Thursday, December 8, 2011

Moving On

(Some) decisions made, we began actively working toward achieving them. As always after having been in safe harbour for a while (6 long weeks in JB) our yacht had become more like a tiny apartment. Operation re-yacht-ify involves such fun activities as putting away everything, tying up anything that may shake loose, turning off almost everything (when disconnecting from the shore power), buying supplies and remembering all of the things that we were going to fix last time we sailed but forgot about as soon as reaching land. 
Ren working at fixing the Aries WindVane.
We had time to catch up with our local friend Josephine one last time. She took us along to her favourite Chinese hawkers market in Johor Bahru. Rene took the opportunity to eat beef stomach soup while I simply stuck to the beef. We ate well that night as Josephine wanted to show us all of the local foods. In addition to the soup, we had satay, Chinese bread sticks, fresh apple juice and legume-based desserts. Sadly, something I ate this night didn't agree with me... MSG?
Ren samples Beef stomach soup.
Chinese Hawker markets in Johor Bahru.
One unforeseen problem we've had while travelling long-term overseas is accessing our savings. Our bank slaps a huge fee onto us every time we withdraw cash from ATM's not in Australia. In JB, we were normally charged $10-15AUD per transaction depending on size. Ouch! Ren rang the bank and ordered an overseas cash card with Singaporean currency on it (they didn't offer Malaysian Ringgit). The card then took ages to arrive and we'd actually given up hope of it getting to us at all! But then, on the very day we'd planned to go across to Singapore anyway, we had word from our friend Jodie (who's address we used as Danga Bay was not reliable) that the card had landed! Our planned one-day shopping trip in Singapore became a little three day holiday away from Anima. Jodie very generously gave up her bedroom for us travellers and we enjoyed sleeping on a large bed, in quiet air-conditioning, having real, long, hot showers and being safe and dry on land while it rained outside. It's amazing how such simple pleasures that most people take for granted are high on our pleasure list! 
Chinatown by night
We met up with Jodie and Sarah in Chinatown for an excellent night. The Tiger beer flowed freely and things became quite merry! Jodie not only gave us the cash card but my pay from the supply teaching I'd done last month! Sarah kindly took pity on me and gave me a small Christmas tree that she just happened to have in her bag. I was getting all teary while talking about how much I missed home and wasn't able to fly home for Christmas this year. She said that the first year is the worst (from experience). We ate amazing Vietnamese Hawkers market food and stayed up until the early hours of the next morning! 
Sarah and Jodie with the gift of Christmas!
Walking home from Jodie's MRT stop was an adventure in itself! We encountered mice, cockroaches and the biggest snails I've ever seen! There were so many other people still out and about so late at night. Singapore really is a city/country that never sleeps. 
Local fauna in Singapore!
HUGE coffee much needed the next day :)
I ventured back to Chinatown the following day to buy a new camera. My Olympus uTough 8010 has been getting worse. It's only good for underwater photography really. Mum and Dad said they'd chip in for Christmas and I researched what I wanted for a new camera. I decided upon the Canon SX230. It is the best point and shoot Canon available at the moment and has a great zoom of x14!! I'd decided upon this camera before shopping and had found the best price online to be $200USD. The shops in Chinatown all thought I was mad to offer them such a low price. I went to five camera stores (all minutes from one another) and had varying degrees of customer satisfaction. Most of the camera salesmen seemed very over their jobs. They were tired and cynical and not willing to joke around or be friendly. They must see hundreds of tourists each week. One shop did offer cheap prices but the longer I stayed in his shop, asking questions and asking for information, the more agitated he became. He kept telling me how god the Nikon was compared to the Canon I was interested in. He showed me a Canon SX230 with no GPS included but then when I wanted to look at it a second time he said I'd looked already, that he didn't allow customers to look at all the cameras. He became quite angry, despite my best efforts at making light of the situation and explaining myself calmly and assertively. I ended up leaving and found out from other sellers that he'd most probably tried a selling technique on me and had angered when it didn't work out. I began to question myself and my choices... did I really want this Nikon? or a digital SLR? Maybe I didn't do enough research? After hours of chatting to various salesmen, I finally bought the camera I'd set out to get for 444SGD (345 USD) (including an 8 Gig card, case and 1 year warranty). 

