One of the biggest man-made natural disasters you don’t know about

One of the biggest natural disasters this year started 6 months ago, and I doubt you know about it if you’re not from Asia. Because besides the fact that it affected several countries in South East Asia, the major media outlets haven’t bothered to even headline it.

“Not even kinda?”, you ask?

Yep, not even kinda.

Between July and October this has been going on, and the country I live in was suffocating in a thick smoke that traveled across the sea from Indonesia for 2 months of it. A haze, repugnant in look and smell, and in an absolutely god-awful taste rolled into Penang, Malaysia while I was away. I heard about it while I was gone, but nothing that was startling. Nothing about how devastating it really is. So after a month of travel, I came back to what I thought was a normal Penang. Almost exactly how I left it. And for the most part it looked so. I didn’t know the winds had shifted, sending it another direction. A few days after returning we were getting back into our routine. I was starting my school year. Everything seemed to be back to normal.

But then it began.

It’s a yearly event, something that was mentioned in passing by fellow expats who have experienced it for decades. But no one could expect that this would be the worst year since it started over 2 decades ago.The white smoke snuck in from below and above. It blocked out the sun, and covered the mainland before weaving its way along the bay outside my apartment, slowly covering everything in sight 3,000 meters away. Then 2,000ms. 1,000ms. Suddenly our gorgeus view was replaced by a smog so thick I could cut it with a knife.

But by then the view was the least of our problems.

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Our view a year ago.

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Our view in early October

Once it began to seep into our apartment we had to have our doors and windows closed at all times. We soon became the air-conditioning addicts we made fun of before, and avoided going outside completely. On Facebook, I could see people who had jobs outdoors wearing gas-masks. Schools were closed across Malaysia, and every outdoor acivity was cancelled without mention.

Everyone knew that the haze had officialy closed down a country.

So cooped up in our apartment, avoiding the outside world by ordering groceries online and calling for take-out, we looked up what this haze really was.

And this turned up.

Our country-neighbor Indonesia, one of the most amazing places I’ve ever been, is also one of the leading exporters of Palm Oil. Palm Oil is in 50% of the products you use, in case you didn’t know. And with fields across the nation, companies big and small manufacture and sell it internationally. But after a busy year, the fields that had once hosted their products barren, and are completely useless to them. The crops, after use, tarnish the field to an almost, un-reusable extent. They need to start again, and need fresh space to plant new trees. But how can they do this?

Well, it’s simple. Burn the soil, and replant, and while you’re at it expand a little.

Quick and easy, right?

“Today, rainforest area the equivalent of 300 soccer fields is being destroyed every hour.”

RainForest-Rescue.org

This year it started in June, and winds from El Nino (The big bad storm) pushed the smoke to Singapore, Malaysia, and even up to Thailand. Since the fires started aren’t properly contained AT ALL (Smaller businesses even claim not to start them), the fire doesn’t just stop in the counterfeit fields. It spreads into one of the most magnificent and beautiful jungles in the world, home to the ever-dwindling orangutans, monkeys, rhinos and tigers.

And to countless Indonesians.

And while most years these fires are put out relatively soon, this year the right winds and a very dry rainy-season provided the perfect opportunity for the fires to manifest. Unstoppable, they eat away the jungle into ash as they suffocate Indonesian children, women, and men. With over 500,000 documented respritatory tract infections this year, there is an expected 100,000 premature deaths for next year caused by the smoke. 

And while Malaysians complained about the haze, looking at the official Haze Index, the highest the smoke reached was in the late 200’s.  That was where schools closed. The highest it is in the U.S.A at the moment is 107 at a town in California (Who knows whats going on over there). But you know what the index was in Indonesia? A place where a large percentage of the population can only afford curtains for doors, much less air-conditioning? Where fires rage uncontrollably over 5,000km of their land?

Over THREE THOUSAND.

