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Extra Special

November 29, 2013
The Set

The Set

Setting the stage

Setting the stage

Behind the scenes : )

Behind the scenes : )

It takes effort to look that good : )

It takes effort to look that good : )

If I were ever to sit down and craft a bucket list, certainly being an extra in a TV movie would be on there, right?  Good, then I can cross that one off my would-be list as recently I got to play myself (i.e. nondescript American female) in the upcoming TV movie for Oh My English.

"Action!"

“Action!”

The Ambassador was a great sport, and actor.

The Ambassador was a great sport, and actor.

This incredibly popular Malaysian sitcom centers on a group of struggling students on a zany quest to learn English.  Interestingly, the series was created by the Ministry of Education in partnership with Astro TV as a means to promote better pronunciation and the use of proper English among viewers.  With over half a million ‘likes’ on the show’s official Facebook page, it seems the series has resonated with the tweens/teens it targets.

Spoiler Alert! Something funny happens here :D

Spoiler Alert! Something funny happens here :D

Behind the scenes Oh My English

Behind the scenes Oh My English

Oh My English airs weekly, but soon they will feature a special movie (which the director’s assistant described to me as a High School Musical version of the show).  For this episode, in which the students receive exciting news from the U.S. Ambassador to Malaysia, they needed a few Americans to watch and applaud as the story unfolds.

They loved the funny cat pics I sent!

It seems they loved the funny cat pics I sent! Score!

It was very cool to see the production being taped right before my eyes.  The kids did the scene several times, each time perfectly in character.  But when the scene was over they instantly morphed back to regular folks just goofing around.

The cast was extremely warm and friendly.

The cast was extremely warm and friendly.

From what I can tell the episode is really funny and I’m looking forward to getting to watch it.  Oh, and I’ve’ve got an agent now so if anyone needs a 5’5″ brunette to clap on cue, I now have enough experience to handle the job!

Roll Credits!

Roll Credits!

Playing by Heart

November 15, 2013

I will never forget when Guns N’ Roses first appeared on my radar.  I was in fourth grade riding the bus home from school and my best friend’s older brother pulled his gramophone (an early predecessor to the iPhone, for the youngsters out there) out of his backpack, turned the volume way up, and “Paradise City” invaded my airspace.

Instantly my fourth grade posse was hooked because: 1. the older (and by default, cooler) kids were into it and 2. there is something inherently freeing about blasting music and singing like a  badass.  Subsequently, for the rest of the year, “Take me down to the paradise city where the grass is green and the girls are pretty” became our mantra, rallying call, and collective theme song.

It’s funny how music can instantly transport you back to a moment or time in your life.  I hear that song, and bam! I’m on the bus feeling like teachers don’t know anything and I might just go on tour myself one of these days.

Turns out, you need more than a sassy attitude and penchant for noisiness to make it as a rock star. That was a disappointing realization.

Recently though, solo artist, producer, hot sauce king,  and Guns N’ Roses lead guitarist, Ron “Bumblefoot”  Thal visited Kuala Lumpur and incredibly our paths crossed.  I was able to tag along with other press people on his “Appetite for Durian” tour as he visited an orphanage and performed at  Auditorium Balai Seni Visual Negara.  I wasn’t sure how it would all go down when I was given the chance to meet him, but Ron Thal was as genuine a person as I’ve ever met.  I was able to catch many moments where his humanity, patience, and kindness were front and center, so I will let these images speak of his authentic nature.

The kids were excited to meet Ron Thal, but they too weren't sure what to expect.

The kids were excited to meet Ron Thal, but they too weren’t sure what to expect.

Bumblefoot appeared excited to perform for the children.

Bumblefoot appeared excited to perform for the children.

The guitarist was extremely patient with his youngest fans.

The guitarist was extremely patient with his youngest fans.

Bumblefoot in Kuala Kumpur

True to form, the softspoken musician who always comes prepared had learned several Malaysian songs which he played for his eager audience.

Bumblefoot in Kuala Kumpur

He welcomed anyone brave enough to have a go at playing his iconic guitar.

He welcomed anyone brave enough to have a go at playing his iconic guitar.

When his mini concert was over he signed autographs for every child (and grown up) who wanted one.

