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8th May 1986

Dear Wally,

Thank you for your letter. Yes it certainly is interesting and different living over here. We have settled in quite well and have met lots of interesting and some boring people.

Sam is going well at school. He's learnt heaps up here compared to T'ville. I could honestly say he learnt more in 4 days here than he did in a year and a bit in Qld. He's in kindergarten (which is N.S.W. system equivalent to Prep in Tasmania). They do pretty intense work for 5 yr olds writing, reading etc. numbers and counting.

Net week the school is starting a 3 week intense swimming program for Sam's class. The base have their own swimming pool. They go 3 days/wk (about 1 and a half hours at a time) for 3 wks. I'm going along on the Thursday afternoons to help mind some kids whilst others get taught to swim.

Jenny and I go to playgroup Wed mornings, then we go to the pool afterwards and stay there for lunch and catch a bus home before Sam gets home. Next year she goes to preschool 4 mornings a week which I am realy looking forward to.

I've had lots of luck lately catching buses, most of them stop. Apparently it's the Malaysians (known as Bumiputras and mainly muslims) are the laziest and don't stop for anyone. If you get an Indian driver you're ok. They're real bone rattlers (ie the buses) though and it often sounds like the gear box is going to fall out. Anne, (the lady next door) and I got on a bus in town the other day and he only stopped at one bus stop even though locals flagged him down at every bus stop. He only stopped to let people off.

Last Fri was Budda's birthday so there was a small procession down the main road with the Chinese and different Budda floats. There are a lot of Buddhist temples on Penang. We have visited 3 or 4. Apparently they worshp several different Buddas. Sam is fascinated by all the temples. Outside the temples you usually get a couple of beggars rattling their tins but I don't give them anything. You'd be broke if you gave to all of them. The temple of a thousand steps (aptly named!) has markets down the bottom which are known as the temple of a thousand rip-offs. We get about 80% off tourist prices. There's tourist price, RAAF price and local price.

We have a man called Mr Poon who comes to our door every second Wed and sells souvenirs, dresses, shorts, shirts, linen, towels and anything else you need. We also have Mr Womly who visits Sun nights selling books and the latest novels in English (mainly from U.S. and England). Raymond the greengrocer, visits daily and does everything from selling groceries to posting letters, getting fresh meat (mainly chicken and pork) and fish (including prawns). He also gets your dog licence, TV licence and car licence and rego fixed up. One need never leave the house.

The Malays are having their fasting period at present and are all a bit off. It's a muslim thing. They're only allowed to eat after dusk and at the end of it all they have feasts and celebrations and gift giving. It's called Hari Raya.

There's been strange and scarey things happening this last week. First one of our RAAF firemen knocked an Indian girl off her pushbike and killed her (the girl pulled out in front of him!) 2) There were 2 RAAF guys bashed on Fri night at a night club some 500 yds from our house. One chap has to go back to Aust for plastic surgery. He was beaten up with a mallet and had 150 stitches in his face. The other guy has a large scar down his face. 3) An army guy was bashed outside Kentucky Fried Chicken about 2 miles down the road. 4) A trishaw driver set up a RAAFIE to mug him and took him up a dark alley to his mates waiting, but he got away by singing out 'RAAF police' and they all scattered. 5) Last night a Chinese lady tried to abduct a white child from one of the RAAF areas but a neighbour saw her and called the S.P's. (service police. 6) Another 3 army guys were bashed in Penang the night before last and ended up in the RAAF hospital.

The drivers haven't improved over this Hari Raya period either. There was an accident on our corner the other night (the 4th since we've been here in 10 wks!). There were 3 motor bikes involved (better known as plastics!), initially that is. You see over here, if you have an accident you have to leave your vehicle where it lands even if it's the middle of the road. Anyway, this motor bike was lying on the road and we were watching and along came a car and ran over the top of the bike, went up in the air and landed in the monny (monsoon) drain sideways. The next minute there were about 20 locals trying to kick his door in and get to him. The passenger got out and ran up our street (the locals were only interested in the driver) to our gang (about 20 whites). He told us he was in the Malaysian airforce so Anton (a neighbour) rang the RMAF police for him. Our S.P's brought them down to the scene of the accident. The best part was the RMAF orderly officer arrived in a jeep, 6 armed men jumped out, 3 stood either side of the road, guns cocked whilst the orderly officer got his chap out of the car and the passenger, put them in the jeep and the others hopped in and they all took off. We went inside after this and I heard them about 20 to one in the morning taking the plastics off the road. The accident happened about 10 pm and the civilian police arrived about midnight. The police station is less than a mile away by the way. We were watching all this from some distance by the way. We only live 4 houses from the corner.

The plumbers have just arrived to fix our hot water and put a new system in. We've had no hot water for 3 weeks (these Malaysians are slow). We used to have hot water until they fixed the cold water and messed it up. Mind you it never gets below 20 degrees C so its OK having a cold shower at night.

I'm going to Hadyai 20th June or something like that. That's in Thailand. It might be cancelled yet if enough people aren't going but Andy said we might all go there soon. We haven't been to Singapore yet so we're waiting until Andrew has leave due. We'll probably go about Nov time. The airforce pay our return airfare once a year to Singapore so we only have to save our accommodation and spending money. We want to go for about a week and enjoy the sights. There's a big zoo there too.

The food up here is great. My amah cooks the best curried chicken (Indian style). It's more orange than our mustardy coloured ones. It's so tasty we go back for more. She also cooks chilli crab, sweet and sour pork, chicken koy teow and beef koy teow. We're having beef koy teow tonightl. I won't leave Malaysia without knowing how to cook all these dishes.

Chinese cooking classes started this week at my house. There are about 10 other girls doing the course. We did fried rice (with croutons) and mixed vegetables with pork and prawns. They were delicious. I've cooked the vegies for Andrew and he loved them. I'm doing the fried rice either tonight with the koy teow or tomorrow night. The recipe for mixed vegies is enclosed.

I used about 12 big prawns cut in 2 or 3. About 15 thin slices pork. Next week we make spring rolls.

There's a great gold shop down the road with 22ct gold necklaces and earrings etc. They make things to order if you wish. The furniture is also great. We've bought a few things in our short time. I've a nice bookcase for my encyclopaedias when our stuff ever arrives. The ship has been delayed several times and is due in docks any day now. It takes about 10 days to get it out of customs.

We spend a lot of time eating out or getting Malaysian take-aways at our RAAF golf club and boat club. It's so nice and cheap as well. when you get take-aways they're in plastic bags. They also give out their drinks in plastic bags. I always tell them I'll just have a straw in a bottle.

We have a typhoid and hepatitis outbreak at present so we're not allowed to eat at the local Makhans (eating places), not that you'd even think about eating at some of them. Well I could go on for hrs but I hope to get home at the end of August on a RAAF Charter. If I get on it I'll be home for a month so I'll bring some pictures and tell you all about it over a lasagne dinner. (hint, hint!)

Bye for now.



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