A Home From Home

There is a British expression I very much like. It is “a home from home”. To me it feels much more inclusive than the American equivalent “a home away from home”.

My “home from home” is 12,980 kilometres from my usual residence, in the city of Malacca, Malaysia, on the southwest coast of the Malay Peninsula.

Originally founded in 1396, Malacca became a prominent location for traders from across Asia, notably India, Arabia and China. In 1511, Malacca was conquered by the Portuguese who ruled until the city was captured by the Dutch in 1641. They were not that interested in developing the area and ceded it to the British in 1824. Under the British the city became a Crown Colony, which was dissolved in 1946 as Malacca and Penang became part of the Malayan Union, then the Federation of Malaya in 1948, and transitioning to an independent Malaya in 1957. Finally, in 1963, Malaysia was formed with the merger of Malaya with Sabah, Sarawak and Singapore.

A colourful history indeed. So much so that Malacca was declared a historical city in 1989, and listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008. Located in Malacca are three significant religious facilities. The Kampung Kling Mosque is close to the oldest functioning mosque in Malaysia, the Cheng Hoon Teng Temple is the oldest functioning Buddhist temple in Malaysia, and St Peter’s Church is the oldest functioning Catholic Church in Malaysia. One last item of interest. The Bukit China Cemetery in Malacca is reputedly the oldest, and largest, remaining traditional Chinese burial ground outside China with over 12,500 graves.

Today, Malacca (often referred to as Melaka, the name of the state) is a city of just under 875,000, located midway between Kuala Lumpur (160 km to the north) and Johor Bahru (210 km to the south). The city is 2.2 degrees (244 km) north of the equator, with typical temperatures in the area of 24C at night and 33C during the day, and typically has 6-9 days of rain per month. The sun rises at 7:24am and sets at 7:24pm (within a couple of minutes) each day.

So why Malacca, for that matter, why Malaysia. A number of reasons actually. Malacca is where Kim grew up, where she lived most of her life. Currently we have two daughters and seven grandchildren living there, to say nothing about other extended family members and a great many friends. Some other main considerations are the economy, which is very advantageous to those of us from Canada; the people, who are so very friendly pretty much right across the board; the ease of travel, not only throughout Malaysia but across Asia as well; the history, so many interesting places to visit; and oh yes, the climate.

Okay, now back to the “home from home”. So what prompted me to begin this blog post anyway. Last year I spent three months at our place in Malacca, and for various reasons, am not able to do the same thing this year so I have been feeling a bit down in the dumps and depressed about that. A temporary situation for sure and I know I’ll be back there within the next year.

Our place in Malacca is not fancy, not on the beach, not on the 47th floor, not in a rich area of town. It is a comfortable three bedroom apartment/condo on the fourth floor of a fairly large, very diverse, complex with regular working class neighbours. It is in the middle of the city, however it has a country view which I absolutely love. We have a 2017-04-04 07.40.13small clam-shell balcony, facing east, upon which one or two can stand, but none can sit (it is good for drying clothes though).

 

My routine, pretty much every morning when in Malacca, is that I get up sometime between 5am and 6am, get my cup of coffee, and sit in the living room watching, listening, and enjoying as the world wakes up outside and the sun rises. Here are two videos, both taken the same day from our balcony, the first about 5:00am and the second at 7:30am. In the first you can hear the crickets and frogs, so loud they even overpowered the praying from the local mosque. In the second, the birds have taken over along with the occasional human and traffic noise.

To me, the photo and videos above illustrate a big part of my attachment to our “home from home”. There are many other things which contribute as well of course, and I will share many of these with you in the future.

For now, thanks for reading. I would appreciate any comments you may have, feedback is always welcome.

 

Do We Ever Really Grow Up?

I have always considered that one of the most unfair questions to ask a young person is “What do you want to be when you grow up?”.

There are a couple of reasons I believe that question to be unfair.

First, generally when young we may have an idea what we’d like to be, however it is really a moving target as we gain knowledge and life experience.

Second, at almost sixty-eight, I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.

For instance, recently I, in a manner of speaking, regressed in age. How did I do that, you might ask. Well, after more than forty years since the last one, I went out and bought a motorcycle. Not just a small bike, but 1500cc of powerful, heavy, cruiser.

