Early Impressions of Malaysia

Why am I going to Asia?

I'm going to Asia because I fell in love with Kelly. I met Kelly on CamFrog. CamFrog is a chat program for people who have webcams. I did a search for women between the ages of 35-45 who were currently online. In the search results was a woman from Malaysia. It was my goal at the time to have one chat friend from each country in Asia and I had no friend from Malaysia yet. Plus my ex-girlfriend Angie was in Malaysia on a business trip at the time so Malaysia was starting to interest me.

I asked Kelly "do you want to chat" and she said "yes". At the time Kelly was in a deaf chat room. Kelly is deaf and wanted to chat with other deaf people. She assumed that I was deaf too but I had found her by doing a search, not by going into her deaf chat room. We chatted for a while and she signed to me. I did not understand why she was signing to me. She asked "Are you deaf?" but I assumed she meant "Are you paying attention?"

We enjoyed chatting with each other. We moved to MSN Messenger since it had a nicer webcam feature. The two of us hit it off. On the second day I finally figured out that Kelly was deaf and she figured out that I wasn't. She seemed a little insecure at that point and asked "Is it OK?" I said "yes" and her worried face smiled.

After we chatted for a couple of weeks she was hinting that she wanted to leave her boyfriend for me. He was deaf and Christian like her. He was also from the USA and planning to visit in a year. They seemed like a good pair but she was bored with him. After we had chatted for 3 weeks we had the following conversation ...

  • Me: Do you love your boyfriend?
  • Kelly: No
  • Me: Do you love me?
  • Kelly: Yes
  • Me: Will you be my girlfriend?
  • Kelly: OK, I am your girlfriend
She then broke up with her boyfriend via chat on the spot and blocked him. I was impressed!

We met May 25, 2005. We had decided to get married after 5 or 6 weeks! She and I chatted via webcam twice per day. During her lunch break and when she went to bed. We did this almost every day of the week.

Most women I meet online send me 1 or 2 pictures but Kelly would send me 1 or 2 pictures per day! Most women who send me pics tell me not to show them to anyone. Kelly allowed me to show her pics to anyone. Most women do not like me taking screen captures of their webcam. If they allow it, they often tell me not to show anyone. Kelly didn't mind and let me show anyone. In other words, it was obvious that Kelly was not like most women I meet online and I liked that. She shared her life with me and allowed me to share it with others. I liked that she was so open and revealing and not hiding anything. She was real and not trying to pretend she was something she wasn't.

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Leave for Malaysia

It was going to be about 6 months before I could save enough money up to visit Kelly. Then a miracle happened. The stars aligned and I got the money to move to Malaysia. To make a long story short, it cost me about $500 to get my passport fast. I also had to buy an expensive ticket so that I could easily change the dates.

Nobody wanted me to leave. My best friend in Phoenix, Rich, begged me to stay daily. My web-site partner kept trying to convince me to stay. At the deaf church I met a nice woman interpreter who wishes I would stay too. Even my landlord wanted me to stay. I was given a lot of warnings from friends about dangers and scams. I was told online love is not real. Very few people actually supported me flying to Malaysia to get married. One friend said I was "Crazy". My friend Tris is perhaps my only real supporter. He understands me and wishes he could do the same thing.

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Meeting Kelly for first time

Kelly and sister #2 named Chin (Kelly is #3 of 9 kids) met me at airport. Kelly and I were all smiles but didn't say much since my sign language is very weak. Chin didn't speak much English but attempted to make conversation with me. Kelly sat in back seat with my suit-case while Chin and I sat up front. It was strange to be a passenger on the left side of the car where I am used to driving. When Chin motioned for me to get in the left side I thought she wanted me to drive. Driving on the left side of the road was a very odd feeling. It was dark when I arrived so we drove back in the dark but I could still see that everything looked very foreign. I could definitely tell I was in a third world country. The road was filled with crazy people on motor-bikes, many of them weaving in and out of the cars.

When we arrived it seemed like the whole family had gathered to meet me. Introductions were made including to her parents but I didn't remember anyone's name. Many of the sisters spoke very good English. It wasn't long before I pulled out my gifts of food, wine and magazines. I gave Kelly's dad American money for his international dollar bill collection.

I was asked if hungry and I said yes so I was lead out the back where there was a Thai restaurant on the street behind the house. Most restaurants in Malaysia are outdoors. Many of them have a roof with no walls. Kelly, a couple of her sisters, their kids and her mom joined us. I noticed some kind of salamander crawling on the wall. The menu was not in English but it did have pictures. I asked them to order something for me so they got me Tom Yam which was a large bowl of soup with various vegetables and meat. They were all looking forward to me turning red because it was too spicy. It was quite spicy but not too spicy for me. It was right at the edge of being too spicy for me. I ate the whole thing and enjoyed it even though it was a little painful. They were impressed I could eat it. I explained that I like my food spicier than most of my family and friends.

I was shown my room. I was to sleep in Kelly's room and Kelly would sleep with her two sisters. That first night was very interesting. I was awakened by an intense rain storm. Rain was coming thru the open window. The cool breeze felt very good since the night air had been about 90F (32C) with high humidity. About 5 am I was awaken by the sound of a man singing some type of religious song over a loud speaker. It was very surreal. It turns out that we are next to a Muslim school and this guy sings what sounds like a Muslim prayer at sun-rise, mid-day and sun-set.

