Weekly Photo Challenge: Hands ~ Kecak Dance in Bali

Kecak Dance in Bali

The Kecak (Ramayana Monkey Chant) is performed by 100+ bare-chested men with checked cloths tied around their waists. The men line up in concentric circles around a fire as they sway, throw their arms up, wave their hands, lay prone and even create the illusion of a giant snake as the story progresses. This performance does not use any music except for the cacophony of synchronized chanting, “Ke, cak, cak, cak”. The backdrop of the dance we saw was an ancient temple and the central fire was the only lighting for the stage. As the story unfolds the rhythmic chanting sets a trance-like atmosphere as the audience sits transfixed watching the swaying of hands in the firelight. Pure Magic!

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Third Culture Kid~ Where Are You From?

When I was younger, there was a four-word phrase that sent panic to my mind… “WHERE ARE YOU FROM?” Hmmmmmm… How to answer that loaded question? Most people can answer with a one-word response. My response is a paragraph:

Well, I am an American of European descent. I was born in Portsmouth, Virginia, but I moved to San Francisco, California. I was raised in Massachusetts as a young child. I moved to Kuwait and then Bahrain with a short stint in Atlanta, Georgia that I would like to forget! I graduated from an international school in Bahrain. My legal address was in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, but I never really lived there. I went to university in Pennsylvania, but I left after two and a half years. I became a flight attendant where I was “based” in London, but I resided in Bahrain. Then I settled in Ocean City, New Jersey. (This was all before I was 25 years old) I got married and then raised my young children in Ocean City, New Jersey. When my children were 8 and 9 years old we moved to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia where I have been for 8 years. We return each summer to the USA and go to PA, NJ, and NY. Our legal address is now NJ, but we no longer own property in NJ. My family and my husband’s family are mostly living in that tri-state area. Hmmmmmm… You guess!?! Where am I from?

Now the questions begin to fly… Am I crazy? Do I have attachment issues? Am I an orphan? Do I exaggerate? Was I a military brat? Am I in the military?NO! I was a Third Culture Kid (TCK) who moved for my father’s work and now for my work. According to American sociologist David C. Pollock, “A Third Culture Kid (TCK) is a person who has spent a significant part of [their] developmental years outside the parents’ culture. The TCK frequently builds relationships to all of the cultures, while not having full ownership in any. Although elements from each culture may be assimilated into the TCK’s life experience, the sense of belonging is in relationship to others of similar background.”

TCKs usually answer the “Where are you from?” question with vagueness like, “Home is where the heart is.”  or “Everywhere, but nowhere.” Many of us cannot easily answer the question. I am living abroad again in Malaysia and for the first time in a long time, I feel truly HOME even though I am not Malaysian. For us Third Culture Kids and adults, “home” is not a place. It is a concept. Home to me is where I feel understood, accepted and comfortable with my life choices. Now that I am an adult and I can appreciate all the advantages of being a TCK, the question does not frighten me any more. I embrace it and look forward to hearing other traveler’s answers.

Are you a TCK? How do you answer the question, Where are you from?

My TCK World Map:

These are the flags of the countries that have influenced who I am.

Nayati is BACK! Student Abducted in KL is Home With His Family!

Nayati is in the arms of his family 6 days after being abducted on his way to school!!!!!! Here is a photo his father used on Twitter showing Nayati and his young sister being reunited. Thank you for all your positive thoughts and energy sent his family’s way!!! The outpouring of love from around the world is astounding! Here is the press release from his family this morning.

Press Release :

We are delighted to tell you that Nayati is back home with us and although it has obviously been a very traumatic time for him he appears at this stage to be in good shape. We cannot begin to say how proud we are of him and the way that he has coped with the events of the past week.

We have been overwhelmed by the support we have received from all our friends here in Kuala Lumpurand all over the world. We are unable to find the words to express our gratitude but we will never forget what they did for us.

Even more surprising, because it was so unexpected, has been the support of people whom we have never met – and are never likely to meet – in countries as far away as Zambia and the USA, who have offered their time, skills and, in many cases, money, without any expectation of any form of compensation. We are so grateful for their help.

