From the Edge of Asia: An American Reports from Malaysia Volume I, Issue 3

Written by Ariel Ky in Kuala Lumpur June 8, 2012 (updated and expanded July 12, 2012)

Venus Transit

Well, I got through May and now we’re into June. The Venus Transit was a special event that just took place, putting into perspective our distance from the sun and it’s relative size to another planet. I was reading with amazement in the New Strait Times, an English newspaper available here in Malaysia, that a young man saved money just to buy a telescope in order to view this Venus Transit. It was a great event for him.

There is a national planetarium located here in Kuala Lumpur, and I’ve been to visit it because I generally like planetariums. There was quite a crowd of Malaysians there to observe the Venus Transit. One young man said it was overwhelming. However, for me, the Venus Transit was just a blip on the screen in my personal struggles. However, there may be some cosmic energies influencing the course of events and it may play a larger role in my life right now than I imagine.

Move to the Travel Hub

At any rate, I have made another abrupt change because of my pride. I thought doing housekeeping would give me a little humility, but it didn’t. When I had two men at my previous hostel telling me that I was nothing, nobody, and not important enough to even communicate with or listen to, that nobody cared what I thought, I got so insulted that I up and left.

Now I’m at another hostel, the Travel Hub, and I’m not doing housekeeping here. I’m a paying guest. I have enough money to live on for perhaps another month if I’m careful. However, processing my work visa may take 2-3 months still. I checked with HR at UCSI on my status, and was informed that they are only just now submitting my documents to the Malaysia Department of Higher Education.

Poor Internet Connection on Skype

The other day, I was unable to give three lessons to students online because the Skype connection was so poor. I lost one of my daily students in Moscow because I was not keeping our noon appointment very well. A couple times I forgot when I got into a mindless state doing housekeeping. He was unable to reschedule to a more convenient time when I moved to the hostel and they wanted me to change sheets and prepare for new guests between 11-1:00. We tried to work around my 30-minute noon lesson with him, but it didn’t always work out. Other times our lessons were disrupted when I moved to Kuala Lumpur or I’d gone without eating too many days and lost track of the time.

Quitting Live-English

I also terminated my employment with another agency that was sending me a lot of students. I earned about $240 with them last month. They only paid me $10 an hour and most of the lessons were for 30 minutes, so I only got paid $5 a session… still, it was some income. However, there were problems with their website, and one day when I was having trouble with Skype, I couldn’t reach my student alternatively through their website by phone. My Israeli boss was unsupportive and considered the problem was caused because she didn’t think I was tech-savvy. This was her same stance as the last time that I had difficulty with her website. She took it down for an entire day after I’d had problems (but never apologized to me). It was never her problem, always mine, even when the facts were contrary.

So now I have to find another way to make some money. I don’t think that I want to teach online any more, at least not in my current situation. Staying at hostels doesn’t give me any privacy for my lessons, and I don’t have that great of a Skype connection. This hostel has a much faster Internet connection, but the Skype still isn’t that great.

The good news about having moved to this hostel in the Chinatown of Kuala Lumpur is that I’m now in walking distance to a large outdoor swimming pool. It’s true that it’s quite a walk. This morning I walked up the hill over Chinatown to swim at the aging, large outdoor swimming pool at the top. It was my second time to go swimming there, and I was pleased to find that it only took 10-15 minutes to walk there from the hostel where I’m staying.

A scarlet dragonfly with a bright yellow puffy back was flitting about the pool, so I was a little wary, having once been stung by one; it was worse than a wasp’s sting. There were several large trees around the periphery of the patio area alongside the pool. Workmen were moving first large potted palms, and then flowering shrubs on carts to change the landscaping. I watched them nervously because I didn’t have the coins to get a locker. Instead, I’d carefully folded my thin cotton dress over my Reeboks, stuck my change purse in one and set my glasses on top. So as I was swimming, I was watching those workmen carefully to make sure they didn’t disturb my things.

The water felt wonderful, and I luxuriated in the sense of using my swimming muscles again. I went slowly, trying out my new, slimmer body. Eventually, I swam a little faster, enjoying the feeling of being more compact. I usually did a kind of modified breast stroke for one lap, and on the return did a backstroke, looking up at the swallow-like birds coasting on the thermals and then flying quickly to get back into one. I have regained enough of a figure for the young men to notice and smile at me. It made me nervous. I’m more used to being ignored. Nevertheless, I enjoyed looking at their muscular swimmer’s bodies. It may be one reason I like hanging out at swimming pools. It was truly wonderful swimming in that pool.

