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Well I’ve said it once, twice and probably a hundred times…. “I want to get back to writing my blog”. It is hard to imagine that the last time I wrote was back in October 2013!!! A LOT of things have changed in my life since then – so it is high time I get back on to doing the things I really enjoy doing. Like, surprisingly, writing my blog. Cheap therapy and it is a nice place for me to look back on the things in my life. I promise to try to be more regular in my blogging this time around. No guarantees but a promise to at least try.
So, what is new?
Firstly, I got a new job this year. Still located in Singapore, but at a different school, and a somewhat different role. I have spent the year working at GEMS World Academy – Singapore as a Dramatic Arts teacher for Grades 6-8 and also a Language and Literature teacher for Grades 6&7. FINALLY putting to use my minor in English! It wasn’t what I was thinking of doing, and probably something that wouldn’t have passed through my mind to even try – but I have found that I really love it. I love the different style of classroom I teach in, and using my creative side in a different way. I had a student today tell me that he would be “so sad if he found out I wasn’t going to be teaching him English again next year in Grade 7. I love this class. I just do!” Well if that doesn’t bring a smile to your face and motivate you to work hard to make others feel the same – I don’t know what could motivate me! (p.s. I had another student tell me that I have inspired them today too – It was a really good ‘students made me love my job’ kind of days). This year has been BUSY. Captial letters for emphasis are a must. Everything has been a first. I created lessons from scratch (with some amazing support from friends of course) but mostly doing it all myself. That is no small task with absolutely no curriculum in place other than what I could think up, research and create myself. But I do like what I have created, and have already begun working on the improvements for next year. I am looking forward to redoing it again so I can make it even better lessons and units for the kidlets.
It has been a big year for Singapore in a number of ways. Firstly, the founding father of Singapore PM Lee Kwan Yew passed away this year. It was a very interesting experience here in Singapore. Thousands and thousands of Singaporeans lined up for days, 24 hours a day, to catch a glimpse and pay their final respects. Radio programming was at a standstill for the official week of mourning. Television channels played life documentaries on repeat for the week. I am pretty sure I will never experience something quite like this in my lifetime again, and am 100% positive Canadian’s will not experience a deep love and admiration for a politician like. Not everyone here shared this same passion for the former PM, and there was much discourse about it. However, I was so intrigued by the whole experience of his passing – it is definitely not a moment I will soon forget.
Singapore is also celebrating its 50th birthday. There are so many things to celebrate “SG50” – it is impressive. Happy Birthday Singapore! www.singapore50.sg
My friend Rey started his own business – and it is a super hit!!! He started his own personal training company called Unbeatable Boxing and Fitness and I couldn’t be more proud of all of his hard work and dedication. http://www.unbeatableboxing.com
Travel wise – Kels and I have travelled a lot this year. Thailand, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok a few times, Japan for a great skiing holiday, Hong Kong and probably some places I forgot about. As always – we love to see the world and experience new places together.
Well – this is a start to get the ball rolling. More to come (and more regularly hopefully!)
Until the next one!
Notes from Gwen:
We arrived in Bali on Monday afternoon. As we exited the airport, we were greeted by beautiful girls,who put flowers in our hair. At that moment I knew this was going to be a totally different taste of Asia. As our hosts at the Rouge villa where we are staying said, “welcome to paradise.” This villa is fantastic. Red and white, is definitely the theme. It is new and modern with a beautiful lounge area, aesthetic building, pool and individual rooms. Everything was so perfect. The staff were all very helpful and wanting to assist us in anyway possible.
Ubud is a busy tourist town, with lots of people on the street and shops. After we arrived and settled in, we enjoyed some drinks and sushi at the lounge in our villa. We went for a walk to check out a bit of the town and ate dinner at TeraZo’s. It is a lovely restaurant and the food was excellent. We try to order a variety of things, so we get to taste many things. This little plan works wonderfully.
The following day, Keriann arranged for a driver to take us around the country side in this area. We drove to the coast to see the 11th century, Tanah Lot temples built on rock formations in the water. Wonderous structures so beautiful to see, and the bonus to smell and feel the warm Indian Ocean. We saw lots of country side and the beautiful rice terraces. You can’t help but recall the scene in Eat, Pray, Love, with Julia Roberts. Seeing it is even more spectacular! We ate lunch at a lovely roadside restaurant. There were chickens strutting around, which isn’t unusual in any way but one chicken made a hilarious noise that sounded like it was laughing. That was pretty entertaining.
