a couple days. She will give the kids our pasalubong. After that the kids will have pencils from the Excelsior Hotel in Ipoh, The Copthorne Orchid in Penang, and elsewhere. They can show the other students their pencils and have something to be proud of. Hopefully that will give them even more incentive to go to school.

The one thing that really makes me glad is that Em-Em is going to college. I was worried about her, as she is sixteen now, and going to graduate from high school. No, she is not some sort of super genius who is graduating two years early. That is the normal age kids graduate from high school in the Philippines. The problem is that because of the crappy economy, legally you can't work until you're eighteen. You need to have a college education to even be considered for a job, even if it's just sweeping the floors at Jollibee, which is the Philippine version of McDonald's. No college, No Job. You won't even get the most menial of jobs.

So if Em-Em was not going to college, she would just be sitting around the house for a couple of years doing nothing. At the end of that time, she wouldn't be able to get a job. Basically, she would just be sitting around their village, waiting for some guy to marry her and have kids. It would certainly not be a rich guy either, just some pesoless guy from around the area barely making enough to support himself. Probably one that would drink, and beat her, and after she had kids, would take up with another woman. I've seen that happen a lot around there. That's not the future I'd like my nice, sweet sister-in-law to have.

I told Trien we would talk to her brothers about putting our money together and sending her through college. Em-Em wants to take a two year Hotel and Restaurant Management course at the University of Cebu Lapu-Lapu Mandaue campus, just over the bridge from Mactan Island, where they live. Trien says they are well known for their program there. I left before we had a chance to have a sit down talk with the family.

Trien talked to them after I left, and that my plan is happening. Her brothers are doing their part, and we are doing ours. She is out today sending our contribution, so that Em can buy her uniform.

That way, she can get a job and help out the family a little bit. Maybe she can meet a nice guy at college, or at her job, instead of some sorry loser who is just hanging around looking for trouble. If all goes well, there's even a possibility that we could help her get a job here in Penang.

It really make me feel good, knowing that in some small way I helped change others lives for the better. My life suddenly seems worthwhile.

Monday, May 14, 2007

The 101 Best Things George Carlin Ever Said and More


I remember seeing George Carlin on TV as a kid in the sixties. When I first saw him, I was too young to appreciate his humor, as it had to do with contemporary issues, and things I was too young to be aware of. As I matured, and read the newspapers, I realized he got a lot funnier. When I was in sixth grade, someone brought in his record, "Seven Dirty Words You Can't Say on TV". We were surprised when the teacher played it, and we laughed so much we were crying and our stomachs hurt.

I'm not saying that I now I am over 40, I think everything the man says is funny. What I admire about him is that he approaches the pertinent issues of the day with humor, with an edgy persona, and a tongue sharp as a straight razor. He seems to always come out with some zingers that make you laugh, and stay with you, because they have that bright ring of truth around them.

I recently found this website with a list of the "101 Greatest George Carlin Quotes".
Here are some of my favorites:

Religion has convinced people that there’s an invisible man…living in the sky, who watches everything you do every minute of every day. And the invisible man has a list of ten specific things he doesn’t want you to do. And if you do any of these things, he will send you to a special place, of burning and fire and smoke and torture and anguish for you to live forever, and suffer and burn and scream until the end of time. But he loves you. He loves you and he needs money.

The reason they call it the American Dream is because you have to be asleep to believe it.

You know the good part about all those executions in Texas? Fewer Texans.

I knew a transsexual guy whose only ambition is to eat, drink, and be Mary.

The real reason that we can’t have the Ten Commandments in a courthouse: You cannot post “Thou shalt not steal,” “Thou shalt not commit adultery,” and “Thou shalt not lie” in a building full of lawyers, judges, and politicians. It creates a hostile work environment.

The Golden Gate Bridge should have a long bungee cord for people who aren’t quite ready to commit suicide but want to get in a little practice.

The very existence of flamethrowers proves that sometime, somewhere, someone said to themselves, “You know, I want to set those people over there on fire, but I’m just not close enough to get the job done.”

If your looking for some more of George Carlin's humor, here's another pretty good website, dealing more with his interviews and routines.






















