Showers of Owls

Yesterday was an extraordinary day in Malaysia; the ruling party was finally toppled after running the country for 61 years, ever since it became an independent country.  The corrupt Prime Minister, who recently rejigged all the electoral boundaries to try to ensure another victory, has been ousted. I woke to a text from our head…

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Cakes and Holidays

Elections in Malaysia are positively biblical – you have to return to your home town to vote; you can’t vote in the town where you currently live.  I don’t think you actually have to travel there on the back of a donkey, but it’s still a pretty archaic system for the 21st Century. The General…

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The perils of mispronunication

This week I learned that the words for ‘late’ and ‘sodomy’ in Bahasa are practically indistinguishable to the non-native speaker.  So, it’s a good idea for all foreigners to be extremely punctual, thus  avoiding the danger of accidentally confessing to a crime and ending up with a twenty-year prison sentence. And then I had an…

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Popping up to Penang

I’ve learnt that when chums visit you have to stop lolling around on the sofa and go off and do a bit of sightseeing.  So when Caroline came to stay, once we’d exhausted the possibilities KL has to offer, we popped up to Penang for a couple of days. We found the most wonderful cake…

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We are not amused …

Malaysians are outraged. Why? You might ask – they’re pretty placid people on the whole. Well, there’s a general election coming up, and the ruling party has been busy changing the electoral boundaries to ensure that there’s a majority of Muslims in every catchment area, so that the National Party gets back into power. The…

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Chatting up a monk

When I saw the sign, I couldn’t resist – I’ve always wanted to chat a monk up, so I dashed over to the monk assignation area. My monk was called Claim, and he told me all about his life in the monastery and at the university attached to the monastery, where he studies Pali, which…

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What do Donald Trump, the Prince of Wales and three ugly-looking ladies have in common?

The answer could well be that they all have names that I find easy to remember – which is a definite bonus these days. The new school year has brought with it a whole set of new name problems for me … and I used to think I was good with names. Having finally got…

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You can wear any colour you like … as long as it’s red

Things are hotting up for Chinese New Year next week.  Interestingly, it’s always called Chinese New Year, or CNY, even by the Chinese.  In our usual imperialist way, the West seems to have commandeered the term ‘New Year’ for 1 January – so perhaps we should embrace diversity, acknowledge that other New Years exist and…

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The School of Hard Knocks

In Malaysia, the School of Hard Knocks is not a precursor of the University of Life and an essential component of any I-dragged-meself-up-by-me-bootstraps success story.  It’s actually a workshop where you can go and learn how to make things out of pewter. I already knew that Kuala Lumpur’s fortune was founded on tin.  KL was…

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