Okay so I have no clue how to write above this blue box so I will just write here. It’s that time of year again! Well actually it was that time of year a few months ago but the month of July was crazy as we got ready for Iris to spend the month of August in The States and then obviously she was in The States for a whole month. September…I don’t really have an excuse for September but whatever, here we are. Maybe this is something we do more for ourselves, to help us reflect and remember our time here but I hope some of you out there enjoy reading it.
1. What has been your favorite part about living in Malaysia?
Iris: I think the easy answer here is cheap travel which is true,it’s awesome, but I’d have to say that my favorite parts these days are the things that impact my day to day life. That would be my job and our standard of living. I have a great job where I work with great people, great kids, and great family where I don’t have to deal with the bureaucracy of public schools in the US. I think, even though our currency has really taken a hit and inflation is definitely noticeable these days, the standard of living is pretty high. I like being able to walk to tons of great restaurants and sit on the balcony at sunset and see the skyline of Mont Kiara light up.
Kevin: I love that every day is different and yet kind of the same, as if I was living in America. I also love living in a country not run by Trump but that is another story for a different day. I love that when I go running I can run by a giant mosque, or a giant mall, and for sure I will go by several smaller Chinese worship sites. (Not temples, but these red boxes that you see all around town) I love that I can walk by rotting plates of food on the sidewalk and not think “Ewww” but rather “Oh yeah, it’s the Hungry Ghost Holiday, that means it’s almost time for mooncakes!”
2. What has been your least favorite part about living in Malaysia?
Iris: Again the obvious answer here is missing all my friends and family, which is unquestionably true, but I would say in my day to day life I would relate it to my answer to the previous question; although my job is awesome, I dislike that I’m not earning more years into the VRS right now (the Virginia Retirement System) and the traffic here is so awful. I mean I don’t even drive, and I always whine when we drive anywhere cause the traffic is the worst…
Kevin: Sometimes the air quality kind of sucks. That has bothered me. I don’t get homesick too often so that doesn’t really bother me. The expensive beer is a downer sometimes. Also, the weather is pretty much the same everyday. So you get what happened to me yesterday, which was me not realizing that it is almost October. I had no idea, because the weather feels like the peak of summer year round. That is kind of annoying. Oh, and the driving. I don’t mind driving to work but generally speaking the roads here make little to no sense, and it is really annoying. Also around holidays all the companies make these really good but sad pull on your heartstrings ads. It’s freaking depressing.
3. Name something that reminds you of home.
Iris: Hmmm, peanut butter desserts, good beer, and drip coffee? I mean I think those are the things I was most looking forward to on my recent visit (besides of course friends and family). You know what else? Nice weather nights on the balcony remind me of those great spring and fall evenings back home where you can sit out and enjoy the sunset in the gorgeous weather…when we have those nice breezy evenings here it reminds me of home in a nice way, like a shared experience.
Kevin: Other than family and friends and skyping with my parents every week, not much. KL is my home for now, so I tend not to be reminded of another experience. I know that sounds terrible, but I feel like I have lived a lot of my life no in the moment so to at least at the time of writing this be in the moment is a nice change of pace.
4. Share your favorite experience from this adventure so far.
Iris: There are too many to pick a favorite. Every single trip we’ve been on has been a great experience. How about in the last six months…or at least since our last survey? For that I would say hiking in the blue mountains outside Sydney as that was way cooler than I expected…shopping in Bangkok…oh riding the public bus out to the Chu Chi tunnels with two college students and three good friends, that was a pretty great experience for sure! That was a great experience, especially crawling along in the tunnels and eating that weird rice paper jerky!
Kevin: This is always such a good question. I still think that our Thaipusam adventure in Ipoh was one of the most unique things we have done. So far Iris and I have traveled all around Southeast Asia , seen and done some amazing things, and there is still more to come. Lately I have been referencing our Bagan trip a lot, so that might take the title here. Of course, that could be because Myanmar is in the news for doing some really bad things, or because we are planning a trip to Angkor Wat in October so of course I have been thinking about the last time we visited an ancient city made up of lots of cool temples.
