Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Random Writing

Well, I don't know what to writet today, so I will just start writing something, and hope something comes out of it. I refuse to edit it, so take it as you will. SOrt of James Joyceian stuff, just let it flow and see what comes out. It's the best way top start writing, just go, keep going and don't edit. It's the way I write things when I write things long hand.

My students are writing too, in their blogs. Theyu seem to jsut want to write internet or sms ENglish. Today I found some of the boys looking at a website where peoiple talk about the first time they had sex. They are 14, so of course they are curious, but that is not why we go to the compoutert room. So I told them that if I see them doingf it again, I will report them to their Agama teacher. (The muslim religion teacher). That brought a look of total shock anf horror to their faces. I told the next form 2 class I had that if they lookk at the same site, I would report them to Mr. Rahim, which would be even worse than reporting them to the Agam teacher. They looked at me blankly. They had never heard of the site before, and wanted to know what it was about. I think some of the boys might have written down the URL for future reference. YIKES! Not exactly what I ewanted! I just told them it was porn, and that if I found them loking at it during class time, they would have to tewll Mr. Rahim what they found so interesting about the site, so he could tell their parents.

Not that I am condoning kids looking at porn. Far from it, but the schedule her is so regimented, with every minute oif the day accounted for, that kids don't have a chance to be kids. They have to be little groewn ups, even though they are just kids, 12 and 13 years old in form 1 and 16 -17 in form five. Sure, there are boyfriends and girlfriends, but nothing serious. It's cute to sdee the form 1 and tweo students with their little puppy love affairs, but wouldn't it be much healtheir for them and their sense of identity to develop relationships, and be able to have friends outsied of this restrictive atmosphere. I'm not talking about letting them run around loose doing anything they want. If this was my son or daughtrer, that is the last thing I would want. Thisa school though is like an academic concentration camp- work work work, and they get an hour a day for cocurricular activitites, anf that is it. Then they have to find time to do theuir laubndry and shower, so I don't mind and understand when a student comes to class smelling bad or with stainded clothes anfd looks like they've slept in their schoolclothes for a week, because they probably have.

I know I probably looked worse in college, or probably lokk worse now, what with the stress and worry of having a baby. I probably look like some sort of insane alcoholic, although it's been like 14 years since I last had a drop of alcohol, noit that I miss it, praise God! Even though my Korean students in Cebu tried to get me to drink. They had this alcohol that had real flakes of gold in it, that was supposed to be good for your health, but still that didn't get me to toucvh it, despit emy curiousity. At most I just touched it to my lips and pretended to drink it. That's how it is when you come from an alcoholic family- you are terrified of becoming the monster you lived with. I can't do that to anyone- myself, my friends, and especially not my wife and my soon to be born daughter. Drinking is so much a part of Korean culture. Even in a small town where I was on Jeju Island. At night you could see well dresed businessmen staggering down the sidewalks, puking their guts out after too much soju. It's part of doing business, a team building exercise- you all go out and get pissed together and barf togetherr in the bathroom, and somehow that is upose dto make you feel closer and love each othe r and get along. In my experience, that is counterproductive- it does the opposite, and brings out all the hidden feelings and jrealousys and things are said and fights break out and you alllhate each other. But hey, if it works for them, fine, just leave me out of it. I stayed at home watching videos and trying all the different varietys o kim chi I could find- (hmmm- kim is one of the most common family names in Korea, Chi is Chinese for life. So does that mean-? Probaly not. Gim using the same symboll is alsoi used to describe the dried seaweeed wrapper used for the Korean version of sushi- Gim Bap. Bap is not something yopu do to somebody in a drunken fight after a busineess meeting. It is KJorean for rice)

Still, despite spending a year in beautiful Jeju Island, one of the most beautiful places on earth in ESL Hell, I like and admire Koreans. They are tough, because they have to be. It's all about the group, being strong, sticking togeyther and working together for the common good. The bad is it's also very much about keeping up with the Joneses.Plus they think nothing of cutting in front of thre checkout line and pushing you bck, and you just want to clober the idiot, but if you do they'll probably gang up on you and put you in the hospital, becase he is someones cousin or somehow connected to everyone else in the store, either by school, job, family, or whatevr. Plus,the Hagwon owners make it a hobby to cheat their foreign teachers. It almost seems like they have a unsung competition going to see who could do it the best.

I mad it through Korea. It was one of the hardest years in my life. Spiritually though it was worth it. Emotionally, it ewas exhausting.

Then came CHina, orking at the orphanage, which was one of the highlights of my life. So the good balnced out the bad in the grand cosmic scale oif things. (WHat the hell is "orking at the orphaage" mean? It means I need typing lessons. Unlike my brother who can tyupoe as fast as he thingks, I twiddle along like a lost bird in a windstorm. My thoughts are so far ahead of my typing it's amazing I can capture any of them.

That's it for now. I will try to write something more normal tomorrow.

Happy Blogging to All!

Practice the Zen of just doing, not thinking in your Art. Carol Fox Prescott taught me that in her acting classes.
It does work.
Just do. don't think.
You'd be amazed at the results.
That's what I amm doing now.

Monday, July 30, 2007

For Richer or Poorer, Better or Worse

Trien is worried about getting fat. She keeps talking about going on a diet. This first started last week, when she was trying on a maternity dress at a store. She needed a new one because her other maternity clothes don't fit her anymore. In the dressing room was something we don't have at home, a full length mirror. While trying on a dress, she saw her naked Mommy tummy for the first time in months.

I stuck my head through the curtain to see what was the matter.

