It is What it Is

It’s been almost two months since we moved to Kuala Lumpur (KL), Malaysia. How time flies. The transition has been quite smooth, thanks to Jim and Shannon, who really helped us understand what to expect, and the fact we pretty much just took over their lives – home, helper, cars and the girls school.

As I sit here writing, a pesky fly is doing it’s best to annoy me. Each time I flick it away, it finds it’s way to another part of my body. I’m quite positive his whole purpose is to drive me insane. And then I think…

We live in a hot and humid climate, it is what it is.

Thankfully my shrine of citronella incense and mosquito coils are keeping the mosquitoes at bay.


Life here is really about embracing an it is what it is mentality and letting things go. I for one, have become more resilient, patient, I laugh on a daily basis, and I sweat more than I ever have in my life.


Remember the little frog that you tried getting across the logs in Frogger, or the little creature that you need to get across the roads on Crossy Road? Well that’s driving here. Resilience, creativity, patience and time are a must. The rules of the road are, well let’s just say there doesn’t seem to be many. I’ve lost count of the amount of people who run red lights – especially scooters and motorbikes. There’s no need for distraction laws here, I can’t imagine trying to talk or text on the phone while driving. You need to be 100% present at ALL times. Thankfully there’s an app called WAZE, the computerized female voice has become my best friend, my girls look at me weird when I talk back to her and thank her for getting us home safely.


Each day I’ve been venturing out to discover a new location. I’ve taken so many wrong turns, ended up in areas that have been a cool surprise, and some not so cool surprises. I laugh a lot while I’m driving, watching three lanes become seven, motorbikes travel toward me on a one way off ramp, roads swamped with water like a flood after a heavy rainfall (okay maybe I didn’t laugh so hard driving through that one!), and so many other occurrences that could make a good case for how not to drive. In saying that, I always arrive at my destination, and home again.


Patience is a trait that if you don’t have before living in KL, you will need to adopt it quickly or you will go mad. Our air conditioner in our bedroom has water pour out of it at least every two months – waiting for the service man can take up to a week.

Grocery shopping is something I will never take for granted in Canada again. Sometimes I need to go to three different stores for one item, and even then it may not be at any of them – like sweetened coconut flakes (any KL expats know where I can find it – please let me know).

The language barrier for the most part isn’t much of a challenge, although when it is – it is! At a garden nursery last week, I spoke with three different people, all of whom nodded when I asked “do you deliver?”, finally the little Chinese lady pushed her phone into my ear and there was a translator on the other end. It took a bit of time, lots of laughter and sweat, and the plants arrived the same day.

Now manila folders, you would think that would be easy right? Think again – I miss picking up my manila folders in a box of 100 at Staples, now for the life of me I can’t find them anywhere.

It is what it is. And it’s all an opportunity to not take life too seriously and choose a healthy reaction.


KL is a very diverse city, it’s one of the reasons I love it so much. Within our community the diversity is evident. The security guards from Nepal keep our community safe and secure, they have the most welcoming smiles and always salute us. The groundskeepers from India (or Malaysian Indians) are always hard at work, sweeping up leaves, beautifying the gardens and keeping the community common area clean.  Almost every home has a helper, and these Filipino ladies are so kind, hard working, friendly and always greet me with a smile.


Overall life here is great. Our family has settled in nicely. We have made some wonderful friends, Saturday afternoon drinks around the pool are always a highlight of the week. The girls are enjoying school and are making some great friendships, in all honesty they will probably complain about the amount of homework though.

Miss A got on the Varsity Volleyball team which trains three days a week after school, their first game is this week, and the final tournament at the end of October might be in Singapore, far cry from Three Hills, Alberta.

Miss T loves having a pool right next to us, at every opportunity she’s in there. She is doing very well at school which is such a huge relief for us. She’s made some great friends and the tears of missing family and friends every night are easing off a bit.