Haze in Central Kalimantan

“These fires are a threat to the health of millions. Smoke from landscape fires kills an estimated 110,000 people every year across Southeast Asia, mostly as a result of heart and lung problems, and weakening newborn babies.” ~ An excerpt from news.mongabay.com

 

 


 

 

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While the flames have finally died last month, Indonesia is slowly recuperating from the devastation left. “Slash and burn needs to be put to a stop…” says, The Guardian, who also says that small buisnesses and the government are apart of the problem. The small buisnesses really can’t be held accountable until the government strengthens the laws on the fires killing their country.

But right now Indonesia needs everyone’s help. The corrupt government isn’t helping its citizens, calling the complaining affected countries (Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand), sensitive, and saying that it has done enough for its people by telling them to “stay indoors”. But when indoors isn’t even possible for most, what can the people do? And while the endangered Orangutans are slowly being rescued from the flames, it is more clear than ever that it just isn’t enough.

So how can we help?

We can help by spreading the word of the devastation. And we can help by donating to help kids and mothers and the Orangutans in Indonesia. If you didn’t know this was happening, your friends probably don’t either. So please spread the word by person and online.

Don’t let ignorance kill lives.

 

Sources

 

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Through Singapore (1/2)

I’ve been to Thailand and Indonesia. I’ve living in Malaysia. Believe me when I write that in the South East Asia I’ve explored, Singapore is what you find in the back of a magical wardrobe beside Narnia. Sleek silver brilliance striked with elegance and class, the most expensive country in the world was a shock to my system after 8 months of living in cabins in the jungle, trekking through dusty crowded cities, and crossing bridges into developing islands. All these massive buildings that cast their long shade down entire roads, all the international people, and all the cameras. The country where chewing gum in public is illegal was where I stayed for almost a week, and where I saw the lifestyle of the wealthiest class that exists mesh with those who sell Wanton Mee out of carts and hang their laundry off bamboo sticks. Singapore is a pretty cool place though, and I’m going to tell you all about it.

I arrived with my parents after an overnight bus ride from Malaysia, where getting into the country was easy (Though a few Arabian men were held back, most likely Singapore being cautious about Murrs). Hotel was an easy walk away from the bus station, and by the time we were checked in we were back out again. The main downtown area of Singapore is small, so walking we found an MRT Station and bought Easy-Pass cards. This turned out to be one of the best things we would’ve done, as the MRT was crazy-easy to use and got us everywhere we wanted to go for our complete stay for about 14 Singaporean Dollars each. We walked around downtown a bit once we were in the center of it all, and as luck would have it a free walking tour was starting and my Mom was more than excited to join it. Somehow we had missed the fact that the annual Olympic-Tier sports tournament was happening in Singapore for that week, and 2 free walking tours covering Little India and China Town were cancelled. But as luck would have it we were able to join the last Walking tour of the week through the business Centre and beyond. So not even 6 hours off the bus we were walking around Singapore with 3 college girls explaining this building and that fountain and this hotel. While I do enjoy these types of things, it was a major walk-athon after a short, abrupt night’s sleep. 2 and a half hours later I was more than happy to go eat do I could sit down.

But touching on Singaporean History, the nation used to be apart of Malaysia but broke off for a couple of reasons. One being that the main leader Lee Kuan Yew wanted full control, and after centuries of British Rule he wanted to grow Singapore to be free of corruption. Having a thriving trade port, Singapore was able to finance itself and grow steadily. With a strong set of rules, Singapore never as much as stumbled. One particular bump that it had to get past though was the multiple ethnicities within its borders. 60% Buddhist and just under 20% Muslim, along with Hindus and Christians flourishing abundantly, religious discrimination was something that couldn’t exist for even a second if Singapore were to reach its full potential. So intense rules stating that not even a word of hate against any other religions were put in place, and massive fees were placed upon those who broke them. This greatly discouraged everyone else, and from it the country remained peaceful. Though those were not only the intense rules to exist. Jaywalking, chewing gum, and most recently publicly drinking alcohol after 10:30 at night are all prohibited with the threat of tall looming fines placed on all of them. And I’m only mentioning a few. It’s so common to have to pay a fine in Singapore that stalls are placed across the city for easy access to those who have to pay them.