We also appreciate very much the tremendous practical and moral support we have received from the Netherlands Embassy and in particular the Ambassador, Mr Paul Bekkers. With his help we were able to surmount some “interesting” technical problems.

Finally we would like to express our gratitude to the Government of Malaysia, specifically the Royal Malaysian Police. Their number one priority from the start has been the safe return of Nayati and they have been most careful not to do anything that might have jeopardised his safety. We have enjoyed and will continue to enjoy our stay in this wonderful country.

As we are sure you will understand, Nayati’s kidnapping is the subject of an ongoing investigation so we are unfortunately not at liberty to reveal any of the details of the case at this stage.

There will be a press conference on Friday. Details to follow.
Thank you. – Moodliar Family

Laos for the New Year

Our family arrived in Vientiane, Laos anticipating a quiet laid back city in South East Asia. Well we got the SE Asia part correct. Vientiane is a vibrant dusty city with lots of traffic. It is an easy city to navigate and explore on foot or in open-air tuk-tuks. There are plenty of fabulous Buddhist temples to explore in the old city. Our favorite was the Wat Si Saket, which houses over 6,400 Buddha statues. We puttered around the city with a helpful tuk-tuk driver who refused to pull over when we got a flat tire until the rubber came completely off the rim. He had to flag down another driver and take his spare tire. We finally reached the temple at Pha That and it left me speechless. The blinding gold stupa stretched up to the heavens in the crystal blue sky.

The next day we left the capital and flew up to Luang Prabang. Our initial vision of Laos unfolded before us as we entered the “city” along the meandering Mekong River. In our travels we have previously crossed the mighty Mekong in Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam, but here in Luang Prabang it appeared especially magical. The charming old town is built right up to the banks with cafés overhanging the slopes. The pace was effortlessly slow and easygoing. The only transportation needed was a bicycle and your feet.

The temples are too numerous to count and the amount of saffron clad monks is staggering. We awoke pre-dawn to watch the procession of monks receiving alms from the people in the town.  The mist rose over the road and hills as barefoot monks padded in lines with outstretched baskets to accept their daily offering of sticky rice. The market place slowly came to life with coffee brewed by the cup and the smell of fresh croissants filling the misty morning. Locals quietly move about their business among the tourists snapping photos and resting in cafés drinking cheap local beer and eating sandwiches on fresh baguettes.

While sitting in a quiet café on the edge of the market, Brian and I watched the local and touristy scene. A blind man was lead by a woman and we watched in amazement as some of the tourist deliberately crossed away from him. The man approached the food stalls along the side of the road and without ever asking, each vendor offered him small change or food. He would respond with a beautiful wai and back away. The generous attitude and genuine smiles made this town my new favorite place in SE Asia.

 

On New Year’s Eve there were not any boisterous fireworks to ring in 2012. However thousands of candle lit lanterns floated peacefully into the night sky creating a magical tone to match the Laotian style. Local families roasted whole pigs and danced in the streets to celebrate the New Year. Luang Prabang will be etched in my memory for a long time.

Flesh-Eating Fish!?!

Hundreds of tiny fish rushed at my feet and legs, hungrily eating the flesh as I tried to suppress the screams! Piranhas? Horror flick? No, the latest craze in spa treatments, Fish Therapy!

 

I love a good day at the spa with a massage, manicure, pedicure and facial as much as anyone.  There is a new spa in town that everyone is talking about.  Friends raved about it, my students giggled and could not stop talking about it and my student’s parents invited me to join them at the spa. However, fish eating the dead skin off my feet and legs was just too weird for me to try. Garra Rufa fish (aka: doctor fish, nibble fish, Chinchin or kangal fish) are stocked in a large tank and you stick your legs inside the water and let the fish eat off the dead skin.  Seriously, how gross is that?

