Five months have come and gone and as life begins to feel normal, I find I write here less. In some ways it seems like a lifetime, and in others like yesterday. While living abroad may seem a little exotic, I think that where you choose to hang your hat eventually becomes normal. Monday through Friday you trudge to and from work, the weekends are always way too short, and daily life settles in: laundry, groceries, spending time with your kids, and wondering if one should cook or give in and just go out to eat. More and more, however, I find that when I am doing the most mundane things like walking the dogs or driving to the market, my mind keeps returning to the same thought… I really love it here. It is not one monumental specific thing; it’s just a slow accumulation of moments that have turned into a feeling of peace. I truly miss my family and friends each and every day, but I feel such a sense of freedom here to be myself.
For some reason, I continue to look at the news each morning on the Internet to keep up to date with what is happening in the U.S. Most days, it is simply depressing and I am saddened with the state of things. However, that is where it stops. I turn it off and don’t continue to get bombarded with the negativity and inability to agree and get along. The people in my world at the moment are from every continent on the planet (except Antarctica, of course). We acknowledge the shit show occurring in our different homes and then move on to the task of being good to one another, educating children, and enjoying life. It is amazing how not dwelling on the negativity in the world frees up your mind and soul to higher things… like making art, contemplating the universe, and being a positive force in the world.
One thing I think about sometimes is the fact that I never worry about getting shot. I never really thought about it before, but when it is no longer a remote possibility, you realize how nice it is. It is no secret that my teacher professional development last year was how to put on a tourniquet and pack a wound. I could go on a diatribe about guns, but what’s the point? The bottom line is that here, I never worry that I, or anyone I love, will be a victim of gun violence. I must admit that it is truly a nice thing not to have to worry about. Instead, I can focus on worrying about snakes and saltwater crocodiles. Much better.
Malaysia is one of the most diverse places I have ever been. The fact that everyone here speaks some level of English certainly makes life easier, but it is so much more than that. Before we moved here, I was curious about living in a country that was 60% Muslim. I wasn’t sure what life would be like and I worried a bit about things like acceptance of different lifestyles, cultures, and religious beliefs. I am happy to report that with the exception of many places not being extremely dog friendly, this place is the most accepting, diverse place I have ever been. Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Christians, Jews, East Asians, Indians, Europeans, Africans, North and South Americans… everyone is here. Respectful, kind, accepting, curious – I am floored. Everyone has their own beliefs and ways of doing things, but they also respect everyone else’s beliefs and ways of doing things. Multiple times a day I hear prayers drifting through the air from a local mosque and it’s downright calming and beautiful. I also smell incense wafting from local temples and I have friends who go to church every Sunday. At the staff lunch table on any given day I sit next to women in hijabs and woman wearing short skirts and sleeveless shirts chatting away about normal things. They are curious about my rice cakes and peanut butter and I about their spicy rice dishes wrapped in banana leaves. In a nutshell, I feel free here and it makes me feel at peace with myself. Everyone is so incredibly nice, from our Nepalese security guards to the guys who work at our favorite noodle shop. Everywhere we go, kind and genuine people from all walks of life surround us.
Another plus about Malaysia is the fact that it is crazy affordable. It’s no wonder that Malaysia is the 5th most popular place in the world to retire. It is 88*/70*F 365 days a year, most everyone speaks English, and probably most important… it is insanely cheap to live here.
-renting a relatively new 3000 sq. foot house – $650 a month
– water bill – $6 / month
– phone bill for 4 ppl – $30/ month
– weekly grocery bill 4 ppl – $100
– cab/Grab (uber) ride anywhere in the city – $5
– 18 holes of golf at a fancy course – $30
I could go on. Want more???
-My wonderful maid Josephine comes each week. She washes clothes, sheets, towels, cleans my house spotless, does my dishes, etc.… Wait for it… – $25.
-My vet made a house call last week for Frida who has some weird skin rash. I called him at 10am and he came over after work at 5pm. He stayed about 30 minutes chatting and examining Frida. A shot and 3 different medicines later he left. -$70!
– We found a dog boarder for our island trip last month. She lives in a fancy neighborhood with a nice, big house. The dogs slept inside, lounged on the couch watching TV with her daughter, followed her maid around all day, and received amazing amounts of love and attention. I even received daily updates and pictures. Both dogs for seven days… $85 total!
I mean, honestly, how in the world can I complain about anything? It is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been, totally lush and green, monkeys in the palm trees that line the highway on our daily seven-minute commute to work, and the weather is always like a mild summer day. There are cheap flights to anywhere in this hemisphere. Example???? For winter break we are going to Nepal. I found four round-trip plane tickets and ten nights hotel for $1500 total.
Please don’t get me wrong. I miss seasons, Whataburger, Mexican food, and most of all my family and friends. It sincerely pains me on a daily basis that I am not in a place where I can see my parents whenever I want. But, the choice we made to try to give our daughters an experience that would change their lives was one we just couldn’t pass up. The experiences they are having, the people they are meeting, and the education they are getting are simply priceless. No, we haven’t saved for college and our retirement is pretty dismal, but we are spending lots of quality time together (maybe sometimes too much, depending on who you ask). We are having adventures and making memories… and this brings me great joy.
We will be home for 3 weeks in July and we look forward to spending lots of quality time in the hill country with the ones we love, and there are lots of you!
We miss you all and think of you often.