Sunday, October 23, 2016

Taxi Drivers Are Contibuting to Their Own Extinction in S Asia

I was in Singapore for most of last week. I travel to a lot of meetings so use taxis, “Ubers” and “Grabs” to get around. Grab is something pretty much like uber that is very big across South Asia. In fact in Jakarta they even have “Grab Bike” where motorcyclists pick you up. If you have seen my blogs on Jakarta traffic you will know why this makes sense.

There is big controversy about Grab and Uber – with Taxi drivers getting violent because they feel their jobs are threatened by the new services. But taxi drivers are not doing much to gain my sympathy.

Here's why:

Taxi Trip number 1
Taxi from the airport to hotel (You can’t get an uber or grab at the airport)
Wait in the Q for a taxi nearly 20 minutes. When my turn comes the taxi driver informs me he only takes cash – I have about $20  he tells me that will be enough..lucky otherwise I have to go back to the Q. When I get to the hotel the fare is actually about $25, I tell the driver I only have $20. 

Taxi Driver: “no problem I take you to an ATM” 
Me: “No I am in a rush to check in and get to my meeting”
Taxi Driver: “ But I told you cash only”
Me: “and I told you I only have $20 before we started the journey”
Taxi Driver: “not my fault if you don’t have right money”

So I give up and we go to an ATM, when he drops me at the hotel he gives me his card…….. “Hey if you need a taxi driver whilst you are in Singapore, please call me, but give me about 2 hours notice before you need pickup”. 

Arggghhh I think of asking “do you really not know that I can get a “grab” or an “uber” with 3 minutes  notice and be billed automatically to my credit card” but decide instead to say “yep thanks – I will be sure to call” I am not sure if he saw me rip up the card and bin in.

Taxi Trip number 2
Call a grab car to get to a meeting  but none available, so call a grab taxi – its still a normal taxi but at least they take credit card.

Taxi turns up, I jump in tell him where I am going we set off. He asks if I use uber and I tell him I do use uber and “ grab car” and “grab taxi”. Then the conversation goes something like this.
Taxi driver – “you see ah, I am professional driver, not like uber drivers - I will get you there quick”
Me – “ I see, but no need to rush”
Taxi driver – “ I have been driving 20 years ah, I know how to drive fast and take the short cuts, not like unprofessional uber drivers they are not trained”
Me – pressing my foot into an imaginary brake pedal  “I see - can you slow down a bit”
Taxi Driver – “We professionals, we know the tricks ah, to get the through the traffic”
Me: shouting “Watch the road!!” As he slams on the brakes to avoid hitting the stopping car in front.
Taxi Driver – “Doooooont Worry Sir, I am professional ah, nooo problem I am always safety first”

Because he is so professional he sees no need to follow the GPS – he knows the routes – been driving for 20 years – but unlike GPS he cant spot the traffic jams – which he promptly navigates into the thick of.

Me: “I tell you what, I’ll get out here”

Back in Malaysia, More proof I am becoming Malaysianised - never could I have imagined a time I would have the craving for Durian........but yep after nearly 10 years the country - aided by Mel who never gave up forcing me to eat durian until I liked it - has won. It seems that Durian is a not only an acquired taste but has to be acquired via years of sporadic force feeding.

As you can see from the picture below - Bailey accompanied Mel and myself - but he is on the start of his durian journey - he still hates it.....but give it time...eventually the Durian will win!

Monday, August 29, 2016

The BEST Chicken Chop in the world and Is my accent really that strong?

For some reason, even after living in KL for nearly 10 years, locals just don't seem to understand my accent.

Case in point, Mel Bailey and myself were going to see a movie, we had about 30 minutes to kill so went to coffee shop. The waiter comes over and conversation goes something like this.

Waiter – Hello what would you like.
Me – One Hot Latte, and two teas.
Waiter – Can I repeat your order?
Me – Yes.
Waiter – One Latte and two teas.
Me – Yep, (thinking I better clarify my drink temperature) the latte hot please.
Waiter – Would you like the latte hot or cold?
Me – (I am pretty sure I already told him twice) HOT please.
Waiter – Yes sir, would you like your latte Hot or Ice?
Me – Mel can you tell him I would like it hot.
Mel – Hot.
Waiter – OK Hot Latte.

Ok – I understand if it's difficult to grasp my accent for a three or even two syllable word. But this was one syllable with a 50% chance the word I was going to say was hot.

In Malaysia street restaurants tend to get popular for being good at one specific dish. If you like beef noodles then Malaysians will tell the best beef noodles are at the street stall on the corner of Jalan Alor. If you want the best Rojak (an Indian dish of vegetables and rice smothered in a peanut source) then you go so a small road side stall in PJ.

If you want the best damn chicken chop in the world, then you go to Yut Kee. I can't explain just how good this chicken chop is.  When food is good in Kl, word spreads and people come from far and wide to eat at a specific place.

If you go to Yut Kee any week day for lunch expect to see an enormous chaotic crowd of 50 to 100 people all waiting for a space at a table. If you don't speak Cantonese then don't even bother trying to get in the queue – you won't understand what's going on and closing time will arrive before you ever get a seat.

Unless of course you are me! I do not speak Cantonese but as we live around the corner from Yut Kee, I have been there so many times with Mel, that I am now like the owner’s long lost brother. Now whenever I approach the entrance, confronted by sniggering locals thinking this idiot white man is never going to get a table, you will hear the owner shout over the heads of the Crowd.

Even better there is no problem with my English at Yut Kee, no confusion at all. There is only one thing that I can possibly order – Chicken Chop, The waiter doesn’t even have to ask!

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Friendly Ladies in Singapore Hotels and Don't Forget The Detail

My job has me travel. In my opinion far too much. being a good corporate citizen I am always fine if my company finds a way to save money. This week I needed to make a a quick trip to Singapore and last minute hotel bookings in Singapore can end up being very expensive.

I found what I thought was a well priced hotel, but my the HR travel person managed to find something considerably cheaper, not quite so well positioned, but ok I agreed - go ahead and book.