I leave you with one final quote:
"Fighting for peace is like screwing for virginity."

Sunday, May 13, 2007

To My Mommy to Be


Today is Mother's Day. Even though she is not a mother yet, and won't be until sometime around the end of August, I want to thank God for giving me Trien as my wife.

Baby, you have truly made a huge amount of difference being in my life. When we first met, I never imagined that our relationship would ever turn out to be what it has become: a loving, nurturing, self-sustaining relationship with a sweet caring woman. We had a rough beginning after we first met, but we were able to put that behind us, and have the maturity and commitment to make things work.

I have said it to you before, and I know you don't really understand the depth of meaning these words have for me when I say them to you:
I Love You
&
I am so lucky that no other man never realized the treasure you are and married you before I met you.

Thank you, Baby, for being that one stable thing in my life that I can count on. Thank you for your hugs, your kisses, your caring for me, your concern, your support, and all those little things you do that show how much you love me.

I know I am not perfect, and I have many failings and shortcomings, but I promise that with God's help, I will do my best to be the type of husband you deserve, and be a good father to our unborn daughter.

Thanks for being in my life. Of all the many blessings God has poured into my life, none has been any more wonderful, or more needed, than you, and the wonderful gift of love you have given me.

With Humbleness of Soul and True Love in my Heart,

Your Husband John

Fun with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder


Ok- I have OCD. My wife knows it, too, she just doesn’t know what to call it. One of the ways that it manifests itself is that I collect things, most of the time things that I’ll never use. At one time it was books. I had books on all sorts of unusual arcane subjects that you weren't likely to find anywhere else but in one of my piles. Sure, I read some of them, but most of them I didn’t even look at after I bought them. So when I moved, (as I often did), I ended up dragging 16-18 milk crates full of books with me wherever I went. Believe me, it would have been much easier to get rid of a few of them than to lug them to a new place every six months or so. But then, the reasonableness of such thinking never occurred to me until just now.

I have realized that I have a problem. So now I am trying to take steps to bring things under control. Now when I get the urge to collect things, I try to collect something useful, alright, at least potentially useful. Something that won’t take up a lot of space or weigh too much when I have to move, like computer files.

Recently I bought an 80 gigabyte portable hard drive when I went to the PIKOM PC Fair in Penang with Mr. Wong. Now I can download whatever I want, and cart it with me wherever I go, in something that fits in my shirt pocket. Of course, having all that portable storage at my fingertips makes my OCD go into overdrive. I want to save stuff. I just have to control what it is that I save.

To appreciate things better, you have to know that I don’t have a computer or internet connection at home. We used to have a working computer, but one day I was playing “Worms Armageddon” during a typical Taiping thunderstorm. Despite the best efforts of our quality Malaysian made surge protector, the motherboard got fried. At least our quality Malaysian made surge protector kept me from being fried. Maybe it would have been better if it didn't because then I would have had some free electro-shock therapy. Well anyway, when we moved to our new apartment, I had to take the computer with us, despite my wife’s protestations, because I couldn’t throw it out. Who knows, maybe one day I will get the time, or the will to fix it? Or maybe I can start a new collection of broken computers?

Because of this unfortunate accident, the only place I can get an internet connection is either at school, or at the local internet café. Neither of these are very private places.

Because of my compulsion I had to go to the internet cafe, and start hoarding something of no use to me. Something that could harm my reputation, and worse, hurt my sweet wife. So what did I have a compulsion to download?

Pornographic film clips. Yup, I know, a guy like me, married, and with my religious beliefs, should be embarrassed and ashamed. Believe me, I am not proud of this, or the fact that I had to go to the internet café to do it. I wasn't comfortable doing this, but I just had to. Try doing a search on Limewire for "blowjobs" when you are sitting between some teenybopper surfing Friendster whose best friend is her cellphone, and an some officious looking Indian businessman trying to come up with a flyer for his new business venture. It's not a comfortable feeling, believe me, but still, I had to do it. I did it despite the big sign on the wall saying “Strictly No Pornography.”

