Day 224 in Beijing: Hairstyle Academy.

Like Superman, I even have a cape!

Like Superman, I even have a cape!

Jill and I were going snorkeling at Palau Payar and I needed a haircut.

Why did I need a haircut to go snorkeling, you ask.

Because I knew that when I got back to Beijing, I wasn’t going to have a chance to get a tan anytime soon and if I went snorkeling for a whole day down here, I’d get a wicked tan line around my head whenever I finally got my haircut.

So, I decided to get my haircut in Penang.

We walked around for a bit and noticed a sign for a hairstyle academy in the nearby mall.

Academies usually have pretty inexpensive haircuts since the students are learning and it means you take a chance on them making a mistake.

I’ve actually found they are incredibly professional and give the best haircuts around since they are being judged on them by their teachers.

This time was no exception.

The hairstylist was friendly, funny, and very professional.  She asked us questions about our trip and where we had been, planned to go and gave us a little information about herself and where she had come from and why she lived in Penang.

She was born in northern Malaysia and had 3 siblings.  She and another one lived in Penang but the other two stayed in up north.  She told us there weren’t a lot of opportunities so she decided to move to the big city and she said she enjoyed living here now.

She continued to work on my haircut, smiling and talking the whole time, and it was very enjoyable for both Jill and me.

She also didn’t mind us taking pictures, which probably seemed a little insane to anyone that cuts hair for a living, until I explained that I write a blog and this will be a post on it.

If you notice in the pictures, she actually uses a straight razor to do the final touches on my neck.  It didn’t hurt at all and she took about 30 minutes total doing a fairly simple haircut and made sure I was happy the whole time.

They also gave us free tea which was nice.

By the way, after snorkeling, my tan line looks great and I won’t look like I’ve got some weird halo or something when I cut my hair next time thanks to her wonderful haircut!

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Day 222 in Beijing: First Class, Baby!

First class all the way!

First class all the way!

We have just finished our 21 day vacation in Malaysia.

It was everything we could have hoped for and more.

Malaysia is gorgeous, people are friendly, and the weather is WARM!

We flew AirAsia both ways and found out about a wonderful little extra from our friend, Kean, regarding an upgrade that not many people know about on their flights.

There is a company called Optiontown.  It works with many low costs airlines around the world and give a great deal.

They give you a first class seat for about 75% off the advertised price if the first class or business class seats aren’t full 24 hours before take off.

So, we decided to try them on the way back to Beijing and we were rewarded with lay flat seats, full meals, and complimentary bottles of water, for about $65 US each.

We are talking about a 6 hour flight and going from economy to first class for $10 US per hour.  That is unbelievable if you have ever flown in the US or europe from what I’ve experienced.

Here are a few pictures from our flight.  If you notice, we had to board the plane by walking on the tarmac, then climb up the stairs, and get into our seats.  It was fun walking around with all the planes and automobiles flying by us.  It reminded me of what flying back in the days must have been like.

By the way, we also were given priority boarding so we were the first to sit down, in the front row, and the first to get off the plane.

In Beijing, that makes a world of difference as the customs and immigration lines are usually huge and take an hour or more because so many people get off and need to pass through them.  It took us about 20 minutes from plane to taxi this time.  A huge improvement and we will continue to do use AirAsia and Optiontown for every flight that we can take from now on.

By the way, a famous Chinese actress and singer, Tong Yao, was in our row.  I asked her for a picture and she was nice enough to oblige.  Here is a video of her in Singapore in 2010.

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Day 221 in Beijing: Bathrooms and Prayer Rooms.

The prayer room in the Penang Airport.

Two prayer rooms in the Penang Airport.

There are many Buddhist, Hindu and Chinese temples all over Malaysia, but the Muslim religion plays a major role in day to day life.  There are also the indigenous Malay religions and spiritual beliefs.

That being said, Malaysia is, primarily, a Muslim country.

Jill and I enjoyed hearing the call to prayer 5 times a day when we were waking up, walking around, or just sitting down to eat dinner.  It is quite beautiful and it was interesting to see many men all start to go towards the mosques and get ready for prayer.

We also took a lot of pictures at different mosques and did our best to not interfere with anyone that was praying since we didn’t want to be rude tourists.  We found the people there to be incredibly kind, and helpful, and wanted to show us around the mosques and give us a little peak into their world.

We flew home yesterday to Beijing. A quick aside, how strange is it that Jill and I call Beijing, “home” now?  It seems natural and easy for us even though we aren’t really from the Chinese culture or society.  We’ve blended in as well as we can in the 7 months we’ve been here and it feels fairly natural to write that as I sit here, looking out the window of my apartment, at the Roman statues in my complex.  But Roman statues in a Chinese apartment complex is a story for another blog, this is about Malaysia and Muslims.

We were walking to our gate and waiting to fly out when I noticed these bathrooms.  It took me a second, even after being in Malaysia for 21 straight days, to realize that they were prayer rooms.

Usually the prayer rooms have the word, “Surau” and a picture of a mosque on a sign next to them.  This one didn’t, so I was a bit confused at first, but instead had a picture of a man with a taqiyah and a woman wearing the hijab.

