Posts Tagged ‘travel’

This posting is self congratulatory.  Also hoping maybe a little helpful to someone out there.

One year ago (and seven days) my husband and I quit smoking cigarettes. We both smoked for decades. Both in our fifties. You can figure out the math.

I was only being a supportive friend to my husband. He said he didn’t want to smoke on this certain day. We were in Mumbai and flying back to Delhi.

I said, “I won’t either.”

And we didn’t smoke that day.

There is some irony here. When we landed in Delhi it was the first day of the country’s “bad air quality” season. Could hardly even see the signs outside the airport. The next day the newspaper reported that breathing this air was akin to smoking forty-five cigarettes. A gas chamber of sorts.

The other thing was that it was a sudden quit. Not planned. So that meant we still had a bunch of cigarette packs. That was bothering me. I don’t like to waste. But we didn’t smoke them and eventually gave them away.

We uploaded a free app on our phones. It’s called Smoke Free. I’d recommend it to anyone who is in process of quitting. Obviously, the smoker needs to make the decision to quit but the app provides constant and positive reinforcement. Shows how much money is saved. How health is improving each day. How many cigarettes NOT smoked. How many life days regained. How much time not spent smoking. That one is insane to think about because they mean actual time you were smoking. Mine is up to 25 days.

It has places to post triggers, cravings, set goals, badges, etc.

For those of you who don’t know. Smoking is powerfully addicting. Terrible.

Crowds of people wouldn’t be milling about the entrances of office buildings, restaurants or bars if it wasn’t.

We have been in many filthy international airport smoking rooms because not smoking during a layover was unthinkable. There is one lounge where you had to lean your face into this machine to light your cigarette. Similar to a car lighter. Looked like you were kissing a big silver machine. That many had previously kissed. Gross.

Of course, the duty free shop at the airport is where we would buy our cartons of cigarettes.

Weather would never be a deterrent.  Puffing away in all sorts of weather and every season.

Would have a cigarette outside airport before picking up bags at the luggage carousel.

Always ensured you didn’t run out of them. Or even ran low.

Nor’easter heading your way? Stock up on milk, bread and cigarettes.

I was pretty good about usually keeping the cigarettes at home when not traveling. If I was out and about during the day I didn’t bring them with me. We also didn’t smoke in the house or in our cars.

Here is the surprising thing. It was easier than I thought it would be.

Way easier. My husband agrees. I stated that we would only do it “cold turkey” and not vape or substitute something else. Because I thought that would make it more difficult.

I am not saying it’s easy. Cravings do occur. I sometimes missed it. But it truly was easier than I thought. You just distract yourself. I personally did a ton of walking. Outside in the polluted air. 🙂

I do believe anyone can quit. It is so liberating. No longer being held hostage.








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We have all heard that there is no road map for grief. So it can be a difficult and tricky course for many to navigate.

Each of us is like a snowflake. Unique. Just like our grief is unique and how we deal with our loss.

I remember one of my aunts, after losing her husband, telling me that she just kept herself busy, busy and busy. In hindsight she thinks maybe she kept herself too busy.

Another aunt was told to travel after the loss of her spouse. And she did. Accepted every invitation.

Just two examples among many.

Everyone takes a different course to find their way through grief and find their way back again. To discover their new normal.

Life is never the same when we lose a loved one. That is a fact.

The same aunt who was “too busy” wrote those exact words to me in a letter after my uncle Stiophan died.

“Life will never be the same.”

And it wasn’t. But that didn’t mean that life couldn’t be good for her again.

A friend, Donna B., had shared a website this morning on Facebook and I thought it was interesting. Shows another way of dealing with grief.

The owner of the website lost her mother, who was in her fifties, to early onset Alzheimer’s. Her aunt stepped in as surrogate mom but she, too, would soon fall victim to the same disease and be gone within a year.

Here is her website.

I thought I would share it with you. Who knows? Maybe it will help someone through the upcoming holidays. Or the next six months. The year.

There are also some tips and tools on the site designed to help those who are grieving. I particularly liked, “Be the Sherpa.”

Wishing peace and comfort to all of those who are suffering this holiday season. Now and in the new year.




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I met with a friend yesterday. We were chatting about this and that. Traveling was one of the topics. Specifically about airports.

Jenny mentioned a line from the movie, “Love, Actually” which claims that the Arrival Gate at the airport is the happiest place to be.

Yes, that’s so true.

Even though an arrival gate can be quite chaotic.

Go through the doors and there’s a mess of humanity staring you directly in the face. Before they quickly dismiss you as not being their person.They continue searching for their loved one. Holding signs. Flowers.