"Honey! Look at me! Look at how big I am! I didn't know my tummy was that big! I'm HUGE!""
"It's OK Baby, I still Love you anyway. Anyway, you're just going to get bigger."
"I know! But look at me , Honey. I never thought I would look like this!"

That was when all the talk about going on a diet started.

I told her that she can't go on a diet until after the baby is born. While she is pregnant, she can eat all she wants. Not that she can eat a lot right now. She has to eat small meals, because there is not enough room to accommodate a large meal. If she eats too much, then it causes her pain, and she lets me know it. Sometimes a good fart will make her feel better. Other times nothing will help.

It's not like she is gorging every day. The only time she really eats more than what is comfortable is on Sunday, when she gets together with the other Filipina wives, and there is all sorts of good Filipino food to eat. Other than that, she keeps to a good diet of mostly veggies, fruit, and mostly chicken or fish. Oh yeah, sometimes she'll have a burger from Mickey D's, or I'll get a pizza from pizza hut, but other than that or the occasional muffin from the Ipoh Bakery downtown, it's good healthy food. You can't even consider her fondness for snacking on peanuts a nutritional detriment.

Yet she still wants to go on a diet. I point out to her that there is nothing wrong with eating good healthy food like she is doing. It is good for our baby. Going on a diet can hurt the baby and her development.

We were at the new market, buying fruit. Trien's favorite fruit is bananas. She eats more bananas than anyone else on the planet.

She only wanted to buy half a bunch. When I asked why, she said it was too much, that she would eat them all.

"Why? What's wrong with that? There aren't that many of them. Banana's are good for you. They will help your tummy trouble, and give you good nutrition."

So we bought them. Then later, she started to complain that she was eating too many bananas.
When I asked what was wrong with that, she said that Bruce, who you saw with his fiancee Dixie in a previous post about their motorcycle trip through Leyte, told her that body builders eat bananas so that they get big arms. He said he wanted Dixie to eat bananas because she was too skinny, and he wanted her to have bigger arms.

"Baby, he was only joking. Body builders have big arms because they work at it. They eat bananas for the potassium. Eating bananas without working out is not going to give you big arms."

"But look at my arms!" she said. "Look how big they are!"

"So? they didn't get that way because you are eating too many bananas. Besides I still love you anyway, big arms, big tummy, anything."

After that, I started to find out what was behind her always talking about dieting. One reason, of course, was simple vanity. OK, every woman has a share of vanity. We all do, to a certain extent. It just depends on how highly developed it is.

There was a deeper reason, that disturb me, and hurt me.

She is afraid that if she is a "fat mommy", that I won't find her attractive anymore. That I won't love her anymore. That I will find someone else.

I know where this is coming from.This is exactly what her father did. She thinks I will do what she saw her father do.

"I am not your father."

I have to say this to her now and then when she gets insecure or worried about how I might act or react.

"When I married you, I married you for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, skinny or fat. I love you, and you putting on weight is not going to change that. You are going to give birth to our daughter. What greater gift can a woman give a man? I love you for that. A little extra weight is not going to change the way I feel about you, or make me look for someone else."

Despite my efforts to reassure her, I know Trien is still a bit insecure. It's only natural, I guess, buy it also hurts me, because she doesn't realize or understand how much I love her. My whole world has changed because of her. She has given me new life, and given new depth and meaning to my life. She has brought something new out of my heart. She has made me feel things tat I thought I could never feel again, things that I had thought had been seared out of me in hot flashes of pain throughout my life.

How could I not Love her?

What hurts me is that she doesn't realize the depth of my Love for her, and she still feels insecure about it. I still have to prove myself to her, even after showing her one night in Cebu that I was willing to die to protect her.

That means that during this time, I'll have to Love her even more, and take special care of her.

She is the special woman in my life. I wouldn't want anything to change that. As far as I am concerned nothing will. Especially nothing as insignificant and external as a little added weight.
Especially since the reason for it is giving birth too our child.

My Love for her goes deeper than that.

Hopefully, one day she will realize that.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Pregnancy Report- Week 35

It's going to be soon. How soon, we don't know. During her latest checkup at Taiping General Hospital, the doctor told Trien, "Come back in two weeks. If you feel labor pains before then, then go right to the delivery room, don't come to the clinic." Maybe I am reading too much into it, but it seems to say to me that he thinks that she might deliver before the next appointment. Trien and I both think that she isn't going to last until the August 30th due date. We both feel that the August 12th date estimated by Saras, the nurse who goes to our church, is more on target.

I feel like Christmas is right around the corner, but I'm not sure when it's going to come. It's like being a little kid again, when days and dates had no meaning. Like when you would ask your parents when your birthday was, or you were going on vacation, or something like that, and they would answer, "5 days", and you had no idea what that meant.

I already told my students that if I get a phone call, and run out of class without saying goodbye, the baby is coming and I'm going.

The baby is getting more active. As she does, Trien gets slower. We walked into town yesterday. Normally, it would take us about 15 minutes. yesterday it took us 45 minutes. My wife is a trouper, though, she kept going and didn't complain.

Soon. Real soon.
I can't wait.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

The Latest on Has

This is Has Hariff, walking with some
of the other students from class 1U.

I wrote before on Has Hariff, the Orang Asli student who came to study here at SERATAS. There is a follow up article on her in the Sunday Malaysian Star. I won't say anything about some of things written in the article, because:

1. I still work here.

2. I don't want to get involved in politics in the workplace.

3. But mostly because The principal thinks I am a spy for the ministry of education, and has been trying to get rid of me. I am not under her authority, and - well I better stop there. Suffice it to say that you could write volumes about her, and how she is destroying the school.