The other problem was where the hell was I going to watch it? I sure as hell couldn’t watch it at the internet café, not with a bunch of people constantly moving all around me. Watching it at school? Come on, be real, would ya? What was I going to do, invite the Pastor and his family over for Hardcore Porno Night? Show them to my wife so she and her friends could have an Oprah type hugfest over whose husband is the bigger pervert? How would she feel if she found out I was doing this? What the hell was I doing?

It was then that I realized what it was- My OCD was running amok. I had to do something to control it.

Step number one, of course, was to delete the folder from my hard drive. That took me a couple of weeks to work up the will to do. It made me feel a little bit better, a bit better than the pond scum I was feeing like. Yet still, I had the compulsion to collect something.

I decided if I was going to start hoarding something, why not make it something useful, or at least potentially useful? I needed to figure out what that could that be.

My solution: I could start hoarding two things. The first was music. On my computer that I left behind in the USA, there are about four or five hundred songs that I downloaded illegally, (Ok RIAA song Nazi’s, try and get me out here in jungle land, Malaysia). I listened to them all the time, and burned cd’s, so obviously it was something useful that I take pleasure in. So I decided that instead of downloading pornography, it would be better to download music.

Trien loves music almost as much as I do, but more important than music that me or Trien likes, though, is music for our unborn daughter. So I search for Beethoven, Mozart, Chopin, Bach, and any time of soothing classical music, that will help calm her, and help her little brain to develop to genius level.

When daddy is at work, and mommy is at the house alone, she always plays music for the baby. So now I can feed my hoarding obsession, and get some good out of it. I can also listen to the music at work, or even right now as I write this. Believe me, it is not easy to write this stuff, but the Bach piano concerto (It sounds more like Brahms), I am listening to right now sure makes it a lot easier.

Ok, not everything is 100% ok. I still download music indiscriminately, looking in the libraries of the file sharing programs in the internet cafe, or searching through the folders of the computers in school. If something seems good, even if I have no idea what it is, it goes on the pocket hard drive. Does anyone know what Cliff Richard’s “Sing a Song of Freedom’, sounds like? I as hell don’t, but there it sits, in the same folder with “Iingatan Ka”, by Carol Banawa.

The second thing I am doing to beat down my hoarding obsession, (or is it a compulsion? I’m not quite sure what the difference is some times), is to download computer programs.

I’ll go to Google, and search for open source programs, and download them whether they might be useful or not. I mean hey, you never know when a 3-D vector graphics modeling program will come in handy, despite the fact I have little idea what it does, or it’s used for. Somebody might need it, and if they do, I have it all ready for them. Here comes John to the rescue at a moments notice!

My latest obsession is Linux Live cd’s. I found that I can use Download Accelerator Plus to download big files quickly, like 698 MB Linux iso’s. I can do this at the internet café, which sometimes makes them go a little cuckoo when it is crowded. If not there, then I discovered that I can do it on the instructors computer at the Komputer Lab in school, (no, I didn’t misspell it). This potentially pisses off only one person, Mr. Annuar, instead of the whole extended family of the Chinese people who run the internet café. Mr. Annuar doesn’t seem to mind too much, and it is cool with Najib, the IT guy, because he has his own collection of Linux cd’s and distros he likes to play with, even more than I have. I haven't asked Najib if he has OCD, but he does seem to show some of the signs . . .

So far I have downloaded the following live cd’s- Ubuntu, Edubuntu, Coyote Linux, Knoppix, Slax Kill-Bill, PClinuxOS, Puppy Linux, and I probably won’t stop until I have downloaded every live cd in the Linux universe.

Some of them I have already burned onto disk to play with. I haven’t burned the smaller ones, like Puppy Linux, or Slax Kill-Bill, because it seems a waste to use a full 700 MB disk for distros that only comes in at between 135-205 MB or so. Of course, my OCD will make me want to fill the disk up to the max with files that I will later be unable to find. I know I will come up with some sort of bizarre combination of files, like the Slax live cd, and the Led Zeppelin songs I downloaded, along with photos from my digital camera. If I do that, who knows what would happen when I put that Frankenstein like cd in to an unsuspecting machine. More than likely, I will end up booting into Linux, instead of being able to listen to “Kashmir”, “Rock and Roll’, or “The Immigrant Song”. (Sorry, I refuse on principle to download or listen to “Stairway to Heaven”. It’s a cool song the first 2000 times you hear it, but after that, it gets old quickly.)

