Sunday, December 30, 2012

Our JennEric 2012

Dear Friends and Family,

We hope this letter finds you all healthy and happy during this season of joy.  2012 has been a wonderful year for us. We have settled into our lives in Penang and have been fortunate to see the world in ways that we never dreamed.   In case you missed what we’ve been up to here is a quick catch up on our lives. 

December marks our 17th month living in Malaysia.  Eric continues enjoying working at National Instruments Penang where he is an Analog Tech Lead and is invested in mentoring and growing the local team of engineers.  October marked the opening of NI’s new permanent site in Penang, Eric will forever be a part of the building as all founding hands were cast in stone.  Jenn has settled into her duties as a “housewife”.  She spends her days walking in the botanical gardens, going to lunch or coffee with her friends, playing with Coco, and is the head swim coach at Dalat, the International American school.  She is currently coaching 48 kids ages 7-18.  Jenn and Eric continue to explore Penang and spend time with the large group of friends they have made from all over the world.

Travel – This year we have literally flown around the world, more than once!   It has been a busy year traveling. We have utilized the 18 public holidays that Eric gets working on Malaysia.  We rang in 2012, in Perth, Australia, where we explored the Western Australian outback and snorkeled the beautiful and untouched Ningaloo Reef.  Our friends, Dave & Emily were our first visitors in Penang and stayed for a few days during their two month South East Asia honeymoon.  Dave & Emily joined us at our private villa in Bali and met up with us in Hanoi, Vietnam.  The four of us took a 3 day cruise of majestic Halong Bay, where we kayaked and enjoyed the cool weather. Our next visitors, Christie and Jason came to Penang for two weeks in February where we explored Penang and our favorite neighboring island, Langkawi.  In March, we met back up with Dave and Emily in Emerald Lake, British Columbia, Canada to celebrate Robin & Eli’s wedding.  We enjoyed cross country skiing on scenic Lake Louise, warm fires, hot tubs, the company of good friends, cheese, and good Canadian beer. 

In April, we decided to scale back our travels and took a road trip with our friends to Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia.  We spent the weekend eating delicious food, shopping, visiting the American grocery store and filling our cooler with pork products. In May, we returned to our favorite island to the north, Langkawi, with Nikki & Leon and Louise, Eric & Mya.  We all enjoyed a relaxing weekend on the beach.  In June, Eric and I spent a long weekend in Bangkok where we visited the famous Wat Arun and Reclining Buddha temples. 

July brought more visitors to our home.  Jenn’s Aunt Joann and cousin Alasdair spent four weeks in Malaysia, where they partook in daily activities such as going to the market, drinking fresh juice and visiting the samosa man.  We also visited the Perhentian Islands off of Eastern Malaysia, where the snorkeling and diving is amazing and reef sharks and schools of fish abound.  A few days after we returned to Penang, the four of us hopped on a plane and flew to Siem Reap, Cambodia to explore the ancient temples of Angkor, the largest religious site in the world.  We had an amazing time learning about the temples and we were lucky enough to be the last tourists at Angkor Wat one evening, very magical.  In August, Eric and I returned to Vietnam.  We visited Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) and Hanoi.  In Hanoi, we took advantage of their wonderful tailors and had clothes and shoes custom made. We also spent each day under a cabana enjoying the gorgeous South China Sea.

In September, Eric and I returned to the States for a fast 20 day visit, where we made stops in Michigan, Texas and New York.  We attended Aunt Vikki and Gordon’s wedding in Michigan and Chris and Sarah’s wedding in Rochester, NY.  We made a quick 4 day stop in Texas and were able to catch up with our friends in Austin and spend time with our dog and horse at Jamie and Brian’s new home in Bryan.  We also caught a Michigan Football game with Christie and Jason and spent time catching up with family in Michigan.  It was a very busy trip.  We returned in late September and “took a break” from traveling.  For Jenn, that lasted 28 days before she flew to Singapore with Nikki for a girls’ trip.  We are planning on spending Christmas in Koh Samui, Thailand and ringing in 2013 in Penang. 

