From the Edge of Asia: An American Reports from Malaysia

Greetings to my friends and family who are supporting me in this venture and saving me from destitution in Malaysia.  An interesting thing is happening as I feel your interest and support; I no longer feel quite so alienated or alone, and I am holding each of you in my thoughts and heart.  I have even experienced moments of clear and pure happiness.  Thank you for your solidarity; it is actually making it possible for me to survive.

This first volume of this newsletter actually covers two weeks, as I didn’t get the first one out before leaving for Kuala Lumpur to renew my passport and visit HR to sign a contract with UCSI for a teaching position.  My actual start date has still not been determined, however.  It will be decided by the process of getting me a work visa, and could be as far off as August.

April 28, 2012

I brought a packet of three oranges at the supermarket in Kuala Lumpur, ate two of them on my trip, and had one left when I returned to Cherating Beach last night after a six-hour bus trip.  So this morning when I was woken early by the local monkey tribe thumping across my roof, I decided to give the last orange to a monkey.  I opened the door to see several monkeys nearby, and one going through the trash of the beach hut opposite me.  I rolled the large orange to him like it was a bowling ball, and the monkey caught it and ran before the others could see his prize.  Too late!  Another monkey saw what happened, and pursued him up a roof.  As I went back to sleep, in my mind’s eye, I could see that monkey sitting with the orange in its arms, so it must have eluded its pursuer… also I would probably have heard a monkey fight if it hadn’t.

 

In Kuala Lumpur yesterday, I ate lunch at the PWTC shopping mall.  If you go to nice restaurants there, lunch can easily cost RM25, but I know that there is a food court on the 4th floor with Malaysian food, where you can eat quite nicely for RM5-6, which includes rice, chicken, delicately spiced sauces, fruit, and a drink, about two U.S. dollars.  As I was sitting at a table eating my lunch, four handsome young Malaysian men sat at a table next to mine.  One of them was quite bold and starting talking to me in English, showing off for his friends.  He asked me what country I was from, and when I said that I was from the U.S., he said that he wanted to go there.  Then he asked me if I was alone in Malaysia.  When I said yes, he asked if I was married.  When I said no, that I was single, he said, “I’m single, too,” smiling broadly at me in a most beguiling way.  I laughed, and told him that he was far too young for me.

 

I’d had a wonderful experience that morning at the government hospital, where I’d gone to get a physical and have a form filled out for HR at UCSI.  The Malaysian woman at the front desk of the hostel where I was staying had told me it didn’t cost much to go there.  Later I found out that not much is usually one ringgit, but in my case, it was free.  I followed the signs leading back into the hospital complex, but couldn’t figure out which building I should enter.  A lovely nurse walked by with a very kind face, and I stopped her to get directions.  She was very helpful and addressed me so kindly that I really hoped that I could have a nurse like that if I ever got sick.  She seemed like a holy woman to me; I felt blessed by having her talk to me, by the full attention she gave me.  She really saw me, and she allowed me to really see her.

 

I proceeded to the building she had pointed out, and found two security guards at a desk.  Again, they were quite helpful and very friendly and kind, telling me how to get to the medical clinic.  I walked into a maze of buildings with various clinics laid out all on the same floor in a zig-zag fashion, with lots of sunlight everywhere and fresh air, the buildings connected by open walkways.  I asked for directions a couple more times.  Everyone was quite approachable and friendly, unlike in an American hospital.  Finally, I walked into a ward with patients lying in beds, and there I was, at the medical clinic.  A nurse took my form and tried to puzzle out the English with the help of two other nurses.  An Arab doctor came by, looked at me closely, walked away, and then returned a couple minutes later.  He got the form from the nurses and asked me what I needed.  So then he examined me, and asked me the questions on the form, and that was that.  He signed the paper and stamped it, and said there wasn’t any charge.  He told me that his sister was attending UCSI, and said that it was located in Cheras.  I said, no, it was on the south side of Kuala Lumpur, and I pulled out my map to show him where I’d circled it.  He said that was Cheras, it’s an area of Kuala Lumpur.  So I learned something from him.

 

He was also so kind and friendly, like the nurse who I’d gotten directions from.  I felt that if I ever needed a doctor, I would like to be his patient.  He embodied everything that I thought a doctor should be like, intelligent, kind, friendly, patient, and helpful.  As I was leaving the complex, triumphant with my medical form completed, I encountered another worker there, and told her how much I liked this hospital.  She said there was a newer building that had several floors, that I was in the old part.  It was the nicest hospital I ever visited.

