So, today marks my one month that I’ve been in Malaysia (I’m counting from my arrival on February 14, not the number of weeks I’ve been here, because yesterday would have marked my four weeks in Malaysia, but not exactly 30 days, because hello, February). It’s been a pretty interesting 4 weeks. I moved from hotel to university-sponsored housing to guesthouse to finally my own rented house all within that time, so it doesn’t feel like I’ve been here for an entire month. There was that constant feeling of temporariness, of getting used to routes to and from school, always on the lookout for a grocery or an ATM, the challenge of laundry, and living out of my suitcase(s). Now that I’m in a house I’ve promised to rent for a couple of years, my luggage are unpacked and I’m sleeping easier. And then it dawned on me, hey, you’ve been here for a whole month.
Two weeks ago, two Malaysian friends I’ve known since last year asked me how long I’ve been in KL, and when I replied, “Two weeks,” they each had totally different reactions. One said, “Two weeks already? I had no idea you were even here.” The other said, “Only two weeks? It’s like you’ve been here a long time.” It felt like both. Only two weeks, and two weeks already. So familiar yet still so foreign at the same time.
Now that the month has gone by, I’m startled by the passage of time.
What has been constant is going to school and teaching. I have a strange, almost made-for-TV relationship with the one kid enrolled in my Technique 1 class. I absolutely adore my Ballet 1 students. I want to push my Choreography 2 students out of their comfort zones and I’m quite amused that they’re pushing back. I just saw ASWARA (the other school with a tertiary dance programme) perform in a fun week of traditional dance and I’m dying to see my own kids perform these dances. I’m excited to see more dancing from everyone, and wondering if I should pursue my own dancing while I’m here. If there’s a way for me to do that at all.
Actually, I’m dancing in the end-of-term showcase of UM, mounting Daddy’s In the Sisterhood on myself and an old friend and recent UM graduate, Shin Hui. This is another constant, and I’m quite challenged to restage my sister’s part on a body that finds the style, the sharp counts, the body impetus so alien that neither of us can explain how we can proceed. And then when she does get the passage of choreography right, I am as giddy as a shaken up can of Sprite.
I’ve also been attending Prof Anis’ Performance Theory graduate
class constantly, and he said something on the first day that stuck with me for the entire month. He said performers want to keep performing forever because their egos won’t let them stop. That made me think about my own ego, which I am always indulging, and whether I should stop. I’m still thinking about that.
When I first arrived, the closest friend I have who lives here, and has been gamely entertaining me and taking me everywhere, asked me why I would decide this late in life to uproot myself and live in another country for a year. I replied, I wouldn’t have been able to do that at all if the opportunity came any earlier. At all, I swear, and there had been opportunities, which I turned down. So, you could say I came at the right time.
I actually like living in KL/ PJ. I like how it’s still bright outside at 7pm, and how all the coffee shops have wifi, even Starbucks. I actually like walking around and taking the trains, though I still have issues with the confusing bus system and taxi drivers who pretend they don’t know how to get somewhere and lose their way suspiciously to charge you a higher fare. People here are convinced I am going to leave Malaysia knowing how to drive, but I don’t know. I’m an old dog, after all.
I’m also becoming quite sympathetic to local current events. I don’t find funny the few jokes on FB about the missing plane, I am angry that they are burning trees in Sarawak. I worry about the drought and the water rationing, and find myself quite excited about the rain. The Chinese-Tamil-Malay dynamic fascinates me no end, and I love how everything else is “Western.” In China, Taiwan and HK, it always baffled me that everyone speaks to me in Chinese. Here, they think I’m Malay and find it curious that I’m not wearing a headscarf or find it rude that I make them speak to me in English. I was taught to say, “Philippine,” to explain why I can’t speak the language. “You/She looks Malay,” they comment in Bahasa Malaysia after this revelation. I know, right.
Of course, my favourite part about Malaysia is the makan, the food, the eating. I think my ass is larger than it was when I arrived, and I am alarmed, but the next minute, I’m thinking about where to get my next meal. I plan to blog about the food more, I have this project involving finding the Best Laksa in Town that I’m super excited about. But alas, my family’s joke about me becoming super fat after a year in KL may come true.
I miss my family, of course, I miss Berry, I miss my dogs, I miss M. My friends, I don’t miss so much because I see them on Facebook. I see my family on Facebook too, but it’s not the same. On the first weekend, I was so overwhelmed with loneliness that I was ready to fly back home. I suppose all OCWs feel that way. Mom said when I become busy, I’ll forget about them. That might be true, though it’s only been a month.
It’s been a good month. I’m ready for the next eleven.
And oh, guess what? It’s raining. Yay.