Archive for the ‘Singapore’ category

Piercing A Typical Singapore Night By Mike

February 11, 2009

img_1327Click here to see larger versions of all images.

Singapore nights tend to be a little on the tame side.  Usually a nice meal, perhaps followed by a visit to a club, then home.  That’s why this Saturday, when some new friends of ours suggested we head to Little India to see preparations for the Thaipusam festival, I jumped at the chance — even though it was 3AM.

img_1290Thaipusam is in many ways, the Indian Thanksgiving.  Devotees to Murugan, the Tamil God of War, march along a set route carrying a burden of some sort.  For some people, this burden is a silver pot on their heads.  More strikingly, for others, it’s an elaborate metal pyramid-like structure attached to their bodies with dozens of long needles that pierce their flesh.  Through these burdens, the devotees either thank the God for his help throughout the year or implore his help for relieving a troubling issue in the year to come.  img_1361

Saturday night was the preparatory night and we were lucky enough to find the temple in Little India where the devotees were getting themselves ready for the festival that would take place the following morning.  We were graciously invited inside the temple after being given a bag to remove our shoes and were allowed to wander among the participants as they were being pierced.  Due to days of preparation that involve fasting and prayer, they hardly seemed to notice that the rods were being attached to their skin.  img_1339

img_1364Pounding rhythmic music played at all corners from duos consisting of a thavil drummer and nadaswaram (think snake-charmer flute, only this one is the world’s loudest non-brass acoustic instrument) player.  Intoxicating incense filled the air, creating a haze that was pierced by the amazingly colourful saris and makeshift shrines created by attendees.  In all it was a rare, intimate glimpse at a culture that felt completely other and completely non-Singaporean.  Sure beat a night dancing to an an anonymous DJ somewhere!

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Some devotees are also pierced with bells or fruit on hooks.

Some devotees are also pierced with bells or fruit on hooks.

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Musings On Massages, Mosquitos and Minorities by Diane

January 30, 2009

Ok – it’s been too long since we blogged about anything to anyone.  We’re sorry, but contrary to what you might think of our adventurous life, it’s full of the same stuff as yours – bookkeeping, dog grooming, family joys and woes, work obligations, finding time to socialize, privatize, economize, prioritize, exercise and compromise.  Thus, we sometimes go quiet, for lengthy periods of preservation.

obama-cakeNeedless to say, autumn was all about Obama. Everywhere, the world in smiling support all around us.  We had an Obama victory party and were amazed to see about 30 people in our condo – is it possible we KNOW 30 people already?  Seems so, and amen for that.  I had ordered a deluxe cake from one of the better hotels on Monday before election day.  They were amused by my high hopes and the clear victory message on the cake.  In fact, they sent me a congratulations email on Wed., confirming the cake delivery and their joy at the outcome.  Every cabbie, every colleague, every confused and coherent Singaporean we meet seems to echo the jaw-dropping surprise of it all and the bucket loads of hope the world is investing in Obama.  He is an Ox, according to the Chinese calendar and he’s become president in the year of the Ox, so there is much hope.  Everyone is trying to ignore that 44 (as in the 44th) is double-bad luck, though I did read yesterday that the combination of his birthdate numbers, 1961, is considered so amazingly lucky that it will overcome all other auspicious concerns.  Well I was born in 1961 too, same month as Obama, so I’m having to re-evaluate my expectations of self this year….

Finally a massage mystery solved in Shanghai. I now understand why they are called “parlors.”  Secreted on the 7th floor of a dingy office building was a massage parlor extraordinaire.  Oversized reclining stuffed chairs, four to a room, beautiful wood furniture, dimmed indirect lighting, orchids climbing the walls and comfort oozing through the door seams and floor boards .  There was no sign of anything clinical or colorful, no Enya or exotic asian music, and I started wondering what was going on.  My colleague told me he brought me to a place that was “good enough for the Japanese to frequent” but still priced right for Shanghaiese.  After a few peaceful moments, intended to achieve solitude through deep breathing, the door to our parlor slid open and in came two men each carrying, BY HAND, an enormous wooden cask of warm water.  Rope handles were all that held these barrel-sized behemoths from flooding our cozy parlor.  Steaming hot towels were delivered, waxy lotion applied from just above the knees to the tips of my toes and I surrendered to the refuge of reflexology.  No words were exchanged, beyond a few nods of approval.  Oh let’s not forget  it was still a polluted city full of crashing cars, spitting citizens and tainted milk, but I pranced through my  parlor dreams for the next 90 minutes. Supposedly, falling asleep is the highest compliment, so I’ll have to go back and give that my best shot.  On my “floating” walk home, I saw a sign in the intersection that said “We are polite people.  Please don’t step in street before green light.”   Compliance in China isn’t about laws, it’s about deciding to be comply at all.  Shanghai is ultra-modern, but there’s a contrast on every corner.

