Sunday, February 28, 2010

Granddaughter BeBe will visit for the summer

We love having friends and family visit us. Last year our 8-year-old grandson Zachary visited us in Australia for his summer vacation. Unfortunately, he fell and broke both bones in his dominant forearm on his first day in Australia; so instead of being "the summer I sailed the Great Barrier Reef with my grandparents" in his future memories, it will always be "the summer I broke my arm." He enjoyed the summer, but didn't get to do many of the activities we had planned because of that broken arm. This year, we were thrilled when our daughter-in-law used our being in Malaysia for 9 months as an excuse to book a trip for our 8-year-old granddaughter Elisabeth (a/k/a BeBe) to visit us for the summer. We are hopeful that Zachary will also visit for the summer so the cousins can entertain one another, but he has not yet decided if he wants to come or not.

This is the one of those rare times we have been someplace where sailing and water sports cannot be big parts of our guests' time with us. The western coast of Malaysia isn't hospitable cruising ground. There are not many places to stop overnight and the currents are terrible. The idea of swimming in these waters isn't very attractive. There is just no such thing as a good sailing holiday in Singapore or western Malaysia. Thank goodness there are a few nice marinas. Unfortunately, the conditions here just aren't conducive to providing visitors with a view of the cruising lifestyle. So we plan to leave the boat and head inland with our granddaughter this summer. Zach will miss out on some interesting trips if he decides not to come. Instead of being hosts, skippers and chefs, we will be on vacation too.

Shortly after returning from the Cambodian trip we hired a couple of guys at the marina to clean, wax and polish the boat. A full-day's work by 2 young men for the whopping cost of about $67 USD!! How could we say no to that! Let them work out in the sun and heat. We will be doing our own work again when in the high-priced Mediterranean. Very happy to do our bit for the local economy when the labor prices are so reasonable here in Malaysia. After they finished the hull and came topside to start cleaning, Bill handed them each a toothbrush and taught them the rules of toothbrushing all the itsy-bitsy, teeny-weeny spots. Bill says all cruisers who follow in our wake should thank him for teaching the local workers the proper way to clean a boat. If a worker shows up to clean your boat and brings a toothbrush, you can thank Bill for teaching that man properly. When they finished for the day S/V BeBe was sparkling!

Last week we went to Singapore for a couple of days to visit the US Embassy and have more visa pages added to our passports. This requires dropping off the passports one morning and picking them up the following day at 3 p.m. And there was no fee for this service! That was a nice surprise. When we had additional pages added to our passports in the US in December 2008 they charged us $100 each. At the embassy in Singapore there were no charges or fees whatsoever. The State Department is inconsident in how they handle this service, or so it appears. BTW, Google Maps makes it so simple to get anywhere in Singapore. Just use the drop-down box for mass transit and instantly you have detailed instructions on which subway station and which bus number(s) to use for your desired destination. Before setting off on this adventure Bill printed maps getting us from the arrival bus station to the embassy; from the embassy to the hotel; from hotel to the various stores and places we wanted to visit; from hotel back to embassy; and from embassy back to departure bus station. You have to remember when planning a trip like this that the return bus might be a different number than the originating bus. Using the maps with the detailed instructions made it so easy for us to travel around the city without feeling lost. We also walked a great deal and were worn out by the time we returned to the boat.

While in Singapore I found a place for a haircut and few brown highlights. Bill went walking while I was having my hair done and decided to have a beer. He had already had one beer before I found the hair salon, and these are large he couldn't quite finish the second one. Soon he returned to the salon with a plastic bag of beer with a straw in it. That is how they do take-out beverages in this part of the world. Coffee and juice were sold this same way in Colombia and Panama, but this is the first time either of us had seen beer served baggy style.

One afternoon a local man brought his family out to see our boat. He owns the security company that monitors the marina with CCTV cameras and security guards. He is a Malaysian man of Indian heritage and had visited our boat several weeks ago and thought his kids and wife would get a kick out of seeing the inside of a sailboat. This is a novelty for all local people. The kids were cute (ages 11 and 4) and excited to see a real boat. We will be going out to dinner with them later this week and have promised to take the kids out for a short sail later in the summer when BeBe is visiting.

