Tag Archives: Malaysia

Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch…

Where we left off

I am declaring my blogging “maternity leave” officially over.  I’m ready to get back to it. By way of getting caught up, here’s a reasonably brief timeline of my life since the last post:

May. Micah and I finish up the traveling we had intended to do. Well, almost all of what we intended to do, anyway! We took a long weekend in Penang, which was great. It’s such a different city than KL, we were very pleasantly surprised with the contrast. We also took a day trip to Melaka. It was about an hour to an hour and a half by bus, so it was totally doable for a quick trip. I think there are always a few “I wish we had time for that” regrets when leaving any city, but I think we managed to milk everything we could out of those last trips. We ate some excellent food in both cities, hiked in an incredible national park and played with some monkeys on a beach in Penang, and learned more about Malaysia’s history and colonization in Melaka.


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End of May. Micah’s family comes to visit us in KL. We met them in Singapore and had one last adventure for the road. We loved visiting Singapore, what a contrast to KL and Malaysia even though they are so culturally similar! We brought The Family to some of the places that we had really loved in KL (Jalan Alor, Batu Caves, Merdeka Square, Petaling Street…). And we did some other new things with them (Royal Selangor Pewter Factory, Top of Petronas Towers). It was a really great way to revisit the places we loved one last time.


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KL Farewell

Beginning of June. I flew back to Texas to reestablish life in suburban Dallas before TK arrives. This was harder than I thought it might be. Thank goodness for family! My original plan was to find a house to rent starting in the beginning of July. I stayed with Micah’s cousin, the same one we lived with before leaving for KL.  She encouraged me to stay there as long as I needed to, which took a lot of pressure off. This turned out to be an even bigger blessing as, once I found a house, we couldn’t even move in until mid-July. On the other side of the family, my cousin let me borrow their car for as long as I needed to while I bought a “new” one. The plan was to get that wrapped up in the first week or two that I was back. As I shopped for cars, though, we re-prioritized our budget based on what was available and it took much longer to buy a car than I expected. It was the end of June before I ended up buying something.

All of June was taken up with house hunting, car shopping, and getting established with my doctors here. I had my first doctor’s appointment about 2 days after landing. I loved my doctor in KL, and I love my doctor here, and I wouldn’t change any of the health care decisions that we made. BUT. Prenatal care in KL was very different, and in some ways better, than prenatal care in Texas. More on this in a future post.

All of this “getting reestablished” stuff was happening while I was in my third trimester. The day I landed in Texas, I was 31 weeks and 6 days pregnant. Most people are heavily into nesting at this point. (And most commercial airlines “strongly prefer” you to finish traveling before 32 weeks!)  People kept asking me, “Are you ready for the baby? Do you have everything you need?” No! I don’t even have a place to live yet! (Well, we did, because we could have stayed with The Cousin for as long as we wanted, but you know what I mean…) Some aspects of this were really stressful, but most were not. Living in KL for 9 months really made it clear to me that a lot of what we “need” in daily life in the US are not truly needs. We had a cradle, and diapers are easy enough to come by, that’s all we truly Needed for TK’s arrival. Once we had confirmed a place to live, had utilities set up, and movers arranged, I felt much better.  The question of “need” vs NEED has become a guiding principle in our current life: Is this a Capital N Need? If not, can we do without it? It’s been a great lesson from a budget standpoint as well as a de-cluttering standpoint, even if it’s not always easy to follow.

Mid-July. Micah lands on a Sunday night. We move into our new place the next morning. We moved in two phases, and hired professional movers for both. It was the best decision we ever made. Day 1, we unloaded our storage POD. Day 2, we moved out of the storage shed. These were also the hottest days of the summer to that point. I felt a little guilty for not actually helping with lifting and carrying, but not that guilty.

We spent the next two weeks trying to get the house unpacked and organized. (Spoiler Alert: we still have two rooms that are mostly full of unopened boxes.) Micah went back to work at his new assignment within the same company. We were also officially on “any day now” alert starting about week 38 of my pregnancy.