We saw a family walk up, separate according to gender roles, and go in to pray as we waited for our plane.  The women were wearing black Burqas, and the men were wearing slacks and shirts.

I have to say that Jill and I found the hijabs to be quite beautiful.  Each woman seemed to choose colors and designs that would express who she is and allowed them to stand out in a crowd.  Most of the hijabs that we saw in Malaysia are adorned with jewels and are very decorative.  Jill had to wear them whenever we entered a mosque, and I had to wear them at a few of them, and we will post blogs about what it is like to be in a nylon hijab in 90 degree weather with 90 percent humidity.

Simply stated, they were hot.  I don’t think many women wear nylon hijabs in Malaysia and only the nylon hijabs are primarily used by tourists and need to be extremely durable.

Day 220 in Beijing: Ego Pharmacy.

Need some help with your ego?

Need some help with your ego?

So, Jill and I were walking around Georgetown, Malaysia today looking for temples to visit.

Trust me, that is not a hard job here as there are so many amazing temples from so many different cultures.

We’ve found churches, mosques, Buddhist temples from Burma (the only Burmese Buddhist temple outside of Burma/Myanmar at this time), one from Thailand, and temples from China.  We even found one a tower that combines Chinese, Thai and Burmese religions and houses a 90 foot tall Kuan Yin statue that is awe inspiring.

However, since I work as a behavioral therapist, I noticed this sign and started laughing at it.

I think, in many ways, that an “ego pharmacy” would be a wonderful addition to any practice.

In fact, I think of myself as an ego pharmacist since I help people become more content and able to deal with stress in their life as my job.

If someone is having a bad time, or overwhelmed or dealing with anxiety, among other things, I help them using empathy and then techniques and skills which are proven, scientifically, to relieve those issues and allow the person to figure out what is best for their life and what is their best choice at this time for them.

People are constantly figuring out what is best for them and, therefore, behavioral therapy allows them to learn the skills that I know and be able to use them on their own to figure out what is right for them each and every day.

It is a wonderful job since I get to see people grow, change, and decide out what is right for them every day.  I don’t know of many jobs that offer that kind of reward and allow for such a positive change in the world.

One of the beautiful parts of behavioral therapy is that my beliefs are not part of the issue for the client.  They decide what is right for them and then figure out what choice they want to make and how they want to live their life.  It will be their life and therefore it is up to them to take the responsibility and see what is right for them.

Interestingly, when people decide they don’t want to change and then they realize that this is still a choice to stay the same, and therefore, by taking responsibility for “not changing” they have made a choice and a change.  It becomes a paradoxical intervention that by not changing, you are changing, and that allows people to change more quickly.  It is also solely based on their own choice so they feel more in control and empowered to make, or not make, the change that they feel is needed at that moment.

So, if you want to change, or don’t and can’t figure out why it is so hard to be content, step on into the Ego Pharmacy and see what happens!



Day 219 in Beijing: Lily’s Vegetarian Kitchen.

Buddhist monk.  Check. Blessed food.  Check. Delicious.  Check.

Buddhist monk. Check.
Blessed food. Check.
Delicious. Check.

Jill and I have decided it is time to start becoming more healthy and we’ve decided to try being vegetarian at this time.

It actually started on New Year’s Day, even though it wasn’t a new year’s resolution, and it seems to have been quite easy so far.

Strangely enough, we decided this before we went to a the Thekchen Choling Buddhist temple on New Year’s Day to hear the chanting that they perform for the new lunar month.  But that is blog post for another day.

Being that Buddhists don’t eat any type of animal, and I then read the wonderful book, Direct Expressions written by their Lama Thubten Namdrol Dorje, and agreed with his viewpoints on health, treating other creatures with respect, and not wanting to hurt others, and therefore not wanting to hurt myself, and it just all fell into place.

I’ve done stints of being a vegetarian for up to 6 months, and have found, when I set my mind to it, it is actually quite easy.

One of the reasons is that I was in a pretty horrific car crash when I was 4 years old and have no sense of smell because of my head injury.  I also believe that my sense of taste is probably at about 50% of what most people can experience.

The silver lining is that I’m not tempted by smells of food as I walk by stores and restaurants, and therefore, find the ability to follow through on this change easier than most people since they are usually tempted and it is harder to ignore those senses.

One of the restaurants we went to on our vacation to Malaysia was Lily’s Vegetarian Restaurant.  It was only 2 blocks from our hotel, The Sunway Georgetown, and it was fantastic.

We tried the local Penang style food, even though they had vegetarian fried chicken, which looked amazing, and were blown away.

Everything was fresh, delicious, with just the right amount of spices.  We also had soursop juice and lime juice for our drinks.  Jill has become addicted to lime juice and I’ve become addicted to soursop.  We have no idea how we will deal with the withdrawal symptoms when we return to Beijing in just a few days!

All I can say is if we can find vegetarian food in Beijing that is at all similar to the food we’ve found here in Malaysia, we will not have a problem staying vegetarian and being much more healthy in the upcoming year.

ps. If you’d like to read Direct Expressions, by Lama Thubten Namdrol Dorje, he has put it online in the form of a PDF.  I highly recommend it as it is a wonderful read and he has a fantastic sense of humor and humility.

Here is a direct link to his book:


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