So Iris and I have been here for 6 months now. Oh how time flies when you are having fun! We thought it would be fun to do a little series of surveys during out time here. We meant to do it after three months. And then we meant to do it again after 4 months. And we eventually got around to it now after 6 months. So whether we are here for 3 years, four years or whatever, we are going to try to answer these same questions ever six months. My answers are second and Iris’s are first and in bold. Enjoy!
1. What is one thing (or things) you brought that you now realize you do not need?
I haven’t used my rain coat once. Not once. It rains almost everyday here, but it’s just not practical to carry around my rain jacket. I do carry an umbrella in my purse though. Plus it’s too hot to wear rain jackets. Also, I suppose planning out what books I would read was unnecessary. Almost all the books here are in English…or at least the English section is usually bigger than the Malay section. Oh, and our Chromecast. We used it all the time and home, but it’s useless here.
Shorts. I brought a lot of shorts. I need them, because it is exceptionally hot here always and forever, but I work most of the time and despite telling my employers how beautiful my legs are, they will not let me wear shorts to work. (seriously, my legs have been built be years of football (soccer-sorry, I live in a country where it is called football and I have gotten used to calling it that) and running. They are tree trunks) So really, when I am done working I go work out and where the appropriate shorts there. After that, I put on what Iris and I called our “I don’t give a s–t” clothes which for me is the same pair of old workout shorts every day. If we are going out of the apartment, I really only need two pairs of shorts. I bought about 6. Not only did I bring these many pairs, but I bought three pairs before I left. Big mistake.
Runner up-my xbox 360: Although because it did break, I was allowed by my wife to buy an Xbox One, a big upgrade
2. What is something you wished you had brought with you?
Hmm….I guess my hair straightener. I didn’t think it would work, but I think it would have. The one I bought here is nowhere near as good. Though with the heat and humidity, I rarely wear my hair down anyway.
Dr. Bonner’s soap…even though that is impossible because I could never have brought enough for all the time we are here. Oh I know: more beading supplies. Every time I sit down to make something jewelry wise, I think of a particular bead or material sitting in our storage unit that I really wish I had. I have found a few bead stores here in KL that are actually pretty good, but none that cater to my exact needs, which is what the internet is for. But as we do not have a bank account yet, I can not order anything online. Plus most of the places I like only ship to America. So yeah, that does not help me.
Of course, I could just wish I had brought these things precisely because I did not bring them with me. Self fulfilling prophecy indeed.
Also, I guess a giant speaker to play my ipod/phone through at the gym. Because usually when I am at the gym someone is playing their music as loud as they can through a speaker they brought with them. Today, there were three people doing it. Apparently that is a thing here in Asia…I will get to that soon…
3. What has been your favorite part about living in Malaysia?
I think I’d have to say my job. The school I work in is amazing. The people, the students, the families, the atmosphere…I really love it. It’s kind of sad I had to go half way around the world to find a school where you don’t feel like you’re constantly being bombarded with utter nonsense to deal with on top of doing your job. Second to that, I’d say the food. The food is really good. Oooh, and that I get to swim in my rooftop pool all year long. Also, I like that I don’t have to drive.