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All Women

Most of the time I'm surrounded by women in this crowded house. Except for the father and some boys, it's all women. There is Kelly, her mom and her sisters Chu (#1), Chin (#2), Tee (#8), Ping (#9) as well as step-sister. The sisters that do have kids have either all girls or all boys. Kelly has 7 sisters total. The implication is that if Kelly and I have kids we will have either all girls or all boys. There are also two female friends visiting from Thailand. There are two young Indonesian women living her working as servants. There is another young young women working as a stylist at one of the 3 beauty shops the sisters own and operate. In total there are nearly 20 women in this house and about 4 men. Yes, it is a crowded house! My room is right next to the shower and since everyone takes 2 or 3 showers per day, I see a lot of traffic go past my open door. So many different languages are spoken here. English, Hokkien Chinese, Malaysian, Indonesian and sign language. I read that children raised in a home where multiple languages are spoken are more intelligent. These kids have to deal with 5 different languages ... at least!

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Need voltage converter for computer

I tried to setup my PC on the second day but the plugs are different here. So Kelly and I hopped on two bikes and rode up the block to the local stores. Eventually we found a converter so that my plug could plug into it then plug into their plug. I assumed it also converted the voltage but I was soon to learn this was not the case.

I plugged it all together and turned it on the fireworks began! Sparks, flames and smoke were shooting out of my power-strip and they seemed to be moving from right to left. We turned it off before they reached the plug leading to my PC! My power-strip was smoking. I unplugged everything and just hoped my PC was OK.

The next day we got a power-converter to reduce the voltage from 220V to 110V. It also modified the Amps and Hz. I checked the specs on my PC and other devices and everything looked fine. I plugged in a different power-strip since the one from yesterday was fried. We turned on everything and no fireworks. Then I plugged in my electric shaver and turned it. It worked fine! So then we plugged in my PC and it booted right up.

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Different kind of toilet

I was at the Mall with Kelly and I had to use the toilet. I discover it costs 20 Malaysian cents (USD 5 cents). I check out the stalls and there are no toilets to sit on. Each stall has just a hole in the floor with a flush-handle on the wall and a hose. There was no toilet paper.

I dropped my pants to my ankles and attempted to squat over the hole. This wasn't going to work. My pants were in the way. I'm not that good at squatting since I'm not the flexible. Squatting is something that is common here in Malaysia. I see people squatting on the sidewalk. It seems like a very comfortable position if you have the flexibility. So I removed my pants completely and squatted over the hole and did my business. I used the hose and my hand to clean-up then I flushed.

Afterwards I put my pants back on but now my underwear is wet because my butt is wet. I washed my hands and left. Now I'm walking around the Mall with a wet butt and my cheeks are sliding as I walk which eventually gives me a rash. I'm embarrassed so I don't say anything.

Eventually the pain gets too great so I have to confess the whole story to Kelly. She's prepared. She carries toilet paper with her wherever she goes. She gives me some and I went back to the restroom to dry off and felt much better!

I have yet to see a bus that has a toilet on it. I took an 8 hour bus ride to Singapore. When I got on the bus I noticed there was no toilet. Long range buses in the USA always have toilets. They did make stops every few hours at rest-stops so we could walk around, eat and use the toilets.

The toilets that are like western toilets have two differences. The flusher is on the left side and the toilet seat forms a seal around the edge of the bowl. In the USA toilet seats have little rubber feet which leaves a gap between the ceramic bowl and the seat. Here there are no rubber feat. The seat is made to fit around the bowl. One advantage is that any smells are locked inside the bowl pretty much. There is far less smell with this type of seat.

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Different kind of shower

Everyone showers at least twice per day in the tropics. You sweat so much it's really necessary. I go to take a shower before bed on the first night and I see there is a bath-tub but it's very square and deep and already filled with water. I remove my clothes and climb in and proceed to wash myself.

Afterwards the water is dirty so I pull the plug from the bottom and let the water run out into the basin. The water drains very slowly so I wait patiently until it is empty then I rinse out the tub.

The next day I'm told that is not a bath tub and that they don't take baths, only showers. The tub is used to hold clean water since there are sometimes water shortages. I'm supposed to stand outside the tub and scoop fresh water from this tub and pour it on myself. The water feels cool but that's a good thing since you're not only bathing, you're also cooling down because the days here seem to hover between 90F-95F (32C-35C).

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Not too spicy ... yet

The first few days I was here I got a lot of warnings about the food being to spicy but so far nothing has been too spicy until one morning I noticed a small dish of these really small green and red peppers. Kelly warns me these are very hot and to only eat one at a time. I ignore her warning and pour about 10 on my noodles. Half way thru my noodles I'm in pain and I have the standard reaction. My face turns red, nose runs, and nothing I do can cool it. I drink some heavy cream milk to coat my stomach to try to limit the acid burn damage to my digestive system. Apparently these peppers were picked off a bush around the house. They have quite a garden growing around the house and many of the foods we eat are right from their very own garden.

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Hot and Humid and no Air Conditioning

There is no Air Conditioning here at the house. It is typically 95F (35C) and 90% humidity. I'm slowly getting used to it but I still feel uncomfortable and sweat a lot so I drink a lot of water. I have to work in this heat so I'm planning on getting a fan that constantly blows on me. I feel like such a wimp. When I'm out mid-day walking with Kelly I'm dying from the heat but Kelly hardly breaks a sweat. 85F (30C) now feels cool to me.

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Wrong side of the Road

I've been here for 2 weeks now and I almost get killed everday because I forget which way the cars are coming. It's hard to break the 40 years of instinct I've developed. It's a scary thought but I try to look both ways. The traffic here is crazy. People drive really fast and there are tons of crazy motor-bikers. My rule now is to look both ways because sometimes people drive on the wrong side of the road. It's a scary thought to think that any of those times I stepped out into the road looking the wrong way I could have been killed. So far luck is with me.