5. Is there anything you miss about America?
Iris: Since I was just back there, it’s easy to answer this one. My friends and family for sure. But besides that I would easily say cooking out and eating dinner in the back yard with good friends, good food, good beer, and cheap wine. Salads and garden veggies. And of course, delicious drip coffee. You know I had actually gotten used to the coffee here, and my trip home ruined that.
Kevin: Cheap and widely available Mexican food and craft beer. Seriously, those are the two big ones I miss the most. Yes yes yes obviously I miss my family too and seeing our two nephews get bigger but on a smaller more local scale, beer and mexican food.
6. What’s been you favorite food and/or favorite meal so far?
Iris: Again, too hard…so I’m going to do the last six months…or since the last survey, which was…January? So let’s see…let’s go with dishes…crispy pork in Bangkok, this really good beef with seasoned dipping salt at the restaurant in Ho Chi Minh city…let’s see this Ramadan we had some good food…I really love the like pandan coconut pudding here, and the poising goreng (fried bananas). I know that’s a lot more than one, but the food here and when we travel is all too good to just name one.
Kevin: Oh such a good question, that must be why we ask it every time. If you read this blog you know we have tried a lot of great food. That meal whose name I can’t remember, the one we got over charged for in Hanoi, still sits near the top of the list for this question. The first time trying durian was pretty mind blowing/life changing. We ate pork rice at a Michelin Starred place in Hong Kong that was kind of amazing. I ate ants in Cambodia…that was just fun. The taste was just okay or at the least, not affected by the ants.But I think the number one has to be steamed soup dumplings in Taiwan. We have since had them here in KL and they were really really good, but the ones in Taiwan were better!
7. How has Malaysia changed you?
Iris: Hmmm, good question. I think I have a much wider world view of things, which gives me more perspective. It’s easier to see the impact of America from outside America, both for the good and the bad. You place a different level of importance on what type of peanut butter you buy when you can’t go outside because of the air quality because of the fires that are burning to plant the palm oil for your peanut butter. You really think about how lucky you are that English is your first language, and how that means you can go so so many places and not have to worry too much about figuring your way around, and how its a shame more Americans don’t take advantage of that. I know a lot more about Islam now. And so many more things…Oh and I am much more used to the heat now. It wasn’t that I didn’t feel hot outside when I was back home, it’s that I couldn’t believe how FREEZING COLD everyone seemed to like their houses inside! SO COLD!
Kevin: Well my blood has thinned and I have become a bit more used to the heat for sure. Because I have been teaching English, I have learned a lot about why English is a great and stupid language. But I have gained the valuable experience of living overseas, teaching mostly Arabic students, while living in a tropical Muslim Country. That is something that is very unique and most people will never experience. (See also my answer about advice for people living overseas)
8. What’s one thing you’re looking forward to in the next six months?
Iris: Really excited about Siem Reap and visiting Angkor!!! I will then have been to the two largest hindu temples in the world! And, after never having stepped foot in a casino before July 2017, I will have been to both Las Vegas and Macau (two biggest gambling centers in the world) by the end of this year!!! Whoo hoo!
Kevin: Ah so much! Angkor Wat, Macau, and then planning/going on our next great adventure in April to….who knows!
9. What’s one piece of advice you would give to someone moving abroad?
Iris: Be sure to take advantage of the unique opportunities of the area where you are moving. Everyday I try to enjoy the cheap tropical fruit here, because I know that when we move back, it won’t be so fresh and easy to get. (AKA eat all the durian!!!) Sure grapes are like 10 bucks a pound, but who cares when pineapples and passion fruit are so cheap? And don’t worry too much about going back…things back home will change of course, but they’ll still mostly stay the same.
