Trip Start Oct 20, 2004
44Trip End Apr 26, 2005
Since the first of the year, Andy and I have been volunteering as part of the Singapore YMCA's Disaster Relief Program, and our involvement has easily consumed our daily existence. As mentioned in a previous entry, we have felt honored to volunteer alongside the selfless individuals as many here have proved to be. We have met some extraordinary people, one of whom is Jun, an environmental engineer who has been involved with the water contamination/treatment issue in our Sri Lanka project. He noticed that for nearly a week we had denied ourselves much free time, so he offered - or rather, insisted - that we accompany him to his home in Johor Bahru, Malaysia, for a little break. Johor Bahru, commonly known as JB, is a small town that Jun fondly refers to as his "Tijuana." Its location across the strait from Singapore makes it a perfect escape for inexpensive food and shopping
While in JB, we cleared our heads of the corporate world into which we'd been sucked. We enjoyed a gastronomic tour of the city, sampling local favorites at every opportunity. For lunch we dined at the 'special pork' restaurant where we ate pork-rib soup, pork feet and rice (I heard the pork was vegetarian that day). In the afternoon we saw a couple of local sights and drank teh talik (pulled tea). That evening we went to a Malay-Chinese restaurant famous for its 'paper chicken' and fish head curry. After I consumed more tea and food than I could really handle, we agreed to try Jun's creative remedy for digestion: karaoke. For the equivalent of $8 USD per person, we were given our own little soundproof room (at least I hope it was soundproof) with a couch, television, microphones, and a song list from karaoke heaven. Also included in the cost were two drinks per person, a buffet-style dinner (of which we were too stuffed to take part), and four hours of karaoke. I was reminded of the movie "Lost in Translation" and, even though it was just the three of us, I felt nervous at first to subject anyone to the voice I only let loose while driving alone in my car. However, by the end of the night we were belting John Denver tunes together.
Our short trip to JB was a healthy break. We were able to get away from the Y, and reflect with a perspective that is hard to gain when you're in the thick of things. It was a chance to recharge before heading back to the challenges that would soon follow. Most importantly, our trip to Johor Bahru gave us the opportunity to build a friendship with an incredible person.