Apr 27, 2007

Springtime in Saipan

Easter Morning 2007, Saipan CNMI

Barbara Beach

Keeping the Love Light Burning: Marriage Encounter

Well, it's been 20 days since my last entry. I've been away for awhile. Partly, it's been because I've been very busy. But then I'm always busy. . .Our internet was also down for almost a past week, so some of the prime time I put aside for blogging last weekend was useless for me.

But I'm back now!

It's spring time here in Saipan. The temperatures are balmy, the skies are blue, the birds are singing. . .oh, wait. That's the way Saipan is all year round! Spring's not much different than the rest of the year here in the CNMI--it's a little drier than it will be in another month or so, and the flame trees are coming into bloom (Pics of that in my next entry. . .this weekend is the annual Flame Tree Festival).

Herewith a pictorial guide of life in Saipan during the month of April. . .

Science Fair

Thursday, March 29

Two of our students present their project as I look on. You might recognize "KoreaY" on the left, as one of the students who went to Singapore with us, and "Harry" one of our REAL Christian Theater members.

As usual we did our Science Fair with our "sister" school, Whispering Palms School. We are the two smallest private schools on the island and both of our school's emphasize a family atmosphere. The only difference is our school is religious and theirs is not. From time to time we do things together--for example the next day they invited us to join them for a special screening of the film Bridge to Terabithia. It would be fun to do more with them.

Saying Sayanora to Shor

Friday, April 6

Me and Dan take a farewell photo

My friend and mentor in writing and directing, Dan Shor moved away from Saipan this month. He will be working on a film project inLos Angeles for several weeks. Possibly the move will be only temporary--if his involvement in an Indian film to be shot in Saipan next month works out, but it could be also permanent. Personally, I hope he comes back. He's a kind and faithful friend and a wise teacher. I've learned a lot from Dan and I shall miss him greatly.

We went out for lunch a few weeks back, just before he left. We ate at The Taste of India (which unfortunately, like Dan, is also leaving Saipan. Buisness is just too slow and they've decided to pull up stakes and move their operation to Guam. Babs and I ate the last breakfast served there last Sunday and today we ate the last buffet lunch to be prepared there. Tomorrow is their last day in business on Saipan).

Smoothie Night at the Piersons

Saturday Night, April 7

Those Pierson's are so cool! They always come up with funnest things to do and they always inivite us to join in the fun! A few Saturday nights back, it was "smoothie night." It was an excellent opportunity for Crystal to show off the prowess of her VitaMix blender. I also got to show off my acting chops as we all watched the DVD of my buddy Dan's TV pilot State of Liberty, in which I had a acting role.

Crystal proudly models the VitaMix!

At the Piersons: Bev, the wife of our Korean pastor Lizzy, and Missy

Ken and Crystal create MAGIC with their VitaMix!

Grant, Mai, and Britini at the Pierson's smoothie night.

Was It a Morning Like This? Sunrise Service

Easter Sunday, April 8

The mountaintop vistas on Easter morning. Do you see the cross in the picture above?

In the foreground are our pals Kanae and Russ (his face is half cut off)

A group from the Chuukese Protestant congregation sings. That's Carol Paez in the foreground with her back turned to the camera.

Friends for Life: Barbara and Carol at the end of the sunrise service.

Lost II: Return to the Jungle

Sabbath, April 14, 2007

You may recall that last fall, Grant and I got quite lost during a daring attempt to circumnavigate the island by bicycle. You may remember the privations, the horrors, the wasps. You might recall the police coming out to look for us after darkness fell. You might have concluded we'd learned our lesson. . .

And you'd be right! This time, when we went back--

Wait a minute, I thought you said you learned your lesson!