After lunch we visited a butterfly conservatory. Interesting, with many beautiful specimens. Keriann bravely let a gentleman put a collection of bugs on the front of her dress. I wasn’t too interested in participating in that bug collection. Some of them were huge.
We continued our tour which included a butterfly conservatory. A stop to see and taste various spices teas and the world famous Kopi Lamak coffee. If you ever saw the movie, The Bucket list, there was a scene when Jack Nicholson learns this expensive coffee comes from Mongoose poop. Anyway, after the process was explained, and as a true coffee lover from 1/2 way around the world, I couldn’t not pass it up. It wasn’t brewed properly at this little tasting place so the best I can say is it was ok.
After a full afternoon we were back at Rouge, to get ready for dinner out at another fabulous restaurant, the Lamak. Our usual combination of cocktails, dinner and wine made for another amazing meal. Just when you think you topped it all at the last place we dined, another restaurant has something else very special.
The next day was a Hindu celebration day in Bali. Some shops were closed or opened late. We spent the morning walking through the monkey forest. This is a lovely wooded park, that is home to many, many monkeys. They are very used to tourists so they come very close. I decided to distance myself from the people that like to feed and try to attract them. I saw a male jump on a guy who was tempting him with a water bottle. Monkeys are cute and fun to watch, but that’s where I draw the line as they can also be very aggressive. After the monkey forest, we browsed through a few shops, had a delicious lunch, and relaxed around the pool at the Villa. To complete our last evening in Ubud we ate dinner at Bridges. It is located by a bridge of course, but it over looks a beautiful, steep ravine. Dinner was so amazing and we were surprised again with a anniversary dessert. The whole experience was amazing!
The next morning we were off to our last destination in Bali, Seminyak. It is another big tourist area. Bali is the tourist capital for Australian holidayers. We have our own private 3 bedroom villa, Keriann’s friend Rob DeRosa has joined us for a couple of days. It has been great to see him again and listen to some of his many travel stories. Not too many places he hasn’t been.
At this very moment I am sitting on a lounge chair, whole a cook prepares our breakfast. Reality is going to bite badly when we get home.
In the evening we went to a temple by the ocean and watched a famous Hindu cultural dance performance. It was beautiful with some beautiful costumes and masks. Of course if finished the evening by going to a gorgeous restaurant overlooking the ocean.
The next day we spent the day at the beach, We lounged, swam, watched people body surf, drank and ate the day a way. Just a perfect last day in paradise!
This morning we are enjoying some quiet lounging at the villa, before having to pack and head to the airport to return to Singapore.
“Bali Ha’i will call you, any night any day.
In my heart I’ll hear it calling
Come away, come away
Next stop Singers!
Notes from Keriann:
We definitely tried to make the very most of our final days together. We arrived into Singapore in the late afternoon, and spent a couple of hours just doing things around the apartment and running a couple of small errands. We then headed out for an amazing dinner together at Artichoke. True to our holiday dining, Artichoke was fabulous! We loved the banter we had with the host and the food was out of this world delicious.
Our last day in Singapore, was also my last day of holiday so we did our best to make the most of every second before the reality of the end being near was realized. We decided to make a stop at the pool for an hour, then we headed off to Park at Holland Village for lunch. I had heard that the eggs benedict here were amazing so I had been wanting to try it out for awhile. We were definitely not disappointed in the food. yum! It rained so we were a bit stuck for a little while until it cleared up, but then we were off to Sentosa Island to check out the aquarium and try out the casino for a short while.
The aquarium was really impressive. It’s the world’s biggest oceanarium and it really does look pretty wonderful. All I can hope is that the animals inside are treated well and their needs are being cared for by the aquarium. The exhibits are gorgeous. We also tried our luck a little at the casino. We should have quit while we were ahead there, but that’s the problem with casinos!
We ended our perfect Singapore Sunday with a dinner at Glutton’s Bay overlooking the Marina Bay with cousin Katelyn and some friends. Again, the food was amazing and it was a great way to end a great time together experiencing all the different foods (and Tiger beer) that make Singapore one of the best food capitals!
