Tag Archives: hockey

The Great Non-White White North

Filed under the mostly boring topic of returning to North America for the first time, I apologize ahead of time for the cushy little post about what we did on our winter vacation. In keeping with my blog’s slightly edgy but realistic views, I’ll start by pointing out that Americans worried about immigration can chill out because apparently, every immigrant bound for North America has mysteriously landed in Western Canada. In only eighteen months, the whitest place I’ve ever lived in morphed into a multi cultural center of ethnic, religious and racial diversity. Strolling through the streets and malls, we’ve seen literally thousands of non white immigrants blending in just perfectly with Canadians. Mostly dark-skinned Africans, head dressed Muslims from every conceivable nation and Hindus from nations other than India, it seems the like first course of action for the Trudeau administration was to stick it to the Trumpsters by letting tens thousands of immigrants call Canada their home.

Canadian version of Malaysian wildlife

Canadian version of Malaysian wildlife

Being Canada, nobody cares, argues, stares, protests, tweets, spews hatred or otherwise argues. And much to the chagrin of angry white American voters, its obvious after one day visiting that not only are they all peaceful and appreciative to be here, they’re all employed and contributing to the local economy. Where there used to be teenage white kids staffing retail stores and old Indian men sweeping streets and filling custodial jobs, now there are Senegails, Gambians, Bangladeshis, middle easterners and oh, yeah, thousands of Syrians that the Canadian government welcomed with open arms. Demographically speaking, it makes sense because in every developed nation, someone has to do the service jobs and just like American teens, Canadian kids have grown out of mall jobs and now probably earn online income to support their insatiable smartphone habits.

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Game On

Before we moved to Malaysia, Diane and I did a lot of research about local television options for overseas expats. Being that one of us is Canadian and I consider myself an honorary pseudo-Canuck, watching live hockey was a big issue and we dreaded the thought of missing the NHL playoffs. Knowing we’d be moving to a tropical nation where hockey is totally unknown and the closest we’d ever get to ice would be the cubes in our drinks, we devoted countless hours on forums dedicated to live streaming. Generally speaking, the consensus used to be that access to live North American sports for overseas expats involved a host of complicated options including VPN’s, special boxes and other devices for fooling the host provider into thinking you’re physically located in North America. And then of course there’s the obvious lazy person’s method of simply paying for packages from the major sports leagues like MLB.com.

imagePerfectly acceptable for retired expats older than us that know little or nothing about the internet, paid sports packages are expensive, rely on the strength of your local internet connection and often have annoying blackout options. Our Canadian neighbor, an avid baseball and hockey fan, is 12 years older than me and subscribes to NHL.com. Arriving last year as newbie expats without a definitive solution for our TV viewing options, we had no interest in paying for Astro, the local cable company offering a host of packages that are mostly useless for North Americans. And “sports packages” on the other side of the globe provide endless hours of football (soccer in American speak), and a host of other unfamiliar sports like cricket, rugby, and other bizarre options of no interest to us. Initially excited over the prospect of watching NHL games, we spent the first few weeks of last October plopped down on our neighbor’s couch as the season opened but his Chinese wife from Hong Kong didn’t take to kindly to this since he already spent way too much time couch surfing without us being there.

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The Pho Failure

Known for its reputation as a foodie haven where dozens of styles mix and match, Penang misses the boat entirely on one count as far as I’m concerned. With all the amazing noodle soups including Hokkien Mee, Laksa, Wanton Mee and various others, trying to find a simple bowl of Vietnamese Pho is like searching for water in the desert. One of my favorite styles of food, Vietnamese is unknown and sadly lacking everywhere in Penang. Unsure why a nation so close to Malaysia remains absent from the local cuisine, I’ve seen bizarre food outlets like “authentic Mexican cuisine” a handful of places calling themselves “New York style” pizza and “western style” pub food where they don’t understand that only Europeans put mayo on burgers and fries. Desperately looking for my fix of Bun Rieu, salad rolls, vermicelli noodles and grilled pork served with that delicious simple Vietnamese sauce, I recently scoured the Internet and came up with a whopping three choices when prompting Google for help. Ruling out the first option, a place known as No Eyed Deer because they serve only an average tasting bowl of Pho for weekend brunch, that didn’t leave much more considering the island has over 8,000 choices for food.

