Malaysia: One Year On

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Our 1 year anniversary of living in Malaysia has passed (we arrived February 8, 2011) and we thought we would dedicate this blog to a reflection of the past year. Paul and I have been lucky enough to have done a lot of traveling.  In fact, its 52 countries for Dawn and 50 countries for Paul, but who’s counting???  Actually Paul has an Excel sheet tracking it! We had always wanted to live overseas and when the opportunity to move to Malaysia came up, we jumped at it.  We kind of knew a little bit about Malaysia; we had backpacked there in 2006 and Paul had visited the Ipoh office in 2008 for work.  It seemed like a perfect place to have our working overseas experience: great central location in Southeast Asia, fairly developed with good infastructure and medical facilities, an English speaking population, tropical climate, and it was different enough from Canada to really interest us culturally.  We thought about all the great traveling we would be able to do. We thought about escaping Canadian winters.  We thought about lots of great cultural experiences we would have.  I thought about not having to work. And we were hooked.  Paul flew over in November to sign the contract and all of a sudden it was actually happening and we would become expats in a few short months.  There was one little kink (which we now call Miles) in the plan, when we found out while Paul was visiting Malaysia in November, that we were expecting baby #3.  Should we still go?  After considering that babies are born all over the world, we decided this “new development” would not affect the plan…Malaysia here we come!

We have done a lot of great traveling and we have had some wonderful cultural experiences.  When we were in Canada, it was easy to focus on all the exotic things about living overseas and I don’t think you can fully prepare yourself for the day-to-day realities of living in a foreign country.  In our case, we knew we would miss family and friends, our great house and Canada, but we had no idea just how much we would miss everyone. Some of you might remember some of the challenges we faced those first few months: the school system for Ella, Paul’s long hours at work, finding an Obstetrician and hospital to have Miles at, to name a few. There have been so many experiences over the past year that have challenged us and made us better people.  Living overseas has forced us to evaluate what it truly important to us, it has forced us to be more tolerant and it has forced us to consider things from a non-ethnocentric perspective.  Although Paul works longer hours here, we have found that we have a lot more quality family time together because our lives here are not cluttered by endless after-school activities, social events and committments.

Some random musings:
1.  You actually do acclimatize to 35+ weather.  I can go the whole day without A/C now and we think a cool day is a chilly 26 degrees.
2.  Pass the chilis – food without chilis tastes bland.  Paul and I have a new appreciation for chili padi (chilis in soy sauce).
3.  It took us about 6 months to realize this, but we are not backpacking.  Do you remember when we debated buying a toaster?  We now realize its ok to go to Starbucks, its ok to stay at a 5 star hotel and its ok to eat Western food.
4. We have celebrity status here.  Whereever we go, we warrant curious stares.  The kids are used to having a huge fuss made over them whereever we go.
5.  It’s taken a year, but it is so nice to know where to go to buy certain things, where to pay my parking tickets, and how to navigate the Malaysian beaurocracy.
6.  Financial freedom is nice.  Because of the lower cost of living here, we freely eat out, travel and buy what we want.  It is a nice feeling.
7.  Living overseas is a really neat experience for a kid and we know Ella will always remember it.  We know she will be a more worldly little girl from this experience and it is so neat to hear her cultural observations and understandings.
8.  We are hardly phased by the “anything goes” driving style in Malaysia and have become great defensive drivers, at the expense of becoming very agressive drivers.

Miles – then and now


Ella & Gavin – then and now

In some ways it is hard to believe we have been here for a year, but on the other hand we definitely have a year’s worth of great memories.  We look forward to a lot more adventures this year as our overseas adventure continues.

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