Tag Archives: Foreign Service

Flitting Around KL

Want a pedicure? Go to the mall.

Looking for a good restaurant? You’re mall-bound.

Excited to see the latest Hollywood blockbuster? Mall.

Need groceries? The mall is an option.

After nearly two months in Kuala Lumpur, it has become readily apparent that the mall is the central hub of all the hustle and bustle of this growing city. Granted, the fact that 75 degrees is considered cool and cover from an afternoon rainstorm is often required, is does make a bit of sense that the urban culture has grown into one that revolves around giant shopping complexes.

But, it takes a bit of getting used to.

Pre-Foreign Service life, when we were in Idaho, I think we would go to the mall maybe once or twice a year. We’d usually make a stop around the holidays, when it was overflowing and annoyingly crowded, stay for twenty minutes, decide there was nothing there I couldn’t buy online and quickly evacuate, leaving the mobs of Christmas shoppers behind.

Now, like it or not, I am at a mall at least once a week.

Trying to avoid that easy go-to weekend spot, we decided to visit the KL Butterfly Park for some outdoor fun. Covered in a huge net, the park is an array of winding trails though a tropical jungle, where the butterflies flitter about freely, perch on bushes or feast on the flowers and fruit provided by the sanctuary. The park isn’t a large one, so even after meandering slowly along the various paths, we had seen all of the areas in under an hour. Figuring we wanted to get our full 20 ringgit worth, we found a park bench above a koi pond and stopped to enjoy the views.

When we decided we’d felt enough sweat drip down our backs and as we saw the ominous gray clouds quickly encompassing the Petronas Towers, it was time to make a break for it. What we didn’t realize is after snaking our way through the park itself, there was a small museum attached along the exit path.

It was a museum of which I made quick work.

Rather than just an informational presentation about butterflies of Malaysia, Southeast Asia or the world, the curators thought it would be good idea to give all the visitors nightmare fodder on the way out. Not only were there pinned bugs of all varieties, many bigger than my splayed hand, but there was also a section of caged, live creepy crawly critters, many of them labeled as being indigenous to the peninsula.

Ummm thanks, but I did not need to know that those multi-legged, scarily antennae-d, jumping and flying insects were possibly taking up residence in the trees outside my house. (I’ve already had to fight a giant cockroach infestation, which luckily seems to now be under control. Only a dozen or so saw their untimely demises under the sole of Thad’s tennis shoe before they decided to clear out. Okay, a bit of well-placed poison may also have been deployed to encourage them to find a new residence.)

My favorite part of the museum though was the photo wall, which was just slightly less than scientific in its captioning. (For friends and family who visited the Chengdu Panda Reserve with us and we took you though the museum at the top of the hill, we’re talking a similar level of museum curation. While KL’s building has no giant vats of panda sperm or scarily taxidermied saber tooth tigers, it does have photos of lizards, labeled as creatures from outer space. 20 ringgit well-spent.)

Since the butterfly park isn’t going to be on the docket every weekend for the next two years, but restaurants and pedicures will be, a jaunty rendition of Robin Sparkle’s “Let’s Go to the Mall” is going to be a favorite tune around here for the foreseeable future. (If only I had some jelly bracelets and a cool graffiti coat…)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Filed under Random Musings

A Park that Fits the Bill

It was a dark and stormy night.

No, scratch that.

It was a chilly and overcast day in November of 1996.

I was a freshman at BYU, rooming with my best friend from high school and trying to navigate a world that relied on public transportation, hours of pouring over indecipherable math homework and long distance bills that would have made Bill Gates cringe. Cori, one of five other girls that I lived with in an on-campus apartment, but the only one I’d known for years and the one with whom I plotted dorm details, like how I would bring a computer for us to share (can you imagine roommates sharing a computer these days?!) and she would bring the stereo system, was an elementary education major. One of her first semester classes was biology-something-or-another, which required an outing to the Salt Lake City aviary to observe the birds who called the park home. Since the holidays were just around the corner, we decided to make a day of it, going into SLC to check off the boxes on her assignment and then hitting up the mall to do a bit of Christmas shopping with the measly amount of money we each had in our bank accounts.