2017-05-09 17.03.39I can assure you, there was definitely a period of adjustment, because of the time away from hitting the road on two wheels, and also due to the fact that this bike is twice the size of any previous machine.

And then there was the matter of a proper licence. In Alberta, to legally ride a motorcycle, one has to have a Class Six licence. Although I had an Alberta motorcycle licence previously, due to the passage of time, and the changes in provincial systems, it was decreed that I must take the written and practical tests anew as my old records could not be located. Ah, but a minor blip in the process, fairly quickly dealt with.

Now I’m riding on a regular basis, meeting lots of new people, those who share the joy, love, passion (call it what you will), of being on a motorcycle. And I am finding that this group of people is way bigger than it was when I was riding those many years ago. As a matter of fact, there are approximately 130,000 registered motorcycles (including mopeds) in Alberta, an average of 30 bikes per 1000 people. This is a higher ratio than anywhere else in Canada.

Now I’m retired (kinda sorta), I work in a jail, I’m out on my motorcycle, I hang out with a bunch of bikers, I’m more heavily involved in Kiwanis than ever, I’m on our condo board, and I spend several months in Malaysia each year.

Sooo… what do I want to be when I grow up? Beats me, I figure I’ll never get there!

Losing Everything

Have you ever thought “what if I lose everything”?

In the past I thought of it briefly perhaps and then moved on to something else. Lately though I have considered it much more.

In the past couple of years, two people I work with lost much of their possessions in house fires, and more recently a good friend lost absolutely everything to “The Beast”, the fire in, around, and through, Fort McMurray.

We hear often stated something like “we are all fine, everything else can be replaced”, and that is true… well mostly. The blessing that “we are all fine”, or some version of, is the most wonderful thing of course, and is what we always hope for. It is the “everything else can be replaced” which becomes, at times and in many ways, the sticky wicket.

The “everything else” is of quite a diverse variety. I approach it as three basic categories.

There is the “physical” stuff: clothing, furniture, kitchenware, tools, electronics, recreational equipment, personal effects and so on. Of course the recommendation is that we have all of these things documented so as to assist with replacement negotiations with the insurance folks. Here I must say that the need for having insurance goes without saying in my opinion.

Next comes the “emotional” stuff. This consists of items which may, or may not, have a tangible value, however they do have high emotional value, usually classified as “memories”. In this area I feel that each of us must deal with these “memories” in our own fashion, as there is no easy, or defined, approach to take in this situation.

ft-mcmurray-friendFinally comes the “digital”the-fire stuff. This is what we have on our computers, tablets, smartphones and so on. The occasion which brings this sharply to mind for me was the experiences my Fort McMurray friend. After the fire, all that was left of their house was an essentially an empty basement. Even most of the metal pipes and such were melted and gone. I thank my friend for allowing me to use these photos of their house after the fire to demonstrate my thinking.
It was the third aspect, the “digital” stuff that really got me going. You see, I have everything on my computer, and I mean everything. Finances, work related information, contact lists, organization minutes, and on and on. My life activities are pretty much all there. Then I have “physical” stuff, details of things around the house, when purchased, value, even some photos. Valuable for dealing with insurance folks. And, I also have “emotional” stuff, scans of family documents, several hundred thousand photos going back many years, videos and much more.

So… what happens to all of this “digital” stuff? Pretty much since computers appeared on the scene the term “backup” appeared. It is basically a mantra repeated for years. Backup on floppy disks, backup on hard drives, backup on memory sticks, and now, backup in the cloud. Well, in a situation such as a devastating fire the recommendation has always been, have your backup offsite, put those floppy disks, hard drives or memory sticks in a safety deposit box, a friend’s house, somewhere offsite. I once knew a computer professional who kept backups in his car trunk, so they were always with him.

Now, we have the “cloud”. It is a backup, it is offsite. Should your computer equipment be destroyed, you can still access whatever you have placed in the cloud. Some refuse to consider this choice, feeling that it is insecure and that their identity will be stolen, while others totally embrace the concept. Most of us are somewhere in between.

