Saturday, November 26, 2011

Two Decisions Made...

Number 1. 
I have paid for and started an online TESOL course to learn how to Teach English to Speakers of Other Languages. I enjoy learning and wanted to be stronger at teaching (and understanding) grammar. The skills will be useful regardless of where we end up. My sister (who is a total grammar Nazi) has already started testing me and giving me pointers of what to expect. There's so much I take for granted being a native speaker!! 

Number 2. 
Regardless of whether or not Rene is successful in his Sydney job, we know that Anima requires some work on the hardstand. She is due for another anti foul and in desperate need of a makeover for her topsides. There are a few spots of minor rust on deck that we want to get on top of and we want her to look pretty too. The big question is, should we keep the green? We could just go white all over or have a stripe in a different colour... 

The Usual.
So. With two decisions made, suddenly our lives whirred into action! Jobs that we kept putting off got ticked off the lists and longer lists were written. Rene changed the engine oil (Anima's engine has done over 300 hours since last change in Townsville). We finally bought more diesel (the seller visits the marina twice weekly at around 3pm we were always too early or too late before) and filled up our tank and jerry cans.
We spent ages online trying to find the most affordable method of buying Jotun anti foul paint and enamel topside paint. Rene had the joy of trying to communicate by phone to various sellers who didn't really speak English at all. I got lucky and only ever spoke to people who could communicate quite well! It has taken many phone calls and emails but I think we've ended up with the best deal. I tried to pressure wash all of our sheets (ropes) which are going green in the humidity here but the borrowed machine just refused to work for me. I continued to chuck out more stuff and wrote endless lists.

Interestingly, once we'd made the decision to leave Danga Bay I started to enjoy it more! The town of Johor Bahru seemed more exciting and the marina seemed less dead. We've spoken a little about the possibility of putting Anima on the market if we need to move off her in order to work for a long period. This prospect has also influenced me in a similar manner: I'm finding it more exciting and less of a drag. Paradoxically, I seem to get stuck in the now (funny when I'm also stuck in the future too), thinking that it will always be like this and not satisfied with that prospect. So my blog post from a couple of weeks ago about living life as an adventure is really the attitude that creates the most enjoyment for me. Now, if only I could remember to always have this philosophy!!

The Sultan of Johore had his birthday and on the public holiday a huge free party was held for him at a nearby sports ground. We went along (spur of the moment) and had a different experience. It wasn't exactly amazing. It was crowded, confusing, hot and the thousands of locals were all there just for the free food! Watching women stuff piles of free cake, fried chicken, satay and roti's into their bags was a bit much. Rene gallantly fought through massive crowds, having to fend off gangs of people pressing into him, just to get a cup of red liquid that might have had some water in amongst the sugar. 
Local family. The little girl wanted my earrings.
Local newspaper journalists who interviewed me.
I was interviewed by a local journalist by Gidi and her friend and spoke my mind about the event (will I be thrown out of the country?). We saw a few dances, watched on by armed guards with binoculars and guns. Some of the locals were also watching and I met a nice family because their four year old daughter kept trying to touch my earrings. Mostly, the locals were there for the free food. It was like a pig feeding trough - I guess it's the same in most countries.
The Sultan and his wife. Their photograph is in nearly every building here.
The new Sultan of Johor
Sultan's birthday celebrations. Can you see the armed guards on the clock tower?

In amongst the organisation of getting ready to leave Danga Bay to haul out of the water, we worked at applying for more jobs. Rene put in many hours to making the best application possible for his dream job in Sydney. I put in minimal hours to apply for a couple of positions in Singapore that I doubt I'll get because I'm not a Singaporean. The jobs were pretty cool though: one was an internship at MTV-Asia in the film production area and another was as a curriculum writer/developer for the Health Promotion Board.

