Walking the Burma Road

We are back in Kuala Lumpur after four months in Penang. I have not been busy but I have been lazy in posting impressions on those four months. My recovery from cataract surgery completes giving me 3D and depth perception back. I don’t get so tired typing on the notebook computer.

The famous Burma Road was an allied supply artery to China during World War II. Leaving Lashio at the Northern border of Burma (Myanmar), it ran to Kunming and Yunan in China.

In Penang, Jalan Burma (Burma Road) runs from the edge of the Heritage Neighborhood of George Town up to the Mount Erskine area through a district known as Pulau Tikus. Historically, this area was the meeting point of various ethnic groups, cultures, and commerce of Penang Island. It was only a 10 minute walk from our place, so regularly we went exploring along the main thoroughfare and the side streets. We found some famous temples, unique spots to grab takeaway, and the occasional surprise.

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In my mind

What the eyes see, the mind perceives, remains just a smudge or a ripple of digitized pointillisme. A fisherman guides his boat on a tranquil morning-swept bay

Penang Strait
A fishing boat

Obviously I am not a fisherman in anyone’s imagination. Spotting two boats out this morning with my 8x handheld monocular, I could imagine the salt fish smell, the light lapping of water, the morning breeze promising midday heat. My photos taken through industrial glass capture nothing but a smudge

Market Day in Penang

After living in the Malaysian Highlands of Cameron for a month, we trundled down to the island of Penang, about a 30 minute ferry ride from the mainland. Our trip had a slight detour due to Covid. We expected to cross one of the bridges to the island. As cases are increasing in Malaysia and especially one hotspot in the Southwest of the island, government Conditional Movement Control Order closed both bridges. We were wondering if the ferry would run. Only half the ferries were running but that was enough to get us over and find a taxi to our place. The CMCO limits the range of our activities. Basically, we can go for groceries or takeaway along with daily walks for exercise. A few restaurants offer socially distanced seating. Mostly we try to stay out of harms way. Sometimes, adventure just waits around the corner.

We are staying north of the main city of Georgetown. Our place is near the Erskine Hill market so Saturday we headed there to stock up for the next few days. Afterward, we took a local street back by the fire station that lead to an interesting encounter.

The pride of Mount Erskine Firefighters, Notice the implement in his hand.
What is in this yellow container. It is hissing and not happy.
Just a 120 cm (4 ft) Cobra found in a house near here. Don’t forget to close the windows.
Guess what he had in the back. A knot (I counted 4) of pythons waiting to be returned to the hills.

The cobra will be taken to a veterinarian for health and safety check. Our man with the snakes said after being resettled up in the hills, they’ve had no repeat offenders.

RTW01 1980-81

In 1980, my company, NCR Comten, sent me to NCR Japan for software support of the first installations of our Networking Communications Processor.  Recently, a reply to my comment in Cook the Beans blog reminded me of that trip and my visit to Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, East Malaysia on the island of Borneo in 1981.  This was one episode of that first trip aRound The World (RTW). This brings me back to the original idea of this blog to reflect on journeys and paths that brought me here.

I saved the diaries of my travels during those times for many years.  With our moving on, I wrote up some summaries and highlights and saved on Google Drive.  Much of the information written was technical notes and contacts.  Certain parts of that fourteen month trip are very vivid; other parts are just a mesh of several trips through the same areas.  My notes suggest I left Minnesota around 1 October 1980 and returned to my parents home for Thanksgiving in late November 1981.  Unfortunately, only a few blurry pictures and some scraps of mementos remain from that trip.  The many transitions of life and work resulted in a box or two purloined in various archives and the dumpsters of life, later to be left for collection at the side of the road.

Collecting and Collating digital searches, memories, and artifacts for this post reminded me of several amazing coincidences and connections that played out over the years.

First, a link to the itinerary contains a few notes gleaned from my diaries.  It’s a placeholder for my memory as details begin to fade.  The experience was so new and fresh, I never expected the frustrations trying to remember details today.

Itinerary RTW 1980-81

Itinerary1980-81

Here is the list of cities I visited in approximate order.

St. Paul, MN; Tokyo, Japan; Nikko, Japan; Yokohama, Japan; Kyoto, Japan; Kamikura, Japan; Busan, Korea; Seoul, Korea; Taipei, Taiwan; Hongkong; Macao; Manila, Philippines; Batangas, Philippines; Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia; Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei; Singapore; Melaka, Malaysia; Georgetown and Penang, Malaysia; Bangkok, Thailand; Rangoon (Yangon), Burma (Myanmar); Rome, Italy; London, UK; Paris, France; Milan, Italy; Belfort, France; Bitche, France; Basel, Switzerland; Mont Saint-Michel, France; Cherbourg, France; Windom, MN

Three artifacts:

Three meetings:

The hardware tech assigned to NCR Japan was Sanford “Charlie” Brown.  After Japan, we worked together in South America, New Zealand, and SE Asia. Our paths still cross.  He taught me how to wirewrap.

In a Singapore hostel shared breakfast table with sisters Bea and Ev from France.  Years later they would pick me up from Luxembourg airport after spending ten days crossing the Soviet Union.

Anura Guruge at ICI UK.  He sent me to consult in Paris and Milan on a remote printer problem.  Some years later, I would find and read his first book, SNA Theory and Practice, in the NCR Japan technical library.  Some years after that, I would work with Lisa Lindgren an associate of Guruge’s consultancy.

Three things learned

Don’t be surprised.  Different cultures, different languages, different circumstances all have their ways of dealing with the situation of the moment.  Some of these will be completely different to what you might find usual.  Observe and Appreciate.

Grammar and Language: “Order word not necessary is.” Along with: “Verbs not necessary.”

In those days, I could live in Melaka, Malaysia for U$S 3 / day.  Knowing that, I only worked for fun from then on. I always knew that I did not have to put up with a bad job after that.

Here is the full map thanks to Google:

RTW_1980-81.JPG

In the years that followed, I circumnavigated (both westward and eastward) the earth many times providing onsite computer networking support.  There were some trips to South America and to Africa.  The type of technical career I did no longer exists.  In the past years, we have deviated from the original route more and more as we have free time to venture to different countries.  Here is my TripAdvisor Map:

TripAdvisorMap