Our 12 month survey

Iris and I decided after being here for 6 months, that it might be kind of fun to come up with a list of 10 questions and answer them every 6 months to see how our answers changed the longer we lived in Malaysia. Well, it has been another 6 months. It ias hard to believe that almost one year ago to the day Iris and I landed in Kuala Lumpur International Airport. We wondered how we were going to find Sarah, Iris’s soon to be boss, who was hosting us for the night. Then Iris remembered that her interview had been over Skype and she knew what Sarah looked like. We were a bit jet lagged!

Here is a link to the 6 month survey: https://kiinkl.com/2016/01/08/our-six-month-survey/

 

And here are the 12 month answers. Like before, Iris’s answers are first and in bold, mine are second!

(quote from Iris: “I can’t believe we’ve been here a whole year. I remember the teary goodbye in the Richmond airport so vividly.”)

Editor’s note: After reading Iris’s post I have come to two conclusions, one which was obvious already: Iris is a lot more homesick than I am and two, has much better answers then me!

1. What is one thing (or things) you brought that you now realize you do not need?

I think we’ve been here long enough I don’t really remember what things I brought and what things I’ve gotten here. I’m sure there are some clothes I don’t wear but some of those could be ones I got here and some might be ones from home. I wear less jewelry here, so maybe all my earrings? People here seem to wear less jewelry, so I follow suit.

Shorts. It was shorts last time and it is still shorts now. I bought a few extra pairs but only wear like one pair. Other times I am in work clothes. To make it a little different, i would say pants! I have taken to wearing “native clothes” as one of my Malay co-workers call it. This means sarong, linen pants, kurtas and things like that. So looking back on it, I brought too many pairs of pants and dress shirts with me.

2. What is something you wished you had brought with you?

Again, it’s not hard to get what you need here. I wish we had our super awesome ninja blender, but it wouldn’t work so well with the different electricity anyway. I also wish I had brought all my friends and family, but I don’t think they’d have fit in my suitcase. Sometimes I wish I had brought more of my school book collection or my borders for the bulletin board, but I get along alright without them. Oh, Easter eggs…we had some trouble finding Easter eggs for an egg hunt at school, but we found them eventually. Also I just had trouble finding ribbons. Like award ribbons. I thought they’d be super easy to find…nope. Medals we could get no problem, but ribbons, no way.

The other day I was thinking, like a true intellectual nerd, that I should have brought my set of Proust “In Search of Lost Time” with me. Now that I know it is very easy to find great books here, I did not need to worry about it so much. And for some reason, the idea of reading a very long French novel in Malaysia made a lot of sense to me.

3. What has been your favorite part about living in Malaysia?

I’d still have to say my job. The recent posts from all the teachers back home about the last day of school has me missing my long summer break, but TLC is a special place and I still feel really lucky to be a part of it. After that I would say a tie between the food, which is so good, and the fact that KL is a great place to travel from. We’ve been a few places, and should add quite a few more before we leave here. We got our tickets to Australia for next April for a total of $250 US round trip each. What?! That includes insurance in case we need to change our flight!

So in March we went to India. In April we went to Myanmar. In July we are going to Brunei. September, we head to Hong Kong. December will find us in Vietnam with my parents. Next April we will be headed to Australia. There is no way I could have experienced these places living in America. So right now, that is my favorite part.

Okay, I am very self aware. I know what my answer to this question last time was because it is something I still think about and is still my FAVORITE part of living in Malaysia. If you don’t remember or don’t want to look at the post from 6 months ago, my favorite part of living in Malaysia is…living in Malaysia. There is so many little things that you experience living in a foreign country that are unexplainable. There are a lot of things that have happened that 40 years from now Iris and I will still be reflecting on, and probably  telling people “Oh, it’s just a Malaysian thing”.

Iris and I ended our vows with a quote from one of our favorite shows, American Dad. The husband says to the wife “Let’s go home and tell each other boring stories for the rest of our life.” No matter how long we end up staying here.

