It seems to me that the biggest difference between traveling and living abroad are the day-to-day experiences and interactions that you just don’t have when you are merely visiting a new country. For example, Thursday I had to do something that I was truly dreading. Although we had to get medical exams before we arrived, I was instructed that per Malaysian government work visa rules, we had to do it again now that we were here. I must admit I was quite peeved at first, simply because I generally dislike going to the doctor and also because the exams in the U.S. not only took a chunk of our time, it set us back $300. When it became clear that it was just something we had to do, I sucked it up and went. We were picked up at home at 7:30 am by our school shuttle and were surprised to see a full van of new teachers. Turns out, I was not the only one dismayed with the trip to the DR, as they all had done it before arriving as well. However, as I sat in the clinic getting to know my new co-workers, I came to the realization that I was actually having fun. We were laughing, exchanging medical horror stories about not being able to communicate with our doctors, and encouraging each other to fill up the urine sample cup… despite having fasted for 12 hours prior. One of the new teachers from South Africa, Jaime, had the best time of all. Apparently as she was having her exam with the young Chinese doctor, the conversation went something like this…
Doctor: Are you married?
Doctor: Are you single?
Doctor: Are you available?
Doctor: Well, I am not married. I am single. And I am very available.
Luckily for Jaime, she couldn’t produce a sufficient amount of ‘wee’ (South African term for pee), so it looks like she will be visiting our doctor friend again soon.
After the routine medical exam that involved giving blood, a very strange color test for the eyes, and an old school EKG with suction cups, we were off to the hospital for chest x-rays. Going to local hospitals always serves as a telling glimpse into a society, and from what I could tell it was all quite first worldly. Of course, I was later informed that it was a private hospital and not a public one, which I take to mean that it was the nice one.
The big take away lesson from that experience was that as in everything in life, if you don’t step out of your comfort zone and try new things, you will never grow. I don’t know why this always still surprises me. After all of my wacky experiences, I still sometimes have to force myself to do something I don’t really want to do… and then in retrospect I am always so glad that I did. Even if things suck, I always come out a better person. Old habits die hard, I suppose.
As another example of trying new things, Marty and the girls attended their first aerial yoga class. It was apparently much more difficult than any of them expected, but great nonetheless. I opted to go upstairs and work out while they attended their first class… I didn’t want to steal their thunder, if you know what I mean.
Speaking of new experiences, the doggies were vaccinated today. I got the name and number of a vet from a family who lives here and when I called to make an appointment I was shocked when he said, “Can I come to your house tomorrow?” Vet house calls???? What???? When I found out the complete exam and vaccinations was only to be $25 a dog, I said heck yes! Doctor Ben showed up at our door at 10am this morning and it was incredible. He was the nicest guy, super knowledgeable, and genuinely concerned about our dogs. He administered their vaccinations, answered all of our questions, and stayed about 45 minutes just chatting with us. He checked their dog food to make sure it was good for them, as well as their flea meds and told me to use them sparingly because they can cause liver failure in dogs. He even offered to deliver us dog food whenever we needed it, free of charge. Seriously, this country is amazing!
In keeping with trying new things, we decided we would continue the streak and take a family trip to the dentist. I opted to wait to get our teeth cleaned until we arrived here because I heard it was incredibly affordable. It certainly was an experience.
The dentist office was modern and the equipment was top of the line. Marty went first and got a full cleaning and exam. Next went Carmela and Pilar. Carmela came out and said that he did not really clean her teeth; he just put something on a tooth for a small spot of decay. Strange, I thought. Then it was Pilar’s turn. I knew things were awry when Pilar came out after five minutes and said she was done. No teeth cleaning, nada. My ‘American’ began to peek out when I sort of forced my way into the examination room to make sure that nothing was lost in translation. The dentist proceeded to tell me that she had great oral hygiene and that nothing more was needed.
Me: What about the plaque? Her teeth are yellow.
Dentist: That is the normal color of teeth. She has good oral hygiene.
Me: But in the U.S we get our teeth cleaned every six months.
Dentist: That is not necessary.
Me: But… (Repeat the above conversation about 3 more times.)
Dentist: She has good oral hygiene. She does not need anything else.
Me: Fine. (Oh how I hate picking my battles)
I was up next and low and behold I needed a complete teeth cleaning and a Google image tutorial on the dangers and repercussions of brushing too hard. Needless to say, Pilar was very pleased with her exam and did not hesitate to inform me that she could continue with sugary snacks because obviously she had good oral hygiene!
After that exciting adventure, we walked to the mall across the street to return an adapter that somehow exploded when Marty tried to plug in the X-Box and we tried yet another coffee place. I think I can safely say that I have had my fill of malls. Sure, the free air con and dizzying array of coffee and tea cafes are nice, but shopping is just not my thing.
Marty has been scoping out nearby beaches and golf courses, so I suppose that is what we have in store for the coming week. With only a couple of weeks left before we go back to work there is just so much left to explore and so little time.
Until something exciting happens…