Let's just put it this way- one week into the school year, the students told me they think she is demon possessed.

The teachers here don't think it- they know it. They are just too frightened to say anything about it. It's nice to have friends in high places and use that to intimidate everyone and break their will.

So I will just write about Has.

I teach her twice a week in my 1U class. She is very quiet and soft spoken. It is hard to get her to speak at anything above a whisper. I have trouble hearing her even when I lean close to her in the best of circumstances.

She does have a nice smile, and gets along well with the other girls that sit near her. She seems to be friendly with the girls, and has little to do with the boys, which is normal for her age. Today in class we did a question and answer game where you had to tell the truth, and the kids were asking each other questions about who their boyfriend or girlfriend is, who they love, etc. They asked Has which boy she liked in class, and she shrugged. From her expression, you could tell she didn't like the question, and most likely, didn't like any of the boys either!

If she doesn't understand something in class, she is quick to turn to one of the girls next to her and ask a question. A few times after I have asked her a question, she has told the girls nearest to her the answer and had them speak for her, because she is so quiet and shy. But she does seem to be getting a bit more confident and outgoing, though. She is serious about her studies, and always takes notes in her notebook whenever I write on the board.

As for sleeping on a soft bed, well, we have a couple of the old mattresses from the hostels that were lent to us, and they are just plain old foam rubber stuffed in a fabric cover. I sleep on one of them on the floor when my back is hurting, and it helps. Not exactly the lap of luxury, but I guess to her they probably seem that way, after what she is used to.

So she does seem to be doing well, despite the rigid draconian class schedule and workload the students here have to put up with. If anyone can make it through this academic concentration camp, I think she is one who has to will and drive to do it.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Experimental Lake Gardens Pictures

The top picture was taken while Trien and I were walking to the hawker stalls to get some dinner. It was taken just as the sun was setting. The other three were taken while we were walking back home. It was dark. She had to stop to rest.

While we were sitting there talking, I started fooling around with the camera. I kept the aperture wide open, and the shutter open for a long time. The result is the last four pictures. They were taken when it was pitch black.

I liked the results, so I figured, "Why not share?"

I hope you enjoy them.

Trien Then and Now

This is probably my favorite picture of Trien. It was taken on the beach in Phuket, about a week or so after our second pregnancy misfire. We went there during a school holiday, just to get away, and start the healing process.

I love her smile. Trien is very pretty when she smiles. She has one of those endearing smiles that make you feel good when you see it. When she smiles it's like she is sharing the purest essence of herself with you. It was good to get on the beach in Phuket and see this smile, after what we had been through in the previous months. It was good to smile myself.

I had to capture that smile, just the way it is, so when she wasn't ready, I took this picture. She gave me an, "Oh, Honey, what did you do that for?", after I took it. After she saw the picture, she liked it too.

This next picture is the latest picture I have of her. This is her most recent "Mommy Pic". We are not on the beach in Phuket, but walking to the Circus Ground hawker stalls for our usual Saturday roti canai breakfast. We were passing by the apartment building where all the dobi shops are located on the ground floor when I took this shot. You can see one of the dobi's hanging out the laundry in the background.

Again, I got another, "Oh Honey", response when I took this. She wanted me to delete this picture when she saw it.

The reason?

"I look sooo fat! Look at my face!"

Yes, she has changed physically, but her smile is still the same.

Still, I Love her more now than ever before. The physical changes that she worries so much about- they don't matter to me. Sure, it's harder to hug her and be affectionate, but that means I just have to be more creative when I do so.
While she looks in the mirror and sees the added weight, the pimples, the dark spots, and all the tiny things that don't bother me, all I see is the beauty of the woman I Love, about to have our child.

That, and the smile I Love so much.

Sure, her smile has changed, because she has changed, and I'm not talking physically. As our relationship has matured and grown, so has her smile. It has taken on a deeper meaning to me, and worked it's way deeper into my Soul.

Her smile will always be a a part of me., and has given me something missing before. It has revitalized me, and brought me alive in a new way.

Now that we are going to be parents, I can't wait to see what our daughter's smile.
I hope she has her mother's smile.

Then I will be doubly blessed!

Monday, July 23, 2007

Our Baby's Name

Well, we have finally decided on what to name the baby. Our baby's name will be:

Melody Angelica

We were eating dinner the other night, and Trien said, "Honey, I want to name our baby Melody Angelica. I like that name."

I know my wife doesn't make flash decisions on things of importance. This is something she had to have been thinking about it for a while. So I said Ok, Melody Angelica was fine with me. After all, I was the one who came up with the name in the first place.

For some reason, Trien felt that she had to explain herself. She said:

"I like Melody, because it reminds me of a Love song. You hear it, and you remember the music, and it affects you, though you might not remember the words. It touches something inside you, though you might not know why."

"I also like Angelica, because she is our little Angel, a gift from God after two previous failed pregnancies."

So I told Trien that Melody Angelica is what we will name the baby, unless one of us has an "AHA!!!" moment. You know what I mean, where you have that flash of insight, and you know everything is perfect, and it all fits in with the flow of the universe. To be honest, even though I was the one who came up with the name, I still wasn't totally sold on it. I was still waiting to go "AHA!!!", and tell my wife what I felt God and his universe ordained, and have her go "AHA!!!" too.

Today I was sitting in the canteen, having lunch by myself. It was raining. From where I sat, I could see the tree covered hills, the clouds, listen to the sound of the rain, and smell the cleansing it brings.

