Thursday, July 31, 2008

Settling in

We're settling in. Still a lot of work to do, but at least we're all unpacked (though a lot of arranging to do). It's unreal, how much crap a person can accumulate living in the same place for 6 years.

The kitchen, dining room are set. My study, gym and basement are still pretty much in a mess. Internet and cable TV are up and running, thankfully.

I made a visit to my new hospital for the pre-employment exam. Popped by the endocrine clinic too. Though it's much smaller than what I'm used to (7 endocrinologists, instead of the 40 we had) it's a pretty good group and so I'm looking forward to it. I'll be focusing more on thyroid biopsies and thyroid cancer, hopefully. I begin work Monday; none too soon because of the unholy credit card expenses we've chalked up this week alone.

In the meantime, come on in for a look!

Friday, July 25, 2008

We're here!

Sorry for the lack of updates.
  • We got back Saturday afternoon
  • Sunday we picked up our dog (Chloe) and then helped my housemate of 5 years move to his new apartment (sniff sniff)
  • Monday my movers came and packed my stuff (lost my internet connection then) and loaded things onto the truck Tuesday
  • Wednesday we started driving down to Des Moines at 4:30 am and picked up the keys to our new home. We slept on the floor that night.
  • Thursday our stuff got delivered, along with the fridge, washer and dryer.
  • Today, I'm expecting the delivery of something I'm treating ourselves to: a new 46-inch Samsung LCD HDTV.
Despite having gone through internship I don't recall ever having been this physically tired. At least for hospital call you get to go home early the next day. Not so for us. We had (I swear to God) over 40 huge boxes to unpack (only through have of them so far) (the movers only unload our stuff in the designated rooms- we have to unpack). And they use packing paper for EVERYTHING- I found a box of paperclips wrapped in a huge wad of paper! They probably killed a hundred trees with my move. We filled up Kristin's CRV, I mean REALLY filled it up, and despite that two trips to the cardboard recycling plant wasn't enough.
My left elbow hurts, my left knee hurts, my right foot hurts. When my dad called yesterday to find out how things were, I had this overwhelming temptation to just start bawling for Mommy and Daddy. At least Mommy and Daddy can help us unpack!
We were so tired that I almost fell asleep in the restaurant yesterday. And it doesn't help that the jetlag only let me sleep 2-3 hours the last couple of nights.
Nonetheless, despite the fatigue, it's extremely exciting. I mean, this is OUR home. And despite the mess, we think it's beautiful (we're biased, obviously). The bummer is the internet/cable TV/phone will only be installed next Wednesday. Fortunately we were able to find an unsecured wifi network here (shhhh....) (thanks, anonymous neighbour!).
Will periodically update you readers. Photos to follow (only after the mess is gone, lar!).

Friday, July 18, 2008

Leaving on a jet plane

It's 530 pm; we leave for the airport in less than 5 hours. It's that time of the trip when I'm dreading the countdown- the few hours and minutes I have left to be with family and friends before our next visit. This has been an unusual, unbelievably busy trip with the wedding and travelling we've had to do, but it's been a blast, nonetheless.
But now, it is time to go. Sigh.
If things go according to plan, I should be seeing my family again at year's end, this time at our new home. And I should be visiting Malaysia again sometime next year.
But, though this is my 10th year being away, leaving Malaysia never gets easier. It never does. Ask anyone who has been abroad. Not when family, friends, loved ones; not when your culture and roots remain. So many memories.
I remember one year when a friend call as we were driving to KLIA, and she started singing 'Leaving on a Jet Plane' over the phone- I was close to crying buckets then.
Kristin saw this firsthand last year- I basically sulk in my last 24 hours in Malaysia (okay, admittedly I did have a good time at lunch with Jimbo just now), right up to Incheon International Airport in Korea. The times when I'm most prone to being teary-eyed are when I hug my family goodbye at the departure hall, and when the airplane captain accelerates down the runway at take-off (Hopefully the pretty Korean Air attendants will distract me). I always make a silent prayer as we're taking off. I shall again tonight.

Lord, please look after my family and friends while I'm gone, and keep them safe. Please look after my country, and her people.

Till the next year, folks, take care.

Monday, July 14, 2008

The Future: Bleak?