P & G’s Anniversary Asian Adventure has now come to a close. I left them at the apartment early this morning as I headed off to work. It is never easy to end such a wonderful time with people who mean so much to you, however, knowing what a fantastic time we had together and getting to experience so much of my life together was an amazingly wonderful experience.
Until our next Asian Adventure, Mom and Dad! See you again soon!
CAMBODIA – FROM GWEN
Oh, where to begin? I would like to write a few words about my impressions of Cambodia. The first thing you notice is the hot temperature and dirty extreme poverty all around. These are just superficial things. The real Cambodia lies in the heart of the Khmer people. Just thinking about them and the constant struggle brings a lump in my throat and tear to my eye.
We had the distinct opportunity to meet some great guys and have them extend their friendship to us. EVERYONE we encountered treated us with great respect and kindness. You notice they are always smiling. They have every reason to be angry at the world who seemed to have abandoned them for several years. 1st during the relentless bombing by the US, then by the terror reigned by Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge. In the words of one of our tour guides, ” we were a dead country to the rest of the world”. No one knew what was going on. Despite this, they have a love for each other and humanity. I witnessed a tuk tuk driver who would perhaps make only $5 in a day, stop and give an old man at the side of the street some money.
We had a fantastic time in Siem Reap exploring temples. They are intricate 11th, 12th, and 13th century works of art. We took some amazing pictures, which is wonderful but to totally appreciate the size and structure is to see it in all dimensions. Tom, our driver and tour guide was a wealth of knowledge and had a great sense of humour.
We had wonderful tuk tuk drivers in Phnom Penh that took us everywhere and became our friends. Two of them Savi and Wan, were friends of Keriann and her friends from previous visits. They recruited a cousin, Nim, to be our driver while in Phnom Penh. He didn’t speaking English well and we didn’t speak Cambodian at all. We managed very well and saw some areas we hadn’t planned on. He felt very responsible for us all the time and couldn’t do enough to please us. We hope to keep a personal connection with him and give him some financial support to help his 2 little girls.
There were many highlights to our time spent here. The two that I will forever remember was a our day at the PIO school and orphanage and building houses. What fun we had visiting the school and the taking all the kids from the orphanages to a somewhat sketchy water park. The kids had a great time just doing what they do best, having fun, and laughing. It was all nothing but fun.
On the way back to the orphanage we had a small encounter when the tuk tuk we were riding in collided with a motorcycle. Nothing serious, but the motorcycle driver did go for a tumble when he hit the road, he did had a few cuts and bruises and a seriously scraped bike. We were all pretty calm, but I’m not going to lie when it happened I’m thinking here we are 2 adults with 4 kids in Cambodia, where the sex trade is awful. We don’t know where we are and we are being swarmed by as it turns out by a lot of nosey people. The kids took it all in stride, but they had the advantage of knowing the language.
The next day was the Tabitha house building. Thanks Lizz and Cody for all your help. We successfully completed 2 houses ourselves. Just Pat, Gwen, Kelso, Keriann, Lizz and Cody as a team together on our two houses. The rest of the group were working on their own houses in other parts of the village while we worked on ours. I don’t think I’m going to look for a career in nailing down 2″ strips of bamboo flooring anytime soon though. It was hot work but so life changing for both the families who received the houses, and for us as well. The group built 16 houses in total. We personally improved the quality of life for 16 families. They were so happy to have a dry sturdy house to live it. We also had the privilege to present a beautiful hand embroidered blanket to 2 of the families. It was an unforgettable experience to share with Keriann and Kelso.
I would like to say what a fantastic group of professional people took part in both the orphanage visit and the house building. Thanks Donna Jackson for all the organizing. Keriann’s and Kelso friends welcomed us with open arms. They are very passionate about the support they lend to the not-for-profit groups. They brain storm to come up with new ways to help the PIO school, students and teachers. It is all about helping in any way they can as they can easily see that there is so much to do to support so many people they meet. I was so proud of all of them. They are dedicated to simply helping to improve the lives of their Cambodian friends. Thanks everyone! We sure enjoyed getting to know you. We totally enjoyed our dinners together at some amazing restaurants! I can’t miss mentioning the array of french bread and pastries we ate. No problem feeding my carb addiction in Cambodia.