And now, just a few musings on our continuing life in Singapore…

*I recently moved to a window office at RD, but not until the Feng Shu master came in, reviewed the birth days, years and times of the managers, annointed the office, lit some joss sticks as a blessing, reangled a few office doors (that was costly!) and said that we would all prosper in our new surroundings.  Guess he wasn’t reading the papers back in November.

*I’ve brought my own lunch to work a few times – homemade soup, pasta leftovers etc.  Doing so guarantees anyone instant freak status in Singapore. Nobody really cooks at home, eating out is so cheap and prevalent, why would I ever even make soup?  Or pack it to work?  Surely craving a non-oily, non-Asian, veggie filled lunch isn’t reason enough.  Wonder what they think now that I bring my own espresso.  It’s NOT a coffee culture here and I just got fed up with lousy coffee so I bought a good machine and now I take my Illy coffee in my thermos, like the much-misunderstood Ang Mo that I am.

*I had to return unopened liquid shower soap when I noticed it had bleaching agent in it.  It’s really hard to avoid skin whiteners in every day products.  Those properties are such a benefit that it’s often not even mentioned…so it’s pretty easy to apply small doses of Clorox to your skin without knowing it.  Don’t even think about getting a tan, and don’t leave your building at mid-day without an umbrella, lest the sun pink your cheeks.  OK, I know they’re right but what about the benefits of Vitamin D and getting 20 minutes of sunshine daily?  Jeez.  It is a land obsessed with personal beauty – we are barraged with advertisements for all manner of surgical corrections – the most popular of which is corrective eyelid surgery.  It’s about $2,000 per eye, to make double eyelids, but it’s cheaper in South Korea if you’re ever headed that way.

*To keep things equitable, and keep parents honest, height is used to mark age, instead of what mommy and daddy protest.  So to decide if Junior pays child’s busfare or is entitled to a child’s plate, you simply stand next to the measure line.  No verbal exchange required.  Love that.

*There are “Dengue Kills” posters everywhere, with microscopic close-ups of the mosquito with massive stingers.  Full sides of buses are covered with “If They Breed, You Bleed” advertisements.  It’s jarring to look at and I have no idea if it’s effective but it sears the mind.  Malaysia, our neighbor to the North and East, has had 4,000+ new cases in January 2009, including 12 deaths.  That’s triple the same month last year.  Uh-oh.  Needless to say, I’m starting to choose long sleeves and light pants more often.

*I had a Muslim lady tell me that I looked like the Bee Gees lead singer.  Or maybe his sister, she wasn’t sure.  A few minutes later she said, “never mind, it’s really Lucy you look like…and you sound like her too.”  Two days later, a cabbie told me that he was “honored to have Julie Andrews” in his cab – meaning me!  “You do KNOW the Sound of Music, right?”  Oh yeah, I even danced to Edelweiss with my father at my wedding, but never saw/felt/conjured the resemblance.  It was clearly a compliment, though I thought what he needed to see most was my Madonna Halloween costume from a decade ago – then he would know a few of my favorite things! Being and looking and sounding different just elicits truth from strangers – there’s no time or words for polite diplomacy.   It got me thinking though about my identity as I’ve traversed this world – I’ve been a Haole in Hawaii, an English in Amish country, a Gringo in Puerto Rico and now an Ang Mo in Asia.  I’ve always identified with minorities, and now I wonder if I’ve morphed into one.  But Andy Gibb?  I think I need a new hairstyle…

*September was the Muslim month of fasting, and I thought about using it as a weight-loss opportunity, but scratched that idea.  Five of my eight-member team were fasting from sunrise to sunset for 30 days – no water, no caffeine, no snacks, nada.  I had to deal with the grumpiness and the hunger and the low energy of all of them, while keeping my own desk snacks hidden from view and minimizing my trips to the water cooler.  They didn’t care about my habits, but I thought a dose of old-fashioned Catholic guilt was clearly called for.  I couldn’t muster the solidarity for the fast, but I did enjoy the end of month feasting that followed!

