My reflections on Thanksgiving Day in America

"Thanksgiving Day is a day set aside each year for giving thanks to God for blessings received during the year. On this day, people give thanks with feasting and prayer. It is celebrated in the United States and Canada." "The World Book Encyclopedia, Volume 7"World Book Encyclopedia. 2002.

Though I've lived all my life in Asia, my association with America over the years through FamilyBusiness and Church has helped me become familiar with several American traditions, one of them being Thanksgiving Day. Now this is a Body Mind Spirit link to the American celebration and even though we do not celebrate it in Asia it has become a strong link that reminds me too to give thanks to God for blessings received during each year. I really have many things to be grateful to God in my life as in this past year and the one that I seem to cherish the most seems to be the Family and Friends that I have who seem to be growing in maturity and numbers through time!  My websiteblog and facebook pages are reflective of the joy I get in doing some work of the heart consistently throughout the year to keep in touch with my family and friends.

For me,Thanksgiving Day seems to be a prelude to the bigger tradition of Christmas which we do celebrate in Asia. It is also the time of the year that the long school holidays, similar to the American summer holidays, begin. Thus it marks the beginning of the season to be spending time with family and friends with a climax at Christmas followed by the New Year. In Malaysia and Singapore where we have a rich diversity of races and religions, two more big celebrations and holidays of Chinese New Year and the Muslim New Year follow through after Christmas and the New Year. It is no wonder you will find the friendliest people here who appreciate spending time with people of any race or culture!

As a prelude to Christmas and the New Year, I will start on this Thanksgiving Day in America to continue to build my photo collage of family members and friends living in the US in this post that started on the Thanksgiving Day of many years ago while I was in the US for a short season too :

Look out for more collages that will be added here till Christmas 2011.

Father-Son Outing to Penang Island

Penang Island has always been an attraction as a holiday place for the family in Malaysia especially Batu Ferringhi beach. When the family base moved further south to Singapore from KL, our holiday visit to the island was no longer a regular trip as going there by road was like covering almost the whole length of the Malaysian peninsular!

As we talk about family trips, it dawned on me recently that our youngest son Ray, with about 14 years in age difference from his oldest sibling, may not have been with us in some of our family trips or that he might have been too young to remember the favorite spots we would visit. Hence, on this long year end school holidays in Singapore, being the only one free from the busy schedule of Singapore, I would take him out alone on this long trip that turned out to be quite an adventure to remember.

But first there was a fun-fair day at his ACS Barker Rd school to attend to and everyone was packed in the covered food area due to the rain. Everyone was enjoying the food there.....

.... but we were thinking of the delicious food in Penang that we could savor

Then there was a Church Seminary and Institute graduation program at the Stake Center on Bukit Timah Rd

Interesting to note that the Church full name could be found on the GPS to guide one to find it in Singapore.

It named another Church in Penang too but not the LDS Church though the Church is found in Penang. In fact we were planning to attend the Ipoh Malaysia District Conference there too held on Sunday 20th Nov as we would get to meet members from the four branches now existing in Ipoh, Setiawan, Butterworth and Penang.

Not only did we get to attend the District Conference in Penang, as seen in the above photo, but came back the following week to attend one for the Kuala Lumpur Malaysia district too. More photos taken in the two conferences are found here.

Penang island has much to offer. One can access the island from the mainland by ferry or by bridge.

However if you are going to use the bridge, avoid days when events like the Penang Bridge marathon are held shown in the photo below, as the bridge will be closed.

Estimated 25,000 runners participated in the event on the weekend we were in Penang.

They sure look like a very enthusiastic and energized bunch!

A good place to start an interesting visit to the island is the Kek Lok Si temple. Lined with rows of shops on both sides of the alley walk-way up the hill to access the temple, one may get a good bargaining experience. We looked at a powerful binoculars that was made in Russia. On asking the price, RM150 was offered. I mentioned that I had bought similar ones made in China that was much cheaper but he responded that these Russian ones were of better quality. We didn't show any interest and walked away. The seller immediately dropped the price to RM100. We turned to look at him and replied that we were not interested. As we walked away he dropped the price further to RM80 and finished at RM60!  Hope you got a hint of how to get the best price in a place where they expect you to bargain for it!

At the end of the alley walk-way half way up the hill, one gets to have a breather looking at the tortoises which must have been there since I was young visiting KeK Lok Si.

A little further and we walked into a nice court yard at the bottom of all temples surrounding it higher up. .

Ray sharpened his sword, prepared for any encounters on the temple grounds. In the background is the impressive and striking Pagoda of Rama VI which was completed in the year 1930. It is known to be laid by the Thai Monarch himself. It is widely known as Wann Fo Pau Ta or "The Pagoda of 10,000 Buddhas". Towering over one hundred feet and seven storeys high, The Pagoda is currently the largest of its kind in Malaysia.

The Kek Lok Si was founded more than 100 years ago by benevolence Beow Lean, a devout Buddhist from Fujian province as a retreat place of Buddhist tradition in Penang. Impressed by Beow Lean's deep devotion of the teaching of Buddhism, the trustee of Kuan Yin Teng (Goddess of Mercy Temple) in Pitt Street, offered him the position of Chief Monk in which he gladly accepted and at the same time he has been noninated as the first abbot of Kek Lok Si.
Close to the temple grounds, at a higher level, is a new Kuan Yin or Goddess of Mercy Statue opened to the public since 2002.

We chanced to find Corey, the daughter of our former gym coaches of the children in KL, on a school trip to Penang. Obviously she is born in the year of the Rabbit! What a small world isn't it? Her whole family had just visited us not too long ago in our Singapore home!

 Access to the Goddess of Mercy statue is via an inclined lift.