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Crazy Motorcycle riders

The motor-bikes outnumber the cars and it seems most of them have a death wish although I've yet to see a single accident. I've seen many near misses though. They are really good drivers and good motor-bike riders here. They have developed good skills to drive here! The roads are narrow and windy and crowded and people are in a hurry.

People on motor-bikes usually travel much faster than the cars and they weave in and out of traffic. When there is a stop light, the motor-bikes continue past the cars to the front of the line then bunch up. It's like a race. They pass cars on the left and right. The lines on the road seem to be optional. People change lanes without signaling. I've yet to see anyone use their blinker to signal a lane change. Helmets are required but apparently not for children. I often see small children ages 2 to 5 riding on these motor-bikes with no helmets.

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Seat Belts Not Required

In Singapore seat-belts were required by law by everyone in a vehicle but in Malaysia many of the cars do not have seat belts in the back seat.

I've taken many trips with various sisters and their kids ages 2 to 13 and they let their kids float around the car un-buckled. The parents are unconcerned what will happen to them if they are in a serious car accident. I assume they accept the consequences since the chances of getting in a serious car accident are slim even though every one drives really close.

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Sumo-sized underwear XXXXL

I'm 6 feet tall (182 cm) tall and big so it is really hard to find clothes that fit. Kelly and I went shopping for underwear for me and at first we purchased a package of XXL. I figured it would be big enough since the size I wear from the USA is XL. When I got home I tried it on and it was too small! Later we returned to the Mall and I found a package of XXXXL Sumo Size! I went into the dressing room and tried them and they fit. They actually had a picture of a Sumo Wrestler on the packaging. I'm a big guy but I'm not as big a Sumo Wrestler. For the Asian guy this is the "fat size" obviously. So USA XL = Asian XXXXL in underwear.

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Everything Cost Less

I never understood how Angie in Indonesia took the Taxi to work each day but now I do. It's so cheap! Everything is cheaper here than is the USA. I just bought some high-end speakers that cost me about USD 30. These speakers would typically run me USD 150 in USA! Amazing! In USA I was barely earning enough money to scrape by but here I earn more than most people. I love taking a taxi everywhere but Kelly says it's too expensive. I tell her that a long taxi ride here will cost USD 15 here but USD 50 in USA. Hopefully I can afford to buy that digital camera soon and add some pics to this page. Kelly is taking pics with her film camera and will scan them in when she gets the developed.

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Trip to Singapore

I took a one-day trip to Singapore to see my Indonesian friend Angie who was there on business. Kelly wanted to go but her parents would not allow it. They are traditional conservative Chinese family. They will decide when we can travel together. They will also decide if and when we get married. They will also not allow us to get our own apartment before we are married. Kelly is 40 years told. I find this very odd in my culture. Imagine if Kelly was 80 and her parents were still alive. I wonder if there is some age where they give her the freedom to do what she wants. I'm guessing the parents always have control over the kids no matter how old.

The bus left about 11 pm and got there about 7 am. It was an 8 hour over-night trip on an Air-Conditioned bus with real comfy seats. Cost: USD 15.

The return trip however was a nightmare. I took about 5 different buses and none where air-conditioned or had comfy seats. I had to transfer and wait up to 2 hours between buses. I also took about 4 taxi rides and a ferry ride. Travel time was about 15 hours and cost was about USD 50.

I made a mistake. I took the wrong bus back. I did not question people who scheduled my trip. I did not question how long it would take or how many transfers I would need.

Singapore was great. It is so clean and modern. Seeing Angie for the first time was also great. Kelly was the first e-friend I met in person and Angie was the second. Angie took off work early and we hung-out the rest of the day and all night. She had a business meeting in the morning so I left about 8 am the next day. Taxi rides around Singapore were also very cheap. I stopped at an Internet/Gaming place and it only cost RM 2 per hour! That's about USD 0.50 per hour. In USA a cyber-cafe runs about USD 5.00 per hour. I used my PC for about 8 hours. I would leave and have lunch or go shopping but continue to hold my PC because it was so cheap.

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Tandem Bike and Swim in Sea

Kelly and I walked a block up the road to sister #4's grocery store where we borrowed their tandem bike. I don't recall ever riding one of these before. I gestured to Kelly to take the front because she knew where we were going but she insisted I take the front. It was awkward at first but soon I got the hang of it. Then I realized that the left and right brake levers were reversed. In the USA the right brake lever is for the back but here in Malaysia it's the front. It is yet another thing that is reversed here.

We headed out on the open road riding with traffic on the left of course. The bike had gears which was great because we were soon going up and down hills and around sharp bends. Unfortunately if one person stopped pedaling you both must stop pedaling. I wanted to stop pedaling and just glide down hills but Kelly wanted to keep pedaling. No matter how fast we went she just kept pedaling faster and faster so I went along with it. We got pedaling so fast that her feet flew off the pedals. I stopped pedaling so she could put them back on and she started to pedal again! I kept shifting gears so we didn't have to spin the pedals so fast but that just meant we'd go fast and faster. Soon we were flying at about 35 mph (55 kph)! Neither of us is wearing a helmet. We're riding a bike that we're not entirely in control of and Kelly is pushing us to hit 40 mph (65 kph)!