In my case, I make extensive use of the “cloud”, however I don’t put all my eggs in one basket, but rather utilize five of the main cloud storage packages. I also maintain onsite backups for everything, just in case. My reasoning for utilizing the “cloud” was reinforced upon learning what my Fort McMurray friend had to go through to recover their paperwork lives, financial and other. Personally, I scan all our documents, which will make their replacement less stressful. There is also the side effect that all is laid out in an organized fashion when, at some point, it will be needed by our estate executor.

So, what should you do? That, my friends, is entirely up to you. My advice is to think about losing everything, consider how you would be affected, what do you have in place now, or what could you put in place to help mitigate the situation should it occur.

I am doing what I believe will work best for us. All I suggest is that you do the same.

Work Thoughts

Tonight I’m at work, for the first time in 2017. Some of you know where I work, others do not.

It is, or at least it can be, an interesting place where I work. You see, I’m in jail. Since the summer of 2012 I have worked as a casual guard in the cellblock of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Detachment in Strathcona County (just east of Edmonton).

Casual means that I get called to fill in for the regular guards when needed, such as holidays, illness and so on. We work twelve hour shifts, 6 to 6, either days or nights.

So what do I do. Here is a brief overview. When an individual is arrested, they are brought to the cellblock to be dealt with. I do the booking process, then typically they are given the opportunity to make a phone call after which they are placed in a cell while the RCMP member looks after all the legal stuff, which may include interviews, charges, justice of the peace hearings, breathalyzer and such. Whatever the case, at some point (within twenty-four hours) they are released or transported to the Edmonton Remand Centre or Edmonton Young Offender Centre.

cellblock

My primary task is to record all that happens while the prisoner is in the cellblock, which includes monitoring them while in their cell on a regular basis (intervals of fifteen minutes or less). This is done by a combination of physically looking in the cell and video.

The regular guards of course have more duties, as they are Peace Officers with Strathcona County Enforcement Services, whilst I, as casual, am not.

So what is it like to work here? Well, as noted above, the word “interesting” comes to mind, however there are times when “interesting” could not even begin to describe events. We deal with over 1200 prisoners per year, from public intoxication to domestic disputes to drugs to murder, and much more in between. They can be male or female, range in age from pre-teen to eighty something, and can include every personality one could imagine (and then some). It can be positively quiet, or it can be brutally noisy. It can be slow, boring even, or it can be frustratingly busy. Can’t honestly say it is ever peaceful, however it can be totally aggravating.

So why do I work here. Because it’s a job? Just for the money? There are times when I wonder that myself. One reason in my mind is the RCMP members here. I am proud to have worked with the men and women at this detachment over the past four and a half years. They are people just like the rest of us, however as police officers they frequently deal with aspects of society that most of us would prefer to avoid, or perhaps not even acknowledge. Are they perfect – no. Do they do their best – for the most part yes. Do I always agree with them – no. Do I respect them – yes.

So there you go, a few thoughts about where this retired guy works. How long will I work here. Who knows. The joy of being retired is I work when I want to work and will work until I no longer want to.

Thanks for reading. As always, feedback is welcome.

Talk About Sporatic

Wowzers! Holy Dingle! Gee Willikers!

These could be terms used to describe the proliferation of posts that I’ve had over the past two years.

Oh wait, that should actually be the dearth of posts I’ve had over the past two years.

Many years ago, I made a New Year’s Resolution – not to make New Year’s Resolutions – and I have kept it extremely well.

With that in mind, I will not make a resolution here, however I will seriously consider the aspect of writing blog posts a wee bit more often. (Notice how much leeway I give myself.)

Over the years I have done posts using several different platforms, like Blogger, Tumblr and WordPress. Now I have decided to stick with one, and have chosen WordPress and have moved everything here.

So, we will proceed, and try to talk about things that life decides to bring us.

The Settling In Continues

It has been a few interesting, and busy, days since my last blog post.

When I left you last, we had taken delivery of our washing machine.  The installer put it in and hooked it up, it looked fine and we couldn’t wait to use it.  In went the first load, with great ceremony, and the machine was started.  When checked several hours later it had halted in the spin cycle and remained full of water. Hmmm… Back to the instructions we went (those usually undecipherable writings to be referenced when all else fails). Started over, same result. Called shop, installer would be by to check, shop called, installer would not be by, we would deal with next day.

