The climb to Cameron Highlands, 9/28/14

We had a nice breakfast with many, many choices on the buffet. There were Japanese options, Indian options, Western options, as well as Asian selections. We met Rahman at 10:00 and started the drive to Cameron Highlands. Before we got out of town we drove by the King’s Palace for a photo stop, then got on the expressway and headed north.


The Hotel Majestic, Kuala Lumpur


These eggs look a little different.


The King’s Palace


A few hours out of town we stopped at the Malaysian version of a rest area, before starting the climb up the mountain. The road was very narrow with so many curves (127 curves, I asked and he had an answer). He talked about the Orang Asli, the native people of Malaysia. We stopped at a village and saw how they built their bamboo huts. Farther up the road was a scenic waterfall setting and local market. Later, we stopped and had a blowgun demonstration from a native. I even tried it. My first attempt was terrible and didn’t make it halfway to the target. My next two attempts, I hit the board, but didn’t quite hit the target.


That’s the target at the far left of the picture


Orang Asli village, bamboo huts


Waterfall area


A tea plantation.

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Much of the architecture in the Cameron Highlands area is British Colonial, dating from the late 1800’s. Our hotel, Cameron Highlands Resort, is a classic example of that style and period. Before going to the hotel, we stopped and had some Malaysian dishes at a local restaurant for lunch. As we finished eating, it began to rain, so we opted out of the planned afternoon activities and shifted them to tomorrow morning. We checked into the hotel, and spent the afternoon relaxing.

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View from our balcony, looking up the street

Rahman met us at 7:00pm for dinner. He was very excited to be taking us to a “steamboat” meal. It’s the Malaysian version of Chinese hotpot. There’s a burner on the table with a metal pot. The pot is divided into two sides, one side spicy, the other side, not spicy. After the soups in the pot start boiling, we added the chicken, beef, vegetables, and noodles, letting them cook. It didn’t take long before it was ready. After dinner, Rahman insisted we get some cheesecake (darn). Whatcha gonna do?


Malaysian “Steamboat”.

As we walked around the town, and later at hotel, the setting was reminiscent of a summer evening in the mountains of New Mexico or Colorado. It was cool and misty, with a little hint of fog, and a light jacket or sweater felt great.

Mosques & Towers in KL, 9/27/14

When I last checked in, our flight was taking off (2:15 am) from Beijing Capital Airport, bound for Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA). Flight attendants awakened us at 6:15 am for a light breakfast. The plane landed at 8:05. Immigration was easy (short lines), and our bags arrived quickly.

We were met as we walked out by our tour people and escorted to our vehicle and driver/guide Rahman. Putrajaya is the first area we visited. Our guide called it the “Washington DC of Malaysia”. It’s the home of all the Malaysian Government offices. Completed in 1997, the area was developed and built around a man-made lake and designed solely for this purpose. The homes in the area are all “tech green” (climate and power all controlled remotely by cell phones). It’s a beautiful area with many unique buildings, bridges, and housing.


The Putrajaya Mosque


Legs have to be covered, so robes were available on loan for visitors not in proper attire to visit.


This mosque can host up to 20,000 followers for prayers. HUGE!

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Next stop is lunch in a restaurant on the lakeshore. It’s a gorgeous setting. We had our first encounter with Shark Fin Soup. We didn’t understand when they told us what it was, so when it arrived at the table, we ate it. It wasn’t bad. After lunch, we continued our trip into Kuala Lumpur, stopping at the Petronas Towers (the tallest twin towers in the world at 1483 ft.). They were the tallest building in the world from 1997 to 2004, but have since been surpassed by several buildings.


Our lunch area


The Petronas Towers


On the streets in Kuala Lumpur

Our hotel for the night is the Hotel Majestic, a historic building from colonial British times, and renovated into a modern hotel. After we got to our room, and refreshed ourselves, we boarded a shuttle bus from the hotel to the main shopping area, Bukrit Bintang. It’s Saturday night and swarming with people. The malls are huge and colorful, and there must be hundreds of places to eat. Besides seeing the sights, I’m looking for a Starbucks. I’ve been collecting signature mugs from Starbucks in most of the countries we’ve visited since we moved to China. I’m now the proud owner of the Kuala Lumpur mug.


Ou room in the Hotel Majestic


I’ve never seen so much glass in a restroom. I’m not sure how practical it is.


Shopping in downtown KL

Closing out the week, 9/26/14

BISS is celebrating their “On the Road” week with an assembly to view short videos of each groups’ activities. They follow it up with field day activities and a cookout. My classes at BHSFIC go well, and we finish up all the school song tests.