Lucky for us I'm fairly skilled at riding a bike and we survived. We finally reached our destination ... a beach. There were some boys swimming so Kelly suggested I take a swim. I had not brought my bathing suit so I figured I'd just wear my shorts. Kelly opted to stay onshore although I invited her in too. This would be my first time swimming in the sea while in Asia.

The water was warm. The beach had a lot of shells so the surface of the sand under the water was rough. I walked out until it was waist deep them jumped in and swam out a bit. I stepped on something and reached down and picked it up. It was a long shell that I had never seen before. I threw it to shore for Kelly to see. We brought it back to her sister who collects shells. Upon arriving back home we showed the sister the shell and it was then that I noticed the crab was still living in it. The sister said to throw it back in the sea so we walked down to her local beach and tossed it back. Unfortunately by then I think the crab was half-dead. I felt sad that we had killed the crab. I didn't know it was still living in the shell. It was another reminder of how many living things surround us. I realized that as I walked out into the water, I was stepping on all kinds of livings things. I'm probably lucky none of them pinched or bit me.

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Drink Plenty of Water

While living in Arizona I ended up at the hospital because I got dehydrated. The doctor told me to drink enough water so that my pee is clear. I had Air Conditioning in my apartment and I drank water all day so I peed often. But here in Malaysia the temperature during day is between 90F-100F (32C-38C) and I have no Air Conditioning so I'm sweating all day. I rarely pee and when I do, it is far from clear even though I drink about 2 to 3 gallons (7 to 11 liters) of water daily. I doubt that I've sweated this much in my life. I keep hoping that I'll adapt to this climate. Nobody else is sweating like me. Obviously they're used to it.

Once in a while Kelly and I wake up at 6 am and go for a jog. I doubt I've sweated this much in my life! I must lose about 1 gallon (4 liters) of water in 1 hour! It looks as though someone threw a bucket of water on me. My hair is drenched in sweat and my arms have large beads of water droplets. I'm panting and dying as we jog around the park block and Kelly is hardly straining. She's not even breaking a sweat! This is easy for her.

She may be good at running but I look forward to the day when I can buy a nice bike and we go for a good long ride. I think she will be the one straining. We'll see ... Of course its not fair to have her ride her bike. Their bikes are all low quality and in need of maintenance. Both Kelly and I need to be riding good bikes for the test to be valid.

I have to admit that it is nice to have an athletic girlfriend / wife. I definitely need someone in my life to push my physically and motivate me to stay fit. I'm always more fit than my girlfriends. They always have trouble keeping up with me. I've always wanted the reverse to be true and finally it is. Kelly has been involved in athletics as a teenager so she is very fit now.

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Everything is Reversed

So many things are reversed here. They drive on the left. The steering wheel is on the right. The right brake lever on a bicycle is for the front wheel. Light switches also work the opposite here. Flip it up for OFF and down for ON. I guess since I'm upside down, everything works in reverse. Flush handles on toilets are on the left instead of right. People tend to walk on sidewalks or stairs with the same rules of the road so here people stay to the left. Escalators are reversed here. In the Christian church we go to they sit while singing hymnals. In the USA they always stand. Because people remove their shoes when they enter a building, everyone is bare-footed in church.

Today is Sep 1 2005 and I list the date as 9/1/2005 but they would list the date as 1/9/2005. This caused some confusion today when Kelly showed me our bus tickets to Kuala Lumpur (capital). I glanced at the date only looking at the middle number which was "09" so I assumed we were leaving Sep 9 which actually we are leaving tomorrow Sep 2. I was releaved she had postponed the trip a week since I have to work this weekend then sister #1 Chu asks me when we would like a ride to the bus station tomorrow. I told her that we postponed the trip a week so she confirmed with Kelly who didn't know what she was talking about. It was very confusing until I saw her sister write down some dates then I realized what happened.

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Pirate Video and Software

VCD is more common here than DVD, especially private VCDs. Kelly has about a dozen of them. They are filmed off the movie screen so they are low quality in picture and in sound and sometimes you can hear the audience react. Kelly also has a DVD with 8 movies on it! I wondered how they could fit them but when I watched one I wondered no more. They are saved at a very low quality. They seem happy with this low quality because they save a lot of money. I still prefer the high quality.

In Asia it is common to pirate software as well. I showed Kelly how to use Windows Update for her Windows XP laptop. First it downloaded a Windows Verifier to make sure her copy of Windows wasn't pirated. It turns out it was. It's not her fault. Whoever sold her the laptop installed using a pirated copy of Windows XP. Now she cannot use Windows Update. She needed to upgrade Windows Media Player to play a video her friend emailed her.

I'm told at the Mall that computer shops sell pirated versions of Windows XP Service Pack 2 and other upgrades you can get through Windows Update. So if you cannot use Windows Update because you have a pirate vesion of Windows XP, you can always buy the various updates at the mall.

I just got done watching a pirated version of the movie A.I. It came on two CDs and was low resolution and obviously pirated. A couple minutes of the movie are missing between disks. There's a low resolution beer ad thrown in at the beginning. It is sub-titled in Mandarin and Malaysian.

I tried for 20 minutes to play my DVD movie but it wouldn't play. Finally I asked Kelly for help and she pointed out that I was using the VCD player, not the DVD player. Movies also come on CD. Normally you cannot fit a movie on a CD so how do they do it? Low Quality! They reduce the video quality so it takes up less space. The USA doesn't have VCD. Nobody wants to watch a low quality movie. A pirated DVD would be of the same quality as the original. It would be a byte for byte copy.

