Friday, August 31, 2007

The Beginning

July 2007

Here are some pics of our preparations and first few weeks in Malaysia. I chose this picture as the album cover to announce (for those that don't know) that Michael & I are expecting another bundle of joy! (Or, if they came out John's age, a bundle of screaming temper tantrums.) We found this out AFTER we decided to come to Malaysia, and Michael thought I would change my mind about coming, but obviously he had forgotten who he married. Having a baby in Malaysia will only add to the adventure!

I also had to paste this picture here because it deserved further explanation. Thankfully we met a nice couple at a wedding in Utah that had traveled in Asia and warned us about these toilets. Most public places have a combination of western toilets with maybe 2 or 3 stalls with the "squatters" as well. So most of the time, there's no problem (although sometimes you have to watch because the toilet paper will be in a big dispenser in the front of the bathroom instead of the individual stalls, so you have to take it in with you, otherwise you're kind of stuck.) However on our first visit to Carrefour (the grocery store closest to our apartment) I was stuck using a squatter. Normally I carry a little travel roll of TP with me, but of course I found myself without it on this occasion. The interesting thing about the squatters in Islamic countries is that they use a hose to clean themselves off after doing their business, instead of paper. Needless to say it ended up being an uncomfortable, wet, and really hilarious experience. I'm kind of proud of myself that I managed to pull it off, but have thankfully only had to do that again one other time. I'm not sure how well it will work in a few months when my belly gets big... (BTW, click on the "mom-to-be" picture at the top to take you to our google web album.)

Map Me.

I found this photo on and thought it was sort of cool because it shows where we live. Well, sort of-- if we lived in a big dirt pit. Obviously it is an old image because everything is still under construction, but our building should basically be where the "C" marker is on the map. (I couldn't get the map to save how I wanted it, so you have to click on "View Larger Map" and zoom in right over where the blue markers sit.) The main street on the right of the image is Jalan Jalatek (jalan means "street") and the tracks right next to it lead to the Setiawangso LRT station, which is the train line we take into the city.

View Larger Map

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Welcome to Malaysia!

We have finally made it! Michael, John & I lived in hotels (3 different ones) for a month looking for an apartment that we could afford and that was close to public transport and that didn't give us the heebie-jeebies. Well, we have definitely found one and have now been here for a week, thoroughly enjoying the freedom of apartment living (as opposed to a hotel) most noticeably because now John has his own bedroom and lots of other rooms to run around in. We also purchased the best investment we've ever made and bought him a $10 tent at Ikea. He sits in there and talks to himself and reads his books... just like mom. :)

Anyway, so I thought I'd share some thoughts with you on life in Kuala Lumpur, for those of you interesting in a glimpse of Southeast Asia. Unfortunately, we only have this tiny snapshot of Kuala Lumpur (KL, for the locals) and I know that the range of climates, cultures, even economies, varies greatly outside of this area. Malaysia is divided into 2 main islands-- the East island and the mainland. KL is on the mainland, and the surrounding areas (including Cyberjaya) are strong corporation bases, thus creating far a more affluent society than on the East island, which is where the farming is done. Those rural areas still contain dangers of tropical diseases because of the poor conditions-- no running water in some places, no proper waste removal, no sanitation education, etc. Quite a different picture than here in KL where the downtown shopping malls have stores like Coach, Mont Blanc, Gucci, Chanel... Of course, even here in this thriving metropolis there live the extremes of society. For example, we live in a security guarded apartment, there are 2 swimming pools (one of which is exclusively for our building), playgrounds for children, air conditioning units and fans in every room. Right outside our windows, if you look out from our balcony, there is a construction crew building 3 or 4 new units. However, if you look down, at the base of these construction sites, you will almost without fail find a series of what look like huts (and that is, in fact, exactly what they are) made of cardboard, corrugated metal siding, any sort of discarded material you might find that will provide shelter, and that is where these construction crews live. They are poor foreigners, mostly from Indonesia, who come here with nothing, find a job doing construction, and live right at their work site. We'll see them out in their skivies in front of large basins of water that they've constructed, taking their bath in the evening. You can see the same sight out on the main roads where they're expanding the highway, or any other sort of building going on. So we have definitely seen both ends of the stick here and are learning more and more how grateful we are for what we have.

