Monday, August 20, 2012

Summer 2012

Travel Escalator

As summer vacation began to approach, I was listening to friends at school make their plans to go back to the States and others worrying that their kids would be bored staying in Penang for the summer.  Well, mine did not get to return to the States, but they can definitely not complain about being bored.  The day after school got out, we hopped on a plane to Hong Kong to meet my parents.  We got to do some things we did not do when we were in Hong Kong in January such as see the Symphony of Lights, ride the longest outdoor travel escalator and go to Ocean Park.

Symphony of Lights - view from roof of YMCA
We also discovered that it is fun to stay at the YMCA - at least in Hong Kong!  Great view from our rooms and from the roof you had a wonderful view of the light show.  And, it is close to a subway station!

Botanic Gardens 

We then headed to Penang with my parents to show them around the island we are currently calling home.  We had to take them to the Spice Garden, the Butterfly Farm, Penang Hill, Youth Park, Botanic Gardens, the War Museum and the State Museum.  It was a busy week and a half.  However, our adventures were not over. 

We then packed our bags again and headed to Singapore with my parents before they had to return to Texas.  There was so much to do in Singapore so we had to make the best use of our time.  We started off our trip with a day at the Singapore Zoo followed by the Night Safari.  The Singapore Zoo is definitely one of my favorite zoos that we have visited so far and we have gone to quite a few.  My kids got the chance to ride an elephant again and Cade got into a sunflower seed shelling contest with an orangutan  - the orangutan won! 

Cade shelling sunflower seeds.

Singapore Zoo - Elephant Ride

We also got to ride on the Singapore Flyer which is currently the tallest Ferris wheel in the world, but we have heard rumors that they are building a taller one in New York.  I guess we will just have to plan a visit to New York!  We spent a day at the Singapore Science Centre where we got to get in for free because of the annual membership we got last summer at the NASA Space Center in Huntsville, Alabama.  (We also got in for free at the Petrasains Museum in Kuala Lumpur.)  My parents then had to return to Texas (and I think they were ready because we had kept them busy for three weeks).  However, we had an extra day in Singapore so off we went to Universal Studios.  Taking out Disney World, this is the best theme park I have been to.  The Transformer ride was awesome - Cade rode it three times.  Cade also was tall enough to ride the rides that go upside down and he discovered he really likes them.  Now we just have to stretch Cara a little so she is tall enough. 
Universal Studios Singpore

We then headed back to Penang to wait for a week and a half for our best friends to arrive for a visit to Penang.  While we were waiting, my kids had a sleepover with friends whose parents are dorm parents at Dalat so my kids were very excited to get to spend the night on campus.  They also started diablo lessons and judo lessons.  So the week and a half went by quite quickly. 
Then the Strobel's arrived and we had to show them around our little island of course.  So another trip to the Spice Garden (actually two because our first trip got rained out), the butterfly farm, a drive around the island, Fort Cornwallis, the Chew Jetty, Hard Rock Hotel and lots of restaurants (it is easier and cheaper to take 8 people out to eat than to try to get stuff to cook plus my kitchen is much smaller).  It was wonderful to get to see them and to have someone back home that knows where we have been living and what life is like here in Penang.  We also introduced them to some fabulous food and now I have to learn how to make Char Kway Teow before I can move home.

Hard Rock Hotel

Fort Cornwallis

Once the Strobel's left, we had five days before we were heading out to China.  We had gotten our Chinese Visas while we were in Hong Kong so now we could go.  I wasn't so sure about going to China, but my kids really wanted to go, and when would we be so close again.  Our first stop was Beijing.  Thank goodness for my friend Kim who had been there last year and she passed along the contact info for the tour guide they had used to go to the Great Wall.  We decided to go ahead and book Cady for three days.  She took us to Tianamen Square, the Forbidden City, the Summer Palace, Hutong area, Mutinayu to see the Great Wall, and to some great restaurants.  It was so great to have a tour guide and a driver and Cady told us some great stories along the way. I think our favorite was the Great Wall.  We got to ride up on a cable car and then walk along the Great Wall for a little while.  Then the real fun came and we rode a toboggan down.  Not something any of us will forget! 