Neil is as busy as ever at work, and then comes home and more often than not is working on understanding math problems and helping the girls with them. Friday nights has become a massage ritual for him to relax after a busy week – helps that it’s just across the road and at a bargain price.

Me, I am enjoying the freedom that I am blessed to have, having a helper still feels a little awkward to me. Unlike many of the expat Moms here I don’t have any young children at home, so my time is fully MY time, I’m loving it! A few people have asked if it’s too noisy living next to the green space, personally I love hearing all the kids playing – it’s so entertaining hearing all the different accents: French, Dutch, English, Australian, American and Canadian. I’ve become accustomed to, and love cold showers once or twice a day, my skin has never felt so alive, I’m drinking more water than I have in my lifetime. I’ve loved transforming our patio area to a private zen retreat. Planning and booking holidays and long weekends, has brought me back to my days as a travel agent. I feel so enthused, calm and at home here.


Life as an Expat family here in KL is what it is – a wonderful community, incredible opportunity and an amazing adventure.



Saturday afternoon cricket game



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The Perfect Getaway to the Maldives

Twenty five years ago I was a travel agent in Sydney, Australia. I introduced many engaged couples to the Maldives as their honeymoon destination. Most would come in asking for common honeymoon destinations like Fiji, Hawaii, Bali and the Cook Islands, and had never heard of the Maldives – over one thousand islands spread over 90,000 square kilometres, south west of India. All who trusted my passion and enthusiasm booked their trips and came back glowing with gratitude for the incredible experience they had. It was then that I dreamed, that I too, would honeymoon in the Maldives.


The honeymoon wasn’t meant to be, however here I was 25 years later stepping off the plane in Male, four days after our move to Malaysia with my husband and two daughters. Even though it was pitch black when we arrived, the excitement bubbled up as I looked at all the posters and maps around the airport.


Male airport is on it’s own island, there are no hotels there so we were shuttled over to the mainland by a water taxi in the darkness of night. When we arrived it seemed to be chaotic, and somehow we ended up in the vehicle with our luggage. The short trip to The Somerset Hotel was hair raising. The streets are narrow, just wide enough for a car to barely fit through, we giggled at the thought of our Suburban here – scooters and motor bikes were everywhere. At one point Miss T and I were tempted to touch the motorbike right next to us. It was almost midnight and the streets were teeming with people.


We arrived at the hotel and created a major traffic jam as we got out and the driver unloaded all the bags – we wondered if the other people knew their bags were safe. The room was small, yet very comfortable and pleasant. The service was fantastic. This was all we needed to rest our heads for five hours, until our departure to the island in the morning.


We woke up to beautiful blue skies, the streets were quiet, and the hustle and bustle of what we witnessed seven hours prior was non-existent. After a light breakfast we were driven back to the waterfront to catch another water taxi back to Male Airport.


The girls outside the hotel


When we arrived we were warmly welcomed by a Four Seasons representative. From this point on, we were in the hands of luxurious first class service – something we’ve never experienced before. We were whisked to a beautiful lounge, where we awaited our seaplane transfer to Landaa Giraavaru.



Flying across the turquoise waters dotted with islands and atolls is a sight that had us all mesmerized.








When we landed at Landaa Giraavaru we were welcomed by a group of staff members, and Azmie introduced himself to us. He had taken care of all our dinner arrangements, gave us suggestions and tips, gave the girls gifts and escorted us to our room. I’d always dreamed of staying in huts on stilts over the water, when we walked into our ‘hut’ our breath was taken away. It was Serene!









Yes that’s a window to see the fish swim around while you about your business.


We were in heaven. We lazed around and soaked it all up. Of course our little mermaid was right in the water!




We enjoyed a relaxing afternoon, and sat in peaceful silence as we watched the sun set.





The following morning we embarked on a Dolphin Talk and Cruise. Sadly we didn’t see any dolphins, however the time spent lazing on the top of the boat was a gift.