 

Before I ventured out to get my medical form completed, I had eaten breakfast at the Indian restaurant next to the hostel where I was staying.  I ordered roti made with two eggs, and a glass of hot chai, the spicy milk tea Indians love for good reason, all for the grand total of RM3 or about $1.00.  Roti is a kind of soft bread made with eggs that is quite satisfying.  It is served with a lentil sauce that is so delicious that I think this kind of breakfast is the most satisfying one that can be had in the world today.  I sat there in the early morning light in this large restaurant which was open to the street on one end, with maybe 50 tables, and a dozen other people eating their breakfast spread out among the tables, reading newspapers, checking messages on their cell phone or talking with friends.  A couple people are staring off into space, obviously not entirely awake yet.  Lively Indian music is piped in through a P.A. system to get people going.

 

I’m thinking about a message I received from Carol Downer, cofounder of the Los Angeles Feminist Women’s Health Center where I worked when I was in my early 20′s.  In this message, she said that the only thing that could save humanity now is for women to come together and start making the necessary changes, but that she doubted it would happen because women lacked self-confidence, were shamed, and could not come together, or words to that effect.  And I started thinking about the saying, “The meek shall inherit the earth.”  I was looking at a Muslim woman out on the street, a vendor selling food, wearing a colorful head scarf, modest and self-effacing.  It occurred to me that Muslim women must be the meekest people on the planet, quiet, gentle, easily imposed on, submissive.

 

And as I was thinking this, a dozen Muslim women in headscarves arrived together, then another dozen, and more, going to the breakfast bar, filling up the tables, and ordering food.  Some wore black headscarves, some white: I also saw three pink ones and an orange.  I was astounded.  Here I’d been thinking about how meek Muslim women were, and the problems of coming together, and then all these Muslim women suddenly descended on the restaurant where I was sitting, looking quite purposeful and united.

 

Later I asked my Muslim friend at the front desk about what this could mean, was there some kind of holiday or event at the mosque perhaps.  She told me that the women had come for a political rally at Independence Square, although the government really didn’t want them to gather there.  They’d rather that they assemble in a stadium where security could be tighter and it wasn’t so open.  Apparently the opposition party was showing their strength for the upcoming elections.  Malaysians have been getting more involved politically recently, demonstrating against Lynas, the Australian company starting a rare earth recycling plant in Gebeng, and speaking out against corruption in the ruling party, demanding fair and clean elections.

 

And that’s when it occurred to me that women actually could unite and make a difference.  We could start a group to encourage each other to step forward boldly with confidence, rooted in the planet, indomitable in our collective strength and numbers.  I decided to make my voice heard, and to encourage other women to speak out also.  We will no longer be ignored.

 

That’s when I decided to start a global group for women, Women of the World United (WWU).  Also we could start a university, WWU, Women of the World University.  We could have junior members, girls as young as age 8, and senior members of retirement age and older, as well as active members between the ages of 8 and 68.  Membership cost would be very low, only $1 U.S.  It will be a group that millions will join, and women all over will pledge solidarity to work together politically for ourselves and our families, our friends and communities.  We will pledge to learn to work together politically and on projects, to trust each other, to care for each other, to heal from shame, to gain self-confidence, to make friends, and to make our lives better by changing systems and creating better ones.

 

It was a grand idea, possibly the greatest idea that I’ve ever had.  Let me know what you think of it.

 

At the hostel in Kuala Lumpur where I always stay when I’m in the city, I had a late-night political discussion of some length in French with a young man from Kyrgyzstan.  My Sikh friend from India who has been studying to become a Buddhist monk introduced us.  Most of his ideas about the U.S. had been formed by reading the French diplomatic newspaper, Le Monde.  We weren’t entirely in agreement about everything we discussed, but we were actually pretty close.  He told me all the trade that Krygyzstan does with China now is exchanged directly into yuan, the U.S. dollar is no longer used as the currency reserve.

 

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April 22, 2012

 

Sunday morning.  Another hot day in Malaysia.  I’ve been tripping on the love vibe coming through the unified field of energy.   I’m listening to radio from the U.S. on a myspace.com Internet station.  Jason Mraz, “I’m Yours”, Doc Sanders, Bruce Hayes… folk, blues, ragtime, bluegrass, Celtic, R&B, rock, country, gospel, pop…

 

I’m American to the core.  This music does something for me.  It eats into my soul and pleasures the cilia in my insides.  I don’t know where that came from.  What’s cilia anyways?  Here’s the definition right off the Internet:  Biology. minute hairlike organelles, identical in structure to flagella, that line the surfaces of certain cells and beat in rhythmic waves, providing locomotion to ciliate protozoans and moving liquids along internal epithelial tissue in animals.

 

I like that, the idea of hairlike organelles inside my body that beat in rhythmic waves and make the protozoans and liquids move inside me.  Yeahhh.