Kevin: Easy: do it. Live abroad. Go someplace you are not familiar with, where you know no one and you can’t speak the language. Take the risk. The experience of living overseas/traveling is invaluable. I have no doubt that it will shade every aspect of me for the rest of my life. At the very least, I can now speak enough Bahasa to talk about people without them knowing. For example” Ibu saya gila, sangat sangat sangat gila. Cantik, tapi gila! Seeing your country for the other side of the world changes how you think about that country, especially as you watch it slowly descend into stupidity and despair and maybe even destruction. (I really don’t like my President if you couldn’t tell) Being a part of the global community teaches you more about what that phrase actually means. The world is a tiny small place filled with people who all just want to be happy. To get to hear some of their stories and learn about them is something you can not explain to someone who has never done it.
10.What’s one piece of advice you’d give to someone visiting KL?
Iris: Ummm, see above…EAT ALL THE DURIAN! But also, let’s see…get to a good night market, eat all the food, sit down at a mamak some morning or evening outside of the city center (try Ravi’s in Solaris) or somewhere in PJ or Cheras, and if you can, strike up a conversation with the person next to you. Malaysians are pretty great to talk to. Oh, and get a local SIM card and use grab to get around if you’re not taking public transportation. It’s like Uber but it also has an option to get a taxi. Either way you won’t get ripped off. And if you’re looking for good American style breakfast, The Blue Cow in Plaza Damas is about as close as you’ll come. Oh and don’t try to do too much, relax and take your time, it’s hot lah!
It’s a durian seat you want to eat!
Kevin: Bring extra clothes. You will sweat through all of them! Be open and ready to try new things but be comfortable in knowing that there is something familiar right around the corner should you stray too far from your comfort zone
11.What’s the weirdest thing you’ve experienced?
Kevin: I know I said I was used to it, but the rotting food offerings on the sidewalk is kind of weird. Plus I know what Iris is going to write here, and I can’t compete with her answer so I am not going to try!
The people who drive down the wrong side of the road and get mad at me for “being in their way” might still be the weirdest thing I have experienced
EDITOR’S NOTE: I changed the order because I can’t compete with Iris’s answer or her enthusiasm for believing her thing is super super weird.
Iris: Okay, my weird thing might not be that big of a deal to everyone else but I’m still obsessed…it’s the Mont Kiara chicken! Kevin thinks I’m weird that I don’t think it’s weird to see monkeys on my walk home but I do find it weird to see a chicken. But I’m telling you it’s sooooo weird!!!! Okay I have to tell this story with some context. The area where we live is all condos. It’s super built up, and it’s a nice area. So think like Arlington in northern Virginia. Very much in the city, all paved, all built up. Now there are monkeys around from time to time because there are a lot of trees, and there’s some forest no too too far away so it’s easy for them to swing around and pick up some food in this garbage wasteland of condo dumpsters. However, where does a chicken come from? There are no yards for people to keep chickens…it’s all condos or super fancy houses where I guarantee you no one is keeping a chicken. So one day, I’m walking home from school by this condo complex, and out of the corner of my eye I see a rat, ick!, wait no it’s just a bird, wait, it’s a chicken! What the hell? The best I can figure I guess it must have walked up from the kampung, but that’s like a mile walk! And not just a mile walk, but it’s a mile on only sidewalks and streets, I don’t know how it didn’t get run over by a car or a motorcycle?! It was so weird…but that’s not the weirdest part. The next day on my ride to school I was telling my friends I was riding with about the chicken and I saw it again in the bushes along the sign for one of the condo complexes…I mean this is like if you just kept seeing a chicken milling about along the dorms at VCU…it was weird. But then I didn’t see it anymore, so I figured it finally got hit by a car or somehow managed to find its way back to the kampung, or got caught by someone and ended up in the dinner pot. Until like a week later I saw it again in Mont Kiara again! Like what?! The Mont Kiara chicken…I don’t think anyone loves it as much as me…but all my coworkers also said it was super weird.