Tifton, GA layover

On Sunday, March 23rd, we woke up really early and took off from Birmingham for Florida.  I had wanted to get to our hotel in Orlando around 6pm, so leaving before 6am Central time was going to make that possible.  We stopped around Heflin for gas and to grab some breakfast, but basically we were sailing along perfectly over to Atlanta and then south down I-75.  It rained on us a little bit, but traffic wasn’t bad at all.

I had wanted to stop at the Allman Brothers’ ” Big House” in Macon but I decided to skip it so we could get into Orlando early enough to get some rest so we could get up early on Monday and beat the crowds to Disney World.

Unfortunately, when we were about 65 miles north of the Florida border we had pulled off the freeway to get some gas and food, and when I pulled back on I got over to the fast lane and got up to 65mph when the car in front of me swerved around a huge chunk of metal.  I couldn’t get out of the way fast enough and we nailed it with the front right side of our rental van.  It was unbelievably loud and it was obvious the minivan sustained serious damage because the tire was instantly flat and the smashing sound made by the metal object was louder than anything I’ve ever heard when hitting things in the road.  I quickly pulled off the road on the right side and came up right behind a semi truck with its flashing hazard lights on.

The truck driver and his girlfriend (wife?) came back as I was pulling up behind them.  When I got out they started apologizing and asking if we were all ok.  The truck driver said his brake drum had just fallen off and they pulled over, and just as they were getting out they saw us hit a big chunk of it that he left in the left lane.  I called the police while the truck driver walked back up the highway and picked up two gigantic pieces of metal.  The pieces were about two thirds of a circle, maybe 6-8 inches deep and about 3/4 inch thick.

The truck was disabled without brakes, so we both sat there.  The sheriff deputy showed up within 10 minutes and gathered our info for a police report, and I called the car rental place to try to get a replacement vehicle.  I had declined the car rental company’s insurance coverage, so they said I needed to provide them with a claim number from my insurance before they could do anything, so I called my insurance company and filed a claim.  When the car rental place called back they said their closest location was Tallahassee, and they predicted a two and a half to three hour wait for the replacement vehicle to arrive.

We sat in the minivan waiting for almost exactly 3 hours until a tow truck with another minivan arrived.  About 30 minutes before our replacement minivan got there a wrecker showed up and helped the truck limp to the nearest exit so the brake drum could be replaced.

After a total of 4 hours since the accident we had all of our stuff moved to the replacement vehicle and were finally on our way.  We didn’t arrive at our hotel in Orlando until nearly 11pm.  So much for leaving early and skipping the Allman Bros museum…

Zoe turns 3

On Saturday, March 22nd, Zoe celebrated her 3rd birthday with a party at a pizza restaurant in Homewood.  Several family members from both my side and Carolyn’s side came to celebrate.  We had pizza, the kids played some of the games in a little room near our tables, Zoe was too nervous to blow out her candles so her cousin Truman helped her out, Zoe opened up many presents, then we all had some birthday cake.

We had a great time visiting with everyone and it was really special for Zoe to be around so many people that love her.  Living overseas can be isolating, particularly for children, so having so many familiar faces to celebrate her birthday was exciting.  The princess cake was a good precursor for things to come in the days following her birthday party since Carolyn and I planned on taking Zoe to Disney World for a few days as a birthday present — many opportunities to visit with the same princesses who showed up on her cake.

Carolyn and I would like to thank everyone who took time out to join us for Zoe’s birthday, and thank you for all the thoughtful gifts for Zoe.

Here are some photos from the birthday party, along with some photos Carolyn took in the park afterwards:

Alabama – dentists, BBQ and barn animals!

On Tuesday evening, March 18th, we arrived in Birmingham.  Since we would only be in Alabama for 5 nights we decided to alternate the girls back and forth so everyone would get a chance to see them.  Zobug stayed with me at my grandparents’ home while Logie stayed with Carolyn at her mother’s home.

