11 June 2015

One Year In Malaysia

It is hard to believe but, in a few short weeks, we will have been in Malaysia for one year.  Time has truly flown, we arrived as a family of four and are now a very happy and settled family of five (plus pets).
Just before we left Kazakhstan I wrote about what I would and would not miss about our life in Astana.  It was certainly hard for me to leave behind the first posting I had shared with my husband and children, I cried when our plane took off and we left Kazakhstan behind forever, something I have only done with one other posting.  Reading the list back I was pretty spot on with what I miss and do not miss.

A new posting is always daunting, things that have become routine in the last place are difficult, at first, in the new home.  It can take time to adjust as well, to recognize that the old life is gone and you are living the new one.  This is particularly so for us because when we move we go directly from one posting to another with no holiday in between to cushion the blow.  We literally wake up one morning in the old home and the next in our new place.  Our move to Malaysia has been complicated by the fact that we had a fairly major in country move to contend with 9 months into our time here. Nevertheless I think we can safely say that we are now settled into our life here in Ipoh.  I have been thinking about what I like and do not like about our new home.

From this....

To this...
To this... life has changed dramatically in the last 12 months.

I like:
  • Our home.  We had a beautiful home in Miri, possibly the best house I have ever lived in, it fitted all our criteria as though it had been made for us.  The one niggle – slow wifi in the TV room and our bedroom.  This was the house we brought our new daughter home to, 10 weeks into our time in Miri and it will always have a place in our hearts.  Our home in Ipoh is also lovely.  The house itself is not as perfect a fit for us as the Miri one but the area is spectacular.  A river for the dogs to swim in, wildlife at our doorstep (I counted 10 separate close wildlife encounters on my last evening run); what more could we want.
  • Our car:  driving has always been important to me, it gives me independence and I love being behind the wheel.  Our car is old but does the business and is spacious enough that everyone is comfortable. 
  • The weather:  I miss the extreme seasons of Astana, there was something about the cold weather (and the stunning blue sky) that made winter there a magical time.  The hot summer was a glorious change and the dichotomy was simply magical.  That said I like the simplicity of having just one season to contend with.  The fact that I do not need to spend 10 minutes getting dressed for the outside (and a further 10 getting the baby swathed) clinches the matter. 
  • My hair:  the dry climate in Astana meant that static was the order of the day.  I spent 3 years trying to calm my hair down with tumbler dryer sheets and oil, I still looked like I had stuck my fingers in the plug. Humid frizz is a doddle in comparison!
  • The simplicity:  although English is not the first language here everyone speaks it to some degree and all banks etc are able to operate in it and have website pages in English.  This makes life much easier as I no longer need to sit down with a dictionary to work out what I am trying to do.  Films in the Cinema are also in English which is blissful.
  • My tan:  I will never be a brown nut as I have ridiculously fair skin.  The light here, however, means that I have graduated from deathly pale to looking as though there is at least a breath of air in my body.  I am still white enough to cause exposure problems in photographs (I am really not kidding) when standing next to other people though so I have some way to go.
  • Flowers:  cut flowers are not easily available here but when I did track down a florist that sells fresh rather than fake they are cheap compared with Astana.  This means I can enjoy the luxury of cut flowers to cheer up my home.
  • Fruit:  here in Ipoh we are a short drive away from the Cameron Highlands so I can also get  both the 'run of the mill' tropical offering and temperate fruit and herbs (which are expensive and exotic in other parts of South East Asia) quite cheaply.
  • Starbucks:  my local one is a drive though, this is bad for my waistline but makes the school run bearable. 
  • Visas: or lack thereof.  We, of course, need to have visas to allow us to live our lives here in Malaysia.  Our family, on the other hand, just have to turn up at the airport to be granted leave to remain for a whole 3 months on a tourist pass.  This means that it is easy for people to pop over and visit without the need for complex letters of invitation and visits to embassies to get the visa.

