Thursday, April 26, 2012

Anzac Day

On April 25th I celebrated Anzac Day with our Australian and New Zealand military friends. Anzac day is a national day of remembrance in Australia and New Zealand.  It honors those who are on active duty and those who have served and died in military operations.  Anzac day is very similar to Memorial Day in the United States.  I feel very privileged that I was able to attend the dawn service and share in the remembrance and service of so many military personnel.  Over 300 army, navy and air force service members in full uniform stood at attention during the service, while the sun rose over Penang.  It was a pretty special morning.

Australian, New Zealand and Malaysian service members and families
 lined the streets near the Esplanade. 
The Malaysian Veteran's Association in the batik uniforms
All of our New Zealand military friends

After the dawn service ended, everyone headed over to the Hostie for the traditional gunfire breakfast -- complete with eggs, baked beans, proper bacon and coffee with rum.  There were over 300 people at the Hostie for breakfast and as a good American foreign correspondent, I was also there.  

My first Anzac day.  Nikki and Leon showing me the ropes!

Like a good friend, I joined in with the festivities.  It may have been 8:30am in Penang, but it was 5 o'clock somewhere, right?

After our early morning sess, I headed back home to recover (aka drink more coffee and lay on the couch) before heading to the Beach Blanket Babylon for lunch (and where happy hour is from 11am-8pm).  
A gorgeous and delicious lunch on the beach!
My Crab Laksa Lunch....sooo good!
Leon is happy about his lamb sandwich

I spent most of the afternoon enjoying the ocean breeze and excellent company.  I had to responsibly retreat back home to teach a swim lesson, while the party carried on.  When Eric returned home from work, we met back up for one last beer.  

I really want to thank our friends who have invited us in to their amazing and welcoming military community.  Our time in Penang has been so much richer and fun because of you!  Thank you!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Earth Moved Under our Feet

I realize that the Earth is always moving under our feet but yesterday we felt it move, literally.  We had just stepped off our elevator after a day at the beach when the earthquake hit off of the coast of Banda Aceh Indonesia.  We could feel the shift in the Earth 500Km away in Penang.  I realized we were experiencing an earthquake after I felt dizzy while taking off my shoes.  I couldn't figure out why the floor looked like it was moving until I looked up to see that our actually building was swaying from side to side, just like you were laying in a hammock.  Next we heard car alarms going off and the bells ringing at the temples across the road.  The shaking lasted for about 3 minutes and then it stopped.  We ran to our patio over looking Gurney to see if we weren't the only ones to feel it.  We weren't.  Our cell service went down so we were unable to text or call friends to make sure they were ok.  But to the rescue was....Facebook.  We still had internet and apparently, so did everyone else.  Within 30 seconds, people were posting, checking on each other and giving updates on the magnitude and if a tsunami warning was issued.  It was pretty amazing that people were able to get the word out immediately following the movement. Some of our friends evacuated their buildings and the malls were closed for the evening to keep people safe.

A tsunami warning was issued for Penang and the rest of the Indian Ocean nations.  An ambulance with sirens and microphones blaring, drove down Gurney asking all people to evacuate the seaside path and to seek higher ground do to the risk of a tsunami.  Slowly people cleared out and a eerie quiet started to set in.  The tsunami was scheduled to hit Gurney at 9pm. Some of our friends left the island and some of our friends, including us, decided to stay home and see what would happen from our balconies.  A large after shock, 8.1 magnitude hit around 7pm -- shaking the building and making waves in the pool.  Again, we decided to stay home.  Around 8pm reports started coming through that the Tsunami warning had been canceled for the entire Inidan Ocean region.  Thank God!  Last time a big earthquake and tsunami struck the Indian Ocean region was in 2004, the day after Christmas and over 200,000 people were killed.  Penang was lightly affected by that tsunami and many of the locals remember that event very well. 

It was a wild day and thankfully it wasn't a major catastrophe.  During the whole day, I couldn't believe how technology (facebook) really enabled us all to connect -- to our friends in Penang an family throughout the world.  We were able to pass information along when cell service was down and communicate instantly.  As much as I have resisted technology and being "connected" I have so much more gratitude and respect for it now.