On Wednesday, Thursday and Friday I made daily trips to see Carolyn at her mother’s house to swap the girls.  On Friday I ended up with both and on Saturday Carolyn had them both.  We did lots of running around during those few days (Wed-Fri) in Birmingham.  Carolyn got some clothes and shoes for Zoe, we all went to visit a dentist for teeth cleanings (see the attached photos of Zobug showing off her pearly whites), I bought a new battery for Carolyn’s Mazda, and so on.

On Friday, before I picked up Logan, I went to the zoo with my mom and Zobug.  The Birmingham Zoo was pretty nice — on par with the Louisville Zoo.  Similar to the Louisville Zoo, many vendors and several exhibits were closed due to it being the low season, but we did manage to see several cool animals.  Zoe didn’t care for the petting zoo much, which I’d thought would have been her favorite, but she loved the lions and giraffes.  The little river otter was cool, the red pandas were adorable and the train ride around the zoo was fun for Zobug.

It was great to see family, and another major plus to visiting Alabama was the BBQ.  We stopped in at Big Bob Gibson’s in Decatur on the drive down, and we ate at several other BBQ joints in those few days (Pit Masters near Springville, Moe’s in Trussville, Saw’s in Homewood, and so on).  Alabama BBQ is the best in my opinion — better than Texas, St Louis, Kansas City, Carolina or anywhere else for that matter…

Here are some pictures from our time in Alabama:

Frigid Bluegrass

On Sunday, March 16th, we left Seoul and flew over the Pacific Ocean and the US to Detroit and then on to Louisville.  When we got off the plane it was freezing, and by the time I headed out into the rental car parking lot to find out minivan it was snowing.  Gone for over 14 months and already missing Malaysian weather!

We checked into our hotel and just as we prepared to go to Chick-fil-A for our first meal in the USA, we realized it was Sunday and we had to put off our CFA meal for a few hours.  We didn’t sleep so well because the jet lag was horrible, with all of us wide awake by 4am.  I got ready for work and then we all left in the snow and drove to the nearby CFA for breakfast.  We were there when they turned on the lights and unlocked the door.

After the best breakfast we’d had in the past year I got in the minivan and drove to work, where I stayed from about 8am-3pm.  It was great to see lots of different people I’ve missed working with over the last 14 months, and there simply wasn’t enough time to visit with everyone.  I went to lunch with my boss and the president of the company, then I headed back to the hotel and picked up Jean and the girls.

We drove down to Bardstown and visited with my grandmother and my Aunt Nancy and cousin Sally.  It was great to see all of them, but again I wish we’d had more time to visit with everyone.  I wanted to see how much Lyla, Bella, Sydney and Max had all grown since the last time I saw them all.

The next morning (Tuesday, March 18) we woke up early again and met my grandmother Jean and her friend Darlene at the Huddle House for breakfast.  We didn’t sleep at all again because of jet lag — we were all 4 up from about 3am on.  After breakfast we drove south to Birmingham.

Here are the photos from our Seoul to Detroit flight and our brief time in Kentucky:

Half way!

On Friday, March 14th, we took a taxi from our home to Changi airport in Singapore in the early evening.  By 10pm we were on the plane, preparing for take off.  Luckily for the long flights we are in business class, so it wasn’t too uncomfortable, but sitting on a plane for 6+ hours is never fun.  We were put in the bulkhead seats because Korean Air has baby bassinets that hook into the bulkhead wall.  Logie ended up spending almost the entire flight snuggled into a bassinet in front of Jean while Zobug slept and played in the seat between Jean and I.

We got to Incheon airport in South Korea, just outside of Seoul, around 6am.  It was VERY cold, like below 32F sort of cold.  We bundled up everyone and caught a shuttle over to our favorite hotel on the planet, the Hyatt Regency Incheon, where they took exceptional care of us when we flew to Malaysia back in January 2013 and Zobug ended up getting extremely sick and needing to visit a hospital.  Once again they went above and beyond and put us in a room on the executive club level.  Since Carolyn and I had been up all night on the flight we decided to get a little sleep before checking out Seoul.

