The Always Evolving and Partially Unwritten Five-Year Plan

Posts tagged “Malaysian People

King for A Day (Or 1,825 days)

Hooray for Coronation Day!

Tomorrow Malaysia gets a new King and I get a day off! It’s this guy’s second time around, so I think he knows what to expect. I don’t know what any of that Bahasa says on the picture above, but I like his outfit and it looks very official. It was only decided a few weeks ago that this would be an official holiday, but now that it has been deemed as such, everyone gets the day off.

Little known fact for trivia fans: Malaysia is the only country in the world to have a rotating monarchy. Each of the nine sultans serves a 5-year (or 1,825 day) stint as king.

For more info read the interesting details from the local paper:

http://www.nst.com.my/nation/general/festivities-to-mark-installation-1.72408

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Where Are the Greener Pastures?

We all know the saying, “the grass is greener on the other side”, and never has that proven more true than now, while living in a foreign country.

First, there’s the skin tone issue.  On our first Saturday in our new apartment, we did what anyone would do in an empty home…we went shopping!  It’s amazing how much the “essentials” can add up.  I digress…

While shopping at Tesco (which is sort of like Target but not nearly as clean or cool, and far more crowded — in fact, it may be closer to Kmart), we were looking for things like shampoo, lotion, after shave, etc.  What did we find?  Moisturizing cream with “extra whitener”.  No, it wasn’t for your teeth…for your skin.  You got it…white skin here is desirable because the equatorial sun is so intense that locals tend be much darker than your typical Caucasian.  So, out come the umbrellas (not for the rain, but to block daily sun) and then there’s whitening cream in case you were over exposed.  Fortunately for us, we have good (pale) Scottish and British roots so we’re like the standard here…almost.  (DJ & Jessie, you know what I’m talking about).

Isn’t it interesting though, how hard we try in America to get darker?  Because tan is “beautiful”.  People here would be appalled that we lay in bed-like chambers indoors to get EXTRA UV exposure for more “coloring”.  Still, I do need to do something about this farmer’s tan…

Oh, just to give you an idea of how much we stick out…consider this comment from Ms. Lush, the 1st grade assistant (and native Malaysian), as she struggled to find Jenny inside the classroom (which is not a big room).

“Oh there you are, Jennifer…I couldn’t see you at first…you blended in with the walls.”  (Not meant to be mean at all, rather turned out to be really funny for both!).  By the way, Ms. Lush is awesome and extremely helpful.

Next, there is the intelligence factor.  I was having coffee with our Realtor (Melvin) and the coach for his sales team (Vincent), and we were discussing training and consulting opportunities in KL.  They were very optimistic and encouraging about my chances, especially because “people [here] will always hire Caucasian businessmen before Asian.  There is a perception that they know more…especially Americans.”

Again, it was just interesting because as I shared with them, there is a perception at home of superior intelligence among Asians (granted…that’s a broad generalization).  Melvin added, “Ahh, greener pastures, or so…”  Don’t ask what “or so” means, it’s just sort of stuck at the end of a lot of sentences here at random.  But Melvin was spot on with the reference to the old saying that seems to ring true even here and reveal that bit of human nature that says maybe we tend to want what we cannot have, for just that very reason.

Share your “greener pasture” story if you have one.  Was it true that the “other grass” turned out to be greener?


The Flight to Malaysia (Part III – Lost & Found)

(continued from “The (Missed) Flight to Malaysia (Part II)“)

At this point in our journey we were just completely depleted and devastated when we made it to baggage claim and could not find our bags.  Given that we had missed our flight from Singapore, it was not a surprise that the bags did not catch up with us (especially after the additional plane/gate change).  Nonetheless, it was a low moment being in a foreign country, exhausted, without our stuff and not knowing if we still had a friendly face waiting on us or if we had to fend for ourselves to find the hotel.

So, across language and culture barriers, we filed a lost luggage report with the offices in the airport, but we weren’t sure who was responsible.  Remember, we started on Delta, changed to Singapore Air, was slated to finish with Malaysia Air but actually took the final leg on Silk Air.  So who had our bags?!?  For good measure, we made sure multiple offices had our info and knew about our bags.  Finally, around 11:15 (3 1/2 hours after our schedule arrival), we made our way out of the terminal to find a cab and begin the search for our hotel, when we heard “McNair!”

Our driver had waited! Slash, didn’t get the message…yikes!  Double yikes, because our “driver” turned out to be Mr. Walt Morris, the Head of School and Jenny’s boss!   “Oh my gosh, Mr. Morris it’s so nice to see you and hear English but we hope our messages made it to you somehow and you didn’t have to wait too long.”  Humbly in a Canadian accent he replied “Oh, you know, I was here a-boot 7:30 or so but no worries. I like to be here when our new folks arrive.”  So we were off to a great start with Jenny’s employer!

Mr. Walt was great.  He dropped us off at our hotel (about 45 minutes or so from airport), got us set up with some local currency and tips on getting around.  After copious amounts of sleep, our first priority was shopping.  Ask Jenny about why carry-on bags are good for packing an emergency change of clothes : )  I wasn’t much better having changed into my only back up outfit halfway through our flights.  Thankfully I had some fresh running shorts and T-shirts.  But just in case, the next day we ventured off to a local mall to find some clothes because poor Jenny was working on day 3-4 on the same outfit!

Travel Tip: Always, always, always pack a couple extra outfits in your carry-on luggage, especially the further away you travel.  We re-learned a basic rule the hard way.

Squash Tourney in the Mall

Anatomically Correct Male Mannequin

But it led us to an interesting experience – Malaysian Malls.  It’s so hot here they love the malls because of the Air-Con.  People take advantage of being indoors and cool, though there’s not a lot of buying going on.  I don’t know how the shops stay open but we were glad they were and we say many interesting new things.  We saw sports events, music shows, different mannequins, and all of the food shops that would make you “proud” to be an American (e.g. KFC, Pizza Hut, Subway, Dunkin Donuts, TGIF’s, and of course the ubiquitous McDonald’s and Starbucks — but no Chick-Fil-A!!!!)

"Country Roads...West Virgina..."

I HAD to Try a Cup-O-Joe

Actually it’s a little embarrassing to see the golden arches and little green Seattle coffee logo everywhere you go.  Plus, I cannot get over how much they LOVE KFC here.  Anyway, good news was, we could a lot of familiar items including a change of clothes or two.

We ended up visiting two malls that first weekend, because on our first visit we only purchased 1-2 items thinking our clothes would be there any minute.  After one, two and finally three days of no luggage we went back again for more substantial shopping.  After all Jenny had to work the next day and she wouldn’t make too many new friends wearing the same outfit from the 30-hour flight.   Finally, about 72 hours after made it to our hotel, our bags made it, too…and just in time for the first day of school.

It was quite an ordeal finding our bags.  Thanks to help from Mr. Dennis (he’s great at yelling at people while pretending to be you) and Ms. Martha (who’s tenacity knows no equal, especially when fighting customer-no-service) on making numerous calls to the US offices of multiple airlines, they finally arrived.  But we learned that they were not delayed because of our missed flight. In fact, apparently at least one was still in Atlanta, and others in Houston after we already arrived in KL.  We couldn’t seem to get a straight answer on where they were and when they might arrive as no one wanted to claim responsibility.  There was definitely no urgency on the part of the airlines or our hotel (read more here on “Malay Time”).  Needless to say, it was happy moment when our stuff arrived!

Our Luggage Arrives!