From the Edge of Asia: an American Reports from Malaysia Volume 1 Issue 2

Ariel Ky    May 15, 2012

This morning I was listening to music on Youtube, trying to find songs that are good for learning English that I thought my Russian student would like.  I listened to the 10 top singers for 2012, but decided that their songs required too great a voice range or that they were not complex enough.  Finally I chose Time After Time by Javier Colon, Imagine by John Lennon,  and What a Wonderful World by Louis Armstrong.  I was singing along to the songs, and at one point, I started singing a melody that just came to me, improvising as I went along, surprised at what was coming out of me.  It sounded so lovely, and a bird chorus outside started singing with me, trilling and joyously singing along. I don’t know where that all came from, but it was quite magical.

I’ve been getting more students since I signed up with another agency based in Europe.  Lately I’ve had as many as five online students a day.  Unfortunately, I have to work the entire month of May before I can get paid.

I had good news on the certification test that I’d taken again on write.com after failing it the first time. My studying with their tutorials on their website had paid off.  I got 20/20 on the writing exam, and a compliment on my writing about black cupboard knobs.  I’d passed!  Unfortunately, when I tried to register to get paid, I found out that I couldn’t work for write.com as an American living overseas, for tax reasons, I was informed.

So my days have been fuller with teaching more students online.   There have been rainstorms almost every day.  The other day, there were two storms in the evening and going into the night.  It rained for hours, which was unusual.  The storms move in quickly here, unleash torrential rains, but then quickly move on.

Antares, my Malaysian friend at Magick River, had been working to put me in touch with his Australian friend, Ben, who lives a couple hours north of me.   Ben finally called this morning; it was nice to have my phone ring.  He told me about a New Zealander friend of his who was married to a Sudanese guy who’d lived in Canada for a long time.  (I’m not sure that I got that all straight.)  Anyways, he told me that she had a language school in KL that had been doing quite well, and was always looking for teachers.  He got her number for me and called me back with it.  I called her and got hold of her right off.

We set up an interview Friday; I hope that my money for teaching online comes through by then so that I can make it to KL in time.  Ben’s friend really wants to find a permanent teacher, and as much as I’d like to wait for the job at UCSI, I might take this one instead, even if it pays less, just to be working again.

I was planning on moving back to Kuala Lumpur from the beach anyways.  I’d heard from Mohammed at Hostel Cosmopolitan that I could stay in a bed in a dorm in exchange for making beds and cleaning toilets four or five hours a day.  I’ve been getting too lonely here, and I’ve got friends at the hostel.  I fit in there with all the other travelers.  It’d help me get by until I am able to start my teaching position at UCSI later this summer.   Or if I start teaching at the language school, I can maybe stay there until my first paycheck.

The bugs, mosquitoes, fleas and bees are getting to me here at the beach.  I’m running out of everything and only have a couple of potatoes left.  The online agency is taking the full four days to process my pay (last time they paid me as soon as I submitted my hours), leaving me in dire straits again.  I’m really on the edge of survival here.

After GalaU pays me, the money has to go through Paypal and my bank in the U.S. before it’s available to me.  This is a precarious existence.  I know it sounds adventurous and exotic to be living at the beach in Malaysia, and it is, but it’s definitely got its down side.

May 13
A Tiny Visitor

Yesterday I had a headache all day long off and on (probably from caffeine withdrawal as I’d run out of coffee). I‘ve been depressed, but my life at the beach here without much money has not been all bleak.  The most enchanting thing happened to me yesterday in the late afternoon.

I had my door open to catch any breezes that might waft in, and was lying on the bed doing something on my computer. I looked up and there was a baby bird on my doorsill, about three inches tall, just a little brown bird with a tawny round tummy, a darker dun colored top, a tiny yellow beak, and little reddish-orange stick legs.  I greeted my tiny visitor and spoke to it for about five minutes as it stood in the doorway. That encouraged it to walk into the room and start flying about.

Obviously it was just learning to fly as these were short bumbling flights under the table, banging into the legs, knocking into things and falling to the floor.  Finally, it flew to the top of the door to the bathroom, perching precariously on the narrow door frame, and looking afraid of the height it had achieved.

Eventually it made its way back to the door.  I extended my finger for it to perch there, but it flew up to my shoulder instead and walked across the top of my back.  I didn’t like the way that felt.  Those little feet were sharp.  Before it left my room, it stood again on the doorsill, chirping away at me.  For such a tiny little bird, it had rather loud chirps.

As I started writing about the bird just now, I felt something brush against me, and the wee bird had returned and perched next to me on a fold on the curtain, chirping away. I didn’t see it leave. It was flying by the wall behind me. I heard it hit something again and fall to the floor. It’s probably regrouping.