After a delicious lunch we decided to relax at the beach and do some shell finding.














And then we enjoyed some time riding around the island to find fruit bats, lizards and birds, with a cool off at the pool bar.











This spectacular day came to completion after a gorgeous sunset and a divine meal at Fuego Surf & Turf.






The next day would have to be the most incredible days I’ve ever experienced. It was Miss T’s 12th birthday, and the island staff went above and beyond making this the highlight of her trip and the best birthday she’s ever had. At breakfast we were greeted with the table adorned with a birthday message, every staff member wished her a happy birthday. They brought us special glasses to toast to her birthday and brought out a fabulous breakfast dessert.






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For her birthday we decided to dedicate and build a reef in her name. We learned so much about how coral lives and dies, and how the impact of humans and the rising temperature of the water is having adverse effects. We can watch it grow at the Reefscapers website.











Another afternoon spent doing what Miss T loves – searching for shells, finding some little friends, was followed up by her very own massage. The spa gifted her a flower petal bath in one of the huts over the water. Let’s just say Miss T came back in a blissful state!






We had one more surprise in store for her, a sunset fishing cruise. Nobody on the boat was having much luck, two people caught colorful fish, and then Miss A pulled in a shark – on a handline! Secretly I was hoping and praying that Miss T would catch something, it was her birthday after all, and then – she did! The next day it was cooked up for us, and would have to be THE most delicious fish I’ve ever tasted.














At dinner, once again Miss T was spoiled with attention and a wonderful sting ray cake. To her surprise when we got back to the room her bed was adorned with fresh flowers. Now that’s a birthday to remember!!!

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The next three days were filled with adventure, relaxation, discovery and beauty. One of the highlights for all of us was swimming with manta rays. To be so close to these large, graceful creatures was truly a blessing. They glide through the water effortlessly, at one point I looked back and right behind me was a large gaping mouth. I remembered what we were told and stayed calm, without missing a beat this docile creature turned slightly and glided right by me. So proud of Miss T and myself for facing some fears, and then all of us for getting back to the boat after the current became very strong.















Our last evening we spent having fun with a family photo shoot, and then an incredible dinner at Blu – where the staff went above and beyond to celebrate our 20th Wedding Anniversary. We even came back to our bathroom lovingly transformed.




















One of my favourite parts of Landaa Giraavaru was riding around the island on bicycles, with personalized initials on the front. Everywhere we went friendly staff greeted us. Landaa Giraavaru is heaven on earth, a place I would go back to in a heartbeat. The service was second to none, the food was delicious, and the surroundings – perfection!








Believe it or not, yes there’s more to come. I know, bare with me – it’s a long post.


The sky was gloomy as we boarded the seaplane headed for Kuda Huraa. Soon enough the skies opened up to gift us with more spectacular views from the plane.












Four Seasons Kuda Huraa is a much smaller island than Landaa Giraavaru, and has a quaint island village and family feel to it. I was saddened to find out we didn’t have our black bikes to get around, although there was no need as the walking distance from the rooms was a lovely short stroll. The beds in our rooms were adorned with fresh flower petal messages and a delicious gift was left for us. Once again our little fish was in the pool before the front door was closed.


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The next morning I awoke early to capture the sunrise. My photography app had me up an hour early because the islands have a self imposed time change to the mainland so guests can enjoy an extra hour of sun. I enjoyed the peace and quiet and was witness to and captured a beautiful sunrise.










Neil and Miss A went scuba diving in the morning, they were fortunate to see a baby whale shark from the boat. Miss T and I lazed around at the pool and beach taking in the beautiful clear blue sky day.








Given it was monsoon season the weather can change quite quickly. The heavy downpour we experienced was refreshing and gifted us with a beautiful rainbow.






The last few days of our getaway were filled with adventure and activities. We embarked on a Sunrise Cast Fishing trip in search of trevally, we didn’t have much luck finding or catching any, and realized this wasn’t our favourite form of fishing – it’s not as easy as it looks. We gave it a go, and got to see a beautiful sunrise, some dolphins and a beautiful rainbow.












