Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Guest Traveler Story:- Journey to the Edge of Civilization

Guest Traveler: Theodorusrex*

Journey to The Edge of Civilization

Singapore 1990

The pictures in the glossy pamphlet of the Batam Island Holiday Resort looked inviting; beachfront position, swimming pool, tennis court, luxury air-conditioned twin share rooms, but we should have read between the words of the agent in the Singapore travel agency.

"Awww. Whatchuwannagotherefor?"

It was a short trip to Batam by ferry from Singapore, a tiny island of Indonesia just off the tip of Singapore and Malay Peninsula. The medium age of Batamese is 20 years old and the town of Batam is famed for its night-life of pubs, clubs and casinos. It was the latter where Shayne, a mate of mine, and I, were hoping to try our luck.

However, our resort wasn't in the town near the other hotels, it was right across the other side of the island through bush and off the sealed road and then off any road; through volcanic craters and boiling mud plains and the ruins of an ancient civilization; past several primitive tribes that had never seen white people before to a tiny clearing that had been hacked out of the bush where a hotel and a few bungalows sat - The Batam Island Holiday Resort. From the front, it looked just like it did in the glossy brochure.

A few local monkeys then came out to welcome us and look at the strange humans. They were cute and furry with white on the stomachs and light brown fur, but kept their distance from us. It was like being in some unexplored region of the Amazon. We checked in under the thatched roof. Whew! 40 something degrees Celsius. Every one of the staff had hand fans. That wasn't a good sign! Neither was the sign they brought out while we were still waiting to register.

"No Electric till 4 pm."

I looked at my Rolex copy-watch. It was 5:05 pm.

The bus that had deposited us there had already left again, so we had no choice. We had to register.

As we were taken through the resort we passed the pool, which had ropes across it, tied to chairs on either side. A sign hanging on the ropes said "Pool Closed - No Swimming", but I could see goldfish capering about quite audaciously in the invitingly cool clear waters.

The hotel porter finally wedged our door open to gain entry to our spacious twin share room. There was just enough room for two single beds squashed together in one room. The bigger room was the bathroom, which is where we had to put our luggage. Unless one of us wanted a shower when some of it had to go on the beds. The other room did have a wall air-conditioner too; accept, there was no electric yet.

Having "settled in", we went to look at the beach.

The beach! How I remember the first sight of those fabled shining oily shores. Directly opposite was Singapore. In between were about 60 huge oil tankers or cargo ships lined up and waiting to dock. Some of the crew on a big red rusting tanker waved cheerily to us. I started to wander down the beach towards the jungle but one of the hotel staff came over and grabbed me by the arm.

"Nono.Nononono!" he said, gesturing animatedly.

"Really?” I asked, letting him lead me back to the resort. "What's there?"

He looked around and then whispered to me.

"The monkeys!" he said, wide-eyed, and that was about the extent of his English. I couldn't get anything else out of him. I didn't know if they were aggressive or amorous, whether they might just take a little rabid chomp if I strayed into their domain or bands of killer monkeys hunted the forests for tourists to skin alive. Suddenly, in my mind the cute little fuzzy monkeys became horrifying mutant apes with vicious gnashing incisors!

So it was a hot and humid 40 degrees C; no air-conditioning or fans; couldn't swim in the pool because the goldfish were there; couldn't swim in the ocean for threat of being sucked into a propeller; couldn't leave the resort grounds because of the "monkeys", and no other transport available to get to Batam town. Stranded in the middle of nowhere, yet as night fell, I was certain I could still see the lights of our luxury Singapore hotel across the waters and bows of ships.

If you are interested in reading more of Guest Traveler Theodorusrex's work you can find them at theodorusrex

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

travel guests- Katrina and Cassandra- NEPAL 2008

Kat and Cass just left Nepal. What a fabulous time they've had there teaching at the school and exploring. I'll post a couple of the pictures they took- more will be posted later.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

a plate of bulgogi- 2008

It all started with a plate of bulgogi...there I was in the Korean restaurant with Yuun, the young Korean girl staying with me. I started thinking about how since I've come to the States I keep hearing the term "ethnic food" and I was wondering, "what is that about anyway?"

Ethnic means (according to wikipedia) a group of human beings whose members identify with each other, usually on the basis of a presumed common genealogy or ancestry.[1] Ethnic identity is also marked by the recognition from others of a group's distinctiveness[2] and by common cultural, linguistic, religious, behavioral or biological traits.

So according to this definition- ALL people are part of SOME ethnic group- I went and looked up the word 'ethnic' on Dictionary.com and found this as part of the definition:
1.pertaining to or characteristic of a people, esp. a group (ethnic group) sharing a common and distinctive culture, religion, language, or the like.
2.referring to the origin, classification, characteristics, etc., of such groups.

Well...according to all those definitions- we are definitely all part of some ethnic group or another...so why is it people say "Let's go for some ethnic food"....wouldn't ALL food be ethnic- because no matter what it is- it came from one particular group of people.

I think we should ban the word ethnic! It is highly offensive to me-- since I seem to NOT be included in this classification system-- why? I'm not sure why-- coz I'm not 'Indian' or "Chinese" or "Italian"...yes I did find Italian under ethnic foods-- for the European, I only found Miscellanious European foods.

