Thursday, January 21, 2010

Malaysia Part 2 of 3 Survival

My first stop was in Los Angeles for a two day orientation before leaving for Malaysia.  AFS kids were arriving from all over the country.  When we arrived at the hotel we were told to go to the banquet hall. We were grouped according to our host country. There were about two hundred people going to Australia and Japan. About one hundred students going to New Zealand and off in the far dark corner by the trash cans were the thirteen of us headed to Malaysia.  Future Australians and New Zealanders would walk toward us with their trash saying things like Malaysia? What is a Malaysia? I know I saw students from every group pointing at us and giggling. I am sure they were saying things like "the trash is over in Malaysia."  We Malaysians just huddled together with our heads down. We were a sad group. The AFS little lepers. All the other country groups seemed so excited and happy talking about Sushi and Kangaroos and shouting things like: “I love Crocodile Dundee! Oh my god you live near me?....we are going to be best friends forever!"  Our Malaysian cluster whispered things like: "Did you choose Malaysia? Or which shots did you get?"

In those two days we learned about the different aspects of Malaysia.  We were taught more of the specifics of where we were going to be staying and our families. Apparently two of the thirteen of us were staying with some "well off" families in the capital of Kuala Lumpur. The picture of their house looked so nice and their families had shoes and one had a TV.  Some of us learned that we were in smaller towns and then some of us got the news that we were in very "rural" areas. I apparently, of course, was in this third group. I knew this because every time I would tell one of our Malaysian instructors my "village is Termerloh" their eyes would widen and they would say things like "oh...that is very....unique.” One Malaysian said something in broken English about "Oooooh ....Termerloh.... ooooh long drive, many miles...special bus for mountains and, river.... need canoe to take for village."  Of course this was shocking but I just blocked this out. What else could I do? It was not like there was some AFS Concierge to pull aside and say "I would like to talk about my accomdations. I don't like my family, can I get a new one?"  I was stuck and had no return ticket for several months.  After they told me all they could about my "village" they asked if I had any questions.  I was so numb and confused the only thing I could even semi think of asking was if Termerloh had Coca Cola, shoes and a Doctor?

I also learned some basic language necessities and things that apparently I should become accustomed to, like, being called a Matsalay which I was told by my instructor was what Malaysians call rich white Americans.  They told me many people will call me Matsalay. Okay so I need to get used to being a Matsalay.

We were off to Malaysia. When we arrived we went through a few more days of orientation. It was at this time I learned that due to a family illness my host family had canceled. I was sad and worried about this. What if my parents were going to send me a care package? How would I get? Those Villagers would get my package and pillage it! Oh... and of course I was worried about my host family’s sick parent.  Actually, I can't lie, I was kind of relieved too. The whole car, bus, canoe, no shoes and unrecognizable animal thing was freaking me out.  I was sure this was Gods intervention and he was going to provide me with one of those rich Kuala Lumpur people! But, alas, no. I was placed with a new family that was the son of a family that was hosting Joe from Georgia (another from our group). Joe was a blonde haired blue eyed southern future Frat Boy type.  We joked with each other that Joe was now my Uncle. Apparently we were not in the same village but we were going to be near each other which we were kind of excited about.  Although my new home still sounded remote, Joes family pic was not that great either and  had unrecognizable animals and, of course, no shoes.

I know I keep bringing up shoes but I need shoes. I am accustomed to shoes. I like shoes. I am certain I have tenderfoot.  My condition has not been diagnosed but my feet are sensitive.  And I also like socks. I packed fifteen pair.  I do not want to be walking through jungles with spiders and snakes barefoot. What if I got a splinter?

The day came for our family to pick us up. We were so nervous.  Joe and I were handed over to an elderly woman, named Nene, a woman named Kaklayla, and a man named Aya.  We had no idea who they were (they looked nothing like the photos) but we were told to go with them. They had a little kind of car thingy that I had never seen before and seemed as though it were made up of several pieces of other cars.  We drove into the night and drove and drove and drove.  No one really talked. They spoke no English and we didn’t speak Bahasa Malaysia. Plus the car was loud so we would have had to yell.  So we all just smiled at each other.

This was a good time for me to check out their teeth. I have a teeth thing. Good teeth, like shoes, are important. Before I left for my jungle journey I had my teeth cleaned and a filling replaced. I wanted no teeth drama whilst in Malaysia.  Well, a half hour after our take off from LA to Malaysia (with stops in Hawaii and Tokyo) I was eating a Jolly Rancher. One of the many candies I brought with me to get me through the Malaysian months and to give (MAYBE) to the village children, which is what I told my Mom in order to get her to buy them for me.  I ended up eating ninety percent of the candy before the plane even landed. Clearly I was stress eating. Anyway, I prematurely bit into the Jolly Rancher and my new filling popped right out! Great! And to make matters worse I swallowed it! I almost rang for the Flight Attendant to have them turn the plane around.  I was having a medical emergency! My fellow Malaysian AFS'ers calmed me down and offered me more candy to sooth me.  Lovely. Just LOVELY! Add visiting the Village Voodoo Dentist to the list of upcoming frightening experiences.  I pictured myself lying in some hut with villagers chanting around me as they yanked out my tooth. I decided I was just going to ignore it. Besides it only throbbed when I ate or drank on my right side. I could handle that.  Anyway while I was at the dentist in the States I came up with the brilliant idea to bring a bunch of tooth brushes to all the villagers! I would be an American Missionary in Malaysia saving teeth. I thought it was a brilliant idea. As it turns out Malaysian teeth are fine. They all seemed to have tooth brushes and, ironically, I was the only with a tooth problem which I never told anyone about.  Because of this there are a bunch of Malaysians that think Americans only chew on their left side.

