Now I know what the canopy is. I assumed it was a shady tree cover under which I would get a break from the heat. So when Lim drove Kimmy and I to the FRIM (Forest Research Institute of Malaysia) I was excited to get to the nature jungle. Being my usual self, I scampered up the steep slope, looked back and realized that I had left my compadres in the dust. I was not alone though. The place was packed. Like Mexico, people do not hike alone. I asked what the danger was, thinking it could be wild animals, but it is people (Thieves? Murderers? Rapists?). I wonder if some people would say the same to those who wanted to hike in the US. I do know people who think I am crazy to hike alone in New Hampshire (despite the fact that I do so in all weather, day or night). In this walkabout, I have yet to get a good gauge on the overcautious adviser. After all, I am a single woman in a Muslim country. Perhaps the people I have met do see a danger in my bombing about the jungle on my own; perhaps it is genuine; perhaps it is just fear and trepidation. This is one of life’s mysteries that I have never been able to solve. I tend to do things on the edge that many would consider life threatening. It is like the pain threshold — how much can one dare to do? After living and travelling in Mexico for half of last year, I once asked a local where I should travel. She listed all of the places I should not go, which were all ready places I had been!
But the FRIM is completely tame,
swarming with all types of people, flora and fauna. It was like hiking in an ant farm. Living on the twentieth floor has me looking at everything as if it were an ant colony. Everyone at the FRIM swarmed this giant ant hill in the same way people leave their shacks on the construction site 20 floors below me to go to work.
Well, this ant (me) had a purpose, but she didn’t know exactly what it was. I just knew I was going up, following signs to the canopy, until the trail stopped at a tall skinny cabin. I looked up and saw a plank with high nets on either side of it. Of course, a canopy walk — I was going to walk over the canopy of trees, not under it. I could not stop thinking of the book about the group of people crossing the rope bridge and falling to their deaths with a single snap. Whatever it is that always drives me, pushed me up the ladder and onto the eight-inch wide plank that would take me over the jungle. Needless to say, I did not enjoy it. I did some heavy breathing, and only when I reached a platforms did I stop to take in what grew beneath me and what lay ahead in the view. The distance
between platforms varied in length, but I could always see the next one.
With my adventure over, all I can think of is the jungle — that Kuala Lumpur (KL) used to be a jungle, something so dense and deep turned into this sprawling city in a matter of years. Even from my apartment perch, I can still see hints of the jungle the construction has not infested. Talk about slash and burn. We are a destructive lot.
The afternoon ended with a local meal in a food court. Do not think of the mall when I say food court. A most common way to dine here is on an area of concrete slab covered with corrugated metal, under which blooms a medley of the best smelling food I have ever experienced. Being the picky eater that I am, I know that is not saying much, but the food here is out of this world. Like in Mexico, I rarely know what I order, but I have only been disappointed once. I ate something zucchini-like, something that looked like orange chicken, a glob of rice, and some unidentified items. I declined on the dried dead fish (skin, bones and all) that seems to be popular here. Satisfied, I resisted a nap, and spent the rest of the day writing, reading and going to the gym.
I still have not found a niche, but I am enjoying my solitude. I wonder if part of my serenity is not teaching. I work in a cubicle. I finish my work in half the time it is supposed to take me. People seem satisfied with my work. The marvel of it is that I actually finish things. We teachers know that the job is never done in the education treadmill, there is always a lesson to plan, a million papers to correct, a student who needs help, a concerned parent, or some other hole in the dike to fill. In this job, I finish my work, and go home with a clear head.