Drum Tower

Cade and Cara became quite the attraction at Olympic Park.
 People were lining up to have their pictures taken with them. 

The Great Wall

The Great Wall

Cady then arranged for us to have a tour guide in Xi'an to see the Terra Cotta Warriors.  Ruby was our tour guide in Xi'an.  She took us to the factory and Cade and Cara got to see how they made the warriors.  It was truly amazing to see all the unearthed warriors and hard to imagine that there are still more that they have not excavated.   We also got to walk along the city wall in Xi'an.

Cade and Cara got to make
their own Terra Cotta Warriors.

Terra Cotta Warriors - I believe this is pit 2.
Pearl Tower
Shanghai World
Financial Center
Unfortunately, we only had one full day in Xi'an and then we were off to Shanghai.  I don't know if I was just tired of traveling or if it was Shanghai, but it was definitely not my favorite place.  Our main reason for the stop in Shanghai was to go up into the Shanghai World Financial Center tower which currently has the world's tallest observation deck.  Cade wants to go up into as many tall building as he can so we got to mark another one off his list.  We also went up into the Pearl Tower where we got to walk out on a glass observation deck and look down on Shanghai.  We did get to eat some great food in Shanghai including some great Shanghai dumplings.  We enjoyed our China trip, but we were all ready to get back home to Penang. 

Temple in Cambodia

Angkor Wat

Of course, summer vacation wasn't over and Chris had another day off at the beginning of August so we had to go on another trip.  So, Cambodia here we come.  I was not looking forward to Cambodia - not for any reason other than I was done with traveling.  We got some advice from some friends who had been and managed to again book a tour guide which again was a wonderful blessing.  Mr. Nin picked us up after we arrived at the hotel and took us to Angkor Wat and then to some other temples.  He told us some history along the way and pointed out some of the carvings. 
The second day we went to the floating village and got to have an idea what life is like in Cambodia. 
Floating Village
The last day we went to the artisan market and the silk farm.  Then Mr. Nin took us to eat lunch at a local's restaurant.  Cambodia is definitely a place I could visit again.

Local Restaurant -
The kids enjoyed relaxing in the hammocks while we waited on our food. 
The food was great.  So glad we got to try out a local place.

During the few days we weren't traveling this summer, we did manage to stay quite busy and enjoyed a few days with friends at the Hard Rock Hotel.  Now, school has started so we will have to limit our trips for a while. 

First Day of School -
Cara in 2nd grade and Cade in 4th grade
 However, we are already working on our New Zealand/Australia trip during the Christmas break!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012


Since Tuesday, May 1st is Labor Day here in Malaysia, my kids were out of school on Monday and Tuesday and Chris had a holiday on Tuesday so we decided to go to Phuket, Thailand.  Unfortunately, direct flights from Penang to Phuket aren't everyday so we had to leave on Friday and come back on Monday.  The kids weren't too sad about missing an extra day of school. 
Once we arrived, we had a van take us the 40 minutes to our hotel where we were greeted with cold drinks and leis.  The resort was beautiful.  There were 6 pools and it was right on the beach.  Luckily, we were able to get a family room (which meant it had a king size bed, a twin bed, and they added a roll away twin into the room) and we didn't have to get two rooms.  Finding hotel rooms for a family of four is quite a challenge over here!  We were there at the beginning of the "rainy" season so it wasn't as crowded as other times.  It did rain on us some, but not enough to keep us from enjoying our trip.   
Cade's birthday was on Saturday so we told him he could pick one thing he wanted to do special while in Phuket.  He chose to ride an elephant.  So, after breakfast on Saturday, we headed out for an elephant ride even though it was raining.  It was quite an experience.  I am sure Cade will always remember his 9th birthday!

 We were able to surprise Cade at dinner and they brought out a cake and sang happy birthday.  He was completely surprised by it. 

