Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Behold the Fish Spa!

You read that right. Fish spa. Now, I won’t exaggerate here and try to make you think that these spas are ubiquitous throughout KL; I certainly don’t find them on every street corner. But I have seen over a half dozen of them without even looking, so they’re not a complete rarity either. Some are along Jalan Bukit Bintang (Jalan is “street” or “road” in Malay), which is a very tourist-heavy area. I’ve seen a couple in malls, too. This particular fish spa is in the office park where my school is located. Do you like the name? “Fisho.” They didn’t work too hard on that one, did they? It’s right next to the bank (“Casho”) and a restaurant (“Eato”). Just kidding. The rest of the sign, pusat terapi ikan, is Malay for “fish therapy center.” Even that phrase makes me laugh a little because it makes me think of a psychiatrist’s office for crazy fish.

But yes, that’s a pair of legs surrounded by a swarm of fish, who may or may not be crazy. Apparently, the idea is to sit on a ledge and dangle your feet in this little pool and have hundreds of these fish (I don’t know what kind) nibble at your skin, which they are clearly quite inclined to do. I’m really not sure what the whole therapeutic value is supposed to be – perhaps they remove dead skin, but you know what? I have a 70-cent loofah in my shower that does that job just fine. I’m sure the water is filtered and somewhat cleaned, but the notion of letting fish nibble on my bare skin in a pool where other people’s possibly nasty feet have been nibbled…? I don’t know. I’m not squeamish at all, and part of me is a bit amused and fascinated by this whole “fish spa” thing. But for the most part, I just think it’s odd. Maybe one day, I’ll get liquored up and try it. (edited to add: I looked it up... here's all you ever wanted to know about fish spas.) Speaking of which… that sign behind the Fish Spa sign does indeed say “wine” – there’s a nice wine store there (“Wino”?) where I can spend huge amounts of money for wine, if I so choose.

A note on this: Imported alcohol is quite costly in Malaysia thanks to the “sin tax” and duties imposed on it. Only at the duty-free shops for international travelers and on the duty-free island of Langkawi is name-brand booze a truly affordable indulgence. For example, here in KL, a one-liter bottle of Absolut vodka goes for about RM135, which is about $37. That’s not really much more than one liter costs in the States, but costs are relative. For a Malaysian with a modest income, RM135 can easily be a day’s pay (oftentimes closer to two days’ pay). Most Americans make substantially more than $37 a day, however. So relative to income, liquor here is breathtakingly expensive. However, at the duty-free shop, that same bottle of Absolut will cost only RM63 ($17.50), less than half of what it costs outside, and cheap even by American standards, where liquor is similarly subjected to a sin tax. Needless to say, whenever I can buy liquor duty-free, I do. When my friends travel to Singapore or Thailand or anywhere internationally, I try to get them to pick me up a bottle at the duty-free shop when they return. Local vodka, which isn’t great, but is almost passable as a drinkable spirit, runs about RM23 for a 700-mL bottle (about $6), which is right about what a bottle of crappy vodka in the States costs. As for wine, a cheap bottle of Australian wine will typically run around RM40, and many bottles seem to live in the RM60-80 range. It’s not outrageously expensive by American standards, but tragically, I’m paid in Ringgits now, not dollars, so I have a grand total of three bottles of wine in my house.

Typically, I have the choice on whether to walk or drive to work… largely depending on whether it’s pouring down rain at the time, or if I have to drive somewhere immediately after work. Since my car is in the shop, that choice is gone. I took these pictures on a walk home from work yesterday. One of the best things about where I live, apart from Damansara Perdana just being a good place in general, is its proximity to my work. Even at a very casual pace, stopping to take pictures and observe things, it took me 13 minutes to get home. This first picture is of my office park, an open-air center of shops, offices, and restaurants. It's really quite nice, and the water features and all the greenery make a very enjoyable place to work, on the whole.

The next picture was taken as I walked out of the office park and looked across the street, and really needs to be clicked and enlarged to fully appreciate it. Like I’ve mentioned before, Damansara Perdana is a small town built in a jungle. Sometimes it’s easy to not see the trees (like, the actual trees) for the forest (the condos, shops, and streets), but if you lift your head from time to time, it’s startling how “right there” the jungle really is. I was walking to work last Saturday and saw this rather large, bright yellow bird with black markings fly by me, do a couple of passes over the roundabout near my condo, then head into the trees. Truly amazing. I would imagine the jungle contains all sorts of wild and wonderful creatures that just don’t venture down to town!

