Awana Highlandslocated in the foothills about an hour's drive from KL, this was the sight of our inter-office competition dubbed the millennium cup games. we played a number of picnic style games and each team was named after a group of superheroes.
Hey you. It's time to dust off the old blog and let you know what's been happening in the life of an expat. The last 6 weeks have flown by and I take this as an indication I am feeling settled into the new lifestyle. Although I must admit that I am starting to miss a few things like the media craze of American sports. Especially now that both the NFL and College seasons have started I find myself addicted to reading articles on ESPN.com. Behind March Madness this is my favorite time of the year, especially when Jayhawks are off to a good start; Rock Chalk, go KU. The mascot inside of me simply won't die. It's a small price to pay, but one of those little things you don't anticipate until you are out of the country and then it hits you.
In the Millennium Cup, I was a proud member of the Thundercats. Oh, you don't know about the Millennium Cup? It's only my company's biggest competition of the year held at Awana Highlands in the foothills near KL. Get with the program. In all honesty, it was a ton of fun. These types of
Breakfastthese are my colleagues from left to right; Noraini, Gillian, Padman, & Kuru. Padman and I both work on the agency team and have become buddies.
events are always good for seeing how people act outside of their work bubble. There are a number of resorts and one massive casino in the highlands that many Malaysians retreat to for the cool temperatures, mountain views, and lush forests. The competition consisted of advanced adaptations of picnic games you would find at say a family reunion or a big cook out in the States. In other words, the games were more complicated and involved. Unfortunately, the egg toss was not one of the games on the schedule. I am an egg tossing pro.
My favorite game involved having a blindfolded team member toss water balloons over a net to their teammates who tried to catch the water balloon in a blanket. It sounds easy enough, but the water balloons were enormous so they would spin and mutate their shape as they were flying through the air. At the end of this game, I was shocked when no one thought to start a water balloon fight. Who can resist starting a water balloon fight when the ammunition is so readily available? It's like being 8 years old all over again. I think you know where this is going.
I swiftly picked up the biggest water balloon I could find, held it over my buddy Padman's head, and squeezed until it burst with a flood of water all over him. He later retaliated with a perfectly thrown water balloon that hit me right between my shoulder blades. That one left a mark. It was all in good fun and I knew he was the one person I could do that to without worrying about embarrassing him or pissing him off. (Things are more orderly here, I'm still getting used to that. I must be considered obnoxiously rowdy.)
I am now officially a scuba diver after getting certified in Kota Kinabalu 3 weeks ago. KK is located in East Malaysia in the state of Sabah which is on the island of Borneo. It was recommended to complete the classroom learning online before arriving in order to make the certification process more relaxing. There were people there who elected not to take the online classes and a few of them actually dropped out because it was tedious. I'm glad I was talked into taking the online courses. We had a lot more free time to relax on the
island and enjoy KK during the evenings instead of studying. The course took 3-days and consisted of 8 dives. We saw a sting ray, moray eel, and a couple of puffer fish. If you can't tell already, I'm hooked. The freedom of being in a weightless environment is incredibly calming. I'm looking into taking an advanced class and then going to Sipadan which is an island that forms a mushroom shape under the water. The shelf drops away 200-meters to the bottom and is chock full of marine life. Now all I need is an underwater camera so I can share photos of all those creatures with you.
The fasting month of Ramadan began in late August and will continue through September 20th which is the beginning of Hari Raya. During Ramadan, Muslims are not allowed to eat or drink anything during the day. The rule is that nothing may pass the lips. This causes an altered schedule for Muslims; waking up before the sun rises around 5:30 to eat breakfast, then typically going back to sleep, going to work earlier than usual in order to come home early, and then break fast as soon as
Maze GameI can't remember the official name of this game, but you basically had to move people around using only one empty chair to get your leader to the end of the maze.
the sun sets around 7:30. Considering the tropical climate, it is an impressive feat to go without water let alone food for an entire day. My water bottle is 32 ounces and I've noticed that I drink about 4 bottles a day. When I go out to lunch the restaurants and food stalls are practically deserted compared to how crowded they are normally. It's difficult to describe, but the city has a different feel to it. Everything moves a step slower.
During the fasting month, there are also frequent road blocks which are considered a 'fundraiser' for the police. I don't understand the entire meaning behind it, but I've been told they need the cash to buy presents and food when gathering with their family for Raya and they use the road blocks as an opportunity to earn extra pocket cash. For example, if I go through the road block and I'm not wearing my seat belt they will offer me 2 options; a ticket (which may include an appearance in court), or a bribe at half the cost. Unlike my situation at the Singapore border, you pay the bribe and move on. A taxi driver
FirdausFirdaus was the leader of the x-men and he had the pleasure of trying to pump a balloon until it popped. everyone struggled with this and one guy took almost 3 minutes to complete the task. it was a riot.
told me that cars usually get waved through and the police pick on the motorbikes. This is unfortunate considering that the majority of the people who drive motorbikes are not in the same financial position as compared to someone who drives a car.
