I have to admit that a few days ago I was skeptical we would even make it to Malaysia. It seems that when large life-changing events are about to happen, anything that can go wrong generally does.
Let’s see… my mom had to have surgery the day I was set the fly out, our A/C stopped working, Marty called a plumber to look at a potential leak and after they left we had a giant hole in the wall, 48 hours before we were set to leave Marty committed to painting yet another mural, and last but not least our airline decided to go on strike cancelling hundreds of flights. The problem with any delay in our flight was due to the fact that we were taking our two dogs with us. In order to import dogs to Malaysia, one must have a fancy vet certificate that is endorsed by the USDA. It is only valid for 7 days, must be overnighted to Austin, and is quite expensive. Any delay in our arrival date would have made the certificate invalid and our dogs would have been turned away… as in denied entry. I have read that this can sometimes mean putting the dogs down. Well, that was just simply not going to happen to Frida and Francisco. So… Sunday night I was at the vet to get another exam, and my amazing vet wrote me up another certificate. (If you need a vet, Katya at Hoegemeyer Vet Clinic is absolutely amazing!!!) Early Monday morning we put the beds in storage, frantically threw whatever was left in bags or the trash, got a rental car, drove to Austin to drop off the paper at the USDA, had lunch with a friend, picked the stamped certificate up two hours later, and finally made it to Houston about 6 pm. Luckily, we spent the night with my sister and had a wonderful, relaxing time in downtown H-Town.
By the time we made it to the Houston airport Tuesday night I cannot say that I was mentally ready for the 27-hour adventure that awaited us.
I’d say we did amazing in the packing department…eight bags for 4 people isn’t too shabby.
Saying goodbye to the dogs at the airport TSA ramp was difficult. I know dogs are resilient, but I just couldn’t imagine my puppies being locked in a crate for 27 hours. When we decided to go on this trip several months ago, we knew that taking the dogs was a non-negotiable. We decided that if they had to choose between 27 hours in a crate plus 7 days in quarantine or 2 years without us, they would choose the week in jail. Now that they are safely on the ground and doing ok in quarantine, I know it was the right decision.
Even though our airline was on strike (EVA Air), I have to say that it was the smoothest flight we have had in years. I don’t know what it is about airlines from Asia, but they are just downright efficient and pleasant. I was sort of a mess about the dogs, and during the layover and re-boarding they sent me pictures of them so I would know they were OK. When we finally landed in Kuala Lumpur and were reunited with the dogs and our bags, our import agent (who turned out to be perhaps the most wonderful person on the planet…except for my vet, of course) met us at the baggage claim area. She not only took care of every aspect of the import process, she helped us book a GRAB (like Uber), squared us away with a rental car, and had her sister assist Marty drive the rental car to the quarantine station since we have never driven on the left hand side of the road before. As if that were not enough, she then guided us to our condo and helped us schlep all of our stuff to the 6thfloor. She was amazing!
During the hour and a half it took to get all of that done, I got to ride with the GRAB driver. He was such a friendly guy and he got all of my American political jokes. Ja ja!
To wind down, we swam in the pool before passing out (where we got to see our first burkini), and afterwards miraculously slept for about 10 hours straight. I’m not sure how, but it seems as if we are going to bypass jetlag!
We got up this morning and headed to the quarantine station to see the dogs. I have to say that the ride there was a bit touchy as the GPS took us a different route and trying to follow new directions is a bit of a challenge when everything you know about driving is backwards. To top it off, international roaming data drains your phone battery fast! Believe me, driving in Kuala Lumpur without access to google maps on your phone is something you just simply don’t want to do. Marty did amazing and now is a self-proclaimed pro! We hung out with the dogs for about an hour and gave them lots of love.
And then we did what everyone does when they are hungry and need air-con… we went to the mall! hate to admit it, but this is what we did a lot in Taiwan… it’s sort of what everyone does and it’s the best way to get to know what people are like where you live. People just seem to hang out with family in the air-conditioning and eat lots of food. We had an amazing spring onion pancake wrap, new and interesting beverages from Starbucks, some fried concoctions and amazing pastries from the food court, and of course bubble milk tea. When we first started walking around the various food stalls we stopped dead in our tracks at a horrible, putrid smell… certainly not the kind of smell you want wafting around food stalls in a fancy mall. It took me a few seconds, and then I instantly recognized that stomach-churning odor from long ago… STINKY TOFU!.. a Chinese delicacy that smells horrible and tastes delicious. I’ve only tried it once and although it was quite good, I just can’t seem to forgive the smell long enough to actually eat it.
Everyone we met at the mall was incredibly friendly, and when Marty got tired of waiting for the girls to finish shopping, he headed out and made friends with various real estate agents selling modern townhome properties. We stumbled upon a stationary store and the girls actually shed tears when they walked passed the writing utensil aisle.
I finished off the mall trip with a stroll around the grocery store (an entire basket of food for $25) and then we headed home. Marty got us home without the GPS and he looked like he had been driving in Malaysia for years.
When we got back to our apartment, Carmela turned to me and said, “I already love Malaysia!” It is amazing for me to see them fit in so naturally (and quickly) to a completely different environment. We saw mostly Muslim families at the mall today, 90 percent of the women wearing burkas, and the girls walked around like it was the most normal thing in the world. We do stick out a bit though and we got more than a few looks… not in a negative way at all… just curiosity. I forget that seeing the twins walk around must be quite a sight. Carmela even said she got ‘hit on’ at the bubble milk tea stand by a young guy working there. I think ‘hit on’ means he asked her where she was from and why she was here.
Tomorrow is another day of visiting the dogs and possibly a trip into inner Kuala Lumpur. I’m not sure if I’m up for THAT drive, but I’m pretty sure Marty is… Joy!
Looking forward to reading more!