When I mentioned to Mel where I was staying, she said that's a chicken hotel. A Malaysian phrase for a hotel where men go to as I might say "fraternise with ladies of the night", but Malaysians describe as "go out -  get chicken"

The hotel was still $200 per night and booked through our company business travel system, so I thought, no it must be OK.

Me looking far to smart for a chicken hotel !

Arriving and checking in it all looked fine, nice reception quite big, polite concierge etc etc. So all seemed fine. The next evening I decided to walk down to the 7-11 at about midnight. On leaving my room I noticed a chinese lady in a very short mini skirt at the other end of the corridor also leaving her room.

We both make our way to lift situated in the middle of the corridor, I notice she is smiling and trying to make eye contact, where as I, like a true brit, was desperately trying not to make eye contact as that might lead to conversation which I would then have to carry all the way down to leaving the lift at the lobby - I much prefer to ignore people.

We get to the lift and I stand waiting pretending she is not there, when I hear in very broken English

"where you going?"

almost not turning my head "downstairs"

undaunted she tries again "Are you staying at this hotel"

I think of answering "OBVIOUSLY" but settled for "yes"

she continues  "Are you staying here alone?"

Then all becomes clear - Mel's words.... "It's a chicken hotel" come flooding back.

I have several other thoughts racing through my head, not least that I just saw this lady leave her last "appointment" not more than 2 minutes ago, surely there needs to be some kind of clean up operation before rushing into the next business arrangement.

Fortunately the lift arrived, I jumped in making my escape and mumbling that I was staying with my wife -  as she stayed in the corridor - presumably on the look out for her next business deal.

Summit Hotel in Subang - An example of a "Chicken Hotel"..........Apparently

Something that always catches me out in Malaysia is what I refer to as the Inspector Clouseau effect. The scene that relates to this is when Clouseau asks a hotelier "Does your dog bite?" the Hotelier replies "no", Clouseau bends down to stroke the dog, which promptly bites him. He asks "I thought you said your dog doesn't bit" only to be told " not my dog!"

The problem is he didn't think through the whole situation, and making this mistake can really catch you out in Malaysia. I was at KL airport getting the KL Express train back home. You purchase a ticket, use that ticket to go through an "auto gate" then get the train into the center of town.

Having gone through the auto gate I realised I needed to go back into the airport. I went to the guard at the gate and explained I needed to leave the platform and go back to the airport.

He smiled and told me "no problem"

I confirm - "so your sure it's ok and I can get back on the platform?"

Without hesitation he tells me "Can"  ("Can" or the word  "Boleh"  in Malaysia kind of translate to Yes you can, or absolutely you can)

Given his assurance, I leave the platform, do what I need to do, then when I come back and give the guard a knowing nod signifying "remember me - just let me through please" he stops me and tells me "You need to buy another ticket"

The old me would have argued, but I lived here for nearly nine years now and I realise that the mistake was mine.

He simply confirmed I could leave the platform and return..he answered me correctly. I didn't actually ask if I would have to pay to get back on. This is normal in Malaysia - don't specifically ask you wont be told.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Jungle Trek of death

Since I came to Malaysia - I have kind of followed the mantra of  "when in Rome" except of-course that as I am in Malaysia I tend not to do as the Romans do instead I tend to do as the Malaysian's do.

When it comes to what Malaysian's do - one thing that appeals to some is jungle trekking. I guess they like this because primarily because Malaysia has jungles and if you can put the snakes, poisonous spiders and sauna level temperatures to the back of your mind, then jungles make for a pleasant "stroll".

Mel is no ordinary Malaysian - she prefers a bigger challenge than most - so when she told us we were going to the jungle she decided to find a lesser known trek. More difficult to find than the popular ones so less people go there which in turn means no trodden path to follow. Instead you kind of try to hope you can find your way in and out. (note if you have ventured 50 yards into a jungle before, then you probably know the average Brit may never find his way back out again.) But Mel is Malaysian right? So when in Rome.......... A few days later and  a group of mainly non Malaysians are following Mel onto a Jungle Trek safe in the knowledge that nothing could go wrong as long as we followed "the local".

Eventually we got to the edge of the Jungle. Mel charged forward down a wide pathway until she reached a bridge with a gate across it. The Gate was firmly shut and padlocked preventing access to the bridge which looked pretty broken up and precarious.

Now in my head I am thinking British thoughts like "Locked gate, old crumbly bridge = danger - best turn back"

But in Mel's head she is thinking Malaysian thoughts like "Some idiot left the gate locked"

So we follow "the local" and climb over/around the gate and walk across the bridge hoping that the wood doesn't give way beneath our feet.
Mel leads us into the junge

Mel marches forward, in the distance there is a big red sign. Anil, the only other Malaysian in the group whispers to me "Erm Andrew - that sign up there translates to trespassers will be shot"

My British Brain is thinking  "locked gate, sign warning of imminent death = danger - best turn back"

Mel and Anil's Malaysian brains are thinking "Sign is at least 20 meters away and we are not over there - so lets carry on".

Anil and Mel - had a quick chat about the sign and decided to carry on.

So we follow the locals, and as we walk up a hill we hear what sounds like gun shots in the distance, but no-one seems to have been bleeding or lying on the floor so we carry on.

In the distance we see a Malay man coming towards us, I don't understand what he tells us, but apparently we shouldn't be here and he directs us back to where the jungle trek is meant to begin.

Actually finding the entrance into the jungle trek path proved to be quite difficult as everywhere that was meant to look like a path just looked like loads of trees with no visible path to follow. However we need not have worried because help arrived in the form of an old Malay man with no teeth, looking very weird carrying a massive machete. He kindly pointed the way then followed us into the Jungle, tapping the machete strapped to his waste as he strode behind us.

My English brain is now thinking "A mad machete wielding toothless man has directed us into a jungle where no- one knows we are going = danger - best turn back"

Mel and Anil's Malaysian brains are thinking "Nice helpful old man - now we know where to go."
Apparently Machete man had explained we just have to follow the pipe's and they will take us to the top of a waterfall. I wasn't convinced, but Mel was....and when in Rome ...right? So we followed Mel up into the jungle.

As it turns out the old man wasn't a mad killer and disappeared off hacking things down somewhere else in the Jungle and Mel's instinct proved to be right she got Bailey, myself, Letty, Eva and Anil to the waterfall and amazingly found her way back too!!