Usually I bring the New Straits Times with me, and do the Sudoku. Today the deliveryman was late because of the rain, so I ate my lunch alone with my thoughts. Then the thought came to me gently, floating like a leaf on a breeze- Melody Angelica. It twisted and turned around delicately, and made it's way through the corners of my mind. Then finally it settled down in the peaceful place that said:

"What does the name mean? What does it really mean?"

That's when the insight came. Before, I was looking at the name as two separate names, when I should have been looking at it as a whole. The names weren't separate, distinctive parts, randomly stuck together. They were a reality unto themselves, not to be pried apart and separated.

Melody Angelica- The Song of the Angels. The Angelic Melody. The Song of Praise that the Angels sing before God. That is to be our daughter's name. How could we name her anything more beautiful than that?

That was my "AHA!!!" moment. It wasn't a violent "AHA!!!" that grabbed me and sunk in tightly to my soul, and wouldn't let me go. Instead, it was a sweet peaceful glow. I Knew. All was right with the world, and with my Soul.

I basked in that for a few minutes.

After that, it was time for my last period class. My class had to walk over to the engineering building to use the Cybercafe to start their Blogs. I was walking along behind some of the girls from the class, and they were talking in Malay. They didn't realize I was there at first, and when they did, they asked if I understood what they were saying. I gave my standard answer, which is:

"I've been here almost three years, what do you think?"

They said if my wife knew what they were saying, she might get mad. I laughed. After all, they are only 14 years old, and are at that age where they are curious about relationships, and things like that.

So they started asking me about my wife, how many months pregnant she is, when the baby is due, things like that.

Then they asked the question I had been asking myself before:

"What are you going to name your baby?"

"Melody Angelica. It means 'The Song of the Angels'."

I had another gentle "AHA!!!" moment as soon as I said it. Things seemed even more right than they did before. Our little girl- her Soul sung into existence by the Angels.

The girls think that the name is just soooo very beautiful.

So do I.

Our little song of Praise to God, Melody Angelica.

Life goes on, and all is well with the world.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Bruce and Dixie's Leyte Adventure

Bruce and Dixie are friends of ours. Bruce is an American guy from Indiana that I met while I was working in Manila. He wants me to help him open up a school on our favorite Island. Dixie is a local girl from Cebu. She is about 4 foot 10 at best, and Bruce is 6 foot 2 or better. Despite the differences in their heights, they are planning to get married sometime soon.

They took a motorcycle trip to Leyte. Bruce e-mailed me some pictures. I am feeling lazy, so I am going to post them here, instead of writing something else. I don't know what is happening in most of them, because he didn't tell me. But Trien and I are very familiar with these types of scenes, having experienced very similar things ourselves. I just don't know where I put the pictures, so I'll use Bruce and Dixie's instead!

Taiping Rain

It is raining out, as it only can in the tropics. I have very rarely seen the equal to it anywhere else in the world. When it rains here, it often comes down with the ferocity of penned up hungry wild animal finally set free.

It has been like this for a while. I would like to go home, but I don't have an umbrella, the streets are flooded, and Trien and I are both wearing sandals. It might seem romantic to walk home holding hands and dancing together at night in a warm tropical rain, but it's not a good idea when your loved one is 8 1/2 months pregnant.

I do like to watch the rain. It is peaceful and cleansing, not just in the local environment, but in my Soul. There is something relaxing about a steady downpour, like being on the beach listening to the waves. There is music in the rain here- the sound it makes when it is hitting the asphalt, the sound it makes when it hits through the trees, the sound it makes on a tin roof, the way it sounds when it is approaching. When it pours like it does here, there is something awesome about it.

The only thing better than a good rain is a good thunderstorm.

But I want to go home now. There is such a thing as too much of a good thing.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Instant Blog Post Generator

Yeah, I admit, I don't feel like blogging right now. Tonight was our "date night", so Trien and I took a taxi to downtown Taiping, and had dinner at a new All-You-Can-Eat-Buffet place across from the Panorama Hotel. It was pretty good, RM 8.60 (about $2.50) each person, drinks, soup, salad, and dessert all included.

Then she was going to visit her friend Vanessa at her nail shop around the corner, but she wsn't in. So we went to the Internet Cafe, so she could check her e-mail, and I could goof around.

She just finished chatting on Yahoo! Messenger with one of her friends from the Philippines who married another guy from Jersey. The difference is that they are living in Jersey. She was showing me the pictures of their new baby. Between that, she was trying to beat one of her secondary schoolmates high score on the "Fruit Drop" game they have on their class website. Despite her amazing and almost supernatural mastery of the Fruit Drop game, she was unable to beat her arch nemesis's high score. When we go home, I will make it a point to comfort her.

Anyway, I had written somethings down that I wanted to Blog about, but then, as usual, I left the paper at home. Right now I don't feel like think too much. I did a Google search for "instant blog entry", and this is what I came up with. So Instead of writing anything else, I am going to let the bots do the work for me. So here goes:

I kinda love my cousin Cathy. Often she is very dumb, then yesterday she just shocked me... I begged her support reading a book about education among Japanese schoolgirls, and then she was like:

"Dude! I am so sick of hearing about Japanese schoolgirls all the time!"

At first I began yelling "DUDE!" and then just now I just suddenly got this dangerous look in my eyes. After all, she *is* my cousin and she should know better...