*For the first time in all my travels, I had to visit a US embassy.  I’ve had a passport for 22 years and have been to at least 22 countries but luckily never needed to take refuge in a US embassy.  I think I’ll nickname myself the Fortunate Traveler.   No injuries, no natural disasters, no arrests, no passport theft, no political asylum – an awful lot of fun but no need to seek the shelter of the stars and stripes on foreign soil.   Well, while waiting to have additional pages sewn into my current passport (lots of multi-country trips now) I took notice of a sign in the waiting area.  In case you’re curious, here are a few things the American Embassy will NOT do for you, and I quote:  We can’t search for your lost luggage, we won’t settle hotel manager disputes for you, we won’t get you a driver’s license or a job and we won’t call a credit card company for you.   Imagine that they get asked to do this often enough that they had to print the sign?  Americans Abroad – there’s a scary subject.  I think somebody working at the Embassy needs to write a tell-all book soon.

There’s always more to say and always, if luck holds, another installment from the Fortunate Travelers.

Ouch! By Mike

September 14, 2008

Well, it’s official.  To celebrate my 40th birthday (or, more likely to deal with my mid-life crisis), I have gotten inked.  

The yin yang is a reminder to keep my balance, and the dog yin yangs at the top and the bottom are there because the furry beasts help me to do that.  The celtic knot pattern represents the interconnectedness of all things and the the sun rays show the energy that comes when all is in order.  

I’ll be writing about the whole experience in a new men’s magazine to be launched here in Singapore called Frank, so I’ll post that in about a month or so.  In a nutshell, the whole process hurt as much as you would think getting repeatedly stabbed with a needle for 3 1/2 hours would.  Then there was the pain I felt in my back, butt and neck from sitting in a strange position for all that time.  Made me realize that I really am getting old!

Yet another Never B4 for me in a year full of ’em!

Let me know what you think …

Our Favorite Kind Of Chutney …

February 25, 2008


You never really know what you’re going to get with chutney … sweet, sour, spicy, smooth, chunky.  It’s unpredictable but nearly always delightful. 

Same goes for our brand-new puppy, Chutney!  She is charmingly unpredictable but oh-so delightfully loveable. 

We picked her up on Friday night and she quickly got busy wiggling, wagging, flopping and licking her way into our hearts.  That first night alone, she showed us that she could retrieve, discovered another puppy that lives in the full-length mirror in our bedroom, and displayed a generally even-keeled if a bit mischievous temperament. 

She made the weekend magical as she continued to discover more about us, her new home and her always-surprising body (that tail’s always a bugger, isn’t it?)  We took her for her first walk around the apartment complex and she’s already acting as our ambassador – we made two sets of friends in the space of 30 minutes.  That’s more people than we’ve talked to on one of our walks in two months!

Sadly, a lot of people here are simply not dog people.  Especially not BLACK dog people.  So oftentimes, as were out walking, people will actually reverse direction or give the two-month old fluffball a 50 foot radius as though she was Cujo come to steal their souls.  But, that’s their loss.  She’s interested in EVERYONE and EVERYTHING right now (which reminds us to try and be as eager about the world as she is) and pretty much just rolls on her back for a belly rub when a stranger pets her. 

chutney2.jpgChutney was born on Christmas day, so she’s the perfect little gift for us and has been great to help us finish up healing from the loss of Porter.  Also, the breeder had assigned all of the puppies numbers so that he could keep track of them.  Miss Chutney’s number (which we didn’t know until after we chose her) was number 8 – a VERY auspicious number in Chinese numerology (the Beijing Olympics are scheduled to open on 08/08/08 at 8:08:08).  We certainly feel lucky to have found her!

From One Laksa To Another? By Mike

January 24, 2008

On Saturday night, Diane and I overcame the cocooning urge this breezy, beautiful apartment has instilled in us, and headed out on the town.  Our choice was the New Asia Bar at the top of the Swisshotel.  And when I say top, I mean top.  I had to “pop” my ears three times as the high speed elevator zoomed us up to the 76th floor.  The view was spectacular.  It was the first time we got to see such an overall perspective on our new city.  The floors are all tilted 20 degrees toward the window which made for quite an unusual sensation – especially as the drinks flowed.  And flow they did.