The first photo with my new camera!
Ren spent the day shopping for boat stuff (exciting things like fans, lights and electronics).
My first go at the new camera in Chinatown.
Acala - protector of those of us born under the rooster birth sign
On our last day in Singapore, I went into work with Jodie where I did another day of supply teaching - this time as the replacement music teacher. The music room was a mess of Christmas-related decorations and stuff. I was handed a couple of CD's to play with the students but instead I spied a DVD on the bottom shelf entitled 'Hip Hop Dancing for Kids'. Keen to use the interactive whiteboard and to get the kids active, I settled on this as my key activity with some extra things thrown in like learning Beat Boxing and playing rhythm games. 

On our last night in JB, Rene went out with our other local friend, Chee Heng, to the local Wing Chun Kung Fu club. Rene: The Sifu spoke only Chinese, and everything was written only in Chinese, so Chee Heng came more to help me with language and a mild interest, rather than to participate. We explained that because I was travelling, I didn't often get an opportunity to practice with other people. This club is actually part Jeet Kun Do (Bruce Lee's style) and part Wing Chun, but is the only Wing Chun club in Johor Bahru. So they asked me a little about how long I've been doing it (11 years, seemed long to them, not long to me, looking up to the grandmaster at 86), how often I practice (20 mins/ day ) and so on, and then the Chi-Sau (like sparring) began.

The last thing I wanted to do was cause trouble, so tried as hard as I could to control my force. When my hands fell through naturally due to a gap, I was able to pull it completely and just place my hand on the target (eg, throat). But because I made the landing so soft, these ones were mostly ignored (back home, we'd stop if there is contact on centerline backed up by solid stance), but it suits me fine as I can learn more about countering. Unfortunatly, it's impossible to make all of the strikes this soft - the ones that happen as a direct consequence of the other player attempting to take a strike that isn't available have more force, as they naturally reflect the other player's energy back on themselves (like a spring). At one point I accidentally poked a man in the eye due to this effect and felt bad, but he seemed to recover fairly quickly.

I got hit a number of times also - sometimes on the centerline. One of the most interesting Chi Saus for me was with a smaller guy, probably late teens, who really gave it everything he had, and was quite a lot stronger than he looked. He somehow slipped through and got his elbow against my neck - twice! Despite the quite agressive style, I walked away with no real injuries other than a blood lip, I feel like I've learnt a couple of things - and this is a good reflection on their club. However, I did come the closest I've been to over exertion.

In Kung-Fu world, you have to pretend that you are completely invincible - and when you go into a club like this, you have to Chi-Sau with everyone in the room, and pretend that you're not getting tired. Each new person you Chi-Sau with is coming in with an abundance of fresh external energy. After a few really intense rounds with no real break in between, it can get very hard - I succummed to a bottle of water to replenish the fluids, but other than that managed to stay on until they were all done. So later, after they've had the class some students are asking me about how I train, and I foolishly mention 'the internal pushup'. It is an extremely gruelling training method, courtesy of my esteemed Sifu Gordon Shellshear, that involves holding a single pushup for 10 minues (30 minutes is the current known max, also courtesy of Sifu Gordon). At home I had been reaching 14 minutes and breathing easy, but it one thing to do when you have had a relaxing day, and quite another after unrelaxing boat work followed by Chi Sau with everyone in the club. I very much did not want to do it, but didn't really have a choice - I had told them that I do 10 minutes every day, and they were most curious to see how it could be done. Plus I'm in Kung-Fu world, feigning invincibility! Just so they could understand a little of what suffering was involved, I made sure some of them started along side me. By the time I got to 8 minutes I still appeared to be doing fine on the outside - I had controlled my breathing, I could talk steady, but inside I felt a sensation I had never really felt before, kind of like little bits of pins and needles, some here, some there. Plus my arms felt a like they could be approaching melt down. My Sifu always says 'train to the point of injury, but no further' and I'm not sure what is going to happen next, so at this point I had to hop up, and explain - only 8 minutes tonight, sorry!

Ren with the Johor Bahru Wing Chun / Jeet Kun Do club
Back to Cerae: And so, after 6 weeks of staying in dirty Danga Bay, we're finally leaving. This place has been good as a cheap spot to sit and try to figure out what to do next but we're so glad to be leaving. It's run by an Australian guy who has a very large (often offensive) personality who rubs most people up the wrong way. It's really dirty and there are no amenities. The mosquito's never left us alone - they swarmed in our cockpit, waiting for any chance to eat us!

The giant crustacean of Danga Bay (funny cause Ren's allergic)
Local resident of Danga Bay unsuccessfully attempting to hitch a ride in our porthole

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