Dogs are regarded here much as they are in Bali… they barely register on the attention meter of any human passerby. In places where taking care of oneself, let alone an animal, has been something of a struggle in the not-too-distant past, the idea of having a pet is something quite new, so I don’t expect to see a giant Petco setting up shop in KL anytime soon. People here do have dogs, but it’s rather uncommon, particularly in contrast to the near-deified position we give pets in the U.S. (I think Denver was actually ranked as one of the best cities in the U.S. to live in if you’re a dog.) There aren’t a lot of stray dogs wandering the streets, but I do see them around at times… this one was sound asleep under a parked car. Street dogs here are neither friendly nor unfriendly… they don’t really approach people, but they don’t run in fear, either. They just trot around in this “doggie-on-a-mission” manner… seemingly very alert and proud and a little high-strung. They mind their own business, and the people mind theirs. I recall once, shortly after arriving in KL, I was waiting at a train station and sitting on the stairs, and a cat actually deigned to come up to me, uncommon behavior for a cat in any country! Of course I reached down to pet it and it just sat next to me, very happy to be stroked and scratched. I specifically remember the looks people gave me… doing almost comical double-takes. “What’s that white guy doing? He’s touching that cat? What would compel a person to do that?”

Here’s me! What a handsome devil! Except not really. This is really here for no other reason than to keep people from grousing that there are only pictures of food and landscapes in my blog. “Where are the pictures of you!??!” I hear that a lot when I show my vacation photos. So here you go. Enjoy. :)

Here’s one of the condos near mine… this one is called Perdana Condo, and if you can believe the name, this one was built here first (perdana is the Malay word for “first”). That doesn’t really mean much, though – first, because you know how real estate marketers are. And second, very little in this immediate area is more than five years old, anyway. It’s all quite new. In any case, this is how some of the condos are built… they have a bunch of space on their bottom floor, or bottom two floors, that’s leased out commercially. At Perdana Condos, it’s extensive enough to be called a shopping center (“Tropics”) in its own right. There are boutiques, spas, convenience stores, restaurants, dry cleaners, even a piano store.

And here’s another condo development, rising from the jungle. This is actually the second phase of Armanee Terrace, the colossal condo building directly across the street from me. Buildings here are almost exclusively constructed from reinforced concrete (as opposed to steel, like most American skyscrapers). There’s no shortage of construction in the KL area… in almost any clear direction you look, it seems there’s a crane somewhere.

This next shot was taken across the street from my condo, immediately east of the Armanee Terrace site. I half expected to see Mowgli come ambling out from the greenery. It really is lush, isn’t it? Definitely click on this one to see a larger version and you can make out more of the detail. Looking up at the hillside in the background of the photo is particularly impressive to me. KL is built around a series of hills in the Klang Valley, and the steep slopes of these hills have, to date, managed to bamboozle and stymie the land developers here just sufficiently enough to keep the city quite green.

Home at last… And that concludes my epic half-mile walk home from work… more pictures and stories soon!

P.S. As a somewhat happy epilogue to the dead car story, I got my poor little Proton car back today from the shop. As I've mentioned before, labor is quite cheap here, so even though I had the head gasket replaced, which would run at least $800 in labor alone in the U.S., here, it was RM250... about $69. The cost of the parts was more in line with what they'd cost stateside (perhaps a bit cheaper, but not a great deal). In any event, I was pleased and relieved at the total cost, and I'm glad to have my craptacular little car back.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Trip to Malacca, attempt #1

Today is Sunday, and I woke up to a really nice day... partly cloudy, blue skies, no rain in sight. So I thought I'd take a day trip down to the old port city of Malacca. It's about two hours southeast of KL and is a great day trip, by all accounts. I visited the city back in March, when I was vacationing here, but it rained the whole day, so I've been wanting to try again.