I also put on my brave face and visited a local dentist here in JB. I went to UDental in Jalan Indah because it was on the list of suggested businesses the marina gave us.
For the record - my teeth!
We continued to be harassed by mosquitoes much to our frustration. We've tried almost everything and they still manage to get in!! One day I came home to Rene locked inside Anima with FOUR mosquito coils burning, inside! The place looked like it was on fire. Our latest tactic is to string up a mosquito net at our companionway and lock all other windows and hatches (luckily we've got aircon). Somehow they are still making their way inside - the bastards! 
Swathed in mosquito protection.
Malaysian Moments captured on film
The signs that surround the Museum and Sultan's palace are worth noting for the seriousness of the message they portray. Coming from a peaceful country, I'm still not used to seeing armed guards at normal places like shopping centres or public events.
Don't enter or you will be shot in the back of the head!!!
I've already mentioned a few times how sugar seems to be added to almost everything here, especially drinks. Last night at a local Arab restaurant, Rene's drink (Rose flavoured) was so sugary that I had to capture it. 
SUGAR hit anyone?
Locals fishing off a pier were made all the more interesting for the woman's attire. She wore heels a short skirt and handbag. Not exactly the typical fishing gear!
Locals fishing in Johor Bahru.
(please note: slightly negative rant follows)
Johor Bahru (JB) is a strange, busy place. It is very car centred. Last year there was a high incidence of bag-snatching (often resulting in injury to the snatchee) and so almost everyone here drives around with their car doors (automatically) locked. Motorbike riders wear their jackets and bags over their front and barely anyone walks or rides bicycles.
There are usually no footpaths and if walking, the pedestrian is forced to walk along the busy road, jumping up onto the edge of deep, mostly uncovered drains to dodge large vehicles. I never really feel totally safe in JB. When walking to various shops/markets/bus stops etc. I feel vulnerable - an obvious easy target. Due to my ravishing Australian/Irish/English looks, I tend to stand out in Asia!!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Which Direction Should We Take?

This week we spent many hours locked in intense discussion about what to do next. At the end of it all, we sort of know what we want but not how it will happen! Rene has been busily applying for an incredibly amazing job in Sydney which has shaken up our plans even further. We've got so many possible directions that could occur, that we've had to write up a big life map with all the different possibilities. I keep thinking of different options to add to the mix and I don't know if it's very healthy.
Here are just some of the options:
- Stay here in Danga Bay, living cheaply. Continue to look for work or work online.
- Move to Raffles Marina in Singapore for the half-price month we're entitled to as Sail Indonesia participants. Relax in the pool/spa/waterslide/gym and continue to look for work in Singapore. Stay there if we're successful. Move on if we're not.
- Give up on working here. Leave Anima either on a hardstand or tied up here in Danga Bay. Clean her up and put Anima on the market. Fly home and work and do the "normal" thing with getting a mortgage in the suburbs. I could return to teaching and even pick up my permanent position again (though who knows where they would send me.. possibly somewhere very remote).
- (If Ren gets the Sydney job) leave Anima here in SE Asia. Fly to Sydney and rent somewhere for the three years of his contract. OR try and sail Anima back to Sydney either in one big hit or in installments (each holiday we could take her a little closer) and then sneakily live onboard in Sydney somewhere.
- Spend all of our money and time fixing up Anima to be the boat we want her to be. Fly home next year to work, save money, have a baby and stay with our parents. Fly back to Anima after about a year or so and continue cruising. 
- Continue cruising up to northern Malaysia and southern Thailand where the waters are clean and it's beautiful. Put off making a decision about how on earth to make more money. Start making a baby and enjoy life. Continue to look for work and hopefully find something suitable.
- Do a TEFL course online and pick up work teaching English somewhere in Malaysia/Thailand. Live and work somewhere beautiful and fly home sometime in the future.
Confused about which direction we'll take!
With all of these possibilities whirring around my mind, I've been quite stressed out, too serious and a bit depressed!