At the Mall I saw 2 or 3 movies per DVD. It was often a movie and it sequels like Charlies Angels 1 and 2, Spiderman 1 and 2, Alien 1 and 2, Godfather 2, 3 and 3, Matrix 1, 2 and 3, Bowling for Columbine and Fahrenheit 9/11, Meet the Parents and Meet the Fockers, Dawn of the Dead (1978) and Dawn of the Dead (2004) or perhaps a Patrick Swayze triple-feature of Road House, Dirty Dancing and Ghost.

Check out this DVD with 6 movies on 1 DVD! 3 Hilary Duff movies and 3 Anne Hathaway movies. They are all very low quality. I tried watching one and I couldn't stand it.

But sometimes they combined two movies that had no connection like Along Came Polly and Midnight Cowboy or A Walk to Remember and Kill Bill. It boggled my mind why anyone would want those two movies. They are also super-cheap! The single-movie DVDs I bought were only RM 7 (USD 1.90). They DVD movies are displayed in DVD boxes which are empty. When you buy it, you take the case to the register where they give you a DVD in a plastic envelope and put the box back on the shelf. I'm sure these plastic sleeves help reduce the costs just like juice-in-a-plastic bag on a string instead of in a cup. It's all about cost. Most people ride motorcycles because it's cheaper. You can actually buy a brand new bicycle for RM 100 (USD 27)! It looks all shiny and nice but it's really a piece of junk that will fall apart.

I just got done watching Charlie and the Chocolate Factory on a pirated DVD and once again the English sub-titles were hilariously wrong. For example the line was "Sealed in cement" but sub-titles said "Sealed in semen". How hard is it to hire a native English person to do the translating??? Willy Wonka says "Y'know. All those hip, jazzy, super cool, neat, keen, and groovy cats. It's in the fridge, daddy-o! Are you hip to the jive? Can you dig what I'm layin' down? I knew that you could. Slide me some skin, soul brother!" There were no sub-titles. The translators threw up their hands and said "I give up!"

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Chocolate melts in your hands

It's usually above 90F (32C) here so if you buy a chocolate bar like a Kit-Kat, half of the chocolate ends up stuck to the wrapper since it is melted. It's a total mess since the melted chocolate gets all of your fingers. It seems to me that all chocolate products need to be sold refrigerated. The temperature in stores is often above 80F (27C) so the chocolate is still melted!

Many of the refrigerators in stores have a digital temperature read-out so you can know how cold your soda is going to be. The temperature is usually between 4C (40F) and 8C (46F). I wish USA had that! I like my soft drinks to be 1C (33F), just 1 degree above freezing!

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Cheese Wiz

Before I came here I asked Kelly what gifts I could buy for her family and her reply was "food". I was advised by a friend to get chocolates but I lived in Arizona where it was 110F (43C) and I had to ride my bike to the store so the chocoloate would melt by the time I got it home.

So I went shopping for non-chocolate food items that were clearly American. When I purchased Cheese Wiz (Spray Cheese in a Can) I had no idea that this product is unknown in Asia.

I showed a few of my Asian friends online the Cheese Wiz before I flew to Asia and they had no idea what it was. China, Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia ... all clueless. I figured it was going to be a big hit!

All of my gifts were put in a large suitcase which was checked with the airlines but I put the Cheese Wiz in my carry-on because I was worried the can might explode if the cargo bay wasn't pressurized.

When I got to Hong Kong I decided to explore the city but I had to pass my bags thru security x-rays to return to the airport. They spotted the can and asked me to open my bag. They pulled out the can and asked what it was. I told them it was food ... cheese in a can. "Show me" said the security person so I popped off the lid and squired some cheese on my finger and ate it. "OK" he said and I was on my way.

I showed many Asian people along the way and none had ever heard of "spray cheese". They were all afraid to try it so they just watched me eat it.

Upon arriving at Kelly's her sisters gathered to meet me and I started pulling out gifts. When I pulled out the spray cheese, nobody knew what it was. I showed it works and I ate some off my finger. Nobody was really interested in trying it and to this day it remains my only food gift un-eaten. I told them it is usually sprayed on crackers but their crackers are a bit different and do not taste good with spray cheese.

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Smoked-Out by Indonesia

I woke up one day and looked out the window and could barely see the hills thru the fog. I asked Kelly why it was so foggy and she showed me the newspaper. Malaysian companies in Indonesia had set fire to their land to clear the forest for farming. The smoke was so dense it floated across the sea into Malaysia where it choked several cities to the point where most things shut down and people stayed inside or wore surgical masks. Schools and businesses were closed and public transportation was shut down. The smoke literally choked the cities to death. Some deaths were blamed on the smoke by people with respiratory problems.

The next day it was worse! I couldn't even see the mountains. This was the day Kelly and I had chosen to go out sight seeing. We braved the smoke not knowing if we'd end up gagging by the end of the day or perhaps with cancer in 10 years. The newspapers had quite a few warnings about the pollution levels. Nobody seemed to care so we didn't either.

We did not choke on the smoke. Most people in Penang didn't seem to worry about it and everything seemed to be functioning as normal. A few people wore surgical masks. We visited a Buddhist temple then went to the mall and saw a movie and came home on the bus.

Later that day I noticed that the smoke had suddenly gotten really thick outside so I went out to investigate but they were only spraying for mosquitoes. I remember as a kid trucks would drive around and spray this huge white cloud of smoke at dusk. As kids we loved to run through it. I think it was the chemical DDT which was later determined to cause cancer and they switched to a safer chemical.

