Sunday, July 28, 2013

Greetings to everyone -- we were busy this week, but we didn't have many photo ops.  We have been staying around the apartment more trying to wrap up projects and to get the apartment ready for the Allen's when they come in three weeks.  Last week when we looked out our window, we saw this beautiful eagle soaring on the wind stream:
Not a very good picture, but he was very large and so beautiful.  He wasn't as large as an American eagle, but he was right up there.  And since we are on the 14th floor, he was soaring past our window and gave us a real 'eagle's eye' view.  Sorry.

While we were driving to town one day, this motorcycle guy cut in front of us.  Motorcycles are always cutting in front and literally drive anywhere they want.  But we were intrigued by the basket load of rolls he was carrying on the back of his motorcycle.  They looked so good!  I wanted to follow him to see where he was going to take them, but Ben wouldn't do it.

  Right now in Sabah there is a very critical shortage of diesel fuel.  You read all kinds of explanations of why this is happening in the paper.  Apparently, the government contracts with the diesel fuel manufacturers to provide so much diesel fuel for sale each month.  The last few months, the government has guessed wrong on how much diesel will be needed and the diesel gets to be in very very low supply during the last few days of the month.  This month, the shortage started sooner than usual.  As a result
 there are these massive traffic jams of people trying to get into the gas stations to buy the diesel.  This line up was approximately a half a mile long.  And once you got into the station
you faced this chaos of trying to get to a pump to buy the diesel.  Once at the pump you were only allowed to buy Rm50 worth of gas.  That would be about 10 gallons.  We noticed that the only stations that seemed to have the huge back ups were the Shell stations.  A little further down the road, about 1/4 of a mile, is a Petronas station with no lines.  We know Petronas sells diesel because we buy our regular gasoline at a Petronas station and there is a diesel hose next to every regular hose.  We think the Petronas stations must have run out of diesel earlier and put up a 'No Diesel' sign.  The district president was telling us that he got in line early in the morning the other day and still had to wait for an hour in order to get diesel.  And there are still 3 more days to go in July.  It's crazy!

We took a drive to the town of Tuaran where we have a project in the works.  This project seems to be having more problems than Carter has pills.  It was supposed to be done and over with by May 31.  I may have mentioned it before, it is a project with the Blind Society.  We were invited to their fund raising dinner a couple of weeks ago. We are still struggling trying to get this project moving forward.  The only thing they have accomplished so far is to have new shelves built for the baskets they make there:
 The shelves are nice and sturdy and a whole lot bettr than what was there before.  They make beautiful baskets out of this rattan:
They are one of the few basket weavers who still use real rattan.  Rattan is getting harder and harder to find.  We are also working with them trying to help them refurbish an old mushroom house they have on their grounds.  When we submitted the project for approval, we had a bid to repair the mushroom house from a local contractor.  When it came time for him to refurbish the mushroom house he said "Sorry.  I can't do it for that amount of money" and left us stranded.  The blind society has been trying to find another contractor but with no luck.  Everyone wants more money that we had budgeted.  We took one of our members, Garry, to look at the project to see if he could do it.  This is the mushroom house that needs to be refurbished:
 Quite sad isn't it.  It keeps getting in worse and worse condition because it needs help!  This is what the newer mushroom house looks like:
This is what we want to other mushroom house to look like when it is finished.  This is the inside of the mushroom house:
The mushrooms grow out of the black "bottle" like things you can see on the shelves and the blind people can feel when they are big enough to pick.  Right now they aren't growing any mushrooms at all.  They say they are waiting for another shipment of growing bottles to come in.  This project is driving us bonkers.  They just can't seem to get the vision of it (Sorry again.  No pun intended, well maybe just a little intention  Sorry)
We have an appointment to meet with the Blind Society -- again -- and see what is going on.  They are also having trouble getting the braillers and embosser we were going to buy for them.

We will be wrapping up a project with the Deaf Society on Saturday.  The members are going to help paint the children's playground equipment, swings, see-saw, slide, etc.  I hope we get a good turnout.  Will report on the next blog.