Link of the day: Am I Blue or Not? | Randomly generated by Flooble Instant Blog Post Generator

I absolutely love my father Leroy. There are days when he is quite cool, then a couple of days ago he just touched me... I begged his guidance talking to someone about ethics among Japanese schoolgirls, then he screamed:

"Wow! Don't tell me you're into Japanese schoolgirls too!"

At first I was like "WOW!" and just now I just subsided and began sobbing. After all, he *is* my father and I need to make this work...

Link of the day: All Your Oil... | Randomly generated by Flooble Instant Blog Post Generator

Ok, I know these randomly generated posts make it look like I am obsessed with Japanese schoolgirls. I am not. It seems like the Bots are, though.

Tomorrow is another day....

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Pregnancy Report- Week 34

Trien has definitely slowed down the past couple of weeks. Not that I can blame her- it's tough being pregnant. It's hard for her to get to sleep, to move around, and get comfortable. It's getting hard for her just to do the normal everyday things. It's not going to get any better, either. Just think- only 4 to 6 more weeks of this to go!

The baby has been very active. Her movements have been getting sharper and more painful. Last night the baby kicked her, and Trien let out a yelp. She complains that with all the movement and kicks, she is getting sore inside. That means that neither Mommy or Baby is comfortable right now, because space is getting tight for both of them.

Trien went to Taiping Hospital on Tuesday, for her glucose tolerance test, and checkup. That meant fasting after midnight, and not eating until after she was finished about 11 or so. Not eating like that is something difficult for a pregnant Mommy to do. She made it through OK, but obviously, it had an effect on her. When I got home, there was a full load of food in the refrigerator, and the shelf was pretty well stocked too.

They did a full ultrasound scan, looking for any abnormalities. Since she went on Tuesday this time, there were a lot less patients, and the technician took his time and talked to her. The good news is that everything looks Ok. Praise God for that! We spent some time going over the technicians report, and trying to make out his writing. The only thing that concerned me was that it said, "gastric bubble seen". We weren't sure what that meant. Did it mean the baby had gas? Was she going to cut a big nasty fart in Mommy's tummy? Would that make Trien's tummy even bigger? Did it mean Trien had gas? I looked it up on the net, and that wasn't much help. As far as I can tell, it means that our daughter has a stomach.

The good news is that if our daughter is born now, she would be healthy, and have no problems associated with premature birth. It's still a bit early, though, and the longer she waits, the better it will be. Even though Mommy and I are getting a bit impatient, for different reasons, we would prefer she waits at least another couple of weeks before being born. (Ok, maybe I should speak for myself).

So far, so good. Thank God for that. After two failed previous pregnancies, this one is going as it should.

Just a little while longer, and we will be dealing with a whole other paradigm!

Ok, I am ready for it.

I think.


Wednesday, July 18, 2007

My Dad

Yeah, It's time for me to write something about my Dad. I called him up the other day, and had a nice long talk with him. He didn't sound too bad, in reality he sounded alot better than he had for a while. There was some kind of white noise coming from the background, which I thought that had to do with our connection. That's to be expected when you are calling to the USA from a mobile phone in Malaysia. There was something about the way he was talking that was a bit odd. He would talk in bunches of words with a short pause in between before he would start talking again. Then I found out why- he was on oxygen. It had to be helping, as he sounded clearer and a bit more energatic than last time we talked.

Still, I am worried about him. He's 82 years old now. The last couple of years have been rough for him. He has overcome prostrate cancer, had a heart attack, and now is suffering from congestive heart failure. I think he knows that he is nearing the end of the line, but he won't tell you that.

My sister said it really affected him when his sister died a couple of years ago. She had some stomach discomfort, and went to the doctor to get it checked. The doctor found that she was in an advanced stage of stomach cancer. They didn't even think it was worth it to give her chemotherapy. They gave her three months to live. She made it halfway through before she died.

After her death, something in his voice changed, although you never would have known from his words that he was worried or hurt or uneasy. It's not in my Dad's nature to be that way. It's not the way he was raised. To him, a man is supposed to be strong, able to handle everything and to withstand everything, be self reliant, and not be emotional in the process. That can't be an easy way of life, but it is the way he's been since I've known him as my Dad. Sure, sometimes cracks show in that facade, but for the most part there could be a tornado bearing down upon him, and you would even know it. He'd probably would tell me that he had to hang up, because there was a storm coming up and he had to close his car windows.

When our relationship wasn't so good, I used to refer to him as "Big Chief Stoneface." Most of the time his face was a mask. A couple times I said a couple things just to get a reaction, and nothing happened. He just kept driving, seeming to pay more attention to the road than to what I was saying. That made me think he didn't care. What I didn't realize was that he was profoundly deaf, and part of the reason that he didn't react when I spoke to him face to face was that he couldn't hear me. Once he finally decided to give in, and get hearing aids, then things were a bit different. Maybe not much, but at least then I could tell he was listening.

I fell out of contact with him for a number of years. How many, I am not sure. After I left the USA in 2002, my sister e-mailed me he had heart problems. I called him up from Barcelona, and we talked. It felt good to talk to him, too. He said that it was the first time we had spoken in about five years. It wasn't that I was mad at him during those five years. It was that I was dealing with some things of my own, including my own health problems. It was more like I had just forgotten about him. Believe me, it wasn't out of anger, as it was previously.

Since then, I have made sure to keep in contact, at least semi-regularly. It's anice little break from life to talk to my Dad 10,000 miles away.

I can tell from his voice that he really gets a kick out of talking to me. He always makes a point of telling me he loves me before we say goodbye. You know what? I love that. It's cute, coming from the father formerly known as "Great Chief Stoneface". As for me, I always tell him I love him too. It really feels good to be able to say that truthfully to my Dad, from my heart.

