Monday, March 12, 2007

Changing Impressions

Recently, Matt and I started talking about how much our impression of KL, Asia, and just other cultures in general have changed over the past several months. For example, when we first came to KL, we drove through Bangsar, Ampang, the city center area, etc. and everything seemed so...foreign. So very different than what we were used to. A hodge podge of storefronts, new buildings, buildings that looked like they should be condemned, scooters, hawker stands, and the like. Now, keep in mind that that was our perception then. Neither one of us had ever lived outside of the US, had never even visited Southeast Asia, and both grew up in small towns. The closest that I had ever been to living in a big city were the occasional pub crawls in Sundance Square in Fort Worth, Greenville Avenue in Dallas and some brief outings in downtown Houston. But now we are realizing that all the things that had changed about our lives, that were once scary, foreign, intimidating, are starting to become more comfortable, familiar, and more appreciated. As we venture through Chinatown, or bar hop along Sultan Ismail, or even take a simple grocery trip, things that were once so "foreign" and different to us, what strikes us is how much our impression of it has changed. Now, I find a comfort in it being somewhat familiar, but still new enough that I am eager to experience more. I find tiny victories in habitually looking to my right first when I cross the street, in knowing the best place to find the best lunchmeat (quite a challenge at times), or even hailing a cab without getting ripped off.

Things I Had Never Done Before Moving to KL:
1. Hailed a cab
2. Walked on the left side of everything!
3. Paid for pork at a separate counter
4. Bargained for anything
5. Not owned a car
6. Worried about shoe choice for comfort as opposed to fashion
7. Questioned whether or not a sleeveless shirt was appropriate attire
8. Heard call to prayer
9. Watched Al Jazeera
10. Smelled durian
11. Learned how to pick a mango
12. Seen whole squid in a market
13. Owned six umbrellas
14. Ate jellyfish
14. Been catcalled from a construction site

Now, I know we haven't ventured as far off the beaten path as I'm sure we will at some point, and some of the things above aren't necessarily culturally significant (although some of them are), but the overall lifestyle change hasn't been minor, to say the least. A local that might read this might find it amusing that I ever thought that a simple trip to the grocery store could be kind of fascinating, but it's all about perception, you know? I never knew anything other than what I had grown up with. I think that's something that Americans, generally, miss out on. There's a whole world out there that unfortunately, many people don't get to see or might not even be interested in. To each their own - everyone has to do what's best for them, but I feel amazingly lucky to be able to experience all that living overseas has had to offer. I think we are finally starting to get the hang of this...

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