Meanwhile, we were seeking some furniture for the apartment (here it’s called an apartment, back home it would be called a condo). Cynthia had a severe lack of storage space in her room so we were looking for a wardrobe cabinet for her.  After visiting several furniture shops we were very disappointed, in both the quality of material and the empathy of the sales staffs. Then, as with the electrical shop, we received a recommendation for a furniture guy. Off we went to visit Andrew. Success plus! We got not one, but two different wardrobe cabinets for Cynthia, one for hanging clothes and one with many shelves. Then we spotted a china cabinet for the dining room. Bonus. Extra bonus, all for only RM1100 (Cdn$385), free delivery same day as ordering.

Now back to the washing machine saga. In the morning off we went to the electrical shop, arriving just after 9am. Not open yet, what should we do.

Ahh, as any good Malaysian would do we looked around for food, seeing a small Malay coffee shop, looking less than pristine. We will try there. Seeing as how it was morning the menu was fairly limited. Kim had mee-rebus and I had mee-rojak.  Both were absolutely delicious and the people there very friendly. We have learned not to judge any place by it’s appearance, and this was proven once again.

While eating we determined that the electrical shop didn’t open until 11am so we decided that we would travel down the road to the Lui-chew Cemetery and visit Kim’s grandmother and grandfather. Kim’s first visit there in over twenty years. We spent quite a while there, driving up to the very top of the cemetary (four-wheel drive comes in handy) and looking out over the city. It was an emotional time for both of us, however very peaceful as well.

Back to the electrical shop, had a nice visit with the boss there.  We do really like the staff and have no complaints with them.  While there they arranged for a maintenance person to look at the washing machine and we picked up a countertop induction hob for the apartment. (Hob – Collins English Dictionary definition – (British) the flat top part of a cooking stove, or a separate flat surface, containing hotplates or burners). More on these items later.

Next stop was Tesco.  This multinational retailer, headquartered in England, is kind of like a cross between Walmart and CostCo.  It is a huge place with pretty much everything one might want. Good prices, extra benefits for members, and good quality products. Their big competitor is Aeon Jusco. Aeon is a Japanese company that operates shopping centres across Asia, with their retailer Jusco as the primary anchor. Jusco has similar member benefits and so on to Tesco.

Upon returning home, the maintenance guy arrives to look at the washing machine.  Simple fix, it seems that the machine does not have a pump to remove the water, but rather drains by gravity, hence re-positioning the hose solves the problem. This is common with all top-loading machines. Unfortunately the installer appears not to have been aware of this wee detail. anythewho, we were happy and maintenance guy had an easy task.

Then came learning how to use the induction hob. Easy to use, takes up little counter space and is extremely efficient, we really like it. Again, happiness.

Enough for now, long lost cousins in the next post.  Until then, enjoy.

Arrived and Getting Settled

After a long, albeit pleasant, flight from Vancouver, we arrived in Hong Kong.  It was early in the morning, just after sunrise, about 23C and quite misty, so not much to be seen.

Upon landing, we had a wee walk, a train ride, and another wee walk to get to our departure gate.  Then a few moments to relax before boarding our flight to Kuala Lumpur, the final air leg of our trip.  Good wifi allowed me to upload my latest blog post and to catch up on Facebook with those following our journey.

The flight to Kuala Lumpur via Cathay Pacific was, once again, pleasant and quiet, with most passengers either watching television or looking out the window.  Breakfast was eggs with bacon or chicken with rice.  As usual we had one of each, both were very good.  We touch down in Malaysia with a soft bump and prepare to de-plane.

Now is time for a walk, then a train ride, with one stop before Immigration.  Kim and Richard have to visit one of the duty-free shops to pick up a couple of “beverages” for presents.  From there to Immigration, passports checked, index fingers scanned, all is good, and we go to collect our baggage.  Another successful flight, ALL six bags are present, accounted for, and undamaged. Win!