God has brought real healing to our relationship. It's too bad that we are so far apart physically. Emotionally, we've never been closer.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Pregnancy Report- Week 33

Trien has had some pain this week. It has been under her ribs, on the right side. There is something like a little bubble there. I can feel it when I rub my hand over her tummy. It feels like a hernia, or something else that shouldn't be there. Naturally, I was concerned.

She asked me to massage it, and when I did, she gave a little yelp of pain, and asked me to rub lighter. Not that I was doing a Chuck Norris on it in the first place.

I asked her if she wanted to go to the doctor. She said she was OK, and would be all right. In the mean time, I was privileged to see the complete range of every pained expression she could manage. All the while she kept insisting she was all right, but that did little to calm my anxiety.

Finally she said she wanted to try a remedy that the local Filipinas recommended to her, one that they had used during their pregnancies- some Chinese "black oil".

The next day we went to one of the Chinese pharmacies located throughout Taiping. The older woman behind the counter was a bit taken aback to see a westerner, and what she took to be a Malay woman, entering her establishment and asking for a Chinese remedy. Nonetheless, she was friendly, and curious, of course. Why would we be walking in there asking for something only Chinese knew about?

So we told her the story- we live here, she's a Filipina, we met in the Philippines, our friends recommended the remedy, etc. Anyway, we got the "black oil" home, and Trien used it right away. It seems to be an all natural herbal remedy, different herbs dissolved in an alcohol base. It makes Trien smell like a spice store, but in a good way. For me, it is a strangely comforting smell. I like it, but I can't tell you why.

It didn't work right away, but it does work! The pain is mostly gone. She farted really loudly a couple of times, quite unlike the lady that she is, and that really helped. Relief comes before propriety in any case. I know that from experience, too.

So now Trien uses this black oil stuff 6 or 7 times a day. Hey, if it works, what do I care? Let me try some of that stuff, too!

The label on the bottle makes it sound like this stuff will cure whatever ails ya. Seems like they claim it cures everything from flatulence to minor pains to headaches to skin diseases to anything short of cancer. If that's true, then I should get a gallon of this stuff, and just rub it all over my body.

Or better yet, have Trien do it for me!

Saturday, July 14, 2007

My Dad

The news from sister is not good. My Dad is not well. His congestive heart failure is getting worse. He's a fighter. He's over come prostate cancer, a heart attack, congestive heart failure, but it seems now like the end is getting near. Being here in Malaysia, there is little I can do other than to call him up and try to cheer him up, and tell him I love him. With Trien now 33+ weeks pregnant, and my job, flying out there isn't an option right now.

You know, I wish I could fly out there and see him one last time. That I could give him a big hug, look him straight in the eyes, and with all honesty tell him I love him. Then spend some time with him, and listen to him, and be with him. That's something I've very rarely, if ever done with him. Really, truly be there, in the moment with him, and I regret it. At least the healing is there, and now I have the desire to be there with him. It hasn't always been that way. Through most of my adult life, I couldn't have cared less.

Not that I didn't have reason to feel that way.

Right now it's late, and the Internet cafe is closing down. There's a lot more I have to say, and I don't have the time to say it. So I will have to continue tomorrow. I look forward to it. It will good for my Soul to get it out.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Ahhhh Face or OOOhhhh Face

Sex sells. That much is for certain- it is one of the main tenets of advertising. On this site they have screen captures taken of people's expressions from porn movies, and from regular everyday tv commercials. You have to see if you can tell which is which. It is an interesting, (and safe for work exercise. See if you can tell the difference between tv ads and porn.

I'm Back

I've been out the past week feeling sick. Otherwise, I'd be updating my blog almost daily. My head is pounding, I have enough mucus in me to drown a mule, I feel high, (probably from the medication), and I can't concentrate on anything. And to top it off, I am going to teach class today, and try to catch up on planning lessons and working on the class blogs for form 2. Yup, it should be a really interesting day.

To top it off, I got an e-mail from my sister, saying that my Dad is dying. It really doesn't look good. Then I realize, I missed his birthday (July 12). That makes me feel even better. There's no question that I will call him up later, wish him a happy belated birthday, and see how he's doing. The only question is whether I tell my wife about it, because she'll get upset, and that's not something she needs right now.

That's because physically she's not doing good, because she is now 33 weeks pregnant and feeling it. There is pain in her ribs where the baby kicks her. She has trouble breathing. She can't sleep because she can't get comfortable. Her tummy is the size of a large watermelon. She has to eat little snacks almost constantly. She has to pee about twenty times a day.

Oh, and after school is over, she wants to walk into town, and send some money to the Philippines for her sister's college expenses.

I'm just wondering what the rest of the day is going to be like.

Or even worse, what will the weekend bring?

I think I just want to crawl into bed for the weekend, and turn into a vegetable.

In other words, life goes on . . .

Sunday, July 8, 2007


I am not feeling so good today. I have a cold, sinus infection, whatever you want to call it. It comes from the haze that has settled in over Taiping from our highly educated, and wonderfully considerate Indonesian neighbors burning the jungle to make room for more palm oil plantations, and burning the garbage from the ones already there, in Sumatra and Riau.

Even worse, it also comes from the their Malaysian counterparts, who think because it is dry, and there is a haze, it is the perfect time to burn their garbage. We're not talking just newspapers, cardboard, and harmless flammable stuff like that. Nope, it's whatever they have at hand- plastics, styrofoam, synthetic fabrics- anything that will burn that will make toxic noxious fumes. They don't care if it wafts in all through your place and makes you nauseous- Why should they? They are at least smart enough to burn it so it doesn't blow into their house, so why should they care?