On the other hand, maybe I'm quite happy not to be referred to as "Ethnic" since the Merriam-Webster dictionary says one of the definitions is "Heathen"-- whoa-- "Who is up for some Heathen food tonight?" yep, I think it would go over really well, don't you?

I guess that is what a plate of bulgogi will do to you- make you contemplate the important things in life. On this line of thinking here is a quote by Max Weber: "the whole conception of ethnic groups is so complex and so vague that it might be good to abandon it altogether."

I think Mr. Weber might just have been eating a bit too much Heathen food- what do you think?

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

School of Life-Japan 1991

Doesn't it seem like we go to school forever? When we are young, we start out in kindergarten or nursery school. We progress to elementary or primary school. As we get older we move on to junior high and then high school. Even if we don't go to University, we all keep on learning. Learning can be done either the easy way or the hard way.

Sean went to the Minami Yoichien in Urayasu. (the kindergarten) We weren't allowed to drive him there by car; all mothers were advised to either walk their children to school or take them on a bicycle. I found myself with a bicycle seat in front of me and another one behind me. Sean sat behind me while Katrina sat precariously in front of me. The bikes were parked one street away. Japanese mothers disembarked gracefully and extricated their children from the seats. It never ceased to amaze me how graceful and feminine the Japanese women were. I rode up on my bicycle with a stuttering stop. The bike invariably listed to one side as I attempted to get the children out of their seats before the bike fell. All the while, I tried to look graceful; of course, it was a lost cause.

On one of my more 'graceful' days, I was approached by several Japanese mothers. They asked if I would be willing to teach the English class at the Kominkan. I was already teaching English in Shibuya and the thought of teaching closer to home certainly held some appeal. sigh. If I only knew those women had no intention of learning English. This was their masterful scheme to have a 'girls day out.'

I tried. I used beautiful sign boards and clever English teaching techniques. I ordered no Japanese to be spoken in the classroom. My 'students' covered their mouths ever so politely with their hands and giggled with just the right tone. They ended the giggle with a gentle, "gomenasai" (
sorry) I wondered what they were apologizing for. I guess they were apologizing for the false pretences of my employment. Not to worry, I soon joined in their little 'girls day out' and we found various locations other than the kominkan to 'learn english.' I thank my "Mothers' English Class" because they became my teachers. They taught me how to make tea just right. They instructed me on the correct napkins to use and the right kind of serving dish. They patiently worked with me until I understood the significance of making sure the child is sent to school with their pencils sharpened just so and their erasers intact with a cleverly packed obento. Yes, they taught me the ways of Japan.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Little Princess- Singapore/Japan 1990

It was the time of the cherry blossoms. I sat full bellied on a picnic mat with Sean and Katrina. We ate from the neatly organized obento I woke up early to prepare. The obento which looked exactly like the picture in the magazine-- believe it or not, a magazine which taught mothers how to create visually pleasing obentos.

The time was ripe for me to board an airplane with my two children and journey back to Singapore to wait for the birth of my third child. It was about 2 months from my delivery date so I knew there would be no problem traveling. The doctor gave me the green light. Unfortunately I think the baby thought the doctor gave the green light to come early...and early she came.

I was barely in Singapore for more than 2 weeks and Cassandra decided it was time to arrive. Thankfully Daniel arrived before she did and was able to rush me to the hospital. Emergency childbirths had become my specialty by then; however, this particular occasion was a bit more emergency than what we were used to. Not to worry- we both pulled through- and within six weeks we were back on an airplane heading for Japan.

When we returned to Japan we were greeted by
hanabi - summer was on us. Where had the spring gone? Spring, summer, autumn and winter swirled by me. I grasped for the seasons but they slipped through my fingers. I caught wisps of them as I took the children on picnics; kneeled 'Japanese style' on my tatami mat drinking tea; bought fishes for the children at the festival down the street. Maybe if I knew how fast time would fly, I might have attempted to hang on to the wisps and preserve them...now I simply have the memories.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Photo supplement of 1985 trip

Stephen passed me some photos of the trip. I chose some to add to my March/April/May travel blog entries- and then I thought I'll put some random ones here:

1. A picture of Padma and myself in the middle of France

2. The car out in the middle of Turkey with a beautiful rainbow

3. The car up on hill overlooking the road the car just journeyed

4. The road stretching out ahead of the car

Friday, July 4, 2008

Sean and Neisha Married

Sean and Neisha Married
Originally uploaded by ongfamily5
Today the night is filled with the sound of shrill fire works bursting in air. Just above the trees I see glimpses of red, blue and white light speckling the sky. The flashes peek through the trees announcing this is a day of celebration. It is a day of cheer.

Last Saturday, I sat and watched my eldest son, Sean say, "I do" to his bride. He was saying "I do" to so many things: A life of sharing, a life of caring, and a life of togetherness. It was a day of celebration and indeed a day of cheer.

Where do I begin?

(written on March 28th 2018) For someone with so many words...words that just tumble out even when they are not wanted...words that jump h...