The National Holiday in China is celebrated from Oct. 1 to Oct. 7. BISS is on holiday next week (Sept. 29 thru Oct 3), but classes start back up Monday, Oct. 6. We’ve arranged a 6-day trip to Malaysia, and it begins tonight.

The packing begins when we get home. We’re checking our weather apps, sorting out what to wear. It’s going to be warm, and damp (very humid, and they tell us it rains a little bit every day). We leave the apartment at 10:30 pm, and catch a taxi. We’re in the check-in line at 11:00 at the airport, eat a light snack at Costa Coffee, and begin the trek through immigration and security. The plane eventually takes off around 2:15 am. I think this flight is the definition of a “red-eye”.

Treasure Hunt in Olympic Forest Park, 9/25/14

THURSDAY, 9/25/14

Judy’s Pre-K group visits the Olympic Forest Park today. Their teacher, Ruta, has a treasure hunt devised for the students. Parents were invited to travel with the group today. It was cute to watch them searching for the items on the list with their kids.

Patiently waiting for instructions!

Patiently waiting for instructions!

Delivering the instructions!

Delivering the instructions!


The treasure hunt!

The treasure hunt!

My long day at BHSFIC begins with the train commute. I guess I’ve done plenty of days like this previously in my career, but when I finish the day at 5:45 pm now: I have a one-hour commute back to the apartment. It’s hot, humid, and crowded on the trains, and there’s a lot of walking between trains, and home from the station at the end.   It’s cheaper to ride the trains, but there are days when I would give almost anything to have a car.

Thankfully the kids are fun to teach, and make it worth it. We were “testing” today on singing the school song. Every Monday, the school holds a flag raising ceremony, followed by singing the National Song, and the BHSF School Song. Most of the students don’t know it, so the best way to learn it is to “raise their level of concern” by having them stand in front of the class and sing it, memorized. The class attitude is positive and supportive. They are “pulling” for each other, and the applause at the end of each test group (3-4 students) is genuine.

Pre-K “Fun on the Road”, 9/23-24/14

TUESDAY, 9/23/14

Judy’s Tuesday activity with Pre-K “BISS on the Road” involved activities on campus, so she was busy, but didn’t have to travel.  Her biggest job was teaching a song about family, and then recording each student doing a little solo.  I went with her to school, and then taught the beginning band woodwinds.  Back at the apartment, I prepared a huge pot of vegetable soup for dinner.  I think the “health ratio” goes down when I eat so much of it.

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 WEDNESDAY, 9/24/14

 Wednesday, Pre-K went back out on the road to visit the home of one of the students.  They got stories, snacks, and playtime.  How could life be any better.  I came to BISS later in the morning to teach the instrument class.  After class, Judy was back from her student trip, and we ate lunch in the local neighborhood Chinese restaurant.  Back at the apartment later, I had huge intentions of riding the bike and playing table tennis, but I didn’t.  I just couldn’t get going.  Maybe some other day?




If you’ve ever heard us talk about the young kids wearing “split pants”, this is what we’re referencing.

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“On the Road”, and “Les Mis”, 9/22/14

Judy starts “BISS On The Road” this week, helping with the Pre-K class. Today’s activity is a visit to the apartment of one of the faculty members at BISS. The students had a blast playing in the home and climbing around on the bunk beds.


Ruta, the Pre-K teacher looks fresh as the week begins


They couldn’t get the door unlocked for awhile.

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All the elementary grade levels are participating in different activities all week long. The 3rd and 4th grade classes are going out camping for a night, staying in tents and everything. Those teachers have way more energy (and courage) than I can imagine.

I did my weekly grocery shopping at Metro and the wet market. After cleaning up, I took the train over the BHSF Main Campus. We had received an email about performance of the English musical version of “Les Miserable”. Really? As the music teacher at BHSFIC, I thought maybe I should attend, and check out what they were doing. The program started at 3:30. I arrived at 3:00 pm, met some of the other faculty from school, and settled in for the performance.

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We’ve completed 3 weeks of school. I guess their production has been working on this all summer. The performance was two and one-half hours. They sang the entire show in English. It was performed with pre-recorded music, and they did a great job of catching all the musical cues. Some of the cues were really tough. They had great sets, and lots of interesting lighting and visual effects. I keep thinking how hard it would have been to flip the scenario, and have a group of English speaking students perform a work of this magnitude and difficulty in Chinese. It was quite an accomplishment! Very entertaining!

A visit from the Lone Star State!!! 9/21/14

Lots of fun on tap for today!!!! My day starts off with a tee-time at Chaoyang Park Golf Course. I played well enough to enjoy the round, finishing 3 over par for nine holes. I played with Mark Saunders (England), and James Langile (Canada). It’s fun trash-talking between the three cultures. Mark played really well. I think he finished +1 over par.

