As life begins to fall into routines of work, home, and basic daily life, I resort to writing about the “little things”. You know, those tiny differences that slowly become normal despite their oddness. Perspective is funny, something that at first seems so foreign and strange eventually becomes ordinary and you cease to notice it at all. So, before I pass the point of no return, let me talk about a few of these meaningless things that still feel a bit strange.
In Malaysia you generally have the choice of a western stall or an eastern stall, meaning a sit toilet or a squat toilet, but the lack of toilet paper in the stall itself is what I can’t seem to remember. There is even (as gross as it may seem if you think about it long enough) a water hose located near the toilet for you to clean yourself afterwards. Great idea, sure, but if you forget the paper do you just drip dry??? I know it seems trivial, but it is really the one thing I just can’t seem to overcome. First world problem, I know. Moving right along…
4. Laundry – Doing laundry is something that does not seem to bring most people great joy, and yet having facilities to do one’s laundry is certainly something not to be taken for granted. We learned this in Taiwan when we were schlepping clothes down 12 flights of stairs, across the street, and into the basement of another building… just to schlep it back afterwards to dry them on clotheslines on the roof of our apartment building. And then of course if it was windy, you might find your chones (underwear) in the garden on the ground floor the following day. Having said that, our laundry situation is much better than that here in Malaysia. Our rental house did not have a washing machine when we moved in, so we bought one. Washing machines here are significantly less substantial than those in the U.S., so loads must be smaller. Most people do not own dryers and therefore hang their clothes on foldable racks. We chose (mainly me) to do the same, so every weekend we play the rotating clothes washing game where we fight over hangers and rack space. It takes quite a bit of scientific planning for everyone to make sure his or her clothes are dry before Monday morning. Good times with real world life skills if you ask me!
As far as the cell phone goes, I have zero complaints… it is added to the odd category because it is so wonderful. All four of us have a pay as you go plan… $8 a month for unlimited data and texts. We don’t really call anyone because everyone here uses WhatsApp with his or her unlimited data. It is magical… my family phone bill is $32 a month. How cool is that??? The only slightly odd thing, which is really quite fantastic, is that I pay our phone bills at 7-11. It is called ‘topping up’. You simply pay the cashier the money and say you want to ‘top up’. She gives you a receipt with a code, you enter it into the phone, and ta-da!… you have another month’s worth of service.
Another interesting thing is getting used to Halal vs. non-Halal. The word ‘Halal’ in Muslim culture is roughly defined as ‘permissible’ and generally is used as a term for what is deemed allowable for a practicing Muslim. It is a lot like kosher laws in the Jewish religion and here in Malaysia grocery stores advertise that they are Halal, but often have a separate non-Halal mini-store inside where alcohol and pork products are sold. You even have to pay separately. When we first moved here I was bummed because I thought I would have to go an entire year without bacon. Then one day, I stumbled into the non-Halal section of my grocery store and it was like walking into Disneyland. There were freezers and refrigerators filled with sausages, bacon, pork chops, wine, beer, bottles of liquor, etc… It was like a small hidden side store where all of the people who make unhealthy choices shop… and it brought me a great bit of guilt-laden joy.
Apart from that, life is good.
That about wraps it up.
Until something share-worthy happens… May the force be with you!