Too dramatic of a title? Perhaps. But considering I’ve been sitting down to write this blog post for over a month (opening lines to my drafts have included, “In less than a month, I’ll be leaving Malaysia” and “In less than a week, I’ll be leaving Malaysia), I suppose it feels appropriate.
In less than 10 hours, I’ll be leaving Malaysia. I’ve been attempting to organize my thoughts on this for quite awhile, in a way that is both coherent and comprehensive. We’ll see how I do.
When I came to Malaysia 9 months ago, all I had was a plane ticket. Alright, Alex was already here, so I wasn’t completely on my own. But it was still overwhelming. My initial plan was to get a job teaching English near Alex’s placement, a plan which quickly fizzled after realizing the low salary that most schools offered. Instead, I decided to try my hand at freelance writing.
The thing with freelance writing (or any job working from home) is that it can get kind of lonely. You don’t have as much interaction with people as you would working elsewhere, and this was especially true living in a Malaysian village. I had to work extra hard to put myself out there, which is difficult enough for me usually but is especially hard in a foreign country.
When I did first start putting myself out there, I wasn’t quite prepared for how I was received. Many people in Alex’s program, for example, looked down upon me for coming here. There was a belief that because I wasn’t part of a program and didn’t have a structured arrangement, I didn’t belong here. But, as they say, this wasn’t my first rodeo. I eventually did find people, both among Alex’s friends and otherwise, who felt differently and welcomed me with open arms.
As far as our community went, most people didn’t quite know what to make of us. Their reactions ranged from curiously looking to disapprovingly staring to ignoring us altogether. There were a couple restaurants that we frequented, and once we became regulars we were treated like anyone else. I personally enjoyed the produce lady at the market, who would talk at me in Bahasa and laugh the whole time, knowing full well I didn’t understand a word she said. Our neighbors, a Chinese family, were friendly and gifted us enough durian to last a lifetime.
One huge problem I did have with Malaysia (not that it’s limited to here) is street harassment. I had quite a few instances of aggressive behavior from men who acted more like animals than humans. It disgusted me and there was nothing I could do except ignore them, stare back or yell, which disgusted me even more. Moving on…
The best part about living in Malaysia was that it was a fabulous jumping off point for traveling throughout Southeast Asia. I vaguely knew that it was cheap and easy to get around here, but I had no idea I would visit as many places as I did. This worked out especially well because I stayed in Malaysia for 9 months using only tourist visas. This means I had to leave the country every 90 days, and always have a one-way ticket to my next destination to show the immigration officer (to “prove” I wasn’t living here). I didn’t discuss this on the blog at all, mostly because every time I left for a trip I was a tiny bit terrified that they wouldn’t let me back in. Luckily, I encountered minimal issues and according to my latest stamp, could stay in Malaysia through the new year if I wanted. Visit Malaysia 2014, indeed.
But as generous of an offer as that is (thanks, Malaysia), I will be back in New York by dinnertime tomorrow evening. I am so excited to see my family and friends, eat mountains of cheese and launder my clothes in an American washing machine. I’m not sure what the fate of the Rambler will be, now that I will have to go home and get a job and not travel to cool places all the time. But! We shall see. I do love blogging and would love to continue it in some fashion.