Love the rainstorms here in Penang. At the moment, this is what it looks like outside my house.

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Massive puddle forming in the front yard from all the roof run-off. See all those plants, including the California palm, that’s my wife’s work. I mow the grass. Certainly not on days like this. Here’s another view.

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This also gives you a view of what my neighborhood looks like. Gated community (automatic, remote controlled gates which are awesome), mainly Chinese with a bunch of expats sprinkled in. Our street is a quiet dead-end. The governor of Penang used to live on this street. It’s on the side of Pearl Hill which continues up about 1500 ft above us. It’s a great place to walk. Again, not in the rain.

This is typical September weather. Big storms roll through in the evening – sometimes in the morning – but mainly evening. The house is quite cool now, even without the air conditioner on. It’s 26 c, and feels great when sitting under a fan. Normally we’d be sweating without AC at this hour.

We’ve been in this exact house for nearly 10 years. It’s been a blessing for us. I can’t remember how many rainstorms like this we’ve enjoyed, but the rolling thunder and flashes of lightning are welcome respite to the hot, muggy weather in Penang. I love rainy season.

This is probably the most low-keyed blog post I’ve ever written, but just wanted to share a little of the rain with you.

Stay cool!

Our Life has the Seven Year Itch

On the completion of seven years in Malaysia, we have found that whole entire life and house to be very discontented, and every odd and end around has been displaying a dizzying case of the seven year itch.

It started last summer when our Suzuki van, which we affectionately called our refrigerator on wheels, (by the way, scratch affectionately) decided that it no longer wanted to fulfill its (trans)mission. This was after a long line of similar mishaps which gladly accepted our money with no remorse at all. Reluctant to give another penny to that greedy, gas guzzler, we decided to scrape it for a fraction of its worth and buy a 1990 Accord.

But that was only the start of our appliance, furniture, and mechanical revolution.

Our sofa sat in complete disarray, having to be propped up with a brick on the back side because the leg had broken off. So, we summarily tossed it aside and bought a new one. Great improvement, indeed.

Our clothes dryer was next. The filter, on the one that we had been nursing for years, would no longer stay in place, and so it remained off permanently, allowing the machine to spew lint and dust into our back laundry room. When a friend leaving the country asked if we wanted theirs, we jumped at the chance. We kept the old one as a back-up. And good thing. The “new” we bought worked for about a month and then died without even giving off a whimper. We went back to the new one for the next several months until more recently it suddenly gave out a rapturous thud, like someone was trying to dry a brick. That was it. We went out and purchased a brand new one – with a proper filter and ventilation hose no less. We were so happy that we cleaned the layers of dust from the room, re-painted it a vibrant blue, and hooked up the new dryer as the workers removed the two old ones.

Then came our gas range and electric oven unit. It was so scratched, worn, and utterly on its last legs that when we saw an abandoned and available second hand model at school, we swapped it out, gladly.

Next came our home computer, a Dell all in one model, touch screen, a very nice computer decided to blow out a hard-drive. Not much was lost, fortunately, and we replaced the drive, reloaded all the programs, and everything worked wonderfully for a few months until one day the screen just shut off. We took it back into the shop to discover that the mother board, a rather expensive unit about the same price as a new computer itself, was nicely fried and overdone. We did get that new hard-drive repackaged as an external model.

And if all of that wasn’t enough, we walked outside one day and noticed that our jack-fruit tree died. Cause unknown. I guess it was just its time.

I can’t decide what might be next. I’m hoping, for the sake of my wallet, it is something small like a pair of chopsticks or tea cup.

PS: That Honda Accord ended up costing more in repairs than the transmission in our old Suzuki. About three times as more. When you are on a roll, you are on a roll.

Stopping in the Shade Like an Asian Pro

Look at this photo. What do you notice?

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Yes, the light is red. Do you see that patch of shade in the foreground? I am on my motorbike huddled beneath it. As soon as I noticed what I was doing, I snapped this photo. I am truly becoming Asian, I think.

Why? Because that’s what everyone does here,

I first noticed this fascinating phenomenon when I lived in Vietnam. The mass of motorbikes and bicycles would huddle under the shade of any strategically placed tree by the side of the road when waiting at a red light. It didn’t matter if the tree was ten feet, fifty feet, or one hundred feet before the light, the shade took precedence over being in a better position to go through the light quickly after it turns green.

I used to laugh at everyone and buzz right on past them up to the stoplight. I was like, “Hey, look who’s first now!”

When I moved to Penang, where the sun can get intense indeed, I noticed the same thing happening. Motorcyclists would use anything to shield themselves from the sun when they are not moving forward. The shade from a pedestrian overpass, a tree, a road sign, or a building. Whatever blocks the sun is good, and who cares how far from the intersection you are.

And now, the guy who used to love the sun and relish the fact that I could pass all of those “sissies” is now, in fact, a sissy himself. Or perhaps I’m just wising up.