Monday, July 4, 2016

Don't Have an Accident in Jakarta and Where Do All The Persian Carpets Go?

Indonesia is the 4th most populated country in the world with over a quarter of a million people living there, so when I touched down in Jakarta last week I guess I shouldn't have been surprised that no one seem that bothered. I guess I look a bit different from the average Indonesian, but with that many people I kind of still just blend in.

Jakarta is actually a great city, really nice people, fantastic food, and a mix of old and modern. I would actually consider living there if it weren't for one thing......THE TRAFFIC.

Quite simply the roads have not developed fast enough to keep up with the sheer volume of traffic. I have seen really bad traffic in Mumbai, Beijing and the M25 - nothing compares to Jakarta. Its the only city I have ever seen that has traffic jams of motorbikes between the lanes of cars.

When sitting in 3 hours of traffic to get 20km I have wondered what happens if an ambulance needs to get through town. On this visit I found out. I heard some shouting behind my taxi, looked back and saw three men running with yellow flags banging on the cars as they passed (Yes people can run faster than traffic in Indonesia).

The men caught with my taxi and banged on it and shouted at this point I had no idea what or who these people were. In the distance behind I saw more yellow flags approaching. I was wondering whether I was about to get caught up in a political rally - but it turns out they were trying to clear the way for an ambulance which was about 10 minutes behind the first flag carriers.

So if your bleeding out following a car accident in Jakarta, your best bet is have someone carry you and run to a hospital, its going to be quicker than waiting for the ambulance to follow the flag carriers through the streets.

This week is Raya week in KL (well actually all over the world) - Raya week in KL is something like Christmas week in UK. There are a lot of people shopping for food, buying clothes, visiting family etc. For some reason when it gets to Raya week in Malaysia there is a sudden crazy demand for Persian Rugs.  Persian Rug stands spring up everywhere.... by the roadside, in the entrance hall of malls, outside the front more permanent Persian rug shops etc.

I have no idea what the excitement is all about, and haven't done a scientific study, but I reckon there are not enough houses to cater for the number of persian rugs on sale, and it gets me wondering what people do with the ones they bought the previous year. Maybe these adhoc stands are just families setting up shop to sell the stash of rugs they now realise they inexplicably purchased over the previous years?

Finally - I love misguided English translations in Malaysia - In the supermarket this week, I saw tin of what the Malaysians call "Kacang Kacang" which is a kind of a catch all for "beans or nuts" - however the translation on the tin was "Foul Medammas" - just made me want to dive in and stuff my face full of them - nothing better than a  mouth full of foul tasting beans!

(I believe the actual translation is Ful Medamas)

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Hotel Toaster Rule Book and Yuuuuuum Seng

This week was a non Malaysia week, I was in Singapore and Hong Kong.....working.

If you stay in Hotels, you will probably be aware of  the rotating toasters they have where you lay your toast on a kind of wire conveyer belt, it disappears into the toaster and about 90 seconds later slides back to you in a tray positioned below the toaster itself.

This is the kind of toaster I am talking about !!!

I thought that everyone understands the unwritten rules of the conveyer belt hotel toaster but apparently not. I arrived at the buffet breakfast and made my way to the toaster, no one else was around. I placed my bread on the "conveyer belt" and noticed an already toasted slice in the tray at the bottom of the device. I waited the 90 or so seconds for my toast to drop at which point, seeing that no one had turned up to claim the cold piece of toast that was in the way of mine, I picked it up and moved it to one side.

Suddenly a load and angry Australian voice, shouts from the other side of the breakfast room. "Oi mate. Have some flipping hygiene."  A large balding Australian man is sprinting towards me and enters my "body space" shouting "Keep you hands off my toast have some personal hygiene mate!"

I won't go into details of the conversation line by line, but suffice is to say I explain a few things to him.

1 - That I am not his "mate" and based on my initial interaction with him I doubt I would ever become his "mate".

2 - I do not possess psychic ability so it was reasonable to assume that someone had simply left a piece of toast that was already cold, so best thing to do was to remove it.

3 - That perhaps he should be patient enough to wait 90 seconds for his toast to drop rather than expect we all form a Queue waiting for him to come back when he feels like and remove his own toast so we can get to our own.

4 - Explained to him that in my view he resembled a somewhat private part of the female anatomy but not in a positive way.

It kind of finished with him putting a new slice of bread into the toaster and this time waiting in line for it to drop......

On another note I had the chance to attend a Chinese wedding once I got make to KL.  One thing I like about the Chinese approach to wedding celebrations is the "shared approach". Basically all the guests bring "ang pow" a small envelope with money inside. The more prestigious the wedding banquet venue the larger the amount of money you are expected to put in the ang pow.  In affect the guests cover the cost of the celebration.

I love this concept, as a guest I feel I have "skin in the game". If the food is crap or the wedding speeches are boring I feel like I have a real right to complain.

One of the peculiarities (well peculiar if you are white man that was not brought up in a chinese family - e.g. Me) of a Chinese wedding is the endless rounds of what they call "Yum Seng" - From what I understand Yum Seng means the equivalent of "cheers" or "bottoms" up in a Chinese dialect called Hokkien.

At a Chinese wedding the excitement around screaming what in effect is "cheers" hits amazing heights. Effectively the aim is to shout the word "Yum" for as long as you can, so it becomes more like "Yuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuum", then shout "Seng" as loud as you can so it becomes something like "SENG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" Then you drink.

It's a bit like a Chinese equivalent of the "wassssssssuuuuuppppp" on the Bud advert, or if you are old enough to remember Tiswas, like Lenny Henry shouting ...OOOOOOOOOOOOOOKKKKKKKKIIIEEEEEEEE!!

People tend to do this in groups, so all night long you hear crazy screaming from table to table. Everyone is at it. Old people that look like they don't have the strength to stand will still scream it out trying desperately to keep up with the young people, even if it means that the breath they took to "Yum" could be their last. Right through to the drunk uncles who wander round every table encouraging another round of "Yum Sengs" pretty much so they can hoover up whatever alcohol is floating on neighbouring tables.