Later that afternoon we went on a Shark Snorkelling Safari. Both Miss T and I were anxious and scared. As we all jumped out of the boat I could feel my heart in my throat, Miss T stayed close to the guide and got to see the most sharks and turtles – needless to say, another example for her to remember that some of the best experiences come when we face our fears. My fear was of the dark water that loomed at the ledge of the coral reef drop off, there were a couple of times I had to breathe deeply, I did it and was so proud of myself. Witnessing these small reef sharks gliding through the water, turtles seemingly floating around and an endless array of multi-colored fish was like nothing I’ve seen. So mesmerizing, so peaceful, so beautiful.


That evening we relaxed, watched as they fed the sharks left over fish and I had a wonderful encounter with a hermit crab, before enjoying an incredible dinner by the water.


















Our last day in the Maldives was spent staging some fun photos for a friends wedding, and simply enjoying being together in this perfect place.


























Thank you Maldives, you were truly the perfect getaway!



Beaches, Snorkelling, Lizards, Orangutans and Withdrawal in Kota Kinabalu

He exited the elevators, the girls and I excited to see him. He looked handsome, a new haircut and casually dressed for a long weekend away with his girls. I watched him walking towards the door, and then BANG, he crashed right into the closed glass door, so hard the imprint of his forehead,  nose and chin were left behind. I couldn’t help but laugh – the guard standing by the doors didn’t even flinch – how I don’t know! Thankfully Neil has a good sense of humour and doesn’t take too much seriously, almost the entire drive to the airport was spent laughing at his misfortune and the mark left on his forehead.


This was to be our first weekend away as a family, Chinese New Year gave Neil two days off and allowed us a long weekend away together. Having been in November, and some sense of familiarity Neil booked us to go to Kota Kinabalu in Sabah, on Borneo Island. The KLIA Ekspres allowed us to easily get to the airport without any traffic, and two hours later we disembarked in Kota Kinabalu.


On the way to the hotel Miss T said her throat was hurting and asked if we had any medicine, as she asked that question I realized that I did not pack my meds, dread filled my entire being.
“I didn’t pack my meds!” I said aloud.
Neil knew what this meant, the withdrawals over the next four days would make it very difficult for me.


We were escorted to our bedroom, walking in we saw two beds, one being a single cot – I could sense the doubts that all of us felt. Neil went out to the balcony, I followed behind, he sat – I could feel the weight of heaviness he was carrying. Things weren’t starting off too well for us. After a quick stroll along the water we came back to our room to turn in for the night. Thankfully by that point we had stopped the pity party and realized how fortunate we were to be here, together!


Our first day was spent lazing by the beach and the pool, relaxing, reading and simply being. I was grateful to watch the girls splashing away together in the pool – seeing them ‘play’ together was something I have deeply wished to see. Miss T has felt the impact of their four year spread in age, Miss A being 15 and her being 11 has really created a distance between them, and here they were playing together – it warmed my heart deeply.



I had begun reading ‘Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand‘ that morning and was captivated by the story of Louis Zamperini. As the day went on, dizziness began to hit – I would all of a sudden feel spaced out and shaky, nausea would come out of nowhere and a sense of fear enveloped me. Reading about Louis helped me step through these physical withdrawal symptoms one deep breath at a time. Thankfully Neil and the girls were aware, observant and gave me grace through each occurrence.


Sleep that night was interrupted, filled with vivid and horrifying nightmares, I awoke numerous times through the night – my body aching – mostly due to the rock solid bed that gave my body no comfort. Then I thought of the conditions Louis faced, and with gratitude I would fall back to sleep.