But luckily I never broke the rules while there (Actually I should rephrase that: Never got caught. I may or may not have jaywalked there but I’m not tellin’ you nothin’.). After the walking tour my Mom and I met my Father at the Crazy Elephant in Clarkes Key, a main night-time area in Singapore. Situated alongside a river, the Key is crawling with tourists. My Dad being the musician he is was invited a week before to jam there, so as he played music I played pool and watched a light show coming off of Marina Bay Sands. You know, that hotel with a ship on the top of it.

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57 stories? Yeah, I think so. 57.

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Scenic place, but damn is it expensive.

It was a fun night, and believe me when I say that I crashed hard that night. In the morning, we were off to China Town, Orchard Road, and the top of Marina Bay Sands (The super cool hotel I told you about. Yes. To the very top.)

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Singaporean Buisness Centre

Interviews and thoughts of growing up with travel

Hey guys, how are you?

Diving right in: I’ve been thinking about travel recently and its affects on me for the past 10 years. At 16 I’ve been to 20 different countries, and I haven’t lived in one place for longer than 5 years. Its been exciting, and always different. Recent events have made me re-evauluate my life, a life without travel.

What would that have been like?

I think I would be a very different person if I hadn’t always seen places and met people as a foreigner. Sometimes I forget that always being the new guy in a place isn’t supposed to be a yearly event. I’ve grown up looking at a side of life that allows failures, lives off passion, flourishes in the bad times, and will always appreicate the good times. And now I can’t imagine living in a different way.

So I guess a little self-exploratory is this weeks blog :). Who in your life inspires you the most, and what effect do you think you might have on people in your life? For me a professional donut tester is probably the most influential.

Frosted? Yes please.

My Mom was interviewed by An Epic Education talking about our whole life adventure from the start a decade ago. So if you would like to learn a bit more about me, from leaving normal life in the U.S to sailing in the carribean, from a different perspective you can listen to it here.

Thanks for reading guys! Until next time,

Sincerely, James

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I wrote about homeschooling in Malaysia!

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In the Indonesian Jungle – Part 3 – Revenge of the Orangutan

At 7 in the morning rain on our tin roof had stopped and I was out of bed and getting dressed, ready for breakfest. Today was Trek day, and jeans and a long sleeve shirt were the ideal clothes to fight the bugs, though not the heat. We were heading out at 8, so we made sure to go get breakfast as soon as we could to beat our guide, and just when we finished, he popped up, his afro visible first as he climbed up the steps.

The guy that had brought us in from the bus terminal was guiding us, along with another worker from the hotel who couldn’t have been 4 or 5 years older than me. They would be bringing us through the jungle for the next 4 hours.

When we had eaten and were all ready to go, we followed our guide out of the hotel and between the stores, cabins, and restaraunts down the river. We ended coming up to one of those really dangerous, unsafe looking bridges that I mentioned, and without batting an eye we started to cross it one by one. Okay, in reality maybe they weren’t that unsafe. Though the one next to use consisted of single pieces of wood and no guard rails. But it didn’t help that it had rained the night before and the river had risen and was going very fast.

It was a beautiful day, just a bit overcast so that we wouldn’t be soaking with sweat a few minutes in, and when we got to the entrance  I realized I didn’t have to worry about the sun. Jungles pretty much cover you on their own.

The entrance to the jungle, which was a national park, was a simple arch way, and a few signs explaining what some different trees and plants are. But before we could even get to see that, another guide with a different group pointed out a Vine Snake in the trees next to use. Absolutely still and poised on a branch, in was probably about a foot and a half long on a vivid leaf green that made him blend in perfectly. Our guide explained what it was, and the only reason it stuck with me was because Vine Snakes generally pick a branch and stay there, for about 3 months. They don’t move for 3 months, besides for when an unluky critter climbs up the tree (not the monkey!) or a bird flies down onto the branch where the snake gets a meal.

When we finished taking photos, we finally went through the entrance, passed by a restaraunt-area  and by some houses until we got to the bottom of a hill, where we crossed a wimpy stream of water on a wobbly board and started to climb. Walking up a trail, we passed by Rubber Trees (A whole valley) which hold little halves of coconuts midway on them to collect the draining tree’s rubber. After spotting jumping Thomas Leaf Monkeys in the trees, we discovered coffee beans, and glowing blue spiders. We kept our eyes peeled for orangutans, but it wasn’t until an hour and a half in we spotted some.