4. What has been your least favorite part about living in Malaysia?

I would probably say adulting. I mean adulting is never fun, but it’s harder when you’re in an infrastructure that you’re unfamiliar with. Trying to make sure we’ve paid our taxes, taken care of car insurance and tax and roadside assistance. Trying to figure out dentists and doctors when your insurance works in a totally different way. I mean this is a totally modern country so it’s not that difficult, it’s just more of a hassle than back home where I’m used to adulting. Though it’s very common to send money straight from your bank account to another so it’s really easy to pay bills or even pay friends for a restaurant meal or whatever, you just bank the money straight into their account. Of course that only comes second to not having my friends and family around, obviously that’s what I like least about being here. It’s tough not getting to see Harrison in person go from a tiny blob to a walking, talking little person.

Still the heat…but I have gotten kind of used to it. I still sweat, but not as much. And when I do sweat, it doesn’t really bother me anymore.

The driving to work everyday might be my least favorite part and it really isnt that bad anymore, just interesting. People like to completely disobey traffic laws and common sense when they are driving here. I get honked at when I am going to the correct way down the street, but cars want to go the wrong way to avoid traffic. They get mad at me for being in their way! Incredible.

5. Name something that reminds you of home.

Starbucks. Walking into Starbucks here still reminds me of home. Maybe because I’ve known so many people that have worked at Starbucks, maybe because coffee is comfort food, but Starbucks reminds me of home. You know what I just realized it is? Everything is exactly the same as US Starbucks. The signs, the decor, the uniforms, the upholstery, the tables, the wood shelves, the way they take your name for your drink. I mean some of the menu selections and food are different, but walking into a Starbucks here feels exactly the same as walking into a Starbucks back home. That’s not always true from other American places that are here. I guess going out to brunch on Sundays and doing the crossword does too. Oh, and there was this American guy who for a few weeks had a funnel cake stall at the weekly night market across the street, and that reminded me of home. Oh, and the salad bar place across from our grocery store.

I have only gotten homesick once here, and that was skyping with my family on Christmas day last year. Other than that, not much reminds me of home.

6. Share your favorite experience from this adventure so far.

I think I would have to say Bagan. It’s hard to say, the wedding in India was really, really special. It’s the kind of experience you don’t often get the opportunity to have. Also Thaipusam in Ipoh. So those three things were really special once in a lifetime kind of experiences, so it’s hard to say which was my favorite. Bagan is one that is rather accessible to anyone, I mean it I could go back there 100 times and not explore it all, and have an amazing experience each time. It’s the place I would most likely recommend to others to visit. The wedding and Thaipusam were incredible, but would be difficult to experience in the same way again.

Oh man…this is hard. Last time it was Thaipusam in Ipoh and that was still incredible. But since then I have been to India and got blessed by an elephant. I went to Myanmar and rode a motor bike around 1500 year old pagodas. There has been so much we have experienced here that as stand alone experiences, might be experiences of a life time. This is why, if left to my own devices, I might never come back to America. Living in Malaysia itself is fun but I am so close to so many different people and places that I would probably never be able to travel to and see if I lived in America.

But enough of that. If I had to pick, I think Thaipusam or Myanmar would be my pick. Thaipusam was still one of the most incredible things I have ever seen. India was amazing, but India has always been my travel dream so while I was excited to go there, it was always a possibility for me to make it there. Myanmar is a place I never even thought I would be able to visit in my lifetime for a variety of reasons. It was so different and terrible and beautiful and everything you want travel to be. Including a massive bout of food poisoning the last night we were there.

7. Is there anything you miss about America?

Of course! I miss all my friends and family like crazy. I miss having seasons, I keep forgetting that it’s actually summer now. I miss Richmond with its fun stuff to do and awesome craft breweries. I miss the comfort and security of a familiar country and infrastructure. I’ve been gone long enough now to forget all the crappy stuff and just think of the good stuff. Except when anything related to Donald Trump comes up on my facebook feed. Then I am instantly reminded of all the terribleness of back home too. I was oddly homesick recently for the very specific feels, sounds, and smells of walking out to my car to go to work in late May and early June. Right before it gets gross and humid all the time. That sweet spot when it’s still a bit crisp in the mornings, and the air smells fresh and dewy, and the birds are chirping, and you know it’s going to be a hot day so you’re glad you’ll be inside for most of it, but right now it’s just perfect and it makes for a great drive to work listening to NPR and knowing that testing and IEP meetings will be over soon, and it’s almost time to start packing up the room, and you’ve got a nice long break ahead of you.