Sadly, we had to leave Cambodia though too as we were headed off to experience an entirely different culture and people in Bali, Indonesia. As we rode to the airport in the tuk tuk, I tried to take a mental picture and commit to memory all that we had experienced. I want to be able to vividly recall each experience at whim.
We arrived back in Singapore for a night then we were off to begin our Balinese adventure.
The adventure continues……
BALI – BY KERIANN
The adventures certainly do continue in Bali. We had just an evening/morning back in Singapore to regroup, repack and do a bit of laundry. It also gave us some time to nip out to the mall next to our house and get my dad some new eyeglasses. Optical Power Shop! We were probably in and out of the eyeglass shop in about 30 minutes. In that time frame, my father tried on many frames (and many ridiculous joke frames too of course – it is Pat O’Rourke after all). Has his eyes tested and his bifocals tested too. Singapore doesn’t joke around when it comes to efficiency!
On Monday, we were off on a plane again, but this time to Bali, Indonesia. When we arrived at the airport, we noticed a huge queue of people waiting to go through customs. Over an hour wait at least. Ugh. However, there is a system set up that allows people to bypass waiting in line at the customs area. So, this seems totally sketchy and more than likely, it probably is. For an extra $25 USD, someone takes your passport and gets it all stamped for you so that you can bypass the massive line up. Even with their brand new, huge airport, there was still a massive queue as a few flights had arrived all at the same time. We didn’t want to waste any daylight hours we could have in Bali so we decided that it was worth the extra money. I would never have used this service in a million years had I not already done it once with Kelso a few months back. I could see from the looks on my parent’s faces, that they too had the impression that this was a bit of a sketchy set up. But it worked just fine and we were in a van headed to Ubud before we knew it!
We arrived in Ubud around 5pm and decided to head up to the lounge bar that is a part of our hotel for a cocktail and a snack before dinner. We are staying at Rouge Bali Villas in Ubud. It is a lovely, modern hotel with every amenity you can imagine. Everything is done with the theme of the colour red. It really stands out and is located just off of the main road. I HIGHLY recommend staying here! It is fabulous. As we sat and enjoyed some sushi and drinks, the owners came over to introduce themselves to us. There are only 8 rooms at this hotel so it is a very intimate experience which is really enjoyable. From there, we left to have a little walk around town and pop our head into a few shops along the way. We had a fabulous meal at TeraZo (a place I have enjoyed before on a trip with Kelso a few years ago). Delicious meal and fantastic atmosphere!
The next day we spent taking a tour and seeing many different sites around Bali. We really felt like we did it all in a day but everything was so interesting to see and we learned a lot from our guide – Gedung. We travelled to Tanah Lot temple out on the coast of the Indian Ocean. It is a beautiful place and the waves were crashing up against the rocks surrounding the cliffs and temples here.
We then headed off towards the mountains to see the Tegalalang rice terraces that have been made famous in many films and photos. Being the true farmers we are 🙂 we wanted to know about how the rice irrigation systems were created and how they work. Gedung also showed us a peanut plant and we ate fresh peanuts right off the plant which tasted exactly like a sweet pea tastes fresh of the plant. We enjoyed a lovely Indonesian lunch in a restaurant and a few of the terraces.
From there, we were again off to see a butterfly park. We thought that this was going to be another one of those stops that are super touristy and ends up not being that great. However, it was really interesting! We spoke to a staff member that explained the process of hatching all the butterflies and got to have some “butterfly babies” sat on our hands and clothing that were only a few hours old. We saw massive stick bugs, beetles, scorpions, bugs that looked like leaves and flowers. They were really interesting and the garden was full of beautiful plants and flowers. It was worth the stop! Along the way we could see all the preparations for a festival that is taking place right now. It is a religious festival and every house and shop puts up one of these beautifully decorated bamboo poles. They are so gorgeous and all are handmade.
We then headed to “The Temple on the Lake” (or Pura Ulun Danu Bratan). This is a famous temple, that is also found on the 50,000 Rupiah note. The tide was out at the time we were there so it didn’t “float” on the lake as it usually does, but it was interesting to learn more about the temples, what they mean, what they are made from etc.