When his mini concert was over he signed autographs for every child (and grown up) who wanted one. Everyone wanted one.

Ron Thal made sure that each child's name was spelled correctly, and tried to get each to laugh.

Ron Thal joked around while making sure he spelled each name correctly.

Each kid left with personalized proof that they  really had  met the American Rock Star.

Each kid left with personalized proof that they really had met the American Rock Star.

After signing autographs he then went on to do interviews with local media in attendance.

After signing autographs he then went on to do interviews with local media in attendance.

Bumblefoot in Kuala Kumpur

The next day he did a private concert at Auditorium Balai Seni Visual Negara.  It is here that I should mention his passion for hot sauce.  In fact he brought his own brand of spicy concoctions everywhere with him and encouraged fearless souls to give them a try.  Malaysians aren’t wimps when it comes to heat, so when I saw the people in front of me start to sweat, I quietly backed away from the line.

Exhibit A

Exhibit A

Exhibit B

Exhibit B

If this looks appealing/fun/not like torture to you, then by all means, please visit his site to find out more.

He even played "Paradise City" to the super pumped up crowd.  That was a dream come true : )

He even played “Paradise City” to the super pumped up crowd. That was a dream come true : )

Does it get any better? (no, no it does not)

Does it get any better? (no. no it does not)

Malaysian rock legend, Amy Search made a special appearance and jammed with the star.

Malaysian rock legend, Amy Search made a special appearance and jammed with the star.

It amazing to see this improbable pair rock on stage.

It was amazing to see this improbable pair rock on stage.

After the set was over Bumblefoot once again set about signing autographs for each fan in attendance.

After the set was over Bumblefoot once again set about signing autographs for each fan in attendance.

How he had the energy to make each fan feel appreciated and sign autographs for over an hour and a half (after playing for over an hour) is a great mystery.  But Ron Thal did not leave a single fan disappointed.

How he had the energy to make each fan feel appreciated and sign autographs for over an hour and a half (after playing for over an hour) is a great mystery. But Ron Thal did not leave a single fan in Malaysia disappointed.

Ron Thal with a fan-made guitar crafted from Durian.  If you're wondering if this thing smelled terrible, it did.

Ron Thal with a fan-made guitar crafted from Durian. If you’re wondering if this thing smelled terrible, it did.

When you meet someone exceedingly talented and also famous who turns out to be kindhearted, open, and grounded, you feel like your admiration was not wasted.  I never heard Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal complain, or grow tired of the seemingly endless flow of admirers that approached him.  He never put a time limit on how long he would sign autographs for.  He went out with local musicians and got to know KL through their eyes.  Hopefully Bumblefoot’s appetite for durian remains strong, as fans here would love to welcome back this true Guitar Hero.

Spur of the Moment

November 8, 2013

It’s 7:00 on a Saturday night.  Somehow circumstance has trumped the usual rules of logic that dictate my life, and I find myself in the VIP Lounge before a Ninetology All Star Basketball game in Kuala Lumpur’s Putra Stadium .  Standing less than 10 ft away is former Spur and perpetual rebel, Dennis Rodman.  In spite of the fact that basketball (specifically Spurs basketball) is the only sport I have a soft spot for (to the point where I made sure my daughter had the initials A.J. after Avery Johnson), and that Rodman’s larger than life persona has always intrigued my introverted self, there is not a chance that I’ll be taking even one step closer to meet the man best known for playing by his own rules.

Pregame Dennis Rodman

Pregame Dennis Rodman

Rodman is not keen on meeting any fans.  It’s a vibe that is palatable from where I stand (and perhaps even in San Antonio, right now).  He’s the only player in the room who has appointed a man to stand around and make sure no one gets close enough to chat or take a picture without his explicit consent.  It’s a tactic that certainly works on easily intimidated fans like me.  He doesn’t want feel like a prop for Instagram pictures, he doesn’t need to hear fan validation, or desire to answer questions about his renowned antics.  I can respect this, so I move on.

Regular size people and Jaber Rouzbahani.

Regular size people and Jaber Rouzbahani.