Back home, Judy has been using her free time to adjust things around the apartment. She’s always looking for better ways to arrange and organize our stuff. When she gets a little free time, look out!

We get a call around 3:00 from Randy and Cindy Vaughn. They’re long-time friends from Texas (living in Houston). They’re in Beijing, as part of a 2-week tour of China. They flew in today with their group, and had some free time tonight. We taxied over and met them at their hotel for dinner. What a blast for us to visit with someone from back home!

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The hotel is in an area of Beijing we’ve never visited before. I called Steve from BHSFIC who knew a little bit about the area, trying to get some “food” ideas. I needed several options. Cindy and Randy have been touring China for almost two weeks, and may be tiring of Chinese food. We ended up eating at “Lush”, a college/expat hangout that serves burgers, pizza, fries, etc. We traded China stories back and forth before getting a taxi back to the hotel. What a fun night!!

They have two more full days in Beijing (Great Wall, Tiananmen Square, Forbidden City, etc.). They’re going to get a workout! I think Hong Kong is still on their itinerary before heading back to the US.


Soccer and Scarves, 9/20/14

Our day is relaxing and great for recovering from the week just passed. Early afternoon, Judy headed over to Sanlitun for “who knows what”. I’m killin’ time, waiting for the Beijing Guo’An soccer game tonight at the Worker’s Stadium. I meet the group from BHSFIC at Great Leap Brewing (kinda like a BJ’s Brewhouse in the states). I had fries, a burger, and then some more fries. Even before the game, it’s been a successful night.


Steve locking up his new E-bike at Great Leap before we walk to the stadium.

After dinner, we walked to the stadium (2 long blocks). We worked our way through all the vendors and into the stadium. After the ticket gate, we went through a bag check, an electronic wanding, and a pat-down. Then as we started into stadium seating, we had another bag check, and another electronic wanding. They are really tight on security.



I can’t seem to take a good “selfie”.


L-R, Steve (Florida), Josie (El Paso/England), LaShawna (Florida), and Dr. Prettyman (Utah)

The game was fun. It was apparently a big rivalry game with Tianjin (nearby city). There was a big police presence in the stadium and near the field. I didn’t see more than 50 Tianjin fans. We all had a blast trying to join in on the cheers (not sure what we were trying to yell).


And Guoan scores!!!!


I almost forgot to mention some fun Judy had in class Friday (yesterday). She was teaching the Pre-K class and they were using scarves and “reacting” to the music. All was going well, until one of the students stuffed the scarf into the back of her pants, and began acting like it was a tail. In a moment, the whole class was trying to stuff their scarves into their pants, with varied levels of success. Those scarves will need some heavy-duty laundering!!  Oh well, sometimes ideas work, and sometimes they don’t.


The scarf class activity, as it was planned

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The “scarves” become “tails”, and the class goes off the rails.

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Short & Sweet, 9/19/14

Nothing much out of the ordinary occurred today at either BISS or BHSFIC. I got home from school around 2:30, and spent the rest of the afternoon searching for classroom materials on the internet. Judy called around 6pm with instructions for Dom & I to meet her and Shannon at Homeplate. We headed over under skies that looked foreboding. The rain didn’t start till we after we got home. We had a great evening seated outside at Homeplate, eating BBQ & cheese fries.


Knee relief, Yay!!! 9/18/14

It’s back to the grind for me today with early classes. After class, I worked in the room till lunch. After lunch, it was time to travel to the medical clinic for another visit to the “bone doctor”, as the nurses call him. Dr. Jin Jin reviews the notes from my last visit in early July, and takes another look at my x-rays. Last time I came in, he drained 25cc out of my right knee, and I immediately was better. I wasn’t pain-free, but almost.

This trip, he’s not so excited about working on the same knee. The original plan was to drain the left knee on this 2nd visit, but the right knee still has more pain. With the admonishment that we won’t be able to work on this knee again for a year, he puts me on the table and goes to work. This time, there is more pain while he works. Last trip, there was enough fluid that he didn’t have to search hard to find it. This time, he probed around with much more conviction. He only got 22cc this time, but it feels so much better. Maybe this “fix” will last longer.

After the doctor’s visit, I returned to BHSFIC for the “Orchestra Club.” We have a few new students after the club fair yesterday. Rehearsal is fun and the kids are fun to work with. The only bad thing about these after-school rehearsals is the commute home on the train during “rush hour.” I’m always “beat” when I get home on Thursdays.