Of course we did! But that lesson was not that if you get lost, you give up. Oh no. The lesson learned was--mark your trail and be prepared! And so on a bright Sabbath afternoon armed with a couple of large bottles of water, flashlights, a first aid kiy, beef jerky, trail mix & granola bars, and plenty of brightly colored marking tape, not to mention of course, our trusty compass, cell phone, and machete we returned to the jungle where we'd last suffered ignomy and humiliation. We sought to conquer rude nature and find the lost road we knew existed somewhere out in the boonies.

The adventure begins. . .again. . .at San Juan Beach. I think we look confident, yes, but also wiser, tempered by our foolhardy mistakes of the past.

Despite our beleagured island's pathetic economic condition, progress marches on. In the five months since we left this place the once slippery, rutted trail that we to scrabble down has been transformed into this. . .

Brand new concrete steps with a cheerful blue handrail to assist you on your way to the beach below.

We enter the jungle. This is the view looking back only a few yards into the jungle. The forest ahead would be much more dense.

We tried a different route initially but quickly found ourselves encountering what Grant calls a "wall"--sheer rock cliffs, impenetrable tangled jungle. We veered away from our intended course and soon found ourselves back in familiar territory--the original trail we'd took during our first foray into the jungle last fall. It was almost like coming home. . .sort of.

Like most ego-centric explorers we started naming our discoveries, choosing to disregard the obvious evidence--faded ribbons from hash runners past, the occasional discared beer can--that other has been there before us. So the large boulder we passed when trying to carve our new route became Man of War. The gully that we followed to recover our bikes last time, we christened Graves Gulch. And the trail that meandered along disappearing and reappearing along Grant Gulch was named the Maycock Trail. Evenutally we arrived at the place where we'd abandoned the Maycock Trail last time and struck off fruitlessly into the tangatangan and wasps nests in search of the elusive road. The place was marked by a distinctive, large, multi-branched and somewhat ragged looking tree that Grant called. ..

The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil!

You'll note I'm wearing a hat. I didn't like the idea of all kinds of floatsam and jetsam getting trapped in my dreads. Grant kindly lent me his cap. Eventually, we heard the roaring of waves crashing on a beach and recognized that we must have found our way to the coast again. We pushed through some trees and came upon a secluded beach. We scrambled down a narrow steep trail and made our way to the shore. I named the place Barbara Beach and Grant called a small inlet Mermaid Lagoon.

The intrepid explorer: Grant gestures heroically from a ridge on Barbara Beach.

This, my friends, is what happens to you on Body for Life.

Here we are back at San Juan Beach having successfully journeyed out to Barbara Beach and back without getting lost and with a good half hour of daylight to spare!

The lost road was not found that day. . .but have no fear, we will be going back again.

Coming soon: Lost II: The Return to the Jungle: The Movie!
Marriage Encounter Weekend

April 13-15

Almost four years ago Barbara and I embarked on a weekend that revolutionized our marriage, the Worldwide Marriage Encounter. This marriage enrichment experience sponsored by the Catholic Church here in Saipan is designed to help make good marriages better, and help married couples learn to communicate better with one another. It is an intense but rewarding weekend where you spent a LOT of time one on one with your spouse.

Babs and I loved it and from that weekend in the fall of 2003 we became active members of what we call "the M.E. community"--other couples who've attended Marriage Encounter weekends and now are giving back by helping organize and carry out Weekends. The next Encounter Weekend in the fall of 2004 Barbara and I helped plan. The following "M.E." weekend we were co-chairs with our friends Russ and Kanae of the Facility Committee. It was our responsibility to look after the Saipan Riviera Hotel where the weekend takes place and act as a liasion between the hotel management and staff and the "M.E. " team. It was a lot of responsiblity and we basically stayed at the hotel all weekend, but Russ and Kanae were great people to work with and it was fun. This year, for the first time, we weren't heavily involved in the planning of the weekend. We were just too busy what with the trip to Singapore and a million and one other events to be committ to any serious responsibilities. Still, we were able to do our part by encouraging our friends Ken and Crystal Pierson to go.

