Archive | May, 2015


27 May

Life is funny. A few months ago I was desperately yearning for a beachy vacation and was scouring the web for Caribbean locations. Of course, I wanted to plan it around our wedding anniversary timeframe in May. I was this close to finalizing stuff when the husbadoo clearly said the timing was not going to work out for him at all and I remember sulking about this a few months ago and accepting that a beach holiday was not going to happen this year maybe. Then stuff happened in a few quick weeks – we found ourselves moving out of NYC and this whole one month in Malaysia opportunity came our way. And as we are in Penang , Malaysia my co workers suggested Langkawi as the perfect weekend getaway and I ended up getting my beach vacation after all.

Of course, it was just 48 hours from Friday evening to Sunday evening, but it was fun filled, relaxing and perfect in every way that I can bottle up this weekend’s experiences and memories for the next few months or so. In short, I am so glad we went ahead with this little getaway, even though we questioned the practicality of the expenditure for just two days. Lesson to self : Sometimes practicality needs to be put aside and fun needs to be had!

So we set off on Friday evening and after the shortest plane ride found ourselves in Langkawi. We didn’t know what to expect and were pleasantly surprised. The beaches, the tours and activities, the vegetarian food options, the resort we had booked – mostly all exceeded our expectations.  It is a tourist hotspot, but we don’t particularly mind that much.  But if you do, it’s something to consider. We found ourselves comparing it a lot to say Maui for this reason, and not the quieter, untouched Kauai from our Hawaii vacation a few years ago.

We rented a car which I think is nice to have on this island if you want to get out and explore without being dependent on cabs. I saw a ton of tourists on motorbikes and scooters, but then we aren’t really bike people, we always travel with far too much luggage and have a toddler. So the car option worked well. Once we were in the arrival hall of the airport , we had different tour operators and car rental companies calling out to us from their counters with deals! Such a funny, only in Asia experience if you know what I mean. We struck a deal with one operator for the car rental, a group Island Hopping tour and a private Mangrove tour to make the best use of our time.We had picked these activities beforehand from a quick review of a huge list online and had taken into account the fact that we had less than 48 hours on the island and a toddler. But I think these were the right choices for us.

We stayed at the Berjaya which was a fun experience. I thought I had booked a sea front chalet , but alas it was only seaview. The sea front ones of course seemed awesome (grass is greener, haha) but availability and costs are quite prohibitive. The sea view chalet we had was nice though. The décor was nice, the rooms large, and we had a decent partial sea view.Not bad as we had the rainforest behind us, the sea in front of us. On stepping out of the room, you heard the constant chirp of crickets and screeching of tropical birds. We saw a huge family of adorable monkeys too which was so much fun.

We tried the Thai restaurant on site for the first night and the food was good. We now order steamed veggies and white rice for Bandar everywhere that they offer it (most places are ready to customize) and it makes eating out easy. She is not getting much protein of course , but guess it can’t be helped sometimes. It was fun and relaxing to sit by the sea as we ate on that first night of the vacation. Those are the best, aren’t they?

On Saturday morning, we awoke just in time to drive to the pick up spot for the group Island Hopping tour. Lots of bits of this pick up were poorly organized but as it was at a low price, I was okay with it. At the jetty, we were put on a speed boat with maybe 10 others and went off to the first spot. It was Bandar’s first time on a speed boat and her screams and expressions were hilarious and we got some good videos. “Take me home now. Please stop this”, was one that she shouted quite a bit! We got to the Pregnant Maiden fresh water lake and it was quite interesting to read the legend about it. The hsubadoo and Bandar seem to share the same love for jumping into strange water bodies without any worries . This stuff is seriously genetic- my MIL who is an excellent swimmer does the same anywhere she goes. Bandar has been initiated into swimming only these last 10 days or so in Malaysia for the first time in her life, but appears to love the water so far. We had a hard time convincing her to get out. The one hour they give you at this spot is barely enough to get to the lake, take a dip, get changed and get back to the jetty. There are several steps but we made it back on the boat and had a pissed off boatman to deal with as we were the last ones on.