This is the kind of  strain you see when people go for a "Yum Seng" I am not sure why he felt he needed a microphone most people have blood coming out of their ears by the end of the night just from the screaming - no mic required.

Finally the hyper market opposite my condo finally opened this week, after 2 years of "preparation". It's owned by a UAE company called Lulu, and much as I wanted to hate it, due to the antisocial habits of the developer that has been building the place, I hate to admit, it's pretty damn good. Ironically disappointing as I was sort of looking forward to ranting about how awful it was going to be!

Thursday, June 16, 2016

6 Years in one blog and lost my toot

OK - so I was talking to Fara about her maybe starting a blog and realised that I actually have a blog of my own. I just haven't blogged here for about 6 years! 

Amazingly, I remembered the username and password, a fact that actually annoyed me as these days I am unable to recall the vast majority of things that I am actually meant to remember.

So after 6 years I am back in to my blog account and felt compelled to get started again. What better way to do so than quickly cover the last six years.

Not in any chronological order, neither in any other logical order here goes.

  • We had four dogs, three died from snake bites, one is still with us.

  • Fara and Amy have moved back to UK - Fara at Uni and Amy at Leicester to do Dance (she get's that from me....well not really) I miss them more than they miss me, which strangely makes me happy!

  • Mel, Bailey and I moved to a condo in the middle of KL - its called Cap Square (a Name I like) but a local business man that is buying up the surrounding area and trying to rename the area after himself - Jakal (A name I do not like) - but in Malaysia if you have the money to dig up street signs and replace them with new signs with your own name on them - that seems to be ok!

  • Waiters in Malaysia still don't understand me when I order even if I repeat myself several times, and yes when Mel then repeats exactly what I ask for once - they understand her straight away.

  • I am officially in full molecular remission for my CML 

  • As I get older I seem to have a more intense battle with weight gain, which these days I lose much more than I used to - currently on strict diet to get down from 90KG to 80KG - I am half way to that target.

  • Mel and I started a publishing business - she now runs it and it's going really well - she has 10 staff and is growing, I still have an asia wide role for a sofwtare company - which means I still travel all over the place.

  • My memory is genuinely getting bad - so much of the recent past is someone hazy! (I blame the glivec, but seeing as it saved my life, I am OK with that!)

  • I bought a Porsche and a Kawasaki Motor Bike - I still have the Porsche I sold the Motorbike. (Amy refused to even touch the motorbike, as she was convinced it would result in immediate death. Fara refused to take a lift on the bike until one day she was really desperate to go and meet some friends........Mel rode the bike once and kind of crashed it)

Lets just come back to that Porsche. Its old and ends up in the workshop a LOT. I am pleased to report that just like in the UK, if you own a car that needs work and know nothing about engines etc - there is always someone around who will happily bend you over the bonnet of your car and screw your money out of you.

In this case I have the joys of Harvey at a place called Autotune. The only repair shop that seems to cater for porsche, ferarri etc. Somehow every time I take my car to Harvey, he fixes one issue and incredibly finds three or four issues that just weren't there when I took the car to him. I kind of suspected he was "creating" the new issues. This was pretty much confirmed when on one occasion I was driving my fixed car back from his workshop - something happened to make me press the hooter - It wasn't there - not only did my car not hoot - there was a spongy emptiness under the steering wheel that hadn't been there before.

When I called Harvey to ask what he did with the car horn, he said he quote me to get a new one.............. I am still driving a tootless car :-(

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Malaysian Miscommunication and Bailey Phone Power Saving

No matter how long I live in Malaysia, I will always suffer from people not understanding me.

I guess it's my fault, I have retained my full English accent and learnt next to no Bahasa. So I guess its not surprising that people still don't "get me", However I guess I handle it differently these days from a few years ago. Now I tend to assume that people won't always get me, so tend to say whatever I want and just see the reaction.

As an example, today we had lunch in Chilli's in Subang. At the end of the meal, I gave my credit card to the waitress to pay the bill. She came back and told me.

"Sorry Sir your card has been  declined".....all the kids look at me like "are you broke?"

I ask the waitress to try it again, to which she responds

"I've already tried it twice, it was declined both times"

So I say to her.

"I understand, but I need you to go and try it one more time so that I can take my family and run out when you go."

to which she replies.

"Ok, I'll give it it another go !!"

The kids look at me in sheer amazement, I am even more amazed when the card actually gets authorised on her third attempt.

Bailey has just got back from the UK after a holiday with his mum. before he went I armed him with a mobile phone with a UK SIM and tried to drum into him. Bailey has a tendancy to switch his phone off in order "to save battery". What this usually means is you can never contact him on his phone because he only turns it on when he makes a call then turns it off again straight after.

So before the UK trip, Mel and I repeatedly reminded him. keep your phone with you and most important KEEP IT SWITCHED ON. By the night before he left, we were pretty confident that he would finally remember to leave it on and remain contactable in the UK.

About an hour after he arrives in the UK, I call the phone, and success it's ringing!! but after several attempts no answer. A little later he calls through on his mum's mobile. 

Bailey - 'Dad....bad news, I kinda lost the phone"
Me - "Bailey, how did you manage that?"
Bailey - "Well I left my bag in the taxi, and the phone is in the taxi, but they have found it and will leave it at the airport for us"
Me - "argghh I cant believe it, you managed to lose it within minutes of getting into the UK!"
Bailey - "Hey but dad, one good thing......I did remember to leave it switched on !!"

Just fantastic!!

Finally, I just had to show this picture which was displayed above a toilet that I was using in a local chinese restaurant .
Only in malaysia!! it's really lucky, as if it werent for a sign like this over the toilet, I might be in danger of falling off the toilet when I took a dump.

Finally, Mel surpassed herself at dinner a few weeks ago. She often makes claims about what the Chinese have invented, and usually her claims sound quite feasible. However at Dragon-i easting chinese with Bailey and his friend Hugh, I heard her encouraging hugh to try some of the chinese dishes he had not seen before.  He didn't seem completely convinced when she tried "Come on Hugh, give this a try..........the Chinese invented food you know!"  (hmm, not sure about the validity on that one).

CML counts are better than ever, not quite full remission, but continue to improve !