A couple times one of the scarlet dragonflies landed on the side of the pool and sat there a while.  When I swam towards it, I stayed a little, looking up at it, and whistled to it, watching it shift its tiny eyes to look at me.  That dragonfly and I communicated, curious about each other.

I didn’t want to leave after swimming for an hour, but my skin was getting all wrinkled. So I stayed awhile playing, swirling round and round with my eyes closed, feeling as though I was way out in space. Then I was ready to get out, but two guys were coming down the ladder. I moved to the side to let them come in the pool, enjoying the up close view.

Now I’m staying in a 12-bed mixed dorm with men and women… all young people, backpacker types with their backpacks strewn across the floor.

I suppose that I could ask the American Embassy to send me back to the U.S., but then I’d just be poor there without a job, and it’s a lot more expensive to live in the U.S. I wouldn’t be able to draw unemployment either. So my apparent tenacity is not so admirable, but more in the line of a necessity… like a mussel hanging onto a rock for dear life as the waves crash and recede.  Some people think the life I’m living is romantic, but being there’s nothing romantic about being this poor.

Last night four young people arrived late at the hostel, schlepping their backpacks and paraphenalia up the steep small-stepped stairs to the second floor. The guy at the front desk said there were only three dorm beds left. They conferred for a bit, and asked him if they could get the three beds and then two of them would share one. He agreed, but some of them hadn’t really thought that he’d let them do it, so they weren’t sure that they’d heard right.

The outcome was that in the dorm I’m sleeping in across from me a young couple are sleeping together, the beautiful long-black haired young woman giggling as they whisper. It’s so INTIMATE. And I’m so envious.

Egyptian Suitor

Well, I have a suitor of sorts, an Egyptian man who keeps telling me that I’ve finally found a husband. He shares his food with me, roti with hot sauce, large globular grapes, and pound cake. He is always singing and dancing, so I’m not surprised to learn that he’s one of those guys who sing at the mosque. If I married him, I wonder if I’d be wife #2 or wife #3, or maybe even wife #4.

Iranian Artist

The young man who works at the front desk is far too thin, and has shaved his head. Curious about him, I’ve talked to him quite a bit. It turns out he’s from Iran. I thought he might have AIDS. He has a delicate, precise way of doing things that I recognize from my own period of poor health after 10 days of diarrhea, when any effort takes enormous effort, and you parcel out your actions to match the depleted energy level you’re at.

His English isn’t bad, but he visibly struggles to express his thoughts. It turns out he is a very deep person, and that every topic of discussion, no matter how mundane, becomes a major issue of philosophy. Yesterday he told me that we’re not so different, that he’s in Malaysia for the same reasons that I am; because we don’t like the politics of our countries.  I found out that he’s an artist; he sketches when things get slow around here and keeps a sketch pad on the counter.  I haven’t peeked yet, but I intend to when I get a chance.

When I sleep here, my rest is rich and dreamy. Except when it isn’t. Sometimes there are two or three other guests up in the middle of the night texting on cellphones or laptops, and there’s a mechanical whine in the room that I’m pretty sure that nobody else hears but me because of my supersensitive hearing. And my dreams become mechanical and repetitive. I’m doing mundane chores endlessly or on the Internet in a joyless dreary search for information that is beyond my reach, a kind of purgatory existence.

Fantasies of a Home by the Sea in Italy

My mood flows and ebbs from satisfaction at the slice of life that I find myself in, no matter how uncomfortable, to wanting a small home somewhere by the sea, perhaps in Italy, where I can garden and have a cat or dog or maybe both, and walk along the beach. A place where I can wander into a cafe or restaurant and find congenial people to converse with, where I can watch the sun set on the sea, and feel a breeze blowing most of the time. I could perhaps find a small room to rent at a cheaper rate than what I’m paying at this hostel by the night, but I like the social life that is so easy to find here. I don’t really try to fit in, but I don’t need to.

I’m the only one in the living room of the hostel right now. It’s 9:57 a.m. and several of the other travelers are just waking up. There’s a crowd in the kitchen right now eating the free breakfast: coffee or tea and cheap white loaf bread with margarine and jam. They’re all beautiful young people who have been traveling together. I’m enjoying the sound of their happy chatter and laughter. I wonder why I never looked that good when I was younger, and what my life would have been like if I’d traveled like they’re doing with a group of friends.

