DAY 1Nov 02 2017
A few days of rest and recharge with family in Singapore was just what the doctor ordered before driving up to Kuala Lumpur.
The drive up was beautiful. This photo barely does it justice but the whole south of Malaysia are palm tree plantations meticulously lined as far as the eye can see.
DAY 4Nov 05 2017
This month Remote Year has the facilities to host two programs simultaneously. Kaizen, meet Earhart. Earhart, meet Kaizen. 50 becomes 100 and Kaihart is born. But not before the lines are tested with a (somewhat) friendly game of Beer Olympics. Matching shirts, war paint, and all. Zog peeps, thought of you the whole time. I dominated flip cup. You would have been proud.
DAY 11Nov 12 2017
Learning my lesson from Japan, I took a full week to process my first impressions of Kuala Lumpur.
First off, and probably most importantly, the apartments are huge. They are massive. Remote Year owns the entire building, which is actually a full-service hotel with bell boys, and reception, and room service. It seemed too good to be true, but to be honest the only real downside is that it’s super old. The stove, oven, and elevators are really janky, and the toaster is basically not useable, but at this point I’ve gone months without any of those four things so old is better than nothing. Daniel and I are sharing a 2-bedroom with Blanca, and even though all three of us tend to work from home, we barely see each other. One time I had to call Daniel on the phone to ask him a question because the office (that’s right) is so far away from the bedroom. Another time Blanca didn’t hear the doorbell from her bathroom (one of three!). Here are some pics:
The view is pretty nice too. Our balcony (one of four) overlooks the KL Tower, which is basically like the Space Needle.
Our workspace, F88, is private to Remote Year (which means we can walk around barefoot, hallelujah), and is on top of a swanky mall (think Louis Vuitton, Chanel, and Tiffany). It’s freezing though, as is every other store in KL, so I’ve been more productive working at home.
Kuala Lumpur, unlike any other city I’ve been, is a city of contrasts. Glitzy high rises with infinity pools sit opposite squalored tenements. Unlike India where the malls and apartment complexes are gated and the poor stay on the outside of the gates, which are armed by security guards, in Malaysia the two worlds co-exist without the presence of law enforcement. The streets are equally filled with toothless homeless beggars, creepy construction workers, Caucasian tourists, and business people in suits. This is the first city where the walk from home to the workspace is unsafe depending what time of night you walk and which path you take. There is heavy Muslim influence which unfortunately make the stares inevitable no matter how much you cover up.
The art and culture, though, is unbeatable. There is Chinese, Thai, and Indian influence everywhere. We’re eating Szechuan. We’re learning Indian dance. We’re having Thai massages again (yaaas). We’re eating on plastic chairs in Little Vietnam. I went to temple. We’re fine dining and high end shopping the same afternoon as flea market bargaining. We’re hiking. We’re visiting rooftop bars and speakeasies. Were having $1 streetside juices. We’re seeing Thor on opening weekend. There is everything here, and it is so incredibly easy to live.
DAY 13Nov 14 2017
Today was pretty incredible. RY arranged for a small group of us to visit a refugee family from Afghanistan in their home, and to share a home-cooked meal with us.
A bit of history, worth the read: Although refugees have no rights in Malaysia, it is a popular halfway destination for those fleeing persecution because of its visa l-free entry. Refugees pay a broker to bring them to Malaysia on a tourist visa. Their journey may include months of walking, in harsh and dangerous conditions. When they arrive they quickly secure a cash payment rental apartment and overstay that visa. Once they arrive they go to the embassy and queue up to take a number petitioning for refugee status. They are given an appointment date 1-2 years down the line, and if the date is passed they wait another 1-2 years. Once they are given refugee status they are eligible for resettlement in the US or the UK or Australia, which are the only three countries accepting immigrants (for now). In the interim, they are tasked with laying low and not being noticed. They can’t open bank accounts. Their children can’t go to school. They can’t leave the country. They are often highly skilled but can’t be legally employed. They can’t be noticed by anyone. Even once they get refugee status, if questioned, authorities have been known to tear apart the papers if not offered a substantial enough bribe, starting the process over again.
Introducing the Picha Project. Originally a group of student volunteers hoping to tutor refugee children, they noticed attendance was dwindling. After home visits, they learned about the refugee plight, and realized parents were relying on their children for income from odd jobs, and shifted their focus. After polling for skills, they realized cooking was a common theme among families. They hail from all over the world and can whip up a diversity of food.
So Picha Project started a catering business. Companies and private groups purchase large food orders, and the refugee families cook. Picha Project accepts the money and passes it in cash to the families. In this way they are earning $2000 / month and their children can attend the learning center.
Not for nothing, the food was incredible. Potentially some of the best home food I’ve ever had. This particular family was a single mother, an 11 year old girl who helped with the cooking and cleaning. I asked her what she wanted to be when she grows up and she wants to be a doctor. God bless.
DAY 18Nov 19 2017
Off to Bali!
I had originally planned to go with a group of Kaizens but decided upon arrival that I needed some solo reflection time.