I went to the local gym one night with Nikki - a yachtie who has lived here longer than us - to try out the Ashtanga Yoga class. The gym, Clarke Hatch Excite Fitness Centre has the motto 'Fit Happens' and is in a modern, clean and professional building. The yoga class was unlike any yoga I've ever experienced. Our instructor counted through our moves in a strange "soothing" voice which would be interrupted by a harsh 'BREATHE' or something in Chinese! Many of our asanas were not positions I'd learnt through Ashtanga Yoga - it was more like Pilates/acrobatics/yoga!! The weirdest part for me was that instead of bowing our heads in thanks at the end of the class, everyone clapped!

Myself, Kellie and Indi riding the carousel.
Our good friends from Molonga ventured down from their marina in Puteri, to visit us here in Danga Bay for a night. We last saw them in Belitung, Indonesia but it was as though that was yesterday when we caught up. Kellie cooked up a delicious chicken soup in her new pressure cooker while Indi showed me her new bed and we played with fairy dust and unicorns ponies. They shared their precious bottle of Champers (brought all the way from Darwin - thanks Kell's Mum!) and the fun continued well into the night. Poor Rene suffered for most of the next day thanks to some interesting mixes. We hung out in the Danga Bay theme park and got to go on a few rides - our choices were limited by which ones Indi was allowed on but I was secretly glad that we only got to go on the gentle rides - I'm a bit of a theme-park wimp!!
Rene, Youngie and Indi - a storm in a teacup!
 We were lucky this week because not only did the lovely Molonga captain and crew visit, so did our Australian friends from Singapore - Jodie and Sarah. Ren was a little worse for wear after our party night with Molonga so I met up with the girls in JB SentralAnima just before the afternoon rain started and enjoyed the lovely bottle of Red that Jodie had carried all the way here. 

Cute fashion shops abound around Johor Bahru central district.
Funky shop fronts with hand-made signs and artwork are popular here.
New shop owner wanted our photograph to add to her collection
Local friend Josephine took us girls along to a presentation by T. Selva on Vasthu Sastra - the ancient art of Indian Feng Shui. T. Selva gave his 381st talk to a packed room of mostly Tamil but some Chinese and us Caucasians. The session started with a focus upon how to find your Guru during which he discussed Mother Meera, Sri Ravi Shanker, Prem Rawat, Mother Teresa, Amma, Pramahansa Yogananda, Sathya Sai Baba and Shirdi Sai Baba. His stories about these guru's (masters who've reached liberation) were interesting (though some of the stories about miracles were pretty unbelievable).
T.Selva speaks in Johor Bahru.
The talk was free because as Mr T. Selva said 'the highest form of charity is sharing knowledge'. He moved onto Vasthu Sastra which seems to be quite a complex way of organising your home and life in order to encourage the best energies into it. I took notes throughout his talk, some of which I'll share with you here. I'm not sure if I really believe much of it (particularly the stuff about golden pyramids!) but I find it interesting to learn new things.