I didn't make it far... about 30 km away from home, the temperature light came on in the car... one of the very few indicators of any sort that this car has. So I pulled into a Shell station and bought some premixed coolant and added the whole liter to the radiator. After awhile, I set out again, thinking I had solved the problem... but alas, that was not the case. A few kilometers further, the light came on again, so I pulled over to the side of the highway and let the car cool down a bit and then added some water to the radiator. And proceeded on... Now, at this point, I was not stupid enough to think I was going to make it to Malacca and back. But I've already discussed on here how challenging the highways and roads in Malaysia, and it's not like there was a place to make a quick U-turn, so I drove onward until the light came on yet again, then coasted for awhile, then stopped under an overpass so I was at least in the shade. There was a spot of thick, dry grass under a small tree, so I figured that would be a nice place to relax until the car cooled off again. And it was... until the ants found me, which took about two minutes. *Sigh*

So after ensuring that all 83 ants were off of my body and out of my hair and out of my shirt, I forged onward, my sad little car going all of about 2 km before the light came on again. This time, I coasted into an "R&R" pit stop area... no gas station, of course, but a dozen little food stalls and, happily, running water. So I stopped, opened the hood, then went and got some chicken rice and iced tea for lunch. Surprisingly, I was still feeling pretty okay about all this, figuring I'd just get turned around and limp back to the city in this stop-and-go fashion.

Well, that didn't turn out to be the case at all. By this time, I was once again desperately looking for a gas station, not because I was low on fuel, but thinking that if I could just buy some straight antifreeze/coolant and add it, instead of that 33% pre-diluted crap, it might get me home. Once again, not a single gas station to be found anywhere in sight, nor a U-turn exit, and I'm slowly getting further and further away from the KL environs. At this point, I decided to just go a different route instead of looking in vain for a place to turn around, so I followed the signs that said "Kuala Lumpur" and began heading north again.

Somewhat unfortunately, however, this highway turned out to be a brand-new one... as in it just opened a month ago. So it was almost devoid of any traffic and the one R&R facility I saw -- the one at which my car finally just said, "Ya know, I think this is just about far enough!" -- wasn't yet opened. So here's the view in this picture. See any cars? Neither did I.

I guess a having a wide, smooth, new highway all to yourself is a really cool thing if you're driving a working car. I know I'd certainly have enjoyed it a lot more had that been the case.

Here's the really nice, new R&R center, or at least the more photogenic, not-blocked-by-a-sign one on the opposite side of the highway. Won't it be nice when it's actually open??

And here's my poor, dead little car... so sad. It's the first time it's ever given me any serious trouble. So glad it waited until I wasn't even in KL to throw a tantrum. Doesn't it look guilty? Can you feel the shame emanating from it? The barrier you see, by the way, is the exit route to the not-yet-opened R&R facility. Curses!

The saving grace in all this mess was this little orange "SOS" box very nearby. I pushed the button and someone answered right away, and within just a few minutes, two guys from the highway department came to my assistance, where they surmised, along with me, that the head gasket was most likely blown. Now, I've had this happen on cars before, but they've always been turbocharged engines. This is a crappy little normally-aspirated 1.1-liter engine! So the highway rescue workers took me to the nearby town of Semenyih, where I talked a cabbie into taking me all the way back home to Damansara Perdana, a fairly long way by taxi standards (about 40km/24 miles), but he agreed to drive me for RM60, which is a pretty good deal for that distance (not to mention the tolls). Now the real fun begins....

I have to have the car towed, obviously, and the shop I use is right near my house, so that'll be RM250 in towing charges, easy. I have no idea what the repair bill will be, but even if this all winds up costing RM1,000, it's still a cheap car (RM700-800 is a typical monthly car payment here), and if the head gasket is replaced, I may even see an improvement in performance.

I'll update the progress later and also follow-up with "Malacca, the 2nd attempt."

P.S. As a little addenum here, let me add that it's now about 10 p.m. it's and raining steadily outside here. So much for the rainless Sunday, although it really was very nice all day today. But this is just weird at this point... I arrived in KL on September 5th, and it has literally, literally rained every single Sunday I've been here, which is now up to 12 in a row. What's this all about? Does it mean something?

Friday, November 14, 2008

"Drink more water, get more sleep."

This is the advice I routinely get from the locals here when I mention any non-specific malady with which I might currently be afflicted. Exhaustion, backache, funny taste in my mouth, headache, bleeding from my ears, whatever. Okay, the last one was a bit made-up, but it still amuses me. This is actually good advice on the whole, however: drink more water, get more sleep. But it's funny when it comes from people who call every sniff, sneeze, and cough "flu." Not the flu, mind you. Just flu. "I got a little bit flu today." I love it. At first, I tried to tell one of my friends that "flu" was, in fact, a very specific viral infection, influenza, that kills gobs of people every year. That didn't really work so well, so I just resigned myself to letting it go.