Neither of us had taken a car to college freshman year, which meant we became pretty adept at the bus system in Provo/Orem, but moving outside of that bubble was a bit of a risk. We knew there was a commuter bus that went to downtown Salt Lake and we knew where we needed to be in the city, but how to match up those two points was a mystery. In the days before Google could answer any and all questions, we did what many folks did- just go for it and figure out the details along the way.

I honestly don’t remember where the first bus dropped us or how we got to the aviary (although I do have a slight recollection of having to schlep quite a distance, on foot), but I know we eventually made it to the park. I’m sure we spent a few hours wandering the park, Cori taking notes on the various hollow-boned critters and making a spreadsheet of information to write up into a report later that weekend, but my main memories include having a snow owl screech at me as if I were trying to kill her babies and thinking that the emus looked like something out of Jurassic Park. (Using the bathroom at the park, I distinctly recall imagining the possibility of those crazy birds surrounding the facilities and strategically attacking like the velociraptors do in the movie.)

And then the snow started. Just as we were getting ready to finish up at the aviary, snow started coming down like it was Christmas in a children’s book, quickly covering the ground and soaking our winter coats. The mall got cut from the day’s itinerary and I remember being miserably cold and wet on the bus ride back to Provo.

It’s funny how a single day, nearly twenty years ago (eeek! Is that even possible?) can color ones view decades later. I’m not sure I’ve been to a proper aviary since that bitterly cold day in 1996. Yes, I’ve been to zoos with bird zones and amusement parks with netted bird areas, but a full-on aviary has been absent from my life since the day the snow owl and emus tried to take me down (at least, in my overly active imagination.)

Last weekend, we remedied that unknown hole in my life, visiting the KL Bird Park, here in the center of Kuala Lumpur. And, I must say, it was a much more positive (and warmer!) experience than that one gray November day, freshman year.

The KL Bird Park is almost entirely covered in a net, meaning many of the critters roam freely, waddling across the pathway in front of visitors, flying overhead or perching in trees, awaiting another round of papaya deliveries from the staff. The best part of the day though, was the bird photo booth. For a mere ten ringgit, you get to choose two birds to sit with and get your photo taken. (I discovered afterwards for thirty-five ringgit, you can get all the birds! I will definitely be going that route next time we visit. All the birds!) I picked out the biggest birds they had- a Malaysian owl and a hornbill for my monumental photo op.

It was awesome!

But, to add to my teenage terror of the raptor-like emu attack, the KL aviary had a bird I had never seen before- a creature that looked like a prehistoric version of the emu. He was the same height and size as a regular emu, but with a head that looked like it belonged on a dinosaur- ancient and brightly colored. I don’t know where this thing has been my whole life, but it’s a good thing my 1996-self didn’t have an inkling of its existence.

Public transportation, bitterly cold November weather, soaking snow and attack birds


Self-driving, tropical afternoon atmosphere and holding friendly fowl

The winner is pretty clear- the KL Bird Park will definitely be on our attraction list for future visitors! All that is needed is a handful of ringgit and a camera. We’ll provide the transportation and tropical weather.

Say cheese!


This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Leave a comment

Filed under Random Musings

Purchasing a Piece of Peace

It’s amazing how quickly five weeks of home leave can fly by, between wanting to meet up with friends and family, getting through endless shopping lists and a variety of doctors’ appointments and trying to grab a few minutes here and there to just relax and enjoy the blue skies and warm days of June in Idaho. (Home leave is congressionally mandated time that all Foreign Service officers are required to take between overseas postings. Originally, it was meant to make sure officers came home, reacquainted themselves with the country they represent and give them a chance to catch up culturally, which can be hard after being immersed in a land so different from “home.” Some folks contend that the home leave requirements are outdated now that technology has created such a small world, but I think it is still a necessary- if costly- endeavor. Officers and their families need to physically reconnect with their friends and family and spend some time on the ground in the States, as in the end, their job is to represent that home government overseas and it’s hard to do that if your only links to it for years on end are through binge watching Netflix and a never-ending Facebook feed.)