The kids had a great time hanging out at the beach, playing in the sand and the waves.  They also enjoyed swimming in the different pools that were at the resort. 
Racha Isle
On Sunday, we took a boat out to Racha Isle for some snorkeling and relaxing at some other beaches.  Cade and Cara had recently gotten snorkels, masks, and fins and had been enjoying using them in the pool.  Once we were in the sea and they got to see the beautiful coral and fish, they finally understood the point of snorkeling.  I don't think they will ever find snorkeling in the pool to be as much fun!

Cade caught a hermit crab.  He wanted to bring it home for his pet.
A few of our favorites from this trip were the elephant made out of towels on the bed in the hotel room, the elephant ride, the snorkeling, and getting to eat "real" bacon!   It was also great to just relax on the beach or by the pool.  Phuket is a beautiful place.  I am so glad we were able to go and I am hoping we might be able to go there again.  I am also grateful that there weren't any tsunamis while we were there since when the earthquake hit a few weeks ago, they did get hit by a small one.  I did check out where we were to go in case of a tsunami warning just in case!
Elephant towel

Friday, February 24, 2012

It is hard to believe that we have been in Penang less than 2 months.  We are definitely starting to settle in, and I realized that we have yet to leave the island since we arrived.  The kids want to go to the main land so they can ride the ferry and then ride across the bridge on the way back.  I am sure we will be doing that soon, but we have stayed quite busy. 
Here are some pictures of a few things Penang Island has to offer:

Botanical Gardens

The Botanical Gardens are beautiful.  The kids enjoyed watching the monkeys run around.  You do have to be careful not to have food because the monkeys will come try to take it away. 

Tropical Spice Garden

The Tropical Spice Garden added a new children's area called Slides and Ladders.  It is a 3d version of the game Chutes and Ladders.  It was fun to watch the kids play it and they really enjoyed playing it and it was a great way to get them to tour the garden.  

Butterfly Farm

The Penang Butterfly Farm was fun to go through, too.  There were lots of butterflies, and the kids school has a butterfly farm at the campus to help in repopulating one of the local butterflies.  

Lion Dance

We arrived in Penang just in time for Chinese New Year which until we got here, I didn't realize lasted for two weeks.  We were able to see a lion dance one night.  We are all trying to catch up on our sleep still because the fireworks were nightly and lasted all night. 

Youth Park

The Youth Park is wonderful.  There are many different playscapes around the park and some pools.  The kids got to use their scooters they got for Christmas there.  I am sure we will be going there quite often. 


The food is great.   We are all getting use to the different spices and slowly learning what different dishes are.  I have a feeling one thing we will really miss when we return to Texas is the food over here.  I had a request for a picture of a fish we ate with the head on so here it is.  We are definitely enjoying all the seafood!  One of the other things we are enjoying is going to restaurants on the beach and the kids going to play in the sand while we finish eating and visiting with friends - it definitely beats McDonald playscapes!

So this is just a glimpse of some of the things we have been doing here in Penang while we are on our "extended vacation".  Penang is a beautiful island, and I can't wait to see what else it has to offer. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

School in Penang

As most people know, I love the schools in Liberty Hill.  The teachers, staff, administration are all wonderful.  My kids were blessed with the most amazing teachers each year they were in Liberty Hill.  I thought my kids would start kindergarten in Liberty Hill and then graduate from high school there.  Well, obviously God had different plans for all of us. 
However, God definitely blessed our obedience for moving here to Penang with another amazing school.  The school is an American, Christian school.  So, as you can guess all the teachers, staff, and administration are Christians.  Now, not all the students and parents are Christians, but the atmosphere at the school is very loving and warm.  It was a little strange to think that the school is for 3 year olds up to 12th graders, but it works beautifully.  My kids love getting to see some middle school and high school kids that they know and saying hello. Cara also likes that she gets to have lunch with Cade and some days she chooses to sit next to him at lunch.  Luckily, he hasn't complained about this, yet.  They were even playing American football together at recess one day because they have recess at the same time, too. 
The classrooms do look different since there are I believe 30 different nationalities represented at the school.  I think it is great that my kids are getting to meet people from so many other parts of the world.  Can't wait to see how God uses this later in their lives. 
I have of course found a way to get involved.  I am a lunch "mum" once a week so I get to go help out with lunch and recess with the elementary kids.  I get there early to get the silverware and napkins ready so I get to see the high school kids come in and they are very respectful and polite.  There is also a group that meets to pray each week.  Unfortunately, I had something else scheduled the past two weeks, but I have it on my calendar now and hope to be able to join them each week. 
We are very blessed by the schools our kids have attended so far.  Just a big reminder that God is in control and that I can trust Him with all the details. 