Saturday evening the marina shuttle brought us over to Raffle's Marina for a concert by some guy who was billed as "direct from Dubai." It was a fun evening. The only other people from our marina who participated in this little trip were Allison and Nigel, a British couple on S/V Strummer. The music was okay. The hamburger at The Pub was great; now we understand why other yachties have raved about the burgers at Raffle's. We enjoyed chatting with Al & Nige. Even got to watch some football (soccer to us) on the pub televisions and saw Manchester City beat Chelsea while Bill managed to force down 4 pints of beer -- well over his normal limit.

Yesterday a couple living in Singapore came to visit and see our boat. Bill had had email coorespondence with them and invited them over. Mike and Peta are a British couple who are buying an Amel exactly like ours. Their new boat is located in France so they will be starting their cruising adventures from the Med, probably late this year since the normal time for crossing the Atlantic westward is November. We showed them all the little things we have learned while living aboard this model boat for almost 4 years. Wish we had been fortunate enough to have someone do that for us when we moved aboard. Bill also gave Mike a copy of his ultra-complicated "Mother of all Spreadsheets" which provides details on so many boat-related things. Guess that should be called "Mother of all Workbooks" because it does contain multiple inter-related spreadsheets.....with cells that turn green, yellow or red depending on dates of scheduled maintenance. Mike should have fun learning that complicated workbook.

While eating lunch at the marina cafe with Mike and Peta we received another pair of guests. The pharmacist who is special-ordering some medication for me arrived with her fiance. She is a very friendly Chinese girl and her fiance is a very nice Chinese local man. We had invited her to come out and see our boat and to check out the marina grounds for her upcoming wedding photos. For some reason that totally escapes me this marina is very popular for wedding photos. Every weekend we see couples in full wedding dress and professional photo teams doing photo shoots around the marina grounds. They explained that it is customary for the Chinese to plan a wedding for one full year. Jasmine and James will be married in November, but the wedding photos will be taken in May. So much for the groom not seeing the bride in her wedding dress until the day of the wedding. Guess they don't observe that bad luck warning. There will be 2 wedding ceremonies -- a civil ceremony and a religious ceremony. It is not unusual for the civil ceremony to be performed several months before the religious ceremony. Apparently this is very common in Singapore because someone cannot get on the list for government assisted housing unless they are married. A single person cannot get on the housing list until he/she is 34 years old. There is no age requirement for a married couple to get on the housing list.

It was very enjoyable sitting in the boat and chatting with Mike & Peta and Jasmine & James. James gave us lots of tips for our April/May trip to Beijing. A fun afternoon sitting inside the air-conditioned boat. It has been unbearably hot in recent days and we are hibernating inside the boat until temps return to the normal 90F -93F range.

Following in the same vein as my last posting about strange local produce and foods, for dinner tonight we are having bottle gourd and chicken keels. What is a chicken keel, you ask. My thoughts exactly. Did not know that a chicken had a keel. The supermarket did not have boneless chicken breasts this week; the closest thing I could find was a package labeled as 2 pieces of chicken keels. These looked like partial pieces of chicken breast with the breastbone cut in half sideways. Figure I can debone it and cut into cubes for stir-fry. The bottle gourd is another of those unfamiliar vegetables. It is about a foot long and can sometimes be much larger. Looked it up online and learned that it is a popular Indian veggie. It is called sorakaya in the Telugu language and is called bottle gourd, laki, dudhi or lau in different Indian languages. I plan to cut it into cubes and cook with chopped onion, various spices and chopped peanuts. Bottle gourd and chicken keels; oh yumm! This might not be Bill's favorite meal.

(Follow-up: bottle gourd is tasteless; absolutely tasteless. Not objectionable texture; just has no flavor whatsoever. Cardboard has more flavor than bottle gourd. Hard to believe that people actually plant and harvest this stuff.)

And my last item of interest, here is a photo and video of a swimming fish head. No body, just the head. A larger fish apparently chopped this poor little fish directly behind its gills. There were 2 tiny fins flipping like crazy as it propelled itself mouth-down through the water. We watched this partial fish for about 10 minutes and it was still swimming along. Wonder just how long it could live without a body.

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