Greetings from Malaysia! I arrived a little over a month ago to work at an international school in Kuala Lumpur, and have been busy settling in to a home near school. The tropical weather is the first noticeable change: high humidity, but not overwhelming heat. Fortunately, there are lots of places to dip into with air conditioning, pools for cooling off, shade trees to sit under, and tropical rains to cool everything down. The cuisine is the second obvious difference: Malaysian (often spicy) dishes, Indian dishes, Chinese dishes, and several others, as well. Malaysia boasts three distinct cultural influences, besides many others, and they are well-represented in the delicious food. I’ve experienced tummy aches a few times, mainly, I think, from water, so am a little more careful to drink bottled, now.
Traveling is mostly back and forth to school at this point, with occasional taxi rides here and there to malls to procure household goods. Only Malaysians can be taxi drivers; there are many foreigners working here at other occupations. We are debating a car….some of our colleagues have made the leap, a good number have chosen not to. They say they vacation by jet, and can rent a car when traveling within the country. So we are stalling while we decide this one.
Last weekend, a young woman working at our school, Rani, took us to visit Batu (Stone) Caves. This is a Hindu temple site not far from Mont’ Kiara, a suburb of Kuala Lumpur. Monkeys grabbed bags out of our hands to steal the bananas given to us by the Hindu priests that have come from India to lead the prayers at the temple. The caves are wonderful to see, at the end of some 290 numbered steps. Incense hangs in the air, and light filters in through the large holes in the “roof” of the caves. Rani purchased a garland for us to place on the statue of Shiva in one temple, where we joined in the prayer ceremony, with a red mark-ochre?-on our foreheads. We had fun watching the antics of the monkeys that thrive there on the bananas of the tourists and the faithful. They ranged from a baby holding tightly to its mother’s stomach to an aging patriarch that rushed another visitor, prompting her to sacrifice her bottle of water, which basically made nobody happy! Yesterday was Merdeka, Malaysian Independence Day. Ceremonies were held downtown, and fireworks reverberated like the regular thunder (and the fly-bys of Malaysian fighter jets) at midnight. We were happy to see a perfectly-placed fireworks display in Mont’ Kiara from our balcony, between two high-rise buildings.
posted Saturday September 2007