They were in the trees, a Mother orangutan and her child, probably a couple hundred feet up. Too far up for our Iphone 3 to take photos, sp onstead we “Ooohed” and “Ahhed” from the ground, taking a step back every time the baby would try to throw something at us (luckily he didn’t have a very good aim) After a several minutes of that, we kept on walking. My dad had made a sling shot out of dried pieces of Rubber from the trees and with a perfect branch. As we walked he picked up different nuts and aimed a certain rocks, the more he shot the more flexible the slingshot became. We also had walking sticks and small crowns on made of leaves, so you might say we had become one with the jungle just waiting for the perfect vine to swing off of.

After a couple of more sightings of orangutans far up in the trees above us, we finally spotted orangutans close up.

There were a group of people hanging around our red-haired furry friends, a mother and her 2 children. They were so close, hanging out in trees arms-distance away. Some people were grabbing their hands when they reached out, others were busy taking selfies (Hi, I’m James, and I take selfies when I travel and see mokeys)

We watched them jump, swing, and play. While I didn’t agree with the way people crowded them (A decent 10 to 14 people were there) or how they thought it was okay to touch them, but it was really sweet seeing the orangutans in their natural habitat.

Again, after a spree of photos, we were off, going up and down, grabbing onto roots and sometimes reaching points so steep you rather were climbing up or sliding down (usually on your bum)

We passed by a small waterfall at some point where we got to cool off, and after a couple of hours more we were on the last leg of the trip – River Rafting.

Now I mention earlier how the river was looking quite menacing that day, so one can only imagine how it looked a couple of feet away, as I sat in a tire tube barely fitting in it with my mum sharing it with me. But our fearless guides had long, strong sticks in the back and front (we were 4 tires connected front to back) and they heaved us off into the river wielding them around, slicing through the river water was they pushed us off of rocks.

The whole rafting-adventure lasted about 15 minutes, as we passed waterfalls, and really, really, really menacing rocks. But over all, the worst that happened was that we got soaked – which was also the best thing that could have happened.

So overall, our time spent in the Indonesian Jungle was spectacular. We ended up spending the rest of the day not really doing much (besides whining about how achy we were) and the following day we ended up doing a bat cave, which was an hour of sliding through dark caves with 2 flashlights that worked (in a group of 5) on slippery rocks, trying not to smoosh crickets or the cricket-look-alikes that were really spiders sometimes the size of half my hand. Besides a countless amount of bats, I got to see swallow-nests at the very back of the cave, wading through over-ankle deep water.

After a nail in the foot (trying-on shoes injury) and the revelation that we’d been living with a rat for the majority of our stay (cookies were our casualty), we headed out on our 5th day to do 3 and a half hour of riding in a van, quite comfier than our buses, and hopped on a plane back to Malaysia.

“YOU SHALL NOT PASS”
Oh, wait. What was that?
Damn!

No Photographers were harmed in the taking of this photo.

No Photographers were harmed in the taking of this photo.

Rubber tree for Slingshots, Croxs, Cond- ... Er, and other certain rubber products

Rubber tree for Slingshots, Croxs, Cond- … Er, and other certain rubber products

Vine Ssssnake thinking of something. Three months with nothing to do. I wonder what it thinks of?

Vine Ssssnake thinking of something. Three months with nothing to do. I wonder what it thinks of?

Thomas Leaf Monkey just chillin'

Thomas Leaf Monkey just chillin’

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Sadly, I didn't pass the exam into their clan. Something about lack of

Sadly, I didn’t pass the exam into their clan. Something about lack of “orange” and “…Banana-Eating Apetite”

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'Art thou' King of the Jungle

‘Art thou’ King of the Jungle

Taking a dip was the main thing on my mind

Taking a dip was the main thing on my mind

I resisted the feeling in me trying to convince myself to steal his spot.