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Adjusting to life in Penang

We have been here in Penang a little over two weeks, and there are a few things I am still trying to get use to so I thought I would share some of them.

1) All the switches - There are probably over 40 switches in our 3 bedroom apartment and there is still one switch we aren't sure what it does. There are switches for everything including the water heaters for the kitchen and each of the bathrooms.  It takes the water about 30 minutes to heat up so I have gotten wise and now turn the water heater on at night in my bathroom so I don't have to get up 30 minutes early or take a cold shower.  The kids are learning to turn theirs on early, too.
2) The driving - they drive on the wrong side of the road and the steering wheel is on the wrong side of the car.  However, I have started getting use to it and I have learned to just drive in the middle of the lanes because you never know when your lane will end so it is just best to stay in the middle.  I'm not sure if I will ever get use to the motorcycles weaving in and out of traffic; especially the ones with the little babies on them!
3) The weather - it is tropical so I have decided there isn't much point in drying my hair and makeup isn't really worth it.  We have gotten use to going to the beach and the pool in January! 
4) The white tile floors - oh, they do look pretty when they are clean, but put some kids in the apartment and that won't last long.  I think we have decided to hire a housekeeper to come in once a week because there is no way to keep up with cleaning the floors since it is all tile or wood. 
5) The two burner induction stove - I realized how spoiled I was with the five burner gas stove.  It is very different to cook on and I definitely have to think about what I am cooking since I don't have all the burners.
6) Shopping - the one stop shopping at HEB once a week doesn't happen over here; it now takes a trip to Cold Storage (like a small Whole Foods), Tesco (similar to WalMart), and the wet market to get what I need for just a few days because the refrigerator and freezer are much smaller so I can't buy up for a week.  Then trying to get some additional gluten free items will also involve trips to one or more organic markets around the island. 
7) Wet Markets - yes, they are great for the fresh fruits and vegetables, but I am still adjusting to the whole chickens and all the seafood with the heads still on. 
8) Knowing my address, phone number and passport number- I have my address and cell number in Texas memorized and even my drivers license number, but I am really struggling with learning all these.  I have just put a cheat sheet in my purse.  Thank goodness my email address didn't change:) 

I am sure there are  other things I am adjusting to, but these are a few that have really stuck out to me.  I have been reminded how blessed I am with all I have back in Texas.  However, I know our move here has been and will continue to be an amazing blessing.  It might take some time to get use to some things, but I can trust that God has us here for a reason and He will provide us with what we need when we need it. 

Hong Kong Highlights

Victoria Peak

We had a fun time while we were in Hong Kong.  When we arrived, we headed with all of our bags (16 in all - 9 checked and 7 carry ons) to the DisneyLand Hollywood Hotel.  Of course, it was about 6:30 in the morning so our room wasn't ready, but we were able to drop the bags off (thank goodness) and eat at Chef Mickey's.  For those of you who have been to Chef Mickey's in Florida, it isn't the same because there are no characters, but the kids did get their first experience with Asian breakfast buffets which includes everything from our normal breakfast foods to what we would think to get at for dinner at an Asian restaurant. 

We then headed out for Victoria Peak where we had our first experience with our kids pictures being taken by strangers - Cara's blue eyes are very popular and we had people taking their pictures while we were but some would ask to have their picture taken with the kids and for either Chris or I to take the picture. 