Then comes our first hiccup.  We proceed to the departure hall, to find a payphone and alert our ride of our arrival.  Kim and Richard were able to locate two payphones, however neither one worked.  Plan B was now put into play.  We will purchase our Malaysia SIM cards now for our cell phones.  Meanwhile, one of the transportation booths was kind enough to allow Kim to use their phone.  Driver contracted, but oops, he thought we were arriving at 4:00 not 1:00 as we did, so he was still in Melaka.  Never fear, he had an associate who was available, and it turned out we only had to wait about 15 minutes.  Meanwhile we all got our new SIM cards.  I got one with lots of data so as to be able to do all my social media things.  In addition to my phone service I got 3GB of data (plus receiving a promo of 1.5GB free) for RM100 for the month.  If you are comparing data charges, that is Cdn$35.


Now our driver, Mr Soh, arrives and we have the challenge of putting the luggage into his Toyota SUV.  After no small amount of effort, we managed to place six checked bags, three carry-on bags, two computer bags, one purse and four people in the vehicle, and off we went.  A most personable chap, Mr Soh soon determined that a meal enroute would not be unacceptable, indicating that he knew of an excellent chicken rice place on the way.
He was correct.  The chickens were raised on a soybean diet, the meat being very smooth and very little fat.  The chicken rice, combined with fresh fish-ball soup, made a delicious meal.  It was also a great time to relax for the rest of the drive to Melaka.

First stop in Melaka was at sister Hong’s house to drop off Richard.  One of the first things I did was to go inside and give niece Ah Kim a big hug and a kiss on the forehead.  It is so nice to see her, she was stricken with polio as a very young child and has been basically bound to her modified lawn chair for almost fifty years, yet she is always so cheerful and bubbly.  She spends a great deal of time on Facebook and has many friends.

Next on the agenda, is our Melaka home, it is also where daughter Cynthia lives.  Great hugs all round, so nice to be home.  Baggage is taken inside and soon the living room here looks the same as did our living room in Edmonton, only this time things were coming out of the suitcases, not going in.  Well that is not really true, actually things were being relocated for future delivery to daughter Jaclyn and grandchildren in Johor Bahru.

To finish the day we were off to enjoy an nice meal then home and bed about 11:00.

Next morning, up before 7:00, relaxing with a Malaysian coffee and enjoying the morning from our small (quite small) balcony.  Temperature was 23C and a nice breeze was blowing.  A far cry from the -15C we left in Edmonton, however we are managing to suffer through it.

Very close to our apartment is the coffee shop that used to be owned by Kim’s father.  It is still owned by the folks who bought it from him and they always look forward to seeing us, well particularly Kim.

So over we went for breakfast, after which we went over to sister Hong’s to visit and pick up Richard.  Oh, and we also have a few things to drop off, and, lo and behold, take a few photos such as the one shown on the left.  There we have Cynthia, Richard, Ah Kim, Hong, Phuong and Kim.

Then nephew Ah Boy shows up and we all decide to go for Teo-Chew style congee, joined by brother Ming, also visiting from Canada.  It seems we are settling nicely into the routine of regular food occurrences, which is fine by us.



By now I am also getting into the routine of driving in Malaysia.  As seems to be the norm, there are three systems of driving here.  The first is the official rules of the road, the second being the way that people actually drive, and the third being for motos (those on motorbikes).  The key seems to be knowing how the first is being interpreted by the second and then being on the constant lookout for the third.  The other aspect which must be kept in mind is that the steering wheel in on the right side of the vehicle, meaning that the vehicle is maintained on the left side of the road.  That all being said, driving in places like Chicago, Montreal or Vancouver can be good practice for Malaysia, then adding the wild card that is the motos.

Okay, we are going to a place recommended by Ah Boy to pick up a washing machine, microwave and a toaster for the apartment.  It was a good recommendation as we bought all three for RM1170 (Cdn$410), including delivery and installation.  The installation was scheduled for three hours later.

A little more shopping and then heading home when another oops occurred.  Our loyal steed overheated, in the middle of rush hour traffic.  Aargh!  Okay, no major issue, we pulled over, let it cool down and added water, a nearby shop let us use their tap.  Hmm, seems that the upper rad hose had sprung a leak.  We got home, installation guy was waiting for us, inside we went, and washing machine was installed.  Kim took Richard back to sister’s, Cynthia went off to work and yours truly relaxed in the apartment.  Kim returned with food that sister Hong had prepared, and then it was time for bed.  The first full day in Malaysia had come to a conclusion.