Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Made It Through

Written by: Megan

So, it is already September of 2012, and I have started my second year of teaching at ISKL;  it isn't until now that I feel ready to reflect on my first year in Kuala Lumpur.

When first arriving, I was smacked by so many new sights, sounds, and smells that it was difficult to really take it all in.  I can vividly remember the van driving us from Kuala Lumpur airport to the Renaissance hotel (where all new teachers are housed for 10 days).  I was exhausted after traveling for over 20 hours, while 5 months pregnant and with a 3 year old.  The cars looked different; the trees looked different; the people were different, and most nerve-racking was how completely different the landscape and housing looked.

http://annainternationalenglish.blogspot.com/2011_02_01_archive.html
Slums outside of KL
The airport is an hour's drive from KL.  In this time, we got to see a huge disparity between the shanty houses made of pieces of aluminum thrown together and huge blocks of low-income apartments, versus a booming city with beautiful new high rises and suburbs of beautiful homes (homes that look nothing like homes in the U.S.).  Of course, I could only focus on the really poor parts - the areas that I had only seen on television or National Geographic magazine.  I still get a queasy feeling in the pit of my stomach when I think about that drive.  We were here - in a country far different from our home, amongst a culture we really didn't know much about.  What would it be like to live in a Muslim country?  Are the people going to be nice?  Will they accept us?  How are we going to get around?  Where are we going to live?  Will we be safe?  Will my children like it here?  Will I find a good doctor and hospital to deliver Brady? Where is the darn grocery store?!

It was NOT an easy transition.  It was a few weeks after we were here when Ron admitted to me that on the second day at the hotel, he actually contemplated putting us on a plane and heading back to the U.S.  Well, I can honestly say that we are so glad we stuck it out...

As the year progressed, we became more accustomed to the differences here.  We learned how things actually get done (which is neither fast nor efficient).  We learned how to properly craft our sentences so people could understand us:  Where's the toilet?  We would like this food for take away.  Can I get a beef burger?  Where is the queue? ... and we found that most questions can simply be answered with "Can" or "Cannot" - without any further explanation :)     We learned our way around, made our house a home, and continued to develop strong friendships with our coworkers.

Malaysia is a beautiful country with beautiful people.  We have felt so welcomed and accepted by both the Malaysian people and the expat community.  Although travel is tough with little ones, we have already gotten to see several areas of Malaysia and Phuket, Thailand - where all of the people we've encountered have been nothing but helpful, smiling, and wanting to touch, hold, and take pictures with our children.

Working at ISKL has been the hardest, yet most rewarding experience of our professional career. This is a rigorous school with high standards for both teachers and students.  Teachers work, work, and then work some more.  We are often stressed out and tired, but all the while we are happy to be a part of such an excellent educational community.  Our fellow teachers push us to be our best at all times, and our administrators support us.  We are lucky to be at ISKL.

I have to say though, going home this past summer was one of the hardest things I've done in my entire life.  This is only because the whole time I was there, I knew that once again we'd be leaving our friends and family to hop on an incredibly long plane ride and return to this foreign land that has started to become our home.  We love our experience here, but we also know that we are blessed with so many people who love and support us in the U.S.  We know we aren't 'forever expats' - we are just 'temporary expats.'  Once we feel we've reached the goals we gave ourselves when first beginning this journey, we will return home.

For now though, starting the second year in KL and at ISKL is SO MUCH BETTER than when we first arrived.  Our home was here waiting for us, and Caden was ecstatic to see the friends he has made and begin school at the Melawati campus.  We have established friendships with people we can turn to when we need help or just want to chat.  We know how to get places and how to avoid places.  We know which grocery stores we like, which restaurants/stalls have the best food, and how to drive on the left side while motor bikes are whizzing past us.

I still can't really believe that not only do I live and work in south-east Asia, but I even gave birth to Brady here.  This is something I really never dreamed I would do, but I am so glad it fell into place. Who knew teachers could live this kind of life?!

There is a quote I love and have tried to live by for years now.  It is partly what has gotten me here today:

'Never give up an opportunity to become a more interesting person.' -Anonymous

I think I can say that I am working on it :)


Caden's 1st day of Prep Junior (Preschool)
We won't be finding our name here :)


Although we love Malaysia....
The United States will always be our home


Fun with friends this summer :)