They went and from what they tell us, it was a wonderful, enriching, and memorable weekend and we're so glad for that.

While the Piersons were encountering their marriage we were not sitting idle. We wrote them a card that would be delivered to them during the weekend, we prayed for them throughout the weekend--and to remind us to do so, we lit a candle Friday night when the weekend began and let it burn until Sunday afternoon when we went to greet them at the end of the weekend. We took the candle with us and presented it to them as a memento of the weekend. We also went to see the couples off at the beginning of the weekend, volunteered to help serve the couples lunch on Sabbath, and returned to welcome the "newly-encountered" couples when they finished the weekend.

Why go to all this effort? Well, I have an "M.E." t-shirt that reads in bold script on the back: "Because my marriage is worth it." And we think their marriage is too!

Welcoming the Piersons at the end of the Marriage Encounter Weekend.

Here's some "time lapse" shots of the Pierson's candle over the course of the weekend.

Pierson Candlewatch, Sabbath morning

Pierson CandleWatch, Saturday night

Pierson CandleWatch, Sunday morning.

They survived! Ken & Crystal at the end of the Marriage Encounter weekend

(From left to right, Me & Barbara [check out my new shirt I bought in Little India in Singapore], the newly "encountered" Ken & Crystal Pierson, and mutual friends Kanae & Russ Quinn)
School Spirit Week
April 16-20

"Dr. Maycock, I presume?" Grant and I dressed up on "Career Day" during School Spirit Week. Grant is a British explorer and I am a doctor.

Spring Week of Prayer

April 23-27

Grant and Pastor tag-team during our spring Week of Prayer.
Pastor Eliki broke it down for the kids this week--the basic Adventist message--Jesus is coming soon and here's how you can be ready. Grant led in worship and did a standout job as always and the kids singing was beautiful--especially during "Humble Thyself/Awesome God." I got so choked up just listening to the kids I couldn't even sing myself!

May is going to a big month blogwise. A preview of what's to come:

Tomorrow night REAL Christian Theater stages it's production of Bridge to Terabithia, adapted for the stage by noneother than our very own Grant Graves.

Also going on this weekend: The Flame Tree Festival

Next weekend, REAL Christian Theater travels to Guam for it's end of the season tour.

Also in May, Grant and I along with three other men will be taking the 7th grade boys on a kind of "rite of passage" camp out to none other than the very same place where we got lost and have since returned to further explore.

My 8th grade students graduate and the school year comes to a close.

Oh, and one more thing. My blog is now one year old!

Apr 7, 2007

New Singapore Pictures!

I've added a few more pictures to my Singapore blogs from my student "Holly's" extensive collection. She took some 500 photos and generously shared them all with Barbara and I:

Here's what I've added and where to find it, so you can decide whether you want to scroll down and take a look:

Impressions of Singapore: a new slide show with some of Holly's pictures showing views of the city of Singapore, especially all the trees. Also I have some two pictures of the many "fine" signs in Singapore and a photo of the graphic warning labels on tobacco products in Singapore.

Singapore Day 2: Shot of class in front of Snow City

Singapore Day 4: Zoo sign explaining about the skinny camel, two pictures of the Singapore Symphony Orchestra.

Singapore Day 6: Shot of class in front of the Southeast Asia Union Headquarters.

Apr 6, 2007

From Fashion to Frontline Missions

The planning team for our first major fundraising event: (L to R, Barbara, Ken Pierson--director of the SDA dental clinic and board invitee, Larene Delos Reyes--pre-school director, Rene Salud, Ernie Lacorte--school board chairman, Missy Chamberlin--fundraising coordinator, Virle Gayatin--school accountant and office manager. )

Barbara and Rene Salud

The Saipan SDA School kids, teachers, and Rene Salud

During Rene Salud's presentation at our school, he showed the kids a little bit of what he does by designing a dress for one of our students on the spot.

Rene speaks to the students at the elementary school during Joint Worship on Friday, March 30.

