Sunday, July 31, 2011

Home Sweet Home

Yesterday was my birthday. If you had told me at last year's birthday party that the next one would be celebrated in Malaysia, I would have thought you had sampled too much of the Berry Margaritas. Yet, here I am.

After living out of our suitcases (all 10 of them) for the last few weeks, we were eager to unpack and settle in. The first few days in Penang were filled with the mundane tasks of setting up a new home. I'm really missing Target right about now. Despite being in transit for over a month, our air shipment still isn't here. Since I'm expecting the imminent arrival of pots and pans, I've been reluctant to go out and buy some cheap ones to tide me over. Or perhaps I'm just using this as an excuse to not cook and continue eating out? You decide.

Kudos to Andy for picking out a great home. I had only seen videos and photos of this place, so I was relieved that it was indeed quite fabulous. Even though our home in Austin is nothing to sneeze at, this place is spectacular. We're on a high up floor of a condominium tower in the beach resort section of town. We have 3 wonderful pools and a beach just outside the property. When I look out the window, I often see jet skiers and parasailers from the nearby hotels frolicking in the water.

The view from our balcony.

The nearby food options are numerous and varied. You can tell that Penang must be a cultural crossroads based on the restaurants. Within walking distance, there are all sorts of cuisines -- Malaysian naturally, plus German, Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Indian, and even Bulgarian. Two small fruit stalls are just one block away. One sells a variety of tropical fruits such as mangoes bigger than my head, rambutans, mangosteens, lychees, longans, and the incredibly smelly durian. The other stall only sells bananas.

So far, Andy and I have been enjoying most of our culinary adventures, but the kids have been a harder sell. Plain naan was declared too strange by Maria, and Clark turned down Sweet and Sour Chicken because it wasn't battered and fried before being drenched in sauce. I try to traumatize their tastebuds get them to try something new no more than once a day, so we've been eating at a fair number of Western restaurants.

While waiting for our shipments to arrive, we've done a little sightseeing which I'll tell you more about in future posts.

First impressions
Brad: You can't recharge your Nintendo DS without a transformer (no, not the toy/movie kind). There's no Target and HEB. The money is different. And best of all, a place advertising itself as the World's Biggest Toy Museum is right next door.

Maria: Hot dogs taste bad. Eeeeew! Monkeys are funny.

Clark: I can't wait to visit my new school. There's a bit of road here that reminds me of the winding part of 2222 except that it has tropical plants instead of cedars and oaks.

Michele: Feel free to place bets on how long until my car smashes into something. Almost everyone drives on the left side of the road, and this place is better suited to Mini Coopers than Minivans.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

International Flights Can Be a Pain in the Rear

On the way back from our exploratory trip to Malaysia back in October, I decided that airplane seats have insufficient padding. So that's why I found myself on July 4th at that truly American place -- WalMart. The first store only stocked Gel Car Cushions. I debated whether or not TSA would consider it a liquid and let me bring it on board. It was definitely too big to fit in a quart size bag, so I left that store for another one. I struck gold at the next WalMart which had Foam Padded Car Cushions with a U-shaped Tail Bone cutout. So, international flights can be a pain in the rear... unless you adequately pad the seat under you.

We departed Los Angeles at 10 minutes before midnight on Sunday. To make sure that the kids wouldn't be too sleepy while hauling luggage and backpacks through the airport, we started moving their bedtimes the week before with 9:30 p.m. fireworks shows over Disneyland and staying up late in the hotel room watching TV.

My worries about how to keep the kids occupied during the 14 hour flight to Hong Kong were unfounded. Cathay Pacific has these awesome seatback entertainment systems with tons of movies and TV shows available on demand. They also had a video games like Pong, Asteroids and Bejeweled Blitz to name a few. In comparison, that aforementioned flight in October on United Airlines just had plane-wide movies displayed on screens above the aisle.

There was so much that I wanted to watch that 14 hours wasn't enough to get it all in. The kids watched Phineas and Ferb, Rango, and Toy Story 3 while I viewed Salt, Little Miss Sunshine and a part of Modern Family, Season 2. I must admit that I was a little nervous watching the shoot-em-up scenes in Salt with youngsters on either side of me, but they were so entranced by their own screens that they didn't even notice.

We landed in Hong Kong for a 9-hour layover, most of which was spent taking a nap in the airport hotel. Our first meal on the continent of Asia was at Popeye's. How can Popeye's be so international and yet the closest one to my house in Austin involves a 20-minute drive?

We got back on a plane for the 3.5 hour flight to Penang. The entertainment system was less fancy, but it was still much better than United. Finally, we were in our new home city.
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