If the pocket hard drive ever gets a full, and with my OCD, that is a good possibility, I can burn things onto those nice lightweight cd’s, and add to my ever growing collection. Right now, I have over 150 pirated DVD’s that I have bought in China, The Philippines, and Malaysia. They are getting a bit much to carry around, especially since Trien and I might be moving again at the end of the year, but how could I ever get rid of them? It took a lot of work to get them, and there’s some really great stuff there. Maybe I can trade them with someone else who also has OCD, for something more useful. Like money.


Now for the fun with OCD part:

(Note: For those of you who have read through this entry and have not clicked on any of the links, please do so at least once, if not several times in rapid succession. Because most of the links go to wikis, you never know when they will change. Hey, I might be changing one right now! You have to make sure you are getting the most up to date information! I don't know if this will make you feel any better, but it sure will help me!)

Thursday, May 10, 2007

A Wonderous Day

Yesterday there occurred one of the most beautiful experiences of my life. I came home from school, and my wife was lying on the bed, with her blouse pulled up. No, it wasn't that type of experience. There was a twinkle in her eye as she lay there watching her tummy.

"Honey, the baby is playing," she said to me as she gave a gratified smile and went back to watching her tummy.

I knelt beside the bed and saw a ripple go across her tummy, like what happens when you drop a pebble into a puddle.

She looked up at me, and was glowing.

"Was that it?," I asked.

"Yeah! See?! She's been very active. Every day around this time she starts moving around a lot. I think she knows that now is when you come home, so she starts playing."

"You think baby is saying hello to Daddy?"

"I think so," she said with a friendly little pout.

I could see movements of different sizes and durations happening in various parts of her tummy. Some movements were big, while others were barely visible.

"Does it hurt?"

"Nooo, but it feels a little funny. Sometimes it feels like she is tickling me, especially when she starts moving her arms. "

There were all sorts of little pings and vibrations going on. I put my hand on her tummy to feel them.

"I think our baby is dancing again," I said with a happy smile.

"Yah! You know, I really think so. I think we are going to have a very active baby. Remember the first scan we had to try to determine the baby's gender?"

During that time, the baby kept twisting and turning and kicking so much that the doctor couldn't tell if we had a boy or a girl. Every part of her body seemed to be in motion at one time or another.

"Yeah, I remember. I think we are going to have a healthy active daughter."

"She really could be a dancer, the way she moves so much!"

"Yeah. The doctor already said she has her Daddy's long legs. Maybe she is getting some practice in before she is born."

After a few minutes, I went to take a "shower", because I was covered in sweat from my walk home. It hadn't rained here for a few days, so it was as hot here as it as elsewhere in Malaysia.

All this was great, but it wasn't the most beautiful part.

That happened later that night, just as we were about to go to sleep. I had finished watching my favorite show, which is the "Law & Order" reruns from 1998. Before turning in, I was watching the current season of CSI. Trien squiggled around in bed to get comfortable. She had her "hug Pillow" by her tummy, and was trying to get pillow, body, and bed into some sort of harmony.

"Honey- she's playing again!"

I reached over and put my arm around her tummy. I could feel the little hiccuping movements.

"Wow! Hey Mommy, she is really going at it!"

Trien rolled over on to her back so she could face me.

"Yah, and I am trying to get to sleep."

"Can you sleep if the baby is moving?"

"No, not reaaaally . . ."

"Is it uncomfortable? Does it hurt?"

"It doesn't hurt. It just feels funny. I can feel her moving around, and I can tell what she is moving- her legs, her hands, or her butt. It seems like she is getting big-" she made a long line across her tummy with her hand, "-from there to there."

She saw the surprised look on my face, and emphasized, "Yeah! She's getting big, Honey!"

"Well, she's only going to get bigger. You're only about six months pregnant now. Maybe if I tell her to be still, like I did last time at the doctor's office, she will stop. She did that time, so we could tell her gender."

"If you want."