Stay well and happy.  The gospel is true and can bring you much joy.  Please drop us a line if you can.  We really miss everyone so much.  Love to All  E/S Read

Sunday, July 21, 2013


The most exciting thing we received this week was our FIRM and FINAL flight itinerary for our return trip home from our mission.  It was received with rather mixed emotions.  Bittersweet.  We will leave KK to go to Singapore on Tuesday Aug 20.  We will attend our final senior conference on Wednesday, Aug 21.  On Aug. 22 at 5:15 am we leave for home.  We arrive home in SLC at about 2:30 pm on Aug. 22.  Such a short flight back.  Only about 9 - 10 hours.  Amazing as the flight takes us 9 hours to reach Tokyo alone.  There's just no accounting for that International Dateline.  But like I said, it is bittersweet.  BUT we are so excited to see family and everyone again.  We were a little underwhelmed though with the reaction from our kids and grandkids when we gave them the news.

On Tuesday we had a really bad wind and rain storm.  As Sabah is known as "The Land Beneath the Wind" it was rather unusual for those living here.  The electricity was off for over four hours.  Of course the electricty went off just as I was going to put in a pasta dish and bread for the Elders/Sisters district meeting which we have at our house every Tuesday.  We had to improvise.  As I cook with propane gas, I was able to heat the pasta casseroles on top of the stove and we had scones from the bread dough instead of garlic bread.  The bad part was no Air Con.  Boy, it can get hot in a hurry.  Pictures of some of the damage from the wind:
 Some trees down outside the fence line by our apartment complex.
They were very quick to have these trees cut and hauled off.  You can see how they have crashed into the fence.  There was damage all over town. There were several businesses who also lost their signs.  We have worse wind storms at home, but this was just so unusual for KK.

On Saturday some of the RS Sisters from KK1 branch came to our apartment to learn how to make cupcakes and cookies.  They love cupcakes!  I said I would be glad to teach them, but then I got to thinking (always dangerous) 'None of these women have an oven in their home!'.  They don't use ovens here.  Everything is fried.  Well, they wanted to learn anyway so we had "Cupcake Class 101".
 This is Sis. Alice, Sis. Ebony and Sis. Susan filling the cupcake tins with the batter they made.
(Sorry, I don't know how to rotate this picture).  Here they are mixing the batter.  Sis. Audrey, RS President, Sis. Alice, Sis. Ebony, Sis. Caroline and Sis. Susan.

The cupcakes turned out pretty good.  We made them from scratch as they could never afford to buy a cake mix.  While the cupcakes were baking, I taught them how to make no-bake cookies, or Gorilla Poops as Amber calls them.  Then I had each one of them make up a cookie kit of the no bake cookies to take home so they could make a batch for their own families.  We had a lot of fun!  Of course, they all had to bring their children with them:
Some of the children who came:  on the couch:  Chelsea, Jeanette, Aven and Hendrey.  Behind the couch:  Aric, Larry and Lexlee.  There were more but these were all that I could get in the picture at the time.

Several of our members live in a housing complex called Karamat.  It is government low-income housing. There are about 10-15 blocks of housing units in a small compacted area.  There are four floors to each block and about 16 units per floor.  Recently the government repainted the buidings:
They needed painting.  I think the government must have got a good deal on surplus bright pink paint.  They really stand out now.  Wherever there are these massive housing units, there are enterpenuers (sp?).  People in the units will just set up a table or chair or bench or whatever they have and start selling stuff to the other tenants.  I needed some bananas and this little girl was selling bananas, soft drinks, vegetables and rice:
I bought some bananas from her.  Her part of the housing unit looks pretty clean.  Most do not look this nice at all.  So many people in such a small place.  Be grateful for what you have, however small you may think it is.

This morning as we were opening the church, we met this group of people on their way to church.  They are all visitors from the Philippines and they are all members.  The lady sitting by me on my left has a son serving a mission in San Diego.  They spoke good English and stayed for the entire 3 hour block and contributed to the discussions in SS and RS.  There were about 10 of them all together.  The extra ten really made the count in KK1 branch go up by several percentage points.  I didn't get any names, but they insisted on having their picture taken with me.  Don't ask me why.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Projects and a Little Culture

Hello everyone -- We have had another marvelous and busy week here in KK.  We are busy trying to complete some projects before we leave and also trying to write closing reports on projects that have been finished for quite awhile.