As we worked our way through two years of shopping (Wunderlist is an amazing tool!), buying a new suit and laptop for Thad, new running shoes and some sundresses for me, we soon tired of Target (blasphemy, I know) and the mall. Luckily, one of our final purchases didn’t require searching for a parking spot in a sea of asphalt or weaving through crowds of young mothers chasing their toddlers. Rather, all that was needed was a sturdy pair of shoes and some four-wheel drive.

Last on our shopping list: a bit of mountainside property.

After selling our home while in Chengdu, we decided that we wanted to once again own a small slice of Idaho, but this time without renters or a management company or a tilting retaining wall. Instead, we wanted tamarack pines to attract woodpeckers, huckleberry bushes to attract bears and some wildflowers scattered throughout it all. It wasn’t a “normal” shopping list for a realtor, but we found someone great who showed us an assortment of lots that fit the bill, with one standing out above the rest.

A hilltop meadow overlooking three mountain peaks that segues into pine trees and berry bushes as it slopes down the mountainside was the clear winner of the search. (The fact that there were deer on it each time we went to see it was a bonus point as well.) It took a bit of back and forth with the banks, as we were not the only ones vying to buy the twelve acres of Idaho timberland, but we can now, once again, officially call Idaho home, as there’s a small piece of acreage with our names on it, ready and waiting each time we return to the Northwest.


This slideshow requires JavaScript.



Filed under Random Musings

Weekending with the Merlion

“Hey, do you want to go to Singapore tomorrow?” These are not words uttered by most of the US population, but when the tiny island known for its incredibly strict laws and spotless streets is just a few hour drive away, why not celebrate Hari Raya with a long weekend on the equator?

With our passports still with the local government, awaiting diplomatic visas, and my bum still smarting from my spill down the stairs, we planned a quiet weekend in the city, figuring this would be the perfect chance to get some driving practice in and learn the ins and outs of the road system, which seems to abhor straight lines more than anything else. But then, late last week, the same day our passports came back from the foreign affairs office, we got word that some great friends from Chengdu were going to be in Singapore for the weekend. Calendars clear (other than my planned outing to the butterfly farm and maybe catching a movie, both of which can happen any weekend of the year), we decided to book bus tickets, find a cheap hotel (okay, nothing is cheap in Singapore, but at least an affordable hotel) and head south to spend some time with fantastic Chengdu-ren.

Finding bus tickets wasn’t as easy as I had hoped because with the long weekend, all the well-known bus companies were totally booked. (This was Friday evening and we were looking for a first-thing-in-the-morning bus on Saturday.) Finally, I found one that seemed doable and bought tickets as Thad reserved the hotel. In the end, his find was better than mine. While mine got us across the border and back, it did make way too many stops, including one for repairs on the bus. (I’m not entirely sure what the deal was, but there were a lot of lug nuts being screwed and replaced and possibly a tire or two, although since I never left the confines of the air conditioned bus, I can’t verify the latter part of the statement.) On the other hand, Thad’s hotel find was top notch. Not only were we in the hotel right next door to our friends, but our place had a fantastic outdoor pool and restaurant area that made for a lovely evening of drinks and catching up on night.

As always seems to happen when we travel, we stumbled onto some great adventures. On Saturday, after getting in and taking quick showers to ease the smell of sticky travel, we headed down to the bay to see the famous merlion, one of my favorite things in Singapore. Standing on the pier, we could see across the water to a stadium filled with spectators and some kind of massive show taking place. Scanning further, we realized there was a dock floating in the harbor that looked primed for a serious fireworks display. Being early evening, only an hour or two before sunset, we decided to pull up a cement stair, do some people watching and wait to see what became of the celebration that was going on across the way. As we chatted, talking about friends and travels over the last few months, it didn’t take long to realize there was a serious party taking place. We’d seen some signs advertising Singapore’s 49th national celebration, so we figured we must have lucked out and come upon the official event. This belief was quickly backed up as we watched a trio of military helicopters flying overhead, carrying an absolutely gigantic national flag, followed by an air force jet flyover and the booming of cannons from watercraft across the bay. But, my favorite part of the festivities occurred just as the sun was going down. Suddenly, the roar of boat engines overwhelmed the crowd as we watch an armada of navy gun boats race past us, shooting and gunning down a drug smuggling watercraft trying to sneak its way across the bay. (The scenario was obviously just a show, but man-oh-man did it send a strong message about how Singapore feels when it comes to illegal drugs!) The evening ended with a beautiful fireworks display, heightened by their reflections in the enormous Sands hotel mirrored glass walls.