Somehow I think Malaysia is like the USA in the 1970's. They are probably spraying with cancer causing DDT. Young and the old are outside in this thick cloud of gas that is deadly to mosquitoes. It's a poison so it's probably not good for humans either and yet everyone is out there breathing it ... including me. This is on top of the thick smoke from Indonesia so the pollution levels at that point are off the chart.

It will be good to get some relief from the mosquitoes though. My body was starting to get covered with large red welts. I'm a little concerned because some carry diseases like Malaria and I haven't had my shots ... yet.

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Air Conditioning ... finally!

I've been having trouble sleeping because it's like 90F (33C) at night and really humid. Then during the day I'm tired plus I work upstairs where it's usually about 95F (35C) and humid of course. The heat just sucks the energy out of me. Luckily Kelly's family lets me eat and drink whatever I want from the family store so I head down there when my energy is low and try one of the energy drinks like Red Bull or have the Gatorade equivalent called 100 Plus (not in the USA). I also drink Coke or perhaps one of the cold Coffee drinks. This usually gives me a boost of energy so I can get some work done but this is not a healthy way to do things.

So finally I decide to get air-conditioning. Kelly's sisters moved fast and called their AC-guy who came out the next day and installed it. It only cost USD 285 (RM 1050)! Cheap considering two guys spent at least 3 hours installing it. I'm also happy her parents OK'd it since it does involve drilling several holes in the house.

The AC is awesome. I've had it for two nights now but I haven't figured out the perfect settings yet. It is either too hot, too cold, too breezy. There is a remote control and it hangs above my bed. I can adjust the temperature from 16C (60F) to 30C (85F). I can control the fan speed or set it to auto. There is a swing that adjusts the direction of the cold air. I can control the angle or have it swivel back and forth on its own. I can select quiet or powerful. Ion on/off. Have it cool, dry or Auto. There is a timer. I can go on and on. This thing is amazing.

Tonight I'm trying 24C (75F) with fan speed set at auto and air-swing shooting horizontally so the air circulates and doesn't blow on me directly. I'll keep tweaking the settings until I get that perfect night sleep I've been craving. Once that happens, I can be hyper productive at work and go for morning jogs since I'll have so much energy. OK, I'm dreaming but things should be slightly better.

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Sprinkle some fish on your food?

I'm having dinner one night and Kelly's mom motions for me to sprinkle some of this stuff on my food. It looks like dried onions so I sprinkle it on and take a bite. Crunchy but tastes salty and pretty good actually. Then I take a closer look at what I'm eating and I realize it's small dried fish. I told myself I would be up for eating anything and it did actually taste pretty good so I sprinkled some more on and tried not to think that I was eating the bones of little fish.

Speaking of food challenges, one day at lunch I sat down with Kelly's father who was eating his favorite dish, Tom Yam, from Thailand. I love it to. But they had added some Chinese ingredients. I scooped a bunch into my bowl skipping the scary stuff. Kelly's dad notice that I was being picky so he fished around and located everything I skipped and tossed it into my bowl.

I took this as a challenge and ate chickens feet for the first time. All skin and no meat. I didn't really like it but ate it anyway. Chicken liver. I'm not a big fan of liver but I made sure I added rice and that yummy Tom Yam sauce and it wasn't too bad. I ate some kind of chewy squid. Tasted kind of fishy. I ate all kinds of scary things which I had no idea what I was eating and didn't want to know.

I finished every drop in my bowl. Kelly's dad seemed pleased with me. I passed the test! Perhaps now I am worthy enough to marry his daughter.

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Love the letter K

The versatile letter K seems to be used a lot here to avoid using letters like C, Q and X. I'm making up these words but here is an example: Kat, Kween, Taksi.

Here are some actual Malaysian words with English in parenthesis.

  • Teksi (Taxi)
  • Kopi (Coffee)
  • Automatik (Automatic)
  • Ekspres (Express)
  • Fokus (Focus)
  • Grafik (Graphic)
  • Kapten (Captain)
  • Karbon (Carbon)
  • Kartun (Cartoon)
  • Kondom (Condom)
  • Komuniti (Community)
  • Komic (Comic)
  • Komet (Comet)
  • Komedi (Comedy)
  • Oktober (October)
  • Olimpik (Olympic)
  • Panik (Panic)
  • Politiks (Politics)
  • Plastik (Plastic)
  • Seks (Sex)
  • Seksi (Sexy)
  • Teknologi (Technology)
  • Vokasional (Vocational)

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Please do not vomit here

Kelly and I had lunch outdoors where there were about 20 vendors. I used the men's room and there was a sign on that said "Please do not vomit here". I told Kelly about the sign but she didn't see what was so funny. I thought it made a statement about the food we were eating.

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Movie Sub-Titles

Kelly and I went to see the movie Bewitched. Kelly is deaf so how does she know what they are saying? The movie had Malaysian (Bahasa) and Chinese sub-titles! Kelly can read some from each language. Her best language is sign-language and her second best is English but her Malay and Chinese aren't too bad either. Unfortunately she didn't get all of the jokes because sometimes you have to hear the joke for it to be funny.

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Reserved movie seats

In Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia, when you go to see a movie, you can choose your seat! If you don't choose, the computer will choose for you. Your ticket has a seat number and you are expected to sit there. In USA you just buy a ticket and sit in any free seat. If you get there late and the theater is crowded you may end up separating from your friends because there are no two seats together. The nice thing about selecting your seat is that you decide ahead of time where you want to sit instead of walking into a dark theater and trying to look for empty seats. You can also find out ahead of time if you can't sit together.

