I am somewhere between a Utopian and a Dystopian novel depending on who you are and how you see the world. First off, I work in Tower 7, in the Horizon, near the Sphere. When I put down a deposit on my apartment, the man could not deal with having cents attached to the records. I live on the 20th floor, which the lady voice in the elevator reminds me of every time I get into it. To get into work or my apartment I need to swipe a card. I am also working for an e-learning company (Learning Port).
Each day I discover a little more about where I live. Apparently, Bangsar South was built on a shanty town. This section did not exist until a few years ago. I live and work in one year-old buildings, and sky scrapers rise up before my eyes every day. I can find little niches of what lay beneath this shiny new establishment when I walk just a bit too far, or from my 20th floor vista. From there I can see rusty corrugated tin roofs amid construction sites. And where did those displaced people go? They were supplied with new tall apartments across the way, which do not look like mine. The only sign of homelessness that I have seen is a family that lives in its rice stall. It took me a while to figure out what they sold in these stalls, which have metal tables holding small wood fires. Along the sides are racks lined with foot-long and inch-wide tubes of bamboo. Inside of the bamboo are plantain leaves stuffed with rice. The fires keep the rice warm.
I live in a country of Malaysians, Chinese, and Indians. This can mean a few things as far as language is concerned. Most people are Malaysian, and many only speak Malaysian English. For instance, one colleague who is Malaysian Chinese teaches ESL to native Chinese speakers. He says it is difficult because he does not speak fluent Chinese. Then why, I wondered, does he have such a thick accent? Today, I found out that he speaks Malaysian English. People speak with friends and family in their respective languages; however, in all other instances English is the common language.
My world is within a ¼ mile radius in Bangsar South. Horizon, where I work, Nexus, where my gym is, and Capri, a hotel under which I live, in a place called Camilla. I have ventured to Kuala Lumpur (KLCC), which is a series of the biggest malls I have ever scene, but it got me on the public transit (LRT). I swore I would never return to the center, but I did when I found a writing group that met there (even though no one showed up). I have been the other way on the LRT to play tennis with someone I met at the gym. I went food shopping in Bangsar, a quaint hipster, trendy part of town with everything European. This walkabout of mine has made it more than clear that I do not belong in a city. I forget that a large portion of the world finds happiness in malls, cars, big hotels, malls and fine dining. Other than that, it has been work, gym, and home. Actually, I only started coming home two days ago. Until then I was living at Pansai Hilltop: Phase One (see what I mean about dys or utopia?), in a moldy apartment next to the mosque. I only mention that because that became my six am wake-up call—or the call to prayer, which goes on for about fifteen minutes.
I do not have the language to describe this world. That may be because I design e-learning curriculum for ESL at the 0 level, or it may mean that it is all so new to me that I do not have the vocabulary to express what I see, hear, smell, taste and feel. The food is superb. I eat lunch every day with a group of colleagues (from Iran, Pakistan, India, Italy, Malaysia) to go to a different restaurant each day for lunch. So far I have eaten Malay, Indian, Korean, Japanese, or a combination of all three. In Mexico, I controlled the amount of spice. Here, if it is a spicy dish that is what you get. This is real hot, not Mexico hot. This is spend-the-rest-of-the-day-trying-to-feel-your-mouth-again hot!
The smells are remarkably similar to Tampico at times. I suppose that has to do with the climate. However, in my small world it is spotless and new – no heaps of concrete, or dead cats lying about the way they did in Mexico. When I was living in the company apartment on Pansai Hilltop, the buildings were older, by about 20 years and it was moldier, and dirtier, but not trashy.
As my second expat experience, I have come to realize that perhaps the US is one of few countries that gives pedestrians the right of way. This and the fact that people drive on the left, are still things that I need to get used to. I still need to stop and look in all directions before I step off of the curb. There are no cross walks or little beeping green and red lights for the lowly pedestrian, and I cannot wait until they finish the building that adjoins the pedestrian walkway above the busy street I cross on the way to work. This is a driving city. Families on motor scooters, fancy cars, and traffic moving night and day. It is only a whirring sound though. No honking, just one continuous hum mixed with the sounds of steel against steel at construction sites. A new kind of silence.
I like my job. I play with words all day long. I can spend hours without talking to a soul, and no one is under 25 where I work. Do I miss the adolescent mind? Not yet, I will tell you when I do. This is a cubicle job. I am surprised that the inactivity does not bother me. I spend the day creating ESL learning modules. I keep finishing them. I am so far ahead it is almost embarrassing. I have not figure out why I am moving at such a speed, but I have had good feedback, so I will keep marching along. No one seems to know what the big picture is, but I just keep producing modules, and all is well.
I have only met one person outside of work so far (my tennis friend), but it is difficult to get a court, since there are only two that she knows of, and she has to reserve a court through a coach that she knows. I am hoping that through some meet ups I will start to branch out a bit. If not, I will adventure on my own.
Tomorrow, I am going to the FRIM to hike the canopy with two people from work. Don’t worry, I do not know what it is either. FRIM stands for Forest Research something, something.
I feel at peace here. Balanced, safe, and content. The people are lovely, the city is a city, and I have so much more to discover this year.