The five elements are related to the five senses and must be arranged in their proper order so as to promote peace, happiness, prosperity and good health.
1. Ether - Hearing. In the morning play soothing music and avoid disturbing sounds.
2. Air - Feel. Burn incense / uplifting scents. Light the incense at the house entrance, making a prayer before you light the flame. Then walk through the entire house, allowing the smoke to penetrate and cleanse every area's energy. Focus especially on the corners as this is where bad spirits dwell. Keep indoor plants.
3. Fire - Sight. Look at the sunrise every morning. Practice Surya Namaskara (yoga sun salutation) and harmonise your body. Wear bright colours - avoiding black, grey and dark blue.
4. Water - Taste. Drink adequate water. Fix plumbing leaks in your home as they symbolise money leaking from your life.
5. Earth - Smell. Get connected to the earth. Walk barefoot on a grassy patch each morning.
If you practice these five principles each day they will apparently discharge the bad energy from your life. You will become more alert, cheerful, have clear skin and achieve results in your career. Hmmmm...
Vasthu Sastra principles on ideal room placement in your home.
The house can be divided into quadrants and Vasthu Sastra recommends the optimum locations for each living space. The South West is an inauspicious entry and having a house / land which is oddly shaped creates negative energy. There are many principles here that T. Selva talked quickly through accompanied by many slides of diagrams. One of these was that steps in a house symbolise your finances. The first step is profit, second is lost, profit, loss.. repeating. You need to have an odd number of steps to ensure that your house promotes profit, not loss. If you live in an apartment complex, it must five story's or below so that you remain connected to the earth energies.
Vasthu Sastr devotees.
Towards the end of the talk, T. Selva moved onto discussing 'ancient wisdom' that he wanted to share with us all. Some of it was interesting, all of it was based upon superstition and some of it seemed to be just plain strange to a cynically trained mind like mine.
- Apparently, if you wish to get rich, buy a small packet of salt every Friday. Add it to your salt jar and during the week, use that salt so that the jar goes down to 1/4 full. Do this for 27 weeks and you will see results.
- To avoid being cursed by others' evil eyes, wear the Turkish jewellery that casts the evil eyes away from you by distracting them with additional "eyes".
- On your birthday each year, buy as many birds as the date of the month. Tell the birds your problems and then free them. Your problems will fly away and you will become much richer. I like the symbolism of the bird freeing though this ritual would be really easy in a place like Asia where buying birds is cheap and easy.
- The technique that I found most strange (and which, surprisingly was the most popular among the audience) had to do with golden pyramids. T. Selva said that if you get a golden copper pyramid which is hollow from the base, and place this over money / a wish / your body / whatever, the energies of the universe will be concentrated down through the point at the top of the pyramid into your money / your wish / your body ailment / whatever. This extended to having miniature pyramids to carry with you in order to encourage the energies into your life / wallet / car etc.

During question time most people asked about techniques to use the pyramids. With Josephine's encouragement, I asked T. Selva if he had any advice for me because I live on a boat and the directions change often, I'm not attached to the earth and my furniture is not movable. His response was that I should try to face East as often as possible. I'll try it and report back if things suddenly start changing for the better. After the talk we wandered through the Muslim night markets. I bought a second hand backpack for about $12AUD.
Muslim night markets in JB.
Jodie and Sarah stayed over on board Anima and we played Scrabble with them on Sunday morning before heading into town to totally pig out on the most amazing Indian food feast of my life. I wish I'd taken a photo but I couldn't bear to stop eating!!

The beginning of the week had me feeling really confused about what to do next. I felt quite out of control and a little upset by our lack of direction. Gradually we worked out some knowns. We want to have a child soon - possibly as early as next year. We don't want to completely give up cruising. It has become a part of us and we love it (most of the time!). But we don't wish to live away from our friends and family forever. The only real issue is money - we need more of it, soon. How we go about getting more of the stuff is the difficult part. 

I'd like to either keep cruising Malaysia and Thailand somehow (anyone want to sponsor us?) or live and work in Singapore like we planned. Sitting here in Danga Bay is not what I want. It's polluted, mosquito-ridden, has no amenities and there is no nature nearby. The only benefit in staying here is the price (free until January, then about $33AUD per week).
Rene pulls a full garbage bag out of Danga Bay. Rubbish floats by constantly.
After a heavy rain storm, the marina was clogged full of rubbish.
Johor Bahru is not the most amazing tourist destination. It's just a big city that acts as the gateway between Malaysia and Singapore. It's busy, crowded and dirty. The main pastime is shopping either in markets or large centres. There are some funky areas with arty shops and despite everyone's warnings, we haven't had our pockets picked or our bags snatched (though it does happen). I'm looking forward to moving on soon from this place. We've met a few nice people here which has been great but I'm craving some nature that isn't ruined with pollution!