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New Raised Highway Bumpy

Here on Penang Island Malaysia they just opened a new raised highway to pass over a slow traffic zone and speed up traffic. We drove on it the first day it opened and it was bumpy! In USA roads are perfectly smooth when they first open. They only get bumpy when they become old after many years.

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Escalator with No Steps

I've seen escalators and moving sidewalks but I never saw the two combined until recently. I was at the mall and they had an escalator with no steps. It wasn't as steep as an escalator with steps. You could push your shopping cart onto it and go to the next floor. I never saw this in the USA.

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No Miles on Speedometer

In the USA cars have mph in big numbers and kph in small numbers. Here in Malaysia cars only have kph.

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Attempting to buy a bike

I want to buy a bicycle so that I can get some exercise and have some fun exploring the island. I'd like to attempt to ride around the entire Penang Island one day. I visited some of the local bike shops but they only had low quality bikes. Then later I visited some bike shops closer to the big city. They were better but still too low quality. Then later I visited a bike shop near the airport even close to the big city. They were even nicer but still too low quality for my taste. The most expensive bike was RM 600 (USD 160). My last bike cost USD 600 new. I happened to buy it used for USD 100 so it was a nice bike. Ever since age 14 I've had very high quality bikes because I raced them. I am a bike snob. I admit that. But it's also for my safety. I push my bikes hard and a low quality bike will break and could injure or kill myself.

We finally took a trip to the big city where they had bikes of the highest quality costing as much as RM 6000 ($1621). I test rode some bikes but the frames were all too short. So I had to custom order a longer frame. It should arrive in a week. I'm planning to ride around Penang island. I'm told that I can do it in a day but I'm planning to take my time and see the sites and take about 3 days and explore the island. Before I go I'll purchase a digital camera so I can take lots of pictures and a cell phone so I can stay in touch with Kelly via sms (text messages).

The quality of bike repairs here is very low. I dropped Kelly's bike off to get repaired. They only did half the work and half of the work they did was crap. I took the bike to various bike shops and had them make various adjustments. They may fix one thing but screw something else up. I ask the guy to adjust my brake pad so it meets with the rim properly since another bike shop screwed it up. He moved it up so it hit the rim but the toe was backwards and it was striking the rim with the rear of the pad. Totally wrong! I worked at a bike shop and I understand break pad toe. The guy charged me RM 1 and I was off to the next bike shop where I told the guy, I'll do it myself. I'll pay you RM 5 to use your tools. I tried to raise the seat but it was rusted in place. Their tools were crap. I had to use an adjustable wrench for everything. I tightened the seat, adjusted the rear wheel, adjusted the break pads. I went to pay the guy and he didn't want to take my money.

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Close Tolerances

The busses, trucks, cars, motorbikes, bicycles and people all pass dangerously close (within inches (centimeters)) to each other and buildings so one mistake could be fatal. The roads are narrow and windy and crowded. There are open drainage trenches so you can easily drive into a ditch. Tail-gating is a normal part of driving. Lines on the road are only suggestions. Turn-signals are rarely used. You have to be aggressive to drive here. Anyone who can drive here would not have a problem driving in New York city. Kelly has many sisters, all of which are very skilled at driving. They are crazy just like everyone else. Super aggressive and love to break the rules. Kelly doesn't drive but when we move the USA she will get her drivers license. I don't think she'll have any problems driving in the USA with wider roads and "less crazy" drivers.

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Don't drink the water

I poured myself a glass of water from the tap and Sister #2 Chin yelled "Don't drink that! That is not for drinking!" I learned there are two kinds of water here: Drinking water and other. The other type of water is used for bathing, cleaning dishes, washing your hands, toilet water, etc. They either boil the water or run it thru some kind of mega-filter system before they drink it. My friend from Indonesia says it is this way in Asia. Only drink water that is bottled, boiled or filtered.

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American Food

Sister #1 (Chu) asked me if I would like to buy some American Food. I hadn't thought of it but it sounds like a fun idea. In the USA there is a distinct difference between the foods eaten for breakfast, lunch and dinner but with this Chinese diet I can see no difference between those 3 meals. They seem to eat the same thing for every meal. There is still a wide variety of foods but it amounts to rice with vegetables, fish, chicken, pork and perhaps soup and noodles. That's about it. A few weeks later I was starting to miss American food. Finally I get the opportunity to get some at a Super Market.

The first difference I noticed is that the wheels on the back of a shopping cart swivel like the wheels on the front so it can roll side-ways and maneuver in all kinds of directions. The real wheels on USA shopping carts are like a car and can only roll forward. I found that this "all directional" shopping cart takes more effort in turns because the whole thing wants to continue forward. Rolling the cart sideways is useful when someone approaches you in an isle. That's not so easy with your USA shopping cart.

These carts were also of a higher quality than USA shopping cars. They rolled silently and smoothly. The wheels are kept perfect because the carts are not allowed outside. There's a guy who prevents you from taking the cart outside. He takes your cart after you have paid for your food.

I bought 2 liters (no gallons in Asia ... all Metric!) of whole milk because there is no milk at Kelly's house. I bought one box of sweet cereal (Captain Crunch) and another healthy cereal (Quaker Crunchy Corn Bran) to go with that whole milk.

I also bought some pulpy orange juice since they have no juice at the house except at the family store. My point is that nobody in the house drinks juice and I love juice. I tried to buy some crunchy peanut butter and strawberry jam but Kelly assured me (in sign language) that they have that at the house.