The word for this funky interpretation of the English language is, appropriately enough, "Manglish." It's just a blend of the words Malay and English, but it turned out to be the very prescient term manglish, which is an accurate descriptor as I've ever heard.

The word "science" is mangled into "sains" (pronounced "signs"). Two of my Malaysian-taught Korean students argued ferociously with me that the word "tuition" was absolutely pronounced "TOO-shun." The third syllable was apparently optional. Most of these things, I just happily ignore. I can't get the whole of Malaysia (and indeed much of Asia) to start calling bathrooms "bathrooms" instead of "toilets." (I do try to occasionally explain to people that the "toilet," per se, is the actual vessel into which you... er... eliminate... not the entire room.) But they all say, "I was in the toilet," to which I sometimes think to myself, "Really? Were you swimming laps in it?" But I just don't bother. The toilet thing bugs me a bit simply because it's so crude-sounding to American ears. "I'm going to the toilet." It's just not something you'd hear in polite company at all in the States, but here, it's not considered even remotely crass or impolite.

On the other side of the coin, I do constantly try to remind myself of cultural sensitivities here, not least among them using only my right hand to pass things to people. Usually this is automatic, since I'm right-handed, but sometimes it's a bit more natural to use my left hand. For example, if I extricate my wallet from my pants with my right hand and open it, I pull the money out with my left hand. Normally, it would be very fluid and natural to just hand it to the cashier with the same left hand. However, in Asian cultures, it's considered quite inconsiderate to use your left hand for this, so I actually make a point to swap the cash to my right hand before handing it over.

One other thing that's much more esoteric is the whole notion of "personal space." It's quite different in Asian cultures than in American society. Moving within a crowd is very different in the States than it is here. There's probably some sort of complex mathematical equation or chaos theory algorithm that can predict how the components (individuals) will react to one another and move within the system (the crowd). The equation would almost certainly vary from culture to culture, because when I'm in a crowd in America... say, leaving a Rockies game, or being in a crowded mall at Christmastime, I feel very much like a fish who belongs in the school. I can intuitively sense how people around me will move and shift and make my own "course corrections" without any conscious thought. Here, though, I just feel like a big awkward mackerel, trying to swim in formation with a school of herring. Sometimes it feels like people intentionally walk into my path, but that's not the case, I suspect... it's just that the crowds here interact internally very differently, but on a purely innate, subconscious level. It's just the weirdest damn thing, and probably doesn't translate very well to prose, so I'll leave it at that.

The final thought here is my attempt to post a very short video on here... because of the unique shape of the Petronas Towers, the reality of their immense height is rather betrayed in still photos and, indeed, even in real life, seeing them from afar. Standing at the base of Tower 2, however, and slowly panning the camera upwards (can you pan up? or it just a left/right thing? hmmm...) does a better job of conveying the sheer vertical rise of the buildings. I shot this last week after an early-evening rainstorm.

Over and out!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Jakarta Memories

So about three weeks ago, I took a bit of time off and flew down to Jakarta, Indonesia for a short respite from the stresses of working and adapting to life in KL. I got to see my good friend, Dendy, and meet some new people as well. It was a cheap, short flight -- about $60 round-trip, and just under two hours' flying time. This first picture is the view from Dendy's 21st-floor apartment on an uncommonly clear haze-free day in Jakarta. His building, like some in the States, skips the 13th floor. In KL, it's more typical for the 4th floor to be skipped (one of my friend's building goes 3-3A-5...) because in Chinese culture, 4 is the number of death... bad luck, indeed.

Besides the wonderful people and fantastic foods of Indonesia, probably the best thing about visiting that country is that it's so incredibly inexpensive by U.S. standards. A couple of my most enduring memories from my five days there this time were both made even better by their low cost. On the night I arrived, Dendy picked me up at the airport and we stopped by his apartment building and picked up his roommate, Arya, then headed to this fantastic wine bar in a fancy hotel. There were dozens of bins of wine, each marked with its price. and you simply wander through the "aisles" of bins and chose your wine. So we picked out a bottle (for a mere 220,000 rupiahs, about US$22), then found our seats by the window on these huge, plush sofas and the sommelier came over a short time later with our selection, a Spanish shiraz-tempranillo blend, and three red wine glasses.

