Back to America

on Thursday, April 30, 2009
It's so surreal to be back on American soil. I always wondered how the transition would feel like. My head is still foggy, so I don't don't really know. I went to bed at 7:30 and woke up this morning at 5:30. It's 8am now and I'm already exhausted.

It's funny how my habits have changed so much in a year, for little things that you wouldn't normally think about. Like I always knew I would, I went straight to the wrong side of the car. I will have to get used to this. I freaked out at a few oncoming cars on the right side, but good thing I wasn't driving. I have to re-learn how to cross the street. Here it's "left right left", instead of the Malaysian "right left right left right left". Good thing pedestrians have the right of way! There are so many white people here, and that's normal. I need lotion. I had to re-heat my tea 2 times because it gets cold so fast. The light switches are in different places. The eggs are white. The toilet seats are especially cold. I don't fear my bed collapsing on me at any second. I looked for a sponge in the sink to do my dishes but there's only a dishwasher. The milk is delicious. My hands are always freezing, and I have to wear socks. The showers are steamy and my hair doesn't air-dry in 30 minutes. I met my new niece!

Speaking of changes, there are so many signs of spring here. My mom's tulips and daffodils have bloomed beautifully, as they do every year. The trees are full of white and pink and purple.

I have a stack of Peeps and Cadbury eggs (genuine signs of Easter), at my request. The remnants of easter basket jelly beans (those are always the last to go) sit in a jar on the table. Fresh strawberries!!

My mom had 3 strategically placed "welcome back" signs prepared for me: one at the airport (one guy told he was jealous and wished he had someone to greet him like that), one in my room, and a rather large banner on the garage door to greet me in the driveway. How thoughtful mom. Olivia made many other "welcome back" signs that she taped all over the house. I feel very welcome.


on Wednesday, April 29, 2009
I am in Tokyo – at least when I am writing this. After an uncomfortable sleepless night in the Bangkok airport, I boarded my flight to Japan. I was a little disappointed that I didn’t have my own personal tv. The movie that they played was something about a guy inventing intermittent windshield wipers. How exciting. An American guy came and sat across the aisle from me. He sat down in the seat and said, “Another one of those tight ones!” No sir, it is not the SEAT that is tight. A stewardess kindly brought him a seatbelt extension. As soon as he opened his mouth he didn’t stop. For six hours. When he wasn’t chatting, he was snoring. I feel so bad for the little, innocent Japanese girl that had to sit by him and listen to all of this. If I were her, I would have pretended to not speak English, or at least have used the ipod trick for ignoring someone. After awhile, he started showing off his martial arts moves and flailing his elbows everywhere and across the aisle.
As all this ruckus was going on beside me, I was gawking at the ever-entertaining SkyMall magazine. It’s always the same, never changes, and yet I can’t peel my eyes away. I can’t stop staring at all that useless crap. The stuff people THINK they need! This is why I find it so fascinating. It IS refreshing and somewhat comforting to know, however, that after all these years, they still have the Kitty Fresh Water Drinking Fountain, the Worlds Largest Crossword Puzzle, and even the Aerating Lawn Shoes! You know you remember them too. In an attempt to modernize, a few new things have been added to the catalog, such as a Digital Camera Snorkel Mask and the Dog Indoor Bathroom Lawn.

Like I said, I am in Japan. I have been here many times, and yet I have never left the airport. I should venture out sometime. I’m pretty much the only one in the airport that isn’t wearing a mask. Health inspectors wearing their blue lab coats are carrying around their fever-detection equipment. I hope I don’t get swine flu. I’ve been trying to drink as many fluids as I can in order to take advantage of the amazing Japanese toilets.

I have one more 9 hour flight ahead of me, then I officially step foot on the US of A! I don't know if I'm ready for this.

Farewell Asia

This is my last post in Malaysia. I fly out at 10pm tonight, exactly 6 hours from now.

I had my last hot and sweaty Malaysian run this morning and my last swim in the currently green pool. I have my last pau (ok maybe two) packed and ready to go. Thanks Reuben :) I'm eating my last masala tosei for dinner on the way to the airport. After that, I'm good to go.

I arrived in Malaysia 15 months ago in one 50lb backpack, and I am leaving with almost 100 pounds of baggage. I have no idea how my stuff doubled in weight.

I'm sad to leave, at least I think I am. My mind hasn't realized yet. I'm so used to coming and going from places, it has become routine. I'm still pretty emotionless and feel rather indifferent right now. The emotions always hit me at the most in-opportune times. We'll see when it happens this time, and which strangers or airline personnel have to awkwardly witness this event.

Goodbye Malaysia! Farewell, for now at least. I'll miss you :(

Signing out from Asia, erin.

The Seedy side of Thailand

on Monday, April 27, 2009
I returned 2 weeks ago from a trip to Thailand and Laos. I got busy when I got back to Penang that it took me awhile to settle down and go through my pictures. Now that I have more time on my hands, I can start getting caught up.