The eagle feeding happened next – you don’t get off the boat for this one and just watch the eagles soar down to get the food in the water. The final spot was a niceish beach and we all played in the waves . The one hour here too seemed too little. The monkeys and their antics were a fun distraction too. This tour ended at the jetty that we boarded and lasted about 3.5 hours in all.

We found a nice place for lunch – Red Tomato and I wholeheartedly recommend their pizzas and pastas if you are in Langkawi. Delicious non guilty thin crust pizzas. Oh and the fun part about eating out in Asia is the fact that there is a spicy version of everything – even pasta. Perfect! After a relaxed lunch, Bandar slept off in the car and we spent a fun two hours getting lost on our way to the next tour! But there is a certain fun in the uncertainty and getting lost on vacation on an island for some reason. With the baby asleep and all the time in the world, we made our way slowly to the location.

We really tested Bandar’s endurance that day with two back to back tours, but she was such a trooper. This tour was a Mangroves tour and was a unique experience for us. The sea caves especially were thrilling. We were a little shortchanged on this tour – we were not shown a few spots that were mentioned and the “monkey feeding” that we were excited about did not happen and the tour ended suspiciously early in under 1.5 hours. Anyway, we didn’t particularly spoil our day or trip fretting about this like we usually would.

We stopped by a pretty beach on the way to the hotel. We didn’t change and get back into the water this time but just lazed about in the sand, stealing Bandar’s sand toys to play with ourselves, sipping coconut water, collecting shells. A very relaxing one hour.

Our day ended with a swim in the hotel pool. Poor Bandar has been asking for me to come swimming everyday, but as I am usually at work when they go I hadn’t seen her in the pool until then. Boy, was she in her element. Not much swimming happened but a lot of fun overall.

We had dinner at a Chinese restaurant in the resort that night. Good veggie options, food for my toddler taken care of  and very satisfying overall.

Some pictures from the day here.

Mangroves!Never been so close to them before

Mangroves!Never been so close to them before

Entering a small sea cave

Entering a small sea cave

Inside a Sea cave

Inside a Sea cave

That stretch of land in the distance is Thailand! Now if only visas were a non issue!

That stretch of land in the distance is Thailand! Now if only visas were a non issue!

Second beach trip of the day. Cajoling Bandar to share her beach toys

Second beach trip of the day. Cajoling Bandar to share her beach toys

Sunday started late with the resort overpriced breakfast. Our car gave us some trouble, but we made it to the cable car ride. What views!!I could stand and stare at the blues of the ocean for hours if I could.

Soaring over the rain forest

Soaring over the rain forest

cable car views

Lovely blues!

Lovely blues!

We then hurried to a desi food lunch at one of the island’s numerous desi/Arabic/middle eastern restaurants and bundled a sleeping Bandar and ourselves into the car for a final ride to the airport. We were back in Penang by 6 pm , so a very short trip overall. Yet, a totally unexpected and fun weekend getaway just a few days short of our 6th wedding anniversary this week.

Life right now

21 May

Good stuff:

The Asian hospitability being bestowed upon me– My team at work here is really super sweet. Somehow there is a certain warmth that I haven’t experienced before. They take a detour to drop me off each day at my hotel, though I can take a cab easily. They bring me cups of green tea when they realized I like it. They know I am vegetarian so they found pure vegetarian places all over the city and take me to lunch almost every day. All these actions really touch my heart.

Vegetarian Asian food – I didn’t know that there are a lot of pure vegetarian Chinese restaurants around – some don’t use milk, onions or garlic even, funny right! I have now tasted a lot of vegetarian versions of Malaysian delicacies that are usually made in seafood or meat based broths because of these lunches. I like Asian food to begin with so this is all delicious for  me.