We talked and enjoyed our wine, and before long, three other people came over and joined us. One was this beautiful girl named Kyla, a mixed-race American who had been living in Jakarta for five years, but was leaving on Saturday to return to the States, so she was living it up in her last few days in Indonesia. Needless to say, she was happily buzzed and proceeded to drape herself all over me for awhile, then left to go dance (on a nearby table), then came back and cozied up with Arya. Her friends were sitting with us by then, having their own bottle of wine, and we just had a good time socializing. After polishing off the first bottle, Dendy and I went wine shopping again and selected a late-harvest sauvignon blanc, since he had never tried a late-harvest wine before. It was only about Rp. 200,000, a steal for that type of wine. It was served to us with new, appropriate stemware, and we stayed there just soaking up the elegant atmosphere and enjoying ourselves until about 1 a.m.

The second really memorable thing was a couple of days later. Dendy and I went to a really posh sushi restaurant at the Crowne Plaza hotel. A word about this -- in the U.S., Crowne Plaza isn't a super-premium brand. It's basically a really nice Holiday Inn (they're in fact owned by the same company). They're quite nice, but no Waldorf Astoria or Four Seasons. In Asia, however, Crowne Plazas are extremely upscale. All the ones I've seen (Singapore, Jakarta, KL) are high four-star or five-star properties. So eating at a sushi restaurant in such a nice place was a treat. It was an all-you-can-eat lunch for some ridiculous price... I can't remember, but it was about $9.00 I believe. It wasn't a buffet, we actually ordered from menus, but they kept bringing us food as long as we kept ordering things. We stayed there for a good two hours and ate all kinds of great sushi and drank glass after glass of iced green tea.

Apart from that, it was a lot of shopping and eating. Dendy owns his own business, so as such, he has a personal driver (labor is very cheap in Indonesia), so that he can use that time conducting business -- making phone calls, sending e-mails from his mobile phone, etc. -- rather than sitting in Jakarta's horrific traffic jams. For us, it was nice, because his driver would pick us up and drop us off at the various malls and restaurants, then Dendy would call him when we were ready for him to fetch us. Most of the larger malls in Jakarta have little waiting areas for drivers to park and wait. It was definitely nice being chauffeured around like that! Here's another peek at some of the food I ate... I can't remember what some of it's called, but it's mostly fried foods, veggies and spices. The soup was similar to the bakso I eat on the beach in Bali (meatballs, fried tofu, wontons, and greens in a spicy, flavorful broth).

This final food picture is a dish called es kacang. "Kacang" (KA-chong) is one of those marvelous Indonesian words that means different things in different contexts. Usually, it means "peanut," but there are no peanuts whatsoever in es kacang. In this dish, it's referring to the beans you see -- we'd probably call them red beans or kidney beans. They're in a soupy mix of water, coconut milk, chips of ice, and various jellies (the green and red stuff). Sounds gross, doesn't it? But it's surprisingly tasty and very refreshing!

One of the curious things about Indonesian life in the large cities is all the activity that takes place at traffic lights. Most of the larger intersections are canvassed by myriad vendors, selling the day's newspapers, snacks, cold drinks, etc., just wandering amidst the sea of vehicles. It's also common to see very young children walking around in the traffic, hoping to get loose pocket change from motorists.

So that's a quick snapshot of my little excursion to Jakarta. It's not the vacation destination of choice for most people, nor is it my favorite place, but it's genuine Indonesia, for sure. My next visit to Indonesia will likely be next month, when I scoot down to Bali for a few days. It will be nice not having to sit on an airplane for 25 hours to get there!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Perdana View

I haven't taken any proper photos of my condo since I got settled in... and at this point, I think I'll wait until after the housekeepers come before doing so. However, I did snap a few pictures when I first moved in, so these can give you an idea of the place in general. It's a fairly low-density 17-story development called Perdana View. There are two parts to it -- two blocks (buildings) are condos; that's where I live. The other two blocks are rather different -- they're called serviced apartments. From what I can gather, in these units most of the utilities are included in the rent, and typically, there are a number of shops and services within the development. I'm not really sure what the distinction is, though. There are numerous shops on the ground floor of my building as well (a florist, two cleaners, a café and bar, a convenience store, a salon, a boutique, some offices, etc.). Apparently, in the pecking order of KL's multifamily dwellings, flats are at the bottom of the heap, followed by apartments, and then topped off by condos and serviced apartments. We have a really nice pool here (about 65 x 20 ft., good for doing laps). I've already managed to use it a couple of times. It's odd to think that there's no "season" for swimming here. It's the same weather and temperature year-round!