 

My family and I were just too curious and decided to try it.  We walked into the spa and it was a gorgeous peaceful atmosphere. Quiet music played in the background, candles were lit, beautiful water fountains flowed and lovely art hung on the walls. We paid RM 38.00 (US $12.00) for a thirty minute session. We washed our legs and sat on the plush cushions beside the wooden pools lined with lilies and candles.  I plunged my feet in the water and had to refrain from squealing as hundreds of fish rushed at my legs and toes! It was the strangest sensation, but quite pleasant. It felt just like leaving your legs in front of Jacuzzi jets. We were able to relax after a few minutes and at the end of the thirty minutes my legs felt soft and rejuvenated! I can feel the line where my legs were not submerged in the water!

 

Garra rufa fish originate in the river basins of Turkey, Syria, Iran and Iraq.  The practice, called Ichthyotherapy, was discovered a century ago to treat skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis. It is becoming a new trend in spas which are popping up all around Asia and Europe. My husband, my son and I all loved it, but my daughter took her feet out within ten minutes.  She could not tolerate the tickly feeling.  I have gone back again and enjoyed it as much as the first time. I highly recommend it. This is one spa treatment you will never forget!

 

 

Pangkor Island, Malaysia

I just got back from a much needed rest in Pangkor Island, Malaysia.  This was my sixth trip to the Pangkor Island Beach Resort and I am still in love with it!  Pangkor Island is on the west coast of Malaysia and just a three hour drive from KL.  Of course everyone says that all of the beautiful pristine beaches with the gorgeous blue water are on the east coast.  We have been to Redang and many other east coast beaches in Terengganu and Pahang, but we keep returning to Pangkor.

 

Pangkor Island was my first glimpse of a Malaysian beach.  The drive there is easy and scenic.  Travel the superhighway for half of the trip and then enter the back roads for about an hour.  Buffalo, palm trees, plantations, local villages and rice paddies are common sights on the route up to the island.  After a twenty minute ferry ride, you board a bus and are at the resort in two minutes.  As you step into the gorgeous open wooden lobby, the senses are alive with the smell of the ocean, the white sandy beaches with lazy swaying palm trees and the gentle lapping of the waves.  The rooms are bright and cheery, the staff is sooooo friendly and the food is good. 

 

 

There are two pools with a pool bar and a kiddie pool.  The pools are right on the edge of the beach.  A small strip of grass separates the pool area from the white clean 1.2 kilometer secluded beach.  I love this because I can watch one of my children in the ocean and the other child in the pool at the same time!  There is plenty of shade from the gorgeous palm and tropical trees lining the beach.  At the ends of the beach, the rain forest just falls right in to the sea.  They clean the beach all the time, but there are plenty of shells to collect daily. Hornbill birds swoop in and out of the trees all day with their eerie cry and their alien looking faces! 

 

Our day begins with a walk either through the golf course, down to the small ponds, or along the beach.  We saw a huge 1.5 meter monitor lizard on the other side of the pond and he just slid silently into the jungle when he saw us.  Another monitor walked down the beach one day.  We head into the breakfast buffet and sit out on the wooden deck overlooking the beach.  The staff knows us now and they all welcome us with a hand over their heart and they are genuinely happy to see the diners every day.  After our leisurely breakfast we head down to a shady spot on the beach and unload our books, water, and supplies for the day. 

 

Some of our afternoon activities have been kayaking, bicycling down to the local village, snorkeling (not too great) golfing, tennis, banana boat or flying fish, and strolling along the beach.  On one of our trips, we went to town to see the sights.  It is a small island and there is not a lot to see for someone who lives in Malaysia.  Some of the sights may be more interesting for tourists though.  There is a small Buddhist temple with a small replica of the Great Wall of China. The fishing village is fun to look at and there is an old Dutch Fort.

 

The evening begins with another trip to the buffet line and a relaxing meal out on the beachfront deck.  Some nights we go to the other restaurant and order from their menu which is excellent.  When we are stuffed we head back down to the beach for our night time stroll with our flashlights.  We chase the crabs into their holes and enjoy the waves gently rolling up onto the shore.  A visit to the open lounge upstairs reveals a cheesy, but fun Pilipino band.  We sit and play cards there with the kids or head over to the pool and ping pong tables before crashing exhausted into bed.