Coming home to the hotel room from work – Seeing Bandar’s face when I am back home to the hotel is one thing,  I love the warm hugs she gives me and it melts my work stress away. She’s also started saying “I lub you sooo much” as she hugs me which is awesome to hear.  But seeing the Husbadoo too is another kind of happiness. For the longest time, he has either returned late from work, or slept at work all night  or returned for a few hours to eat a hurried dinner together with a show on and then work while I slept.  So after ages , I have him free and relaxed and happy in the evenings. I know this is probably short lived till he starts his new job in a few months but we have been talking about a better schedule for us as a family, regular hours, sleeping at the same time, early dinner together and so on. Let’s see how much of this we actually follow when the time comes

Breakfast-  We are usually skipping one meal  a day with jetlag- mostly dinner. Think this is keeping our diet in check as a whole because our breakfast is seriously lavish. We are also ravenous by the time breakfast time rolls around. The buffet is pretty damn awesome – first there are the muffins, croissants, cereal, fruit, toast- the usual continental fare. The fun stuff is the seriously unhealthy stuff –the pasta with desi spices, the potato wedges, mini samosas, the roti kanai . All delicious and stuff we indulge in everyday. Really need to stop soon.I have hit the hotel gym ZERO times and done really no form of exercise in two months. Caught sight of my reflection on a glass door at work and had a shock – is that really me. I have become fat and sleek and shiny with this lifestyle in just a week.

Weekend site seeing and planning – I am living for the weekends here and usually have some travel blog or trip advisor open for a quick browsing break. My next few posts will be about some of this.

The proximity to shopping and cheap massages –  I haven’t bought a single piece of clothing for any of us here but that resolve is fast fading. I don’t particular find anything that much cheaper than the US on clearance and sale. But then I haven’t had a full chance to hunt around either. Been avoiding it but its getting hard!

I did get a head massage , unintentional when I went in for a wash and blowdry and it was crazy intense and a little painful with some aftereffects of lightheadedness. But my team here is telling me to get a Balinese style or Thai style relaxing one ,rather than the Chinese ones which maybe I got.

Waking up to brilliant sunrises – Thanks to the jetlag we are all up earlyish. Bandar loves sitting by our hotel room window and spotting the sun rising. I haven’t in recent years been up cosnsistently everyday to see the sunrise, so sharing this serene moment each morning with my toddler is bliss.

The not so good stuff:

Pissed off with adapters , wattage difference and their like. Our cute and tiny rice cooker which was the sole equipment to sustain Bandar here in the hotel room for a month conked off in one use, as it looks like we had an adapter but not convertor. My hair straightener met the same end. We bought another rice cooker here but that too seems to be burning and we are hesitant to use it. Seriously beginning to doubt the two power points in our hotel room. And oh there is no return policy like the US here, so I am stuck with a useless rice cooker that isn’t compatible with US wattage, which I will never use again.

The hair straightener issue has been dealt with weekly hair ironing appointments at the nearby salon which I am counting towards “me-time” indulgences. Of course, I can go work with curly hair but vanity won’t allow it.

Work in general. It’s depressing, scary, intense and stressful. But I am dealing with it the best I know how.But worrisome all the same.

Worry about our US return. Major decision making in three interlinked areas – The husbadoo’s career choice decision thus determining our city of choice (think we have this down but some things have to be ironed out) , a temporary living situation for two months if we go with city of choice, and Bandar arrangements –temporary first and then permanent.   The latter two areas involve me staying up into the night hours here to think, plan, phone and email and I haven’t even started this process.

Not connecting with my parents . This is weird but I was better connected with my mom and dad when I was in the US. The time difference now is only 2.5 hours, but between roaming rates, unable to make calls on the go, jetlag and work I have gone days without talking to my folks which is rare for me.

Unclean restrooms everywhere. Work, mall – you name it. I have hardly dealt with the unsanitary US bathroom in years now- we barely  do roadtrips and I have not had to contend with gas station restrooms and their like in a while. Otherwise public restrooms are really clean in the US in most places – doc offices, malls, work of course, gym etc. I am past my squat and hover days. But have put them into full use off late here. Now I know that hovering in itself is the cause of an unsanitary seat and in turn restroom, but an unsanitary seat in the first place leads me to hover. I just wipe down seat before and after the hover activity and make my peace with it. Otherwise I try and use only the hotel one when I can help it. Oh and Bandar is almost fully potty trained and mostly diaper free all the time these days, so I am getting more than my fair exposure to dirty public toilets with this. The joy!