It's as if a neighbor you didn't know came in uninvited and took a dump in your house, and spread it all around with his foot, then tipped his hat, smiled at you, and left. There's no difference at all. The thing is, for Malaysians, this seems to be perfectly acceptable behavior.

You look out from our balcony, and at any time there were at least two or three open burnings going on just in our neighborhood, sometimes as many as six or more. Opening burning like this was banned in New Jersey for environmental reasons in the early 1970's.

I guess that means that Malaysia is oooooh, only about thirty five years behind the times.
And Indonesia- well, they are back in the Stone Age!

So if I don't Blog for a couple of days, it's because I am locked in at home recuperating.


Saturday, July 7, 2007

Pregnancy Report- Week 32

Wahooo! We've made it through another milestone on the road to parenthood. We've passed the eight month mark. Only a month or so to go!

Last night the baby was making my wife's tummy do these rhythmical movements, in metronome perfect time. We were wondering what she was doing. Then I realized what was going on- she had the hiccups! Sure enough, that had to be what was going on, and Trien and I looked at each other and smiled. It was cute. At least I thought it was cute, but Trien didn't think so, at least after she had thought about it.

"Do you feel good when you have the hiccups?" She gave me a mischievously curious look.
"How do you think our daughter feels then?!"
"Yeah, I see your point. But still, it is sooooo adorable!"
Then we both couldn't help but laugh.
She kept it up for a couple of minutes.

Then she started moving around, moving her whole body. We figured that she was asleep, and the hiccups must have woken her up. Or do you hiccup when you are asleep? Anyway, she seemed to be moving around in protest. All I could do was rub my wife's tummy, and go:
I just can't wait until our daughter is born. Then when she hiccups, Daddy can pick her up, hold her, rub her tummy, and go, "AWWWWW."

Friday, July 6, 2007

There's a Reason . . .

I haven't been blogging as much as usual, or as much as I'd like to. Basically, it's because the IT system, and the Internet connection at the school is pure crap. That's putting it as nicely as I can. It is so antiquated, it's not even funny.

We haven't had any Internet connection for two weeks. It was puzzling. According to Najib, the IT guy, everything was pinging OK, but you could only get Google, or sites in Malaysia. There seemed to be a problem with the servers in Putrajaya. It was really puzzling. You could connect to the servers at the Ministry of Education that all the SBP schools run through normally, but you couldn't do anything after that.

Today Najib replaced one of the cables, and now the Internet connection is back. The two events may or may not be related. Maybe it is just the right phase of the moon. I don't know.

All of this means I haven't been able to start my 2S class blogging yet, and haven't been able to start podcasting with my 2k class yet.

I also found out today that the Ministry, in its infinite wisdom, blocks out any site having to do with podcasting. It comes under the heading of "streaming media". On Monday, I will talk to somebody and see if we can get podcasting off the Ministry's blacklist, since it is a great educational tool. I'm not going to hold my breath though. More than likely, what I'll have to do is record the students voices, save the files, then go to the Internet Cafe and upload them to a podcasting site. As stands right now, I'll have to go there anyway, just to sign up for an account at Podomatic.com or some other site.

Why should things be any different? I have to do most of any Internet connected teaching work at the Internet Cafe anyway, at my own expense. At least they have a good, reliable connection. It takes me five minutes to upload something that would take me two hours here, if the connection to the server at the site doesn't time out first. No kidding, I am not exaggerating.

It's very frustrating. You see all this rhetoric in the papers, and hear all this talk on radio and TV about using the Intenet and latest technology to teach, and blah blah blah, but in practice, this is what you get. Basically, trying to teach twentieth century lessons with 18th century materials.

I better stop before someone high up reads this and they throw me in jail for sedition. The government here is really hypersensitive about even the smallest bit of criticism.

-End of Rant-

Thursday, July 5, 2007


Ok, I just had a major tragedy in my teaching life.

I am such a klutz. My wife knows it. I am constantly bumping into things, dropping things, and inadvertently destroying things. I go through life like the proverbial bull in a china shop. A lot of times it is really embarrassing, and believe me, I don't do these things on purpose. One time my brother said that I should seriously consider a career as a torture tester, putting new products through their paces to see how well built they are. If they can survive me, they can survive anything.

In a way, I can't help it. When I was four years old, I had an accident. I was hit by a boy riding a ten speed bike without any brakes. He was going downhill in front of my house. He smashed into me head on at full speed, and knocked me unconscious. When I came to, I was lying in the middle of the road, choking on exhaust fumes, and there was a searingly hot object barely an inch from my face. It was a red car, driving over me, very slowly and very carefully. Let me ask you this: If you saw a four year old boy lying unconscious in the road, would you stop to help, or would you drive over the top of him? I thought so.

So I got up, puked, and went home. The force of the impact was such that when I hit the ground, it pushed the little pebbles from our neighbors driveway into my knees, like buckshot. My Mom's reaction? She put me in the tub to soak, and gave me a butter knife to pick the stones out of my knees. Then she went off and did whatever it was she was doing, and waited for my father to get home. When he did, he thought it might be a good idea to take me to the doctor, since my right arm was paralyzed. Years later, people wondered why I always wore long pants during the summer. It's because when I wore shorts, my legs would tan, and the "buckshot" scars became clearly visible.