 

The Malaysia word for people is orang, as in orangutan.  Big laugh.  I love studying other languages.

 

I haven’t seen the monkeys around here lately, but when I walked down the street yesterday, I saw them at the edge of a large empty parking lot lined by jungle.  There was a dumpster that they’d been going through, trash was thrown everywhere.  I stopped and watched.  I saw five brown monkeys of different sizes there, some kind of spider monkey.  The monkeys here have the most beautiful color; it’s a reddish brown, kind of a roan.

 

You can get used to anything.  Seeing monkeys, no biggie.

 

I never get used to the view out my door, though.  We’re at the foot of this enormous hill covered with trees that are always blowing in the wind.  Palm trees, mango trees, I don’t know what all.  Tropical jungle rising before my eyes.  Last night there was heat lightning playing across the sky, very, very dramatic with towering clouds above the jungle canopy of the hill.  Right now I am probably living in one of the most beautiful places on earth.

 

I went swimming yesterday in the sea.  The tide was out, so I had to walk across the major sandbar.  I walked and walked in shallow water for about 500 meters until I got out deep enough to swim.  The people were tiny specks on the shore.  Today I’m going out swimming in high tide.  I’m not waiting for it to cool off in the evening.

 

I have a confession to make.  I”m afraid of the sea.  The water’s so warm, and sometimes the color’s this gorgeous bottle green.  But there’s this ooze, this primordial ooze if you get out far enough, and it coats my body with a slimy feel that I don’t like.  I try to catch the waves out of it, and swim above the OOZE.  The first time I swam in the sea here and encountered it, I tried to ignore it, but it was like a sentient being intent on getting me.  Is this a new form of paranoia of swimming in the sea?  God, I’m such a mental case.  But what happened then is that some globular jelly kind of thing attached to my leg, and when I pulled it off, ripping it off the skin, it left a bloody mark.  So I always think the ooze is going to deposit blood-sucking jelly things on me.  So I swim out there, and when the ooze touches me, I try to get away from it.  I never swim for very long.

 

I love the water, and being in it, though.  I just can’t seem to leave it.  My life has tumbled and tumbled, and left me here, like a shell on the beach.

 

 

 Later in the day, 4/22/2012

 

I can no longer bear being lied to.  And that includes sins of omission as well as being openly lied to.  It seems almost all the U.S. history I ever studied was a fabrication of lies.  Every single war the U.S. has fought was based on lies, false flag operations such as the Gulf of Tonkin event that led us into the Vietnam War.  Never happened.  What?  Never happened.

 

I saw it play out with the Cheonan in South Korea the other year.  We were ready to attack N. Korea over that one.  The only thing is that I’ve been monitoring war games, and I knew that they were having live fire war games right then in South Korea.  However, none of the stories coming out mentioned that rather important context for what happened.  I made sure the press knew in China, Japan, S. Korea, and the U.S.  Did I see a lot of sand getting kicked around over that one, trying to confuse people as to what was really going on.

 

I’m watching the war games happening right now with the U.S. in the Philippines very carefully.  Actually, the U.S. is on a huge spending spree with holding war games in different countries all over the world continually.  We should have a citizen’s watch on all this activity, and an accounting of how much each of these military exercises cost taxpayers.  And following up on how often terrorist acts ensue in those countries after the U.S. has been training local militias.  You never see any hint of this in the mainstream media in the U.S.

 

Am I suspicious?  Yes, it’s dark out there, and I don’t like what’s going on.

 

Most people never hear military planes flying overhead in a buildup to a war.  I’ve just happened to live near military bases where I have listened to the buildup to bombing people in other countries.

 

How does that make me feel about the U.S.?  Not good.  I am really tired of employers lying to me, too.  Anyone else who has worked as an ESL teacher knows how common that is.  The false spin in the news, the lies that everyone is told, really upset me.  I’m so upset at a certain level that I can hardly bear to live.  What a false, deceiving world we live in.  I’m about ready to smack the next hypocrite in the face who baldfaced lies to me to make themselves look good or feel good.

 

In that context, I wonder how the Japanese feel about being lied to?  Apparently Fukushima has unleashed a high level of radioactivity across Japan and into the sea.  The spent fuel rods in No. 4 reactor are being kept precariously in an open pool on top of a building that was damaged by the quake that is presently being jacked up.  There are a great many spent fuel rods, leading to all kinds of conjecture about what was actually going on at Fukushima.  If the building collapses before the rods can be safely removed (a process that will take years), as there seems to be a high likelihood of happening, as seismic activity in the area continues unabated, an explosion could result that would spew such radioactivity that the entire world would be contaminated; Tokyo would have to be evacuated, and there is no way that it could ever be cleaned up.