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

3 months in one blog !!

Has it really been that long since I blogged? I really hadn't realised so much time had passed.

The update is as follows:

New Job
New Car
New Dog
About to rent new house.

In between all this I guess there has been some interesting things going on.  However a typical Bailey "happening" yesterday made me smile.

Bailey decided to come food shopping with Mel and myself. He recently bought a thin cane stick, which he uses to principally to whack me with when I am not looking, and currently he takes this with him wherever he goes. Yesterday he brought it along in the car, and when we parked up I told him to get out of the car as normal (obviously, if I don't tell him to get out of the car, he just sits there whilst the rest of us stand outside waiting for him).

Mel and I got out and started walking towards the supermarket, and as we did I became aware of two men staring at us giving us the most dirty look and I couldn't work out why.

Then I look back to see bailey, walking with his head held up at an angle, eyes closed, cane in hand sweeping it side to side like a blind person, bumping into things as he went, convincing anyone that looked that Mel and I had left a tiny blind boy to make his own way as we headed to the shops.

The dirty looks from the onlookers turned to astonishment when bailey opened his eyes, swirled his cain "Bruce Lee Stylie" and then ran to catch us up!!

The new dog is a Pekingese called Pancake (see pics here) it  officially belongs to Fara, but she very kindly allows us to clean up its mess, very considerate of her. I don't know much about this breed, but I can say he is the laziest puppy I have ever met. When we return home from work after he has been left alone for several hours, the most energetic welcome he can muster is to wag his tail slightly fast and look at you until you pick him up, he wont even run over to us, he expects us to come and to him...apparently they are the dogs of Chinese emperors and had high status in ancient Chinese society, pancake seems to have taken that to heart.

On the work front, I have left bakBone software and started as VP for Asia and Middle East for a company called Tandberg Data. I think I look the part for  the Middle east bit  of the job, people always tell me that my passport pics always make me look like a terrorist.

During the three months that have passed, I have not travelled as much as usual, however I have still managed a few trips.

Mumbai - Four seasons hotel, the most amazing service I have ever seen. Mel was with me and at breakfast she tried to open a Yoghurt, immediately a waiter dived between her and the Yogurt pot. It was as if she had pulled a pin from a grenade and he was trying to shield her from the blast.

As he dived, he explained "Sorry mam, must protect you in case the Yogurt splatter on your clothing when you open it" thats customer service. Though I am obviously not "Colonial" enough, because I think he dived a bit late, risking some splash to get through and any good Colonial Englishman worth his salt, would have beaten that waiter for his "tardiness".

Tokyo - very fortunately just missing the earthquake

Sydney - where I spent two days in an office where no-one actually knew me, and no-one challenged who I was and why I was there (I came in to do some interviews, but no-one at the Sydney office had ever met me before and had no idea who I was), even when I asked people to leave a meeting room because I had already booked it, they all just sought of looked down muttered, left and refused to check if I even had a right to be in the office!!

London - well I say London, but really it was Reading so quite depressing, but we did manage to get into Windsor and the obligatory trip to Primark Oxford Street so that Mel can buy more clothes than I am physically able to lift and still spend less than $75.

Singapore - Several visits, in between business meetings, managed to get out to a Frog Porridge Street Stall. Whilst the idea of having Frogs in your porridge probably doesn't appeal to Europeans (minus the French), its actually quite nice and I would recommend it to anyone that visits Singapore.

Finally counts on CML have been  dropping so all going the right way.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Bangalored and Noodle Stuffing

I don't think I will ever get used to India. I find it so alien to any other place I visit.  I am always put off by the Indian head wobble, because I am never sure what it means. This week I was in Bangalore interviewing for a new India sales director and I got phased by a number of the potential candidates head wobbling actions.

With one person in particular he asked me a question about how the data protection market has changed in the last few years. I went into a what I thought was a very informed monologue as to what had been happening. The candidate in question agresively shook his head from side to side in an action which in the Uk would been he was violently disagreeing with me. Very disconcerting as I thought I knew what I was talking about. However he chipped in the occasional "Correct Correct" to give the verbal equivalent of rubbing your tummy in a circular motion whilst tapping your head. This may sound sad and you might think I have better things to do, but I actually have practiced shaking my head in a "no" fashion whilst saying takes a lot of concentration. I think the Indians do it just to confuse westerners.

On this particular visit I was amused by how the Bangalore waiters serve your beer. imported beer seems to be considered a luxury item. So if you steer away from local beer like Kingfisher and order a heineken , you'll find the waiter come to your table with the bottle held in a white napkin and tilted at an angle and then shown to you like it is a vintage bottle of wine. I felt like asking "what year? what region were the hops grown? etc etc"

The traffic in India is always awful and perilous. I found the cab drivers have an excellent way of lulling you into getting into there cars. Wherever you ask them to take you, they will tell you it will take 20 minutes to get there. Once you have been sitting in the car 25 minutes and moved about 200 metres, you ask again how long now until we get there to be told "20 minutes" once again. You then find yourself clearing the traffic and driving for what seems like hours and then asking "how long now?" to be told "20 minutes"again. Stupid really as if you spend more than a day in Bangalore and witness the traffic, you will know it is impossible to get anywhere in a taxi in 20 minutes. Just negotiating with the taxi driver before you start the journey is likely to that long

Earlier this week, Mel and I took the kids to Dragon Eye. This is their favorite Chinese restaurant in malaysia. Bailey exhibited and new skill that made me feel quite sick. Effectively he takes a long noodle, sucks it down his throat so that only a tiny bit is sticking out of mouth and then he pulls it back out of his throat all still in one bit.

Not to be outdone, Amy and Fara decide to do the talented. Mel, took it her stride, trying not to gag whilst witnessing these special talents.

Ofcourse with Fara and Amy they always like to push things to the limit. Fara decided to change the game by stuffing as many noodels up into her cheeks to make her face look funny. I have a photo of it, but she refuses to let me post it. Amy then took it a stage further, simply deciding to stuff as many noodles into her mouth as possible. You will see the picture below and I am sure you will agree I have SO MUch to be proud of. As usual in Malaysia, the staff just smiled and carried on  waiting on us.