Oh the food right? That is what I am always blogging about and what everyone always says is the best part about living in Malaysia. Yeah I love the food, but I do not think it has been my favorite part. I think the very act of living in a foreign country has been my favorite part. I struggle with how to express this and what it really means daily. A lot of the fiction I have been writing is centered around this idea. Living in a foreign country is different in ways I can never really express because it is in the little things, the things you experience second hand almost and do not process until much later if at all. It changes your way of thinking in ways you can never imagine and very quickly to boot. Fair warning, I might come up sounding a bit pompous here. I am not saying that living in another country makes me a better person, I am just saying it is an experience you can not replicate. In Richmond there is one restaurant that serves one dish that claims to be Malaysian. Every restaurant serves food I have known my whole life, for the most part. Even Indian food is something I have been eating for a long time now. But in a foreign country, it is all different. This might be very obvious but bare with me. When you visit a country you eat at restaurants where the menu is probably in a different language. If you go to Europe, they might actually give you a different menu, one in English, with different dishes that might not be Italian but that you will recognize as Italian. So while you have the experience of eating in a restaurant where everything is in a different menu and you have the fun of trying to order a meal from a waiter who does not speak English, it is a passing thing. Eventually you go home and you are confronted by the familiar again, no matter how hard you try to avoid it. Living in another country, the unfamiliar never goes away. It is always there. You have to adapt or learn to life with it. Slowly over time, it becomes familiar. Now this is another point where it becomes something you can not experience UNLESS you live abroad in a non English speaking country. I ate nasi goring ayam today at Pelita, a mamak in the building I work in. I have it for lunch most days I go there because I like it, but also because the entire menu is in Malay and I do not know what most of the dishes are. (the meal I eat is fried rice with chicken. Nasi=rice. Goreng=fried. Ayam=chicken. That concludes your Bahasa Malay course for the day) I learned that slowly. I know what some of the words on the menu mean to the point that they are familiar to me. I know mee goreng is friend noodles. BUT I do not know what is in that dish other than friend noodles, probably some soy sauce and maybe some bean sprouts. Everybody makes it differently. I do not know how to ask what is in it. I know how to say no fish when we order nasi lamak. (tidak ikan). I don’t know if any of that makes sense but in short here you go:
The best part about living abroad is the unfamiliar and how slowly over time, without you noticing, it becomes the familiar. The other best part about living in Malaysia is how I do not live in America.
Better example: knives. You know what they do not give you in restaurants in Malaysia? Knives. You use a fork and spoon, and you use the fork to shovel food onto the spoon. You use the spoon to cut the food or the fork. The other day I used a fork to cut up some kimchi pancakes Iris had made….I honestly had to think about how to use the darn thing, I kid you not. And I think I am a pretty smart guy….right? But again, I never use it to cut things like that. I have used it to cut cheese once or twice, and to butter my toast, but I had not used it with a fork to cut something since moving here. The familiar became very unfamiliar…
Also, if you follow the blog closely, I said the restaurant in my building. I got a new job. Long story, will blog about it later.
4. What has been your least favorite part about living in Malaysia?
I think until recently I’d say the heat, but the heat really hasn’t been too bad lately, and I love being able to swim all year long. Of course not having my friends and family here is really tough. I’m missing watching Harrison grow, but obviously this is an amazing experience and sometimes those are the choices you have to make.
Okay, so that thing I said I would talk about earlier? Here goes: My least favorite thing about living in Malaysia is the disrespect or lack of acknowledgement of personal space. Now I am going to make broad sweeping generalizations here that apply to MY experience. I know that what I am about to say does not apply to everyone in Malaysia or Asia as a continent.
People in Asia, in my experience, do not respect or acknowledge person space. You are standing in line to pay at a restaurant? They are standing so closely behind you that you can feel their breath on your neck. There are three inches of space between you and the car in front of you on the highway? They are going to merge into that space whether you like it or not. (To be fair, I have gotten used to the driving part but it still freaks me out sometimes. Iris has commented on a few occasions of how well I have learned to drive in this hyper aggressive “any space is a space I can merge into” or “any free space between lanes will be filled by lots of people on motorbikes” style of driving that occurs here) At the gym, running on the treadmill, listening to music? Someone is going to get on the treadmill right next to you and play their music through a speaker very loudly.
As Courtney Hastings assured me, I did get used to the heat. Don’t like it when it is 115 degrees out with 85% humidity, but I have gotten used to it. Still sweat…but not as much and I sometimes do not notice it as much. One time I left work and thought it was kind of cool out. I checked my phone: It was 99 degrees with 80% humidity.
5. Name something that reminds you of home.
Things here are very western in a lot of places, so in that way it does feel like home. We still watch Netflix here, so that feels a lot like home. I feel as though I do not have a sufficient answer for this. For some reason Starbucks. Although they have tons of American chains here, (even ones that don’t exist in the US anymore…Radio Shack, Tower records?!) for some reason Starbucks reminds me of home. And standing by the copier at work to wait for my stuff to copy, makes me feel like I’m back in Petersburg for some reason.
