Thursday, 27 March 2014

Teaching, paint, sea water and dancing!

Life continues to be lovely in Miri. The temperature is climbing a bit of late so have been ramping up the daily shower ratio. Luckily our monthly water bill is only 6 MYR (about £1.20) so it doesn't cost much to smell nice. We have just finished our stint of teaching for ELC (Early Leaning Centre!!!). Rachel's "Creative Writing in English" course has produced some stunning results from her class of brilliant 14 to 16 year old children. She not only taught the course but designed it as well. It included exploration of different writing styles, writing techniques, essay composition, idioms, homonyms, slang, grammar and lots of 'akademicky' stuff. I have to say i have been absolutely blown away by her lessons and the complete ease with which she assumed the role. From the feedback of her students and parents they have been pretty impressed to. I feel very proud and glad she loved it so much.  She is also teaching 4 to 6 year olds at another school which presents different challenges but once again she puts together and delivers well considered lessons.  
Rachel's 'Understanding English' class

Chris' small private class of 7 - 10 year olds
For me the whole teaching thing at ELC has been more of a social experiment in god worship rather than careful planning. I nearly groomed the children I taught to genuflect before me but didn't quite manage it before the contract ended. I had to settle for absolute, unbridled joy and mayhem when i walked into the school from the two classes I teach as well from children i don't. Rachel even found two kids singing a 'We love uncle Chris' song and i wasn't even teaching them that day. Seriously! It's a little embarrassing with the quietly jealous, hard working and probably far more effective native teachers looking on. I too teach a some private lessons at the school but the structure of my course "Understanding English" is a little more fluid due to the age and capability of the children. Our last day was really nice with us being presented a card signed by all the teachers and kids. We were given presents and received goodbye meal, along with the staff, of Rendang, Bario rice, noodles and salad. We were very touched. 

Our NZ friends Mandy and Gary introduced us to various Indian friends of theirs a while back. Subsequently we have been out with them, collectively, a couple of times and went to a party at Anand and Barathi's house. Barathi is part of an Indian Social Club here and last Saturday, my 53rd birthday coincidently, she invited us to celebrate the Holi Festival with about 200 Indians at the local boat club. An absolutely brilliant day in the company of some very interesting, funny and boisterous people. The day started sedately with a lovely buffet of mild 

curry flavored delicacies and ridiculously sweet deserts but soon deteriorated into a free for all with paint powder and buckets of sea water being liberally thrown about. We were alternately 

Bridget Jones moment with Indian Dessert
daubed in reds, yellow and purple powdered paint then soaked, daubed then soaked. Later after being taxi'd a round by Mandy and Gary we returned to a lovely curry meal and dancing Bollywood style (stroke the dog, change the light bulb) in the club house and around a large bonfire on the beach. I even had the entire congregation singing Happy Birthday to me and between shots of whiskey and slaps on the back by strangers had a lovely time. We finished my birthday weekend beach combing on Hawaii Beach and going to the pictures.

We have also made a new friend in an Australian lady called Jean who is great fun and lives on her yacht in the marina (afloat for 4 years now!!!). the other day we went to a Salsa class that she had found. Her and Rachel enjoyed it but the pressure of having to lead, my inability to remember steps and the copious amounts of sweat i produced spoiled it for me. Not sure if we will go back too quickly. We will see if i grow any balls and can somehow stem the sweat. Jean, as i mentioned, lives on her yacht in the marina here and has offered to take us on a jaunt to Labuan (an island off the coast of northern Malaysia) shortly. I really hope this happens as it will be stunning to be sailing out in the blue waters up the coast and past Brunei to the Sabah province of Borneo.

Roger the dog continues to be a really lovely and easy dog to look after. He still loves to scrap with other dogs but is gentle as can be with bitches, humans, kittens, crabs and gecko's - weird. He also continues to shit in the strangest places on our walks

That's it for now. In case i haven't mentioned it before we have booked our onward journey from here and will be going to Japan for a while on May 3rd.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

They came, the saw, they concurred it was nice

So our guests have gone. First Rachel's parents and then Robin and Justin. They came, consumed and departed and, in truth, whilst we love our lives here in Miri, it does feel a little bit emptier now that its only us again. 

