We made it! Mitch and I traveled for about 40 hours door-to-door, but we made it to Malaysia and so did our luggage! I ignored the flight attendant’s request to “stow all electronic devices” during landing and took a few pictures to document my first glimpse of my new home.
I don’t know quite what I was expecting, but I wasn’t expecting so much greenery. I am aware of the fact that Malaysia is tropical and that a large part of it is rainforest, but somehow that did not equate to green in my head. Sometimes it’s nice to be mistaken.
My bosses picked us up at the Kuala Lumpur airport and we drove for about 40 minutes to reach Seremban, the city where we’ll be living. Or, at any rate, the city where I’ll be living and working; Mitch still has to find a job, and Seremban is an “up and coming” city, which, in Southeast Asian terms means it has more than doubled in size in the last decade, so it’s probably not going to be here.
On our drive we passed literally dozens of palm oil plantations. We were warned not to make friends with any of the many stray dogs that roam the city (so far I’ve only seen one) and told to watch out for poisonous snakes. Apparently Malaysia has more species of poisonous snakes than any other country. Excellent.
The on-campus residences are still under construction (yikes?) so the school has put everyone up in a hotel for now. Part of orientation will also include off-campus house hunting, too, so I’m really excited about that. Mitch and I spent the afternoon getting organized, trying to figure out cell phones, and wandering around town. One of the more interesting aspects of our wanderings were our attempts to find and ATM. There were signs for ATMs at the mall next door to the hotel, but they’re not installed yet (“up and coming” in Southeast Asia also means currently under construction) so a helpful lady directed us to a 7-Eleven around the corner. We’d already been there and their ATM was broken, so we went back to the hotel and asked at the desk. The gentleman on duty directed us to a hospital down the street.
Never in my life have I strolled into a hospital, wandered around the first floor unaccompanied and completely ignored, taken money out of an ATM, and walked out again. I did not leave feeling incredibly confident in the Malaysian healthcare systems, especially considering the sign announcing prices for different procedures at the door. Toto, we are certainly not in Kansas anymore.
After 40 hours of travel, sporadic eating and sleeping, and lightheaded wandering, we were more than ready to find some dinner. We had asked a hotel employee for suggestions, stipulating that the menu include vegetarian food. He directed us to a Chinese restaurant in the opposite direction of where we’d walked earlier. I’m not positive we found the specific restaurant because there’s more than one Chinese restaurant here, but we ended up finding the spiciest tofu I’ve ever tasted.
When we walked in, a server handed us menus (mercifully written in both English and Chinese) and we sat down at a table. After looking over the menu and consulting our friends Google and Wikipedia, we learned that we were in a laksa restaurant. We also learned that laksa is a spicy soup that combines Chinese and Malay culinary traditions. Good for us, we’d found something authentic! It also wasn’t too hard to figure out how to order after we realized that no one was coming by to check on us.
When we pressed for service, a bell chimed and a number flashed on the wall, like the numbers people take in the deli counter line at the grocery store. A server came over, we ordered, and a short time later, we had food!
It’s a good thing there were tissues on the table (maybe they were supposed to be napkins?) or I would not have gotten through that bowl. Quite tasty, though!
All in all, so far so good. We’re basically watching the clock until it’s late enough to go to bed. I know what day it’s supposed to be, though not exactly what day my body thinks it is. At any rate, I’m glad we have a couple days to acclimate before teacher training starts. We certainly need it!