Week One: Temples, Birthdays and Barbecues

My first week in Sibu has officially drawn to a close – and I still love it here. Andrew and I spend our mornings exploring, eating, shopping and (I won’t lie) lounging around our air conditioned apartment. On Friday morning I even had a radio interview with a news station back home – I had to get up at 6:30am to do it, but now Peterborough Extra listeners know all about the magic of the Witches of Armour Hill.

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In the afternoon we go to the club, where he works and I enjoy the view, as well as the occasional feathered or scaly guest. The bird flew in the window one night, and couldn’t find his way out – the lizard lives in the hallway, and is completely adorable at less than an inch long. The moth… is just a moth.

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I’m getting my head wrapped around the food – my boring Canadian palette is doing surprisingly well out here. Below you find, in order – stingray, sweet and sour fish and fried rice, a Chinese bun called bao (two pictures – it’s my one true love),  what Andrew calls “exploded bird,” some kind of clam, kempua, kompia, and scallops with cheese.

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And of course, there’s my Lucky – he’s not at the cafe every night, but he always comes to see me when he is. I’ve also made a cat friend, at a different cafe – according to Lucas, Miss Kitty has an owner, and she does look a little too clean and fat to be a stray.

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Andrew’s boss Lucas helps with the exploring part, and when I say touristy things like “Holy crap, look at that temple,” he stops to let me look around. His daughter has also introduced me to her dog Teddy, who wears little t-shirts and loves me (why are all my friends quadropeds?)

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We were driving around with his wife (who got me the Hong Kong keychain pictured above, because she’s awesome) and daughter when he took me on a tour of this amazing temple.

These decorations were outside. The woman is some kind of mother goddess, and she’s meant to hold the bottle pictured beside her. Then there’s the great tortoise and her golden eggs, as well as some awesome dragons.

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This little house was also outside, and is built in what’s called the rain tree – it’s gotten so old and twisted now that there are false trunks added to hold up the heaviest branches. You can read about the story in the photo of the plaque!

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The temple was beautiful, full of lanterns and candles and classic art and sculpture, right down to door knockers and reliefs in the ceiling.

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The guardian of the temple has his own dog – I think we’d be friends.

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The walls were covered with dozens of panels, all with artwork of different gods and deities. Andrew was quite excited to learn that the monkey king was a true deity and not a cartoon character.

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Lucas told us that these candles and lanterns can be purchased by worshipers – you write the name of a loved one or family member on the hanging cards, and it brings them good luck and fortune.

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These two dudes guard the entrance – they flank you on either side as you walk through the gates, and it’s more than a little unsettling.

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These were all near the entrance – a huge brazier for burning incense (the smell was everywhere, it was awesome) the dragon turtle, and the lions guarding the gates.

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The temple was on the water, near the harbour, and they had dragons and birds overlooking the boats (you can see Lucas and his daughter on the docks).

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We were also invited to a birthday party at a friend of Lucas’s wife – the birthday boy was only a year old, but the gathering was huge. Everyone there wanted to take pictures with Andrew and I (literally EVERYONE), and they were so friendly and welcoming. Liza told us later that we were the first white people they’d had to the house, and they wanted to take pictures for proof – apparently we’re a novelty!

Socially anxious creature that I am, it was a little nerve wracking having everyone taking pictures of me and talking about said pictures from afar while gesturing obviously in my direction, but they were all too friendly for me to even consider being offended.

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And yesterday was barbecue day! Andrew has been telling me about this rooftop restaurant since he arrived five weeks ago, and I finally got a chance to try it out. The servers bring plates of coal right to the table, and you cook all your own meat and vegetables. The view was spectacular, and once the sun had completely set, there were bats flying around a nearby tower, and a plane that passed overhead at least three times, lit up all green and red.

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It’s been an amazing experience already, and I’m left with so much time to read and write – and so much inspiration to do both! I’m always wondering what tomorrow will bring, and really, that’s the way I like it – complacency is death.

This, on the other hand, is life at its fullest.

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