Needless to say, the next morning our heads (and pretty much the rest of us) weren’t in such good shape.  Diane had just the cure, thanks to a meal she had been taken out for by her staff earlier in the week.

We went to a place called Katong Laksa – a small “hole-in-the-wall” that specializes in Laksa.  If ever there was a hangover cure, this was it. 

Katong Laksa (there are many variations of this delicious dish) is a spicy, coconutty brew of heat and yumminess in which floats shrimp, cockles, and noodles that have been cut up into small portions so you can shovel the stuff in your mouth even faster than if the noodles were left whole.  The coconut flavor tends to dominate on first taste but then the heat of chilies, a slightly sour shade of citrus and lemongrass, a touch of garlic, and many other more subtle flavors shine through.  That is, if you let them.  The stuff is so good that it’s easy to just keep spooning it in. 

One of the things that does slow you down though, is the otak that the dish is served with.  This is a fishy, spicy paste served wrapped up in a banana leaf.  You unwrap the leaf and put a dash of paste on your spoon before sending it diving into the glorious soupy pool.

The counterpoint to all of this wonderful spice is a beverage made from fresh limes that’s not very sweet, but just the thing to cool the palate while bringing out the citrus and oniony notes in the dish.  Yum!

Feeling fortified, we headed out to visit one of the city’s dog runs to get a dose of canine comfort into our day.  Sadly, it was mostly empty when we arrived.  A couple who were running their cocker spaniel around told us that most people were at the Singapore Dog Show and that we should go there. 

So far Singaporeans hadn’t led us astray, so it was off to the Singapore Expo Center.

The couple was right.  There were dogs everywhere!  And not just the little mix-breed, kind of funny-looking dogs you see most places in Singapore.  These were proper dogs – Goldens, Burnese Mountain Dogs, Yellow Labs, Great Danes, Shepards and more.  Chatting with one of the owners, we asked the question that really was on the back of both our minds – were there any standard poodles around?  The guy’s eyes grew a little larger and he pointed us to the back corner of the room where he said there was quite an impressive poodle. 

Jordan The PoodleWe followed his lead and soon we were talking to owner David Yeo and running our hands through the poofed up hair of Jordan, his standard poodle. 

As the conversation went on (with a  break for Jordan to take third place in the “fancy dress” competition), we discovered that Jordan’s girlfriend had just had a litter of puppies – ten in all!  THAT made for some pretty interesting conversations on the ride home and over the next few days including:  how would we ever housebreak a dog in an apartment, how much would a dog bite into our budget, wouldn’t a dog kind of mess up our travel schedule, wouldn’t it be too weird to have another black standard, where’s the nearest vet, what kind of dog food should we feed it, it can’t be allowed on the couch (at least at first), maybe I should take up jogging again to get it good exercise and … should we name the dog laksa?  Stay tuned …  

Three other random thoughts …

I sometimes get the urge to burst into singing some kind of loud, heavy kind of rock song on the bus (maybe Zeppelin’s:  We come from the land of the ice and snow, From the midnight sun where the hot springs blow …with the appropriate howl) because everyone is just so quiet and polite.

My printer ran out of ink recently.  I ordered more online.  When I checked out, I thought it said your ink will be delivered in 4-6 weeks.  I hit the back button on my browser and it was actually 4-6 hours.  And that’s exactly when it came.

The urinals are all much lower here than in the US.

Are You Settling In To Singapore Well? By Diane

January 24, 2008

On the eve of week three at Reader’s Digest Singapore….

I had hoped to write my impressions after the first week of work – good thing I didn’t!  Talk about having it slung at you fast.  NOTHING could have prepared me for the onslaught of my first week in the office.  Because the guy I replaced had been only physically there off and on for the last few months, I think they were saving up their we-need-a-manager ammunition for a warm body.  The word “orientation” was mentioned about six times the first day; I’ve come to understand that the very saying of the word WAS the only orientation I was going to get!  No one even showed me where the bathroom was.  It went kinda like this..

This section of our blog has been suppressed due to the potentially sensitive nature of the corporate information it contains.  It can be found following this link.  For the password, please email either Mike or Diane.  Watch for a new installment soon…red envelopes….chili crab…and the PRC!  

