Rules

I’ve been thinking about rules. Of course, Singapore has quite a few rules. But as we headed to Malaysia by bus, I began to think about when we encounter lots of rules, it becomes difficult to understand which ones are bendable or breakable, and that seems important.

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We began the ‘backpacking’ part of our journey in Singapore.  We booked a ‘luxury’ bus to Malacca, a historic ‘small’ town in southern Malaysia. My first impression of not understanding the rules came quickly. The taxi driver dropped us and our luggage off on what looked like the side of the street downtown Singapore.  As we looked around, we found that we were indeed next to a bus.  However, upon asking if this was the bus we were to take to Malacca, we were abruptly answered, “You wait.”  So, we found two other young ladies with backpacks sitting on the lawn next to the bus on the side of the street, and decided to sit down next to them to wait, as instructed. It was the bus to Malacca, Malaysia, and we did get on. The seats were quite comfortable, but at this point in our journey, it didn’t seem luxurious.

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Our next encounter with rules came as we wondered whether or not to open our snacks and water. There was a large sign at the front of the bus telling us “No Food. No Drink.” But, our research had recommended that we bring food and drink for the 4 hour ride. Other passengers broke out their biscuits and water, so we did too. We found a ‘breakable’ rule.

As we left Singapore and crossed into Malaysia, the bus stopped at immigration. We wondered whether we were meant to take our luggage off of the bus. We asked again, and again, were rather abruptly told, “Follow your friends!”. So we did….with our luggage. Guess that was the rule because as we followed the fellow backpackers, the departure cards for Singapore in our passports were taken, and our passports were stamped with Malaysian visas.

 

Our hotel in Malacca had a lovely small swimming pool on the roof.  One of our favorite times to swim is in the rain, and it poured, so of course, we went swimming.  Within 30 minutes, we were told (kindly, this time) that we couldn’t swim in the rain. Must have been another rule (yes, I know about lightening).

It seemed difficult for both of us in Malacca to figure out the rules.  We seemed to both be looking for some space to be “us” and have time within our own ‘rules’.

This is important. I thought about the rules we have in our family…our little two person family and larger family. This is an easy space to live in because we understand the rules.  We also don’t have many “Do This Properly and Don’t Do This” type of rules.  (Thanks, mom and dad).

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Down Time

I began to think about religious rules. Much of Malaysia is Muslim, that has often seemed to me to be a religion with many rules. Sometimes, we could hear the Call to Prayer which was calming and beautiful.  We stopped whatever we were doing when we heard it and listened. It did spark many conversations about rules.  What did it mean to pray? Why wear head coverings?

It seems that the fewer the rules, the easier it is to live.  The Call to Prayer was beautiful, but beauty of religion gets lost in the rules. We were happy to appreciate the beauty of Islam.

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We took the bus next to Kuala Lumpur. Again, there were so few explanations of the ‘proper’ way. We guessed and watched.  We met an American family there, but again we recognized that our family rules are different from another family’s rules, even within a similar cultural background.

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One of our outings in Kuala Lumpur took us to the National Mosque.  This was a wonderful experience for me. It was the first time I’d ever been in a mosque. The rules within the space disappeared.  Strange, isn’t it?   It was a calm place to gather, sit, and pray. Maritza even sat on a massage chair for tourists while we were walking around.  The people working at the mosque were welcoming and helpful, willing to answer our questions and let us enjoy the beautiful space!

After Kuala Lumpur, which is a huge city, we hopped on the ‘luxury’ bus to Penang, Malaysia and found that this bus really was luxurious in comparison.  The seats went way back, a lady next to us had studied in Connecticut and was amused by our questions about the ‘rules’ and answered kindly, we were given sandwiches and water, and we even had internet!

Our first ever stay in an Air Bnb was very relaxing. Our friendly host showed us our room, our fabulous lounge and the massive swimming pool.  He took us to dinner and helped us acclimate to the rules of Penang. Maritza and I ventured out via Uber (a technologically impressive car service) twice. Both experiences were comfortable.  However, most of our time in Penang was spent ‘de-stressing’ from the experiences with rules.  Here we didn’t have any new and strange rules to figure out. We swam, worked, washed clothes, and had gentle dinners ‘out on the town’. We even took a long trishaw ride around Georgetown.