Cable Tv: A Culture Shock from when I visit the United States

Living on a Sailboat for the majority of my life has come with its downfalls. Besides not being able to own and regularly update a Fine China Cabinet, we never figured out how to run a wire connecting our little box tv we kept slightly discarded to, what many people consider, the gateway to the world. Especially one that could move along with us as we moved with little hassle. I never really minded the fact that we never had Cable, and gave little thought about it even when we moved to Mexico and plenty of my friends had it. I used to pet-sit/house-sit for a family friend, and my big thing was to stay up late watching Tom y Jerry and Anatomia de Grey on her tv. I watched whatever I could pry my eyes on, and when I went to bed way too late after getting sucked into the void of cable tv I was too young to understand, I really started to ponder how everybody could handle a tv in their home. How did they not collapse under it seduction, with all its poorly dubbed cartoons and *serious* talk shows? 
6 years later I’ve still never understood cable television or grown fond of it (Though I learned that poorly dubbed tv shows are not mainstream). And the only time I’ve ever lived under the same roof with one is when I visit my family in New England. This comes up as one of my first culture shocks that I experience when I technically go “home”.
WIth its long commercials that are repetitive and a bit whiny. And the fact that there is always something on. When I hear from my parents about when there were a set amount of tv shows on about 3 channels, the only existing channels, and you knew exactly what was on and there were maybe one or two shows you’d want to catch some nights, I could understand that. But the fact that every show is gearing up for the following, always trying to lure you in and always wasting atleast 10 minutes of your time with useless information from commercials advertising shampoos and medicine and new shows. Geez, not only are you stopping a show to tell people about another show every 7 minutes, but what is the point of advertising medicine on tv? Without tv I’ve usually found medicine through a doctor when I need it, not through some shady advertisement that has enough time to tell me I need to buy it right this very minute 3 times with big flashy golden letters, but when it tells me whats in the product the narrator’s voice gets tiny and fast and the only thing that sticks to me from it all is that I really need to consult my doctor about a drug being sold that solves one problem, and then causes dozens of other little ones that are said too quickly for me to hear. 
That being said, the fact that in most restaurants, bars, and even stores hold multiple Tvs running constantly is something that I always need time to get used to. Growing up in Mexico there were no Tvs anywhere except if there was a grand soccer tournament on. Even now, in Malaysia, you wouldn’t be able to spot a Tv in any restaurant, even in places like T.G.I.F. Whether this is a disconcerting thing, or improves the atmosphere, I don’t think I could say.
But did anyone catch the new Modern Family episode? Hilarious.
That one time I overflowed my Nana's bath with bubbles

That one time I overflowed my Nana’s bath with bubbles

Check out my previous post: What I didn’t expect in Penang, Malaysia

Malaysia vs. North America (United States and Canada)

So around this time, 7 months ago, I had just arrived in Penang, Malaysia. I didn’t know anyone here, and could barely order food from a restaurant. Now that I’ve had enough time to get used to it here, I’ve been keeping stock of a few differences between here, and I thought putting some of the few differences down now would be a good idea.

1. Holidays

Nowhere that I’ve been has been more multi-cultural than Malaysia. Boasting a strong Chinese and Indian community (Just take into account that over 40% of citizens are immigrants down the line due to importation of cheap workers from a recently as the 1950’s) Because of this, and adding on a very strong Christian community aswell, people are always celebrating something. Some examples would be Chinese New Year, a month-long event, Thai Pusam, and Indian celebration of a fallen hero. And in some cases, I don’t even know what’s being celebrated but see parades or extreme water wars happening Downtown (A Thai Holiday) and just know its some sort of Holiday.

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Thai Pusam 2015

2. Bathrooms

I’m used to a choice of a Urinal or a toilet when I go to the bathroom. But here in Malaysia, there is also a 3rd option, which is the most common. A simple, cut out hole for you to squat over. Yet that’s not all, because there isn’t usually any Toilet Paper, even in regular toilets. Instead a hose is in the stalls, which you use to er, uhm. You get the idea.