Yeah but where’s the bathroom?  And all those other 25 really useful things you need to know when you start working somewhere.  Yikes.  My head was spinning.  I had to keep laughing or I was going to cry.  The good news is that it all got MUCH better by week two.  Not having a secretary or an office or great Mac skills or any kind of orientation made the first week a lot rougher than it needed to be.  But I got through it and with a heady dose of optimism, I sorted myself out.   My team is great, I’ve taken all of them to lunch already so they could introduce me to the best local foods and I’ve had my first staff meeting to tell them I won’t be working till 7 every night and that I don’t understand Asian culture yet so if they have a problem they better tell me or suffer silently.  I suspect we’re going to have a lot of fun and that as the newness wears off, things will only get more interesting.   To keep this from approaching novel length, I will list a few of the more interesting things about my first two weeks:

*Commuting by bus is great.  They’re frequent, air-conditioned, cheap and boarding is almost insanely civilized.  Bus drivers actually wait for running people.  You do have to signal the approaching bus that you’re interested though.  I had my nose in my book and just assumed my bus would stop at the crowded bus stop but it zoomed by since no one else needed that bus but me! Taxis are affordable and abundant as well but the public transportation is the best I have experienced, world-wide. 

*Chinese New Year is a massive holiday here and red lanterns have started appearing everywhere.  It’s the Year of the Rat and there are Rat promotions everywhere.  Big plants with teeny-tiny oranges are for sale as are about 100 other CNY items.

*Maids are out washing and polishing cars every morning.  They use only buckets – no hoses available – and it looks hard work in this heat.  The executives seem to love their royal treatment.

*I’ve been bike riding in mornings, around 6:30 am and the park has large and small groups of mostly elderly people doing Tai Chi.  Looks like the official uniform is white pants and either blue, red or yellow shirts – maybe depending on your skill level?  They play Chinese music on boomboxes and they move like marionettes.  I’ve almost crashed my bike watching them. 

*A stranger at a Japanese food counter bought my lunch.  He talked to me a lot about his lazy kids, spending all his money, not taking care of the parents etc. He told me I should go to a Singapore hospital to get my “no kids problem” fixed.  They could do anything.   Then he paid for my lunch and left while I was eating it.  I remained, confused and amused.

*Speaking of food, it’s simply amazing.  And abundant and cheap.  I get cut up mango, papaya and pineapple slices every day for about $1.10, total.  Lunch costs about $4 and the variety is just too much to list here. 

*We’ve seen a lot of weird looking dogs here.  We’re guessing most breeds don’t mate well with Pomeranians and shiz tus.   And quite a few stray cats are missing most or all of their tails. Since this is shark-fin soup country, I’m keeping an eye out for the guy selling cat tail satay. 

*Michael’s pretty good at the house-husband stuff. He’s learning how many dishes we really use and how much laundry needs doing.  He’s actually done a great job setting up house, cooking, banking, shopping etc.  Not sure he loves it all but … at least he’s not unclogging one of 13 toilets!

The Big Easy — By Diane

January 8, 2008

Singapore First week impressions…

Wow is all I can say.  Look how our Asian journey has begun.  We’ve been here a week yesterday and the only scary thing I can say is that work starts tomorrow!  That’s going to be interesting, for both of us.  This will in fact be the first time since we’ve known each other (15 yrs!) that we haven’t worked together, so that’s a BIG change in itself. Our apartment has exceeded every possible expectation we had. We even have our own bathrooms which may prove pivotal to years of happiness here, no doubt! 

So Singapore is…startlingly clean…almost incomprehensibly efficient and oh-so-easy. 

Surely life in Vieques prepared us for almost anything and we keep wondering how much of our first impressions are based on Vieques as a back-drop.  But, can anyone imagine that in five short days we have managed all of the following:  bank accounts and ATM cards; picture ID’s for our housing complex; WiFi in our apt.; full cable set-up, a cell phone, a landline; figured out the bus and underground and bought passes; had a TV, rice cooker, printer and fan delivered; bought a used fridge from a neighbor and had it delivered for $15; had another fridge removed; hired someone to iron everything we brought with us; bought two tables and two office chairs from another neighbor; explored our neighborhood, got rid of an old receiver and pillows and a bunch of cardboard boxes; and managed to get Pizza Hut to deliver to our door one exhausted night?   (Our printer was delivered twice, about four hours apart and we told them about the mistake.  They really wanted us to keep  the 2nd one but we double checked that we had only purchased one so they took it back.  Someone called the next day to ask if we got our printer and to re-confirm why we turned down the delivery!) 