With little kids we had decided previously that the marathon 30+ hours of straight travel was too much, and we will be breaking up all trips between the Malaysia and the US with an overnight somewhere as close to half way as possible.  On this trip we would have over 24 hours in Seoul, so we weren’t in a hurry to rush out and see the sites.

We slept for about 4 hours before getting up and taking a 1pm tour of Seoul.  I don’t remember if it’s the South Korean government, the local Seoul government, or Incheon airport, but some authority offers several different “transfer tour” options for travelers staying briefly at the Incheon airport.  The have some tours that are 2 hours long and some as long as 6+ hours, but we chose the 5 hour version that goes into Seoul for a couple of stops at key places.  Besides picking up people from the airport they also stop at the airport hotels, so the bus pulled right up to the Hyatt and off we went.  Up until this year all of these tours were free, in an effort to promote tourism in South Korea, but this tour cost us $10 per adult.  The price wasn’t bad at all considering it included transportation, a tour guide and a meal, plus the kids were free.

Our tour guide was a friendly older guy who spoke great English, and he covered several interesting facts as we took the hour long ride into Seoul.  South Korea is the second most densely populated country after Bangladesh, and something 40% of all South Koreans have one of the following 3 surnames: Lee, Kim or Park.

We started at the ancient royal palace, Gyeongbokgung, where we arrived to some sort of show that included lots of warriors wearing robes marching around with spears and shields.  It was freezing, but the mountains in the background and the bright sky made for a beautiful background.  We had to pay all entrance fees, so after watching the show (Zoe was afraid of them) we got our tickets and headed inside the palace.  It reminded me of palaces we’ve visited in Japan, but I couldn’t read about it or check for any subtle nuances since it was too cold and we were being rushed along by the tour guide so we could stay on schedule.

We literally almost left Jean at the palace because she’d gone back for an ice cream and everyone else got back to the bus.  The guide asked me where she was and just before he was forced to kick me and the girls off to stick behind with Jean she came strolling up with her ice cream.

Next we made a very brief (less than 5min) stop to a buddhist temple that had some gorgeous colored lanterns strung up all over the place, then we crossed the street and walked down a hill to what had been billed as an antique street.  Insadong Street was a pedestrian road packed with people, lined with shops and souvenir stalls as far as you could see.  Normally Carolyn and I would have loved meandering down this road, checking out the trinkets, but our guide had other ideas.  Since most of the people on the tour with us were flying out shortly after the tour ended we couldn’t be late, which meant we literally had to jog through this street against hundreds of people clogging the road.  We went to a little restaurant down an alley just off Insadong and had a quick (15min) lunch, then we jogged back to the bus and rode the hour back to our hotel.

It was a ridiculously fast paced tour of Seoul with long 1 hour bus rides on either end, but we were happy we did it because we enjoyed the tour, the guide and getting to see some of Seoul.  Our impression of Seoul after the tour was that it is very similar to Tokyo and we want to see more.

Here are the photos:

Full on locals!

Our quest to eat locally as much as possible continued this past week except for the 2 days we had some pot roast that Carolyn made at home.  We tried a new place in Taman Molek called “Niko Niko Onigiri”, which specializes in Japanese onigiri – rice balls with different things inside and then wrapped in a seaweed wrapper.

We tried about 5-6 different onigiris, one with potato, another with egg, and then one each with chicken, BBQ beef and fried prawn inside.  The seaweed wasn’t as salty as others I’ve had and the stuffing they put inside was minimal, so basically each one was a Rm3 ($1) ball of rice with very little taste.  We went there twice last week in hopes that maybe the first visit was an off day for them and a second opportunity would turn out better, but it didn’t.

