Thursday, January 29, 2009

January 29, 2009 - Langkawi, Malaysia

Sten's dockside projects have gone really well. He was able to repair the dingy, troubleshoot and repair the main engine starting circuit, which has been dogging us for months, and inspect our nearly empty fuel tanks for sludge. He was pleased to see that the tanks look good. Over the past few days, while the dinghy glue dried and set, he has also replumbed the saltwater lines to and from the generator and finished installing new locking screws on the hatch over the generator. The installation of the new screws has reduced cabin noise nicely when either of the engines are running. He also sourced two new jerry cans. We'll use them to carry extra gasoline for the dinghy outboard when we head to Chagos for our two month stay there.

While Sten has been busy with his projects, I've been trying to buy enough meat, chocolate and booze to get us through two months in Chagos and onto Africa. But I've been hampered by the fact that most of the shops have been closed for Chinese New Year. Some of them opened today (Thursday), but the majority will be closed again tomorrow. Fridays are a weekend day in this predominantly Muslim island. Even though most of the shops are run by the Chinese, they are still closed on Friday. But on Saturday the wine warehouse should be open (finally) and we'll be able to stock up on vino.

Langkawi is the first place we've been where the predominant religion is Islam. Actually, that's not true. The population of Yogyakarta, Java was predominantly Muslim, but theirs was a much more moderate version of Islam. Most of the women we met during our few days there did not wear headscarves. Some of the Muslim women we encountered in Singapore and Penang, Malaysia wore headscarves. But Langkawi is the first place we've ever been where we regularly see women wearing not only headscarves, but also burqas, a garment designed to conceal Muslim women's bodies from the gaze of unrelated men.

Now mind you, it is hot here. It is in the high-80's or hotter every day. Sten and I are constantly sticky (and occasionally soaked) with sweat. It is so hot that I cut all my hair off in Penang. The heat is exhausting. I simply can't imagine wearing more than a t-shirt and skirt. But many of the Muslim women here wear long dresses, with long sleeves, and floor length skirts. I'd simply pass out if I was required to wear so much clothing in this heat. The heat affects the local women too. I have seen women in public restrooms, removing their headscarves to mop the sweat from their brows.

Our first evening here we were in the grocery store, picking up a few items, when we both noticed a woman in a full burqa, complete with boshiya - a veil covering her face. She was even wearing gloves. We couldn't see a centimeter of her skin. We've since seen other women here with a niqab covering the lower half of their faces, but the woman in the grocery store's entire head was covered with a thin veil. Her eyesight was so impeded by the garment that she had to lift the edge to peer at the labels on the food that she was considering buying. I can't imagine going through life so debilitated.

Note the sweat soaking through his shirt as Sten weilds a 5 pound sledge and cleaver on an unsuspecting piece of beef tenderloin.
Sten has been wanting to buy a giant cleaver for as long as I've known him. Earlier today, faced with the task of cutting up and vacuum packing 6 kilos of frozen solid beef tenderloin, I caved and gave him the go ahead to buy a utilitarian version. It is an ugly tool, which appears to be crudely ground from standard flat stock steel. It is already rusting. I'm planning to store it next to the rusty machete that Sten convinced me that we needed to buy in the Caribbean. I've got my doubts that the cleaver will be used again on this trip. Since it only cost $7, that's fine. However, it did cut through the frozen tenderloin like it was butter and Sten claims it will make steaking wahoo a lot easier. So if we get lucky fishing, the cleaver may see the light of day again.

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