Big Milestones in 2012 – Both of us celebrated our 30th Birthdays this year and were surrounded by friends from all over the world.  Eric and I also celebrated our 10 year anniversary and 5 year wedding anniversary.  The biggest news came shortly after our return from the States.  Eric and I are expecting our first child due May 30, 2013.  We are very excited and are looking forward to being parents.  With the growth of our family, Eric and I are working on extending our time in Malaysia for an additional 18 months. We are enjoying our second home very much and think this will be a wonderful place to start raising our family.  We hope that you will come and visit or at least give us a call on Skype.  Don’t forget to check our blog for more updates:

We wish you all a peaceful and joyful new year!  Come and visit us in Penang!

Jenn and Eric and Coco

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Fall Recap

Now that our "secret" is out, I hope I will be excused for not blogging too much these last three months.  Honestly for the first two months of this pregnancy, I felt nauseous looking at the computer and did not want to spend anytime on it, so I didn't.  We've been keeping a pretty low profile since our return from the US but are slowly emerging back to real life. 

For those of you who want a quick recap of what we've been up to here it is:

Luscious Ladies in Pink
Me and my favorite Kiwi Ladies
For the second year, I've attended Luscious Ladies in Pink, a fundraiser for breast cancer in Penang.  This is one of my favorite events of the year!  The grand ballroom of the Eastern & Oriental hotel is filled with ladies dressed in pink, yummy food is served and there is a fashion show.  It's a fun event and a great way to raise money and awareness for Breast Cancer.

3 Days in Singapore
After our US trip, I swore off traveling, at least "for awhile."  That lasted all of 28 days before I took a quick trip down to Singapore with Nikki.  This was a great get-a-way that helped me feel a bit better and partake in some of Singapore's modern and amazing activities.  Highlights of this trip include, eating a real American beef burger at the American military Terror Club, exploring the amazing Gardens by the Bay, visiting the Night Safari, shopping at the PEX (where I stocked up on Kashi cereal,  American candy and Dos XX beer for Eric), and learning about Singapore's WWII history. 
The Gardens By the Bay --HIGHLY Recommended!
Waterfall Bio dome - a great way to cool off in the Singapore heat
Singapore at night
Nikki's Baby Shower
Shami & I hosted Nikki's baby shower in early November.  We had a fun afternoon lunch with bubbles.  The mum to be was showered with gifts and we can't wait to meet the Fox's new baby girl.  Only a few more weeks!
The ladies
Back to Coaching
Swim season started back in October.  This year I have 48 swimmers ages 7-18 on my team.  We are practicing 3 days per week and it's keeping me super busy.  Last week we hosted a swim meet with 3 other schools.  It was a very successful meet! 

Our favorite American holiday has come and gone.  We celebrated on Thanksgiving and made a traditional spread of ham, sweet potatoes, stuffing, green beans and pumpkin pie.  It was, hands down, the best tasting Thanksgiving I have ever made.   We also joined 60 other expats at Jeanmarie and Scott's for a potluck style feast.  Thanksgiving in Penang did not disappoint!

What about Eric?
Well Eric has been around, although it may not appear that way in any of the above mentioned sections.  He has been busy working and hosting work guests from Austin.  He is wrapping up a 10 week Analog Design Best Practice course that he has been teaching and coordinating.  We've been doing a lot of shopping and hanging out on the weekends, nothing too exciting, just living the good life in Penang.

What's next?
Now that I'm feeling more human, the travel is about to ramp back up.  We are headed to Koh Saumi, Thailand for Christmas and Chiang Mai, Thailand for 10 days in January.  Our friend Billy is coming to visit for 2 weeks in December.  We are looking forward to our travels and visitors and I'm sure there will be more to come on the blog!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

It's A.....