We then went to the tallest building in Hong Kong, the International Commerce Center because Cade is planning our trips over here based on tall buildings in Asia.  Of course, now Cade is comparing all elevators to the elevator that took us to the 100th floor in less than sixty seconds.  Needless to say, the elevator at our apartment to get only to the 26th floor takes more than sixty seconds.  We were very lucky with the weather in Hong Kong because it wasn't raining and it wasn't very hazy which is definitely not the norm for Hong Kong.

Day two we went to Disney.  It isn't the same as Disney World, but we had a great time.  The weather again was nice, but a little cool.  Cara and Cade both loved Space Mountain and we all had fun at the new Toy Story Land that had just opened up. 

Day three we went to the Hong Kong Zoological Gardens and went for a ride on the ferry.  We had plans to see the light show that night, but it started raining and we were all a little tired.  So, that is on our list when we go back.

Hong Kong is a great city!  We can't wait to go back.  I highly recommend it to anyone coming over this way.  I know we will be going there at least once more if not twice. 

Friday, January 13, 2012

The 'vacation' begins

I can't believe that just a little over six months ago Chris got an email that set this whole Penang "vacation" into action.  It has been clear from the beginning of it that this is where God wants us to be right now.  Not sure why, but we prayed that if this wasn't what He wanted that He would close the door, and He very quickly opened them (and has somewhat had to push me through it).  I thought we would live in Georgetown until the kids graduated from Liberty Hill.  I was perfectly happy with how our life was, but my plans aren't always God's plans as I have been reminded of over the past few months.  This is a big change for us, but we are trusting God with it and going to do our best to enjoy this "vacation" that will last about nineteen months.
Getting here was an adventure to say the least.  We left on Sunday, January 1st.  Our flight from Austin was a little late so we just made it in LA to our flight to Hong Kong.  Cade and Cara each only slept about five hours on the fourteen hour flight from LA to Hong Kong.  There were too many movies and games to play on the entertainment system I think.  For anyone who comes to visit us, just know you don't need a bunch of stuff for your kids (or yourself) on the plane because there are so many movies and shows to watch; at least if you fly Cathay Pacific. 
We did plan a four day stay in Hong Kong and got to go around Hong Kong some and go to Hong Kong Disneyland.  Hong Kong is a great city and we are hoping to get back there before we move back to Texas.  There is so much to do and we couldn't get it all in. 
We finally arrived in Penang on Friday, January 6th.  We were all glad to finally be able to get settled and get our suitcases unpacked.  All of our stuff arrived on Monday, January 9th.  We learned from the families that had come over in July and had our stuff shipped over very early so it would arrive soon after we did.  Our stuff actually made it here before us so it was great that we could get it delivered right after we arrived.  And, I was pleasantly surprised when I found out that part of the delivery included unpacking all the boxes.  Now, I did have to find where to put it all, but within three hours, they had it all moved in, accounted for, all the boxes unpacked and the boxes and wrapping taken out.  I can't imagine how long it would have taken me to get it all unpacked and organized if I had to do it all plus we would have had all the boxes and wrapping to deal with.  What a blessing!
The kids were very happy to get their toys that they hadn't seen or played with in three months.  This was nice because it bought me time to get things organized without them wanting to go do something.  One thing that is taking some getting use to is they can't just go outside to play.  There is a playscape at the apartment, but it involves me going downstairs with them.  We are all use to them just heading out when they want to and not needing me to be out there with them because they were just in the backyard.  Not quite the same when you live on the 26th floor!  Of course, we do have some great views from up here.
So, we have been here now for a week.  I have yet to brave driving because these people are crazy - the steering wheel is on the wrong side of the car and they drive on the wrong side of the road!  I did tell the kids I would drive us to church on Sunday and I know I will have to drive next week because we have two playdates scheduled since the kids don't start school until Thursday, January 26th.  Praying my driving experiences are uneventful and that I don't get hit by any motorcyles because they are especially crazy. 
I am going to be doing my best to update this weekly of places we have gone, foods we have tried, trips we have taken, etc.  This is definitely God's doing in getting us here, and I can't wait to see and share what He has planned for us while we are here.  Now if we could just decide where our first trip is going to be - so many choices!