3. Light Switches

One of the most minor differences on this list is this one – To turn off a light you flick the switch down, and to turn it off it goes up. Something so simple through me off funnily enough, and it took me months to know if my bathroom light was on or off by looking at the switch (Which is on the outside of the door)

4. Ease of Eating out

Fast food isn’t “Fast Food” unless it’s always a 5 minute walk away no matter where I am and served to me in under 5 minutes from me ordering. Penang, Malaysia isn’t one of the most popular destinations in all of Asia for nothing, and the little stalls that are everywhere could serve you Sushi, to lasagna, to Pad Thai, to Mie Goreng. Typically under 2 USD for a meal.

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Mie Goreng

5. Multi-lingual people

So because 40% percent of Malaysians have come from different countries at some point or another, Penang is a place swirling with languages. On average, people know English, Malay, Hokkien ( A Chinese Dialect). But very diverse families end up provoking their kids to learn a 4th and 5th language aswell, rather an Indian Dialect or maybe Thai. I’ve never been to a place where so many different languages can be spoken in just one restaurant by locals.

These 5 are just a few of the differences that I’ve noticed. But how about you? Have you ever been a place and been completely thrown off by something as minor as flicking a switch the opposite direction?

Until Monday,

James

Seeing Bangkok, Thailand at 15 – The 150 ft. Reclining Buddha

The Biggest Reclining Buddha in Southeast Asia was 10 minutes away by tuk-tuk from Khao San Road, where I was staying. So you could say it was inevitable that I had to go check out some giant sized (extra-shiny) toes.

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The Tuk-Tuks in Bangkok (Moped-Driven, quite colorful carts) whisk around like scurrying ants inbetween traffic, and our ride to Wat Pho, the temple that hold the Golden Reclining Buddha, was no exception. A bit exhilarating, we went past national monuments and weaved between long, slightly congested rows of traffic to creak to a stop outside tall stone walls. After making our way inside of Wat Pho through one of the entrances (There are four as I could see, one on each of the sides of the square walls that protected the temples and monuments inside) my parents and I swerved around a temple sitting right in front of us, dozens of feet tall and easily over a hundred or two feet tall. Thick round columns held up its roof, and gated windows showed a dimly lit inside. We bought our tickets, and remembering to take off our shoes, entered into the temple passing the old-stone guard statues.

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Imagine walking into a room, and the first thing you see is a giant, golden head a good 50 feet above you resting on the palm of a hand that could hold a dozen people. Now add onto that the fact that the room itself is massive, and 30 foot long walls are coarsing with murals, brilliant designs telling stories of dragons attacking villages and heroes with shiny silver swords battling off several bandits at a time. Looking into the villages there are pale white women with inky black hair hoisting water out of wells. Children playing around wooden houses with large bushy green trees puffed out to form bright forests behind them.

The temple is buzzing with people who are mostly busy taking their photos with the 150 ft long Buddha in the center of the room. What was must striking though was the mass clinking that noisly echoed across the walls as dozens of people dropped coins they’d received from temple workers in exchange for a donation into a line of over 30 round pots. I donated about the equivalent of just a few U.S Dollars, and in return was given a bowl of atleast 60 coins, a couple for each pot. Every pot you dropped coins into was equal to one wish. Pretty much after the first couple of minute you’ve run out of things to wish for though, and your stuck focusing on dropping the coins and watching them rattle as they collide with dozens of others already in the pot.

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After walking around the Recling Buddha once, we walked back outside and around some of the different statues and buildings there were inside Wat Pho. There was a large tent outside the temple that sold traditional Thai Food, and also a Thai Massage School. After running into a few more statues and monuments, we headed out for our next sight-seeing victim.

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Seeing Bangkok, Thailand at 15 years old – Khao San Road

If you missed it, I wrote about heading to Bangkok from where I live in Penang, Malaysia last week, go check it out if you want to know how to get there, or even what it was like riding on a train for 23 hours straight through Malaysia and Thailand.

Thailand was going to be an Adventure – because the city had such a stigma to it, being a teenager in a place of wild nights, king cobra fighting hiding just behind the next building (You can’t hide from a kid’s imagination Cobras) and other crazy things, like tigers pouncing onto unsuspecting tourists from beneath Noodle Stalls and ridiculous rides through an everything but peaceful, profoundly calm, city.

