12.07.2010 29 °C
Firstly I would like to send my condolences to all the Dutchies reading this blog, I was wearing orange last night
Yes it has been a while, and yes I have been to Autralia and back, but this is well overdue. So I am now halfway through my stint in the happening city known as JB and it has been up and down. I am happy to say that lately it has been more up than down thanks to some friendly locals. So here is a 15 point summary of my halfway mark:
Half a year of.....
1 -- amazing food
2 -- medicine in Malaysia
3 -- stifling heat
4 -- drinking 4 litres of boiled water a day
5 -- living in a very classy shoe box
6 -- being called "doctor" regardless of how many times I have tried to explain I am a student. I have just given up, apparently in Malaysia I am a doctor already.
7 -- sensational food and drinks in bags
8 -- stolen bikes (although I have technically had more bikes stolen in Australia the "stolen bikes per day ratio" is still well and truly in favour of Malaysia)
9 -- swimming in a 15m long pool. Even my 30 non-stop laps only equate to 450m. I am however a tumble turn pro.
10 -- cruising around on my awesome ex-cop 1970's blues brothers bike. Even though it is 37 degrees every day, I am determined to buy a black suit and ride to the government house to pay taxes for the orphanage. It will only be 5AUD anyway.
11 -- dead pets (not my fault).
12 -- Austudy being more than the average wage. That's right, good old centrelink is paying me almost twice what a full time security guard gets here in Malaysia. Just in case I was feeling really good about that situation, the Aussie government also sent me a bill for $50,000 just to remind me that my education is not actually free. And I kid you not, if the guard down stairs miraculously managed to spare half of his income to pay that debt, he would still be in the red 20 years later! Ouch.
13 -- ridiculously cheap and fantastic food
14 -- having a very handy compost bin just over the edge of my balcony. Rotten apples, stale biscuits, stinky durians and dirty fish-tank water all end up sailing 19 stories to a very amusing death. I should clarify that there is an empty grass-covered block next door, all the waste is biodegradable and bird edible and nobody has been hurt yet. It is actually a very mature and highly entertaining method of compost.
15 -- day trips to Singapore. I actually took my bike in there for the first time not so long ago. Unlike the relatively hassle free borders in Europe, Singapore and Malaysia seem to be having a competition to see who can be the biggest pain in the butt. White cards, boom gates, pot holes, bottle necks, vehicle checks, autopasses and roads that even a lab rat would find difficult to navigate. The idea is that you ride through customs in Malaysia (after an inevitable wait in a queue of smoke spewing 2 strokes) and show your passport to the less than friendly passport checking lady and she takes your white customs card and stamps your passport. Then you ride happily across the causeway where you are for a brief moment in no country at all. Then you go through the same process in Singapore, or so I thought. Surely if I just follow everyone else I will be fine right? Wrong.
I got to the front of the queue remarkably quickly, but it turns out that choosing the lane that moves the fastest usually means you are doing something wrong. I waited at the passport checking lady's boomgate for a minute (already feeling sorry for the bike that decided to queue up behind me) completely oblivious to the flashing light that said "scan passport here". When the boom gate opened I realised the passport checking lady had been made redundant so my plan of just looking stupid and hoping they would let me through was foiled. Now I just looked stupid. I felt like I was in a computer game and had to find the next clue before the man behind me starts to hurl abuse. The next clue said "scan your thumb here" which I did only to find the boomgate in front of me still closed, the boom gate behind me also closed and I still looked stupid. Next clue - intercom. "HELLO, HELLO, I'm stuck can someone help me. What? I can't hear you, there is someone shouting behind me!" Then came my favourite people in the whole world - the police. The immigration police to be exact. I know I shouldn't dislike policemen, but they tend to dislike me first. Anyway, this one was laughing when he opened the boomgate and made me follow his little bicycle into the rat warren where looking stupid was useful and the rats were friendly. Moral to the story - don't ride in the lane that says "Singaporeans only".
I can't finish this blog without a tribute to cousin Anna and my mother. What was going to be a 3 day flying stop-over from Anna ended up as a decent 10 day adventure. Three of those days my mum was also here. And in those days was a bunch of awesome food, many trips to Singapore, the board game cafe, world cup madness, sheesha and spew on the couch (thanks Vin). But I am pretty certain that most loved of all was Baxter the motorbike (name has been changed from Porky to Baxter since the police were nice to me). From the time he picked her up at Singapore airport to the time he dropped her off at the bus station (12 hours too early), and even when he was completely and utterly lost in JB he was a happy motorbike. And I have to say, I am getting rather attached too. Now I need a new pillion...
So the question that everyone continues to ask is "how have you found it in Malaysia so far?" And I always answer the same thing. It has been good and it has been bad, but you know what, I went home for two weeks and it was good but it was also bad.
I had an amazing time for the first month and it seemed I was on a great big holiday, then I was alone and had a really bad patch before it all got better again. I have made a pathetic attempt at the language and my studies are not flourishing in an environment of poor facilities and some very bad standards. But I believe the worst is behind me and this time when I arrived it felt a lot like I was coming home. That is a stark contrast to the feeling I had when I arrived exactly 6 months ago. I am about to enter a semester of hard work and I will have to do some study which I have mostly been able to avoid so far, but that won't do me any harm.
I have had the odd complaint that I haven't really written about the hospital and my studies, so the next few months will give me an opportunity to correct that. Bye for now.