Regular size basketball players, and Jaber Rouzbahani

Regular size basketball players, and Jaber Rouzbahani

There are other players, most notably former NBA star Doug Christie who has brought along his young son (who he himself home schools), who are excited to meet fans and learn about a new city.  Christie is warm and easy to talk to.  He tells us about his wife’s upcoming reality TV show, how he enjoyed taking his son to the PETRONAS Towers, and how much he’s enjoyed visiting KL.

Ninetology All Star Basketball

I wasn’t familiar with Christie’s career before meeting him, but right away I’m a fan.  He relayed a story that I truly appreciated, where on one improbable occasion two people he was working with recounted how his actions had positively impacted them.  He couldn’t recall the occasions they were referencing, as they happened long ago, but Christie was so touched that they had remembered him so many years later, and that in effect his kindness had come full circle.  As I listened it occurred to me that Doug Christie must start these impromptu circles of kindness wherever he goes.

It was all very exciting.

It was all very exciting.

It’s 8:30 and the game begins.  Amazingly, I’m sitting courtside with the best view of a live game I’ve ever had.  Out of the corner Dennis Rodman appears, this time in full clown-like makeup–complete with glittering multi-colored hair.  The crowd is caught off guard by what they are witnessing, and a flurry of cell phones scurries to capture the scene.  It’s an occurrence Rodman initiates, and yet is incongruous with the aloof man in the lounge.  But this odd juxtaposition of irreverent flamboyance and social awkwardness is fundamental to his one of a kind personality.

Ninetology All Star Basketball

Dennis Rodman chasing the ball.

Dennis Rodman chasing the ball.

No one can take their eyes off Rodman.  He seems to be invoking an alter ego, sort of a (basketball) court jester, as he plays to the crowd making lighthearted gestures and sporadically autographing, then tossing, items into the audience.  The other players act as if nothing is out of the ordinary (and perhaps for them, nothing is) and the game is played like any other.  Once again, Rodman has set his own rules (this time that a sparkling diva will be taking his place tonight), and others play along.

Ninetology All Star Basketball

Ninetology All Star Basketball

It’s after 10:00 and I leave the arena.  Dennis Rodman did not disappoint.  His sardonic, enigmatic, and unpredictable persona was as conspicuous and entertaining tonight as it was back when I was a high school student in San Antonio.  But in the long run the more meaningful, and perhaps memorable, experience was getting to have a conversation with Doug Christie.  His generosity of spirit is something that will remain with me long after the makeup of the evening’s events has washed away.

Ninetology All Star Basketball

“Well, Isn’t That Special”

November 3, 2013

 

Recently it came to my attention that Wanderlust and Wonder had been included in Kuala-Lumpur.ws’ (a travel and local information guide for KL) list interesting blogs.  This was certainly flattering news as the list contains a rich assortment of entertaining and informative blogs.  I also appreciated that adjacent to each blog link was a synopsis that perfectly captured the spirit and tone the corresponding site.

wanderlust and wonder best blog list

If you are interested in really getting to know this city or if you are a fan of original points of view, then delving into this list is a must.

kuala-lumpur.ws best blogs

Thanks Kuala-lumpur.ws for including Wanderlust and Wonder!

Happy reading!

Have Wings, Will Travel.

October 18, 2013
The before.

The before.

When I think about butterflies, I can’t fully wrap my mind around how/why they came to be.  What evolutionary process unfurled such arcane change, and on a related note, why can’t we all grow wings?

And after.

And after.

kl butterfly park

I doubt I’ll ever come to terms with these creatures.  A caterpillar starts out as low to the ground as you can get, and lives a fine existence that way.  Then one day, it crafts a cocoon, digests itself and emerges with long legs, a curled proboscis, and beautiful wings—arguably the opposite of where they began. Why they didn’t simply start out that way is a question I may always have.

kl butterfly park

Perhaps the greatest advantage to being a butterfly rather than a caterpillar is the ability to travel freely and easily.  This part I understand.

kl butterfly park

To fully appreciate the beauty and ingenuity that butterflies embody I recommend heading to the KL Butterfly Park.  This 80,000 sq. ft garden is home to 5,000 butterflies.  I’ve been to several butterfly parks all over the world, and this one is easily my favorite.  It is effortless to navigate and it truly feels like you are walking through an enchanted garden.  Plus there are many interesting plants to examine, a charming pond where you can feed a whirling mass of vibrant koi, and of course amazing butterflies everywhere you turn.

kl butterfly park

I think there's a moth in there.

