Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Prelude - Getting to Malaysia

28 September – 1 October

This (fall 2010) trip to Malaysia and India is to visit friends and begin the process of obtaining a Malaysia My 2nd Home (MM2H) visa. Before leaving we prepared our house for sale. Having our house ready to show while we were away seemed ideal, but it made for a hectic few weeks. First, we had to decide on a home for Elektra, our cat. Taking her to Malaysia with a 24 hour plus plane trip seemed dicey. Plus a major reason for moving to Malaysia was to travel in Asia without the long flights. So she went to live with my sister. As she (the cat) witnessed furniture being carted away, boxes being packed, and counters being cleared she became increasingly edgy. When we took her to my sister’s she cried all the way – I guess she would have been evicted from an airplane.

We left for the airport at 11:00 and told a general contractor and the real estate agent that the house was theirs so to speak after 11:30. After we left a 30-day drought ended. This delayed placing the house on the market – since painting the outside of the house has had to wait for a sunny day. We have been away 5 days, perhaps it will be dry in Raleigh tomorrow.

We started the trip with a day in LA. We checked into a motel near the airport. Its neighborhood gave a new meaning to “food desert.” The nearest place to eat was a McDonalds, 2 blocks away and in a gas station. We opted for something else a little further on, which may have been a worse choice - very tasteless Mexican food. We spent the next day with Leelee, my housemate from a 1985 sabbatical at Virginia Tech and a native of Taiping, Malaysia. We enjoyed a real LA experience as we drove to “close” destinations. They hardly seemed close to us - I drove 2 miles to work and Doug drives about 4 miles. Leelee’s home is at the foot of a hill with a stunning view of last year’s wildfires. We went to dinner with Leelee and her husband, François. They took us to dinner at the Stinky Rose, a garlic themed restaurant. We talked about everything -we observed that Europeans don’t rush through dinner and shared opinions about children's career and college decisions. Leelee and Francois' oldest child Is 16 – parents have probably have had similar conversations for generations. A striking factoid that I picked up is that their children are expected to check one race on school forms. (Francois is Swiss.) Certainly after spending time in Malaysia I have often stopped to wonder about racial identities and selecting one seems a bit horrifying.

After dinner Leelee and Francois took us to the airport. Our route was from LAX to Seoul and 11 hours later on to KL. The round trip fare was US$800 which made the long Seoul layover tolerable. I sat next to a young man, a recent college graduate, who was going to Ho Chi Minh City to teach English. On my first trip to SE Asia I sat next to a young soldier on his way to Vietnam. In forty years two seatmates both with Vietnam as a destination. The first was going off to war the second to teach English - the world has improved in some ways. I left my seat companion my copy of All Quiet on the Western Front, which I had finished during the first leg of the trip. A fitting destination for the book – I wonder where it will go

Seoul’s airport deserves a mention. We arrived around 5:00 a.m. and immediately headed for the section (4F) that has lounges that are perfect for sleeping. We slept for several hours – although we had to wait about an hour for two to become available. The airport also has free showers. It charges $2 for towels and $6 for a shower kit - a welcome bargain after 15 hours in the air. There was free wifi, and we had bimibop for breakfast. One could do worse with 11 hours to spare.

The flight to Malaysia was uneventful. I was pleased that we could get a SIM in KLIA’s arrival hall. We were ready for a good night’s sleep and the month ahead.

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