Another place we tried was this kari-pop place which sells like 5-6 types of empanadas.  It’s a deep fried pastry stuffed with some type of filling, with the options from this little truck vendor being entirely made up of curry mixed stew-type fillings.  We loved them all, the potato one, the chicken one and the beef one, but they’re pretty spicy.  Unfortunately these guys aren’t out selling their curry stuffed pastries every day.  When they are out they park very close to the cendol guy who sells from his motorbike vending contraption, both within 50 meters of the Taman Molek HSBC.

Finally, we did go back to that new dim sum place in Taman Molek a couple of times because they offer around 25-30 different types of dim sum.  We’ve tried out about 5 different ones, but our favorites are the same ones we always get whenever we go to any dim sum restaurant, har gow and siew mai.

Here are some photos, almost entirely of the onigiri place as they smashed together our rice balls:

Making the effort

As I mentioned recently, Carol and I have really been trying to branch out and eat at several different local places.  We’ve tried hawker stalls, restaurants and even guys in little mobile vending carts (truck and motorcycle versions!).  Last weekend we continued this endeavor, starting after our return from Singapore on Saturday night.  We picked up some Chinese at one of our favorite places, as well as some dim sum at a new restaurant in Taman Molek that just opened this month.

On Sunday morning we woke up early and got right back out there for some local grub — no McDonald’s pancakes for this family!  Since typical Asian style breakfasts are very different than American style breakfast, think seaweed soups and curried lentils instead of bacon and eggs, we have normally stayed away from it.  We decided that since we were making the effort to eat at local joints we should also try to eat the typical foods they eat, when they eat them too.  We hopped in the car and drove around looking for a place that makes roti canai.  We tried about 4 different places before finding one that did.  The previous week we’d found a Malay restaurant that served it, but they were closed on Sunday morning and none of the Chinese restaurants seem to serve roti.  The place we found was a 24hr Malay restaurant with a large staff of Malay-Indians who never slow down as the dart around filling orders and quickly prepare orders in front of a packed in crowd.

Carolyn ordered us some roti, which they cooked up fresh on the spot, and the order comes with some dhal too.  It was fantastic!  We were surprised to learn that roti canai doesn’t just come plain, but that you can have it filled with banana slices or eggs and onions – whatever you want.  We will definitely be trying this version soon.  Carol also video taped the roti preparation, so I’m going to try to post that video soon as well.  Here are some photos from the dim sum joint and the new roti place:

Stinkbombed by the king of fruit

Last Saturday (March 8th) we went over to Singapore for the day because I needed to see the ENT again since after 6 weeks of being extremely sick I still hadn’t recovered.  I could still hear ok ever since my ear drums were sliced open and drained, but they were starting to get a little worse and I was still coughing a lot and was really congested.

The doctor used the tiny vacuum again to suck more fluid out of my ear and he prescribed me more steroids and antibiotics.  He said I need to come back for a CT scan in a few weeks so he can determine whether or not my sinuses need to be drained.  I really hope they don’t have to do that because I hate surgery and shots.

After my appointment we decided we wanted lunch, so we tried not once, not twice, but three separate times to eat at Peperoni Pizzeria.  We’ve eaten at a couple of different locations in the past, and each time we comment on how horrible the parking situation is.  We’re always driving around hunting for a space on a nearby residential street and hoping we won’t get ticketed or towed.  Last Saturday wasn’t any different except that the first one we went to actually had an empty parking space right in front but the restaurant was minuscule, with only 3-4 tables inside and all were “reserved”.  The second had absolutely no parking spots within a 5 minute walk of the restaurant, so by the third we were desperate.  Driving around to all 3 took over an hour and a half…

The third one was where we went with my mom while she was in town just after Logan was born, and there is a long residential street in front of the little strip of restaurants and stores.  We parked on the street like we did the time before and crossed our fingers that we wouldn’t get ticketed.  The service was terrible but the food was really good.  It’s impossible to find pork sausage and pork pepperoni on pizzas in Malaysia, but Peperoni Pizzeria has it and their pizza is one of the best in Singapore.