 

I just read an article about 60,000 Japanese marching in Tokyo last September, protesting the use of  nuclear power, saying Sayonara Nuclear Power.  Apparently local governments have quite a lot of say in Japan, and they’ve shut down 56 out of 58 nuclear reactors in Japan.  The last two will be shut down by May 5.  The Japanese know nuclear power’s not safe now, and they’re vetoing its use.

 

EPA limits on level of radiation  100 millisieverts per year (from EPA website).  I don’t know what it was in the U.S. before Fukushima, but in Japan the limit used to be 1 millisievert per year.  After Fukushima, they raised it to 20 millisieverts per year.

 

Let’s put this in context by examining the international limit for radiation exposure for nuclear workers.  It is 20 millisievert (20 mSv, or 2 rem) per year, averaged over five years, with a limit of 50 mSv in any one year. However, for workers performing emergency services United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) guidance on dose limits is 100 mSv when “protecting valuable property” and 250 mSv when the activity is “life saving or protection of large populations.”

 

 

And what about our Gulf Coast after the BP oil spill at Deepwater Horizon?  Dahr Jamail wrote an article recently that shows the entire seafood industry has taken a major hit, and BP has done little to help people recover.  The shrimp are nearly gone.  Whatever happened to that story?  Here we had the greatest environmental disaster the U.S. has ever seen, and it didn’t take long for the story to disappear from mainstream coverage.   Of course, the impact on the lives of people on the Gulf Coast has not disappeared.

 

The biggest story, the most important story of all, to me, is about disappearing jobs in the U.S. and wages going down, down, down.  Of course, benefits went out the window when most people found themselves only able to get work through temporary employment agencies.  What happened there?  All of the sudden, every major city in the U.S. has 30, 40, 50 or more temporary agencies.  Sure makes for an expendable work force.  And those good permanent jobs are getting ever more elusive.  In fact, you could argue that a new class system has evolved, the temporary workers vs. the permanent employees.

 

My son got a minimum wage job at UPS.  I seem to remember that even part-time workers at UPS used to earn around $15 an hour.  He has a part-time job working for landscapers during the day, and the part-time job with UPS at night.  He’s having a hard time getting his homework done and making it to classes.  But his income is now about $1000 a month.  Too bad their monthly rent is $650.

 

Well, when the economy’s bad, even the temporary agencies shut down.  I wonder how many are left today.  Most large employers in the U.S. don’t even have HR departments anymore, I found.  You have to enter your entire work history on a website form.  This process can take hours if you’re an older person, like me.  But by the time that you’ve filled out every single job you’ve ever had, you know that you’ve already documented yourself out of a job.  Either you’re too high on the wage scale for them to bother with hiring, or you’re seen as a job hopper.   This system is really stacked against older workers ever getting a foot in the door.

 

So what other stories might be considered important that are not being covered in the mainstream press?  What about the next stock market crash?  They seem to come pretty often in recent years.  Aren’t we about due for another one?  And will the dollar hold its value much longer?  What will happen to the value of the dollar in the next year, or even in six months?  How much do Americans really know about what’s really going on?

 

The Chinese have been positioning the yuan (renminbi) as an international trading currency.  They are already trading directly in the currencies of other countries without the U.S. dollar as the reserve currency.  In a report by Forbes, the Chinese are only two years away from making the yuan a global currency.  What happens to the dollar then?

 

Back in Oceanside, California, where my mother lives, the nuclear commission has shut down the San Onofre nuclear plant.  San Onofre’s been shut down since Jan. 31 of this year because of unusually rapid wear on tubes in its newly replaced steam generators.  Until Southern California Edison, which runs the plant, can figure out what caused the problem and solve it, they can’t fire up the plant’s reactors.  It must be quite a challenge to figure this out, as it’s three months later now.

 

Apparently there was a fire a couple of days ago that burned for 45 minutes, fortunately on the side of the plant that wasn’t radiological, but I’m sure while they battled to put it out, there were some concerns about it spreading to the radiological side.  They don’t yet know what caused the fire.  That’s a little troubling.

 

Here in Malaysia, Lynas, an Australian outfit, is just starting up operations of their rare earth plant in Gebeng (about five miles from Cherating Beach where I’m staying).  Malaysians have been protesting this plant on their territory, which provides little benefit to local people, only risk, but corrupt politicians have had their palms greased, so it’s going forward.  The last time I took the bus from Kuantan, I was aghast to see how extensive the facilities were at Gebeng, all carefully protected by barbed wire fence, and no signs identifying the operation as Lynas anywhere.

 

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