 

Pangkor Island is the perfect place to take a few days off  to relax!  You won’t find a better place with the facilities, beautiful beach and great staff for the price!  If you want to dive or snorkel then take the time to go to the east coast or Sipadan.  However if you want a tranquil holiday to unwind, then Pangkor is the quickest, most convenient, and affordable place to go. 

Malaysia, Expat Living For Dummies?

I have heard numerous people state that Malaysia is “Asia Living – Lite,”  in reference to how simple it is to live here. Some would argue that it is too easy to live here.  Expats who have had overseas postings in places such as Africa, Indonesia, and Uzbekistan ae shocked to find such modern conveniences in Malaysia.  Malls, which span six city blocks, rise five stories high and take all day to browse, litter every town.  Movie theaters, which play the latest showings from Hollywood to Bollywood, have waiter service and recliner chairs with pillows and blankets.  Expats can conveniently purchase imported foods from all over the world at most grocery stores.  International restaurant chains encourage the foreigners and the locals to try out the latest store opening of Chili’s, T. G. I. Friday’s, and Tony Roma’s.  Mercedes, Fords, BMWs, Chevys, Toyotas and Land Rovers cruise the super highways.  It is true, for those who chose to close their eyes and continue living as they did in their home countries, Malaysia can be Asia Living-Lite!          

 

I choose to have my eyes wide open because there is an amazing melting pot of culture, religion, language, food and beauty!  “Malaysia, truly Asia!”    Malaysia is alive with three distinct ethnic groups, Malaysian, Indian and Chinese. The Hari Raya and Deepavali festivals have recently ended and the country looks forward to the Christmas and the Chinese New Year celebrations on the horizon. In every shop lot there is a dizzying array of Indian, Malaysian, Chinese and even western products for sale.  Every night we must make dinner choices, which may include chicken tikka with naan bread, nasi lemak, chicken rice, pizza, sweet and sour pork, or curry served on banana leaf.  Once the food choice is finalized, I have to decide if I will eat at a five—star restaurant or simply sit out on the street in a roadside stall.  When driving around Kuala Lumpur, I am in awe of the contrasting beauty between the striking architecture and the lush rainforest.           

 

Malaysia is not Expat Living for Dummies!  It is a unique country with so many diverse cultural, natural, and gastronomical experiences.  On each side of our house, my female neighbors wear different types of clothing; one wears a sari, one wears jeans and short shorts, and one wears a headscarf.  Each morning when I shuffle downstairs, I can hear at least six different languages through my open kitchen window.  I smell the curries, the sausages, the rice, the fish and the pancakes cooking at 6 am.  When I take my morning walk, the call for prayer sounds from the local mosque as I see my Chinese neighbors doing Tai Chi in the park.  I am constantly immersed in international culture!          

 

If my friends and readers have been wondering where I have been lately because of my lack of postings, I have been here trying to make some tough decisions.  My family and I had concluded that we might leave KL after this year. This option did not feel right to any of us.  We are NOT ready to leave this extraordinary country that we have called home for almost four years. We have decided that we will stay right here for another year and continue to explore all of the fantastic sights in and around Malaysia!  A friend of mine laughs at me and says, “Anni, you are still astounded by seeing a coconut on the side of the road!”  This is true!  I guess the day that I cease to be excited by wild coconuts will be the day I leave KL!

Pasar Malam- Night Market Shopping

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Sunday night in our neighborhood is the Pasar Malam or the local night market.  Traffic is impossible and people are wandering everywhere with bags, trolleys, small carts, back packs.  A road is closed off and in the middle of the road are stalls with rickety tables, portable awnings, and a massive throng of people.  Smells of fresh fish, flowers, and cooking food waft through the air and your mouth begins to water.  You brace yourself and push headlong into the crowd to begin bargaining. 

 

Every Sunday I have a rendezvous with the nut man at the Bangsar Pasar Malam!  He and his wife and son run the first nut stall on the street with giant 10 kilogram bags of nuts that are loosely covered with old plates.  Nuts are my favorite snack and these are the best nuts in the world!  I have tried other stalls at this market and all over KL, but nothing compares to these nuts. Once a selection is made the stall keepers will weigh out your nuts and then seal them in a bag with string.  My usual choices include the yummiest dry roasted peanuts, cashews, pistachios and hot and sweet covered peanuts.  YUM!  Sometimes I buy the dried banana chips and the hot spicy noodles with wasabe peas and nuts. 

