Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Borneo 1

Miri welcomes us with a little airport that reminds me of how Stansted used to be. Walk from the plane to the terminal and two baggage conveyors. Hopefully a good omen. We are staying in a very smart house on an estate in an area called Luak Bay. One of the more salubrious areas of Miri with some of the biggest, most palatial homes I have seen. They look like resort hotels set high up on the hills for the lowly commoners to gaze up at. Ours, I hasten to add is not one of those. Anyway, back to our pad for the next four months. It's in a mainly Chinese neighbourhood and in the two days we spent with Linda before she left we get several guided tours of the area and are introduced to some of her friends and shown plenty of shopping malls and eating places. Everything is a bit of a blur with so much to take in. But what I do remember is how she slipped in to the conversation that her next door neighbour is a Chinese gangster and she's had a fall out with him. He is now our next door neighbour for the next four months.......so we're a little concerned.

Our local beach

Having seen him, he's a big lump of a bloke with tattoos, shrewd looking eyes, always walks around without a shirt on and he does not smile. I tried my 'I'm just a lovely, friendly, helpful english girl' type smile along with a chirpy "hello". He shot back a glare that involved squinty eyes, lip pursing and a rapid swing of the head that I assumed meant "who the f**k are you talking to". Chris tried with similar results so we now just hope that he will keep himself to himself. Except all we can hear are his screaming child (actually since found out they have triplets!!!) and fishwife misses hollering through the walls. No wonder he's such a miserable bastard! During our first week here we hear him twice leave at about 2 in the morning....we assume to do some damage to someone that owes him money. Good time of day to a catch someone in and unawares! And more scarily, one evening he comes back about 11pm and pulls into his drive and starts washing down the truck. Mmmmhhh suspicious. We guess that he may be cleaning blood off the truck after doing some gangland dealings. Perhaps we actually need to find something to do!!

View of Miri from Canada Hill
And then there's Roger. The reason we are in Miri. He is a most delightful little dog who had a bit of a bad start in life but Linda took him on about two years ago and he has skilfully mastered the art of wrapping her round his little finger. He is a proper player. He knows how to manipulate most situations. He has almost human facial expressions and does this great trick of head down, paws tucked in and rollover on his back with a face that says " just tickle me, tickle me". This usually happens when you're trying to get him to do something against his will, like go out for the night! He has such a cute way of eating his dog biscuits. Not out of the bowl like most dogs, oh no. Too doggy for Roger. He has to be on a mat, the biscuits have to be placed between his front paws and he then uses his right paw to scoop them in to his mouth. Amazingly he breaks the rule for chicken.....that can be served from the bowl. Bless him. He doesn't bark too much, only when another dog comes round near his 'bitches'. They are a collective of three little Husseys that hang around outside the gate vying for Roger's attentions. There has also been occasion when we've come home of an evening and he will be 
'entertaining' one of them who has managed to squeeze under the gate! Her nickname is Minger. He enjoys his walks and he has adopted a little stray puppy (nickname spotty dick) also that manages to squeeze under the gate and they have a little bit of male bonding in the yard.

We have been taking time to discover Miri and what it has to offer. A bit like Singapore in that we have time to see bits that you wouldn't do on a weeks holiday. We've walked a couple of trails on Canada Hill and Lambir Hills. The wet weather makes them a bit tricky and quite challenging but good fun. We've been to several markets and tried some of Borneo's unique fruits. Mixed results, some really lush and some not so impressive. All them with strong tastes and equally strong smells. The shopping malls seem to be where a lot of stuff goes on and they are all connected to hotels. An odd combination but makes it easy to use them as landmarks for getting around. The shopping malls are full of Malaysian shops. I know that sounds obvious but there's a distinct lack of western brands. No M&S, Boots, H&M but there is KFC and macDonalds unfortunately.