Yet having lived in (Everything but) horrible gang-ridden, drug over-flowing Mexico for 6 years, I’ve learned trusting stereotypes of any kind never gets you anywhere. Actually, it could be dangerous and even cost me loads of invaluable experiences. So off I was, on the streets of Bangkok, throwing caution into the wind and not even checking under the Pad Thai carts for a tiger or two. .

After walking out of the train station with only yesterday’s dinner in our stomach’s, we strode across the street to a restaurant. It was a bit expensive, and more Western to suit the majority of backpackers craving “home’s” cuisine, but when you’re hungry, you’re hungry. Also, when arriving to a new place its slightly inevitable to not land upon a pricier place set into position to lure unsuspecting visitors into their grasp.

After my first authentic Thai Pad Thai, we piled into a Taxi after a countless amount of time explaining fruitlessly to “Tuk-Tuk” drivers that  2 backpacks, a guitar, and a violin upon three bodies just wasn’t going to work on their moped-driven carts. Later on, watching them race frantically around the city reminded me of the rushing, running grey rabbit in Alice of Wonderland (Though no one I’ve met so far in South East Asia really minds not being on time)

D and D, a hotel on a popular street in Bangkok for shopping, eating, and (always) endless partying, was where we unloaded our stuff. In the Taxi we’d sped through dusty, but nice roads, pestered with long lines of dwarf sized shops and munching-pads. Khao San Road was actually peaceful when we walked down it with the sun pridefully above us, but that was because it was nocturnal and the full blast of music from cheap-drinking bars and chatter from drunken people of every age and ethnicity hadn’t pierced the night and broken the silence and peace (Eh, who needs em’ anyway, right?)

After dropping our things off in the hotel room, we were out on Khao San Road, a beating pulse of action and capture of attention. I was personally on the hunt for Pad Thai Stalls, which luckily were just about every 50 feet, where you could have it with 5 different toppings, 5 different types of noodle, and in about 2 minutes for under a US 1.00. ( Unless you went for the Prawns, you over-spender you) While I had made up my mind for what I was going to eat for the following week, my parents were going to be the extravagant ones and dine in different places every night, which I am extremely grateful for.

About 4 years ago, while living on Melekai, a sailing catamaran in Mexico, I met an Australian family aboard a boat (Live-Aboards, scally-wags, sea-lovers) who turned into next-door neighbors on the dock I lived on. Their son (my age) turned into a good friend, and their favorite drink turned into my holy-mother-of-pearl-of-favorites of drinks. The Mom was Tea-Related in work, and hoarded hundreds of different types of tea on board, and a couple of times every day she brewed amazing Indian-Chai Tea. I’m talking freshly brewed, the best tea I’ve ever tasted, sitting right next door. As per usual in the boating community, it wasn’t long before our families were good friends, and everyday I climbed down our boat and onto theirs everyday for tea time. Sadly, they left much too soon, and I haven’t seen them in 4 years, though we still keep in touch through Facebook.

That also meant I never got to have my Tea-Times during the day, and until my parents and I happened upon an Arabic restaurant down the street from Khao San road, did I happen to order Indian Tea, which majestically, surprisingly, and thankfully turned into my Chai Tea from so long ago. I enjoyed way too many teas there in one sitting, and enjoyed fantastic Garlic Roti (A thin, pizza-like bread set up as a “garlic bread”.)

But next up after our first day spent on the streets, the Biggest Reclining Buddha in SouthEast Asia and some amazing temples.

Stay tuned guys, until Thursday.

Sincerely, James

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3 bodies, a guitar, violin, and 2 backpacks on that? I don’t know…. (Human for scale)

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A mesh of signs above restaurants and shops

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Buddha Statues, Movies, and necklaces are just the few things sold in the stalls on Khao San Road

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“Did I ever tell you about the time I stayed on a road in Thailand McDonald “hearts” ?”

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Khao San Road before night

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Guys! Pad Thai!…. Guys!! Its Pad Thai!