Beginning of August. TK’s official due date! And then a week later he made his long awaited arrival. He’s healthy and perfect in every way. We couldn’t be happier.



The past 5 months have been a whirlwind of trying to figure out how to care for a baby. It still feels like we are flying by the seat of our pants and learning as we go. For two (overly-) educated people, this has been very disconcerting. We are used to being able to read and learn about something and more or less figure it out. But there is so much information about raising children, and so much of it is conflicting, it’s really overwhelming!  The dirty secret we have learned is that everyone is really flying by the seats of their pants, and we should do what works best for us. Figuring out what works for us changes weekly and sometimes daily, but we are over the moon thrilled and in love with TK.

At this point, 5 months in, I’m finally able to carve out a little bit of time for my own stuff. One thing that I have really missed is having a creative outlet. I really like writing and blogging, so I’m trying to cultivate that habit as best I can. I have a few more posts in my head that are relevant to this site, and then we will see what happens. I’m debating the merits of starting a new blog and just keeping this one as a travelogue type thing- we do intend to travel again at some point in the future! I think my future posts will be loosely related to “Things I Think About”…some parenting, some current events, some education. If you have thoughts/ideas/preferences about keeping posts on this site vs. starting a new one, I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

Coming soon, in no particular order, and likely updating on Tuesday evening (Dallas suburb time, which is Central Time Zone in US, or GMT -06:00):

Wedding in KL

Grocery store culture shock, backwards

Pre-natal care in KL vs US

Going to the Doctor

We are lucky that we are both fairly healthy individuals.  But even the healthiest person in the world is bound to need a doctor from time to time.  We’ve had a few experiences at the clinic now, and overall I am impressed with both the quality of health care and how it is administered.

Our very first experience with a doctor was early in the fall.  Micah had some pain in his foot, so much so that he couldn’t really walk comfortably.  In the U.S., in a new city, we would consult our insurance website to find a doctor near us.  So that’s what we did.  We found a doctor in private practice a few blocks away.  Micah called and tried to make an appointment, but they told him to just show up, so we did.  Apparently it’s first come first serve.  I don’t really know if there are considerations for severity of illness, but it didn’t seem like it.  As it turned out, Micah saw the doc within about 10 or 15 minutes of arriving and registering, had a consultation/exam, got some recommendations for care, and some prescriptions.  They filled the prescriptions on the spot and were included in the overall cost for the visit.  Because we didn’t make an appointment in advance, we had to pay out of pocket and then submit it to the insurance to be reimbursed.  I don’t remember the total cost, but it was less than $30 USD.  Not the cost to us, after insurance…the total cost for the visit and the medications.  We were both really impressed.

The next experience was shortly after we returned from Thailand.  Micah had what looked like an infected bug bite on his leg.  It was spreading and clearly getting worse.  We decided to try a different clinic, closer to our hotel, in the mall at the base of the Petronas Towers.  (Surprise!  Malls are for medical care, too!)  Again, it was all walk-in.  There were several doctors on call, and I assume there was some triage procedure, at least in terms of matching doctors and patients.  After registration, you are handed a slip of paper with a four digit number and directed to the waiting room.  You monitor the giant TV screens to see when your number comes up, and it tells you which room to report to.  Unlike in the U.S., the doctors sit in their office/exam room and the patients are brought to them.  From an efficiency standpoint, that makes a lot of sense.  Patients aren’t waiting in an exam room for a long time, and they don’t spend 10 minutes taking your weight and blood pressure unless it’s relevant to your symptoms.  After you see the doctor, you go back to the waiting room to wait for your number to be called to the pharmacy (or “dispensary”) and/or to billing.  Again, you get whatever medication the doctor has prescribed right there and it is included in your final bill.  This clinic was a little more expensive than the doctor in private practice, but for convenience it was worth it.  I think the wait time was less, too, since there are more doctors to see the various patients.