Met up with some buddies for lunch yesterday. One of the things we talked about was the future of Malaysia, of our people; they were comtemplating migration to Australia. The wife was worried about how her children and children's children would be treated
This seems to be something that comes up frequently amongst the minority races here. Of the state of affairs in this country and whether our children would have to face a tougher, more discriminatory and corrupt Malaysia and whether it would be better to just move elsewhere.
For those unfamiliar with the Malaysian system, there is an affirmative action policy (the New Economic Policy) in place that favors the indigenous race (mainly the Malays) over others (mainly Chinese and Indian) in almost all aspects of society: university acceptance, scholarships, special discounts for home purchase, business, banking. One reason for this is to appease the indigenous people (termed the Bumiputras) following the racial riots and massacre of Indian and Chinese people in 1969.
Affirmative action is used everywhere, not just in Malaysia, usually to equalize groups of different social or economic statures. However, Malaysia's NEP favors the majority over the minority races. The Malaysian Consitution gives the Malays 'special rights and privileges that cannot be questioned', and includes areas, that, in my humble opinion, should be free of favoritism. One of them being education. I remember my form 5 Malay language tuition teacher (a Malay lady, bless her heart, herself on the panel of examiners of the SPM exam) who told us: If you begin your essays with Muslim greetings and try to sound like you're Malay, you'll score better. And in application forms of any kind, after age and gender there is always a column for: Race.
Naturally, there is a festering sense of resentment amongst the minority races, while in the majority race there is a growing sense of entitlement, even in the post-independence, modern-day era Malaysia. Even the young are raised with an increasing sense of special privileges on the sole basis of race.
And with politicians constantly using the 'special rights issue' as electoral tool, subtly threatening a repeat of the racial riots if people tried to abolish the double-standard system of the country, many fear whether there would be increased suppression of the minority races.
For me, my reasons for choosing to remain in the US are:
1) Kristin
2) The NEP
It irks me to the deepest level, to have someone younger than me to tell me to my face that I should not complain about things being unfair, that I should simply be thankful that 'they' are 'allowing' me and my family to live here. Like we just got off the slow boat from China a month ago. Simply put, I think the thought that one group is superior to another on the basis of skin color belongs to the dark ages.
This, in a country that supposedly gained independence over 50 years ago. Never mind the fact that me, my father and his father, were born on this soil. This, simply because his forefather stepped on this soil before my forefather did. On a recent trip to the waterfalls with my family, I had a kid try to jostle us of the way stating that 'they Bumiputras' should have right of way and should be let through. I was too irritated and embarassed to tell my in-laws from the US what they said. But for a fleeting moment I would have traded my Xbox to see that tubby 15-year old slip and fall on his butt.
Think as you wish, but I'm a firm believer in Darwin's theories of evolution, that for a species to thrive there has to be competition and natural selection. And that you don't teach a person to walk by giving him a crutch; you merely make him dependent on it. And when you introduce discrimination and favoritism, you encourage inefficiency, corruption and laziness. We see this in biology- reason why our stroke patients develop muscle atrophy.
I see this the reason for an entire generation of good-for-nothing motorcycle bums that the government is trying now to control.
Malaysia makes for an interesting study- on one hand one groups claims supremacy and superiority and how it towers over others and is becoming increasingly globalized; on the other hand the same group yells and screams about how NEP needs to remain in place because they are still behind, and their rights need to be protected to prevent being left behind.
When we visited Singapore last week, despite Singapore's many flaws, I sadly thought how Malaysia and Singapore started at the same level, yet in a mere 4 decades Singapore has surpassed Malaysia in every respect and become a major world player, and how my home country could have been should there be more effective systems. A system that rewards merely on integrity and quality of work, not race, not gender, not who you know. It is noteworthy that when my patients hear I'm from Malaysia, after the 'Where is it?' inevitably comes the 'Oh, is it near Singapore?'
This trip back, more so than before, I notice the high number of people I know who have chosen to make elsewhere their home. So many friends, so many sons and daughters of Malaysia, so many professionals, who choose to leave, accelerating the brain drain.
For they probably share my experience- I feel more like a 2nd class citizen in my homeland, than I do half a world away in a foreign land.
And so I tell my friends at lunch, every country has her flaws, but perhaps emigration is not a bad idea.
I have made my choice. A difficult one, but necessary. Morbid, perhaps, for I am unsure of the future of my descendants here. While I anxiously await for the day when a Bangsa Malaysia (Malaysian race), free of discrimination, would truly exist, I am not sure if this would ever become reality.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Playing tourguide

I've been playing tourguide the last week. It's been fun, but exhausting. In the days following the wedding, we've:
  1. Flown to Singapore
  2. Then flown to Pulau Redang
  3. Made 4 day trips to KL
  4. Driven to Melaka
I'm pooped, but it's been fun. Got to meet up with numerous friends in Singapore, all part of the Mayo Malaysian-Singaporean family. A special bonus was that I got to check out Gene's Lotus Elise. And we got to finally try the famous chili crabs- a week later I can still taste the crab. Hmmmm.
Redang was just spectacular. A lot nicer than Tioman, IMHO. Though I was initially concerned about the huge group- both our families went- it turned out to be a blast. Our families got along well, even before the Chivas came out. And my parents prepared a special surprise for Kristin's parents who celebrated their 36th wedding anniversary there.