At the top is the Kuan Yin statue with a towering view of the Penang city below. The inclined lift is seen on the bottom left of the photo. It cost RM2 each way up or down and all proceeds are treated as donation to the temple.

Time to head to the beach!

No outing to Penang Island is complete without spending time at the beach. We were prepared with camping gear in our car and just after a rainy weekend, on the first clear night where we could see the stars, we headed out in the middle of the night to pitch our tent on Batu Ferringhi beach.

We woke up in the morning with the sound of pounding waves, and a motor boat speeding by the beach...

... to find that we pitched the tent in a perfect spot at the very end of the popular beach.

Every child we had in the family has dug sand on this beach to build a wall or castle!

We made friends with other travellers like Troy and Sophie on their 365days round the world trip with their journal here.
I also enjoyed chatting with a local Malay fisherman near our tent as I looked at the para sail up in the sky, reminding me of the time that our oldest child Fei had dared to do it when she was a young gal. Memories!

From one beach, we hopped to another by boat to Monkey Beach

We followed a 1.2km trail up a hill from the beach to explore the Muka Head lighthouse

It was a very tiring hike on a trail that was constantly up hill but we made it

Here is the view from the top of the light house.

Soon we got back to our camp site at Batu Ferringhi beach

It was time to bring down our tent and pack up for the next destination

After packing up all our things, we made sure any rubbish is cleared from our site, leaving it as clean as we first found it.

From the beach to Penang Hill!

With the latest fast train at the bottom of Penang Hill or Bukit Bendera, we got to the top without any stops in just 5 minutes

The new train(Max 100 people in a 5 mins journey) certainly goes faster than the old train.(Max 30 people in a 30mins journey)

Penang Hill is one of Penang island's featured attractions. Well known for its cool and fresh climate from the tropical heat of George Town, it is a popular holiday retreat to the locals as well as tourists. The hill, also known as Bukit Bendera or Flagstaff Hill, is 833m (2,723 ft) above sea level and stands out prominently from the lowlands as a hilly and forested area.

Penang Hill is also known for its magnificently spectacular panaromic view of George Town, the mainland, the Penang Bridge and the Straits of Malacca which can be viewed from the Penang Hill Summit

Being a cloudy and rainy day, the visibility was not optimal for a perfect panaromic view

I made friends with a father and son from Iraq visiting Penang Hill too. What got us together is mentioned in another blog post covering our Penang Hill visit.

Our last unfinished business before leaving the island was to visit the Botanical Gardens to see the monkeys! Looks like some kind of hand shake deal there with a monkey. Back tracking a little on our visit to Penang, a major reason why we came to the Botanical Gardens was that when we were at monkey beach, we hardly saw any monkeys as per the photo below.

Wait a minute, that dog reminds me that we left out an important part of our Father-Son outing!

Basically, Ray found a stray puppy at the Batu Ferringhi beach but that belongs to another story to be shared in another post..... maybe with the title, "Father-son and dog outing"?

Reflections of our family on Ying Er's birthday today, 11-11-11 written at 11am

November or the year-end period is definitely popular for babies born at this time. We had Ray on the 2nd, Shuan on the 8th and today their close cousin Ying Er celebrates her 19th birthday on this special unique date of the year.

Ying Er is indeed a close cousin not just because of the proximity of her birthday to the boys but she is simply a fun person to be with in family events and trips as the following photos depict :

As you can see, she was already keeping up with the older boys in the front row on the left in her younger days.
When she grew taller, she even visited our family when we were living in Kuala Lumpur at that time...
... with her family blending so well with us to fill in the missing gap on our Christmas year-end celebration in 2005 when Shuan and Han had to be away on a school band trip to Taiwan remembered here.
A year later, Shuan was visiting Singapore and got to celebrate his birthday in her family home in Singapore....
... with most of our family joining in online from Kuala Lumpur, Su from Provo US and Fei  from Beijing China.
Since most of our family moved to Singapore in early 2007, we could be physically present to celebrate occasions at their family home like when another cousin Beverly from Seattle US came to visit with her family for Chinese New Year in February this year.
With a wider photo required when all the cousins, aunties and uncles in Singapore get together for the Chinese New Year reunion at oldest Uncle's home.

A similar wide-angle photo is required for the Christmas gathering of Dec 2010. Note the same line up in the centre front row of the 3 cousins as in the first photo above when they were little! Yeah... she is the female Doe as in the song 'Do-Re-Mi' from the Sound of Music movie.

Talking about music, she joins the boys to be musically talented as seen on the following video where she played the violin for a musical presentation in a US trip to Su and Jay's wedding in Utah in their summer this year. Besides the violin, she also plays the harp and piano. Listen to the beautiful sound of music that they can produce together.

Besides Music, she keeps up with the boys academically as in this photo with Han when they both got their O Level results early in Jan 2009, scoring maximum of 9As with at least 6 or 7As each for their A Levels two years later. Han posted in his blog that a Sister Jake joked that Beauty, Talent and Brains must run in the family!!! The Sister left out craziness too as shown in the photo below.....
... with Ying Er trying to look warm wearing a skirt in the snow? At least she was smart enough to avoid the snow fight that followed, recorded in a video in Facebook found here. (Interesting that this line-up is the same as the Chinese New Year photo above of the four cousins in the front row!)

After watching the Cow Girls riding horses in a rodeo in Utah, we hope she won't have dreams being one in the future. Nevertheless on her 19th Birthday, we like to wish her lots of Happiness always and may her dreams, only the sane ones, come true for her!

Family and Friends gathered in the evening to celebrate with her, singing the birthday song for her, both in Mandarin and English the Singapore style!

With food, fun and games too that makes everyone Happy!

Can you see and hear the fun when the cousins play a board game together?