Thursday, December 22, 2011

Selamat Hari Krismas

Selamat Hari Krismas or Merry Christmas from Penang!  Tis the holiday season and our first one in a predominately Muslim country.  We knew this year Christmas would be different.  For starters it's a comfortable 85 and humid year round, we are a long way from home and not "everyone" here celebrates Christmas.  For many, Christmas is a public holiday here but the whole country doesn't shut down as it does in most Christian countries, the malls, markets and restaurants will be open and busy!

Aside from the religious differences, this Christmas season is among the best one of my life.  We are living in a place where people come from different cultures and religions and not only tolerate but embrace Christmas.  It is truly beautiful.  We have been to countless Christmas parties this month where regardless of race and religion, everyone brought their holiday cheer, sang Christmas songs and exchanged gifts. Restaurants are decorated with Christmas trees, Christmas music is playing in the background and the staff wear the traditional red and white santa hats.  It's Christmas in Penang and it's really magical, really.

It warms my heart to know that there are still places in the world where people are willing to open their minds and hearts and accept and embrace each other as their brothers and sisters, regardless of what god or gods they worship.  This year, for me, Christmas is about finding peace and joy in each other, in the places we live and the experiences we have.  I hope for each of you, this holiday you have peace and joy in your heart!

And now a few pictures:
Two weeks ago we attended a fundraiser at the historic Eastern & Oriental hotel with Tania and Manuel.  We spent the night drinking free flow beer and wine and singing Christmas tunes with our new friends!  It was so much fun and probably the wildest night we have had in Penang!  The band even played Feliz Navidad and La Bomba! It was awesome!

NI Christmas Party - Eric's work had a huge Christmas party.  There was the traditional potluck and gift exchange.  One of Eric's work colleagues learned how to play Christmas songs on his guitar and they all sing carols. Santa made an appearance! The office set up a Christmas tree and everyone embraced the Santa hat.  This picture really sums up Christmas here:


Monday, December 19, 2011


Our little kitten is getting bigger and crazier every day!  She is very much a kitten, going from loving to a monster in less than 5 seconds.  Her newest trick seems to be grabbing the toilet paper roll and running throughout the condo with a long white streamer.  She has also figured out how to give herself a bath! Yay! 
From Crazy to Sweet Kitten

Friday, December 9, 2011

Busy Busy Weekends

My friend Stuty told me that after her and her husband hit the 2 month mark in Penang time started to fly by.  Well, I'm confirming that this is also true for the Hartners.  We have been here for (almost) 5 months already!?!!!! Wow, it doesn't seem like we have lived here that long.  We still have so much to explore and enjoy on this side of the world.  Last weekend was super busy and full, just like our lives here.  With so much to experience, Eric and I did our best to fit it all in and take some time to relax.  Here's the recap:

Friday Night
After a very busy week at work for Eric and a full socialite week for me, we had planned an early Friday night since we needed to travel 2 hours down the peninsula to Ipoh on Saturday morning for NI's family day (more on this in a bit).    Well, best laid plans tend to change here...often.  Our friend Nikki invited us to join her at the Hostie, the local hangout for the Australian/New Zealand/UK military, where the beer is cheap and you can score some Western food.  The long and short of it, we enjoyed a few (4-8) beers, Eric mingled with the military men and I chatted it up with the ladies.  We did make an early night of it, leaving by 10pm and chowing down on our favorite drunk food Roti before heading to bed. 

Saturday -- Lost World Of Tambun, Ipoh
On Saturday we headed to The Lost World of Tambun, 2 hours south of Penang on the mainland, for NI's Family Day.  The Lost World is a Malaysian style water and theme park.  It is very well done and in a beautiful location.

The park was complete with a "spa" area where you could partake in various treatments in 40 degree C water, like the steam cave and foot spa.  See the picture of Eric below!
Finally, my favorite attraction at this park was the petting zoo.  I'm telling you this park had a little bit of everything...a spa, animals and ZIP lines.... For those of you wondering, Eric and I did NOT ride the zips, or flying fox as it is known in Malaysia.  We will just say, that as two trained facilitators in the states, those lines weren't anything I would clip myself into.  The braking mechanism was a tire that you smash into at full speed....

Anyway, back to the petting of the most popular attractions was Ruby and Friends, which turned out to be racoons.  Yes, you read that right...there were big, fat and nasty racoons that people were petting and taking their pictures with.  Obviously, the movie, The Great Outdoors is not popular here in Asia....Racoons are not cute....

After a great family day, we decided to drive back to Penang instead of staying in Ipoh and exploring there.  Too much was happening on Sunday.