We did pretty much the same thing with both groups and in each case got much joy sharing their new experiences as we did when we had them for the first time. The main difference was that the old 'uns had 14 days and the youngsters 7 days to fit it all in. So Rob and Justin had to go home to sleep rather than do it here. Its amazing how much stuff we take for granted and barely notice as a resident on this Island and its only when we are showing people these new things that we see them with fresh eyes. The crazy driving which almost abides by the law but is selective on which particular rules are sensible and workable. Traffic lights, over taking on bends, not looking right (they drive the same side as in England) when pulling out onto a main road are plainly not important. Pulling away from lights appears to be a contest to see who can be the most tardy (in fact we have seen stickers saying 'I love driving slowly'. But then, when you do randomly veer across three lanes to get to a turning, drive the wrong way up a one way street, or park on a roundabout because its near to the restaurant (they are inherently lazy with walking) then no one cares, gets angry or beeps. So whilst it can be mad it is a more pleasant experience than driving in road raged Blighty. We saw again the foreignness of Chinese shops, the overwhelming sense of green that seeps out of the nearby jungle, the inclusiveness of the people - Muslims, Chinese, Malays, westerners, Indians and the profusion of food stuffs, customs, car styles and M.O. of the country as a whole. We are glad to be here, to be accepted and to have integrated with interesting people of many different creeds and religions.

So back to the visitors. Dave and Maureen - Secret highlights were Maureen attempting to get under a three foot high bar and managing to get stuck. First because she appears to have no spacial awareness, no concept of how big her body is and no understanding of the mechanics involved in moving that body under a bar!!! Secondly because she laughed so much after 3 minutes (3 minutes!!!!) that she could not move without peeing herself. Another highlight was watching Dave standing on a vibrating massage plate designed to help people tone up their bodies. In his case it caused tremors to move up his legs, resonate in his round belly and wobble his head so much it looked like it would fall off. On a sadder note. Maureen could not sleep one night because of the excitement she had had in the last two days and Dave broke an LED rubber band propelled toy you shoot into the air - Or rather Rachel did and although dave said it was OK you could see it wasn't. 

For the everyday things the pair of them laughed, marveled and embraced pretty much everything thrown at them. During their time here they ate exotic foods including jungle ferns, smelly durian, braised bat and weird desserts. We went to the cinema, bowling, shopping in malls and markets and bought stuff from the black market man. 

They went to see orangutangs and tribal longhouses with skulls in Kutching. We rode a speedboat down a river to the mangroves and saw big monitor lizards, birds and proboscis monkeys, They saw huge mosques in Brunei and ornate temples in Miri, explored huge caves at Niah and walked in the Lambir hills to the waterfall. 

We even let off Chinese lanterns on the beach one night and went to a country and western festival. They saw rain and plenty of sunshine and they say it was well worth it. For us it definitely was and we both thank you for coming.

Rob and Justin. What can we say about them. First and foremost that it was great to see Robin and Justin together as a couple. Over the week we really got to appreciate what a great bloke Justin was and what a sleepy chap Robin is.

Apparently closing your eyes and nodding your head, dribbling and having no idea of anything that has passed in a car does not constitute sleeping. As I said they had to cram all that Dave and Maureen did into half the time and did other things to boot. They tried foods (as above). They also saw a profusion of orangutangs in Kutching. 

Our visit, however, was longer than theirs so additionally we had a day following trails through the rainforest in Bako and saw Macau monkeys, Proboscis monkeys, wild pigs. Here we sheltered from a storm under a rocky outcrop unbeknowingly just 30 metres from a shelter on our destination beach, we swam in the South China Sea and showered under a waterfall. 

We saw the worlds biggest flower - the Rafelasia (this one 26cms across and blooms for 7 days in any year). They too bowled and shopped and went to Brunei and on the same river trip where D&M saw monitors and proboscis they additionally saw a crocodile (OK it was only a baby but mum must have been nearby). We walked to Niah caves in the evening to see the bats and walked back through the rainforest in the dark with bats whizzing by us and fireflies 

lighting up the bushes. We took in temples and mosques and a crocodile farm where Rob reverted to a young boy running up and down the cages being followed by the worlds most dangerous bird? It had a gun! The Cassowary.. To see the huge trees, leaves, vista's and experience culture is a thrill at any age but seeing it 

when you are still strong enough to fully embrace the possibilities is something i urge all to do. Once again dear boys. Thank you for your entertainment and effort in coming so far across the world and to any reading this you too are always welcome.