Getting in a cab to head back towards the hotel and in search of some decently priced food (no, I do not want to pay $26 for a hamburger!), Thad asked the cab driver about the celebration. Quickly, the cabbie explained that the national day wasn’t until the first week of August, but what we had seen was a full-scale run through to make sure everything went according to plan.

Are you kidding me?

The “dress rehearsal” was an entire show in and of itself. From across the bay, it looked like the stadium was holding Olympic-level opening ceremonies, there were helicopters and jets and navy gunners, not to mention a full fireworks display.

Singapore, I am impressed with your dedication!

We rounded out the weekend with free entry to the Asian Museum (another lucky stumble) and a day of wandering on Sentosa Island, including a visit to the aquarium where I was reminded just how tiny the personal space bubbles of mainland Chinese are. (One old woman- it is always the old ladies) stood so close to me that we were actually touching from shoulder (hers, since it was a good eight inches shorter than my own) to hip to calves. This would be understandable in a smooshed and crammed subway car, but harder to abide by when we are standing in a massive viewing room where there is enough room for everyone to do jumping jacks without touching their neighbor.

Last minute it may have been, but the chance to catch up with good friends was a wonderful surprise and well worth the long waits at the border crossings. (I was surprised that it was the Singaporean border that was the unorganized and painful crossing, as they seem to be so on top of everything else!) And, now that we have our passports back, we are looking forward to many more long weekends of travel over the next two years.


This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Filed under Random Musings

A Broken Butt Won’t Keep Me Down!

I’m not sporty. My loyal blog readers (all 8 of you!) are aware that my athletic history includes such highlights as logging a few innings in the right field of a junior high softball team, fully coordinated between my socks, outfit and hair scrunchie and getting punched in the face by a participant while coaching Special Olympics. But, as the years continue to roll on by and my love of sprinkle doughnuts doesn’t diminish, going to the gym has become a necessary evil in my life. I’ve always wanted to be a runner- someone who looks forward to pounding out a few miles after a long day or work or who feels energized by an hour on the treadmill. Try, try and try again. It just isn’t happening for me. But I put in my time so that my pants still fit.

Still unemployed (I got my official rejection letter for one embassy position yesterday morning), I’ve got a bit of time on my hands. With no excuse to not put in a couple of extra hours a week, I decided that mornings would be the best bet. I could drive Thad to work, hit the gym (which at an embassy short on space, is actually a workout hallway- the cardio machines lined up one behind another down the edge of a long corridor, meaning when a few people are running, it looks like a strange treadmill chase is taking place, with lots of sweat but no actual forward progress) and then head home to shower and get ready for a day of doing whatever it is I am going to do to kill my free hours at this point. I did this several times early last week and it was a great way to get my day up and moving, rather than lounging in my pink owl-patterned pajamas until 11 each day.

Friday morning, I rolled out of bed, had a bowl of corn flakes and threw on my running shorts and tank top with a few minutes to spare. Hair in a high and tight ponytail (best to keep it from sticking to my neck in the gazillion percent humidity of KL), I headed downstairs, shoes in hand, to wait for Thad to finish suiting up. From there, I’m not exactly sure what happened. I wasn’t in any hurry, so there was no skittering or rushing, but somehow, on the last set of steps (our house is five levels!) my socked foot slipped on the marble flooring and from there I stood no chance of righting myself. Down I went! I clearly remember thinking “Don’t hit your head!” as I knew that marble flooring would not gently pillow my noggin, but in my efforts to not crack my skull, I bounced straight on my bum. Three times. I came to a rest in an oozing pile at the bottom of the stairs, huddled on my side, holding aching butt.

Needless to say, one cannot take that spill and walk away with impunity. A bruised forearm, scraped elbow, and oh yes, a fractured tailbone were my housewarming gifts in KL.