I was going to, but then I had a better idea.

That idea lead to the most beautiful and meaningful things that's ever happened in my life up to now. That one event that sometimes happens, and all the clouds go away, and suddenly all those years of pain and struggle become worthwhile, and have meaning.

I put my ear against Trien's tummy. At first it was quiet. Then I heard a low gurgling/sloshing sound. It sounded like a stomach rumble, so I wasn't sure what I was hearing. Then it happened again, but louder. I lifted my head, and looked at Trien.

"Did the baby just move?"

She smiled contentedly, and lifted her eyebrows in confirmation.

"I heard her!"

"Really? You sure it wasn't just my stomach?"

"No . . . I don't think so."

I put my ear back on her tummy.

There it was again, the same gurgling/sloshing sound. Sometimes it was low, other times it was louder. When it was louder, I would lift my head and look at Trien, and she would smile and nod her head.

"I really am hearing the baby! I am!"

"What does it sound like?"

I couldn't explain all the things that were wrapped up in those sounds for me. It was more than just a physical sound. It was one that made my souls vibrate with joy. What could I say? How could I explain that to her?

It was the most beautiful sound I had ever heard in my life. There was no music, nothing in nature, nothing anyone could say, that could ever mean more to me than the sound of my daughter moving in her Mommy's womb. Nothing before that moment had ever meant more to me, nothing had reached spoken so deeply into my soul as the sound of those tiny little movements of life.

We had done it. We had created a life! Now it was living and growing and moving, and taking shape. I had felt the movements. I had heard the sounds. There was real tangible proof of life! It was a sweet song to the deepest part of my being.

"I CAN HEAR HER! I CAN HEAR HER!", was all I could say. The hugs and kisses I gave my wife seemed such a pitiful way to say thank you for something so divine.

Trien looked down upon me like a serene Madonna, and stroked my head.

Suddenly, I felt a deeper love for Trien than I ever felt before. She was bringing to fruition everything we had both hoped for.

I held her for a while, and eventually the baby stopped dancing, and Trien fell asleep.

I couldn't sleep, though, at least not right away.

Here was God's ultimate blessing on our marriage, the greatest gift he could give to us- a gift of impending life.

A new life is coming. I am to be a part of it, and it is to be a part of me.

The only thing I could do was lie back in bed, wonder at what was happening, and say:

"Thank you, God, for your Love."

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Jealousy, Insecurity, and Relationships

Last night I could tell that something was bothering my wife, but she wasn't going to come straight out and tell me. That is not the Filipina way. You have to listen to what she is saying, or not saying, and then interpret what it is she is telling you.

We were lying in bed. She had to lie down on her side to get comfortable, because her tummy is getting unwieldy. We had just finished watching her can't miss tv show, "America's Next Top Model". She started twisting around in bed. I knew it wasn't just because she was physically uncomfortable.

"Honey, last night when we were by the hawker stalls, why did you smile at the Chinese girl at the stall that sells the chicken chops? The one who wears the really short shorts and tight tops all the time?"

"I was only being friendly"

"Yes, but you gave her a nice smile. Then later on when she came back, she smiled at you, and you gave her another nice smile."

"So, that's all I did. I just smiled. "

"Yes, but you smiled at her twice, and she smiled at you. Whenever you see her, you always smile at her."

"Ok, if that bothers you, I will walk around with a permanent boo-boo face, and never smile at anyone again."

I made an exaggerated pout and she laughed, then hit me on the shoulder.

"Noooooooo, don't do that! I was just wondering how come you look at her."

"So you are feeling jealous? Look. baby, I have no intention of sleeping with her or anything else."

"Yes, but she dresses very sexy, and she smiles at you. And you also smile at the girl at the claypot chicken rice stall."

"Yes, but you also smile at the girl at the claypot chicken rice stall. You have said that she is very sweet and friendly."

"Yeah, but that is different. I'm a woman . . ."

"Yeah, I noticed that. Look, Baby, I married you. When I did, I said I would love you, honor you, and forsake all others, until death do us part. I intend to keep that promise. "

"But I see you look at women sometimes."

