“How on Earth is this acceptable?!” I thought to myself the other afternoon, becoming increasingly puzzled by my current situation. I’ve lost track of how many times this exact sentiment has come to the forefront of my brain since I’ve moved to Southeast Asia.
Picture this: It is raining. And by raining, I mean I am struggling to keep my only pair of sandals from washing away in the heavy current that is flooding my ankles. Did I bring an umbrella? Sadly, stupidly, no. Did I bring a bag to hold my wallet, keys, phone, newly purchased envelopes, and McDonald’s McChicken sandwich and french fries? Nope! I guess my unusual level of productivity that day was counterbalanced by a state of blissful unawareness to the quickly darkening sky when I had begun my errands. It was obvious that the rain wasn’t going to stop anytime in the extremely near future, and I was already late to pick up my roommate from school. Shielding my possessions with as much of my body as I could, I waddled to my secret parking lot while eating my soggy chicken and spilling mayonnaise on my iPhone. Utterly drenched, I approached my miniature Kancil, feeling more than ready to pick up my roommate and change into some dry clothes. I had to hurry because she was expecting me and I didn’t have any credit on my phone to call if I would be late. But when I got to my car, something stopped me from leaving; it was a force of sorts, that told me to stay exactly where I was…
I was completely parked in. Absolutely blocked. No movement possible. Stuck.
My Kancil is far too low to the ground to have even attempted driving over the parking block in front of it, and would have done no good t-boning the idiot that parked me in. To further depict how absurd this was, I was parked legally in a numbered space. Also, the parking lot was NOT EVEN FULL. “How on Earth is this acceptable?!”
My roommates and I face struggles like this almost everyday. Seriously, dealing with issues that seem completely irrational and totally avoidable have become a part of my daily routine. At first, my tolerance for such asinine situations was severely fragile. I mean really, who does that? It’s taken much, sometimes unwanted, practice, but I can detect a notable difference in how I view scenarios such as this compared to my mindset from earlier in the year. In January, I probably would have just sat in my car, too irritated to eat what was left of my damp french fries and too baffled to come up with a logical solution to this problem.
But what good would that have done? I would have wasted a delicious treat, would have been late to pick up my roommate, and would have been in an irascible mood the rest of the day. Don’t get me wrong, I still sat in my car and had my bitch minute (emphasis on “minute”). But at 61 seconds, I finished eating my moist meal, put my necessities into a plastic bag, and went on a mission to find the owner of the car. After asking several people in the area, one man thought he might know where the culprit was. I followed him up the stairs of what I thought was an apartment building. As we ascended the stairs, I began to hear the rhythmic percussion of drums, and the clashing of symbols. The stairs were mostly open air, and offered a serene, aerial view of a stormy Kuching. When it rains here, everything green seems to absolutely radiate with life. At the top, the source of the banging and clashing became evident: this apartment was actually a Buddhist temple, and was filled with worshippers partaking in a celebration. The temple was beautiful, covered in red and gold ceiling lamps and exhibiting traditional Chinese architecture. The incense smoke danced around the men, women, and children praying before dissipating into the cool, tropical air. At the bottom of the stairs, a huge buffet had been put out, and buckets of ice cold Heineken abounded. To top it all off, after only 10 minutes, my efforts were successful and the driver of the car came immediately to free my Kancil. After moving his vehicle, he came back to walk me to mine under the protection of his umbrella. I was already soaked, but appreciated his gesture nonetheless.
Living in Malaysia has been predictably unpredictable. Plans rarely work out they way you think they will, probably because somebody has trapped your car in its space. What all of this has taught me is that life truly is 10% what happens to you, and 90% how you react to it. Taking this sticky situation and turning it into an adventure was the best thing that happened to me that day. I discovered a gorgeous temple, witnessed a celebration that I had never before, and marveled at the beauty of the city I get to live in from a new perspective. My life’s daily trials have increasingly transformed into windows of opportunity and little blessings.
Here are a few chronicles of some of the more hilarious issues my roommates and I find ourselves trying to live with everyday:
We are renting two cars from a company called Kuching Car Rentals. Here are their struggles:
Car #1: Didn’t shift into first gear. This car was not drive-able.
Car #1 replacement: Didn’t have enough power to make it over a speed bump, let alone up our steep driveway. The car was not drive-able for our situation.
Car #2: Broke down on the way home from school. It had to be replaced.
Car #2 replacement: This car was way too nice for what we were paying, so they fixed the other one quickly and took this one away.
Car #1 (fixed): My roommate got into a fender-bender. It had to be replaced.
Car #2 (fixed): The rental company siphoned out all of our gas before giving it back.
Car #2 (fixed): Got a flat tire. We were able to fix that on our own, but then the passenger window fell out of alignment and down into the body of the car. It had to be replaced.
Car #2 (fixed-fixed): The window was replaced, but now you have to manually push it up to get it to close.
Car #1 and #2: The rental company is considering terminating one of our contracts. This could be a problem.
Our landlords are wonderful people, but terrible plumbers.
Our water pressure was almost non-existent. It took about 5 minutes to fill up a pot of water to boil. Showering was not impossible, but I wouldn’t have called myself “clean” afterwards.
We have water pressure! But now two of our three toilets are leaking from the back of the tanks, producing a wet haven for our dear mosquito friends.
Our toilets were fixed when the maintenance men were here. They decided to leak again about an hour after they left. We had to turn off the water, and manually fill the back tank so it wouldn’t overflow. We stopped flushing the toilet for a while…but then decided this was a horrible idea.
One toilet was fixed, one toilet was forgotten about. The laundry machine now leaked, and was pooling water underneath of it.
Both toilets were fixed. The laundry machine didn’t leak anymore, but was using brown water to wash our clothes.
All toilets, showers, and washing machines are now functioning how they should be!
Our water pressure is gone. We are afraid to call the maintenance crew for fear of repeating this whole cycle…
On The Road Encounters
1. It is totally normal for people to park their cars in a traffic lane if they cannot find a parking space.
2. Today I saw two men on a motorbike, not wearing helmets, and one of them was holding a television set.
3. For four days straight, a car that had broken down was left sitting in the middle of a lane. I’m not sure if towing companies exist here.
4. We almost ran over some construction workers the other night who decided to do work around a busy corner and put up absolutely no warning signs that they were there.
5. It appears to be an unconquerable feat for Malaysians to park within the lines of a parking space.
6. I’m a little apprehensive to start driving again in a country where the rules of the road actually matter, and you can actually get into trouble for not obeying them.