From the other side of the world

17 May

The last few weeks since my last post brought with them a whirlwind of activity for our little family.In this time, we have executed a logistical nightmare of a move out and also successfully put ourselves on a plane across the world and we are now in Malaysia! A trip that was over complicated more than it should have ever been due to insane visa issues. So us just even being here was highly unlikely about 2 weeks ago. Anyway, we are here now for the next one month– I had a timely work trip come up and the husbadoo was free this month to take off and come with me and bring Bandar in tow of course !  So we are on our much desired little Asian adventure – if you call staying in an extremely nice hotel and eating lavish buffets an adventure, that is.

When my manger gave me a call a few weeks ago to ask me if I was interested in this opportunity to work out of Malaysia, we were neck deep in uncertainty about our future location as a whole and had a whole lot of chaos in our lives in general. But that did not stop me from almost jumping out of my seat with a yes! You see, working and living in Asia is something the husbadoo and I had spoken about time and time again and this was like being handed this dream on a platter. I would have thought twice maybe if this meant leaving the hubs and bubs behind for a month, but as the possibility of them coming with me because of the sheer timing was strong, we were really excited about it. The whole thing required some major planning though. We had given notice in our NYC apartment for the end of May, which we had to move up to the first week of May to start with. We had to reschedule the movers to take our stuff to storage and vacate the apartment. I wanted to cook till the very last day as the FIL was still visiting us till the day of the move. We were still confused (and still kind of are) about where we will live once we return the US in June.But somehow everything materialized in some weird way.

The days leading upto the move were crazy hectic. Apart from all the random packing ( I need a shopping ban for three years , no kidding with the junk we have) , we had the farewells – the husbadoo’s and Bandar’s. Bandar’s was especially emotional with her school teachers breaking down and then me shedding a few tears and silly Bandar being overwhelmed with all the attention and not reacting till a good 24 hours later in tears.

What I especially hated about this move was the fact that I couldn’t give Bandar the attention she needed leading upto this move. I really would have hired help to pack if things were better organized in our apartment to begin with. Plus I was sorting things into three categories – stuff to take with us to Malaysia if we ever got visas, stuff we would need for 2 months when we got back to put into two suticases, and finally the rest of the household to move to storage. Bandar needed me so badly those last few days and even weeks and my evenings after work were so wrapped up in packing and cooking and I was stressed, bad tempered and cranky even those few minutes I spent putting her to bed each night. I hated the person I had become and the only thing to do was  to remember to take down the stress a notch around Bandar and wait for it all to end in a few days and vow to make it up to her in my head.

The day of the move was a marathon day that started for us at 7 am and ended around midnight.It was only when we were driving in a rental car ,wedged with numerous odds and ends , at 11 pm to my cousin’s house in Jersey that it actually sunk in that we had moved out of the City. Bittersweet but we chug forward to bigger and better.

Anyway its been about five days since we got to Malaysia. The weekdays are mostly all the same – with me going off to work around 8 am and getting back at around 5 PM. Work is hectic to say the least and people all around me are hoping for some miraculous results and  I am no miracle worker at all , so everyone’s expectations are more than a tad scary. Such is life, you can’t have it all! Meanwhile,the husbadoo has the not so easy task of managing Bandar by himself when I am away. He was looking forward to the bonding time before we got here and has not complained so far( Seriously lucked out with this guy) but I wonder if a breakdown is around the corner .We are all three pretty severely jetlagged too, but now maybe it is less jetlag and more laziness today as it’s been 5 days. This weekend we actually got out and took in a few sights.

On the whole,  it’s unparalleled happiness to travel for work with  family in tow and I really don’t think we are going to get this kind of together-time ever again. The husbadoo is embarking on a new career once we get back, we will be in a new city, Bandar will in a new school – tons of changes around the corner and somehow we really needed this break before it all.  I will post again soon with a little of what we see and do around here, so stay tuned.