I am still learning to cope with:
  • Humidity:  I grew up in the tropics so I don’t mind the humidity as such but it would be nice to be able to wear my hair down outside from time to time without the back of my neck getting soaking wet in 2 minutes.
  • Driving:  Malaysian driving is an odd combination of passive and aggressive.  Some people will pull out onto a main road doing no more than 20kph and continue to drive a similar speed on the main motorway,  others will drive ridiculously fast, weaving in and out of traffic.  Don’t even get me started on the dreaded moped in the blindspot!
  • Loo paper:  Squirty water hoses are the norm here so the rule is, very strictly, bring your own wherever you go or do without!  Public loos in Miri were best avoided altogether, here in Ipoh they are pretty decent (if somewhat lacking in paper).
  • Ants:  these have the potential to be a problem anywhere in the world (Nigeria was particularly bad for them) so I can’t really complain.  We seem to have some pretty persistent ones, however so everything has to go in a Tupperware, even in the fridge!
  • Time Zones:  We have an awkward 7 or 8 hour (depending on the time of year) time difference with our families.  This means that it can be difficult to find a time to make a long call.
All in all not bad, we are enjoying our time here so far and looking forward to seeing what the next year will bring.  

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  1. It looks beautiful where you are now. Having moved from England to America, it would seem that my expat adventure was nothing as complicated as yours. Sometimes, Americans even understand me. :-)
    There was that one time, though, that I took may daughter into a public toilet and there were no doors between each toilet, apparently you had to sit looking at each other. Quite a shock!

  2. Loving your list of likes and dislikes. Driving comes into both. Amazing that you've been in Malaysia a year already and have increased the family by 20% in that time. I can relate to missing seasons, most people think they hate winter but no real seasons other than wet and "dry" can be tiring.

    1. Funny isn't it, you miss the most unexpected things. I keep forgetting what season it is in the UK at the moment and am amazed to see pictures of the family walking their dogs in shirt sleeves not coats!

  3. Glad to see you settling in -- such an amount of change in a year! The wildlife and scenery where you are sounds beautiful, though :-)

    1. Hi Celia - yes big change! How is life with you these days?

  4. There are some definite huge positives in your list of 'likes" here! I had to laugh at your tan one, do you really really cause exposure problems!?
    I had a massive pang of jealousy when I read about your Starbucks, oh man I'd be so happy if we had a Starbucks!!!
    I can relate to the want to wear your hair down every now and then, it really is a no go isn't it :(
    We are also having some ant issues, I know there are way worse things but ants really do drive me crazy, they are so hardy!!!
    Thanks for linking up this post, a lovely insight into your life in Malaysia :) #myexpatfamily

    1. I really do - particularly here in South East Asia. I will think of you when I have my next Starbucks!

  5. Wow, one year already. that seems to have flown by! Sounds great. Wish I had a drive thru Starbucks on my school run! Not sure I'd cope with the ants so much. #myexpatfamily

    1. Yup the drive through really needs to come to the UK, will it when we are back on vacation.

  6. This is such an interesting read, and it's lovely to know you're settling in well. A year goes fast, doesn't it? It's comforting to me, in a way, as I'm staring down the barrel of a move to a totally new place. I hope I can write a similarly positive post in about a year's time too.

    1. You will be fine, a year is so short but so long as well, you will have worked out how life works! Good luck with the move.

  7. I loved reading this. Being the US, Starbucks is everywhere, but not as widespread as Dunkin, so I was (rather too) pleased that our small town is one that has both :) I commented to someone yesterday that after a couple of weeks of nice weather, I am already more tanned than I was at the end of our first summer here! My skin is acclimatising, which for a ghostly Scot is quite nice! Considering that you're in South East Asia, and I'm in the US, my lists would be quite similar :) Compared to Scotland the East Coast of the US has far more extreme seasons and the humidity in summer really does take some getting used to. And the ants! Gah!

    1. Ants are definitely one of my huge problems out here - and the giant cockroach we have christened Maurice who lives under my bath. WE don't have dunkin here but we do have Subway!