Finally, more blood test results and everything seems to be under control, so just keep on taking the Glivec.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Accent getting worse and kids logic revealed.

I have now lived in malaysia for over three years. In that time, I have mastered how to count to ten in Malay, and even last week was taught to count to ten in "Chinese".

My teacher, Mel's daughter Maxine, explained to me it goes like this:

one ah!
two ah!
three ah!

etc etc.

However despite my obvious mastery of local languages, it seems the longer I live here the more locals just don't understand me, particularly whilst speaking in English. For some reason when I am out eating or at bars and I ask for something which on the surface should be easy to understand, waiters just look at me like I am blank. Then if a local asks for exactly the the same thing that I asked for, they understand instantly. It has got to the point where I don't bother asking for any thing any more, I just tell Mel and get her to ask.

A recent examples would was at a bar in the Curve. my conversation with the waiter went something like this.

waiter - "good evening sir"
Me - "Hi There"
Waiter "How can I help you"
Me - "Could I have two Mai Tai's please"
Waiter - stares blankly
Me - "Do you serve Mai Tais?"
Waiter "Moy Teee?"
Me - "No ......MAI TAI?"
Waiter "Matey"
Me - pointing at the entry in the drinks menu that reads Mai Tai "No...MAI TAI...........MAAAIIIII  TAAAIIII"
Waiter "No we don't have that, very sorry sir"
Me - looking at Mel in desperation "Can you ask him please"
Mel - "two mai tai's please"
waiter "Certainly Madam, coming right up"
Me - what the F***, isnt that what I just asked for...............................

Asking for sparkling mineral water is just off limits, if I am on my own, I don't bother any more, I'll just order 7up instead.

However I have noticed one international  sign language that seems to be understaood by waiters all over the world. Get their attention, and write and imaginary line in the air, and fantastically you will be brought your bill. The only issue in Malaysia is the first part, the "getting their attention" part. Malaysian waiters often have this uncanny knack of standing in a group of 4 with nothing to do but stare intently at each other to avoid eye contact with any customers.

If you have read some of my previous blogs you will know the kind of trouble that Fara and Amy tend to create with each other. More than a year ago, I came up to their rooms at about 1am to find that their entire shared bathroom was completely flooded with water. I never really got to the bottom of exactly why this happened.

I recall at the time, I heard their footsteps run back to their beds as they heard me come up the stairs, and by the time I entered their rooms, they were already stationed in fake sleep positions as if they had not been up and mucking around. This weekend, over lunch I finally managed to get some idea of what went on that night.

Lunch can be quite a "big" event now as there can be seven of us in total with Mel and her two kids, but some things don't change and when Fara and Amy get talking, they still manage to monopolise conversation. This weekend, the lunch topic somehow turned itself to there night time antics and this story came up.

It turns out that on the night in question, Amy couldn't get to sleep as she had a sore throat. Fara came up with the brilliant idea of creating a steam sauna in there bathroom as she read somewhere that would help clear out Amy's throat. So Amy sat in the bathroom whilst Fara turned on all the taps to full and highest temperature and let the bathroom steam up, unfortunately the net result was Amy's sore throat was no better, but the plug holes couldn't take the volume of water hence the flooded bathroom.

Mystery solved, and I have to admit I think it was actually quite a good idea !!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Ice Wars and Genetics always win through

It seems that certain things run in families, in the perfect world genetics run in our favour, an amazing musical streak, good looks, athletic ability, however it seems in my family there is something else that runs through our blood.

The story starts in the Uk when I was about 8 years old. when travveling in the car with my dad, you could often notice dried residue of some kind of spray all over the front wind screen. As I got older, I realised what this actually was, as I witnessed the old man, sneeze so hard that the car shook, but never take his hands of the steering wheel. This left the residue which then dried to the windscreen.

Now move forward 32 years and I notice that the dashboard and windscreen of my car have some similar kind of marks that looked very reminisent of those shameful splash marks in my dad's old cars. I didn't really think any more of it, until recently driving around KL with Fara in the front seat, when suddenly she releases a sneeze that a grown man 4 times her weight would have been proud of.  No hands came up to cover her nose and a heavy spray of nasal emission splattered over the dashboard and windscreen of the car.

It may have skipped a generation, but boy it was back with a vengeance.

It seems this snot based genetic inheritance has not singled out Fara. A few weeks ago I was out with Mel and Bailey, after doing a bit of shopping we settled in Starbucks at SunWay Shopping Mall to have a coffee (note that Coffee in Malaysia is often of the Iced variety). Mel has this habbit of starting straw based fights (see previous blog). On this occasion she started crunching ice then spitting it through her straw and Bailey and myself.  I retaliated immediately, then after his initial shock at getting iced, bailey got involved. The three way fight was getting out of hand, and the due to Bailey's awful aim the T-Shirt of the guy sitting behind me looked like it had been spattered with rain.

I was being attacked by a machine gun of ice shards coming from Mel's straw, when out of the corner of my eye I notice bailey pressing one nostril with his hands and sniffing profusely through the other, doing what I can only describe as "hocking a lugey". I assumed he was doing this just as a joke, when about 30 seconds later Mel is screaming in Horror and pointing to a a big wad of "Bailey Hock" dripping down the front of my T-shirt.....yeuuchhhcchh.....It's still making me shudder now.

Had we been in any Starbucks in the UK. we would have been asked to leave, but this is KL. The staff just smiled at us as they tried to clean up the ever increasing mess on and around our table.

Finally maid number 3 seems to be a "keeper" although she is not without her "nuances". Her name is Eva and she has this way of devising new systems for organising things. On the surface this seems like it could be a good thing. The problem is that Eva gets bored with her own systems, so then devices new systems to solve the same problem she had already solved. This gets frustrating, because she expects that we all are mind readers and know what she has done. This means we end up having to call Eva because we can never find anything. example:

Me - (to anyone) "I can't find my white T-Shirt"
Mel - "Is it being washed?"
Me - (checking through all the washing) "Don't Think So"
Mel - "You better call Eva and see if she knows"
Me - on phone "Hi Eva"
Eva - "hello Sir"
Me - "sorry to disturb you on a saturday, but do you know where my white T-Shirt is?
Eva - "yes sir, I took all of your white clothes from all of the different cupboards and I put them all together in the drawer at the end"
Me - (somewhat dumbstruck) "of-course you did"

finally, Latest Bone Marrow test was clear, the molecular blood test inconclusive, so will be doing that again this month.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Three maids down and counting

A few weeks back I was celebrating that we had a maid that was working 5 days a week in order to keep my condo nice and tidy.