Like good Big Ten fans, we woke up early to watch the first ever Big Ten Championship!  The whole family joined in to watch State lose in the last minute...seriously #9 did you have to run into the punter?? Wow!  Coco was even glued to the tube...she is obviously in the right family.

 After we finished the game, we headed to the Penang Turf Club for their annual horse show.  I felt like a giddy school girl going to watch this show.  Eric and I snagged front row seats for jumping.  We sipped coconuts and enjoyed our first Malaysian horse show.

The course was really really nice and I was clearly a giddy little school girl!

Later that same evening, we joined our friends and drove to Batu Ferringhi, the resort area of the island, for the Penang Jazz Festival.  We sat beach side and listened to some amazing music from around the world! 


 It was a great weekend!  Busy, but full!  We are certainly enjoying our life here. 

Monday, December 5, 2011

Thanksgiving in Penang

We have so much to be thankful for this year!  It has been one of the biggest and transformational years so far and it's not even over yet.  Life just continues to get better and better!

We celebrated this very American holiday with the other National Instruments' expats that are here.  Jeanmarie and Scott Rust graciously hosted dinner at their condo.  We spent the afternoon swimming, chatting and eating a good old fashioned American Thanksgiving.  It was wonderful! 

Eric and I contributed 3 pumpkin pies, 1 apple cranberry pie and cranberry sauce.  I baked 6 pies in preparation for this event, as baking here is tricky but I can now say I know how to make crust from scratch! 

I hope y'all had a wonderful and happy Thanksgiving as well!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Our New Addition

It's a least for now!  Our kitty's name is Coconut, but we call her Coco.  The vet can't tell if it's a boy so for now Coco is a girl. 

Eric and I "rescued" Coco from the local market where someone dropped her and her siblings at the side of the road to fend for themselves.  A vendor there found her and took care of her until we adopted her.  We carried her home from the market in an orange box and welcomed her to her new palace, fit with litter box, toys and all the food she can eat.  A true rags to riches story.

Coco is 8 weeks old and weighs 1kg or 2.2 lbs!  She thinks I'm her mom and enjoys making "biscuits" on me and trying to suck on my finger.  She loves to play with anything that has feathers!  And for the most part has been a good little kitty.  She even has her own room!  Everyday she settles in more and get's more playful.  She is turning into a crazy kitty now that she is more comfortable.  She loves to play and run and bite.  She has even shown us a few of her crazy good Malaysian soccer skills, La Liga watch out!  Luckily she is not climbing the curtains yet...

Sunday, November 20, 2011

November Happenings

This has been a very busy month for us.  I feel like I can hardly get my feet underneath me before I'm off to the next thing.  Busy is good, but busy is exhausting.  I've thought of several things to blog about and the list has gotten so long that the only way for me to get them all done is to do a few quick updates:

Jet Legged...Not the Hartners
Eric and I seem to have the perfect remedy for jet leg.  For the time being, we've mastered the right amount of sleep/food/alcohol/melatonin for our 14 hour long-haul flights so that our sleep isn't crazy for the days and weeks to come 

All Stocked Up
We stocked up on our trip back to Austin.  Our carry on suitcase became a 40lb checked back on the way home.  It was stocked full of cheese, coffee, granola bars and peperoni.  Our other 4 suitcases were filled with clothes, shoes, a few new purses, tequila and port...all the essentials, don't ya know.

Loy Krathong
We participated in the Loy Krathong festival again this year.  This festival took place during our "look-see" trip last year and now it's become a tradition.  This year, Manual, Tania and their girls joined us as we launched our lotus flower lanterns into the ocean off of Gurney Drive.  This festival is celebrated throughout SE Asia but it is primarily a Thai Buddist festival where it is believed that during the full moon, our bad luck from the current year will "float away" and the Goddess of Water will grant our wishes for the upcoming year.  

Dalat's First Swim Meet

This month I also organized Dalat's first ever home swim meet.  It was a large feat.  We had 81 swimmers and 40 events!  In typical Jenn Hartner fashion, I spent tons of time organizing, planning, and utilizing volunteers to help run the event.  It was a huge success!  From my prospective it was AWESOME!  The kids swam hard and had fun.  I worked hard and had fun.  I even got to coach.  I love this part of my life here!  I'm trying to figure out how I can keep coaching after the season ends....  I've got a few tricks up my sleeve! 

Tour de Mainland 
Last weekend a few of Eric's colleagues organized a trip and tour with the expats to the mainland.   We visited a local seafood restaurant for lunch and then made our way in our caravan of Toyotas and minivans to a treetop walk.  The walk was a 1 km track in the canopy of the rainforest.  The views were beautiful and we were able to see several different flowers, butterflies and monkeys. 

