I’ve been back in Kuala Lumpur for 13 days now, and it’s been eventful. At first, I was slightly overwhelmed by the faster pace of the city and dazzled by all the people. I realized that I’d been suffering from sensory underload at the beach; I hadn’t even realized that I was feeling deprived of all the sensual stimuli of living among a density of people. I am learning that despite my love of nature, I am truly a city person. All I knew was that I was too lonely, and that my life lacked zest.
Although I had a job interview at a language school a couple days after I arrived, the woman I’d scheduled the interview with had apparently forgotten all about it as she wasn’t there and the staff were not expecting me. I think she was giving me the interview as a favor to a friend, and didn’t want to hire me for just a couple of months, as I’d told her about my job at UCSI starting in August.
I’d already arranged to volunteer at Hostel Cosmopolitan doing housekeeping in exchange for a place to stay, so that’s what I fell back to. I could look for other work that pays, but as I already have a little income with my online students, this should see me through until I start teaching at UCSI.
I walked into a trying situation at the hostel, though. There was a guy from Sri Lanka, a big, handsome man, who had apparently swindled three Philippine guests out of a couple thousand ringgit, promising them jobs at his sister’s new restaurant in Germany. It was all under the table, of course, so when he cancelled their airline tickets ten minutes after going with them to the ticket agency to buy them, and pocketed the money that got refunded, the police were not very helpful when the matter was reported.
The Philippine woman cried and the other guests took her side. They decided to carry out a citizen’s arrest of the fellow. Loud voices in the kitchen woke me up that first morning at the hostel. I went out on one of the computers in the lounge, but the altercation between a highly aggressive, verbally violent young Dutch man and the Sri Lankan moved within a couple feet of where I was sitting.
Thief and con man or not, the Sri Lankan fellow handled himself well, and stayed in control of himself despite taunts and threats from the Dutch fellow. I was displeased and taken aback at the prospect of a scuffle when the Dutch guy threatened to slap the Sri Lankan, and intervened to calm things down (without really knowing what was going on). The Dutch guy backed off then, and sat at another computer, saying that he didn’t want a fellow like that continuing to stay at the hostel.
I told him that I wasn’t sure that I wanted someone like himself staying at the hostel, that his manner and speech was violent. He told me the story of the swindle, and I asked him if he’d witnessed it or was the woman crying the only proof he had of what had happened. Apparently it was, but it wasn’t sufficient evidence to me. It had convinced all the other guests, though. And maybe the Philippines were swindled; I’ll never know they cleared out at the same time the Sri Lankan did.
The Dutch guy felt thwarted by my intervention and blamed me for letting the Sri Lankan guy get away. He continued to assault me verbally when I encountered him a couple times afterwards. He was friends with Zara, the young Malaysian woman who worked the front desk, and Zara was friends with Noemi, my roommate in the dorm. Zara was coming in and out of the dorm at night, continually waking me up by turning the light on every time she came in. Mostly she just wanted to use the mirror in the room to comb her hair. I asked her politely not to come into the room at night when I was sleeping. She didn’t see any reason to stop because she was friends with Noemi, who was also in the dorm.
One thing led to another and these three people were playing tricks on me, stealing my locker key, shampoo and conditioner, etc., until I felt so harrassed that I felt that I must leave the hostel, although with what money and where I would go, I didn’t know. I spoke to Mr. Naim, the manager and owner of the hostel about what was happening. He said that he’d investigate, but he doubted that these people were conspiring against me. Later, after he talked to them, he said that I was right and there was a conspiracy against me. He asked Noemi and the Dutch guy to leave and find another place to stay, and had a talk with Zara, who chose to leave his employ after that.
So things have settled down somewhat since then. Zara had been doing the housekeeping as well as the front desk before I arrived, but she had very little interest in doing it, and the place was actually pretty dirty. I’ve enjoyed the challenge of bringing up the standard of housekeeping here, and I’ve enjoyed the social life that the hostel offers, now that the Zara clique has left.
I ran into Noemi on the street the other day. She no longer looked so powerful or content. She looked more like a hardened member of the criminal underclass and when she saw me, the flat hate in her eyes was disconcerting. I’ll be glad when she returns to Borneo, which should be any day now. I guess her new situation is not so favorable as what she enjoyed here.
Mr. Naim brought in a couple workmen to clean the air conditioners on the third floor. Then he hired a work crew to lay down a new floor on the fourth floor. Every day when I finish changing bedsheets and sweeping and mopping the third floor, doing laundry, and cleaning the toilets, sinks and showers, I have a great sense of accomplishment that I’m leaving that floor really clean. It’s the most physical labor I’ve done in many years during my five-hour shift from 11 a.m.-4 p.m., but it’s satisfying work.
This morning I went to the new egg place around the corner, and brought the plastic carton to hold 10 eggs that the owner had given me the last time I bought eggs there, urging me to recycle and reuse it. The eggs only cost RM 2.40 (about 75 cents). Then I bought a kilo of potatoes for RM 3.00. As usual when I go out on the street, I have to wend my way through the moving cars and bikers who dominate the space and claim first rights.
I haven’t had much luck with roommates here. There was a pregnant woman with a young child who Nor caught going through my things, about to steal my cell phone. She got turned out, too. Then there was an American woman who spent a couple of nights in my room before changing to another one. I asked her to turn off her cell phone at night because it was disturbing my sleep, but she wanted to use it for an alarm clock. Now there’s a young woman from Japan who coughs a lot and is an insomniac. I suspect she has radiation sickness from Fukushima. She wears a face mask most of the time, but in the room much of the time all she wears is bikini underwear.
Overall, I much prefer the male guests who stay here. I enjoy talking to them and sharing meals.