I played golf for the first time at a course that is about 15 minutes from my house. Showing up as a single, I assumed my pairing would be a couple of locals but it turned out to be a group of Canadian oil guys who have lived in KL for a few years. They gave me tips on courses I should play and we are planning to meet up to play again. During the round I saw an interesting array of wildlife including a rooster, monitor lizard, and monkeys. The lizard was about 4 feet long and watched us putt from the side of the green. The monkeys were swinging from tree to tree and then jumping into a pond next to one of the fairways. It was hilarious how playful they were. It seemed like they were having a contest to see who could make the biggest splash.
Playing ThroughI was tempted to ask these guys if I could join them. the course looked immaculate.
is common practice to wear flip-flops in the office. This is not true in my office, but a fantastic idea none the less. It does make for an interesting look that I see on a regular basis; tie with flip-flops. THE definition of business casual.
During the month of August, I was house-sitting for my colleague Donna who went on vacation back to the US with her husband and twins. They have a security guard since they live in an affluent neighborhood that is occasionally targeted for break-ins. The 2 security guards who took turns on 12-hour shifts were more than welcoming to me, the new stranger living at the house. Offering to carry in groceries, holding an umbrella as I got out of my car when it was raining, and doing the dishes were just a few examples of the the extra tasks they did on a regular basis. On 2 separate occasions I came out to see that my car had been washed by the guard. I tried to give him a tip for his services, but he declined and said he didn't want or need my money. I later got around this by slipping
cash into his jacket pocket while he was gardening in the backyard. Hospitality is a key ingredient of the Malaysian culture.
Steaks & Spiders
I found a steak place called Susie's Corner. Similar to all the best eateries in Malaysia, Susie's corner is open air and very casual. In fact, it's located under a highway overpass. Ambiance is overrated. The steaks are thick, juicy, and cheap at around RM30 or US$8 which includes all the fixings. The first night I ate there was also one of the first nights I started the house-sitting gig. Upon returning to the house, and doing the ceremonial couch flop that commences after every good meal, I saw a spider run across the living room floor. I hate spiders. I mean, I really hate spiders. I didn't see Arachnophobia until I was 18 and it still gave me nightmares. Snakes and insects I can deal with, but spiders have always been my weakness. (Being the son of an entomologist, it would be pathetic if I was afraid of insects too. Thanks for the DNA Dad!) The spider's body was small, but it had a 8-legged wingspan that made me want to fumigate the
ThinkerRadha asked me the extremely difficult question; 'what's your favorite color?'
entire house and call it a night. Luckily, my buddy Geoff found it and made handy use of his flip flop before I went off the deep end.
Many Malaysians believe in the spirit world and the idea of good and bad spirits. I was having lunch with a Malaysian friend of mine and told her about my upcoming trip to Vietnam & Cambodia. Her reaction was one of surprise, 'You're going to Cambodia? Well don't bring back any bad spirits.' In my ignorance, I responded by laughing and saying, 'Are you serious?' It turns out she was serious. She explained that there is a common belief that bad spirits reside in parts of Cambodia and she was just looking out for me. Although she never did tell me how to avoid bringing the bad spirits back...
Dress Code Violation
We have occasional working Saturdays which usually consist of a 3-hour training. I've noticed the dress code is a bit more laid back so I wore a dress shirt with shorts and flip flops to the last one. That didn't fly. I got flagged for a dress code violation and had to read the
X-Menfrom left to right; Firdaus, Wong, Padman, Prem, Donna (the other American in the office), & Rohan (in the red)
office manual. I now know that one can get away with wearing a t-shirt, jeans, and shoes as the bare minimum. Noted. I'm not complaining, but things are more structured here and I am having to adapt. It's all part of the experience. Another difference is the set lunch time; we all take lunch from 1 to 2.
If you have a moment, please drop me a comment or email and let me know how you're doing. I would love to hear from you.
On Saturday, I leave on an 8-day journey through Southern Vietnam and Cambodia (aka bad spirit land) which will surely give me plenty to write about upon my return.
Until next time, I wish you all the best.
P.S. - Check out the follow website if you're interested in all things expat: www.expatexchange.com
During the late 18th and 19th centuries, Great Britain established colonies and protectorates in the area of current Malaysia; these were occupied by Japan from 1942 to 1945. In 1948, the British-ruled territories on the Malay Peninsula formed the Fe...more info