Tuesday, March 25, 2008

People from KBC

These two kids called me Uncle Joe and were pretty good fun. They were helpful individually but when you go them together they were nightmares. The tiny one wanted everything slower and safer and the bigger one wanted everything wilder and faster. "Push us FASTER Uncle Joe!" "no, please push us slower uncle joe, it is too dangerous..." "NO FASTER!"

When they helped me with work together it turned into... "Uncle Joe, I'm going to put my hand in the bucket of paint and then put my hand in my mouth!" "Don't do that." "I'm going to put my head in the paint and then open my mouth and then swallow the paint!" "Please, don't do that."

This is Napple (like apple). People have described him as a Malaysian Joe. He is a good guy.

Napple climbs down from a palm tree after cutting down all the coconuts with a pocket knife. He only did this when girls were around.

Joe, Mia, Zack the boat driver, Hans the owner and Brent.

German people a weird, but they know how to have a great time. Marcus demonstrates how a German man applies sunscreen.

These are the same people as in the picture above, but in a different order. You wouldn't know it to look at him, but Zack owns a Chopper, 4 boats, a truck, a Mercedes, and a huge house where he stores a 700 piece T-shirt collection. He also travels every year to places like Europe.

Jelle and Bruce pose in the doorway of the restaurant. Bruce is mostly Stephen Segal. A cook who knows how to kick ass. He shared a wall with us and snored like you wouldn't believe. He would snore so hard that he would inward scream in his sleep. "SnnnnnOOKKKK-aaaAAAAAA!!!... sssSSNNNNNOOKKKK-a-A-AAAAAAA!!!!" It was pretty funny.

This is Kayan. He is one of my favorite people, ever. Half Sri Lanken, half Northern European, with a voice like James Earl Jones, a love of 70's soul music and fast boats, he is extremely well informed about just about everything.

The scuba crew on Kapas. Kaled is smiley here but when he plays volleyball he is stoic and serious. The guy can spike the ball so hard it rings like a bell.

Mie (pronounced 'me') is the only paid member of staff at KBC. Much confusion was caused when people would say things like, "Why don't you and Mie go and finish up the sand moving project," and I would sit around waiting for them to be ready to help me for hours.

Hans is the owner of KBC. A Dutchman. He played baseball for the junior national team in his home country and he doesn't let you forget it. Just in case there is a lull in his glory days of baseball stories he has a tattoo of the Major League logo to remind you he was once a serious ball player. Great guy.

KBC: Not hard work

Joe sits on a table and stares directly into the sun in the KBC restaurant. This was not hard work.

Brent provides a foreground for a photo of the KBC resort. Brent is travelling with us for two weeks. With the three of us on the island we comprised the largest group of Americans EVER to be on Kapas island at one time said one local who hadn't yet arrived on the island when Mia, Marla and Joe were there 3 weeks prior.

Kapas means 'cotton' in Maylay. The island got its name for the soft white sand that rings it.

The backside of the island pre-end of the monsoons.

People play kick the ball to warm up for beach volleyball.

Crystal blue waters may seem like they are tranquil, but these waters have dark motives. They lull a man into a false sense of calm and then they take what he cherishes most and pulls it under, never to be seen again. They took from me my favorite hat and Brent's favorite sandals. They have also taken the fair maidens of Scottish folk singers. Beware.

Brent says, "Do I need to be in the foreground of EVERY picture you take?" The answer is yes. It adds perspective. Here, he is the foreground for a picture of Mia and Meltem hanging out on the beach in front of the KBC restaurant.

Mia and Avril soak up the warmth of a beach bonfire.

Mia poses during a jungle trek to the far side of the island for cliff jumping and snorkeling.

Brent gets a running start at the edge of a cliff. More of a careful, hobbling start because the rocks are extremely sharp and slippery.

Joe and Brent hang out after cliff jumping.

This is what Joe's feet look like from being barefoot for a month. Rugged and manly.

Joe and Brent cook Mexican food for 20 in the KBC kitchen as a thank you for all the staff and our favorite guests. Also because we love Mexican food.

KBC: Hard work

We worked for room and board on KBC. Here are some pictures of us slaving away...

Mia hangs laundry out to dry after washing them in a washing machine that fell apart in 1975. Joe helped fold. He didn't get the folds perfect.

Joe was often referred to as "The Pirate" when he was in his work outfit, not because of his look, but because of his propensity to steal.

This is what our room looked like before we cleaned it up, ripped out the ceiling, kicked out a window, and moved in new furniture. In the ceiling was a snake (that fell on Joe), in the walls were gecko eggs, mice, roaches, centipedes and scorpions.

This is our room post renovation. We also added a pink mosquito net which really complimented the roofing tiles.

Joe examines a giant stick bug he found while working. Every bug on the island is giant. It's like a Jurassic island.

These are some of the chalets for guests. Joe replaced a few of their porches and floors.

This is a candid shot Mia took of Joe sleeping in with Onan the cat. We nabbed her off the jetty in Marang right before we came and she quickly became a part of the family. It blows the mind how fast a mangy animal from the streets can become a lazy, spoiled princess. (Referring to Joe)

Joe repairs the foundation and porch of a chalet. There were no power tools so he only had his hands, a hammer, a saw, nails, and his wits.