Baby!! It's official, Eric and I are going to be parents in the end of May, 2013.  We are super excited to be expanding our family and look forward to sharing this journey with our friends and family. 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Oktoberfest Penang Style 2012

Firstly, where has October gone?  It's already midway through November and I am BEHIND on this blog.  Ok, now that that is out of the way....

Penang was Oktoberfest crazy this year!  There were several events throughout the month of October to celebrate beer and possibly Eric's favorite holiday and pass time.  We attended two Oktoberfest celebrations, one at the Penang Swimming Club and one hosted by the Malaysian German Society.  Eric drank his and my share of dark German beer and even scored Pauliner Oktoberfest.  He was one happy man!  Here are a few pictures! Enjoy.

Look how happy my husband is!
Cracking the Barrel, Penang style...please note the Chinese men in traditional German hats...funny!
More beer please...
We had a great time with friends and celebrating Oktoberfest Penang style.  I know Eric will be looking forward to the return of real dark German beer next year!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Our U.S. Trip Pics

Well, it seems I may be coming out of the "travel" induced fog that set in as soon as we arrived back in Penang.  I have been a very bad blogger this last 5 weeks but I promise to get back on it.  (Yes, yes, I have had some reminders from friends stateside that I haven't updated in a while....Em) Here are a few pictures from our 3 weeks in the states.  Enjoy!

Our First Stop, Aunt Vikki and Gordon's Wedding in Michigan
Jenn & the Bride
My favorite Aunts


Next Stop: Texas!  We spent 2 days in Austin and 2 days in Bryan with Jamie, Brian, Maizie, Diva, Doug, Mya, Diva (horse), Lexi and Becky & Nancy (RIP little goats).

While Eric worked, I stopped by my favorite place in all of Texas...Candlelight Ranch.  So proud of all of their work and I love the BEAST!
At Jamie & Brian's new house.  Lots of room for the dogs to run
Maizie was so happy to play ball with her daddy!
A great ride on my girl, Mya.  So glad my sister is taking care of her.

I LOVE this horse
Eric and Nancy having a staring contest....Nancy won
The proud and wet homeowners
After a way too short visit, we headed back to the Mitten for 5 days. We stayed at Christie and Jay's and attended our first Michigan Football game in seven years!  We the headed to Portland for family time.
Go Blue!
Roommates!  Still looking good after 12 years!
110,000+ fans....this will never get old
Our nieces aren't so little any more
Our last stop on our tour de US was Rochester, NY for Chris and Sarah's wedding.  We hung out with all of our closest friends.
Mack House Reunion!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Around the World in 20 Days

We are back in Penang after a 20 day adventure that took us flying (literally) around the world.  We spent a majority of our time in the good old U.S.of A, visiting family and friends, eating delicious cheese and tacos, stocking our suitcases and shopping till we dropped.  The rest of our time was spent on airplanes with our total transit time topping 60 hours! 

Details of our trip to come, but for those of you wondering, we really did fly all the way around the world!  Here was our path:
Penang --> Hong Kong --> Toronto --> Detroit, MI --> Austin, TX --> Detroit, MI --> Rochester, NY -->New York --> Frankfurt, Germany --> Singapore --> Penang

Tired yet??

The Hartners currently have no further travel booked.... any bets on how long that will last??

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Happy Times in Hoi An

There is a lot of hype about Hoi An amongst the people we know in Penang and our friends that have visited Vietnam.  We were told that it's a place that you must visit -- a charming, well preserved "Old Town" with no cars, lantern lit streets, where you can have clothes and shoes tailor made, excellent food and is near a great stretch of the South China Sea.  Sound appealing enough? We thought so.  We flew direct from Ho Chi Minh to DaNang and a short thirty minute taxi later, we arrived to our cute hotel on the river set among rice paddies and coconut trees. Ahh, vacation!  We spent 5 days in Hoi An alternating between the gorgeous beach, the tailors and the town.  Simply an amazing place!