Neil suggested we go to one of the islands for snorkelling – given how I would have moments of disorientation I thought it best I not be out in the water, for a moment I thought ‘well I could have some quiet time just by myself,’ the thought was fleeting, we were here to spend time together, not apart. So off we went to Pulau Mamutik, a short five minute boat ride from the resort. As we pulled away, the shores that were lined with stilt homes came into view. I would like to learn more about the history of these areas that line much of the coast.

We were instantly mesmerized with the clear water under the dock, swarming with many schools of fish –  Miss T was in heaven. Neil and the girls were quick to don their snorkelling gear and head into the water. At the end of the coral lined beach I could see a bird along the rock face, with my camera off I went. Walking along the beach my eyes were drawn to the sand, beautiful tiny shells everywhere – I instantly thought of how much fun Miss T and I were going to have shell hunting. I found a spot away from the crowds under a tree, the view before me filled my soul, each breath I inhaled the sweet smell of the ocean which helped the queasiness I was feeling.


Wanting to be a little closer to the bird at the edge of the rocks I inched my way ever so slowly, sadly as I got closer some other tourists started yelling and running down the beach and the bird flew off. At the moment I saw something in the corner of my eye, as I looked down there were many little creatures jumping in and out of the water, they were fascinating to watch – I couldn’t wait to tell the girls about these, with that thought I headed back to see if they were back from snorkelling.

When the girls and I headed back to the spot we saw a Monitor Lizard, it was so interesting watching him dig – I’m guessing he was hoping to find eggs, as I’d seen a pheasant digging in that area earlier. Sadly we watched with disappointment as a tourist grabbed a long stick and started poking at him. Thankfully another tourist spoke up and the man backed off.


That night the withdrawal symptoms were coming on strong, I would have an unnerving sense that my brain was moving inside my head, feelings of vertigo and electric shock like feelings in my head (known as brain zaps), I felt agitated. Thankfully my incredible family gave me space – I slept in the single fold away cot while they all shared the other bed. Still, sleep did not come. For four hours I continued reading Unbroken – reading about Louis facing the wrath and inexplicable violence as a POW at the hands of ‘The Bird,’ once again I felt grateful that this was all that I faced.


On our last day in Kota Kinabalu we decided to visit the Shangri-La Rasa Ria Orangutan Sanctuary. Two five year old Orangutans call this sanctuary home until they are rehabilitated to return to the wild. Watching these incredible creatures was the highlight of this trip for me, observing their inquisitiveness, numerous and entertaining facial expressions, and their ability to manoeuvre themselves into the most unusual positions.










During the time spent with the Orangutans I felt wonderful, I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face – or the sweat, I was drenched by the time we started heading back down to the resort. After a wonderful lunch and a quick swim we headed back to our resort. The drive back was the most trying time for me this weekend, traffic kept us at a standstill, claustrophobia set in – I wanted to get off that bus more than anything, anger set in – my mind wandered to many different things and all I could feel was anger.


We finally got back to the hotel, and went straight to the room and got changed. Neil encouraged us all to go sit down by the beach – he knows me so well. The girls went and had a swim and Neil and I sat in the chairs watching the remnants of the beautiful sunset. Being by the water calms me, Neil knows that, he asked me what I was going through – and without judgement he simply listened as I shared. Talking it through helped me, having Neil by my side soothed me and reminded me that I’m not alone and I’m loved.


Sitting here in our home in KL right now, I am filled with pride and gratitude. Proud of myself for not allowing the withdrawal symptoms ruin a wonderful weekend, and grateful to Neil and my girls for helping me through this past four days. It helped that we were in a beautiful place, a place that I know we will return to – next time I won’t forget my meds and we’ll climb Mount Kinabalu


Family Favourites:
Neil – Snorkelling with the girls and being with my family.
Lee – Seeing the orangutans, and watching my girls playing together.
Miss A –  Snorkelling and all of us being around the pool, and finishing her book.
Miss T – Favourite part was the snorkelling, because it was really fun and I saw tons of fish and I got to hang out with Dad.





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