After lunch we headed over to the Singapore Flyer and took a trip on it, much to Zobug’s delight.  I’ve been up in it 3 times now, and this time was definitely the worst visibility because all the smoke from fires around Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore have choked the air for weeks now.  Maybe that’s why my sinuses have been crazy!  One good thing about this trip up in the Sg-Flyer was that we could see lots of rowing teams cruising around the bay in their long rowboats.

After the giant ferris wheel ride we had one more stop before heading back home.  I had been enjoying a Singaporean foodie website recently and the blogger wrote about a Durian Fiesta at the Goodwood Park Hotel near Orchard Road.  I love her website design, her food photos and the volume of entries she puts up.  I wish I had the time and desire to improve my blog to look similar to what she’s done, but I just can’t find time for website design any more.  I’m lucky just to get some content up a couple of times a month!

Anyhow, I’ve tried durian a couple of times before and each time it was an utter disaster.  Once Carol and I picked up some fresh durian from a roadside vendor on our drive up the coast to Muar, and another time I ate some durian ice cream on the bridge in Singapore near the Merlion on the bay.  Both times the smell almost made me sick even though the taste wasn’t too bad.  Again, we are trying to eat “local” recently so I decided to give it another go; if a high end hotel’s pastry shop can’t make the king of fruit taste good then nobody can.

The Goodwood Park Hotel offered a durian combination package where you got 5 different durian desserts to sample.  We bought it and headed home.  Traffic at Woodlands was about the worst I’ve ever seen.  The motorcycles were packed up further back than ever and we were diverted to the underground truck lanes where you have to get out of your car to swipe your AutoPass.

When we finally got home I tried some of the durian items and they were disgusting.  Zoe tried a bite of what we thought was cake, but she refused a second bite.  Logan gave me the stinkeye after I put a tiny dab on her tongue, and Jean flat out rejected every request for her to try it.  It ended up making our entire downstairs smell like a public latrine within a few minutes and I ended up throwing the majority of it away.  I don’t plan on giving durian a 4th chance, as three strikes and it’s truly out.

Here are some photos from our trip to Singapore last Saturday:

Hawker smorgasbord followed by some fancy ‘castles’

After Jean returned from her outing late Saturday afternoon it was starting to get dark (around 5-6pm) and we were ready for some dinner.  Carol found out that there was a large group of hawker stalls nearby and since it didn’t appear that there were many formal restaurants to choose from, plus we’d been trying to eat “local” recently, we decided to try several different hawker options.

Carolyn left me with the girls again and lit out to collect some different grub.  When Carolyn returned with handfuls of colorful bags full of food and drinks she said the hawker stalls were less than a 5 minute walk from the hotel and that almost everyone there was super friendly and let her take photos.  We had BBQ’d chicken wings, some roti canai with dahl, a couple different types of noodles and some satay sticks.  Everything was delicious, but it was way too much food – we ended up throwing some away.  Zoe had McDonald’s delivery since she was asking for chicken nuggets.

After we finished dinner we went down to the lobby and had them call us a cab, and the driver drove us back down to the mosque we’d walked to earlier because we wanted to see it lit up at night.  This mosque is called the Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque, and is the main one shown in photos of Brunei.  He parked (in a no parking area like everyone else) while we took our time walking all around the mosque taking photos and enjoying the views.  Zoe loved it and kept saying how nice the “castle” was.  To a two year old anything as large and fancy as this mosque apparently looks like a castle.  I agree with her, it was really impressive at night.

Another good point about Brunei is that it just feels safe.  Possibly safer than Singapore and light years safer than JB.  We were walking around the road that goes along the edge of the pond behind the mosque, which has a network of piers and walkways over the water that lead out to dozens (or maybe hundreds) of shacks up on stilts above the water where locals live.  As we were walking along a family consisting of a father and 4 boys came out of the mosque and welcomed us, asking where we were from and telling us “welcome to Brunei!”  Safe and friendly — home run!