Parent (and former model) Michelle Zayco, Rene, and Babs pose for a picture at the SDA Clinic.

David Gates speaking at Guam camp meeting, March 30--April 1, 2007

God has given Barbara the vision for a new campus for the Saipan SDA School--a campus that will combine the pre-school and elementary schools; a campus that will expand to include a full high school, a campus that will allow the school to grow and thrive in whatever time remains until He comes.

As often the case with God-sized dreams, the getting there can seem pretty daunting. Millions of dollars will need to be raised on island where the economy is essentially flatlining. Some might say "It's impossible. Where would you even start?"

And God replies with: "How about with one of the most famous fashion designers in the Philippines?"

It turns out that the parent of one of our students is a former fashion model who for many years worked closely with reknowned Filipino fashion designer Rene Salud. During our school trip to Managaha she asked Barbara if she'd be interested in talking to Rene about having him assist our school in fundrasing for the new campus. Barbara gave the matter some thought and prayer, discussed it with her board, and agreed.

This past Wednesday, March 28, Rene Salud flew up to Saipan and met with Barbara, her fundraising team of fundraising coordinator Missy, accountant Virle, and pre-school director Larene plus members of the school board. By all accounts he was a charming, down-to-earth gentleman who quickly put everyone at ease and who was eager to help our school. On Friday Rene came to visit our school campuses as well. He arrived at the elementary campus just as the song service of our weeky joint worship was coming to an end. The kids were all singing "The Power of Your Love" when he entered and he seemd touched by the beauty and message of the song, which he says is one of his favorites. He then shared a little bit with the students about his life story and his journey with God from his childhood as a Roman Catholic to his born-again Christian experience. He knew of the Adventist church but his involvement with our school seems to be the first time he's met Adventists up and close and personal. He is excited and honored to help kick off our school's fundraising campaign with a fashion benefit entitled "Fashion Cares" planned for October of this year. The proceeds will go towards our new campus. Perhaps even more valuable than the money we will raise, is the high profile this will give our relocation effort. While he may not be a household name in the states, Rene Salud is genuinely famous in the Philippines. He has his own segment on a nationally broadcast talk show, and his designs have been featured in fashion shows all over the world. His decision to lend his name and talents to our effort will do much to spread the word to our island community and beyond that SDA School is on the move!

Barbara is really grateful to Mr. Salud, but even more so she is grateful to God for leading her in directions she could never have imagined and providing for our needs from the unlikliest of places.

And God wasn't finished yet. . .This past Friday afternoon, March 30, Barbara flew to Guam to attend the Guam camp meeting where David Gates, the reknowned Adventist missionary, was speaking. She came back to report that the weekend was one of the high points of her entire spiritual life! David Gates is well known for pursuing the impossible. He has built TV networks, bought mission planes, constructed and staffed schools, all without asking a single person for money or even so much as sending out a mailing. There are stories of his signing million dollar contracts when he has absolutely no money at all. And yet, every single time God comes through with the money his ministries need. This is a man who walks the walk. Most of us talk about faith. This man lives it. He throws himself headlong over the side of the boat, and keeping his eyes on Jesus, walks on water.
Needless to say, Barbara was encouraged and inspired by David Gates testimony. Compared to his great leaps of faith, her $4 million goal was chump change. While she doesn't feel called to forgo all fundraising efforts, as Gates does, she is reminded that it is God that will provide for the new school. After all who else but God could lead her to a fashion icon and a missionary legend all in the same week!
After all:
"You never know who God is gonna use
Maybe even you and me"
--Rich Mullins "Who God Is Gonna Use"

Singapore Sojourn Day 7: "Wrapping Up & On My Own"

The class poses at the entrance to the Singapore Art Museum

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Our last day in Singapore. We'd left the schedule fairly open for this day--mainly we intended to shop. Our only "official" activity for the day was a visit, at Barbara's insistance, to the Singapore Art Musuem. Barbara is adamant that when we take the students to big-city destinations for the class trip that the kids be exposed to a little culture. . .and by that she doesn't mean traipsing through Little India. She means classical music and fine art. We don't have access to much of either on our little island so when we travel to a place that has an active "arts" scene she makes sure we take advantage of it.