Not much honestly. Ha I wrote this question I think, and I have no idea what I am suppose to say for an answer. My wife can speak for herself, but I have only gotten homesick once. That was after skyping with my family on Christmas morning (their time-Christmas night my time obviously) Other than that, I have not really gotten homsick and there is not much that reminds me of home. I have learned that hand gestures when you can not think of a word are the same in a lot of languages! I posted a video where I talked about that briefly.
6. Share your favorite experience from this adventure so far.
Oh that’s too hard to choose. Langkawi was amazing. Staying up at the north end of the island was a beautiful paradise, and there were monkeys all along the sides of the road! When we went island hopping there were monkeys all over the island too! That was one thing I wanted to see when we moved here, monkeys just hanging around. Plus I think my favorite passer malam (night market) food was there as well. I also really enjoyed that spa I went to.
Oh man, we have done so much already. The Singapore marathon, Langkawi, all our weekend adventures and so much more. Can you tell I am getting a bit sick of trying to think of answer to put down here? Who’s stupid idea was this? Oh yeah…that’s right….Iris…yeah, sure, it was Iris’s idea. Okay, I am going to go with a top 5, in no particular order
1. Batu Caves with Miranda
2. Kayaking through the mangrove forest on Langkawi
3. Running the Singapore Marathon
4. Going to a Chinese coffee shop (aka a hawker center in KL) with our friend Ken and Jo Ann. (we ate Durian that night so yeah, obviously it was great.
5. Accidentally finding ourselves in the middle of the Bersih protests.
7. Is there anything you miss about America?
Good beer. Obviously first and foremost is my amazing family and friends that I miss dearly, but after that, good beer. And good cheese. Cheese is expensive, and not on a lot of food. I don’t eat much cheese anymore, and I used to really miss it…then I kind of got over it. Never thought I’d say I’m kind of over cheese. Oh, oh, and good coffee! Actually that’s probably what I miss most! Everybody here drinks gross 3 in 1 coffee (think that international delight powder stuff in little packets). Whole beans and even ground coffee is really expensive, so we buy these little satchels…but they’re just not that good. But I’m getting used to it. I’m starting to like the flavor, but I miss ground Starbucks coffee set on a timer that starts to brew before I get out of bed.
At first it was American Football. I missed seeing my Bills when the season first started. But I have to say, I got over it in a few weeks. I miss good beer, that is for sure. I miss Elwood Thompson, a great grocery store in Richmond, a whole lot! Nice organic vegan food from their hot bar? Yes please! I am sure I am suppose to say I miss my family and friends. And I do. But I have to be honest, I have not been sad about it. I am living in freaking Malaysia with my wife! We are planning on going to Mynamar in a few months! At some point in the next year, I will be standing on the island of Borneo! I have always wanted to live somewhere outside the USA, so I have not really missed anything specific. I love America. I love my family. I love my friends. But I love the adventure I am living as well.
8. How excited are you to not be bombarded by all the political TV ads you would have seen living in a swing state?
9. What’s been your favorite food and/or favorite meal so far?
This is definitely the hardest question. We’ve had some really good food here. Was the best the awesome meal JoAnn and Ken took us to at the hawker stalls followed by our first Durian experience? Or was it the thing that tasted like a deep fried grilled cheese that we still don’t know the name of but we’d really like to have again? Or that crazy good honey bao from Lot 10? I think I still have to go with the Iranian restaurant in Ampang. It’s just that good. I’m embarrassed to say that my favorite meal so far in Malaysia has not been Malaysian food, even though all the food here is crazy delicious.
Oh man, tough question. My favorite food might be fried rice, if we are going by quantity. But as I was saying before, it is east to get and one of the few things I can understand on most menus. But I also love most of the variants of it I have had. Indonesian Nasi Goreng Daging? Yes please. Love it. Durian is always going to be near the top of the list because it is weird but also because every travel show I watched prepared me to hate it. And in fact the opposite is true: I love it! I know Iris is probably going to say the Iranian restaurant near where I used to work so that is off the tables. Maybe because I just ate it, but the Kaya puffs we get from the Thursday night market near our apartment is near the top of the list. The fried carrot cake from Singapore is up there too. Maybe roti chanai…seriously, there is a lot of good food here!