Our last stay in Malaysia was at the beach. Here we ‘let loose’. The place is full of tourists! All kinds of tourists!  Each with their own rules.  It was relaxing in a different way.  Here, no matter what we did or wore, we fit right in.  Maritza found some beach boy brothers to tease, and I swam in the healing ocean. I think it deserves a post all by itself!

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We’re off to Bangkok and the train in Thailand. I’d say we’ve learned to keep rules simple! Good lesson.

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Differences and Diversity in Singapore

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We arrived in Singapore on Monday around noon and left via “luxury” bus to Malaysia on Thursday at 11:00 a.m.

So, the two full days we spent in Singapore were mostly for me to take Maritza to a few of my favorite places.  On Wednesday, we started with walking a few blocks to the MRT (public underground train system). It is a sterile efficient system. We really are in this picture…if you look very closely.

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We started out in Singapore with coffee on Orchard Road.  Maritza and I talked about commerce as important in Singapore, so that’s what we were looking at.  Our coffee, green apple smoothie, and muffins were very expensive.  We did some people watching and saw all colors of hair, styles of dress, and heard many different languages. As we sat there in the café sweating, we also saw people wearing sweatshirts and jeans. How different from our tank tops!

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Our feet grew terribly sore from walking on the hot cement. It is so different from walking on the earth back at home, or even the snow.

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We did a little shopping in the ‘cheap’ mall. When we walked in, we stood in the middle a looked at the many floors of stores.  Maritza even attempted a barter! She didn’t win.

As we got back on the MRT, I noticed such a difference between my outgoing exuberant daughter and the still and stoic MRT passengers. She is certainly full of loving life.  I was happy when a boisterous family got on!

The second day we were in Singapore, I wanted to show Maritza Little India and Chinatown. However, since we didn’t need the entire day, we spent a little time doing some work by the pool. What a difference in motivation to do math when she can take breaks by the pool!

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In the afternoon, we went off to Little India and Chinatown.  Of course, we were looking at the differences in these two pieces of Singapore.

We even found some differences in Little India!  We started out by going to the Tekka center right next to the MRT station. I had forgotten that the main floor was full of food – apples, oranges, durian (oh, the terrible smell), meat of all sorts, animal heads, noise, and humid heat. It was far more smell than we were able to stomach. Normally, we chew gum while walking around smelly places, but gum is illegal to sell in Singapore, and I didn’t have any in my bag!

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Luckily across the street was a little colorful bazaar that smelled like incense.  It was shaded and cooler. We drank some cola while three giggly girls gave Maritza a beautiful henna design on her hand. They promised to look us up in Minnesota when they visited.  One girl said we’d remember each other’s faces and find each other. It was a bit difficult for Maritza to understand that it is acceptable to say “no, thank you” when accosted by aggressive salespeople and walk away. To her this seemed rude.

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She finds it hard to understand how dancing on an MRT is rude, yet saying ‘no, thank you’ and walking away from a friendly person is not rude.

We found the most perfect place to eat and rest our aching feet. We sat in the shade at a street restaurant and ordered mango lassi, butter chicken, rice, butter nann, and yogurt cucumber salad.  You can see that we both loved it.  Slurped up every last drop!

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So, as pungent as Little India was, Chinatown was colorful! We purposefully went at night. It was different from my own memory.  Our feet were so sore by this time, that we did pay for a foot reflexology.  Not quite the same as a massage, but we were able to continue walking for a while. We meandered through the noisy crowds, bought a little monkey for Chinese New Year’s Year of the Monkey.

That was our time in Singapore.  As expected, full of diversity and differences!

On being nice

I took notes for this post on one of the airplanes, and as I sit here in Singapore outside, watching Maritza swim in a tropical rainstorm, I’m forgetting my grumpy thoughts. We arrived finally here at our first stop in SouthEast Asia, Singapore.  We’re staying with friends of my sister who have a pool and fed us curry.