That leads me to my next point (although it seems slightly incongruous with what I was just talking about) but this is a segment I like to call "Things I Always Took For Granted" and it basically lists things that we had in the States that we don't have here. That doesn't necessarily mean that other people don't have them here... just that WE don't have them. It might make you stop and think how grateful you are for things that you never thought about. For example, I bet you think hot water is a pretty natural thing. Well, apparently not because we only have it in one room in our apartment (for our shower, thankfully) and that is only because someone drilled into the wall, connected the wires to a heating unit so that water flows through it and is heated before it makes it out the shower head. And for that I am eternally grateful, but I never realized how obnoxious it would be to wash dishes with cold water. Point number 2 of things I took for granted is an oven. This place came complete with a refrigerator and a propane stovetop with 2 burners in the kitchen. Thankfully we were able to find a microwave/convection oven/grill at our local Carrefour (we've decided it's like the Food4Less of KL) for about $300. Which means I have about 1 square foot of space in which to heat, toast, grill, or bake food. Be thankful for your modern kitchen appliances! Luckily I only have to cook for 2 people (and one little person) otherwise I don't think we could manage it. Point number 3 is a drier. I'm sure many of you have done without one at some point or another, but in a humid climate it is extremely difficult to get things to dry on a hanging rack in less than 4 or 5 hours, which is all the time I have if I'm washing John's bedding and need to get it back in his crib before he needs to sleep. I could certainly provide more on this list, but maybe I'll make it a regular installment... just so you can be reminded of how many things you really have to be thankful for.

Next entry I'll try to write more about what life is like for us here, and maybe include a fun story about trying to get John, a diaper bag, and all my shopping bags into a taxi by myself (because I have to take a taxi to the supermarket) and how I swear each time that I'm not going to do it again. I'll also try to keep lists of the food we're discovering. I will tell you one thing a friend at church showed me that has been wonderful-- they have cans of tuna with various flavorings and sauces in them, one of which is Kari Tuna (curry tuna-- see my language skills are improving as well... by the way, they call the local Malaysian language Bahasa, which literally means "language"-- I think that's funny)... anyway, we use the curry tuna on sandwiches, over rice, really with anything we can think of, and it is delicious. We're still trying to attune John's tastebuds to the spiciness of foods over here and so far he is having none of it. If he gets even a hint of curry (which is usually filled with chilies) he'll spit out whatever is in his mouth and start scraping his tongue with his fingers, looking up at us like "What is the matter with you? Get me some water right now." Sigh... so right now I'm thankful that I can buy peanut butter to make him sandwiches.

I know it's time to quit and go to bed because I can hear the call to prayer. We live just a few blocks down from a mosque and the Muslim call to prayer is broadcast quite loudly, obviously because it's calling people to come to evening prayers. It's actually rather hauntingly beautiful and I enjoy hearing it throughout the day. We learned something interesting about the men who are chosen to give the call to prayer-- they must be married, with at least one child, because it shows maturity and trustworthiness-- that they can handle responsibility. A single man is considered more irresponsible who has not yet proven himself to be reliable or stable enough to fill this demanding and revered calling. There are always new things to learn and life here is certainly never dull so that is another thing for which we can be grateful. We'll try to post more pictures, but right now our internet is maddeningly slow (it took almost 1/2 hour just to download those 3 pics) but we want you to enjoy the visual feast of KL so we'll see what we can do about that. By the way, if you can see it, there is a gigantic flag on the hillside outside our balcony (in the pic below)... it is the Malaysian flag and it has been flying EVERYWHERE for the last month because they are celebrating Merdeka, which is the 50 year anniversary of their independence from Britain.
We love & miss you all... we also love the emails and any pics you can send us so keep 'em coming!