I think there’s a moth in there.

These little yellow butterflies are highly attracted to little yellow Crocs.

These little yellow butterflies are highly attracted to little yellow Crocs.

I’ve never encountered such a variety of butterflies in one place.  Whereas insects usually repel, cause fear, and are generally unappealing to humans, butterflies have the remarkable ability to both captivate and inspire us.

kl butterfly park

kl butterfly park

So, if you find yourself pondering how to spend your time on a balmy afternoon here in KL, I suggest you head to this delightful park and experience your own butterfly effect.

For more information visit The KL Butterfly Park website.  Enjoy!

To Markets We Go

October 7, 2013

Warm air, fresh goodies, cool finds… all of these were up for grabs at last weekend’s Markets at  Jaya One. 

The Markets at Jaya One

Markets is a bimonthly event featuring trendy Malaysian vendors selling everything from handmade soaps, pre-loved clothing, hipster accessories, sweet treats, crafty jewelry, and more.  The latest Markets flea market was held at Jaya One mall and with so many great sellers to choose from it was hard to narrow my favorites down to a select few, but here are my highlights from the event:

Markets features lots of great items and vendors to explore.

Markets features lots of great items and vendors to explore.

When getting m.a.d. is good

Who doesn’t love helping animals?  The designers at Make a Difference (m.a.d.) have created a whole line of products with proceeds benefiting animals in need.  Their cute badges and lovely sketchbooks make thoughtful gifts that anyone with a kind heart/great style would definitely enjoy.

Visit the m.a.d. website to find out more and place your order.

This little tiger went home with me : )

This little tiger went home with me : )

Catching the dream

It was a Technicolor dreamscape over at Deeper than Fashion’s table.  Brightly colored feather jewelry, cute midi rings, and dream catchers caught our eye and captivated our wallet.  I collect dream catchers, and this practice may have rubbed off on my little son, as the one thing he wanted from the whole event was a vividly hued dream catcher.  How could I say no to that?

To see more of Harmini Asokumar’s dazzling creations head over to her website.

Dazzling dreamcatcher from Deeper than Fashion

Delightful dream catcher from Deeper than Fashion

Kind of sketchy… in a good way!

I love illustrated works and one table featured the creative undertakings of Ashvina Marie Naidu (the gal behind GLOWDOWN) alongside Chi Leng (from The Doodle Box Lah).  Their prints and products were brimming with imaginative doodles that made each item look as if it was one of a kind.  If you are like me and appreciate the quirky aesthetic that zines, comics, and illustrated characters have to offer, then I highly recommend you stop reading this and click over to GLOWDOWN or The Doodle Box Lah and enjoy!

Creative goods from The Doodle Box Lah

Creative goods from The Doodle Box Lah

Is that Paris I smell?

One table I could not resist, with its pastel flair and plenty of testers, was Bisou Bonbon.  This brand which focuses on natural/eco-friendly bath and body products was a treat for the senses.  For starters there were body scrubs and soaps that made me pine for a long bath, but what really caught my attention were the tiny tins of solid perfume.  Owner Shelby, was super helpful in describing each scent and letting me test them out.  Ultimately I went home with Paris, which has a charmingly subtle rose scent.  I also picked up a minty hair spritz that was extremely refreshing on that hot Saturday afternoon. If you could use a little rejuvenation in your life check out Bisou Bonbon… Paris is waiting!

Solid perfume tins from Bisou Bonbon

Pocket-perfect solid perfume tins from Bisou Bonbon

Don’t miss out on the next  Markets!  Like them on  Facebook and stay up-to-date : )

The Markets at Jaya One

Getting Crafty with Little Paper Crate

September 27, 2013

little paper crate

Before moving back to the tropics, I spent a long, cold winter back in the States.  Part of what got me through those days when going outside was nearly impossible, was my infatuation with subscription boxes.  If you aren’t familiar with the trend, then let me tell you that these services are awesome.  Pick your interest and chances are there’s a subscription box for it.  Usually you can find a coupon code on sites like retailmenot.com, which make trying out a box cheaper, and if you love it, then you can sign up for regular delivery.

little paper crate

I personally loved getting boxes from Stitchfix (fashion), For the Makers (Crafts), and Citrus Lane (goodies for children).   Through these subscriptions, I’ve discovered many eco-friendly, indie, and unique companies/products that I would never have encountered via my usual shopping destinations.  Plus, who doesn’t love getting a box of fun surprises?  Needless to say, I was sad to end my subscriptions when I moved overseas.