Mia takes a break to rub Onan's belly. Onan takes a break from sleeping ALL DAY LONG to have her belly scratched. In her defence, she spent nights catching mice in our room and eating them noisily at the foot of our bed, which is exactly why we brought her to the island.

Mia relaxes with a copy of "The Economist" while she waits for a load of laundry to finish.

Joe digs a hole in the sand. 'Move sand from here to there' was a common job for the day. It's fun for the first hour.

Joe and Kayan sort wood into usable wood and beach bonfire wood. Kayan stepped on a nail and then when he was joking about safety last he stepped on another nail. That was the end of his joking.

Mia poses with her outdoor sink. She spent many an hour here scrubbing dishes with only a blue and orange bird and a giant monitor lizard to keep her company.

Joe replaced all the pipes so that Mia's dishwater flowed into the first septic tank and then overflowed into the second tank, eliminating the need to transfer it with buckets and stopping it from running out under the restaurant. The tank was full of maggots the size of fingers and they we inexplicably drawn TOWARD hammers and chisels. Sick me out to the max.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

One Month Ago... Taman Negara

(by Joe)
(This is now a month old, sorry for the late posting)
Hey everyone. It's been a while since I wrote. Most of the last month has been spent travelling with Mia's mother Marla, which has been wonderful. You can scroll down to her guest blogs that she posted to find out more. I would like to talk to you all about Teman Negara now. Teman Negara is a vast expanse of untouched rain forest nestled deep in the heart of peninsular Malaysia. There are only two ways to get there. The first is by a three hour boat ride along a winding river whose banks are crawling with wild monkeys and deadly monitor lizards. The trees act as camouflage for the still thriving rhinoceros, elephants and tigers which stalk each other through the night, each hoping to make a meal of the other. The sky's above the river could theoretically fill with so many birds that the sun could be completely choked out and it would become a virtual night time in the already dense jungle below. (This didn't happen, though I was able to see at least 4 of the 250 species of birds that live in the jungle during our trip (there were very few birds around)). The only other way to reach the jungle is by paved, divided highway.

When we arrived at the small town that acts as a staging camp for those brave enough to enter the Taman Negara wilderness we were briefed on a number of possibe guided trips and then turned loose on our own. The town itself was nothing worth writing home about, so I wont. However, across the river there was a 5 star resort hidden amongst the trees and vines, so we chartered a boat and got us a fancy chalet.

The buffet at the resort was amazing. It boasted of entrees from every corner of the world. Slow piano jazz covers of popular 90's songs competed for the affections of diners ears with the whining buzz saw of cicadas the size of a gorillas thumb. The cicadas, confused by the lights, would find themselves drawn inexplicably into the open air restaurant and thrust headfirst by their own instincts into anything bright around them. Lights, plates, shiny reflections on the plastic straps of a french woman's Invizi-bra. I caught one in my hand, exchanged a nod with an elderly Englishman who saw me do it, and the set it free.

The grounds of the resort were well groomed and only small remnants of the jungle still remained. The most noticeable of which were the giant wild hogs which dotted the lawns and required a full time staff member to circulate with a shovel filling in the holes they made rooting for grubs. All the wood beams, decorative lights and clocks showing times all over the world couldn't mask the savageness of the place completely. One morning I was waiting for some breakfast vouchers in the lobby of the hotel when a squirrel on the wall caught my eye. It was climbing from beam to beam, zigzagging its way up toward the vaulted ceiling. A gecko was also hanging out on the wall, two stories up. It was just relaxing there. Sleeping. The squirrel went out of its way to scamper over, reach up, grab the gecko in its hand, and fling it screaming toward the polished concrete floor. It landed belly down with a rubbery thud. Murdered for fun. That's the way the jungle is. Hardcore.

On our second day in Teman Negara, after a night spent gorging ourselves on international cuisine, playing cards, drinking fine wine and sleeping in, we decided to venture out into the jungle without paying for a guide. We had a map and 3 fairly adept people. That's really all you need. (When I had asked the nature guide the night before what animals he would show us on his jungle trek he had paused, looked embarrassed and then said, "Um, maybe cricket? Maybe spider?" Not worth 30 ringet a piece). The jungle was green and brown and humid. We made our way to the canopy walk.

The canopy walk is a series of suspension bridges 75 feet in the air strung between ancient rainforest trees. After that we hiked to the top of a few hills that looked over the whole valley. Nice. we had been warned about leeches but for the first number of housrs we didn't see any. The leeches here are land leeches. The walk like inchworms along the ground and then when they sense an aproching victim they stand on their tail and stretch up into the air like a thin, glossy stick, allowing them to grab onto shoes even when your foot is passing over them. You can't feel them at all even though they pull 20 times the blood as a mosquito. I saw a couple of other hikes suddenly panic and start grabbing at their shoes while we were walking and so I checked my own. 3 leeches, sucking through my socks. Sneaky little bastards. Mia had them too. For some reason they left Marla completely alone even though she was wearing open sided shoes. For the rest of the hike we had to keep stopping to burn all the leeches off of us with lighters. Even standing still for 30 seconds the came inching in from all directions, tiny black lines radiating out from where we stood, like the black rays of some evil, shrinking sun. The wounds they open can be quite gnarly. By the time we got back one of my socks was half soaked with blood. No pain though. I have so much to write but this is a start. Next up, our one month adventure on Kapas Island. Cliff jumping, vine swinging, jungle treking, cat nabbing, beach bonfireing, Steven Segal look alikes and more!