Sometimes I get a real kick out of the cultural differences here.  I have found that no matter what nationality or race you are, we as human beings have more that unites us than differences to separate us.  Listen to a baby crying.  Can you tell what nationality the baby is just by its cry?  Watch children playing on a playground or in a park.  If all you could hear was the sound of their laughter, would you immediately know what race they were?  We all have the same heavenly father and heavenly mother.  We all have divine potential.  God loves us all.  Our challenge is to learn to love everyone.  Regardless.  Malaysians love to take known brand names and tweak them abit.  An example:
Not the IHOP we are familiar with but so close, so very close.  They have great food by the way.  And it seems that no matter where you go here so will see this sign also:
I guess Malaysians also love to spit because the "no spitting" sign is everywhere, it is in every restaurant, every fast food place, every gas station, just everywhere.  I also like the "keep clean" underneath this one.  Good advice for all of us as we go through life:  Don't spit and Keep clean.  Maybe we would have a better chance of keeping clean if people weren't continually spitting around us.

The grass, lawns not smoking, here in Malaysia is just what will grow best for Malaysia.  It is nothing like our soft green Kentucky blue grass.  It doesn't grow very thick and it isn't lush.  Very few yards have grass.  But they have grass that grows along the roadsides and in the traffic medians.  No one in Malaysia owns a lawn mower.  They hire people to walk along all the roadsides and parks and cut the grass with weed whackers.  Usually the people are covered from head to toe with a mask and goggles over their faces, long sleeved heavy shirts, heavy pants with chaps like things over the pants.  I don't know how they stand it in this heat dressed as they are.  But there are literally hundreds of them who walk around all day long whacking grass and weeds.  This is an example of a weed/grass whacking guy who was taking care of the "lawn" at Cheshire Home where we have a wheel chair project.
This guy wasn't covered as much as the guys along the roadsides.  You can see the grass isn't like our grass, but it would take a long time to whack grass.

This week we also had the opportunity of meeting with the Asia Area Medical doctor.  He is Dr. Bertin from North Salt Lake.  He and his wife were here for a couple of days to check out the hospitals in KK and the pharmacies to make sure they were ok for us to visit.  Lucky for us he found them to be ok.
Sis. Bertin, Elder Read and Dr. Bertin
The YSA's continue to be a lot of fun for us to work with.  Every Monday night we all get together for a lesson and a game or activity.  
This is a fun game that they like to play alot.  Two teams face each other.  On the table at the end of the line is a small object of some kind.  Doesn't matter what.  The teams must all turn and look at the table.  A person at the other end of the line tosses a coin for the first people in each line to see.  When it comes up heads, they squeeze the hand of the person next to them and the squeeze continues on down the line til one team grabs the object.  It is lots of fun to play and it gets them holding hands.  And squeezing too.  Maybe one day they will learn how to play the holding hand/squeezing hand game for real and actually go on dates and get married.

We asked the primaries in each branch to help us today to put together hygiene kits for the deaf society.  It is one of the projects we hope to have all wrapped up before we leave.  Here they are helping us:

This is the primary from KK2 branch.  We all wore the "Mormon Helping Hands" vests.  The kids thought that was an added bonus to get to wear the vest.  The older primary kids would put an item in the smaller kids zip lock bag.  They are all so cute.

This is the primary from KK1.  They were so fun to work with today.  Malaysians really have beautiful children.  Love them all.  Hopefully this project for the deaf will be wrapped up with our closing ceremony on Aug. 3.  Now, if we could only get the blind project to get on track.  

Hope you are all doing great and enjoying your summer.  Take a trip this summer.  Why not trip on over to Borneo and pay us a visit.  We would love to see you 'cause we love you all.  Drop us a line please.  It will make our day.   Love to All   E/S Read

Sunday, July 7, 2013

A Busy Week

Hello to all you peanuts in the peanut gallery (that will surely date me and if you know to what I'm referring it will date you too).

We have spent a good part of this week in the car.  Our little coke can on wheels.  One thing I am definitely not going to miss is all the traffic congestion here in KK.  It is awful.  It makes you want to tear your hair out at times, whick could partially explain Elder Read's condition.  Some times it is worse than others.  But it seems to have been particularly bad all this week.  I get so frustrated trying to get anywhere and arrive on time.  You really have to plan well in advance to get anywhere you want to go.  If you think a trip should only take about 10 minutes, plan on it being at least a 30 minute trip.  And once you arrive at your destination, good luck on finding a parking spot.  They are few and far between so people just double park and block whole lanes of traffic.  They will park anywhere they can find an inch of free dirt.  We have had people who are driving in front of us just stop in the road, get out of their car and lock it and go to the shop or buiding they want to go to.  AAAGH.  It is so tense you come home literally exhausted from driving.