I should restate.  I didn’t have grumpy thoughts, but I did observe people who were nice and several who were not nice. As we began our trip on standby, agents didn’t seem to find it necessary to be nice or kind. At one point there was even some eye-rolling while helping us “non-rev’s”.  It was comforting to walk into a restaurant in the Seattle airport where two very kind wait staff set us up with a table next to a fireplace and told us to take our time. The kindness was starkly different from our morning.

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Standby ended up to not work out for us on this trip. I ended up buying tickets through New York and Abu Dhabi. I was excited to spend some time in Abu Dhabi, and posted on Facebook for advice. Word rather quickly spread through Facebook, and I was set up with options.  More kindness! Although this kindness is very common among wantoks, it never fails to surprise me. Unfortunately, I read the tickets wrong, and we only had two hours in Abu Dhabi instead of sixteen.  Ah well, next time. The airport was beautiful!

Two of my oldest and bestest friends went far out of their way to spend time with us…one in Seattle and one in New York. Kindness in a super fantastic way.

I’m not sure I did a great job practicing kindness.  I think I got better as I got more tired. I focused more on being nice to people around me. Is it really harder to do this as a mom? Maybe I assume that Maritza knows I am happy to be doing this trip with her, but I think I need to remember that she needs to be told. I can see her reacting to my unkind tendency to be bossy instead guiding. When she knows that her outgoing unashamed friendly personality makes my experiences so much richer and joyful, we get along just fine. However, when I unkindly ruin her joyful outbursts and hip hop dances in the security lines by instructing her in the proper way, we just don’t get along fine. She feels bad. I feel bad. And no one smiles.

These are good lessons to learn at the beginning of this trip!

Now, I shall take time to enjoy the tropical rainstorm and doing schoolwork outside in the rain with breaks for swimming.

 

 

Still beginning

The beginning of our adventure (backpacking around SE Asia) has taken us so far to Saint Paul, MN. We tried to get on a flight yesterday as we’re flying standby.

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We were all bright eyed and bushy tailed. However, even though we knew that we may not get on a flight, our hearts dropped a little when the flight took off without us. We bought ourselves a cup of coffee and iced green tea.

Maritza had made herself her first nest. She is really quite good at making nests.  This was the first nest of this trip.  Even though we didn’t get on the flight, I had to document the first nest.

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So, we headed back to my sister’s house. We kept busy. Finishing up some planning and preparing.  It was good to have an extra day.  Tuesday morning though the flights looked terrible.  We were #20 and #21 with only 5 seats open.  We didn’t even go to the airport.

However, we did go to the Como Conservatory and Zoo.  It was warm and kept us busy.
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So, we managed to enjoy ourselves. I must say it is a good beginning to our adventure.  Even though we haven’t left the snowy winter, we’re still exploring and discovering.

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It is good to have a daughter who stays upbeat and positive. She misses home, but a phone call this afternoon was comforting. She looks forward to Skyping with our neighbors, cousin, Uncle, Mormor, and Papa.

P.S. I didn’t finish this when I wrote the other day, so I’ll add a little note. Today is Thursday, Day 4 of our adventure.  We tried to get on a flight yesterday again, but no luck. We had another coffee, but this time with frozen yogurt

Today we stayed home and worked on school for the first time. Maritza and I did well.  I was patient, and Maritza was persistent.  I think we’ll do just fine. We learned about animals of SE Asia and how to say “thank you” in Malaysian, “Terima Kasih”. I must say we’re more than ready!

We’ll try to get from Minneapolis to Narita, Japan once more tomorrow morning. If not, I think we’ll try to go to Detroit and then Shanghai, China. We can buy fairly reasonable tickets to Singapore from there.  I appreciate being able to fly at a cheaper rate, but I’m also appreciating the ease of confirmed seats. Of course, we might both be loving standby as we sit in an airplane in first class for 10 hours. Stay tuned!