We left our cubicle-sized rooms at the Fragrance and had breakfast at a nearby hawker stand. During the meal we tried to figure out where we wanted to "go back to" once we were finished at the Art Museum. The Treasurer wanted to go to upscale malls. Holly wanted to go to the malls but also Little India and Chinatown. Micronesian Queen and Korea had zero interest in going back to the ethnic districts. If they wanted to go to any shopping center, they preferred it be a mall. To be frank, they were pretty much done shopping. They didn't care what we did, though they did make some noises about the possibility of just hanging out at the hotel all day. One thing about traveling with kids: their lack of adventurousness can be somewhat disheartening. Every year we'll have the kids who only want to eat at McDonalds and KFC, shop in malls, and hang out in the hotel. The boys in particular seemed to be completely underwhelmed and uninterested in experiencing new things (though I concede they took pictures of virtually everything). They also hated walking (which we did a lot of) and let us know their distaste for it with much vocal groaning each time I announced we'd be going somewhere on foot. Of course not all the students are like this. There are always the kids who totally embrace the experience--they want to see and do and try and experience everything. They're curious, adventerous, fun. Holly was one such student--she was a joy to travel with.

I confess I was struggling with whether to offer to take the kids--especially Micronesian Queen and Korea-- to a theme park that had been tenatively placed on our itinerary (but that the kids had apparently forgotten about). The roller coasters and thrill rides would have perked them up, no doubt. However, I also knew that we had already used up all our class money. Dear Wilhel at the Southeast Asia Union Mission Office had offered to bill us for our lodging there so we'd had the cash that we'd put aside for that available. But that was now spent. By Wednesday, Barbara and I were paying for food, transportation, and other costs out of our own personal funds--our meager line of credit on the credit card and a couple of trips to the ATM pull cash out of our bank account. The money we would have to pay the Mission plus the money that would be reimbursed to us would have to be raised, and trip to the amusement park would only add to the debt. I decided not to say anything, and consigned the kids to another today of hoofing it around Singapore from one shopping district to another.

In the end our itinerary for the day looked like this:
Art Museum
Babs takes kids up to the Woodlands mall, while I shop on my own in Little India & Chinatown.
I then take the MRT to Woodlands, meet the group, and take the Treasurer, Micronesian Queen, and Korea back to the hotel. Meanwhile Babs and Holly would go on their own to do more shopping in Little India, Chinatown, and Arab Street.

And that's pretty much how the day went.

My favorite part, of course was being on my own in Little India. It was nice to be on my own for a little while, to be able to go where I wanted, explore whenever and wherever the mood struck without having to worry about keeping track of the kids. One of the first things I did once Barbara and the kids were on the train to the Woodlands Mall was find a little Indian restaurant and have some lunch. I ate on the second floor of the resturant overlooking an intersection in the heart of Little India. After lunch, I went looking for gifts for my family. I bought all my gifts that afternoon--all in Little India. I had thought I might have to go to Chinatown as well--I wanted another shirt like the one I'd purchased there the night before. But then I found a similar shirt right there in Little India. With the extra time I gained from not having to make the run to Chinatown, I took the time to have Teh Tarik (hand pulled tea with milk. Very tasty!) at a streetside cafe before hopping on the train to meet Babs and the kids at the Woodlands Mall.

Then it was Barbara's turn. She took Holly and Micronesian Queen, and I escorted the rest back to the hotel. The kids lounged in their rooms. I explored the street in the immediate vicinity of the hotel for a short while and ended up purchasing a really nice kitchen knife for less than $4 US. We ordered pizza and the kids ate in their rooms. Around 9:30 P.M. Barbara, Holly, and MQ returned and we began to pack up in earnest. Our flight was set to leave at 6:00 A.M. the next morning so we would be getting up around 2:30 A.M.