Busy street of Johor Bahru.
Walking over the 6-lane motorway after shopping at Kip Markets for fresh food.
JB - a non-stop shopping adventure

Sunday, November 13, 2011

My Life, Viewed As An Adventure

Backstreets of Johor Bahru
Our third week here in JB began with an excursion out of town thanks to Chee Heng. Before setting out along the highways, he took us to eat breakfast at an old Chinese cafe, Hua Mui, where the food is transported upstairs via a tray on a rope and pulley system. This place was pretty popular - we waited for over an hour for our food! We learnt that the letter 'C' written after beverages on a menu means 'with milk'. Rene tried drinking 'Cham' which is a surprisingly tasty blend of coffee and tea. The best part about eating out in Malaysia is the affordability of it all - with our exchange rate we simply divide the listed price by three to get Australian dollars.
Check out the prices!! So cheap!
Full of oily goodness, we drove out to Kota Tinggi waterfall for a swim with hundreds of other locals. The waterfall itself was quite nice and the water seemed clean enough so we had a splash around under the waterfalls and relaxed in fast-flowing rock pools. The rocks were quite slippery though and poor Chee Heng fell over twice! Interestingly, the local waterside fashion seems to be that women wear normal day clothes - not revealing their stomach or cleavage but some leg seems OK. Men wear normal shorts and only some go topless. Rene and I were the only patrons wearing swimming costumes. There were plenty of cute kids for me to get all clucky over as they swam around looking all cute and innocent! 
Sailbirds chillin' by the waterfalls in Johor, Malaysia.
Swimming at Kota Tinggi waterfalls with Chee Heng.
Our favourite fruit this week is Langsat. Similar to the Duku but larger. Inside the firm skin is fleshy segments reminiscent of a Lychee. Our favourite food this week was... CHEESE! We opted in to a buying group in the marina (organised by the lovely Liz) and ended up with 2 Camemberts and Blue Cheeses! After most of the year without such delicacies, we binged out on dairy bliss.
Yummy local Langsat fruit
Nick and Jan from Yawarra 2 left for Langkawi but before they set off we had some fun times with them:
- A meal at a local restaurant (the not-so-serene walk to and from is alongside a noisy, scary highway) where we all ate delicious banana splits for dessert.
- Watching a marina resident sing old songs with his wife at the Italian restaurant. I had a go at dancing the twist and Rene ended up side stage playing the bongo drums. We only knew a couple of the songs but everyone else was singing along (another instance of being about 20++ years younger than 90% of the cruising community).
- Drinking more Rum and lime cocktails / red wine at sunset.
- Delicious lamb curry farewell dinner ended with a few games of Rummicub and an amazing tart( that I need the recipe for Jan).
- Jan helped me get rid of a big pile of books, some of which I'll give to the library here. Nick helped Rene plan a shower area for us - it's all still in the planning stage but it's very exciting to think we might be able to shower soon!!
We already miss their company. Having family close was special and we look forward to seeing them again soon.
Tosai for breakfast with Nick and Jan.
Rene joined the job searching and is looking into an exciting opportunity in Sydney. I'm still trying to find something suitable in Singapore but keep hitting this wall: 'We invite Singaporeans, Singapore Permanent Residents and Malaysians to apply'. 
I found a perfect job but was too late! I'm still looking and haven't given up yet though we're starting to discuss working further afield and leaving Anima here (if we can't find anything in the next 2 months).