On the subject of food, ask anyone here what Miri is about and they will all say Food. I have never seen so many eating places. With a big Chinese influence that's the predominate choice but there is pretty much every taste catered for. Grocery shopping is certainly a different experience and the cost and quality of it makes you understand why they eat out all the time. That and the fact you melt in the kitchen with a gas ring burning and the oven on. So we eat in maybe twice a week and have been lucky enough to be introduced to Mandy and Gary who have been showing us the good, cheap local eateries for the rest of the week. We still have yet to try a prawn fishing restaurant where you are giving a fishing line and bait and you have to literally catch your dinner. Sounds like fun so we'll try that next week. Got a feeling I'll be going hungry with my luck!
We have also joined a gym at the local Marriott hotel and go regularly for workouts, swimming and Pilates. Only problem with the swimming is you have to go out to the pool well wrapped in a towel, jump straight in the water and then cover up again immediately you get out of the water. Nope, nothing to do with the Muslim culture but all to do with those pesky sand flies. They are complete bastards and love to feast on our flesh. Apparently it's them peeing on you that makes you itch so much. And when I say itch, I mean seriously itch.....for over a week. That aside, we enjoy going and were invited to join the Pilates group on a Christmas/someone's leaving dinner. There was 15 of us and it was a really great evening. We met some interesting people that we would not usually have had the opportunity to. Around the table were Chinese Malays involved in building, oil, shipping and airlines, a French helicopter pilot, a Spanish oil man, a Canadian lady who has a yacht that just sails around the world, a northern lass who teaches our Pilates class, a beautiful Turkish woman who was leaving to go home and us, a couple of roaming gypsies. It was without a doubt a mix of the extremes and very entertaining.

Christmas is looming and we have a couple of presents under our dodgy little tree. we're off to try and buy some half decent wine and a chicken to cook Christmas Day. I'm not holding my breath for Christmas crackers but then we did have our Christmas Day proper in November so it's ok. Oh yeah and I must take that picture of Roger in his Santa hat!

 Funny hat and a hard-on. The indignity....
I fucking hate Christmas!

Merry Christmas to all our friends and family. X X X X

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Back to Blighty

Nineteen days in not so sunny England and it feels as though all we've done is eat and drink in a nonstop round of being entertained. We came back after thirteen months with similar trepidation and anxieties to when we left, not being sure how we would feel. Would it be a marmite moment, love it or hate it. Would we hanker for the all the familiar things we know and love and would we want to slot back in to the comfort of doing what we had done before. Everyone speaking a language we understand, knowing what food we're ordering, trusting a dentist (more applicable to me after my luck with teeth) and a doctor, enjoying the social life and easy company of friends and family, films in English and all the other creature comforts of your own home. We certainly viewed England in a slightly different way and were able to appreciate it for a beautiful country. It was cold but bright blue skies that welcomed us along with the warm welcomes of family and friends. My parents had to put up with us taking over their house with our washing, shoes and clothes everywhere, using all the hot water and eating all the chocolate biscuits. But despite all that I know they enjoyed us being home and they gave us a most amazing Christmas Day on our last Sunday with all the trimmings, turkey, pigs in blankets, small sprouts (especially for novice sprout eater Chris), mince pies, crackers and the obligatory dodgy presents. Chris' being a badly fitting Mankini! 

For several weeks before we came home we had to get dates in the diary to fit everyone in and, in hindsight, we really could have done with more time so next visit will be longer. Angela and the Payne family were amazing and gave us use of their home and also plenty of moral support. Chris was able to see all his kids and really appreciated the face to face time with them and catching up with what they've been doing and having some deep and stupid Conversations. I got all the news from my brother and sister and their families and managed to see all my nieces and nephews who seem to be growing up so quickly that I'm sure I won't recognise them when I see them next. So, Sharon and David, keep sending me pictures and updates on what you're all doing.

All of our friends seemed genuinely pleased to see us and all of them provided the prerequisite of plenty of food and drink. So much so that we went to bed every night with bloated tummies and more than a little drunk on most occasions. Time for some detox now here in Borneo. It was interesting to catch up with everyone's news, who's seeing who, who's living where and, of course, to do random spot checks on who had been reading the blogs. Top marks go to Anita!

The trip was mostly an exciting, happy time but it also reinforced our feeling about not wanting to live in England. I know we leave a lot of things behind so It was a really sad realisation that we don't want to stay and live in our home country and want to get back to our bubble. And I know the saying goes 'the grass is always greener' and we appreciate there's always a compromise but until we've covered some more of this planet and experienced what else there is on offer the search goes on for a little piece of somewhere that will be our garden of Eden.

Leaving home again and saying goodbye to my mum and dad was difficult after living with them for a few weeks and unfortunately we didn't get to see everyone we wanted to or organise all the paperwork we should have done. I know Chris also spent a few tears over his kids but Who knows, maybe the next part of the adventure, four months in Borneo, might give us what we are looking for and we can sort out more sustainable long term relationships