The bird is still in my room, chirping away.  It had tried to fly out of my room earlier, but I’d put up strips of tape at the top of my door, hoping to stop flies from coming in.  It got caught momentarily on one of the pieces of tape, but then it freed itself and flew to the porch next door.  So then I took down the pieces of tape, distressed that the bird had gotten caught on one; they had never stopped any flies. 

Then I looked to the porch on the hut next door where it had flown and was chirping away, and to my dismay, I saw the black cat avidly watching the little bird.  I’ve been careful not to touch the bird because I know that the mother probably won’t go near it if a human has touched it.  But that black cat was advancing, its tail twitching back and forth, every nerve alert, those green eyes entirely focused on that little bird.

So I went over to the bird and offered my finger for it to perch on, but that scared it, too, and it just moved a little more under the railing.  The cat was getting nearer and started to settle its body for the killing move, so I decided to rescue my little bird.  I scooped it into my hand and walked back to my porch.  The poor little bird was quivering in my hand.  The black cat was bewildered.  It was looking everywhere, under the porch, on the ground, under the railing.  What had happened to the bird that was just there?

Then the black cat saw me standing there, watching him, and you could see that it had just occurred to him that perhaps that little bird was with me.  I retreated with the bird into my hut, but the bird decided then to fly up to the roof of the porch.  The black cat was watching its every move, and the bird decided that it felt safer with me, and flew back down to nestle in my dress.

I scooped it into my hand again and walked into the hut, closing the front door as I went, shutting out the predatory black cat.  I sat on the bed for five minutes with the little bird in my hand.  It quickly calmed down, and was very still.  I felt tranquil.  I couldn’t help but marvel at how light it was, yet it had weight and I could feel its solid presence in my hand.  I tried to generate a feeling of love to send to it, but I’m such a dried-up husk of myself right now, that I couldn’t.  The best that I could offer was to just be there with it in friendship.

On closer examination, I could see that it had a sprinkling of green feathers across its back.  Eventually it started flying again and found its way out the window.

I am teaching English online, and it’s probably enough money to keep me going until my teaching position starts later this summer. I need to go get my passport, which I renewed recently, from the U.S. Embassy in Kuala Lumpur and take it to the HR office of UCSI. I’ll do that the next time I get paid, but in order to wait until I have enough hours to make enough money to go to KL, I will probably have to make the food last another week. It won’t be easy.

I’ve become such a recluse.  I don’t want to see people much – they haven’t been very friendly here beyond the initial goodwill when I was still seen as a tourist.

.I’m sitting by the floor fan.  It feels nice.  The morning sun is casting strong shadows and it’s quite beautiful here.  I’m feeling so peaceful that I could disappear in a plume of smoke and it would be as though I were never here.  All the anger is gone

I’m sad.  It seems as though whenever I get a break and things are starting to move forward, that something always happens, and the opportunity disappears or it moves way into the future where it can’t do me any good now.  Everything is so much effort, so much work, and then nothing comes of it.  It’s as though I’m on a deserted island and a boat comes along, and I think I’m rescued, but then there’s no wind, and I’m still stranded.  May 9, 2012

The weather’s been quite changeable in the last few days, and I’ve come down with a runny nose.  Blast it!  I saw a monkey slap his hands and kill a fly that was pestering him.  I just did the same for a mosquito.  He did it in such a casual way; it was really cool.  All right, I know, it’s time to go.  I’m hanging out too much with the monkeys.

I‘ve been up early with the monkeys.  I was feeding the little spider monkeys some pieces of orange.  They didn’t want to come near me, so I put  the pieces down for them, and they scurried to get them as soon as I moved away.

The biggest monkey, the gent with the big balls, had gotten comfortable with coming near me, and he sauntered right up to me, but I didn’t have any more orange pieces then.  So I went back and got another orange, which we shared.  He bared his teeth at me as he was reaching for the orange, which frightened me a bit, but then he looked at me after taking the section, and I could tell that he was thanking me. 

I shared a couple slices of bread with him then as I was making myself toast.  He wrapped one slice of bread and ate it rolled up.  After that, he picked up the other slice as two smaller monkeys were watching from the overhang of the roof above, and took a couple of bites out of that.  Then he threw it carelessly down on the ground and wandered off, as if to say he’d had enough.

The smaller monkeys were not willing to advance, not as long as I was standing in the door, although I could tell that they wanted that slice of bread very badly.  So I retreated and turned around just in time to see one of them come forward and pick it up.  He was watching me carefully, though, and saw that I’d turned around and watched him.

May 6, 2012

I just have to make a little more money.  This website, write.com, doesn’t pay much at all for writing, but if I could just make a little more money, it’d be worth it.  So I’ve been studying how to write ad copy, and I took the test again tonight.  Maybe this time I will pass it.

Here’s what I wrote about black cupboard knobs.  The first time around, I couldn’t imagine how to make this interesting.  I think I did a better job this time.