But, I’m not going to let a cracked bum keep me from going out and about. Earlier this week, a handful of ladies in the embassy community took me to Chinatown where there is an amazing store called Peter Hoe’s. It’s the kind of place that Penny from The Big Bang Theory would shop to decorate her apartment- lots of bright colors and fun patterns. Luckily, the day I went there, I didn’t have much money on me, so I only came home with one big basket, rather than the pile of goodies I would have liked to have made my own.

Nothing tops the evening out, in terms of uniqueness, that we had last night though- happy hour at a bar set up on a helipad in downtown KL. The owners haul a bunch of outdoor furniture on to this helicopter landing site on the 25th floor of an office building, selling food and drinks to anyone willing to brave the locale. No nets. No fences. Just a thick yellow “do not cross” line and a few bouncers who enforce the rule of the line. (See more photos at fellow FS/KL bloggers site: http://worldwideavailability.wordpress.com/2014/07/24/helipad/)

It’s going to be a few weeks before sitting doesn’t send zinging pain into my rear, but I’m not going to let that stop my wanderings in this new city. Two years are going to fly by and, in the wise words of Aerosmith, I don’t want to miss a thing!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Filed under Random Musings

Chateau Ross, Open for Bookings

Getting to KL was a challenge; there is no doubt about that. From delayed flights to crazy cross-town cab rides to unexpected overnights along the way, a “short” thirty-hour travel day turned into over forty hours. But, since arriving, we’ve been slowly working on getting settled in at our new home and Thad’s been plugging away with the check-in process at the embassy. While we don’t yet have internet (although, by the time this gets posted, we will, but as for now, we’re web-less and I am just stacking up posts for when I am reconnected to the blogosphere) and I don’t have a phone set-up, I’m finding ways to compensate and juggle learning a new place while staying connected with the old ones. (That feels awfully Girl Scouts-esque/sing-along-y…something about gold and silver and old and new friends. Having only survived a single year of Brownies before deciding that brown was not my color and I’d rather not wear those dorky knee-high socks with tassels, I have merely a rudimentary knowledge of Girl Scout workings. I do love a Thin Mint right out of the fridge though!)

Six months ago, I would never have thought I would be homesick for Chengdu, but there are definite twinges of that now that we are on the ground at post #2. In Chengdu, I had a full-time, wonderful job with great colleagues and fantastic bosses. In Chengdu, I had a tight group of friends who were always up for some freshly pulled noodles at the Muslim restaurant, a Wednesday evening of horribly un-athletic Zumba or Sunday morning brunch at the Lazy Pug. It’s only been three days in KL, but I already miss those existing relationships. I know in time I will find the same here, but I dread the awkward first introductions, get-to-know-you lunches and initial happy hours. Now, I have to start at square one with explaining my 5-year-old-like eating habits and why melons just taste too melon-y and there is no need for sauce on 98% of dishes.

But, this is what we’ve signed up for and I’m on board, but that doesn’t make the transition stress-free.

We are thrilled with our new home. Already, many people at post have commented on how lucky we are with our housing assignment and how they wish they had our place. The best description of it is a very tall split-level. There is a garage on the bottom (which I’ve taken to calling the basement, even though it is ground level), then up half a flight of stairs is the living room and a splendid screened-in patio that looks out towards the pool. (Screens= less chance of dengue, although I hear two community members currently have this lovely “bone breaking” curse, so it’s always good to be vigilant.) Continuing up another half flight of stairs is the kitchen/dining room, from which you can see the Petronas Towers, a stunning sight when they are lit up at night. Up again and you reach the master bedroom/bath, with vaulted ceilings and what is possibly the worst blanket known to man. (The welcome kit is a “disposable” one, although I’m not sure it ever gets disposed of. When our HHE arrives, we have to pack up the kit and keep it in the basement to use again in two years when our stuff heads on to unknown post #3. I’m definitely a pretty low-maintenance person, but this welcome kit leaves a whole lot to be desired. The kitchenware is super flimsy and the bath towels are sized for homunculi, but they are great for exfoliating! I figure the welcome kit is meant to be crappy so that you are just that much more appreciative and happy when your own blankets/towels/linens arrive.) And finally we reach the top floor, which I am dubbing the “guest floor” as it has two spare bedrooms and a full bathroom. (This should encourage all of you who are contemplating coming to Malaysia for a visit in the next two years. We’ve got an entire floor for you!) We’ve also got a pool just a few feet from our backdoor, but we have yet to try it out, due to a lack of usable towels! (The teensy ones in the welcome kit aren’t really pool-appropriate. But soon…I’m pondering an IKEA run this weekend.)

