Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Happy Deepavali!!!

23 October 2014

We found this crazy soap in a shop on our last night in Osaka.  When you have a name like Phebe, which people often misspell because they KNOW there should be an "o" in there someplace, a soap named "Phebo" is very funny.  (Someone once spelled my named "Pheboe."  Pronounced, Phebo, like an oboe, I guess.)

The shop was attached to a Brazilian restaurant.  In a suburb of Osaka, Japan.  Excellent steak.  You can even do the churrasco thing, with meat on a sword.  The owner is a Japanese woman from Brazil.  We chatted in our minimalist Spanish and her small small English.  In Japan.  It was pretty funny too.

So we took a taxi to Kansai Airport (abbreviated as KIX) and yes, it really is a huge concrete platform out at sea, connected to the mainland by a long long bridge.  I have no idea if there's land under all the concrete.

We arrived at the Kuala Lumpur airport and did the normal airport stuff, and I found this wonderful design on the floor, blocked by stanchions and strings with little feathers tied onto it.  Deepavali!  It's a Hindu festival, obviously, with a name like Deepavali.  Turns out it's an alternate name for Diwali, and the festival will be continuing for a week or so.  This is the annual Festival of Lights.  The previous night was the big fireworks show, and sadly we missed that since we weren't here yet.  (I LOVE fireworks!)  But hopefully there will be more fireworks at the end of the festival.  Or maybe we can buy some and set them off ourselves.  (In a safe location, of course!)  Turns out that despite the fact that Malaysia is a predominantly Muslim country, the day is a national holiday here because there are so many Hindu people.

Anyway, Deepavali (or Diwali) celebrates the return of Lord Rama and his wife, Sita, on a dark dark night, so that his people lit lamps in their houses to light his return.  (They were exiled, the Malaysian holiday site doesn't say why.)  Deepavali also is celebrated in honor of Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth.  Again, the lights make it easy for her to find her way to houses and bestow wealth.

The website goes on to say that the Festival of Lights signifies the victory of good over evil, not just the physical lights but also our Inner Light, which, according to Hindu philosophy, is called the Atman.

And, according to the "Times of India," Deepavali is "a reaffirmation of hope, a renewed commitment to friendship and goodwill, and a religiously sanctioned celebration of the simple and some not-so-simple joys of life."

Lovely, isn't it?

We were greeted at our hotel by staff who recognized us and welcomed us back, as well as new staff who seemed confused by the extra warm welcome we received.  Our buddy the Nepali doorman, born into a Sherpa family but now living in warm Malaysia (we don't all like cold weather!) was so happy to see us, and his English has improved greatly so we had a longer chat than usual.

There was another lovely Deepavali decoration on the floor of our hotel lobby, designed and created by the morning manager.  The various staff explained that many places use a digital method to make these, but they prefer to use the traditional hand-made designs - it's made of colored tiny gravel, sort of like what you use in the bottom of a fish tank.  Although I have to say that the grains almost look like sweet sprinkles from cupcakes or ice cream!

It was a joy to be back on what feels like soft beds, although they're really more like normal beds.  Japan and Korea tend to have very firm beds, sometimes just a thin pad on a box spring.  I really like a softer bed that supports my curves so it's wonderful to have the kind of thicker mattress we're used to.

So we're settling in to KL, and have several tasks to take care of while we're here.  More about that later.

And our hotel has made some changes with upgrading the rooms, new carpeting in areas, and expanded the breakfast to include two more food stations outside on the patio, complete with decorative batiks.  And the usual orchids on every table.

So, we'll take care of business and continue our explorations of this exciting city, and eventually head to the east coast and all the spots we missed last time we were here.

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