Our trip to Singapore had come to an end and it was time to go home.

Thursday the 22nd was spent entirely in travel and we arrived back home in Saipan in the early morning of Friday, March 23.

Apr 3, 2007

Singapore Sojourn Day 6: "From India to the Middle East to China in about Six Hours"

Little India, Singapore

Arab Street, Singapore

Chinatown, Singapore

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Tuesday morning dawned early for us--6 A.M. no less, and yet as was our habit, we actually got started with the main event of the day--visiting three of the key ethnic districts of Singapore to experience the culture and shop around noon.

We rose early because we had to be out of our rooms at the Southeast Asia Union Mission by 8:00 A.M. to make room for the next guests. Even after we got out of the rooms it took time for us to get ourselves organized, call taxis, make the journey over to the Fragrance Hotel where we would spend our last two nights. And, because Barbara had taken Holly and Micronesian Queen to run some errands, The Treasurer, Korea and I ended up waiting at the hotel for an hour or so for them to arrive before we could head out.

Babs poses with the students to the entrance to the Union Headquarters where we stayed for our first four nights.
For lunch we ate at an indoor hawker stand on the fringes of Little India, and there I had possibly the best meal of the entire trip. I've often found that I'm usually not totally "in love" with the food in foreign countries, even when I normally like that type of food. It's not I hate the food. I don't. But it's merely tolerable, rather than delicious. Sometimes, it's the pungent smell of the primary ingredient--kimchi in Korea last year, fish sauce in Thailand the year before that--that tends to overpower my appetite. The same had proved true in Singapore, thus far where most of the meals were okay at best, and sometimes a little less than okay. This is not a criticism of Singaporean culinary skills (after all Singapore is almost as famous for it's food as for it's shopping) but more a statement about my unadventerous American palate. But. Today was the exception. I found a stand specializing in Indian food, and had an absolutely delicious meal. I ordered up a Roti John (which is nothing like the Caribbean roti I grew up with--it's a piece of bread cooked with egg and seasonings and served with a side of red curry for dipping), two pieces of fried banana, and some vegetables. I liked it so much I went back and got an order of Roti prata (which is flat roti bread with, again, a side of red curry for dipping). Delicious!

Like the Indian food, Little India turned out to be, perhaps my favorite place in Singapore. But before we plunged into our Indian adventure after lunch, we browsed a stand selling CD's for only $3.00 SD each! They had collections that didn't officially exist (collections like "U2 Gold" and such) and "Greatest Hits" albums by artists who hadn't released greatest hits albums. Obviously they were pirated, and I warned the kids that they really didn't know what they were getting. The kids (and I) ignored my warnings and the voices of concience and went ahead anyway. A couple of kids took advantage of a special offer by the solicitious proprieter where they could buy 10 CDs and get one free. As for me, I decided to forgo the special U2 collections and stick with a Beatles collection and Micheal Learns to Rock greatest hits.

It turned out that the CDs were not pirated after all. Not really anyway. They were songs done by other un-named and unknown artists. The artist might have not been talented enough but still, that lady singing Beyonce's songs was NOT Beyonce. I haven't listened to my CDs yet, but I expect I'll find four lads from Singapore singing "Hey Jude" instead of the original Fab 4.

Having been snowed by the CD seller, we headed into Little India.