 After our hike, we headed back into Butterworth, the large town across the bridge, to visit the historic St. Anne's Catholic Church, one of the largest Catholic Churches in Malaysia.  We had to dodge the rain and hundreds of mosquitos, but nonetheless a good quick visit.  Our last stop before heading home was a fantastic Thai restaurant with hands down, the best Tom Yum we have ever had!  On our way back to our tropical island, we rode the ferry for the first time!  There was a cool breeze and a beautiful thunderstorm in the distance as we sailed back home. 

The NI crew after a fun day on the mainland!

Heading Home on the Ferry

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Jamie and Brian's Wedding

The real reason for our first trip back to Austin was for Jamie and Brian's nuptials on October, 29th.  Jamie and Brian were married outdoors at the beautiful Lotus Ranch in Wimberly, Texas.  One of the best parts of the wedding weekend was the use of the ranch from Friday until Sunday!  With so many guests traveling from out of state or from other places in Texas, we were able to all sleep and party at the ranch!  It was great.  Jamie was by far the most relaxed and easy going bride I have ever witnessed!  Sometimes I wonder how we are related.  Unlike her older sister (AKA me) Jamie was calm and not stressed about anything.  The weather was beautiful, the bride was gorgeous and fun was had by all!  Here are a few pictures:

Waiting on the Bride to make her entrance:

Eric and Grandma walking Jamie down the aisle

God lights during the prayer..I know who was watching

Almost Husband and Wife

The wedding party

Matron of Honor and Brother of the Bride..we are still looking good!!

The Fam -- Grandma and (super cute) Charlie, Aunt Vicki and Gordon,
Aunt Jo and (big surprise) cousin Eric

Ok, time to get this party started...Dos XX anyone?

Mr & Mrs Boiles

Time to smash the cake in your face!

Love how Jamie is hydrating in the photo
Brother Sister Dance...

Officially Hitched!  Time for the Honeymoon

Monday, November 7, 2011

Adjust your time to Penang

To all our peeps back in the US that "Fell Back" this weekend you need to adjust your time to Penang.

If you live in the Eastern Time Zone we are now 13 hours ahead of you.

Texas and the rest of the Central Peeps, think 14 hours

and last but not least -- y'all on the West Coast we are 16 hours ahead!! 

Adjust your skype times accordingly :)

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Dress by Candlelight 2011

When I found out that Dress by Candlelight was a week before Jamie's wedding I knew I would be there!  After a short 30 hours, I arrived in Austin less than 24 hours before the big event.  I had tried to keep my attendance a surprise, only telling Harriett and Karen and hoping that word didn't travel too far!  Misty was my date for the event, since Eric was still in Penang working!  I know that I surprised a few of my favorite peeps and it was great to learn about the growth the ranch is experiencing sine I left in June. 


The night was a huge success and we raised more money than in 2010!  I am so glad that I flew half way around the world for this night.  It solidified for me that Candlelight Ranch is the best nonprofit in the world, with the best people caring for it and the children we serve!  I love being a part of this place even if I am 7,000 miles away! 

Luxurious Langkawi

The weekend before we headed back to the ATX, Eric and I joined Kurt, one of Eric's work colleagues from Austin who was in Penang for two weeks, in Langkawi.  A short 20 minute flight from Penang, Langkawi is a cluster of 99 islands located just north of Penang and south of Thailand. These islands feel like a world away from the hustle, bustle and pollution of Penang.  In Langkawi, we found crystal blue waters, white sand beaches surrounded by virgin rainforests with a very relaxed island atmosphere!  Just what we all needed after a very busy few weeks!   

We were super fortunate that Kurt has family connections in the hotel industry and we scored a two night stay at the super posh and exclusive resort, The Andaman.  All I can say is this was super swanky and NICE! We had our own private beach where we watched the sun set and were able to snorkel right off the beach. Our resort was Eco Friendly and was surrounded by rainforest.  During our stay we saw monkeys, flying squirrels, bats and great horn bills.   Here are a few pics.

Living the Dream!
The Luxurious Andaman Resort!


On Saturday we hired a driver to take us around the island.  We stopped at a local waterfall, rode a cable car to the highest point in Langkawi and stopped by the duty free zone to stock up! 
Riding up to the top of the island!
It was a long way back down!  
The view from the Sky Bridge! 

We spent Sunday hanging out at the resort and alternated between snorkeling, napping, watching the Michigan game and eating!  Before we left our new-found piece of paradise, we bought a sea bass from a local fisherman who brought his daily catch to our resort.  The hotel staff happily prepared it for us!  A great ending to a wonderful weekend!  

 Not sure it gets much fresher than that!

We will definitely be back to Langkawi!  It was a wonderful weekend adventure!