I guess things can never be that simple. The first maid, Lila an elderly Indian lady immediately started getting on my nerves with her habit of repeating the last half sentence of everything I said to her.


ME: "Lila could you make sure you clean the floor"
Lila: "Clean the floor"
Me: "yes that's right can you clean the floor?"
Lila: "Clean the floor"
Me: awkward silence waiting for her to start cleaning it "errrm would you like to start cleaning the floor now?"
Lila: without a moments hesitation "cleaning the floor now?"
Me: "YES"
Lila: wonders off aimlessly I think to find a mop

Me: "Do you know where Fara's school shirt is?"
Lila: "School Shirt is"
Me: "Yes do you know where it is?"
Lila: "know where it is"
Me "correct, thats what I am trying to ask you, where is Fara's shirt?"
Lila "is Fara's shirt"
Me: giving up "I'll look for it myself, dont worry"
Lila: smiling like she had got the desired result "Don't worry, look for it yourself!" almost as if she completely understood everything I had said and just didn't want to go and look for it herself??

After about 10 days Fara, happened to mention to me "Hey Dad, Lila is a bit lazy." I asked why and she explained that Lila often got Fara to help her clean, that she sat around a lot doing nothing, and that she brought her own clothes to our house to wash.....

So I decided to have one last chat with Lila, this time to explain that we no longer needed her services. amazingly her  "repeating everything I say disorder" evaporated, and suddenly she seemed to have an entirely fluent conversation with me, where she tried to argue to keep her job. She failed.

Next was Ah Loo - I am absolutely sure that my spelling of her name is completely incorrect, but it sounds right when you say it. When we initially interviewed the maids (see previous blog) I felt that we should go for Ah Loo straight away, but I got out-voted by Fara and Mel (who helped us interview them) who both said Lila was the right choice. 

Ah Loo, seemed to be a revelation on her first day and when I took her to her bus stop at the end of the day, I very smugly pointed out to both Fara and Mel, that over the years I have interviewed so many people that I just have an instinct about these things. I simply new all along that Ah Loo was the real deal, and Lila was never going to be up to the job, they should have trusted my experience. 

It was somewhat to my surprise that the very next day Ah Loo resigned thereby shattered my illusion of having a 6th sense instinct when it comes to selecting job candidates. I think that the size of our apartment combined with her lack of desire to actually do any work was what turned her off the job, but I am not sure if her "tipping point" was seeing bailey practicing his axe and sword skills (trust me when I say it's not just a game to him !) or whether it was I asked her to empty the crap out of the cat litter.

So out with Ah Loo and in with Eva a Philippine maid, and things are looking better, first she speaks quite good English, next she actually is fine with the concept of cleaning the house, something that both Lila and Ah Loo ironically had a problem with. I reckon that Eva may be in for the long haul, we shall see.

I have recently had cause to visit Singapore a few times on business. Compared to Malaysia Singapore is much more chic when it comes to fashion.  Last week I was in singapore having a late dinner at the coffee club and I saw what is either a new fashion being pioneered in Singapore or just a simple wardrobe malfunction....not sure which.

I noticed a group of people get up, including a middle aged woman wearing a long dress, as she turned to walk away I noticed that the dress was not long at the back, in fact when I say noticed, that is an understatement as she had what was quite a large (and not very shapely) butt on view covered by some pretty plain white granny sized knickers. My first instinct was that this was just an embarrassing fopar, and imagined her dress had become caught in her knickers after a visit to the toilet. 

However, the more I stared....not in pervy way, I promise the site was not pleasant at all, my eyes were simply drawn to it the same way people stare when they drive past an traffic accident, I couldn't see any evidence of what should have been a very long dress tucked into the back of her knickers. She walked off to queue for a taxi accompanied by her friends, all of whom must have noticed her arse wobbling as she walked, but none of them seeming to tell her, I have to assume for one of the following reasons:

1) This was an intentional designer dress look
2) They were too embarrassed to tell her
3) They found it as funny as me, so just let her carry on with the display.

Despite the nauseating feeling that it was causing in me, I continued to stare and became convinced that the dress was designed that way, but if that is true it made me wonder. Why would anyone have a dress like that, and if someone did want a dress like that, wouldnt it make sense to have an arse that is pleasing to the outside world, and wouldn't you wear something a bit more "interesting" than large white granny panties......If anyone knows whether showing your butt is going to be a new fashion please let me know...cos I am going have to start strategically shaving if that is the case.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Gay Builders?, Obsessed Security Guards and Fun with Straws

I often speak about how so many things in Malaysia are similar to the UK, however there is one thing that is completely different. Construction Workers. We live in Mont Kiara, which is like the condominium capital of the KL........or to be more precise, the "half finished condominium capital of KL". Their is a condo in construction right beside where we live, this means that every morning and every evening literally hundreds of construction workers wander up and down the street where we live. many of them are from immigrants from Indonesia, India, Sri Lanka etc, however anyone from England will notice something very odd about the scene.

As they make their way towards the building site, you start to view a sea of men in blue helmets walking towards the building site, as you get closer you notice that many of them have their arms round each other and many of the others are holding hands, it a very smiley affectionate scene.......wierd and something I don't think I will ever get used to.  I have mentioned in previous blogs how many people are the same wherever I travel (e.g. Taxi drivers) but construction workers from Malaysia are simply one set of people I cannot transpose to the UK. It's impossible to think of a group of beer bellied british builders, hairy workman's asses visible from their falling down jeans, holding hands and hugging each other. It just wouldn't have the same effect anymore when they shout "nice tits love" to anything resembling female that walks by.