So that all sounds pretty mundane but you have to realize where we are and just how amazing it is to have accomplished so much, with so much ease.  The people have been truly accommodating and just plain patient.  Sometimes, in shops and eateries, they fall over each other to help you – it can be kind of humorous.  We’re just shocked by the service we’ve seen. We said to each other at least five times this week that a few years from now it’s going to be really difficult to go back to the US and suffer through commonly apathetic and inattentive service.

So Singapore is just bursting onto our senses this week… the food choices are beyond comprehension.  Think of everything you know and all foods you’ve ever tried and then simply double it.  Or triple it.  The grocery stores are making me giggle.  The mushroom selection is hard to imagine, I even saw gift packs of mushrooms for the upcoming Chinese New Year!  Fruits and veggies are abundant and inexpensive.  There are so many things I’ve never seen or heard of and have no idea how to use that we just can’t wait to start experimenting with it all.  And there is more Western food than we could require in all of our time here.  We’ve already seen great Australian cheeses and meats and all things British and American.  Chili sauce is everywhere and some restaurants stake their reputations on it.  When you ask for noodles with something, they ask you what kind – yellow, white, thin, fat etc.  Think sweet sauce, hot sauce, fish sauce, coconut sauce.  Think Korean, Thai, Vietnamese, Indonesian, Japanese and 5 kinds of Chinese food, on offer, almost everywhere you turn.  Singapore is a culinary carnival, chock full of all the colors and characters you’re expecting to see!  I have thought of so many people in our lives and how this non-stop food fest would excite, impress and tantalize so many of you. 

And then there are the massages.   I had a 40 minute, $22 reflexology foot massage that I will swear was a life altering experience.  Who needs pedicures when your entire body gets affected by tiny Asian hands?  This lady kept giggling at my large and tough feet, saying I must walk a lot.  In the meantime, she was kneading me into a new future with every whimper and groan in my repertoire.  It was so good we went back for more 5 days later and this time, the guy who was massaging Michael actually got up on the table and walked on him!  He says it was the best massage he’s ever had – the guy’s feet were like super-strong hands.

Oh yeah, it’s quirky here too.  Our apt. has no hot water in the bathroom sinks or the kitchen sink or the laundry. They really don’t believe in making anything easy on the maid. And because it’s the tropics, the cold water isn’t really all that cold so everybody just makes do.  And it’s not a place to make substitutions. They like the way things are offered and “customization” when it comes to menus or other things for sale, just isn’t a good idea.  I think that’s why it’s so efficient – they figure out the best or most accommodating way to offer things and then it’s a one-size-fits-all approach. It works, especially for my mentality, because I think the “me generation” has ruined much of what’s great about America. 

It’s a marvelously casual country, the tropical heat just makes it so.  If you’re dressed up, you must be going somewhere other than Singapore! They’re very discreet about their cell phones, though everyone has one and uses them constantly.  There seems to be a respect for others around you that permeates the culture.  They line up for everything, in an orderly way.  They bow and smile and exude joy for a $2 tip.  They ask for permission to use YOUR cell phone number, knowing it will cost YOU minutes.  Shopping is a national sport.  No kidding.  I don’t know how else to say it.  They shop with vengeance and fortitude that I’ve never observed anywhere.  More than 50% of the population is myopic by age 12 so this is THE best place to buy glasses.  There are multiple opticians in every shopping mall and that’s top of my list once the first paycheck arrives.  Mostly, I’ve noticed the lack of stress and pretension. They’re here no doubt, but I just haven’t seen either in any noticeable amounts. 

I saw a floor neighbor yesterday who shouted and smiled across to me “Welcome to Singapore.  I hope you will enjoy your stay here.  Welcome to Singapore.  Good luck to you. I hope you will be happy here.”  What a warm and wonderful greeting from an old Chinese man and his almost older dog. I hope he’s prophetic.    

Well, the sun is setting so there’s just a little more time to take a glass of wine down into the garden and ponder all that’s happened this week.  Who knows what this next one will bring – but we’re damned excited to find out!