Today marks six months since we packed up our home and started a new life for ourselves overseas. I can hardly believe it. It seems like yesterday that I was drowning my tears in a leftover Whole Foods salad at the San Francisco airport, waiting to board a flight with the hubby that would take us away from my career, our friends and family, and our life in Washington.
The hubby waves from behind his H1N1 mask, en route to Hong Kong
And oh, what an incredible six months it’s been. I came here not knowing how I’d manage without a career to tend to, and what it meant for me to say that I am a lady of leisure and actually believe that I am. In terms of our relationship, the hubby and I have figured out each other’s strengths and weaknesses in ways we never anticipated. For example, I think both of us have agreed that we will never speak again of The 2009 Saturday Afternoon During Ramadan Incident at IKEA, when, after braving unprecedented crowds, we realized our dining options were severely limited and ended up sharing a single cold chicken curry puff in the checkout line. It was not a good moment for either of us. Also, the first few months, when we didn’t have many friends yet, reminded us that we really, really like hanging out with each other. I know that shouldn’t come as a surprise, but, in the absence of our usual after-work gatherings, Family Dinners and poker nights, it was comforting to know that, at the end of the day, I still had my best friend right beside me.
An everyday staple of Kuala Lumpur life, the motor scooter
On a more practical, day-to-day level, I’m happy to report that I’ve learned some new skills and am keeping busy. I am now an ambidextrous driver, and (according to our visitors from December), a better one here than I was in the U.S. After doggedly pursuing an international organization for months, I now have a volunteer job that allows me to use my legal training. I’m getting more involved with the American Association here. I learned how to take a decent photo and how to work my sewing machine (if you need me to make you a pillowcase, I’m your gal; otherwise, may I suggest a good tailor in the area?). The hubby and I have traveled, both separately and together. We’ve made some great friends who make us laugh. I’ve eaten my weight in Malaysian, Chinese and Indian food and learned to cook some of it. On good days, I can swim an entire length of our apartment complex’s pool and not get too winded. Without my kickboard, even.
Making murtabak at the Bangsar night market
There are quirky aspects about the culture here that I’ve come to love, too. Take, for instance, the official language, which is Bahasa Melayu. For some English words, there aren’t Bahasa equivalents, so the language simply uses the same English word but spells it completely phonetically. “Boutique” becomes butik. “Section” is seksyen. “Quality” — kualiti. The examples are endless, and every time I spot a new phonetic Malaysian spelling of an English word on a street sign or billboard, I giggle. It’s great. I also enjoy the people, even if I have seemingly nonsensical interactions with them from time to time:
“Are you serving lunch today?” I’ll ask.
“Yes, yes,” will be the response.
“Great. I’ll have the roti canai.”
“Cannot, lah. Finished.”
“Um, okay. How about the chicken curry?”
“Cannot, lah. Finished.”
“Okay…what about the fish curry?”
“Cannot, lah. Finished.”
“Well, what do you have?”
“All finished, lah.”
“But you’re serving lunch still?”
And on it goes. I’m sure there’s a perfectly logical explanation as to why the hawker is technically serving lunch with no food items available, but I have yet to figure it out. Maybe in another six months this will make sense to me. In the meantime, I’ll keep going to my favorite spice lady, who slips extra pandan leaves into my purchases, and my favorite pork butcher, who tells me every time he sees me that another one of my “friends” has come to visit him. I don’t have the heart to correct his mistaken belief that I am the sole person referring Americans to him, and therefore he continues to attribute every single one of them as “my friend”.
The Prosperity Fountain in front of Pavilion KL shopping complex; I snapped this photo during a night photography class
So, I guess what I’m saying is, our life here is shaping up to be a pretty good one, and we marvel at how fortunate we are to have this experience. We miss our friends and family every day still, but happily, this blog keeps us connected to everyone and even helps us make new connections, too. Plus, many of our friends and family have kept their word on visiting and will be dropping in starting this weekend through the summer. We’re eager to show them what our world here is like.
By the way, and I’m not sure I’ve mentioned this before, but I kind of, sort of, like the food here.