A bit of space was exactly what the doctor ordered. I had realized after being with everyone 24/7 for months I was starting to feel frustrated with and resentful of the group, which isn’t productive with four months to go. You never spend 24/7 with anyone, not even your spouse or children. Learning to live together on Remote Year is an ongoing adventure, I’m finding.
For my two days of “space” I decided to go all out with a honeymoon suite overlooking the rainforest of Ubud, daily massages, thrice daily juices, private tours of the island with a hired driver / photographer, live music, and my most productive work week to date.
DAY 20Nov 21 2017
Rainforest (n): a tropical woodland with an annual rainfall of at least 100 inches (254 centimeters) and marked by lofty broad-leaved evergreen trees forming a continuous canopy
The world’s smallest rainforest lies in the heart of KL, right across the street from our apartment complex. This city is *literally* a concrete jungle.
DAY 25Nov 26 2017
Very few words can describe the incredible weekend with the Nation House but I’ll do my best.
Once a quarter (ish) the RY community rents a house in a random, cool city around the world, picks a theme for the weekend, and opens applications for the entire Nation (past and present remotes and staff) to apply for 15 spots. Over the summer 2 Kaizens were selected for a storytelling weekend at the Nation House in Pisa and came back glowing. So when the fall house was announced with a “creativity” theme in Penang, I made sure to take my time building my application and was ultimately invited to go.
The creative house brought together 16 people from 5 past and present programs. We kicked off Thursday with a Thanksgiving meal where we shared our gratitude for this journey, made a traditional American meal, and had just shy of too much wine.
Throughout the rest of the weekend we took turns leading the group through workshops on creativity. We did improv, had jam sessions, made a music video, drew, conversed, created. We laughed until we cried, we shared our deepest fears, we brainstormed tools for getting unstuck. We discussed plans for life after RY, and life in general. We shared our most secret hobbies and poems and written word. (Apparently when you put 16 creative world travelers in a room, more than half of them will be working on a book in secret). The passion and energy was indescribable and I’ve never felt so much love and support from *anybody*, let alone a group of strangers I met three days ago.
Apart from the house, which was this dope 1800s shop house-turned-hostel with incredible lighting and a map of the world, Penang was awesome. It was a prefect setting for 16 creatives to wander and explore and capture. I’ve never been in a group before where everyone had a nice camera or a musical instrument. The street art throughout Georgetown was pretty great and the food (birthplace of satay and Penang curry) was as good as advertised.
Fun fact: Jimmy Choo is from Penang! There is some street art of him as an apprentice in Georgetown when he was a kid.
Returning to KL with my heart so full ❤️ and any doubt I may have had about whether or not this is where I belong completely eliminated.
DAY 32Dec 03 2017
And in the blink of an eye another continent it down. Asia was one of incredible growth. Professionally I began with a full time job, left that job, struggled to find (and whether to find) another, and ended freelancing with two incorporated companies blossoming, with more financial security and job satisfaction than any position I’ve ever held. Physically I went through some serious health issues which I’m finally coming through. And personally I feel stronger and more able to tackle what life has to throw at me. The concept of Remote Year ending isn’t frightening anymore. I feel sure of who I am and where I am and where I’m going.
Also, a moment to say thank you for keeping up with my journey. I love hearing all you friends and family referencing the blog. It makes me feel so loved and connected when I’m a million miles away. Looking forward to a little lighter reading and a lot fewer miles on the months to come.
With that said, the roundup:
Average breakfast: Apples with Nutella and peanut butter
Lunch: Pavilion food court treat. Sweet and sour chicken, mango salad, dim sum, pho, bubble tea, Hakka noodles. Any kind of Asia fusion in an indoor market setting across from the workspace.
Dinner: Indian food
Drink of choice: Happy hour mojitos
Most money spent on: An allergy test in Singapore and a business class upgrade for the 31 hour transit to Lima
Apartment highlights: 1500 sq ft, 2 bedroom, 3 bathroom beauty with 4 terraces. Incredible view. A bit old but so much space. I didn’t use two of my closets.
Workspace highlights: In the middle of a swanky mall! Dedicated to remote Year. We got a budget to leave out mark and we designed on after the Lenin wall in Prague.
On the locals: Cultural melting pot, but mostly reform Muslim who weren’t always too open with our manner of life but didn’t ever say anything or make us feel unwelcome. Except once in Penang when we had open beers at a picnic table in a Muslim section and we got majorly threatened.
Three words: “Is it raining?” (Spoiler alert: most likely the answer was yes)
Packing adjustments: Ditched most of the elephant pants for similar weight cottons that don’t scream “backpacker” for use in South America. Bought a mini projector on Black Friday for Netflix nights and a little body pillow for snuggling.
General feeling: A month of recovery in every sense.
Top five meals:
5. Singaporean noodles - Pavilion Food Court
4. Breakfast - All of them in Ubud, particularly at the Komeneka
3. Beer Mac and Cheese - Homemade for Thanksgiving
2. Penang Satay - Pedang Kota Lama Food Court
1. Churros (Indonesia)