one year in lumpy land

kl one year anniv This time last year we packed up our home in London and moved to what we lovingly call Lumpy Land. Kuala Lumpur was definitely culture shock after living in LA and London but one year later, I don't feel like such a stranger anymore.

To round up the anniversary I thought I'd share bits of what I love about this place and the things that I could do without.

Let's start off with the bad things. I could live without ...

  • the lack of pedestrian right-of-way and safety considerations from motorists. the reasons there are so many overpasses in the city is so that pedestrians are taken out of the equation completely, i'm sure.
  • the illegal/bribed buses that blow nasty smoke onto everyone on the sidewalk as they clank by.
  • the lack of consistent walkable sidewalks. every building owns the property all the way to the street so each block can be totally different. some developments opt to go without proper sidewalks altogether.
  • the fact that I walk 1,000 times faster than most locals and it makes a regular trip to the mall to run errands feel like a game of pac-man just to dodge everyone.
  • litter that eventually gets packed between the new "nice" landscaping and fences on the street. i know that litter is a problem in most places in the world but london was so on top of it that it spoiled me.
  • illegal taxi drivers who take advantage of tourists and charge RM10 or RM20 when it's really a RM3 ride on the meter. never ride with a driver who won't take you on the meter - they're jerks.
  • mosquitoes gone wild after a really heavy rainfall.

As you can tell, most of my pet peeves have to do with getting around the city by foot. It's just that KL is small enough that it could be a really walkable city if they wanted it to be but, unfortunately, city planning and pedestrian safety are just not happening. To its credit though, there have been many city-center sidewalk improvements since we moved here so I'm thankful for that...can't hate on them too much now.

Now on to the things that I love about living in KL!

  • the lack of street laws that allow us to jaywalk wherever and whenever we want.
  • the warm and friendly locals who, when introduced personally, act as if you're family.
  • the predictable afternoon thunderstorms that fill the sky on a daily basis. such a great show.
  • wearing sandals and summer clothes while it rains because it's so warm out.
  • fresh fruit and veggie juices available everywhere. it's almost unforgivable if a restaurant doesn't offer them.
  • the standard script from new and friendly taxi drivers that goes like this: "where you from?", "you stay here?", "you work?", "you married?", "have children?".
  • learning to enjoy spicy food. unlike the american version of spicy (which is really just hot) the indian and malaysian versions are more flavorful.
  • drinking out of coconuts like it's no big deal.
  • seeing giant green rain trees and furry looking palm trees everywhere you go.
  • the way so many expats from around world call this place home, too. most are here with kids who are getting the experience of a lifetime.
  • the sweet security guards in our building who barely speak english but always greet with a smile and are helpful when needed. thank god for universal hand signals.
  • the little grocery truck that parks on our street two times per week for a pop up market.
  • the street food that is so plentiful and yummy even though half the time i have no idea what i'm ordering.
  • the fact that i now often point with my thumb over a fist (think bill clinton giving a speech). that's how the locals do it so i figured i should too, out of respect.
  • driving down the highway and seeing a buddhist temple, a hindu temple, and a mosque all within thirty seconds.
  • hearing the calls to prayer throughout the day even though i have no idea what they're saying.
  • seeing the parade of colorful prints worn by local women on their traditional head coverings and dresses.
  • the craftsmanship that is so exciting for a foreigner like me. my taxi driver laughs at me every time i get excited about a rattan store or talk about wanting to learn how to paint batik.
  • the fact that living here can often feel like we're living on vacation (climate, scenery). my wardrobe has definitely started to reflect this.
  • the way joe looks so relaxed on the weekends when we can just be outside in the warm weather, wearing flip flops, year-round. having a nice pool certainly helps.
  • meeting incredibly good and solid people who we now call friends. so thankful to be carving-out a social circle.
  • and most of all, i love joe for being patient with me as i figure out this new place, how to live in it, and enjoy it.