imageNoticing one of the remaining two eateries was near the strangely named Penang Times Square Mall, we saw there was an annual book fair across from a hilariously named hotel (see the picture) so we asked our favorite neighbors if they wanted to make a day trip that included lunch at a Vietnamese restaurant. Known as Huong Que, we drove up the umpteen circular levels one drives up in Penang to get to the parking area of the mall’s garage and found our way back down five levels to the street. (I’m unsure why engineers decided that the top four floors of every mall should be dedicated to parking but I know they tend to be empty because there’s usually a “premium” basement level parking option. Most pMalaysians would rather shell out a ringgit of two than walk an extra fifteen steps). Crossing the street in the world’s most pedestrian friendly nation (sarcasm intended) took some skills that car-less expats like us eventually pick up like holding your hand up and running between packed traffic. Entering the small restaurant we found about six small cramped tables for four with little stools designed for people even shorter than me. Seeing that every employee was of Malaysian descent and understood zero about anything Vietnamese, the initial vibe wasn’t the best.

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Sweaty Palms (and everything else)

Jumping right into the fire, (literally), Diane and I experienced some Malaysian hospitality before we even left Walnut Creek. As regular followers know, our plan of becoming expats in Penang next month is a huge leap of faith since we’ve never lived there or even visited. Planning on staying at The Copthorne Orchid Hotel for a few weeks after arriving while searching for an apartment, we’ve corresponded with one of the hotel’s sales managers to get quotes and information. Apparently aware that those not from the tropics hate the torrid heat and humidity, we received the following email this morning:

We would like to inform that our hotel will be carrying out chilled water pipe rectification works which will affect the air-conditioning supply for all rooms and outlets in the Hotel from 29th June till 2nd July 2015 (both dates inclusive). Please advise if you are ok with the above situation before we proceed to quote.

hotUnexpectedly accommodating, the hotel staff appears to be putting our potential comfort (or lack thereof) ahead of an easy booking for newbies that obviously need a quick and easy place to stay. Conveniently in the district we’d like to live in, we chose the hotel for its relatively moderate rates (by our standards) and proximity to public transportation, shopping and a host of apartment complexes with the amenities we’re seeking. Having arrived at our five-star Hawaiian hotel for our honeymoon 14 years ago only to find a construction zone in half the hotel that they conveniently forgot to mention, I’m already impressed. With our MM2H Application in the “process” status for at least another two months, we’re in no hurry so the complimentary advance notice helped us avoid our first major annoyance as we’ll simply stay in Canada an extra week or two. Score the first thumbs up for Malaysian hospitality.

Seemingly stranger but equally accommodating, our potential relationship manager at HSBC Malaysia called us on our cell phone in response to some timing issues and concerns we had with opening our local account and placing the Fixed Deposit. Referred by a friend on what used to be the world’s best country-specific forum (now defunct), he had the misfortune of calling during the Overtime period of a deciding game 7 in the Stanley Cup Playoffs’ second round. As all Canadians know, this is a sin and I almost let the call go to voicemail but seeing a ten digit number I figured I’d better answer. Assuring us he can work with our schedule, he apologized for calling in the middle of the game and demonstrated another positive act of Malaysian hospitality by calling at all, never mind the 15 hour time difference.

hockeyBut the story doesn’t even end there. Opening a secure email from HSBC the next morning, our awesome manager-to-be told us he’d gone to university in St. Louis, Missouri where he was a big supporter of the St. Louis Blues, the local NHL hockey club. Amazed that our Malaysian bank manager would know anything about North American ice hockey in a country where “cold” means anything below 30 (Celsius), he even asked us what team we cheer for and who he thinks will win this year. Admitting his real passion is The English Premier Soccer League, the conversation ended with a reassurance that we could hop off in Kuala Lumpur before we get to Penang to open a local bank account. Score two positive notes for Malaysian hospitality as far as I’m concerned. Thinking perhaps I’m being overly complimentary, I am trying to enter this Experimental Expat phase with a positive open mind and so far, Malaysia seems ready to help us adjust accordingly. Stay tuned.

Please comment or share: Am I being to generous with my praise?

Coming next:
Our departure from California on May 19th; After that, please excuse the weekly clunky posts from my Ipad but do watch for periodic updates and stories of whatever we do on Canadian soil until late June.