Sunday, 9 February 2014

Borneo 2 - Year of the Horse

It's been a while since the last blog, sorry folks. And we've been busy with a lot of regular stuff. But last one was Christmas so for those not on our facebook pages we had a fun time New Year's Eve. Headed into town to the local bar where locals and expats hang out together. It was heaving! We had a really crappy pizza there and then, this will make me sound like such an old fart, but the music was so loud and we thought it was karaoke that we decided to go to the local Marriott where we knew there would at least be fireworks. It transpired that the 'karaoke' was actually a band! The Marriott had a disco which no one was dancing to so we ordered our Tequila Sunrise cocktails and hit the dance floor like a couple of whirling dervishes. Within two minutes the dance floor was packed with locals and visitors all bouncing around. Midnight arrived and to be honest the fireworks were a bit pathetic for a big hotel but we saw in 2014.....very hot, very sweaty, a little drunk and incredibly happy.

We have three rounds of visitors lined up for the next three months. Well it is the year to visit Malaysia so we're doing our bit. Firstly my parents arrive next week, yay!!! Then Robin and Justin in march and Sam and Victoria in April. Strange how they all suddenly want to see Orang-utans and call in to visit on the way. Actually we are thrilled that all of them are using their precious holiday and coming such a long way to see us. So we have been busy making itineraries of things for them to see and do.

Niah Caves

We visited Niah Caves, about a 90 min drive away. Great walk through rainforest to these gigantic caves that feel more like an auditorium. We hope when we visit again to go late in the day and stay to see the bats coming out and the swifts coming in. Report to follow! We've got temples for them to see, trails and walks, shopping centres and markets all in Miri. 

Jame 'Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque in Brunei

Then there's also a visit to Brunei. It's about 30 kms to the border from Miri and has amazing mosques, a huge floating village, hopefully proboscis monkeys and, of course, more shopping. The lovely Mandy thought she'd take me shopping to Brunei, really useful so we'd know where we're going and what's there. So she picked me up early one weds morning and off we go. About 5 kms from the border as Mandy goes to get the ASEAN bridge toll money from her purse, she says to me " oh, you have got your passport haven't you?". Not difficult to guess my answer......errr no! How often do you need your passport for shopping? Honestly. So Brunei trip was abandoned but Mandy did show me a massive out of town market where I bought pickled shallots not knowing what they were and thinking they were an exotic fruit. Probably not my best day!

So a few things planned for them and we will of course report in full all the magnificent details and pictures.

Normal days rainfall in the rainy season

We have both been working. A term I use quite loosely as a total of 8 hours a week between us is not exactly strenuous. Chris is having a great time entertaining 4-6 year olds for a couple of hours midweek and then some 7-10 years old for three hours at the weekend. I have a lovely serene class of six 13-16 year olds for three hours on Saturdays and I'm covering creative writing. I am enjoying researching the writing styles and creating lessons from scratch, though I'm sure my classes are not as entertaining as Chris'!!

The dog situation has had a few ups and downs. Don't panic, nothing to do with Roger. He is still as adorable as before but Minger has had puppies. Well, one puppy that we've seen. That was about three weeks ago so not sure how that's going to end. Yoda has been in season and been a complete slag at the end of the road shagging every stray dog that passes. Skinny boy has had a limp for a while and when there was constant heavy rain I was really worried about him so Chris built them a shelter. So sweet, and they use it! And the really sad news is that after the second night of the constant torrential rain we haven't seen spotty dick, the sweet little puppy that Roger was mentoring. That was just after Christmas so I'm hoping someone took him in and gave him a home. 

Lion dance on 6ft podiums

 We are currently half way through the fourteen day celebration for the Chinese New Year. It certainly started off with a bang, like nothing I have ever experienced before. On New Year's Eve they set off firecrackers and fireworks to ward off evil spirits. These spirits must be deaf. The firecrackers were going of randomly all day and finally reached a crescendo about quarter to twelve when the whole street, and if fact the whole town it sounded like, had strings of them draped over gates, hanging from poles and strewn in the road. The. The competition for the biggest and best fireworks started. Wow, having two gangsters in the road made the competition pretty fierce and a great spectacle for us. They went on until one o'clock, non stop explosions and cascades of colour. 

Huge incest sticks at Buddhist temple on new year day

Amazing. Roger was the coolest dog ever. He just looked out the front door, turned around and went to sleep in the dining room. He honestly couldn't have cared a less. The next morning the street looked like a war zone. Empty firework cases and red papers from the firecrackers everywhere. And part of the tradition is not to clean anything up for 14 days. It is believed that if you do then you are clearing away any good spirits that might be entering your home so the red mess stays! Oh yeah, they also continue at completely random hours to let off firecrackers for those 14 days. Brilliant. 

Aftermath of ghost scaring ritual

We are having an noisy, exciting time and meeting some interesting people. A great start to 2014, the year of the Horse.