Our last stop was to a garden where many spices, coffee and chocolate are grown. Again, this was touristy as sin, but a necessary component of a coffee lover’s trip to Bali to say that you tried Kopi Luwak. If you don’t know what this is, it is literally Mongoose Poop Coffee. What? Yep – it is very famous and also very expensive coffee sold world-wide. The flavour apparently really comes from the fermentation process that occurs when a Mongoose eats the ripe, red coffee beans and they travel through their digestive system. People then harvest the undigested beans from their droppings, cleans, roasts and makes them into a delicious brew. Gwen tried this, but I am sure Pat and I were secretly thinking how happy we are that we aren’t coffee drinkers! There were many other teas and coffees to try too and we did try them all. It was a fun way to end the tour.
We ended the day with a walk around the town, another evening of poking our heads in the many different shops that line the streets of Ubud and a wonderful meal at Lamak. It was a great find and I had read about it on a blog somewhere so when I saw the sign I thought it was worth a try. It definitely was! Yummy, yummy, yummy!
More to come about our Bali adventures again tomorrow…. we’ve done many other things as well we can’t fit it all in to one post!
I think G & P are definitely on a “Bali High”
In preparation for our upcoming charity events – The Clothes Swap for Cambodia as well as my Charity Book Fair, I have realized that some of my life experiences are coming full circle. Through High School and University, I worked at and then managed a “Pre-loved” Clothing store called, ‘George’ in Grand Bend, Ontario (for those in Canada who may know – it was exactly the same as ‘The Patch’ but with a different name)
I look back on my experiences there with very fond memories and also many memories of me saying “what the hell am I doing here?” But honestly if I could handle life at George, I could handle pretty much anything life was going to throw at me. It was a great learning experience and one that definitely kept me on my toes. I do often think about all the people that I met through working there and all of the characters I met through the interesting clientele and other general riff raft I would encounter on a daily basis. I am sure Chris (the owner) would be pleased to know, that over the years, I have also taken the time to write down some of the bizarre and funny things that happened during a regular work day there. I really wish I would have kept a journal!!
Some of the highlights include:
- In my very first year, opening the store on a regular work day only to find a man I had never seen before in my life sleeping in a pile of sweaters! Apparently a friend of the owner.
- Interesting interview techniques involving star signs of potential new hires
- The Stubbs’ ‘stuff a bag’ sales – or any of the ‘stuff a bag’ sales for that matter! Many times, I was forced to stand on the street for hours telling people about the sale.
- I started my first day of work one summer with instructions for me (written on a freshly drywalled wall) to complete a significant amount of painting, flooring and construction work by myself
- Some of the actors from the local theatre dressing up and then acting as live mannequins in my storefront windows
- Having about 30 boxes of shipment dropped off for me in the middle of the main street (while working by myself) and having to carry them all in personally while other employees from other businesses laughed at me
- Many customers walking in and asking if it was “The Gap”… (I still can’t figure out how they were confused!)
- Some tourist stealing one of my mannequins from in front of the store, and me having to walk down and find them, argue to get the mannequin back and then carry it back down the street back to the store during a very, very busy long weekend.
- Storing about 100 boxes of clothing in my parents shed because there was no more room
- My sister and brother-in-law working for me one long weekend because I wasn’t allowed to hire anyone (and Randal’s fake CV he submitted listing him as a Subway sandwich artist – I still have this somewhere back home!)
- A guy coming into the store and telling me that he was a good friend of the owner and said that Chris told him to come in and borrow a few items of clothing, only to find out that he was a foe. I was then forced to hunt this man down (in order to keep my job) by going cottage to cottage and get the clothes back from him – literally off of his back. In hindsight, he did have his teeth filed like a cat, so I should have known better!
The list can really go on and on (as my friends back home can attest). As insane as that place was, I did love it. I loved that I never knew if I was going to be encountering a completely nutso day of work or not. The people I worked with always made everything worthwhile and I have kept in touch with a lot of them over all of these years. Insanity makes for fast friends amongst the sane I think 🙂
I am enjoying organizing all the little things with putting our upcoming charity events together and have realized that some of my past experience will really help me know what needs to be done in order to make these fundraising initiatives a great success. I just bought my own clothing tagging gun too – ah the memories!