My first stop in Thailand was Pattaya, for a stay of just under a week. It's the only place in the world that I have vowed NEVER to go back to. It's the epitome of everything I despise about a place. Lonely Planet has the best description: "A heavy-breathing and testosterone-fuelled testament to holiday hedonism". I'll just leave it at that.

Nevertheless, I did find a few things in Pattaya to be thankful for. Four things, to be exact:

Chun-jo, the Korean-Thai Chihuahua. It's the only Chihuahua I've ever truly enjoyed. We stayed at the Rodem House, a Christian guesthouse run by Korean missionaries...and it was only because of these connections that we came. Good thing number one.

Good thing number 2: Pad Thai.

Now that I've counted, those are the only two good things I found there. But I have a few other 'interesting but not necessarily 'good' things' to add

Interesting find number one:
A van-turned-hookah/alcohol bar-turned restaurant-turned Bob Marley memorial-turned tattoo parlor. It had quite the set up with the neon rope lights. Just consider it a mobile tattoo parlor!

Interesting find number two:
Just your neighborhood weapons dealer.

That is all I have to say about Pattaya.

Miracle Pau

on Sunday, April 26, 2009
There's nothing better than a good Chinese pau...aka "steamed bun". Sad to say, I did not enjoy them nearly as often as I should have.

The red bean is my favorite. mmmmm, look at that delicious filling. It's the feeling that you get when you bite into the jelly filling of a jelly donut. Except better.

This is the "also delicious but not as good as the sweet pau" chicken-filled pau, at the beach. They're the perfect travel food. They're just as delicious squashed flat as they are round and fluffy.

They will accompany me on my long journey home.

Baby Turtles

When I was a kid my dream was to be a marine biologist. All that I cared about in life existed in water. What did I do for my 6th birthday party in 1989? I went with my friends to see the Little Mermaid, of course. My next birthday, in 1990, I got the movie on video cassette - DVDs didn’t exist back then. It was then that I made a promise to myself to watch it everyday, for the rest of my life. I had the entire movie memorized. I had checked out every single book in the local library that had anything to do with anything ocean. My mom taped every Jacques Cousteau special on TV, and I mourned his passing.

I knew more about sea sponges than anyone. I called jelly fish by their proper scientific name. I pretended I was a mermaid in the pool. I was obsessed.

That suppressed childhood dream came out in me again today. Look what I found at Turtle Beach, at the turtle conservation centere! Finally, the beach lives up to its namesake!

We also spotted a lone otter playing in the surf.

This made me so giddy!

termites and BYU

on Tuesday, April 21, 2009
All this grad school applying has raised a few perplexing questions in my mind.

Question number one. Do I report my grades from my calculus class that I took from BYU? And why in the world did I choose Brigham Young University? I know it is because Calculus didn't fit into my schedule and they were the only school that offered an online course. I just think it's funny that I virtually 'attended' a Mormon university for a time, as I do the fact that my professor stated in his profile that he had 15 children (or something like that). Luckily it was only an online course, otherwise I might have to dress like this: Not that I'm making fun of them or anything, but I'm not a jumper and black pumps kind of person. Although I had a pretty sweet lady-bug print jumper once. My mom made it for me.

Question number two. How did the lowest grade of my senior year go to the class "Backpacking"? Does this mean I am an incompetent hiker? Perhaps I carried too much gear than I should have, but it was still practically winter by Seattle standards...I hate the cold and I had to come prepared! That's no reason to give me a B, Dr. Weathers!

Some quite amazing storms have hit Penang in the past few days. What do storms mean here in Malaysia? Two words: Termite Infestation. Swarms and swarms of them, all attracted to light. They fly into all my light fixtures. When I turn all the lights off, they dive-bomb into the candles that I lit, drowning in the wax. Their 'winged-stage' only last a few hours, then they decide to drop their wings and find some wood to crawl into and destroy. The only remains of them in the morning was countless wings all over the place that are impossible to sweep up.

The same night as the termite infestation, I was at the night market. The termites were there, too, and they were swarming in full force. Not always, but once in a while, there's someone begging at the market. This evening I saw someone new - I noticed him because he looked Burmese and only had one arm - probably lost in work accident, my guess, and resorted to begging because employers don't give people like him compensation. We had bought some corn on the cob to bring home, so I thought I'd give him a piece. I wanted to talk to him, if I could, to find out if he is refugee. Turns out, he doesn't speak much english, but was able to figure out that he is indeed Burmese. I gave him my corn and he was grateful. As soon as I walked away, I felt a sudden tinge of guilt for giving corn on the cob to a one-armed man. How is he going to eat it? I thought to myself. Did I just insult a handicapped man? I'm so insensitive. I told this to Reuben and he laughed and demonstrated that you can, indeed, eat corn on the cob with one hand. I guess I'm used to eating corn with those little stick handles that come out of the sides - you definitely need 2 hands for those. Americans are so spoiled. Good thing refugees don't need cob-holders to eat corn.

I got my hair cut today. Malaysian salons (or as they call it, 'saloons') shampoo your hair without using a sink. Amazing! It comes with a 20 minute head and neck massage. I'll be coming back to the States with a little bit of a mullet, but the 80s are coming back, right?