The pictures on the wall

2 May

So the pictures came down today. I did this today, the packing ritual I usually save for the very end, I did unusually early this time as far as the packing-moving stages go. I was packing a box of thick winter clothes and it made sense to wrap the pictures well and put them in the same box cushioned among the clothes. So its done now and we better really be moving as I am not putting these back up on the walls of this apartment!

Yes, we are moving – where to is still up in the air. This is no easy move from place A to place B for which we will go first and our stuff will follow later. No , we do things fairly more complicatedly around here – and it keeps us busy and happy, to see the least! The move will happen to either place B or C , both with their own pros and cons and either one month from now or three months from now. And for the next one month, we are probably going to place D – I say “probably” because things are still not finalized with regards to this – place D requires visas which we still haven’t received. And our trip is about 10 days away. Before we jet off though, we need to move out and put our stuff in storage as our apartment will have to be vacated. Phew! Sorry for the cryptic crap here – I will share things in due course of time as things become clear even to me! Talk about chaos around here.

I moved quite a bit as a child and with every move, the wall art and pictures coming down symbolized the finality of the move.The pictures we usually did last, keeping them on the wall till the final day before the move. The evening before the movers were due, my mom would go around the house removing the pictures and commenting on them or noticing things she hadn’t before or commenting that the picture had never really been hung up at the right spot to begin with. And the pictures going up on new walls again, symbolized the fact that we had settled in and actually had found time to hang up the pictures. Usually this was a good week or two after we actually moved. And the box the pictures were in, would be the last one to be disposed off when empty.

Today ,was no different – the finality of the move hit me hard as I took the pictures down .And of course , it hit the people who saw me do it too. The Husbadoo’s teenage cousin  who is visiting us, saw me stand on the couch and gently unhook our family pictures and he chuckled and commented that we really were moving now, huh! I grinned and commented that I guessed so! I then spent a few more minutes than needed looking at each picture and smiling to myself . Bandar’s first studio picture at 20 days – she still had that goofy old person look that newborns have, her six month picture – those cheeks where did they go, our only studio picture before Bandar , when I was maybe 6 weeks pregnant – I did have some sort of glow about me, even if I say so myself! I remember moving into this apartment, figuring out that our previous furniture placement thoughts would have to be re- planned as we now had sloping floors to contend with! So we had to first figure out where the furniture would be placed and then which wall would be good for the pictures. I remember hanging them up in this apartment , I remember the few house guests we have had commenting on them, I remember frame hunting for them. In all the chaos in our lives right now, I think positive thoughts – we will be in a home again soon, the important thing is we are together -physically and emotionally though all these changes and tough decisions we are taking.These pictures will come with us to other apartment walls , and maybe some other stairway walls when we buy a place and will hopefully be the first of many that we will take. And then years from now, they will lie in an attic somewhere, where Bandar’s children or grand children, if she chooses to have them, will probably never give them a second glance! So the whole moment for me was of course symbolic of change, and maybe  it would have left me vaguely unsettled to have them off so early in the game,  but for the spin I choose to give it my head  of the exciting years ahead of us.

The husbadoo maybe choose not to look at these pictures off the wall as anything other than routine moving stuff. Apart from confirming with me that the sharp pins the pictures were hung on, were out of Bandar’s reach, he really didn’t seem to be bothered about them being off the wall at all. Maybe its because of the non -romantic, almost fearful association he makes with moves. He detests change and is understandably nervous, stressed and overwhelmed at the same time. Bandar didn’t even notice or comment the pictures were off the wall when she got back from school. Geez, surprised me as I prided myself in having a pretty observant child, guess I was wrong! We have shared what we can with a two year old about the next few months at this point and in her muddled toddler brain we will do some fun things this summer but return home to NYC. “New York will always be home, right? ” , “No one else is going to live in my house” , “I will come back to my school soon ” … these are the kind of things she has been spouting the last few weeks and we respond as gently as we can. Hopefully she is young enough to adapt easily and surprises us by getting through all these changes well.

So I am going to take it upon myself to be the family’s torch bearer of move excitement for now. Wish us luck and joy and hopefully those pictures will be gracing our new happy home sometime soon.