The Beach
A short cab ride or a very sweaty bike ride and we were on a beautiful stretch of white sand under cabanas that cost us $3 a day to rent.  We spent every morning and afternoon here, alternating between the shade and the ocean, while having drinks brought to our cabana.  
This view will never get old!
All I can say is VACATION!!
Lunch: Seaside
Coincidentally enough, our friends the Kempsters and Lauries also decided to go to Hoi An from Penang.  We caught up with them for an afternoon of fun!  The waves were uncharacteristically large on this day and we all had so much fun playing in real surf!
The Tailors
It seems that every other store in Hoi An's Old Town is a tailor shop.  Thanks to Nikki and Leon, we did not have to choose from the countless shops, instead we used their well-established and highly recommended tailor.   Eric and I both indulged our inner shopper.  I had 6 dresses made, 3 pairs of shorts and a skirt; while Eric had shorts and several work shirts made. 
There were literally thousands of fabrics to choose from
Custom adjustments to make sure the clothes fit just right!
Eric and I also bought a few pairs of custom shoes.  We picked out the design, heal height, color and leather.  Each shoe was made to measure for our feet.   Here's hoping that I can wear heals and actually be comfortable.
Custom shoes anyone?? We walked away with 4 pairs!
The Old Town
Gorgeous, romantic and picturesque. The tiny lantern lit streets make you feel like you are in Europe.  The food is equally as good.  Here are a few more shots of our trip.

Lanterns everywhere!
The quaint streets
The preferred method of transportation here
Al fresco dining in cute gardens
Overall, this was a great trip!  We loved Hoi An and hope to come back, even just for a long weekend!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Vietnam: Ho Chi Minh City

Over Hari Raya, we decided to capitalize on Eric's two extra days off and head north to Vietnam.  This was our second trip there this year, but this time we explored Ho Chi Minh City, aka, Saigon and the charming town of Hoi An. We spent 3 days in Saigon exploring this large, modern, Asian city, taking in the historic sites, drinking famed Vietnamese coffee, shopping, eating and drinking proper German beer.
Reunification Palace - this is where "Saigon Fell" to the North Vietnamese during the War
One of the tanks that broke down the gates during the "reunification" of Vietnam
Overlooking the palace grounds and envisioning Ho Chi Minh addressing the Vietnamese...
We also visited the very sobering War Remnants Museum, which documents the atrocities of the Vietnamese War. (In Vietnam, the war is known as the American War) The museum displayed the US planes, weapons and artillery in a raw and uncensored propagandist fashion.  A very worthy stop on our adventure. This museum provided a very skewed glimpse of the war from the Vietnamese perspective.  Graphic pictures of the effects of napalm, the My Lai Massacre and the utter destruction of war where everywhere.   We would not recommend this museum for children, but it is a humbling place for Americans to visit.  Humbling.  I really like the way Lonely Planet sums of the museum, as I am struggling for words to write, "There are few museums in the world that drive home so well the point that war is horribly brutal and that many of the victims are civilians.  Even those who supported the war would have a difficult time not being horrified by the photos of children affected by US bombing and napalming....The museum remains a very one-sided story and many of the labels are woefully propagandist."

Needless to say, after we visited the museum, we b-lined it for the largest drink we could find, and that we did.  We stumbled upon The Lion - a German Beer bar and Eric almost cried with excitement.  After a liter of beer, we were able to carry on with our day.
This pretty much sums it up!  Eric was in heaven!
Fresh cold beer to cap off our visit to the museum
Saigon has other guilty pleasures, such has the strongest coffee I have ever drank. Across the street from our hotel was a local coffee shop, which was packed at all times of the day, with locals getting their caffeine fix and business men sealing deals.  We stopped their each morning for our daily dose.  I love strong coffee, but this stuff only required one small glass and I needed ice to water it down.
Iced or hot?  Strong, medium or mild?  Milk? How do you like your coffee?
My high octane morning fix.  This stuff is no joke!
After a packed 3 days in bustling Saigon, we were ready to head toward the beach for some R & R and that we did.  We packed up our suitcases and headed to Hoi An...