Sunday, April 28, 2013

Building and Abandoning Nests

I see why birds and other animals often claim nests that have been abandoned. It is hard work building a new nest. And birds have many fewer necessities than we humans do.

For me, building a new nest (setting up a new home) in a foreign country was a difficult experience. The first 6 weeks was pretty unsettling, trying to get into some kind of routine and figure out the basics: where to do my shopping, what kinds of foods to cook, whether the water was safe to drink, how to hail taxis and get to my destination, how to maintain personal safety (esp for the kids), how to find my way around the school, how to get around KL, deciding what to visit in KL, where to exercise, how to pay bills, figuring out what a reasonable budget was, and how to get my social interaction needs met in a meaningful way. 

By eight weeks, life solidified into more of a routine and by 10-12 weeks, it became a comfortable routine. Very different from what I had been doing at home in the U.S., but still bounded by Joe’s work, the kids’ school, my exercise, and the constants of shopping, cooking, laundry, and cleaning (fortunately mostly done by the weekly maid service).

Other regular daily, weekly, and monthly events included Mahjong, Bahasa Malaysia, coffee dates, guitar and ukelele lessons and practice, blogging, photography and photo classes, massages, school events, lectures, and skyping with friends and family.

Now, almost 9 months into our year, it is time to begin the process of dismantling our Malaysian nest and plan for our return trip home. It has been a good, though challenging year. I will miss some parts of living in Malaysia like the swimming pool and tennis courts in our backyard, wearing flip flops and shorts year round, having school, the grocery store, and my gym all within a 5 minute walk of our condominium, thunderstorms, no tipping, fruit smoothies, growing orchids, my new friends, daily tropical fruits, easy, exotic travel opportunities, the interesting cultural mix, and not being responsible for any of the maintenance on our Malaysian nest. I will not miss the crazy car and motorcycle drivers, the ants and weevils, the bathrooms, the sewer smells, the uneven sidewalks, the worry about dengue fever, the humidity, ringworm, the cost of the kid’s school, the ineptitude of the computer repair people, the throw away culture, the necessary safety restrictions placed on the kids, the security guards, being followed around in stores, the traffic, mega malls, the difficulty communicating with people, being sticky all the time, the continuous air conditioning necessary, and the weekly mosquito spraying required.

We all look forward to seeing you back in California in the near future (early July)!!!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Chess in Malaysia

Chess in Malaysia should be a no-brainer, right? Gabriel started playing chess in Northern California about 3 years ago. And his competition there consisted of a majority of Chinese and Indian players. What is the population like in Malaysia? Chinese, Malay, and Indian. So where is the problem? We can’t find the competition!!! 

Sure there is a chess school within walking distance of our new home, but they have very few tournaments, the kids are young, and school basketball practice conflicted with it on the weekends for weeks.

Where are all the chess players? Joe has really had to search and search to uncover the few tournaments that Gabriel has played in. But after one recent tournament, Joe finally spoke with the father of one of the chess players and found a good chess site for Malaysia (

After Thanksgiving, (almost 4 months into our year abroad), Gabriel reconnected with his chess coach Var Akobian ( who is 5th in the US. Although Var lives in the Midwest, chess tutoring once or twice a month has been fairly easy via Skype.

Gabe also participates in occasional multiday chess tournaments downtown on Jalan Dang Wangi at Datuk Arthur Tan Chess Connections in the Wilayah complex and at a newly remodeled third floor room in the Taman Tun Ismael area of Kuala Lumpur, not too far from our condo. 

Joe also found a weekly informal chess gathering at the formal (guys need to wear slacks and button down shirts) KL Golf and Sports Center just down the road from us. Happily, the weekly get togethers work into our schedule. Hallelujah! So, finally, he is hooked into the chess scene after only 8 months of searching!

One of Gabriel’s goals this year was getting an international chess rating called FIDE which tells the strength of the chess player. His FIDE rating is 1872. His USCF rating (which is the United States chess rating score) is 1966. The FIDE score is usually approximately 100 points lower than the USCF rating. 

It seems crazy, but we are now signing Gabe up for his final FIDE rated tournament this month before we leave for California at the beginning of July. What a whirlwind tour of chess it has been for us all. And what do you know, we'll be heading home (back to California), just in time for Gabriel to participate in his second summer session for Masters level players at the Mechanics Institute in San Francisco. Woo hoo!!!

Malaysia Day Chess Champion 9/2/12

Taman Tun Dr. Ismael (TTDI) chess room

TTDI chess room

entrance to TTDI chess room on 3rd floor 
entrance to TTDI chess room on 3rd floor 

Malaysia Day chess competitors

giant chess at Damai Beach in Sarawak, Borneo 
giant chess with dad in Sanur, Bali

giant chess at Damai Beach in Sarawak, Borneo 

giant chess with dad in Sanur, Bali (M photo bombing)

beach chess on Kuta Beach in Bali

Balinese employee playing chess with Gabe

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Off to the Perhentians

Since we moved to Malaysia, we have been waiting for the perfect time to go to the Perhentian Islands-a snorkeling and scuba paradise on the northeast coast of peninsular Malaysia.  Finally, it came last week. We had a wonderful five days with our brave, dear friends, Helen and Rose, who travelled all the way from sunny California to spend a brief but joyous spring break with us swimming, snorkeling, trekking, drinking fruit smoothies, playing volleyball, playing games, taking pictures, reading, and catching up.

Helen on plane KL to the Perhentians
our regular dining table at Tuna Bay resort

beach in front of our resort

crazy girls

Tuna Bay boat dock

sunset from our resort dining room

we were on Pulau Perhentian Besar (the big island)

Gabe and his favorite-mango lassi

Rosie's arrival into KL

Malaysian mother and daughter waiting in the airport

excited girls!

at the dock in Kota Bharu, getting ready to take speed boat to the Perhentians

Joe and Helen

Are we there yet?

in front of Tuna Bay resort where we stayed

beach loungers and umbrellas for Tuna Bay guests

hanging out

Gabe's stuff...

the gang

friendly lizard

starting on our trek around part of the island

oops! Rosie forgot to bring sunglasses

walking away from our beach and resort

Madeline and me

pretty view

if this isn't heaven,  I don't know what is...

artsy, fartsy pic

trying for sunglass reflections

oops, Helen had a little fall at the start of the hike :(

island canna

Rosie and Helen

a little island volleyball

here is my reflections picture for my photo group-can you see the monitor lizard in the center?

close up of the monitor lizard

Rosie Posie

sand toys

here's one for Carver...

happy boy...

hiking Helen

what's so funny?

beach scene

technology on the beach

heart shaped leaf (for Jan)

Madeline, Oppa Gangnam style

doesn't look that welcoming...

our girls

Helen trekking through the island

beach volleyball-Joe and Gabe

Gabe waiting at the net

more beach volleyball

coral reef 'graveyard' on the beach-pretty, but sad

our beach

our beach, close to sunset

the girlfriends

uke on the beach

more uke on the beach

cool boat just beyond the coral reef

chillin on the beach

our home away from home

happy boy ; )

my beautiful girl!

more papparazi shots


another Rosie pose

the gals, making the most of their youth!


too much hair for this hot climate

nifty colorful crab

views from everywhere

ah, the sand

look, I see something...

happy girl

happy Helen

surprise! just a few Swedish hunks we picked up on the beach

oh, and I had to have a pic with them, too

Helen and me

me at sunset at Tuna Bay resort

Helen, on her last day in the Perhentians