Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Meanwhile, Back In America

Aya and I got a chance to back to the US this summer and it will have been two years since we were there last. This time around was a little bit different. Somewhat because we didn't have too much time and somewhat because we were taking a side trip to see old friends, but mostly because Aya would meet my dad's side of the family.
She had met a few of them before as they had come to Sturgeon Bay to see us, but this would be an opportunity to stay with my dad at his home, visit my grandmother at her home, and to meet a few more of the Hurley side. In order to do this we flew into Minneapolis airport, then rented a car to drive back east to Bruce, WI. The drive was nice, but Aya got her first taste of northern Wisconsin when we were approaching Bruce. DEER! Everywhere there were deer. We must have seen 8 separately within 30 minutes. When Aya asked if there were other large animals I said no, then uh... yes. Bears, wolves perhaps, but lots and lots of deer.
We did a lot of fun stuff while we were there like going to The Miner theater in Bruce  to see Planet of the Apes, visiting a historical village, but generally just getting to hang out. I even had time to brew a batch of beer with my dad and I got to meet my step brother and sister AND their kids for the first time. Overall it was a good trip and we kind of wished we had more time with them, but hopefully next summer we will be back.
From there we moved on to Washington DC and eventually back to Sturgeon Bay spending our last days having squirt gun fights with my nephews, watching their soccer games, and playing tetris with all the stuff we were trying to get into our luggage. Its odd to see my brother's kids getting bigger all the time and it makes me a little bit sad too because I would like to be a bigger part of their lives. The boys certainly could use more people around to be role models and I'm sure my mom and brother could use some extra relief. Yet here I am, taking off again to a new post half a world away.
I'm excited to get to Beijing, mostly because of the great job that I have waiting but also because of being back in China. Love it or hate it, there is something about China that makes it an adventure. So now I will take the first step out the door and start a new one.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Hurleys Go to Washington

Going to Washington to see our friends Brian and Cindy, who we hadn’t seen since our last day in Japan 4 years ago, was one of our top priorities when visiting America this summer. Unfortunately our timing was very good and we didn’t get to see them except for the last day we were there. However, I did get to see a couple of my NEH institute buddies from a few years ago, Lance and Jessica. The last time I was in DC was almost 7 years ago when I took a school trip there with my class of 8th graders. It was fun to recall that trip, those kids are graduating university now!
It was also great to bring Aya to DC. Aya likes to say that she hasn’t seen much of America, though I don’t know why since prior to this trip she had been to my family’s home in Wisconsin, Chicago, Portland, and Hawaii. That is a lot more of the country than most Americans have seen. Putting DC in her pocket though gives her enough breadth to say that she has seen “coast to coast”.
Though Aya had to work some of the days we were there we still got a chance to go by the white house, do a tour of the capitol building, see the holocaust museum, the crime and punishment museum, the Vietnam memorial, the Lincoln memorial, and take in a show at the E Street Cinema. In addition we went to a number of different restaurants to try to get a taste of what was around.
Overall I think Aya was impressed with the variety of people and what they brought to DC. I too felt like it was a very diverse city and my friend Brian pointed out that it is a very young city as well which gives it an energetic feel. Definitely DC is a place we may come back to. If history is any judge, I certainly will

Monday, July 07, 2014

The End of One Chapter

My time in Malaysia is coming to a close. Just one more day before we travel home to see my family and then on to Beijing. One more day to stay at the E&O hotel, and to see my dearest friend here one more time.

On a hot humid day 2 years ago I touched down at Penang airport. The airport was under renovation at the time, but I didn't know that. All I thought was that the airport looked really crappy with all the dust and tarps all over. Immigration was packed and took forever to get through. Oh, it was SO hot. Our head of secondary was waiting for us and he was nice enough, but on the drive to Batu Ferringhi we had to make our way through some harrowing traffic and he even admitted that sometimes he got lost because the streets were a nonsensical maze. After we were dropped at our hotel I had one thing on my mind, dinner and a beer. I ate expensive veggie soup and a very expensive bottle of Tiger beer before turning in. The next morning I was so scared to run next to traffic that I just ran loops around the hotel's floors sweating sheets. So started my journey here.
Two years later we are on the way out. Most of those impressions have changed. I still think beer is expensive which led me to home brewing for the first time. I still think traffic is harrowing, but now that I have sold my car I can enjoy the scenery a bit more rather than dodging mokeys/dogs/motorbikes/pedestrians/other cars. It is still damned hot!
Malaysia may be a place I often shake my head at, but it is endearing in a lot of ways too. A Muslim country that will arrest people over satirical videos, but then will allow a Porky's restaurant to open in a popular shopping mall. A place where three + distinct cultures interact with more or less tolerance, more or less. A place where rotten smelling fish is the local delicacy. Where 25C is cold weather. Where police don't seem to exist, yet order more or less does, more or less. Batu Ferringhi became my home and though the first year was difficult I came to appreciate the students I had. They truly are top notch and I was lucky to have such motivated individuals. Having students who are willing and driven to learn makes teaching a rewarding experience. More than that I learned about their lives and varying circumstances and got to know some unique individuals that I won't soon forget.

Each time I take a step in a new direction I wonder if I am doing the right thing. Many people I talk to share similar conversations with me, they are like minded traveling/teaching individuals. I think we all realize how lucky we are to have such great jobs, and lucky lucky lives. Leaving Penang I can say that I am once again lucky. 2 years wiser in my career, much richer in my friends, and about 10lbs heavier from all the good food here! Thank you Penang. 

Friday, July 04, 2014

Chin Farm to Forest Reserve

For most of my time in Batu Ferringhi I have been running the aquaduct path by Uplands school in Batu Ferringhi. It offers 6-7km of wide paved path and it connects to a number of hiking trails. Usually I run along the road through Batu Ferringhi to the parking lot across from the Bayview Hotel and from there a dirt track for about 2km to the end of the aqueduct. If you head this way follow the gravel road that heads into the jungle just across from the Bayview Hotel. There is a small parking lot at the start if you drive there. Once on the gravel path you will soon reach a fork. Head right, there is a small shrine at the junction. The path then starts to go up hill and you will see a red and white striped bar gate. Go through. Shortly you will reach a water tower and and then just after that a green fence. Keep on this dirt trail and shortly you will reach the dam and reservoir.
Just beyond the dirt track where the paved aqueduct trail begins there is a connecting trail that appeared to connect to another trail going to the Forest Reserve Entrance in Teluk Bahang. I never took it as I never had reason, but I got the chance this past week when my friend Emma needed to scout it out for a class hike. So we left the Bayview parking lot around 830am. I estimated that it would take about 1 hour to connect to the junction of trails on the first hill in Forest Reserve and that was about right. Most of the trek after the waterfall is steep and I was soaked in sweat within 10 minutes. There are two steep ascents broken by about 10 minutes of flat terrain on the way to the junction. Once there we took the path to the right which led us downhill towards the Forest Reserve, taking another 1.5hours. At one point there is a wooden platform with a great view. Once you reach this you are about 20 minutes from the end of the trail in the Forest Reserve. In the reserve there is room to camp and pools to swim in as well as some small restaurants and snack stands by the gate.

It was well enough marked and from the junction on the top hill you can make your way all the way to Penang Hill if we had taken a left instead of the right to head to the Forest Reserve. I reckon it would be fun to hike from Bayview to the top, but that would take all day and my days here in Penang are winding down. Hopefully I will get in a few more hikes, but probably not any that long.