I loved Little India--everything about it, the latest Bollywood hits booming from the stores, the multitude of shops selling brilliant fabrics and colorful saris, wood carvings, CDs, fruits & vegetables, the ubiquitous garlands of bright orange & yellow flowers. It felt like we were India (except maybe cleaner and less crowded? I don't know, not having actually been there) and I loved it. Below some pictures of our Indian adventures:

A Hindu temple in Little India

The ladies show off their "bindi's" (the little jewled dot in the center of their foreheads). The proprietor, the Indian woman on the right, was very warm and informative. She provided us an impromtu lesson in Indian culture. Among other things, she explained to the girls the traditional meaning of the bindis but assured the girls that today most young people just wear whatever color and design looks good with their outfit. A couple of the girls bought several packets of bindis from the lady, plus some stick-on nose studs, and some bangles which they then wore with pride throughout much of the rest of the trip.

One really fun thing we did in Little India was get henna "tattoos" done. The kids were sort of nervous about doing it at first. Would it really come off? Would it hurt? I decided to forge ahead and go first, and after I took the plunge, Holly, The Treasurer, KoreaX, Y, & Z quickly followed suit. For readers who don't know, the way henna works, is they apply the paint, which looks like dark brown almost black mud. The paint is applied quite thickly. You let it dry for 30 minutes or more, and then scrape off the hardened, dried paint. Underneath is a lighter colored "tattoo" that will last for 1-2 weeks before it eventually fades. In the picture below, I'm showing off my newly applied "scorpion" tattoo before I scraped off the henna paint. The actual tattoo wasn't as distinct due to the lightness of the henna against my darker skin:

KoreaZ getting his henna tattoo applied.

Holly's freshly applied henna tattoo before removing the henna. . .

. . . and the henna stain tattoo left after the paint was scraped off.

After spending a couple of hours browsing the stalls and shops of Little India we a few blocks over to Arab Street, a collection of Arab and Muslim-owned stores anchored by two large mosques. This was probably Barbara's favorite place. She loved the Middle Eastern ambiance--the carpet merchants, shops full of rattan goods and leather products, and gorgeous fabrics.

Around sunset, as I was waiting outside a shopping center, where the rest of the group had gone to use the bathroom, I had the Muslim call to prayer, a hauntingily beautiful almost melancholic chant echoing through the streets, coming from some minaret in the nearby mosque. It was a truly sublime moment.

KoreaX and KoreaZ in the heart of the Arab district. The Sultan Mosque is in the background.

Arab Street at dusk.

The little shop in the Arab district where Barbara bargained down a gorgeous tapestry to hang in our stairwell. You can actually see the tapestry itself in this picture. It's the red fabric hanging from a hanger by itself to the immediate left of the entrance.

Another shot of the Sultan Mosque
The sun had just set by the time we searched out the closest MRT station and took the train down to Chinatown. We ate supper first--Barbara and I at a Swenson's restaurant, while the kids dined two doors down at a Japanese restaurant. I think the kids were grateful for a change from the usual hawker's fare.

After eating we ventured in to Chinatown. Despite the tourist brochure's promise of the Chinatown Night Market many of the stalls and shops were already closed. Still, there was enough still open that we were able to shop for two hours or so, and KoreaZ managed to buy a very loud Chinese drum, while I got a nice shirt.

By 10:00 P.M. we were on a bus back to our the Fragrance Hotel where we checked into our rooms. The rooms were tiny, with only the basic necessities, but they were clean. The bathrooms were interesting in that the toilet, sink, and shower were all in a single room. There was no tub, no curtain, or door--just a shower head jutting out of the wall. So basically almost the entire room got wet when you took a shower. If felt very strange, and I wish I'd had the presence of mind to take a picture of it.

This picture is from the Fragrance Hotel's website showing an example of a "superior" room. The photo is quite accurate actually. This pretty much exactly what our room looked like. Very basic. Very small.
Despite our spartan accomodations, we slept well--tired from a long day. After all we'd traveled all across Asia in just a few hours!

. . .Okay actually, I understand the kids didn't go to sleep right away at all. Excited to be "on their own"--the three girls in one room, the three boys in another, and Barbara and I sharing a third room--I guess they all stayed up half the night. To be honest, Babs and I were pretty happy to finally have a room to ourselves too!