 

Next it is on the fruits and vegetables… You have to squeeze through the crowds of people shouting and bargaining as you dodge trolleys and parents with their toddlers on shoulders, and bags hanging everywhere.  You find the stall you want and a dirty old basket is handed to you and you pile all of the types of fruits you want inside the basket.  You will see 15 types of apples from around the globe, 5-6 types of oranges, at least 10 types of bananas and plantains.  Then all of the tropical fruits like mangos, papayas, rambutans (like a lychee) magosteens, longons, durian (YUK!!!), jack fruit, dragon fruit and too many that I cannot name. 

 

I purchase the normal western vegetables and stare helplessly at most of the other vegetables in the stalls.  What in the world are they and how would I begin to cook them?  Sometimes I just buy some that look good and try them.  Most of the time we are pleasantly surprised, but their names I cannot pronounce or remember!   After the fruits and vegetables, I find one of the best stalls here in the market the flowers and strawberries! The containers of local strawberries that are grown in Cameron Highlands are RM10 for 3 boxes (US$ 2.80).  Beautiful roses, lilies and other flowers are cheap and fresh.   

All this shopping works up an appetite!  Dinnertime!  What to choose tonight?  Fresh hot yummy Satay is cooking over hot grills as the men fan the coals in the hot humid evening.  The next grill contains chicken which is served with rice and vegetables.  At one stall, they are making a very thin pancake and filling it with unknown vegetable and nuts.  It tastes yummy!  Stalls have out fresh home cooked local curries and dishes. 

After purchasing dinner, it is time to meander home past the stalls selling t-shirts, phones, toys, watches, batiks and socks. I like to shop, but it is the whole experience of markets that I love!  I can remember shopping in the souks in Bahrain as a child.  I love the floating markets and Chata Chuck market in Bangkok.  The street shopping in Vietnam and the markets in Cambodia with all the wares laid out on the floors are amazing to see. It is the experience of being in the middle of all the culture with the local language, noise, smells and unfamiliar products that brings my senses to life each week.   

 

Where are your favorite markets?

The Adventures of an American Global Nomad, Anni…

The memory is so vivid today… The day began as any other mundane 24 hours for a young American pre-teen.  After dining in a French restaurant with her parents, her life had changed forever!            

She had grown up in a small town, sheltered and secure in the knowledge that life was as it had always been.  She was carefree and roamed her small neighborhood with the friends she had known for as long as her young mind could remember.  She attended the small school with those same friends, took bikes rides to McDonald’s and Dairy Queen, hung out at the shopping center “downtown.”  She was a Girl Scout and a tomboy and loved to be outside. 

Her family vacations had consisted of camping in New England and Canada and long car rides to visit family in PA and the NJ Shore.  A few summers ago, her family took the required American family trip to Disney World! There were only four weeks of eighth grade left and she was looking forward to going to high school the next year and becoming “a woman.” Life was perfect!       

     
 
At the French restraunt, her parents told their four children that they would travel to England and France that summer!  She was ecstatic!  Her mind began to swim with the visions she would witness in Europe.  Euphoria turned to shock when she heard that their trip wouldn’t end there.  The family would travel on to the Middle East and live in some country named, Kuwait for a year.                

So ended the life of Annie and began the life of Global Anni.              

That was 28 years ago and at the age of 42 I find myself completely and utterly unable to shake the bug that my parents planted into my impressionable 12 year old mind.  I lived in Kuwait and Bahrain as a child and returned to Bahrain as an adult and a flight attendant. I have traveled to 45 countries so far, which is 20% of the world.   I am currently married and have relocated my husband, Brian and our two children, Max and Devon to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to teach in an international school.  In the three years since my family has left the USA, we have been to 14 countries.  We are all enjoying the ”expat” life!             

I plan to use this site to document some of my new adventures with my husband and children, who are now “third culture kids,” and to reflect on some past adventures of the global nomad, Anni!  I hope you enjoy the trip!