If you’ve got the kitchen blahs, think black cupboard knobs. Switch out your old knobs for these sharp-looking black ones, and be surprised at how easy it is to achieve a new look. Getting the right knobs and pulls can also add the finishing touch to a complete makeover. Another interesting choice in hardware that can take you in a different direction is birdcage cupboard knobs, which come in various designs with a stylized mesh. If you spend a lot of time in the kitchen, you will enjoy personalizing the details that make a difference in how your kitchen looks.

I also went up and down the street today looking for work again and a place to cook my food, so that I can save money that way, and have a little more variety to eat.  I’ve got a toaster and a water boiler in my room, but that’s all.  I haven’t been able to find an electric hot plate.  All they have in the stores are heavy gas models, which I wouldn’t know how to use. 

This evening the monkey tribe came down the pole on my hut, including two mamas carrying their newborn babies.  I think they wanted me to see that they’d had babies.  At one time I had five monkeys on my front porch, with two in the doorway. They really are losing their fear of me.

I got a message that my passport has arrived, but I need to make a trip to Kuala Lumpur to get it, and once I get it, I need to take it to HR at UCSI so they can start processing my work visa, but I’m going to need some more money to be able to get there.

I am really clawing my way back up from having run out of food and money and being sick and all of that. 

Biker Hell

Last week was horrendous, and I didn’t send out a newsletter because I was still recovering from the horde of bikers who came to Cherating Beach like an invasion of locusts.  At least a couple of hundred bikers descended on the beach here and stayed for several days.  There were four or five bikers in each of the huts around me, and they’d linger out front in packs, gunning their engines for long periods of time, just talking and hanging out on their bikes, usually from 10-30 minutes at a time, fouling the air with their exhaust, and besieging me with the noise.

I’d gotten some money from my online teaching to go buy some groceries, and had gone into Kemaman shopping.  I was walking back from the highway with my bags when I ran into the bikers.  There were two of the bikers showing off, popping wheelies in front of me as they crossed each other right in front of me.  It was quite a show, but I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. The acrid black exhaust hit me in the eyes like tear gas so that I collapsed and screamed in agony.

And then I was furious, and screamed out my frustration like a two-year-old throwing a tantrum.  I lost all civility and started cursing them.  One of the guys laughed evilly and popped another wheelie in front of me, sending another black cloud of exhaust in my face.  There were about 20 bikers in the group, and they were enjoying themselves; nobody cared that I’d been hurt.  Before the bikers had been a nuisance that had been increasingly wearing on my nerves, but this incident marked the point where I began to really hate those bikers.

So when I walked a little further and came across another group of bikers sitting out under the big mango tree at the entrance of Duyong who were all laughing, having enjoyed my distress and show of anger, I lost my temper again.  I told them that I hoped that would all die slow painful deaths of cancer from their bikes’ exhaust fumes, and that they would become deaf from the noise before they turn 40.  I don’t think their English was good enough to understand me, but they did get it that I was being quite unpleasant.

For the most part, bikers are known for being callously indifferent to what anyone else thinks of them, but when I told two young bikers that they weren’t welcome here and not to come back, I think that did get through to them.

They left that night, thank goodness.  The next morning, I picked up several bags of trash that they’d left on the beach, beer and wine bottles, over a dozen dirty diapers, some in the water, even batteries that were starting to leach acid into the sand.  Some people don’t deserve to get out in nature (I wouldn’t blame the Earth if it decided to just rid itself of humanity.)

My eyes have been hurting for almost a week.  They’re finally starting to recover.  I’ve kept to myself, but today I made myself go out and talk to people.  It’s not good to be so isolated and alienated.  The honeymoon with Malaysia is definitely over after this.

Mother’s Day is coming up this Sunday, May 13.  Two of my childhood friends, Joni and Sheila, have arranged a Skype call with me that morning. 

There’s a butterfly flitting about across the way.  I’m watching it, and I’m feeling this vast sadness that’s engulfing me.  Maybe I can just fly above it, like the butterfly. 

My idea for the Women’s Earth Council apparently isn’t a new one.  Karla Crescenta in Colorado Springs sent out this poem recently in a newsletter.  So I think I’m keeping good company here with Julia Ward Howe. 

In 1870, Julia Ward Howe penned the ORIGINAL Mothers’ Day Proclamation as a poem:

“Arise, then, women of this day !  Arise all women who have hearts, whether your baptism be that of water or of tears.  Say firmly:

We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies. Our husbands shall not come to us reeking of carnage, for caresses and applause.

Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.  We women of one country will be too tender of those of another country to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.  From the bosom of the devastated Earth a voice goes up with our own: 

It says, Disarm, Disarm.  The sword of murder is not the balance of justice.

Blood does not wipe out dishonor, nor violence indicate possession... . . . . . . .

I earnestly ask that a general congress of women without limit of nationality may be appointed . . . . with its objects to promote the alliance of the different nationalities, the amicable settlement of international questions, the great & general interests of peace.”

 

 

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