Compared to Chengdu, we have a massive amount of storage space and are excited to get our personal belongings here to really make our new place “home.” Once I’ve got pictures and wall hangings up, my massive bean bag chair ensconced in the living room and my treadmill put back together, we’ll be set for the next couple of years. Home sweet home. (I initially typed “sweat,” which is nearly as appropriate with the gazillion percent humidity outside each day.)

Guests, start planning your travel now. Two years in KL is going to fly-by and you don’t want to miss out on an entire floor to yourself!

Leave a comment

Filed under Random Musings

Top Ten After Ten

With a full ten days under my belt in the sweltering city of Kuala Lumpur, I can’t help but continually marvel at how different it is from Chengdu. Yes, there are some similarities, but with the large Chinese population in Malaysia, I really expected to see a lot more Mainland mannerisms than I do here. So, after just under a fortnight in our new home, here are my top ten KL observations:

  • Daily life takes less energy. The other day, I went to the 7-11 to top up my phone. As I slowly ambled towards the store (I made the poor choice of going at 2PM, at which point in the day anything more than an amble is not likely to happen), in my head I was making a plan of what exactly I needed to ask for and figuring out how to make sure I got my point across. With the chill of high power AC hitting my damp skin, I was greeted with, “Hello ma’am!” and realized that I no longer needed to think through my requests. English was the go-to language in most stores throughout the city, so there was no need to think through vocabulary or rehearse grammatical structures in preparation for a small purchase. (Although, I have found that utilizing the correct local phrase is key. It is vital that I ask for my phone to be “topped up” rather than just ask to have money put on it. The latter request just got me a quizzical look, eyebrows raised and head cocked to the left. Topped up, on the other hand, immediately registered and my phone was once again in working order.)
  • Right-hand driving is odd, but learnable. Upon my first foray into the wild, wild world of wrong side of the road driving, I was sweating bullets (with the AC on high) and nervous at every turn. I actually missed the roundabout I needed to go around because I was freaked out by entering it on the left. I ended up having to go all the way around the block and come at it a second time, which was still disconcerting, but I made it into the flow of traffic and back out again, all with no scrapes or scratches on the new car. I’ve yet to make an entire trip anywhere without accidentally turning on the windshield wipers instead of the blinker, but I’m assuming eventually that too will become second nature. But, the X-Trail and I have been out on a variety of solo trips (all rather short) and one longer trek to the IKEA with the GPS/Thad as my navigator. (Again, we may have missed a few turns, mostly because there are a ridiculous number of flyovers here, which don’t register on the GPS as different from the main road, so it isn’t until long past the point of no return that the GPS either gives me the quiet thumbs up or loudly recalculates as I try to keep my panic to a minimum, reminding myself that we are on no timeline and that the IKEA towels will await my arrival.)
  • Life is all about the malls here. They are large. They are air conditioned. And they are full of high-end stores that I choose not to afford. But, if I am ever in need of a Prada handbag, a Rolex watch or some Versace heels, I have a bead on where to burn my ringgits.
  • Not all grocery stores are equal. In Chengdu, we were all thrilled when a new imported item showed up in the Treat or at Metro and I scheduled by trips to the Trust-Mart to all take place before noon, as it was early afternoon when the hanging chunks of chicken and bins of meat started to really take on a funk. In KL, there are three supermarkets within a mile of our place, all of which are chalked full of foods I recognize and not a single piece of raw meat is seen outside of a cooled display case.
