Today is the last day of vacation for Marty and me and I must admit that although I am happy to be starting a routine that does not involve spending so much money, I am super sad to say goodbye to our summer.
Not much has been going on the past two weeks. We have settled in to our daily routine of teashops, sports days, and stumbling upon new and exciting places to eat. We found a fabulous noodle shop where the entire family can eat ‘big’ for $15, as well as bought a blender so we can make our own smoothies and cut back on our bubble tea habit. (When I say we, I am not talking about myself of course.)
This weekend we also went to a Japanese festival in our neighborhood. Live music, food stalls, Japanese stuff!
Last Friday we took a quick trip into Singapore. (Lovingly called the Singapore Swing.) We were initially told not to go into Singapore because we didn’t want to delay the work visa process. We were then told that we had to take a day trip to Singapore to get an exit and entry stamp for our work visas. I learned long ago in Taiwan that after you ask for clarification the third time, it is best to just get in the car and let it go. The border is literally ten minutes from our house and it is super bizarre. I have heard that depending on the time of day, day of week, etc… it can take anywhere from 5 minutes to 3 hours to cross. The line of cars leading up to a border patrol agent split into about 10 different lines, zigzagging every which way so that quick entry or exit is impossible. Apart from the intimidating signs, it was all quite civil… although I think a few of our new co-workers from South Africa who came with us were genuinely freaked out. Once we got through customs (took roughly 15 minutes) we entered Singapore. All we did was get dropped off at a nearby mall for an hour and a half, and then we were headed back. The mall was fancy, as far as malls go, but we got there so early that the only thing open was Starbucks. Oh well. The mall was empty except for an amazingly long line of elderly people outside of a technology store. Turns out Huawei was running a special for people over 50… 50% off of their newest phone. It was totally like Black Friday at Walmart. When we finally left Starbucks an hour later, the mall was packed and the shopping mania had begun. The trip back took about an hour due to long lines heading across to Malaysia. We will certainly go back once we have our work visas in order (not to the mall!) , but from what I could tell it was all incredibly orderly, there was NO TRASH ANYWHERE, and I sure did see a lot of hidden cameras. CCTV here we come!
On another night last week we were sitting around wondering what to eat for dinner when the doorbell rang. It was our ‘foodie’ neighbor and he was hungry. He took us to this small food stall right off of the highway for fried chicken and rice. He assured the girls it was better than Popeye’s. As a matter of fact, he said it was the best chicken and rice he had ever had in Malaysia! We pulled up to this unassuming little food court along the side of the highway and watched our neighbor order. Not having a clue what to expect, he explained that this chicken rice is unlike the local Chinese favorite because it was made with an Indonesian/Malaysian twist. The fresh chicken is dunked in boiling water and then hung up to rest. When you order it, it is then deep-fried with an Indonesian spiced batter and then covered with a crunchy Malaysian inspired topping. It is then served on top of a bed of white rice that has been fried in garlic and chicken fat, and then finished cooking in savory chicken broth. It was absolutely amazing. We sat outside on a picnic bench and listened to the roar of traffic as the sun went down.
This is what people call ‘street food’ and I recently watched a documentary that said it was an endangered culinary art. Older generations have run these shops for years, but their children have no interest in taking them over. We actually met the owner and his family as we were eating. He and his wife work the shop during the day, and his two teenage sons work it at night. They have been so successful that they opened another shop in a different part of town, but have already had to close the doors… not because of a lack of customers, but because of a lack of workers. Just like many places in the world, there are a lot of illegal workers… here they are from the Philippines and Vietnam. They do menial labor jobs that no one else wants to do and they get paid very little. The owner said that he cannot find any Malaysians who want to work and does not want to face a fine for hiring illegal workers; therefore he had to shut the new shop down. He says that the younger generations in Malaysia have no desire to work, much less in a chicken and rice shop. They continue to live for free at home and only work for short periods of time to earn money and then go unemployed until they need money again; this is not a Malaysia specific issue. They were an incredibly nice family and the food was outstanding.
(1 ½ whole chickens, 5 bowls of rice, 5 drinks, and 2 orders of friend tofu and tempeh… $20!!)
In an attempt to work off a bit of the food we are consuming, we have been trying to stay active. Marty has been breaking in his new golf clubs all over town, we have used the school pool a few times, I have been to yoga classes, and the girls are getting ready for soccer season. Here, soccer season is in the fall and tennis is around November. They went to practice with a co-ed team in the area last weekend and were happily surprised at the skill level of the players. Granted, all of the players there were teenaged boys who were a bit intimidated by them, but it looks like they will be able to stay playing at a higher level here, and that is what we wanted.
We have heard that the girls soccer team at our school is a lot like the Bad News Bears, so needless to say the girls have their work cut out for them. If any of you have seen the movie Kicking and Screaming, I imagine it might be a lot like “Pass it to the Italians!” However, if Marty wiggles his way in, like I imagine he will, there is no telling what might happen. I think their main goal now is to beat the British boarding school next door. Should be a fun season!
New school year here we come…wish us luck!
And my new classroom! Talk about a view!!!!!