My unit is rather small, but it's quite nice, and the area is fantastic. The shot below is one I took from the parking garage, looking south out over my small town of Damansara Perdana. I live about 900 meters from where I work, about a ten-minute walk, and almost anything I could need or want is within about 3-5 km from here...fantastic restaurants at every price point, some of the best shopping in the whole valley, grocery stores, movie theaters, service garages, gas stations, you name it. After a month here, I'm just starting to appreciate what a terrific area to live this is. The individual condo I rent has three bedrooms (small) and two nice bathrooms, a good-sized kitchen, and is very nicely finished out. When you buy a place in KL, you essentially get four bare walls and a floor... no kidding. How you trim it out is entirely up to you. You pay for individual electrical outlets, there are typically few or no light fixtures, and nothing... NOTHING in the way of furnishings. No built-in fixtures like closets or vanities, no kitchen cabinets, nothing. I looked at a couple of new units that had the walls, a toilet and showerhead in the bathroom (water heaters are extra), a cheap tiled floor, and a fluorescent light tube in each bedroom. And that's how an apartment or condo starts in KL. So in a single building, the inside of the individual condos will vary wildly from unit to unit.

The floor of my condo is done in these really nice 100-cm-square field stones, which are much better than ceramic tiles, both aesthetically and functionally. (I've been told they don't absorb and retain the day's heat as much as tiles do.) There are four A/C units (the dual-split types mentioned in an earlier blog entry) -- one in the living room and one in each bedroom. There is abundant cabinet space in the kitchen, and the cabinets are a rich-looking dark wood. There's a double-bowl sink (not common) and a smooth cooktop (two burners). In the so-called "wet kitchen" off to the side of the main kitchen, there's a gas cooktop, another sink, and more counter space and cabinets. There's also the space where my washer is and the floor drain under it is presumably what makes this part the "wet" kitchen. The bedrooms are fitted with spacious floor-to-ceiling wardrobes and storage cabinets. Speaking of which, this unit has 9-foot ceilings with crown molding throughout, which is a really nice touch.

I really don't have much of a view, although it's not terrible... I'm only on the third floor (level 2, but the first level is "ground" in KL buildings) and my windows face the massive Armanee Terrace condo across the street. It's the swankiest development in Damansara Perdana (there are only a handful of developments... five or six) and looms over everything else. The units are preposterously large, all two-story condos, 4+1 bedfrooms, and about 2,300 to 2,500 sq. ft. This is a relatively expensive area anyway, and the units at Armanee are the priciest around... about four times what I'm paying for my unit. So that building dominates my view, particularly from the master bedroom... mocking me, as if to say, "Look where you don't live! Ha ha ha."

One last thing... It's striking to me to realize how wild the area is. It's plain to see that, but for the hand of man, this would all be nothing but tropical jungle, pretty much like the rest of Malaysia. This is a shot from the end of my hallway, looking west. On any patch of land where there's not a road or a building, you see hills and heavy jungle vegetation. All around my building there are banana trees, palms, and plants and trees of all sorts. I see geckos, the occasional monkey, and hear the strangest sounds from some of the local birds. It's a treat being able to walk to work, and I have a reserved spot in the parking garage for my car when I drive. It's a really nice condo, so I feel pretty lucky to have found such a convenient place and have such a good landlord, too.

More later!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

History is Made

I actually felt a bit cheated that I wasn't in the United States on the day we elected our first-ever minority candidate to the office of President. It was a historic day in my country, and I rather wish I had been there to soak it all in, although it's been fascinating to experience it from foreign soil. Barack Obama, born to a Kenyan father and an American mother, won in a near-landslide. Congratulations, Mr. Obama. And kudos to his challenger, John McCain, for his delivery of such a sincere, classy, and impressive concession speech. Even from overseas, I hope this signals a real change for America, both domestically and abroad.

Saturday, November 1, 2008


That's actual running water in my guest bathroom!

As of coming home at 2 a.m. from being out on the town on Saturday night, I now have the Malaysian version of "broadband Internet" service (installed yesterday afternoon) AND running water in my condo (it returned at some point tonight while I was out)! I could cry with joy. No more cold-water bucket "showers

As it turned out, we were indeed completely without any running water in the condo units for four days, as advertised. We had to go to the fireman's closets (on each floor) and get water from the pipe used to supply the firehoses, fill buckets, and make do with that. It was, shall we just say, not pleasant... but at least better than having zero water whatsoever, I suppose.

Expect a lengthy entry soon!