 We had to go to one of the better up-scale malls here in KK to look for sugar (yes, there is a sugar shortage and a cooking oil shortage and a diesel shortage, so the paper says).  One of the first shops we saw in the mall was this one.  We should have gone in, but a picture was all we got.

For July 4th we invited a family over for a good ole American picnic, indoors, at night.  They are about the only family in the branch that all speaks English and they would appreciate American food, or at least they could pretend they appreciated it.
 This is their little boy Jesus who they now call Rocky.  He is about 8 months old.  Big brown eyes to melt your heart.
Left to right:  Jeff ( a very good prize winning kick boxer) Tess holding Rocky, Jacky's mom and Jacky.  They were a little leery of the Orange Fluff salad at first, but after tasting it decided they really liked it.  When they left they asked for "to go" boxes of the food to take home
We are doing a project for the Sabah Blind Society right now.  We are getting them new braillers, an embosser and building them a new mushroom house.  They invited us to their annual fundraising gala as their guests.  It was held in the grand ballroom of the Shngri-La Hotel and Resort.  Quite plush.  This picture shows the ball room with our table.  We were in the very back corner of the ballroom.

The theme of the evening was "Dining in the Dark".  They wanted people to experience what it would be like to eat a meal if you were blind and completely in the dark.  First they brought out everyone's first course:
It is some kind of greens (tough, long, hard to chew), a bowl of some kind of soup (the broth was good -- didn't want to try the floaties), a kinda chip like wafer of some kind (actually the best part of the meal) and chicken chop (not bad but lots of bone).  Then they turned out all the lights for about 20 minutes and had you eat the meal in the dark.  It was an interesting concept and gave you a new appreciation for people who are blind and have to eat every meal in the dark.  Of course, there were those throughout the hall who couldn't resist or follow instructions and kept turning on their cell phone lites.  Too bad.  We did have more food served after the 20 minutes that we could eat with the lights on.
This was one of the entertainers.  He supposedly won the Malay version of Idol.  He did have a great voice. They also had some of the blind people sing and they had a very entertaining ventriloquist act too.  We had a wonderful time and actually were able to connect with some more people LDS Charities might be able to partner with and help.

On Saturday morning we were invited to the Sabah Society for the Deaf for a "Field Fun and Sports Day".  We are also doing a project with the deaf.  Many of the deaf students and their families were there.  The first game we saw them playing was bowling:

As you can see, the pins are actually water bottles partially filled with water and set up in pin formation
This is the "ball".  It is actually a coconut.  Coconuts do not roll like balls.  All the kids had a great time with the bowling activity.  They had really super prizes for all the winners and placers too.
 In this game there is a tray full of flour and in the flour are pieces of wrapped candy.  You have to blow the flour away to find the candy and then pick it up with your teeth and run and put it in a dish at the finish line.  The team who finishes first is the winner.
She found the candy but is having a hard time seeing where she needs to run because of all the flour in her eyes.
These are some boys of the deaf scout troop.  They saw us and came running over to get their picture taken with us.  We are known as 'orang putih' or people who are white.
 The lady on the right side of the pole in the white with black slacks is Regina.  She is the principal of the deaf school and the person we have been working with for our project.  She is a real cutie and so personable.
This is the president of the deaf society.  He is not deaf nor does he have any relatives who are deaf.  He has just donated a lot of time to help the deaf people in Sabah.  He spent the whole time with us talking with us and thanking us for helping the deaf people.  He mentioned LDS Charities a couple of times in his talk too.

On Saturday night we were invited to Gideon's 2nd birthday party.  Gideon is the son of Jared Ling, the district president, and Mary Liew.  They invited a lot of people to his party.
 This is Gideon with his dad and mom.  He had one of the famous 30 egg chocolate cakes decorated with legos on it.  There was also the famous fruit cocktail cake (on the left).  Gideon was more interested in eating all the grapes off the fruit cocktail cake than anything else.
 Gideon the birthday boy.  His mother made all the decorations and all the party hats.
Some of the birthday party crowd.  In the middle is Elder Rodriguez.  He has only been here for about two weeks.  He is from Denver.  Such a wonderful young man.

We had many late nights this week and went to bed tired and happy.  There is a lot going on right now and a lot we hope to get done before we leave.  But we love being busy and going to bed tired but happy and satisfied.

Our thoughts and prayers are always with everyone back home and if you ever have a thought about us, please drop us a line.  We appreciate all your prayers too.  Love to All E/S Read