Anxiously waiting.

Then the cries of joy. The smiles and laughter. The hugs.

It’s overwhelming when it’s face to face-on the same floor level. For the ones coming out of the gate. Especially if you are a shorty like me! Desperately looking for their own loved one in the sea of bodies.

What I always liked about the small airport in my home state is that you had to ride down the escalator to the waiting crowd. It allowed a bird’s eye view, while descending, to scan the masses and seek out your own people.

Also allowed them to look up and find you gliding down slowly.

And I would see my parents. Standing together and smiling when they saw us.

Would nudge my kids, “Hey, there they are! There’s Nana and Papa!”

Although they would have already spotted them on their own.

I went home last summer and then again for Christmas and it was different.

My father would never again be waiting at the Arrival Gate for me.

So, we passed through the excited crowds, collected our baggage and hopped into a taxi.

The Arrival Gate is a happy place. Love everywhere.

But not always. Sometimes it’s a memory of love everywhere.

And those memories are truly cherished.


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On April 8th I posted about the roadkill I noticed the previous day. A dead monkey on the side of the road. 😦

When I was a young kid growing up in the Northeast I never could have imagined I would see monkey roadkill.

I suppose I am fascinated by the animals themselves. Along with the fact that our progress as humans sometimes gets in the way of their natural lives.

As I was driving home from lunch today I looked, as I do every day, toward the spot where I first spotted the unfortunate monkey.

Yup, still there. Nine days later.

I keep thinking that the monkey will be gone. Removed by some highway clean up crew.


Not sure why this bothers me. I’m not looking for it to have a Christian burial or anything.

I just don’t like seeing it decompose in the hot sun. Day after day.



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What do I miss about America? I have a few months under my belt of this overseas living so I suppose I sort of have a running list in my head.

This is not to say I do not like living here in Kuala Lumpur. I am really, really enjoying it. But home will always be home. And America, for all of her faults and foibles (she is human after all) is mine. Love her! And miss some things about her. It’s normal.

You can get just about any item or product you want or need here. You just have to search for it and it might cost you. I miss not having to search for it and it not costing me more than it should. In a week, I can hit 3-4 different grocery stores. Meat, vegetables, fruits and staples store. And I have never liked grocery shopping!

I miss inventory. Here there is little to no inventory in some of the stores. There are no back rooms. You know those rooms. When you find a shoe on the rack and ask if they have a size six in the back. And there is no back. In a lot of cases what is on display is what you get. And if they don’t have it they just tell you, “No have.” Sometimes the folks just shoot out the famous line, “Outta stock.”

Sizing can also be an issue at local stores. Never a problem in big, ole America. I was recently browsing at a nearby shop and noticed a cute pair of navy cargo shorts. They sort of looked a bit tiny in the rear end so I halfheartedly grabbed a pair sized “large.” Please note I am not Norwegian, German, Polish or any of those countries that make big, tall girls. I am lots smaller. But not Asian smaller. I am a white, middle aged Irish American woman packing an extra ten pounds on a small frame. The “large” did not make it past my knee! I am not kidding. I yelled out to my daughter to grab the “extra large” size. Wow, never really wanted to utter those words out loud. Especially in a women’s store. I double checked to make sure I wasn’t in the children’s section. Really. The “extra large” did not make it past my mid thigh. Apparently my thigh is more than extra large. Reminds me of Thanksgiving. Can you pass me the extra, extra large turkey thigh? No, no, not the white meat! Big thigh. Big sigh.

Which leads me to the other white meat. Pork is not always readily available. Due to the religion of the country. But you can definitely find it. And sometimes even eat it unknowingly at Chinese restaurants when you order chicken fried rice. Hmmm, doesn’t taste like chicken. That’s weird because doesn’t everything taste like chicken?

I am not even the biggest pork eater but there are some things that I love and can never be substituted. Prosciutto, pepperoni and bacon. That’s just the way it is. One could convince themselves (for health or religious reasons) that turkey bacon or turkey anything cuts it. But that would never be true. I’m of Irish descent. I know. My people eat black pudding, for Heaven’s sake. So, Domino’s Pizza and Papa John’s can taste just a tad different here with the substitute pepperoni. And I do miss my BLT sandwiches.

Miss the U.S. weather a bit. The heat here is consistent. It is always 88 degrees and sticky. It might rain for a bit every day or every other day. But that is the only change. Make up on one’s face can last up to three minutes. And that is the three minutes from when you actually apply it to the time you make it out of the bathroom. It doesn’t even get windy. Southern California could be pretty consistent but when it’s dry and 73 degrees no one’s complaining about it. All my Facebook friends are posting beautiful photos of New England foliage, pumpkins, Halloween and talking about brisk weather, apple picking and raking leaves. I miss that season.