A couple weeks after the accident, my parents took me to a doctor, to have him look at my arm. His verdict? The nerves would repair themselves, and I would regain use, but, "Don't expect him to become a concert pianist." I remember that, because a couple weeks after taking me to the doctor, my My Dad left home for the first time. Not that it was his fault, he was the victim in that situation. He wasn't there for my fifth birthday. My right arm remained paralyzed for six months or so, then the movement started coming back.

Now, I have about 80% use of my right arm, and about 65%-70% use of my right hand. I am right handed, and it gets very frustrating when it seem like my right hand has a mind of its own, or simply won't obey me. It's like having two left hands.

As a boy, I used to get straight A's for all my marks. All my marks, that is, except for penmanship. That I used to get a 'D' in. Try as I might, I could only come up with some barely readable scrawl, especially since my hand could never come close to keeping up with my brain. Up until the fifth grade, I had to use one of those thick kindergarten pencils with clay around it to make it wider and easier to handle, to do my assignments. Even then, I still had problems. My mother's second husband would sometimes look at my homework, and rip it up because it wasn't neat enough. Then, I would have to sit there like a medieval monk illuminating a manuscript, and take hours to recopy it, but even then the results were just passable. If he was in a cruel mood, or just drunker than usual, sometimes he would rip that up, too.

The after effects of the paralysis wasn't the only problem. A direct effect of the accident was I had grand mal seizures. The parts of my brain dealing with speech, and movement and coordination were damaged. The grand mal seizures stopped when I was eight. The other effects linger on.

I am still very self conscious about how I sound when I speak. Basically, after the accident I could still speak, but I had to relearn how to speak properly, and to change the way I spoke. I had sort of a slur to my speech, making me sound a bit drunk. That meant I was constantly being teased, imitated, and made fun of when I spoke, so I didn't speak. At least I didn't speak much, because kids said I sounded retarded. It took nine years of speech therapy in school, usually twice a week, sometimes more, before I was able to make all the phonetic sounds properly. Still, the general tone of my voice is not pleasing, at least not to me. That comes from years of having to listen to it's ugly sound on a tape recorder, and thinking the other kids were right.

Later on, my acting teachers all agreed my voice was a weakness. Yet in some ways, it was an advantage. One advantage of all that speech therapy is that I speak in a standard English accent, like a radio or TV announcer. Unlike others in my acting classes, I didn't have to get rid of an accent. Also, I became very good at doing accents, like a male Meryl Streep, because I had an ear trained for pronunciation, and had already learned how to alter my way of speaking.

Also, Like Mel Tillis, who stuttered when he spoke, it seems that when I sing, I have a very nice and pleasing voice.

It is because of the damage to the area of the brain dealing with movement and coordination that I am so clumsy. Despite that,I have been able to do things that my Mom always said I never would be able to do, like drive a stick shift, and so many other things, that I forget what they are. I just don't see how a doctor can look at you when you are 4 or 8, and say this is the way your life is going to be. Well. I proved them all wrong. I can play sports, and though I might not be the smoothest and most graceful guy around, I am very quick, and fast.

And strong. My body is unbalanced. My left side is a lot stronger than my right side. You can see that when I lift weights.

When I taught in Korea, I used to lift weights for 2 hours a day, 6 days a week. My right side always lagged behind. My left was very strong. The Gym owner suggested physical therapy. I tried all my life to develop my right side, doing extra exercise, but to no avail. If my right side was as strong as my left, I'd be a monster. Maybe that's why the accident happened- to keep me humble.

Well, the other day, because of my clumsiness, I destroyed my portable hard drive, the one I bought with Mr. Wong at the PIKOM PC Fair in Penang. The one that had four months worth of work stored on it, along with the all the recent pictures from my digital camera, music I downloaded for the baby, lots of other songs, and a bunch of neat stuff. All gone in a moment, because I am clumsy, and careless.

I had the hard drive plugged into the back usb port of one of the computers at school. I was fooling around with the Audacity software, because I want to use it to start podcasting with my 2K class. I wanted to get a couple of songs of the hard drive to play around with and see what the software could do, before I show my class how to use it.

The hard drive was sitting on top of the desk.

I yanked the computer forward to plug in the cheap microphone I was going to use to record my voice, when by doing so WHAMMO!!! the hard drive smashed to the floor.

RIP. All that work down the drain. I want to cry. Like I said, I am such a klutz. Stuff like this always happens to me.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Chief Minister Takes Umbrage At Bat Virus Name

Geez, Malaysian officials can be extremely hypersensitive! Scientists named the virus after the state of Melaka because it was first found there, and the Chief Minister goes haywire! Doesn't he have more important matters to deal with? And to top it off, it was a team of Malaysian and Australian scientists that named it! Doesn't he think this makes the country look just a little bit ridiculous?

Russian Fisherman Catch Squeaking Alien and Eat It

I kid you not. This article comes from no less of a source than the English version of Pravda, which means "truth". Some village residents from the Rostov region caught this strange squeaking looking thing, and must have been really hungry. For one thing, it weighed over 100 kilos. Also, it is so bizarrely ugly that eating it is the last thing I would consider. However, one of the hungry fishermen said that it was the most delicious dish he had ever eaten. Anyone for ET barbecued on a spit? How about ALF in
bechamel sauce? Some filet of Klingon?

That's a picture of the "alien". If you want to see the cellphone video of what it looked like before they ate it, then click the link. I got the link to it from the Pravda page, however, be forewarned, there are some pretty risque things on the page. The kinds of things you don't want to have to explain to any young children.

And you thought it was only the Cantonese who ate anything that walks, crawls, or flies. Well, think again. The Russians are now one up on them!