  • Speaking of food: halal and non-halal. Learn it and don’t mix it. I learned this lesson the slightly awkward way. (I wouldn’t say hard way, as I was corrected before I could make too large of a blunder, but it still brought a blush to my cheeks.) Last week, upon my first solo outing in the X-Trail, I went to the Cold Storage grocery store to get the basics to fill our fridge and cupboards. Thad had very few requests, but one in particular was for some lunch meat. We had seen it in the grocery store earlier in the week and it was something that was pretty hard to come by in western China, so it was on the top of my shopping list. I grabbed a package of chicken from the refrigerated section of the store, continued my shopping through the spices and condiments, cookies and crackers and eventually found myself in the far back corner of the store, prominently labeled “non-halal.” There, amongst the bacon and sausage, I saw some packages of deli ham and thought it would be a good addition to the chicken. Picking up two packages, I placed them in my cart and turned to check out the cereal and snack section of the store, but was quickly stopped by a clerk. Gently and without any obvious horror on her face, she told me that all non-halal items had to be purchased within the non-halal section of the store and placed in a separate bag from the rest of the available items. Thank goodness that woman was there! I can’t imagine the embarrassment if I had made it up to the regular registers with my pork products, effectively offending two-thirds of the shopping population that morning. Lesson learned. Make all non-halal purchases separately and bag them individually.
  • Purse paranoia has me in its clutches. Purse snatching is a huge problem here, with everyone I’ve met at the embassy either having had it happen to them or to someone they know well. Men on motorbikes ride by and grab purses off of women walking along the sidewalks on a fairly regular basis. Enough that everyone talks about it, all of the time. In Chengdu, I walked a lot of places, with nary a thought to the safety of it. I’d plug in my headphones and enjoy lovely combination of Bon Jovi, Britney and Backstreet Boys as I went on my merry way. No such thing will happen here. Instead, when walking here, it’s important to be constantly aware of the surroundings, watching the motorbikes (especially those with double riders) and keeping an eye on which side of the road to walk on and handbag placement (always on the shoulder away from the road). It’s been on to feel such a slight paranoia on a regular basis. The longer we are here, the more obvious it is to me why everyone has a car and drives here. It isn’t just because of the heat.
  • Starbucks is my friend. Chengdu was the first time I ever spent money in a Starbucks and there I became a semi-regular, going for an oversized chocolate muffing for a Friday morning snack or frequenting the peppermint hot chocolate counter from November through January (seriously, it was like Christmas in my mouth.) Now though, I am no longer looking for a mid-morning work break (no job makes that easier to avoid) or a steaming cup of anything (more ice!), but I am in real need of their Wi-Fi connection. Our home internet has yet to be hooked up, so currently, my only connection to the world of newsfeeds, blogs and online shopping is through a cup of iced passion fruit tea and a maximum of two hours from the free passcode. (Due to the lack of internet, but the time this post actually makes it onto In Search of the End of the Sidewalk we will be well passed the ten day mark, but I’m trying…trying…trying to be patient.)
  • Not working is weird. I know I did it for a year when we were in DC for training, but I think over time I forgot what it was like to not have that daily schedule. On the outside it sounds like a great deal- not having a job to check in at each day, but I know myself well enough to know that I don’t stay home well. After two years of CLO-ing, I thought it would be great to have a bit of time off between jobs, but apparently two months is more than enough for me. I am ready to go back to work, to have my days full of assignments and emails and colleagues. (Right now, the household lizards, all of whom I have dubbed “Lenny” are my only colleagues. I haven’t yet started to talk to them, so that’s good, but it is just a matter of time.) I’ve applied to several positions at the embassy, so now it is just a matter of waiting. Waiting. Waiting.
  • Lizards are to be loved, mosquitoes are to be avoided. With a 280% increase in dengue fever over this time last year, the bug-eating reptiles are man’s new best friend. Knowing that these four-legged, squirmy creatures are actually a health-benefit, I try not to squeal too loudly when I open the cupboard below the sink and see one scurry under the pipes or squawk too loudly when one dashes over the top of the clothes dryer when I wander in to the laundry room first thing in the morning or even screech when a Lenny scampers over my foot on his way to the wall when I get up for a glass of water in the middle of the night. New house rule: No wimpy-girly noises that potentially scare off the critters that do nothing more than nosh on blood sucking, disease-carrying insects.
  • Although they share a continent and a time zone, on the surface, Kuala Lumpur and Chengdu share very little else. To have a great tour here, I need to put the comparing aside and love Kuala Lumpur for what it is- a great city with a few bumps and bruises, making it not that different from Chengdu, after all.

1 Comment

Filed under Random Musings