Ha…..Sure my family and friends. But again, I have to say no. I love living abroad and while I do miss a good salad bar, vegan chicken nuggets, Sophie my dog, and a lot of other things, nothing has really stood out. I am here, they are all there, and that is just the way things are.

8. How excited are you to not be bombarded by all the political TV ads you would have seen living in a swing state?

I can’t even imagine. Ugh. It’s bad enough being over here and having to answer the million questions people have about how Trump is even possible. It’s a little embarrassing honestly.

Very excited still. I fear for my country and to a certain extent am glad that I live overseas just in case he-who-shall-not-be-named wins. Because if he wins, I really really really really really really do not want to live America again. To be fair, I really really really wouldn’t mind never living in America again anyway regardless of who wins.

9. What’s been your favorite food and/or favorite meal so far?

Impossible to answer. If there’s one thing Malaysian are beyond proud of, it’s their food. It’s true, the food here is really good. So it’s kind of awful to say that the biryani banana leaf meal I had at Sharon’s mom’s house might take the cake. It was really, really good. But then there was also the really great Nyona food I had in Melaka, especially the second time I went with Uncle Jim and Aunt Carol when I had this nut that I later found out that if it’s not prepared right it can totally kill you. Also the cendol in Melaka is number 1 awesome. Right now we are really enjoying the Ramadan cookies they sell in the store so I need to go on a diet right after Hari Raya for sure.

This feels like an unfair question to answer, as I sit here in my office surrounded by fasting Muslims during Ramadan. The food has become very…normal. We still eat a lot of good food, but it is just becoming a part of the fabric of our lives. So a great laksa has become just a Friday night meal. And that is wonderful, and did make me think the other day how weird it will be if we move back to America to completely change our diet again.
Right now I am big on the Ramadan Pasar Malam foods we have been enjoying during this holy month. Murtabak has been one of my favorite dishes for awhile and this month it is everywhere. Eating briyani rice in India was also a favorite of mine. I could go on and on, partly because I am hungry right now!
But if I had to pick a favorite food, Durian might still be near the top. The black rice cakes we had in Myanmar were pretty special too. Indian pastries might be my favorite though, especially Khoye Ka Peda. Before coming here I believed, as I think a lot of Americans do, that all “ethnic foods” have terrible desserts. This is not true at all, it’s just that in American we get un-authentic foods or are too afraid to seek out the real thing. There was an Indian dessert store in Richmond that I would always see but never try. Boy, I regret that now!

10. What’s what thing you’ve been surprised by here in KL?

After a year this one is a bit harder, maybe lack of good public transportation. I mean I know why they refuse to build good public transport to our neighborhood (it’s an upscale neighborhood so they don’t want easy access) but that is horrible and super annoying. It’s also annoying that the airport is so far away from the city. Sitting in traffic is awful, and I’m really, really lucky that we live so close to where I work. We went out this past weekend and just 20 minutes in traffic made me grumpy and anxious. I am still surprised by how prevalent English is here. I suppose I take it for granted now, but it is really surprising

I have been surprised by how cosmopolitan it is. Now Malaysians would say it is cosmopolitan because Malaysia itself is made up of three different groups, generally speaking: Indians, Chinese, and the Malays. But given the ethnic issues that are still prevalent in this country, this does not make the city cosmopolitan in my opinion. It is all the other groups here that really add a great layer of diversity to the city. It is very easy to get any kind of cuisine here in Malaysia. There is a large Arab population, which surprised me when we first came here and surprised me even more when I started working at a language school that caters almost exclusively to Arab students. But it makes sense: This is a Muslim country, and it is pretty cheap. The large number of Koreans, Japanese, Burmese, and all the others surprised me a lot.

 

That’s all for now!

 

Jumpa Lagi

 

Kevin and Iris


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