But as I sort through hundreds of clothes for the clothes swap and organize over 1000 used books, I have been reminiscing very fondly about the days of Grand Bend and good ol’ George (or also known as “The Store Formerly Known as George” for a few years when we had to legally change the name! ha!)
I wouldn’t trade in those ‘George’ years for the world. 🙂
…that there are only 6 weeks left of training!!!
What? How did that happen? I am almost positive that we only started this whole thing a few weeks ago! What the what?
Time has really flown by since we started training in January. I know that we say this all the time, but seriously… what the heck happened to the last 2 months?!? April seemed so long away for the longest time, but now it seems it is just around the corner. Ack! I don’t know how this happened, but seeing that we are only 6 weeks left to get ready to face one another in the ring seems a bit surreal at this point. Momma’s got a lot of work to do before then!
But I’m not the only one working hard in the gym and with fundraising…
Cecilia was an all-star with her raffle ticket sales today. She sold her entire book in one day and was already asking for more! What a legend! Don’t forget to check out all the AMAZING prizes on our website www.boxingforthecsc.com I am serious when I say the prizes are amazing… For example, the GRAND PRIZE is a 3 night stay at a luxurious 4 bedroom villa in Phuket, Thailand!! And there are so many more prizes to be won! Over $4,000 worth of prizes in fact. Check it out and don’t forget to buy your tickets from any of the boxing squad. 🙂
Libby also had a friend of hers, who is a great photographer, come to the gym on Monday to take some photos. She already had them uploaded, posted and was tagging away on Facebook. Check out the hard work in action from the squad.
Well now, I can’t think of a better way to reward our very hard work than with a little present…
Hmmm… let’s say maybe something small (or big!), something that is well worth the money spent on it, and something that would change someone’s world…
Have you guessed what it is???
Today was a busy day both with work and with the boxing fundraising. I had an article published on Reader’s Digest Canada today which was pretty great and hopefully will generate some more awareness of what I am doing to fundraise. I have had lots of amazing friends and family members share my article via Facebook and Twitter – massive thank you and big love to you all for helping me out. By doing so they have helped out so much because that means that their FB friends and followers may check out what I wrote and click on my blog link and hopefully end up right here.
Reading these exact words….
I have taken the night off of training in preparation for tomorrow’s sparring session. I was feeling that by the time Fridays were rolling around I was losing my energy levels and my muscles were tired and sore. Hopefully taking a break now on Thursdays will do my body and mind good in preparing myself for training.
So, this allows me some space to tell you another reason of why I love Cambodia. Yay!! Tonight’s installment is about 2 of my favorite Cambodians.
Why I Love Cambodia: Wan and Savi
I have met these two fabulous people through some of my teaching friends. Through luck, my friends met both Wan and Savi randomly via tuk tuk on separate occasions. For those who don’t know, a tuk tuk is a mode of transportation that is used throughout Asia and each country often has their own version of it. In Cambodia it is a motorbike with a carriage attached to the back of it.
These guys actually didn’t know each other, but my group of friends have brought them together. Now Wan and Savi are good friends who hang out quite a bit and help each other out with work too. Each time we go to Cambodia, we send them a message on Facebook or text them to tell them that we are coming over for a visit. It is always a great reunion. We sing songs for them and they share their city and stories with us. This summer, a few of my friends stayed in Cambodia for an extended period doing work with the People’s Improvement Organization and got to hang out with Savi quite a bit. He invited them to meet his wife and kids and have dinner at his house in his village. They had a blast and I was super jealous because I didn’t get to go with them too!
Both Wan and Savi will go out of their way to help you and always greet you with a smile. We love seeing them each time we go to Cambodia.
So, as always, big love to Wan and Savi!
Cheers! ជល់មួយ (jul mouy!)
Ms. Loebsack let me know that the students in Room 16 (who by the way are in Grade 6 – ages 11 and 12!!) have been doing a lot of inquiry into my blog and finding lots of information on Cambodia, Singapore, White Collar Boxing and the CSC and CASC.
at one point one of my students said,
“so it’s really not at all about the boxing. I mean it’s fun and probably fun to watch but what Mrs O’Rourke is fighting for is so much more important!”
Well said students of Room 16…..you nailed it.