"And that's all I do. It's what all normal guys do. Hell, even gay guys look at women and make comments to each other. What's wrong? are you feeling jealous?"

"Well, I just notice you looking."

"So you feel insecure, and think I don't find you sexy anymore because you are pregnant?"

She didn't say anything. I knew that meant I had hit the bullseye.

"Look, has our sex life changed any? Don't we still make love as much as we normally do, and do the same things we always do? Except maybe, we have to change positions because of your pregnancy?"

"Yeah..."

"So don't you think that means I still find you sexy and attractive, despite the changes in your body? Do you think that because you are pregnant, I am going to go out and find another woman? Is that what your father did?"

She didn't say anything, but I could see the answer in her face.

"Look, Baby, I'm not your father. I'm not going to do the same things he's done. Is there anything I've done that makes you think I am going to act that way?"

"No. I know you are good."

"Ok, then don't worry. I love YOU. Sure, I might look at other women, but your the one I married, and love, and come home to. So why should you all of a sudden feel that suddenly I don't love you, find you sexy, or want that I want someone else?"

"I don't know. I guess I just feel unsure of myself. My body is fat and my face is breaking out, and I don't feel sexy anymore."

"Well, I think you are still sexy. Otherwise, would I keep making love to you the way I do?"

She pursed her lips and raised her eyebrows in that way unique to Filipinas when they are thinking things over.

"I know, it's just natural that women start feeling this way when they are pregnant. But tell you what, you are going to give birth to our daughter. What can be more beautiful than that? How could anything make you more beautiful to me than that?"

Her answer was a demure smile, and a little tear in the corner of her eye. "I'm sorry for feeling like this, Honey."

"Don't be, Baby. I'm proud of you for saying something. I'm really glad you did. I rather you say something, and get it out so we can talk, than keep it all in."

"Really?"

"Of course. To have a strong relationship we need to have good communication between the two of us. Don't try to keep harmony by not saying something, only to have things grow and become a major problem later. So please, if something is bothering you, don't hold it in- just let me know. I'm not a mind reader. Sometimes I can see something is wrong, but when I ask you about it, you don't say anything. Or you say you are ok, even if I know you are not. There's no way I can change things unless you tell me what is wrong. Then we can talk about it, and it won't become a problem."

"Yeah, you are right. I do that."

"I know, because of what you saw happen in your parents relationship. I saw the same thing happen in my family.That's not the type of relationship that I want to have, and I know you don't want the same thing either. Let's not do the same things we saw them do."

"You're right Honey. We aren't our parents. I shouldn't expect things to be the same as it was with them."

With that, she gave me a little kiss.

"Thanks for caring, Honey."

"No, thank you for being honest me me, Baby. Thanks for having the courage to say something. I really appreciate that."

She hugged me, and we stayed in each others arms and kissed for a while.

There was nothing I saw that day that was more beautiful than the smile I saw on her face just before we turned off the light and fell asleep.

Saturday in the Park with Trien

The day started with Trien and I going to the roti stand, for our usual Saturday breakfast. Afterwards, I asked her if she wanted to take a walk through the Lake Gardens, and she agreed. she wanted to go to the playground, and pose for pictures.


When she saw the pictures on the cameras LCD screen, her first remark was that her face looked really fat, but the background looked nice. Then she asked me to forward the pictures to her e-mail, so she could send them to her friends.

We were going to walk back, but something was happening ahead. It looked like the bi-monthly orchid show, and so it was. That was definitely something we had to check out.

Delicate OrchidsDelicate Orchids Hosted on Zooomr


Orange and White OrchidsOrange and White Orchids Hosted on Zooomr

The guy who runs the nursery near our place was selling some of the orchids we'd seen the other day, along with other plants. There were a couple of other vendors selling orchids, charcoal, and fertilizer. We didn't buy anything, though, because Trien said she wanted to see how the ones we have do first. Fair enough. So while she sat down taking a rest, I went around taking pictures of some of the orchids entered in the competition.