As I wrote in my last post, I had a sinus infection last week.  (It’s cleared up now and I’m feeling much better!)  After two days of regular cold symptoms, I woke up with much more severe congestion and painful sinus pressure and decided it was time to see the doctor. I went to the clinic at the mall.  It was more convenient and there was less of a language barrier- both important factors in going to the doctor!  I checked in, got my number, and waited about 5 minutes to see the doctor.  I was examined, diagnosed with a sinus infection (shocking!), and the doctor explained what medications she would give me and what else I could do to help alleviate the symptoms.  Back to the waiting room, I waited another 5 minutes or less and was called to the pharmacy and billing.  I was prescribed an antibiotic, an antihistamine, and something that was basically Mucinex.  From walking in to the clinic to walking back out the door, it was less than 30 minutes.  I don’t think you’d have that same time at a walk-in clinic in the U.S., but I could be wrong and/or unlucky in my past dealings with clinics.  When you are miserable and feel like your face is swollen to gigantic proportions, being able to get in and out really quickly is an excellent benefit.  It cost me about $40 USD before submitting to the insurance to be reimbursed.  After insurance, I think I will end up with about a $10 or $15 co-pay.  I’ve been thinking that this is really affordable, in terms of cost of healthcare in the U.S.  But we are living above the average Malaysian income, so the sticker price is very affordable for us whereas it might be less so for many Malaysians.  But it’s probably also true that the average Malaysian is going to a doctor in their neighborhood, not in the mall at the Twin Towers, and I think it would cost less.

Malaysia and Kuala Lumpur more specifically are top destinations for medical tourism.  I was curious what the state of the healthcare system is in Malaysia, whether they have universal healthcare or a private healthcare system.  With all of the medical tourism that exists, I thought there would be at least some private healthcare.  I can’t imagine the government is subsidizing procedures for people from all over Southeast Asia and Asia in general.  Wikipedia informs me that Malaysia does in fact have universal healthcare AND a private healthcare system.  They co-exist quite nicely!  Take note, policy makers in the U.S., it can be done and the world does not end.

With our several experiences now seeing doctors, I am overall very impressed with the healthcare system here.  I am mostly impressed with the low cost (low for us, anyway), but the efficiency and lack of any serious wait time is also really nice.  One thing I am less than impressed with is the lack of over the counter cold medicine.  In the U.S., I would have used decongestant from the beginning of the cold and hopefully avoided the sinus infection.  Here, what counts as OTC cold medicine is basically designed to relieve fever, aches and pains.  For decongestant, you can get a nasal spray or eucalyptus oil to inhale, but nothing that’s really “heavy lifting.”  I haven’t found anything like Sudafed here at all, and while there is cough syrup, there are very few choices.  This is one thing I think the U.S. does better: availability and variety of OTC medicine.  True, there could be problems with self-diagnosing and self-medicating.  But at some point, an adult knows what sinus congestion feels like and it would be nice to be able to get some medicine to relieve it without taking the time and expense to see a doctor.  Although, if you can get in and out in 30 minutes and you don’t have to pay very much, why not just do that and get the meds you need packaged up for you in exactly the right dosage?

Indigenous People/Columbus Day

In the U.S., the second Monday of October is Columbus Day.  I have become aware in the last several years, though I’m sure the movement has been going on much longer, of a push to instead recognize Indigenous People’s Day on that Monday.  (Side bar:  Looks like Seattle and Minneapolis did!)  I grew up in a state that celebrated with a day off, but before the Great Move to KL I had spent a decade in Texas, which does not take a public holiday on that day.  It was easy to forget that the second Monday is anything other than the day before the second Tuesday.