Cute bags from Gin & Jacqie

Cute bags from Gin & Jacqie

But, happily it seems this trend has gone global, as the folks from Gin & Jacqie (“bags created for centred people who are in-tune with themselves, who value items which are fashionable yet functional”) recently launched Little Paper Crate (a subscription service offering crafts for little ones). When an invite arrived to a tea party hosted by Little Paper Crate I was delighted to see what it was all about.

Fun with Little Paper Crate

Fun with Little Paper Crate

Held at Marmalade Café @ Publika Shopping Gallery, the event featured tea time treats and the opportunity for little ones to try out a box of crafts.  Designed for children ages 3-6, each Little Paper Crate box features a monthly theme with corresponding crafts, easy to follow instructions, and the materials required.  Capitalizing on children’s love of surprises and their enthusiasm for crafting, Little Paper Crate seeks to make it easy for parents to indulge and develop their child’s creative sensibilities.

Collective Creativity : )

Collective Creativity : )

My son was all too happy to receive a box of crafts.  He instantly made friends with Ethan (whose mom is the creator of Fun With Little Ones) and the two of them got down to business making little cardboard aquariums.  With reckless abandon the boys set about cutting, gluing, and coloring; each manifesting an aquarium with fish you never have to feed!

Low maintenance fish bowls.

Low maintenance fish bowls.

With a few crafts to choose from in the box, it was easy to see how one box could occupy friends during a sleepover or one child on a long rainy afternoon.  It would also be nice to have a “go to” box when kids utter the dreaded phrase, “I’m bored!”

Creative Director, Eleanor Ng  (left) and Cheri Loh

Creative Director, Eleanor Ng (left) and Cheri Loh

Each box costs 50 MYR, and there are perks to be had as you subscribe for longer periods of time.  My little guy was eager for us to subscribe and gave the box an enthusiastic two thumbs up.  If you are interested in having a Little Paper Crate arrive at your doorstep head over to their website and let the crafting begin!

Check out Fun With Little Ones to see more great crafty ideas.

Check out Fun With Little Ones to see more great crafty ideas.

Food for Thought

September 18, 2013

I spotted this neon red dragonfly perched on a lotus.  I moved closer hoping to capture the scene.  No sooner had I snapped these pictures, then my daughter started panicking;  “Get away from it!  It’s poisonous! They bite… AND, they sting!”

Red Dragonfly

As a publIc service (yeah, right) I decided to do some playground myth busting.  As it turns out Dragonflies are vicious… but not towards humans.  They will fiercely seek out and devour all sorts of pesky insects (and don’t get me started on their disturbing reproductive habits).  Dragonflies don’t spontaneously bite people (and, for the record they don’t have stingers), but they might give it a go if you catch/harass them.  Even if they do try and do you harm, it won’t likely hurt.  But, if you are a mosquito—live in fear.

Red Dragonfly

If by chance these tasty morsels of  information have left you hungry, the internet is full of dragonfly recipes.  According to budgettravel.com dragonflies taste like soft-shell crab.  No need to pass me the insect satay though, I’m content to feast on them exclusively with my eyes.

Stepping it Up at Batu Caves

September 9, 2013
The steps aren't as bad as they may seem.

The steps aren’t as bad as they may seem.

Not many tourist attractions can claim to offer remarkable sight seeing along with a thigh burning workout.  Located just north of KL, Batu Caves with its 272 stairs (not to mention ravenous long-tailed macaque monkeys), will definitely get your heart pumping.

These little guys are trouble.

These little guys are trouble.

As it turns out the stairs look more daunting than they actually are.  Perhaps this was because I was so focused on avoiding getting jumped on by a creature hell-bent on finding treats, that the steps became a secondary concern.

On the inside looking out.

On the inside looking out.

At the foot of the caves stands the world’s tallest statue of the Hindu deity Lord Murugan.  The 140 ft golden statue was completed in 2006, and is an impressive sight.