On Anima I continued cleaning the waterline which was a disgusting smear of stubborn dark green slime. Rene re-marked and end-for-ended our anchor chain. We're experimenting with using rip stop instead of cable ties (the old ones had almost all broken off) to mark each 5 metre length. I culled more of our books, stationary and clothes - we still have more than we need!
Sweaty work scrubbing the waterline.
Marking the chain on deck.
After a week of trying to call Sim Lim Square company, ComLab, to repair Rene's laptop, we decided to take a more proactive approach by visiting them in person. Our Belgian friends accompanied us for the trip across to Singapore (another 3 hours of waiting in queues, buses and trains). This time I boycotted waiting around SimLim getting bored and annoyed and instead went exploring on my own. I got off the MRT at City Square and walked up into the splendour of Raffles City. This elegant mall is full of all the big names like Rolex, Guess, Gucci etc. I wandered through the pristine centre lined with purple flowering orchids admiring the extravagant window displays until I came to a small art gallery. Ode To Art showcases a small but quality range of contemporary Asian and famous international artists. I enjoyed the whimsical paintings by French artist Christain Pendelio but what gave me goosebumps was seeing Dali's 'Space Elephant' sculpture! My first real Dali!! I wasn't allowed to take photos but I managed to sneak one picture at the entrance.
Dali's scultpure is just under the black board covered in white writing.
In an effort to drink real coffee (so much coffee here is powdered) I stopped in at Starbucks - another first. I've always boycotted this global chain in an effort to support smaller, local businesses. The cafes patrons were almost all white (many Americans) and I realised why when I forked over S$6 (which is more than I paid for a massive lunch). As I sat in a comfy couch, listening to classical music and watching people come and go, I tried not to feel too guilty for finally succumbing to Starbucks (the coffee was good but had too much froth).
MRT station or a metaphor for life?
Zinging with caffeine, I zipped across to Bugis on the MRT and explored the Fu Lu Shou complex. At its entrance, a room full of golden statues of Buddha and related icons beckons with so much gold!! People were praying and making offerings and I was respectfully trying to photograph the splendour.
This Buddha has a lollipop!
Singaporean man praying amongst so much gold!
Upstairs I found a hairdresser at 'Jasper' who assured me she could cut short, curly hair and for $15, I agreed to try. I'm really happy with the result! Better than my $10 haircut in Bali!!
Stylin' it with Lily, the hairdresser.
Ren and I met for a cheap, delicious lunch before heading out to Bugis Street Market to buy him a backpack. This place is packed full of small stalls selling cheap jewellery, clothes, bags and watches. It was pouring rain so we decided to catch a movie (our first in over 4  months). TinTin was screening. We had both avidly read the comics as youngsters so it was with some trepidation that we sat down (would they ruin it?). We needn't have worried as Steven Spielberg has done a fantastic job of converting the comic to the 3D movie. For some bizarre reason, the air conditioning in Singapore is set freakishly low. Watching the film became an act of endurance and survival. I lost feeling in some of my fingers, my teeth started chattering uncontrollably and my whole body was racked with shivers! (I'm not exaggerating here either!!). It was a relief when the film ended and we could emerge into the balmy evening to thaw out. I got to laugh with the other (Singaporean) patrons who were all also shivering and rubbing their arms as we exited in a hurry.
Trying to capture the bustle of Bugis Street Market.
Miraculously Rene's laptop was fixed by the evening (amazing what a bit of face-to-face communication can achieve) and while he collected it, I immersed myself into the crowds of Bugis once again. It's a little strange that the fashion boutiques don't allow their clothes to be tried on or refunded. But, it's all so cheap I guess that if you don't fit what you've bought, it's no great loss. I bought a cotton long sleeve shirt to wear in Malaysia (to cover my bare arms in an attempt to stop getting stared at) but of course, it doesn't quite fit me!

Crowded buses are normal here in Malaysia. Rene is trying to ask the price which seems to change daily. Notice all the staring??
So rather than feeling sorry for myself that our plans of easily finding highly paid employment in Singapore haven't worked out (yet), I've been concentrating on living my life with the spirit of adventure. Standing in overcrowded buses, not understanding what people say to me / not being able to communicate, or find simple groceries and eating foods I didn't expect or enjoy are all part of the adventure and joy of living in another country.