We leave for the US in 5 days; it feels like I still have a ton to do. A few more places her family wants to see before they leave. So, please pardon the paucity of blog updates. More to come, I promise.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

2nd Wedding!

Things have been a whirlwind. 2 days after we got in, we had our 2nd wedding. It turned out to be a really exhausting but fun day. My family did a marvelous job organizing this event and we could not have done it without them, from so far away.
In the morning, there was the customary 'bride snatching' event. Because Kristin's family is from the US, the bride was based in the suite of the hotel. My groomsmen and I had to cross some obstacles before they would let us in to see her, so there was the usual eat-the-wasabe-sandwiches, sing some songs, say I Love You in 10 languages etc.
I thought they let me off the hook pretty easily; after all I didn't have to eat some bug that was injected full of wasabe (yes, dear readers from out of Malaysia, they sometimes do that)(and yes, the girls were planning to do that until my wife put a stop to it).
Animals, these people!
We did the tea ceremony in both the hotel and then again at my parents' home; Kristin's family enjoyed going through it for the first time. The dinner banquet was a blast- 380 friends and family, coming from as far as US, UK, Australia, Canada. Some people I had not seen in 6-7 years; dear friends from medical school, highschool, distant relatives. Though we had fun, it was terribly busy for us so much so that I was only able to eat 3 of the 8 courses. I felt pretty guilty about not being able to spend more time with my friends coming from everywhere (so if you're reading this, sorry!). I guess I hadn't anticipated the amount of hosting I would have to do.
Nonetheless it was great fun. We did a fair deal of dancing too, late into the night after most had left. My older brother was pushing around a bottle of whisky, so we all (including the inlaws) were pretty 'merry' on the dancefloor!
A special bonus was getting to meet some celebrity bloggers for the first time,
Suanie and Fireangel drove all the way from KL to attend (thanks, guys!).
It turned out to be a great day. Such a contrast of cultures and traditions compared to our US wedding, but still just as fun. The Olsen family enjoyed it as much as we did. And it was particularly special having fun with our two families, in the presence of dear friends I don't get to see often.
We leave for Singapore in a few hours, then it's off to beautiful Redang island for some R & R. In the meantime, have a good week, folks!

Wednesday, July 02, 2008


Yes, we're home! (well, Malaysia will always be home)
After a harrowing 20 hour flight, we got in at 2 am. Inexplicably, by some weird cosmic coincidence, I always end up sitting close to noisy kids.
That one year it was a child planning to run for presidency. He would recite the Pledge of Allegiance at the top of his voice at 10,000 m in the air. Over and over again. Almost made me want to stand up and salute.
"I pledge allegiance, to the flag of the United States..."

This time, I had a krazy hyperactive Korean kid with lungs the size of an adult hippopotamus, who would just babble away, at 150 decibels. Ba-ba-ba La-la-la Whoosshh Nya-nya-nya. That, and his incessant kicking of the back of my seat. Not that he had some cognitive disability or anything, since he was talking normally to his parents.
Until. He. Got. Bored.
You wouldn't like him when he's bored.
My ice-cold glares, usually reserved for reckless drivers talking on their cellphones, succeeded in shutting him up only for minutes at a time. I must have had that crazy must-kill-someone look on the plane, as Kristin anxiously asked me to use her noise-cancelling headphones several times.
But this kid, he was unusually resistant to my looks of death. A worthy adversary. He finally fell into a stuporous sleep 5 hours out of Chicago (perhaps one of the other passengers laced his drink with Benadryl?).
With my luck, our trip back to the States would have me sitting beside The Screaming Baby Triplets From The Netherworld. Don't believe me? Just you wait.
Anyway, we're here. Kristin's folks resting in the hotel, everyone else sleeping, except this idiot with jetlag. We did make the customary stop at the mamak from the airport, and one murtabak and roti goreng and teh tarik later, it feels like I never left.

Malaysia, here we come!