A day in my life – An American homeschool student living in Malaysia

I moved to Penang, Malaysia 4 months ago with my parents. I’m in tenth grade, and I’ve homeschooled for the majority of my life. When I entered Highschool I switched from a home-planned curriculum to an American Correspondence School. This basically meant that I was given a set curriculum, with online exams to do for qualified teachers in the United States to grade, and guaranteed Transcripts at the end of the torturous 4 years. This would give me the ability to apply for American and International Universities.

At home, 8 stories up in an apartment complex, I have 5 subjects in my curriculum. On Weekdays, I wake up earlier than weekends, and do more “average” things. So let’s say today is Thursday (Which it is. But wait, keep reading)

I wake up at 7 and am up eating cereal in 10 minutes. School is started as soon as the last sip has been taken, and that’s my world for the following  4 hours. Each lesson is 45 minutes to an hour, one per subject, so around 11 I’ve finished. At that point I tackle Social Media and my Blog, responding to your guy’s lovely comments and interacting with the community. At 12-12:15 I’m out the door and down at the gym.

There’s a Half-Marathon in June which I’ve just started training for, so far I’m up to an average of 3 miles, working up to 4. I also do weight training, and bicycling on rest-days. After the gym and a shower, we’re off to lunch.

Lunch is usually in 1 of 4 places. A Malay restaurant 25 metres away. An Indian and a Thai exactly 1 block away. And a Chinese restaurant 2 blocks away. We have no form of private transportation except for our feet, so closer the better. Commonly, as we’re deciding on where to go the “Floating Mosque” is belting out the first of the Afternoon Prayers.

We choose Thai, and have navigated our way into our regular seats in a tiny building apart of a long strip that consists of a Pharmacy, Mini Market, Indian restaurant with funny – smelling soups (We, ah. We don’t eat there) and 2 Barber Shops. I’m going to quickly tally the costs for you:

A drink is 1.50 Ringgit, or 50 American Cents.

A Thai Rice, Yellow Curry Chicken, or anything on the menu for 1 person is 3 – 4.50 Ringgit, or 1 – 1.50 American Dollars.

So an average lunch for the 3 of us, with 2 drinks each, is 15 to 21 Ringgit or 5 – 7 U.S. If I ever want to eat by myself it’s less than 2 dollars.

These are average prices for all of the thousands of Stalls and local restaurants in Penang. Japanese, Chinese, Malay, Thai, Indian, or even Indonesian are included. Yet don’t get me wrong, there are still over-priced coffee in Starbucks on every other street. T.G.I.Fridays and Chillis is just a 15 minutes bus ride away, usually in giant malls that hold shops like Forever 21 and H&M. Also Italian, German, and really any Western restaurants will have a nice meal, just at normal or slightly above typical Western prices. All locals are rather fluent or know basic English. With our few words of Mandarin and Malay, it’s very easy to get around no matter what.

So now it’s about 3 o’clock. Usually I have after-school classes I participate in at an International School just a couple blocks away. I used to do mock debating every Thursday and watch a pair of talented actors practice a duet play for a Forensics Tournament.  But the Tournament has passed, and classes aren’t until April again. I also did Basket ball of 3 months, and am taking Violin once a week with a teacher. SAT’s are coming up soon, and studying can never come too early. But whatever I end up doing, I’m usually home or finished by 6.

At that time I work on Blog Posts, update sites, play cards and watch a show. (Suits!) Watch a gang of Monkeys from our balconey and work on any personal projects I want to pursue. (Like video editing or Fiction Writing)

The last prayer is uttered around 9 p.m. and I’m in bed with a book by around 10 that I borrow from a local library. “Little Women” is what I’m working on at the moment, with “7 years in Tibet” next.

For such a long post this is really a rare tranquil day. Georgetown holds sushi, street art, and life music. Batu Ferringi offers beaches, a favorite Indian restaurant, and one of the longest markets in Asia during the Evening. Gurney Plaza, a 7 story monstrosity of a mall has a cheap high – quality movie theater and Coffee Bean. We do 1 of each practically every week, along with a couple of days spent with friends aswell.

One day I’ll probably write about those.

Until then,

Sincerely, James

 

(Below are photos taken around town)

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