The grass so green, the sun so bright, life seems a dream, no worries in sight. Random shop window in Singapore.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Week 2. JB - Malaysia. Looking for work and enjoying the food.

This past week my focus has been on finding employment in Singapore whilst eating lots of delicious local food. However, finding a full-time job turns out to be not as easy as I'd imagined. The Singaporean government recently passed a law to reduce their number of foreign workers. Many of the jobs I look at say 'Singaporean or Permanent Resident only'. I'm keen to work again after taking a break. I'm interested in new challenges such as working in a career related to but not necessarily teaching. So, most days I plough through the job search websites looking for something suitable.

Our friend Jodie works at an International school in Singapore. With her legwork, I was offered relief teaching at the school. I accepted and on Friday, made the long commute across the causeway from Malaysia to Singapore to work as the relief art teacher for the day.
Bus stop at 5am
My day began at 4am in order to get ready by 5am. I was at the bus in the dark just after 5 and the third bus I flagged stopped for me. It was full of sleeping people and I stood in the aisle wishing I was asleep too. We all got out at JB Sentral to walk over to the first checkpoint. The next three hours involved queuing and walking a lot and getting on and off another two buses and 2 MRT's. I knew it wasn't going to be easy and was prepared for the adventure of it all. Rather than feeling sorry for myself, I actually felt empathy for all of the thousands of Malaysians who make this same commute 5-6 days a week. Amongst the crowd were a few elderly, some young school children and a very pregnant Indian woman.

I eventually made it to the school and was given a tour by some helpful staff. My finger prints were scanned and added to the system and I was shown to the art classroom where I was to teach for the day. Having predominantly taught secondary students before, teaching primary students was a new experience and one I enjoyed! Each class came with a support teacher to help out and I was impressed with the students' behaviour and attention. I would enjoy returning to EtonHouse International School as the art teacher if that job was to open!! There is so much potential there for improvement and fun!

The journey home took another 2.5 hours. This time the crowds were worse. In particular, the checkpoint to leave Singapore was full to bursting with people. I stood in one queue for my bus for 30 minutes without moving. So, having observed that the queue parallel to mine was moving (it was for a different bus line), I decided to switch over. The beginning of this queue was miles away! It had grown by about 200 metres in a long curling loop around the entire bus platform while I'd been waiting in the other queue. I dejectedly joined the end and slowly but surely shuffled along with the thousands of other people to eventually cram into a bus for a 5 minute journey across the Causeway to the Malaysian checkpoint. I completed 'Blind Faith' by Ben Elton which was strange to read when in the somewhat similar situation of massive crowds all plugged into their personal communication devices.
Halfway along in the queue for a bus across to Malaysia from Singapore.
A local guy, Chee Heng (who is a friend of a friend of ours in Australia), took us out one night in JB for a real Malaysian dinner. Gosh the food is so tasty here! I'm putting on weight though because most dishes and drinks have added sugar. I'm getting frequent headaches also probably due to the added MSG! We ate at 'Kafe Enampuluhan' and then drove over to 'The Girl Next Door' which is a funkier area of town. The lovely Ireen showed us her cute shop, 'Miss Ireen Handmade', where she sells her original jewellery.

Miss Ireen in her cute shop.
Upon hearing of our plans to find employment, Ireen told me of a job in the fashion store next door as a sales assistant. The salary is 47 Ringgit per day which is about $15AUD. As you can imagine, I turned the offer down. We wandered over to 'The Girl Next Door' cafe and drank flavoured yoghurts in small buckets. The decor was very artistic with funky vintage items displayed amongst trees painted on the walls and furniture from the 60s.
The Girl Next Door Cafe

Rene and Chee Heng drinking yoghurt buckets!

On another night we went out with a retired Singaporean couple who live onboard their motorboat in Danga Bay Marina. They took us to eat local food and Rene jumped at the chance to try a new animal part. This time, Duck feet. I stuck with the meat as simply seeing the feet made me feel nauseous (feet are for walking, not eating!!). Frank introduced us to his favourite dessert: Pineapple covered in Sour Plum powder. It was quite nice but far too sweet!
Rene about to munch on a duck's foot!!
Pineapple covered in sour plum powder.