Monday, April 9, 2012

A Weekend in KL

Last week we decided that a group trip with our friends -- Nikki & Leon and Lou & Eric -- to Malaysia's capital and largest city, Kuala Lumpur (KL) was in order.  We all left our island home and drove 4 hours down the peninsula for a weekend of fun, food, shopping and friends! 

The view from the hot tub!

Eric and I arrived early Friday evening after battling KL's rush hour traffic.  Penang and Austin have nothing on this traffic!  It was serious.  We met up with our friends for dinner and a shopping trip to China Town, where you could buy any knock off purse or accessory you ever desired.  Eric purchased a laser which he will use to play (torture) Coco with.  We ended our evening at the bar next to our hotel drinking amazing beer and listening to awesome music -- two things you don't get much of in Malaysia.

On Saturday, we joined Nikki and Leon for a tour of the KL Bird Park -- the world's largest free flying aviary.  There were hundreds of different birds from all over the world.  Pretty neat!  Here are a few shots:

A Rhino Hornbill

One of the coolest portions of the bird park was called "the World of Parrots" where you could feed the birds.  Well we found one in particular that really loved us.  In fact he was not interested in bird food, just licking all of the sweat off our bodies.
We spent the rest of the afternoon checking out the Central Market area, shopping and going for a dip in our hotel's sky pool on the 31st floor.  The six of us and Mia reconvened for happy hour at our hotel before heading for dinner at the best Italian restaurant we've been to in Malaysia.  So good and full of non-halal meat...pork!  Yum!

After dinner we all hopped into one cab and drove the the famous Trader's Hotel for a drink at the Sky Bar overlooking the famous Petronas Towers
Yes we squeezed 4 Westerners into the backseat of the smallest cab ever.
We arrived by taxi, while others arrived in either a Ferrari or Lamborghini
The ladies enjoying a drink at the Sky Bar
After having a proper night out in KL we returned to our hotel and the bar where we spent the previous night.  Eric enjoyed the beer selection and Jenn went to bed.  It was a great evening!

We spent Sunday doing what every good Malaysian and eating.  Our day started at the Pavillion -- the largest shopping mall in Malaysia.  We then moved on the Ampang Grocery store -- the largest American import grocery store in KL and Malaysia.  Let's just say we were like kids in a candy shop and RM750 later we left with a trunk full of maseca flour, Stubb's bbq sauce and kraft mac n cheese.  We then moved on to the Blue Cow cafe where you can buy your meat from a skilled Western butcher.  We enjoyed fresh ground burgers before filling our cooler with chorizo, bacon, ham and beef sausage.  
Here is a display off all our finds.  
It's amazing how much you will pay for things when you can't find them!

We had such a great time in KL and there is so much more left for us to see there!  We will have to go back to restock the fridge and pantry, but probably not for a month or two.  Hopefully next time will be just as much fun. 

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Fresh Coconuts

For less than $1 in Penang, you can buy nature's perfect fruit: a fresh, green coconut.  This is one of our favorite any time drinks -- always refreshing and delicious.  Coconut water is one of the most hydrating liquids on the planet, full of natural electrolytes.  During WWII coconuts were used as an alternative to saline because of their natural properties to replace fluids in wounded soldiers and civilians.

In Penang, you can buy a fresh coconut anywhere.  Our favorite location to score a coconut is near the wet market.  The Coconut man, as we call him, has a cart full of cocos that he pedals around all day until he sells out, or in the local language -- finish already. 
The coconut man cutting in to a fresh coconut. 

Next stick a straw in the coconut and enjoy!

After you suck out all of the water then you can scrape out the delicious and soft white flesh with a spoon and eat it!  This truly is nature's perfect fruit!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Why We Love Penang!

You all may not believe this, but Eric and I have no travel plans (at least the kind that require a flight) anywhere until September.  I've noticed that a majority of our posts involve our travel and we don't really talk about our lives in Penang very often.  I've decided to change that and start a new blog section entitled: Why We Love Penang!  I plan on writing more about our lives here -- the people, places, food and Penang-isms that make our life here so wonderful.  I hope we can share with our family and friends the reasons why living so far away is so enjoyable!  Look for our first official report very very soon!