I tried to buy some beef hotdogs but Kelly assured me they have that too. I noticed that 90% of the hotdogs were chicken dogs and the beef dogs were pushed to the back of the case. Obviously the beef dogs weren't that popular. All of the hotdogs were frozen solid. In the USA they are refrigerated but not frozen.

I remember as a kid we used to keep the hotdogs frozen in the freezer but in the 1980s we started keeping the hotdogs unfrozen in the refrigerator meat bin. Now I'm wondering why the change from frozen to unfrozen. Perhaps convenience.

Finally I tried to get some yellow mustard to go on my beef dogs. I looked but could not find any so I asked someone and had they never heard of the stuff so they asked someone else who asked someone else. Finally the fifth person knew what yellow mustard was. He took me to the isle where they had ketchup and mayonnaise but there was no mustard. He tells me that mustard is not popular in Malaysia.

In USA you would find a dozen different brands of yellow mustard including a half-dozen brands of brown spicy mustard. If you chose Heinz yellow mustard in a squeeze bottle you'd have 3 sizes to choose from. To be fair this isle had a HUGE selection of chili-sauces. This is a red hot sauce. In a USA supermarket you'd find a small selection of this chili-sauce in the International foods section.

Then employee decides to look in the back and returns with 6 bottles of Heinz yellow mustard (made in good ole' PA USA). I took one plastic squeeze bottle and he put the rest on the shelf. I have a feeling they'll be there a looong time.

When we got home Kelly prepared a dish of rice for me like she does every meal. She was surprised when I said (in sign language) that I wanted to eat my American food for lunch. Kelly got some beef dogs from the family store but her mom said that we cannot cook them. Kelly's family is Buddhist and they do not eat the sacred cow. Her mom also does not allow any cow products in her kitchen. So instead I had two Chicken dogs. Kelly fried them up and I put them on two slices of white bread and drowned them in yellow mustard. Kelly got me a slice of wrapper cheese and I was good to go. It tasted just like home!

I nearly finished off the entire box of Captain Crunch! Kelly's mom sat next to me to eat her noodles with chopsticks for lunch as I was crunching on my Captain Crunch. I don't think she liked all of the crunching so she took her noodles elsewhere. I was worried that I was offending Kelly's mom since I wasn't eating the food she had cooked for lunch. The milk tasted like USA milk even though it came from Malaysian cows. I wonder if they don't drink milk because it is a product from the sacred cow.

Kelly is now Christian instead of Buddhist. She tried Beef but didn't like it. I think she needs to try it a few more times. She might actually enjoy a Big Mac, a beef baloney (bologna) sandwich or a beef dog or perhaps a juicy steak.

This morning I finished off the Captain Crunch and started in on the Quaker Crunchy Corn Bran. Sister #2 (Chin) was curious and tried some and liked it so then Kelly tried it and liked it. Then Kelly's mom tried it and liked it. Soon everyone was reaching into the box to try it and everyone liked it. I was surprised since has very little taste. I only like it in milk.

For lunch I had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Kelly got me a small bottle of peanut butter from the store which I nearly consumed. I love to spread the peanut butter and jelly on thick. I scooped a huge wad of peanut butter onto the knife and popped it into my mouth. Kelly's jaw dropped.

Kelly's mom came over and observed me eating my sandwich. Kelly and her had a brief talk in their own language and they both laughed. I'm glad that I'm providing so much amusement for the family.

I was too full to finish my sandwich and Kelly threatened to eat it with fear on her face. She ate it but signed to me that it had too much peanut butter so I shoved my glass of milk toward her and she took a drink and thanked me (in sign).

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Watcthing TV will make you happy

I saw this 3 minute commercial on TV for TV. It features a fat kid about age 13 working in his dad's store selling propane tanks. The kid is always getting yelled at. Across the street is a TV shop which allows the kid escape into other worlds. He wanders up to the window and is mesmerized by shows that appear like the Discovery Channel or The Learning Channel. In other words, educational shows about animals, people, places and science.

His parents are always yelling at him to get back to work but he cannot hear them so they come over and drag him back to the store. On lookers shake their heads at what a loser the kid is.

One night the mom is screaming at the dad to punish his son. The father goes up the stairs and enters the son's room. His son is asleep and the father notices models the kid has made of card-board and commonly found objects. He sees a space-station and airplane hanging from the ceiling, a tank on the desk and other models indicating that his son has big dreams. He makes the connection that the kid is getting these ideas from TV.

In the next scene the kid is sitting smiling watching TV in the living room. The whole family is there and they are all smiling as they watch another fascinating educational show. In fact they now eat dinner in front of the TV. The mom is shown bringing dinner into the living room. Their life is now centered around TV and everyone is happy.

I'm wondering they are trying to increase the sales of TV sets or increase subscribers to TV signal providers. I was about to say "Cable providers" but I get the feeling most if not all people in Malaysia use Satellite TV.

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Drink in a Bag

A popular way they serve drinks in Malaysia is in a plastic bag. You get a straw and they tie one end with a string so you can carry it or hang it from something. My guess is that a plastic bag is cheaper than a plastic cup or the ability to hang your drink is why it comes in a bag. I'm told the bags are not recyclable so this method is not environmentally sound.

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Shorter Words

The call an elevator a lift. They call an apartment a flat. I like these shorter words! Why do we (USA) have to use such long words?

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No Fire Place

Nobody has a fireplace in their house in the tropics. This never occurred to me until yesterday. It is always hot here so you don't need one. I guess the same is true for southern states like Arizona, Nevada, Texas and Florida.

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Date Created November 2, 2005
Last Updated April 12, 2006