After we’d walked completely around the Sultan Omar mosque we hopped back into our cab and headed to the other main mosque in Brunei, the Jame’Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque.  This one had no pond around it, but it was massive and maybe even more impressive than the other one.  We were the only people around and luckily the front gate was cracked open just wide enough for our taxi driver to pull in.  We got out and walked around taking photos and checking it out for 15 minutes.  Zoe thought it was awesome, and I got a kick out of the elegant marble staircases with an escalator right between them.  Supposedly this is where the Sultan goes to worship.

After we’d seen the major sites in Brunei (the main museum and 2 mosques), we decided to head back to the Radisson for the night.  We stopped in the Radisson’s cafe for some virgin drinks (alcohol is banned in Brunei, but they make one hell of a good fruit drink that should probably have rum in it to cost $5).

We slept in a little late and then I continued taking it easy while Carol went shopping on Sunday morning and into the afternoon.  Carol got back to the room just as we were due to checkout at 2pm.  We caught a cab to the airport and waited forever for our plane back to KL.  The LCCT in KL was a zoo as always, and the 4 hour drive home was a long one, but we were glad we got to visit Brunei if even for just a single day.  Brunei is clean and safe, exotic and best of all the people were exceptionally friendly.  We hope to visit again for another 1-2 days so we can check out the little water villages and find some of those proboscis monkeys that supposedly live in the mangroves not far from where we walked in the morning when we first arrived in Brunei.

Here are the photos from that first night in Brunei, along with a couple outside our plane upon arrival in KL as we waited for the stroller:

Off to see the Sultan

In the wee hours of Saturday, March 1st, we woke up at our hotel in KL near the airport, got showered and ready, then drove in the dark over to the LCC Terminal (Low Cost Carrier).  The parking lot was true to Malaysian style – chaotic.  People parked everywhere and cars coming at you in the wrong lanes.  We eventually found and place and got parked.  Since we were only going to be gone for one night we just brought along a single carry-on backpack and this light packing helped us get into the airport and ticketed quickly.

We waited at the entrance to the immigration area for about 20-30 minutes because the area after immigration is tiny and they won’t let you through until just before your flight since there wouldn’t be enough room to accommodate passengers from multiple flights.  We eventually got through, passed immigration and security and hopped on our plane.

The flight took a little over 2 hours, and by 9:30am we were in the lobby of our hotel, the Radisson Brunei.  Brunei is a tiny country along the top of Borneo, sandwiched between the Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak.  Brunei is actually a sultanate, ruled by the Sultan of Brunei and his $20 billions from oil.  The only thing I’d ever really heard about Brunei before going was some show I watched on tv years ago about how the Sultan and his handlers had supposedly kidnapped several international models many years ago.

The first nice thing about Brunei was that the great folks at the Radisson let us check in early, and not just early, but super early.  We were in our room before 10am.  They also agreed without any hassle to a late checkout since our departure flight wasn’t until Sunday evening.  The room was nice, but since we didn’t have much time to explore Brunei we dropped our 1 bag, changed some diapers and took off.

We walked basically across the street to a museum where we spent the next 60-90 minutes checking out tons of gifts that different heads of state had given to the Sultan and his family over the years.  The museum was pretty cool, especially the huge lifesize exhibit from his coronation ceremony.  Unfortunately they don’t allow photos of anything except the main rotunda.  Zoe loved seeing all the “princess dresses” and fancy golden gifts, and since they make you take your shoes off for the tour I enjoyed the freezing cold tile and seeing the trinkets from far flung countries like Zambia and Maldives.  We did get some photos in the rotunda, including one I took of Zoe holding up a postcard with some proboscis monkeys on it (this is one of my favorite shots of Zobug).