I have been managing to get to the gym much lately, and tend to use the gym at the condo where I live. Recently one of the condo security guards was apparently on his rounds walking past the gym, whilst I was training. He came into the gym and started smiling at me......I found this slightly strange, so said Hi at which point he told me how "fit I look".......Ok a nice complement, but somewhat worrying when it's 7:30 on a sunday moring and your alone in the gym with a a guard that seems to have taken an attraction to you. I subtly manouvred myself to the wall and pressed my back firmly against it.....I don't know why but something about the situation suddenly made me protective of my rear side! As if I wasn't already freaked enough he then proceeded to roll up his sleeves and show me his muscles.......arrghh.

It turns out that Goutam (thats his name), came to Malaysia from nepal, in order seek fame and fortune as a male model or actor. To most of us, I guess that Malaysia would probably not be high on the list of places to go to seek out that profession, but then I guess most of us are not from Nepal. He saw me in the Gym, I imagine was so overwhelmed by my amazing looks (ok my looks are fact if you ask Fara they are not even debatable, I am categorically ugly)  that he assumed I too must be a male model, so thought I can help him.

He has given me a CD of his portfolio, which if anyone sees on my PC will provide immediate proof that I possess soft male porn, and since then his persistence has been freaky, he seems to watch me on CCTV and turn up WHEREVER I am around the condo. When I park my car in the basement, he turns up saluting when I walk to the pool, he is already their giving me a wave, etc etc, he always gives me this knowing look, but I am not sure if it means "I Love you" or "Have you found me an agent yet" or "I plan to shoot you very soon"......

A straw is a fairly common drinking aid with a fairly good safety record. As far as I know there have been very few deaths related to drinking through a straw, however last week in TGI's Amy bucked the trend and nearly choked herself, whilst quietly drinking an ice slush through a straw. Without going into all the details, she basically sucked through the straw so hard that the straw itself got sucked up into her mouth and went down her I seem to say more and more in these blogs....."ONLY AMY".

Continuing the straw theme, we ended up in the lounge of the One World hotel this Friday night after going to watch a show with Mel and her daughter Max. Fara and Max decided to repurpose their straws as weapons, firing "serviette spit wads" across the table at me and Mel. Nothing unusual in kids doing that kind of thing, the only thing is if the same thing had happened in any London hotel, we would have been asked to leave. However this is Malaysia, not only were we not asked to leave but the waitresses still continued to serve us and take drinks orders whilst skillfully dodging flying bits of serviettes coming from the straws of the two girls.......well actually by this time all four of us. Even the band (A terrible Philippine band that dance nicely to songs they completely ruin by attempting to sing) kept coming over braving the barrage of flying debris, to take written song requests from us.... which they invariably did not know how to perform anyway.

Finally I was in the car with Bailey, when he caught me off guard by saying "Do you take it up the chuff?" after I stopped laughing I asked where had he heard that expression, apparently from some film, but thankfully he has no idea what it means!!

Also I had a blood test this week. My platelets are now normal again, so my blood looks healthier now than at any time since diagnosis. I have my one year bone marrow in November, and expect to show continued progress to full remission when I get those results.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Amyisms return, along with hot competition from the other two

I guess life would be pretty boring if it passed by without Amyisms. If you read this blog, you will know that Amy has a knack of saying something in all seriousness that makes the rest of us fall around the floor with laughter. One of Amy's other  "talents" is the ability to do lengthy and completely accurate quotations from films. Actually Bailey is pretty good at that too, but I think Amy is the master.

Particularly amazing is the fact that she seems to have a memory like a sieve for many things, but she can remember words, intonation and actions for whole swathes of dialogue from movies.

This weekend at Chilli's in Bangsar, she was entertaining us all with some excellent quotations, Fara, Bailey and myself were also trying to recite a few too, when Fara points out

"Hey, these are funny, but Amy really is the best when it comes to doing quotations"

Amy smiles knowingly and says "What the hell is a quotation?"

We all roll around laughing and when we stop, she repeats "No Really, I have no idea what you are talking about, what is a quotation!!!"

We also decided to take a trip to central market. Bailey is usually the instigator of these trips as he has an ulterior motive. I nipped this motive in the bud as we arrived at the central market car park....basically entering a monologue that went something like this.

Bailey you always ask to go to central market.
You immediately go to the shop that sells the sling shots
You show me a sling shot and I always tell you NO you cant have it.
So you leave that shop, then find another one that sells swords and knives.
You show me a selection of knives that you would like
I say NO, you nag me for about an hour, then we buy some sweets and we leave.
So today we are not going to bother with any slingshot or knife shops.

I look round satisfied that have set things straight, and Bailey announces  "I hate you dad!"
Fara and Amy think it's hilarious, we go in with them laughing and Bailey fuming but somehow he eventually convinces me to buy him a wooden knife anyway !!

Central market is full of twists and turns, and I walked round one corner leaving Amy checking things out at a shop, about 30 seconds later, she comes running round the corner, looking behind her and with an expression that I can only describe as "guilt". I slowed her down to ask her what's wrong, and she explains she picked up a puppet, and (as you do.....well if you are Amy you do) she gave it a good shake....and surprise surprise it's head fell off. I pride myself on the moral guidance I have given my kids over the years...and on this occasion it kicked in perfectly, no walking sheepishly to the shop owner to own up to what she had done, instead she swiftly dropped the puppet in two parts onto the floor, and quickly ran as fast as she could to the safety of her dad round the corner!! (see her looking guilty below!)

Last week I had an interesting conversation with Fara. Possibly the best negotiation technique I have ever come across. I was in the car, when she said "daaad?" in a way which meant she obviously had something she wanted.

So I reply "Yeees??" in the same kind of's a kind of dad way of me letting her know that I am already on to her!

Fara "What would you say if I didn't want to go to school tomorrow?"
Me "I would want to know why"
Fara "Well I have a good reason"
Me "tell me the reason and if I agree with you that it is a good one, then you might get your wish"
Fara "Well thats the thing, you see it IS a REALLY good reason, but I just can't tell you what that reason is, because it's private!"
Me - trying not to laugh at her ingenuity " Oh, if you put it like that Fara, then ofcourse you can have the day off school!"
Fara "Really??"
Me "NO!!!"

I never got to the bottom of why she needed the day off, but she seemed to see the funny side and went without a problem the next day !