Singapore scene... so futuristic!
Rene and I ventured over to Singapore for the day to deal with his Mac laptop which he'd put into the official Apple store over a week ago. They'd looked at it and quoted over $1000 to replace the Motherboard. It suffered during the modem meltdown. Rene decided instead to take his precious laptop over to Sim Lim Square where I'd had my laptop fixed cheaply and quickly. Sim Lim Square and Tower are full to bursting of mulitple levels of gadgets and electronics - a geek's paradise. Rene of course loves it and so we ended up stuck there for hours. I enjoyed our time before and after Sim Lim. When we explored Orchard street (an upmarket area of Singapore) and ate a cheap delicious lunch in a foodcourt where you stand up to eat around small, tall tables. We also had a relaxing afternoon drinking beers and making life decisions!

Rene happy - he's about to eat Chicken hearts!
Cool Singaporean advert on Orchard St ... I think for Christmas?

We have continued to enjoy the company of Nick and Jan from Yawarra 2. Their shower has been such a God-send and their company has helped me to not feel so homesick. Jan introduced us to freshly-squeezed lime juice with Rum as a sundowner (limes are super cheap here) and Nick relished in introducing us to their all time favourite food - Roti Canai. This is essentially fried dough but it's spectacularly delicious and the preparation is amazing to observe. The chef rolls out a tiny wad of dough until it's paper-thin and massive. He then folds it in, trapping air as he does so. It's fried in loads of oil and then served with a tiny bowl of dahl or chilli sauce. YUM! Nick showed us a second hand clothes store and I bought a cute jacket for 5 Ringgit. Jan showed me the local wet markets - called Kip Mart which are bustling with people and shops. We stocked up on fresh fruit and veggies as I've realised that the only way to eat healthily here is to cook at home (eating at home is actually more expensive than eating out!).
Rene steps off Y2 after having a shower and catch-up :)
Nick diggin into his Roti Canai
Our Couch Surfing friend, Josephine, took us out to the night markets in Taman Tun Aminah district (a Chinese area of town). These markets were huge and, as usual, so busy! We had a whirlwind time walking through the crowds, sampling various foods and drinks and buying fresh fruit and veggies. Highlights included drinking warm soymilk and freshly squeezed sugar cane juice ('with no added sugar'). It was a friendly atmosphere and we felt quite safe as foreigners have barely ever (maybe never) gone there. Afterwards, we ate dinner at a Chinese restaurant, 'Kah Kah Loke' (meaning 'everybody is happy'). Rene enjoyed eating pig's intestine soup while I preferred the steamed tofu dish!!

Petai Padi... I think... green pods sort of like garlic.
Bee Ling, Josephine and me drinking fresh sugarcane juice!
Our meal at Kah Kah Loke.
On Anima, the usual jobs continue - albeit slowly! We bought a second hand air conditioner which is far too powerful for our needs but it was all that was available for what we could afford. It's so cold inside now that I find myself shivering while it's dripping hot outside!! Despite having all of the hatches and windows closed and burning repellent coils all of the time, we still have mosquitoes finding their way inside. This is a real worry for us as the mosquitoes here carry dengue fever!

So, at the end of our second week living here in Johor Bahru, Malaysia, I'm feeling more positive than I did at the beginning. We continue to have set-backs but overall, things are looking up. I've figured out teaching is not as bad as I imagined and I'm slowly building up my Ashtanga yoga practice again. We've been cleaning up inside Anima, trying to get rid of more of our belongings that we don't use/want. I'm still very much looking forward to when we make the move over to mosquito-free Singapore, but until then, I'm happy living in the moment. Experiencing Malaysia and enjoying the company of people around us.