After we’d had enough we set out towards the main mosque.  We walked several blocks until we got there.  Brunei is very clean and reminded us of Singapore, but one thing that is different compared to Singapore and Malaysia was that the streets were almost completely deserted.  Nobody was around and it was noon on a Saturday.  We couldn’t understand it…

We walked all around the mosque and took some photos.  It’s definitely impressive with a nice pond around it, but on the back side where a road skirts the edge of the pond we walked past some cab driver flinging his eaten chicken wings into the pond.  We laughed about it, but it certainly took away some of the aura.

Next we headed over to a mall.  We sat down and had some cold sodas, but by this point we’d been walking around for 4-5 hours and the girls were pooped.  Both were asleep, Logan in the stroller and Zoe on a chair beside me at our table in the food court.  We had the lady at the mall’s information booth call us a taxi and we headed back to the hotel.  I stayed in the room and relaxed while Carolyn went back out for a while.  I was only a few days removed from having my ear drums cut open and I was still feeling pretty crappy.

Here are the photos from most of our first day in Brunei:

Stuck in the doldrums

Back when we went to Indonesia for vacation I wasn’t feeling so good.  I had a bad cough and started to just feel pretty puny in general.  I hate going to see doctors, so I kept hoping I’d just get past it and within a week or two I’d feel better.  That never came…

On February 17th I’d had enough because I actually lost my hearing in my left ear completely, so I took a sick day off work (only my second sick day off work in the past 4 years) and I went to see an ENT here in Malaysia.  The experience was not so good.  It was my first visit to what is supposedly the best hospital in JB, which required us to go back and forth from the ENT’s office to a registration area, then to a second registration area for a short appraisal, then to the ENT’s office again, down to the pharmacy and then back up to the ENT’s office for a final tutorial on the medications.  It took about 3 hours in total and on each visit to the ENT’s office we were the only people there.

The doctor said my ears were full of fluid and the passage that normally allows them to drain into your throat/nose was blocked.  He prescribed me some antibiotics and this nose wash contraption, and at one point he mentioned there was an option involving a procedure to cut open my ear drums — I gave a quick “hell no” to that one though.

Fast forward a week and a half.  I finished taking my medication and I did my twice daily nasal douche religiously (that thing is actually incredible, but I was always afraid of it because I remember reading a story once about an amoeba eating someone’s brain after being introduced through a neti pot).  Zoe would watch me cleanse my nasal passage each night, and that thing was so forceful that the saline solution would come out my other nostril and my mouth, leading Zoe to make a ‘yuk’ face and ask “Daddy, you got boogers in your nose?”

By February 26th I had actually gotten even worse, which I thought wasn’t possible.  My hearing in my left ear hadn’t improved at all and by the 26th the hearing in my right ear was gone.  I couldn’t hear myself talking so not only was it difficult to communicate because I couldn’t hear what people were saying to me, but it was hard to gauge whether I was yelling or whispering and it led to many confusing conversations for everyone involved.

On the 26th I took yet another sick day because Jean made me an appointment to visit an ENT in Singapore.  Zoe and Logan were sniffling by that point so we were worried that whatever I had that I’d been unable to shake was spreading.  Jean made them appointments to visit their doctor too.  We headed over to ‘Pore and went to my doctor first.  He was very quick and didn’t waste a single second on small talk.  His nurses kept calling me back and then he’d kick me out for about 5 minutes and they’d call me back again.  I went into his office or this tiny room next door about 5 different times.  The first visit he got my quick rundown of the history of my illness, then I had a hearing test in the tiny room, then he did a brief exam and said they’d need to use a camera to check deeper.  He sprayed some nasty tasting local anesthesia into my nose and it ran down the back of my throat.  I waited in the lobby for it to kick in and they called me back to his room again.