More OrchidsMore Orchids Hosted on Zooomr


Pitcher Type OrchidsPitcher Type Orchids Hosted on Zooomr

I would have liked to buy a couple of them, if they were for sale. At first I thought they were, mistaking the entry number for the price. It wasn't until I saw numbers in the single digits that I finally realized they couldn't be selling them that cheap! If they were, then I was going to quit teaching and immediately go into the orchid exporting business!

Taiping OrchidsTaiping Orchids Hosted on Zooomr


White OrchidsWhite Orchids Hosted on Zooomr

After I had finished taking all the pictures I wanted, we headed over to the swings. Trien was able to fit into the swing, but these things were obviously made only for kids, or Asian women. I got up after having my testicles squashed. Trien wanted me to take some more pictures of her pregnant self. This is the one I forwarded to her:



I like the picture. Again, she made all sorts of sounds of disapproval, said she looks fat, and look at how her face has broken out, look at her tummy, etc. The next day she emailed it, and the others, to her friends and family.

After that, we walked past all the guys playing Takraw. There must have been a competition going on. I didn't take any pictures of them standing in circles kicking it around like a bamboo hackysack, because, well, sometimes you just have to respect peoples privacy.

After that, we decided to start back. We started walking toward the fountain. There is a little island in the one of the lakes near the fountain. I suggested we go there to get out of the sun, and get a little hug time in. She said that this was Malaysia, and that we couldn't hug in public. I replied that we weren't going to start screwing and putting on a show, we were just going to hug a little bit. So we went to the island, and sat and talked.



This is the bridge to the island.



We discovered that it's the perfect place for a group picnic. There's parking close by, It's large enough to hold a group of about a dozen people, and there's plenty of tree roots and crumbling masonry to sit on. It's near enough to the playground that the kids can go play, but small enough that you can watch them if you don't want them running away.

The time went quickly, and we spent who knows how long talking about things.

We had a couple of visitors while we were there. The first visitor was a woodpecker. This was the first time I had ever seen a woodpecker in the tropics. I didn't even know there were woodpeckers in the tropics, but sure enough, there he was, with a crested head, pecking away at the wood. Unfortunately, he seemed to be expert at hiding just as I clicked the shutter, so I couldn't get a clear shot.

Another visitor was a bright blue kingfisher, which is pretty common around here.



Being the curious sort, I decided to take a trip around the island. I found a little landing with a bench. Trien and I were sitting there when we heard a large splash.

Sure enough, it was a large monitor lizard going for a swim.

Before, Trien would have been terrified, and would have gotten as far away as possible from it as her legs could take her. Now, though, we just sat there and watched it as it took a nice leisurely swim beneath the brush overhanging the lake.


(You can't see him here, as he is hidden underneath the brush. He is there, though)

After that, It was time for lunch. We headed to the hawker stalls across from the Lake Gardens. I took pictures of things I found beautiful, but that Trien was too hungry to notice, or care about.



Because of her impatience, she ended up walking ahead of me. I saw her standing at the edge of a different lake, watching something. When I got closer, she said, "Look Honey, it's a big monitor lizard." And so it was. It was swimming close to her, it's head held high out of the water, proudly exhibiting itself to her. That was, until I got close enough to see it, and answered her. Then it dove down in a panic, and disappeared. People from out of town see large monitor lizards swimming in the lake, and they think that they are crocodiles. They are harmless though, and very shy. They usually run away, or dive out of sight, at the first sign of humanity. That's why it was so unusual to see one swimming so near to Trien. I guess it knew that she's just a sweet woman who would never do it any harm.



Then we went around the main lake, past the grandfathers waiting on the bridge, and to the hawker stalls in the picture above. We had the Nasi Ekonomi, literally, "economy rice", which is a plate of rice, and a buffet of different food to choose from. For drinks, we both had iced tea, from leaves that are grown nearby in the Cameron Highlands.

When we walked back home, Trien looked so tired that I thought I was going to have to carry her back. I had been asking her during our time in the Lake Gardens if she was ok, and she kept saying yes. Now she explained that it wasn't the exercise that was bothering her, it was the heat. The next time we went, it would either have to be earlier in the morning, or later in the afternoon. After taking our "showers", which means pouring scoops of water over our body from a concrete catchbasin, it was time for our afternoon hug and nap.

It was the perfect ending.