Anxiety about Income

I’ve thought of some other ways to keep money coming in. I’ve been applying for work as an English teacher at jobs that are posted in KL. So far, no answer. I explored the neighborhood, crossing several lanes of busy highway to head west and see what was there. I found an urban university, and visited the HR to see if there might be work. Nobody was willing to see me just dropping in, which wasn’t promising, but I was given a business card to contact them, which I plan to follow through on.

I also applied for another online teaching position, and registered as a TOEFL teacher with GalaU. And I still have one online student remaining.

Skype the only way to have a phone call

My cell phone battery seems to have died as I have not been able to recharge it. So I put some money on Skype from my Paypal account. Malaysia doesn’t have pay phones anywhere, so if you don’t have a cell phone, you’re out of luck. At least I can make calls from my netbook.

English Spoken All Over the World Today

It just occurred to me when I was younger that I couldn’t have traveled the world in the way that these young people do today because 40 years ago, English wasn’t spoken everywhere. That led to the thought that the U.S. has most certainly overextended itself in feeling that it needs to exert a global military presence. Nobody ever asked it to be a global policeman. And the abuse of human rights with the use of torture and manipulation of markets and predatory financial practices, aggressive wars and unilateral military actions have certainly undermined any moral authority it might once have had as a champion of democracy and freedom.

U.S. Has Global Presence with the Widespread Use of English

We’ve certainly won a global presence that would be conducive to doing international trade, by the widespread use of the English language alone. Instead of making movies full of violence, torture scenes, predatory vampires, and destructive controlling aliens, we could be showing movies that feature an emerging golden age of the planet. And we’d have a ready market.

Dynamic Music the Greatest Contribution U.S. Has Made

I’ve been discovering the music of the 20th century in the U.S. on Youtube. I have my favorites from the 50′s, Buddy Holly and Roy Orbison, who I’ve been fans of for many years, but I’m also listening to some of the great black performers from earlier decades, Odetta, Big Momma Thornton, Little Richard, Lead Belly, Elizabeth Cotten, Skip Jones, Charley Patton. The vitality of this music continually astounds me.

The true greatness of Americans, it seems to me, is not in our military, but in our music in all its different genres, creativity and expressiveness.

Tamera and Dieter Duhm’s Latest Book, Towards a New Culture

What would it take to shift the focus of the U.S. in a healthier direction? There’s a model eco-village in southern Portugal called Tamera, which was started by Dieter Duhm, Sabine Lichtfields, Monika Berghoff, and a few other individuals from Germany who wanted to create an alternative way of living, a model community. I’ve been following their projects for several years and seen the community grow to 170 individuals.

Even though their website and community have been attacked at times, the community has thrived and they’ve carried out several of their projects, including an annual peace university that they hold every summer to bring young people together from Israel and Palestine to learn conflict resolution and leadership skills in peacemaking. I’m on their mailing list and intend to live there for a few months to learn from them, as I want to start my own community eventually, Terra Haven.

This week I received a book online from Tamera that was written by Dieter Duhm, Towards a New Culture. I’ve started reading it, and resonated immediately with the following line: “The success of our efforts to defend life and the Earth will stand or fall in the long term on our being able to develop our own new, concrete cultural and social approaches for our own future in which the psychic mechanisms of destruction between people can be fully recognized and brought into resolution.”

Resolving the Psychic Mechanisms of Destruction Between People

It would be fruitful to examine a way to resolve the psychic mechanisms of destruction between countries as well. More than wars between nations, I believe that what we face today is a class war between a tiny wealthy elite and everyone else. A management class buffers the elite and serves them, comprised of heads of state, corporate boards and management, mainstream media, and militaries that carry out their bidding. The presidents of the U.S. also serve them in carrying out their agenda.

The Answer:  End and Heal the War Between Women and Men

As long as women and men war against each other, my sense is that nothing will change. However, if women and men could mend and heal the rifts that divide them and come into harmony in their relations, this wealthy elite would not be able to get away with their power and control schemes. It is the basic inequality and lack of freedom in the relations between men and women that every other inequality, suppression and oppression is based on. I know this on a deep, intuitive level. It is one truth that I have access to, which my life has been based on.

I look forward to reading Dieter’s book because I think he may be one of those bold pioneers who is perhaps coming up with some real answers to the dilemma that humanity faces. Dieter Duhm is authentically living out his ideas, not some academic theorist such as Noam Chomsky, who I recently discovered is a millionaire in his own right, having profited from his position in academia and his writing and speaking engagements so that he has become one of the celebrities that serve the status quo as much as the management class does.

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