The taste in my mouth was disgusting from the anesthesia, but that’s the good part.  He pulls out this long ass flexible black cable, maybe 12-14 inches long, and that’s the camera he inserted into each nostril and snaked it up into my nose and down into my throat.  It was terrible.  The only good thing was that they had a flatscreen tv right in front of me where I could watch as he narrated — “look at all that mucus”, “there’s your voicebox, it’s really red”, and so on.  He pulled it out and went into the second nostril.  When he finally finished he slowly pulled that thing out and I swear he had almost the entire thing up in my nose.  This is why I hate going to see doctors…

He was just getting started though.  He said that I had a sinus infection and severe ear infections in both ears.  He said for immediate relief he was going to cut open my ear drums and suck out the fluid, and to wait in the lobby while they cleared it with my insurance.  What?  Cut my ear drums?  I was basically in a daze, but I’d been miserable for a month at this point so I figured I would go forward with it if the insurance would cover the procedure.  Sure enough they did, and I was back in his office.

He laid me back in his chair into a position where my lower body was elevated above my head and it felt like I was going to flip over backwards, then he had a couple of nurses grab my head and turn it sideways.  They held on tight as he began the surgery.  He said the anesthesia in my ear would feel like a bee sting, and it was indeed the most painful part.  It hurt pretty badly but was over within about 4 seconds.  It reminded me of getting a novocaine shot at the dentist, where the shot going in doesn’t hurt but them pushing all the fluid into your gums sure does.  Shortly after the anesthesia he said he was going to make the cut and this was the worst part of all.  It didn’t hurt a bit, but it was very loud and I could actually hear him sawing my ear drum, with a “shhh-shhh, shhh-shhh, shhh-shhh” as he cut back and forth a tiny incision into my ear.  Next came the deafening sound of rushing air, which again was surprisingly similar to the sound you hear at the dentist when they are irrigating your mouth and they stick that sucker vacuum thing in there to get all the water out, only it’s a vacuum pushed into a hole that was just cut in your ear drum and the fluid coming out is mucus that’s been in there for several weeks.

They flipped me over and did the second ear, then told me to take it easy for a few minutes because it could mess up my equilibrium.  I waited in the lobby, paid, got my medicine and went on my way.  I could actually hear much better, but there was still fluid sloshing around in there, to which the doctor said was fine because the hole he cut would allow it to dry since it would take 2-3 weeks for the hole to heal.  Lovely…  I was told to wear ear plugs during my showers for 3 weeks because I couldn’t get the inside of my ears wet.

We went on to see the pediatrician.  He said the girls were ok and they’d be over their sickness within a week or so (this came true).  We headed on back to Malaysia and I rested the remainder of the day.  Yellow liquid rolled out of my ear for the next 2 weeks whenever I’d go to sleep, but at least I can hear again.

I took that Thursday and Friday (February 27th and 28th) off work to recuperate since the doctor told me to get plenty of rest and for some reason to drink plenty of water.  I had a big bag of different medications to take…  Thursday was great because I took it easy, actually sleeping in until almost 9am!  We went out for breakfast at a local joint, where we got some roti canai (prounounced “row-tee chunai”), a delicious Indian flatbread, and some cendol from a vendor we see on the road near our house a lot.  We’ve decided we’re going to make the effort to try more local places since we’ve spent the last year either cooking at home or eating at 6-8 different places that are pretty much non-Malaysian (an Italian place, McDonald’s, a sushi joint, a seafood place, a Thai restaurant and a couple of Chinese places — we love them all, but that rotation has gotten old).

On Friday afternoon we drove up to KL since several weeks earlier we had purchased flights from KL to Brunei.  We decided that instead of waking up at midnight and driving straight to the airport for our early morning departure it would be better to get an inexpensive hotel near the airport and go up there early.

Here are the photos of our doctor visits from February 26th and some shots of the local food options we tried on the 27th.  If you’re squeamish, I will warn you now, I’ve included a photo from my nasal endoscopy and it’s pretty gross — it’s the last picture in the group so this is your warning to avoid it.  If on the other hand you’re curious, enjoy my sickly nose/throat (my voicebox is supposedly the v-shaped photo in the lower right image).