Lord Murugan Statue at Batu Caves

Lord Murugan's view

Lord Murugan’s view

The caves themselves were discovered in 1878 by American naturalist William Hornaday. The main cave (named Temple Cave) features 100 meter ceilings where daylight pours in through jagged chasms.  It is no surprise that shortly after its discovery, this awe-inspiring space became utilized for religious practice.  Nestled in the caves are various Hindu shrines.  While the shrines are beautifully detailed and no doubt meaningful to practitioners, they are dwarfed by their surroundings.

BATU CAVES

BATU CAVES

In late January/early February of each year Batu Caves becomes the site of the Thaipusam festival.  This event, which draws over 800,000 people to the site, centers on devotion, endurance, and penance.  But there is always something special going on at the caves, as ceremonies take place there year-round.

BATU CAVES

A Happy Couple

Batu caves is undeniably a geographical wonder.  While it is easy to head to a temple of consumerism on any given afternoon, it is arguably more rewarding to take in a little history in this incredible sanctuary.

Batu Caves

The view inside Temple Cave

A rainy afternoon in Temple Cave

Lessons From a Pawn Star

August 29, 2013

Occasionally life will hand you an extremely surreal experience.  If you would have told me that I would be meeting Rick and Corey Harrison from Pawn Stars in Kuala Lumpur, I would have found it a hard scenario to fathom.  But, strangely, yesterday I was offered the opportunity to attend a Meet and Greet with the father and son team, and naturally I jumped at the chance (regrettably, I didn’t have my camera on me, so these iphone pics will just have to do).

My view of the Stars.  It doesn't pay to be short.

My view of the Stars. It doesn’t pay to be short.

As it turns out, Pawn Stars is a hugely popular show in Malaysia.   I enjoyed watching the program when I was back in the States, but would never have imagined that a reality show set in a pawn shop would catch on overseas.   But it has. Big time.

Rick and Corey were treated to a cultural performance.

Rick and Corey were treated to a cultural performance.

Corey gets called up to dance (this is basically my nightmare)

Corey gets called up to dance (this is basically my nightmare)

Rick and his son Corey looked a bit jet lagged and bleary-eyed, but nonetheless they were extremely gracious as they sat through a Q & A session with local radio personalities Sarimah and The Rod (fun fact:  an average of 5,000 people visit the Harrison’s Las Vegas pawn shop everyday), followed by a cultural dance performance (where Corey was called up to learn some local moves), and then presented money to a local charity.

Rick and Corey

Capping the event was the opportunity for guests wearing red bracelets (plastic bracelets were handed out with the gift totes, but only a few of them were red) to take a picture with the famous pair.  As luck would have it, I was wearing a red bracelet!  I was extremely nervous to go up on stage and take a pic, but luckily I had my little son by my side and the two of us met the reality TV stars together.

Meeting the Pawn Stars  : ) My son looks how I feel.

Meeting the Pawn Stars : ) My son looks how I feel.

*Side Note:  Thanks to Pawn Stars I now have a plan to maximize my savings when purchasing an item.  Perhaps you will find it useful too.  It goes something like this:

  1.  When looking at a potential item, enlighten the seller to its history (if you don’t know it offhand, go find an expert and come back with him/her).
  2. Once the history and rareness  has been established, find a defect in the item and play that up.  Use phrases like, “this would be worth ten times more if it wasn’t for  insert flaw here”, or, “I’m not sure I have space for this,”  etc.
  3. Once you see the disappointment in the seller’s eyes, immediately offer an extremely low price for the desired object.
  4. Play it cool and be prepared to walk away.  If you really want the item and the seller seems hesitant, have a friend (or even better, a gruff older relative) close by to up your offer by a small amount, and work together to establish that that’s the absolute most you can go. If the seller is extra-tentative, allow your friend/family member to call you an idiot for paying said higher price.
  5. Since this plan probably worked, let the good times with your new treasure roll!

Who says reality TV can’t be educational?  Thanks to Pawn Stars I know more about Civil War rifles than I ever thought possible!

P.S. If you are now experiencing feelings envy of my knowledge, head over to the Pawn Stars site and become an amateur expert yourself.

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