Next posting will be about all the wonderful things I am grateful for and the things I will miss when I leave Malaysia. The list will be long.

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There is a group of women that get together once a month here in Kuala Lumpur for a guided hike to nearby areas. Yesterday was hike #2. At the longest and oldest quartz ridge in the world. Whew! That one was a bit rocky. In lots of ways.

I don’t attend because I am a big fan of hiking. I actually prefer strolling along at a conversational pace. That’s just me. But I show up for these hikes because it is an opportunity to meet new folks, explore my surroundings, and learn something new.

This is what we found on the road before we even entered the jungle. A baby python that had been run over by a car. The leaf in the photo is quite large. Enough to cover Adam and possibly a few of his descendants. Gives you an idea of the snake’s size. My thought was, “And just where is his Mama???”  These snakes are non-venomous but still dangerous. When they do bite they latch on and won’t let go. They also coil and could choke the life out of you. Good to have a knife handy. Our guide did. Because you know I asked him!

This is the guide, John, who is always willing to share helpful information about the jungle. Last hike we learned about the waste of a civet. These animals ingest coffee berries, slide them through their system and defecate whole beans. Without the bitterness. I don’t mean that the civet is no longer bitter. Just the coffee beans. Are you wondering what was in your cup of Joe this morning?

He also told us how to poison our husbands using the palm. There are almost invisible shards like fiberglass. Stirring them into food or cups of coffee (civet brand or others) can lead to internal bleeding.

John said really all you need is a knife in the jungle. There are berries to eat. Plants that retain water. And many other resources. Quite amazing.

That John is not much bigger than a baby python but he is big in the jungle knowledge department.

Saw this as we entered the jungle. Just like I questioned where Mama snake was hiding I also wondered where the other three tires were hiding. It was spray painted with some type of advertisement. Using all jungle resources.

Still not even in the jungle and this little monkey was skipping along the wires above us. Most likely talking about us.

Termites. Lots of them. I couldn’t help but think of the haves and the have nots. These fortunate insects will never run out of food in their current environment. Moisture, fresh bark, fallen limbs and community. What more could a termite want? Meanwhile, there are a lot of termites around the world that are not so fortunate and have to resort to eating suburban fences.

This is one of the views we had during the hike. Absolutely gorgeous. One could forget how very close one lives to the city. If you looked in one direction you spied the smog and pollution rising from Kuala Lumpur and its terrible congestion. The other direction was clear, sunny skies and clean drinking water! I have loads of photographs but only wanted to share a few of the highlights. Lest you get bored.

Have a wonderful day! And don’t forget to look in the direction of clear, sunny skies!

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Just in case you were wondering, I am really enjoying my new environment. I have a nice group of women friends. We help and support each other every day. So I am mostly joyful. Had NO idea what to expect before moving but I have been pleasantly surprised. Sure, there are frustrating moments. But like everything else- those pass. It’s all good.

I have been taking some photos here in Kuala Lumpur. A way of documenting my new experiences. Whose idea was it to give me one of these smart phones? Could Alexander Graham Bell ever imagined we would be taking pictures with telephones?

Anyway, as promised, I am sharing them with you. Not all of them at once. But bit by bit.

Below are photos of Awwa and her moveable feast.

Awwa, is a Chinese woman with impeccable English. She drives her trucks (two) into the neighborhood laden with meats, vegetables, fruits, junk food, freshly baked bread, milk, eggs, cleaning supplies, shampoo, and fresh seafood. Everything! Even cigarettes, wine and beer! I can hardly remember my first name but ALWAYS remember the days her trucks will be visiting.

I have visited many grocery stores since I arrived. So she’s not my main supplier. But she’s reliable and gets me the good stuff.

Now, Awwa might charge a little more than the grocery stores. After all, a gal has to make a living. And she is charging for convenience. Bringing the store to you. She certainly is a blessing if you can’t get out or have just run out of milk. Awwa does business mostly the old fashioned way. Throws your items on a scale, scratches it down in pencil and presents you with a bill. Cash only.

If you don’t have the money she will catch you next week. Always willing to advise the best way to prepare, cook and present. Her helper will carry your purchases to your door. She is pleasant and remembers everyone’s name. LOVE her!

This is the lovely woman, Awwa, who drives her trucks into the neighborhood each Monday and Thursday. There is nothing she can’t find for you.

Shopping at the truck. Pen, paper, mad math skills, scale and cash money are all that is needed.

Freezer contains chicken, beef and loads of other things. She arrives with live crabs and all sorts of seafood.