Sunday night I was browsing my Facebook news feed to see how my various friends were responding to college football wins and losses and the NLCS game.  (My baseball fan friends are mostly shut out of the ALCS at this point.  Insert sad trombone here.)  In the middle of the light hearted weekend updates, I saw a “Daily Devotional” post from the national body of my religious denomination.  I have often described my denomination as “Vanilla Protestant,” but I’ve learned that’s probably not the best description.  As a whole, my denomination is quite liberal and committed to social justice issues.  Just one of many reasons I continue to be drawn to this sect over others.

Back to the “Daily Devotional” post:

“This Columbus Day, instead of venerating a dirtbag, do this: learn one thing you didn’t know about a pre-Columbian American culture. That’s it; just one thing. And let the truth start making you free.”

I thought I would give this a Malaysian twist and learn something about the indigenous people of Malaysia, the Orang Asli.  (This translates into English as something like “original people.”)  Before I tell you what I learned, let me tell you what I already knew from the various tours and museums we have done.

The Orang Asli are a separate group from the ethnic Malay.  And the Malays are a separate group from the ethnic Indians and the ethnic Chinese.  When people in KL talk about the three ethnic groups in Malaysia, they are not including the Orang Asli in the trifecta.  The Orang Asli apparently live in the jungle, because they are associated with wood carving and other wooden handicrafts and since the wood comes from the jungle, that makes sense.  And that’s it.  For a tourist, I know a relative lot about the founding of Malaysia and of KL, but no one has talked to us about the Orang Asli yet.  Though I am willing to admit that maybe it’s because we are living in KL-  I wouldn’t expect to go to New York City or Philly and learn something about the indigenous population of the U.S. (outside of a museum devoted to Native Americans, or something like that).

So here’s what I learned as a result of the challenge:  As of 2000, the Orang Asli population is around 148,000 and they make up just 0.5% of Malaysia’s population.  There are 3 main groups, which are further subdivided into a total of 18 tribes.  They are traditionally animists, but many have converted to monotheistic religions in this last century.  For the linguists out there, they speak languages from two different language families: Austroasiatic and Austronesian.  (Please note that this is not my subfield of linguistics, so I can’t give you any specifics beyond what I’ve read on Wikipedia.)  The poverty rate is around 77%, with a significant portion being classified as “hard core poor.”  I have no idea what “hard core poor” means in practical terms, but it sounds really bad.

My two sources of quick information are Wikipedia and my trusty Lonely Planet book.  Both sources agree on what I’ve summarized above, but they do diverge a little on the rest.  (Though this could be a result of the specific genres represented.  Wikipedia is a reasonably objective reference guide while Lonely Planet is a subjective tour guide.)  Wikipedia basically says that the Orang Asli were plugging along just fine, until the first traders arrived sometime in the first millennium A.D.  They continued to do just fine, trading products from the forest for things the traders had of interest (salt, cloth, iron tools), until the rise of the sultanate in Malaysia around 1400.  They were pushed from their lands, first by the sultans and then by the British.  They were treated badly on land deals with various government entities.  They were sold into slavery by the sultans and later were subjected to missionaries trying to convert them.  (This is starting to sound like a familiar story.)

My other source, the Lonely Planet book, paints a “noble savage” picture:  “The indigenous people of Malaysia played an important role in early trade, teaching the colonialists about forest products and guiding prospectors to outcrops of tin and precious metals.”  Sounds like the next line of the story could be about the first Malaysian Thanksgiving, right?  The book does talk about the current state of poverty and the history of unfair land deals, but there is no information on the really bad stuff- like being sold into slavery.  (This white washing of history is also starting to sound familiar.)

From my brief research, it appears that the history of the Orang Asli in Malaysia runs a similar course to the history of Native Americans in the U.S.  Though they were the original people on the peninsula, they are not currently in power and are a minority in their own country.  They have been treated very poorly by the new-comers.  They’ve lost a lot of their land due to crappy deals with the government and lost a lot of their traditional ways of life due to the influences of “civilizing” missionaries.  Many of them live in extreme poverty.

So there you have it.  I took a call to learn something about an indigenous culture and learned that poor treatment of indigenous populations is not limited to North America.