Joe, Nene, Kaklayla, Aya and I seemed to be driving through very remote jungle like terrain, with occasional torrential rain storms that dripped through the cracks of the "car" roof.  The car seemed to be welded together pretty well although it would make different rattles and noises every time we went over a bump or what I think were streams.  It was scary.  I remember Joe and I holding hands a few times just to reassure each other when we thought the car was stalling. The car would make an odd loud noise, and the lights on the dashboard would began to flicker and Aya would start grabbing wires under the dashboard and old Nene would reach over to hold the wheel.  They would all start yelling things in Malaysian and Joe and I would hold hands. I was glad he was there.

Eventually we arrived at what appeared to be a village hut up on a hill. It was very dark and it was clear this shack was some sort of home. There were several Malaysians gathered and there were children and animals.   Joe and I slid out of the car openings of the transportation device and we just tried to go with the flow.  I am sure we were both thinking (well I know I was) where in the hell are we? Is this a home that one of us will be living in? Oh God please DO NOT let me be the one who lives here?  Please do not let this be my house! Give me a break. I have a bad tooth, I won't be getting care packages, I do not have any more candy! Please show me some mercy!

I was overwhelmed meeting all these people. Datu, Semat, Leele. All kinds of names that sounded like, well, like nothing I had ever heard before. Nothing!  Slowly things started to catch my eye. I don’t see any electrical lighting.  Wait there is one light bulb hanging from a wood plank by what I think is a front door entrance. Oh and Sweet Mother of Lord Jesus it was HOT.  Like a blanket of heat and humidity I had never experienced. And I am from Texas!  I did manage to do a big fake smile while Joe and played with Malaysian children and without moving my lips said to him "Damn it is hot. Joe who lives here?" He smiled just as fake back and said "You. It better be you” I shot him daggers back with my eyes. For the first time Joe looked evil to me. This was not the Joe I knew. Malaysia had changed him.

We both agreed it was hot.  For those of you reading this that may have future plans to visit Malaysia…..Malaysia is hot.  I was so thirsty but I didn‘t recognize any of the strange fruit stuff they were drinking and was more scared (maybe cautious) than thirsty.  I was pretty sure they had no running water. I also noticed quite quickly that there were lots of mosquitoes. Malaysian Mosquitoes are big, aggressive, abundant and hungry. I was being sucked dry. Thank God my Mom made me get my Malaria shot.  Joe and I both knew ONE of us lived here.  But who? We were both wishing the worst for each other.  The solidarity created from our hand holding was clearly gone! We were so willing to sell the other one out.  Eventually we got the answer.  We saw Joe's suitcases being pulled out from what appeared to be the trunk of the car.

Now I am not going to lie.  I was thrilled. Ecstatic! Finally something went my way!  I got all happy and I even drank a foreign juice beverage to celebrate.  Listen, in Malaysia, clearly, it was dog eat dog. Survival of the fittest! I was dealing with heat, possible dehydration and a plague of insects so Joe’s torture was not my problem. I had to take care of myself. He would have done the same to me. I know it! Joe was dead weight now. Fate dictated that this was the end of the road for him.... but NOT for ME!. GOD there was still hope!  I still had a chance..... Then I looked over at Joe and I saw it.... fear.... and what was either a tear or sweat. He was devastated. He knew this was it for him.  He just stared at me. I stopped gloating (as much) and I let him know, with a genuine look, that I really did feel bad for him. I wanted to help him but what could I do?  I did slap a mosquito off him; I felt like we were in a scene from the Deer Hunter or Platoon. We were both helpless and prisioners. What does one say at a time like this?  The truth is I still had no idea what I was going off to face. I had no idea how far I would be from Joe.  I could only hope that we would see each other sometime and I if I could I would try to send him help.  He just stood there surrounded by a few old people and lots of sheep looking animals.  I saw some people in the background going through his suitcase. I had to go.  I untied my car door, slid in and lifted my canvas window to look at him one last time.  He still stood there.  I mouthed, very softly: "I’m so sorry Joe.  I’m so sorry."


  1. I'm going to take a guess and say you didn'y get to gloat fot long??
    Can't wait!

  2. Come on and post the next part!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  3. lololol

    when is part 3 coming?? :o

  4. I'm curious. Did they have some sort of organic mosquito repellant?