Ready for checkout!

Anything at all!

Into every lil thing!

Why leave the neighborhood?

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New to the country and the roots of my hair were growing out/in quickly. You all know I am NOT going gray. I had my hair done the second I was to leave California knowing that it would be awhile before I scoped out a new salon in Kuala Lumpur.

A friend here had given me a reference. One that was a little off the expat beaten path. Most salons that do expat hair charge exorbitant prices. Because they “know” European hair.

It is actually a great experience for me NOT to be in a place (like back home) where everyone “knows” the hair on my little ole white self. So I can understand what a good portion of the world has to deal with on a regular basis.

So, yesterday, I took a taxi to Koreatown for my 10:00am appointment in a Korean salon. I made an appointment with Nicki. I was totally throwing caution to the wind. But I am an optimistic person.

It worked for me. Didn’t think so at first. I arrived promptly and Nicki comes running towards me, semi-squashed into a tight camisole and teetering on perilously high pumps saying,”I have to finish my own hair! I will be with you in just ten minutes!” Ummm, okay?

So she sat in one of the chairs, blow dried and styled her hair. While I watched. I almost laughed out loud.

A woman comes over to me and puts on a lightweight, shiny (not quite silky) robe with a sash and she ties it for me. Gotta tell you I felt a little like Hugh Hefner. Anyway, the party gets started. She has two helpers working alongside her. Ask if I want anything. Green tea or coffee.

Hair gets washed, roots get touched up. And then I get hand massages from both helpers. Simultaneously. Then I get a neck massage. Later on I got another one!

While highlighting my hair, Nicki tells me she has only been here one month. Newer than me to the area. She had just arrived from Dublin, Ireland after living there for seven years. So she “knows” white hair. Has an Irish boyfriend who is currently checking things out in Sydney. I should have known when she said, “How are ye?” But bless her heart she couldn’t say the word “Irish” to save her life. I had no idea what she was referring to when she kept repeating Eilash. I kept thinking, “Eyelash?”

For the record I know I would struggle with Korean sounds. Or any other language. Sometimes sounds and letters are just not shared from one language to the next. But I hope that if I ever live in a place for seven years I might be able to pronounce it.

She was sweeter than anything. Had nothing but wonderful things to say about the Irish and her time there. Except for the weather and cost of living. Very talkative and friendly.

And you know what? It was all good. My first hair color and cut here was a success.

I even managed to make it home. Although it took awhile. I had called the taxi company. The woman did not understand me or the street address I was giving her. Nicky took the phone from me and she had no luck either. Thankfully, there was a Chinese customer who got on the phone for me and explained to the taxi service where I was. And they soon arrived. Whew!

I went to the open house at Annie’s school in the evening. All my newfound lady friends (with half inch roots) were asking, “Mary, where did you get your hair done?”

And I happily passed along the information. And told them to ask for Nicky. Because she “knows” hair.

Now, I know there might be some frustrating, challenging days ahead of me. Was just really thankful that this wasn’t one of them.

Have a great weekend!

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I am meeting so many new people here in Kuala Lumpur. I have been extending my hand out so often that I feel like a politician.

“Hi, I’m Mary, sure would appreciate your vote in the upcoming elections!”

But in the last six months (since my husband was here and I was in California) I have managed to put on probably eight to ten pounds on this small  frame of mine. Not sure why. I can chalk it up to stress, onset of menopause or wine with next door neighbor Ken. Doesn’t matter why. But I am the heaviest I have been in my life. Excluding pregnancies.

I warned husband before I arrived in Malaysia. I said, “I chunked up a bit.” He said he was totally fine with it.

So I have to get serious and shed this excess. And I will.

In the meantime, when I am introducing myself to someone I really, really want to say to them, “Hi, I’m Mary. Please imagine me ten pounds thinner.”

Well, wouldn’t that be a slippery slope? Because then I would have to say, “And imagine that I don’t have crow’s feet.” Then, “And imagine that my gray roots are not visible.” It would be never ending.

So for the moment, I will accept things as they are, continue to extend my hand and just say, “Hi, I’m Mary.”

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My husband was in Beijing last week on business. Since he has traveled quite a bit one of the employees asked him, “Where is your favorite place in the world?”

He answered, “Wherever my family is.”

She was like, “Wow!”

He said he hadn’t meant it to have a wow factor. He was just telling the truth.

You know I loved that answer! And I agree with him 100%!

As a Yiddish proverb states, “It is not good to be alone, even in Paradise.”

If it was good to be alone then I would still be in Southern California.

Have a great weekend. And enjoy your favorite place.

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