Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Farewell to Penang



We are moving back to Texas. As I write this, the movers are here packing up my belongings for the sloooow boat ride back to America. On Friday, I'll lock the door behind me, get on a plane, and say goodbye to the place that I've called home for the last three years. My husband will return on business trips, but I have no idea when, if ever, the kids and I will come back to Penang. It's a long way, and the company will no longer be paying for the airfare.

Seeing how much the island has changed in just the short while that we've been here, I know that it will be a different place in the future. A little more polished. A few more highrises. A few more malls. I'll never come back to Penang as it is at this exact moment in time. My local friends may still be here. My expat friends will have most likely moved on.

Living in Malaysia and all the travel that we've done has been such a learning experience and broadened my mind. I feel like there's been an explosive growth of brain synapses that hasn't occurred since I was a young child exploring the world anew.

I originally created this blog as a way to update "in real life" friends and family about our time as expats. About our fish-out-of-water experiences. It turned into something more public and enabled me to meet people in the virtual world. Astonishingly, it's lead to being able to legitimately call myself a professional writer. Because of this blog, freelance opportunities have fallen into my lap.

But the real audience that I write for is something more narcissistic. I'm writing this blog to me. The me from four years ago. The me that I was as I prepared to move. The me that was so worried and depressed about the great unknown that was Malaysia. Mothering in Malaysia? Daily life in Malaysia? Could I do it? Was I strong enough? Would I end up resenting my husband and the job that took us here? The job that brought a sparkle to his eyes.

I'm writing this blog to the old me and to anyone else who frets about moving to Malaysia. I want to send it back through a time portal to tell myself not to worry so much and that life here can be fantastic. Yes, it has its challenges, but the pros outweigh the cons.

It's a great launching pad for travel. Hop on a plane for a few hours, and you end up in a place with a very different culture and history. While I also enjoy traveling in the United States, there's a certain "Anywhere, USA" aspect wherever you go. The same Wal-Marts. The same Targets. Most of the time in America, I don't look out the window and marvel at the exotic lives of the regular people passing by. I enjoy visiting the landmarks, but I don't find myself wanting to simply soak up the culture.

I will miss the company paying for some of our airfare as is commonplace with many corporate expat packages. When someone offers you money that is earmarked solely for airfare, and it's a "use it or lose it" situation, you should definitely use it!

I will definitely miss Malaysia. It will always hold a cherished place in my heart. Here's a look back at some of the wonderful things I am going to find lacking when I move back to America.

Street Art — There is public art everywhere in George Town.



Monkeys — Once I am back in Texas, I can romanticize monkeys instead of finding them to be thieving ruffians as I currently do.




School Field Trips — We visit amazing places around town like the Reclining Buddha Temple with its golden stupa and jewel-like naga statues.




Trishaws — I have a love-hate relationship with trishaws. They are such an iconic part of George Town that I bought professional photos of them, but getting stuck driving behind one totally sucks.




Festivals - With a mix of Malay Muslim, Indian Hindu, and Chinese cultures, there's always seems to be an interesting festival going on. I will never forget Thaipusum and the accompanying body piercings, but I won't post a photo here in case if you are the queasy type. The water fights at the Thai and Burmese temples during Songkran are also a stand out. Night after night of fireworks for Chinese New Year were a literal eye opener as it is impossible to sleep early during this multi-week celebration. Here's a photo from Loy Krathong when I and hundreds of other people floated candle lit lotus blooms out on the water.




Heritage Bungalows — Many of these gorgeous, old mansions are a leftover from the period when Penang was a British colony. They seemed to have been mostly built by the rich British residents or wealthy Straits Chinese merchants. This one is on Gurney Drive surrounded by high-rise condominiums. The family hasn't lived here for ages but are so wealthy that they've refused all offers to buy.




Shophouses — If the heritage bungalows belong to the elite, the shophouses belong to the commoners. I enjoy wandering around George Town's UNESCO World Heritage area and looking at all the shophouses. Armenian Street is my favorite place to explore, although I think it's getting more touristy by the second.




Living by the water — Penang is an island, and I've been so fortunate that the company has put us up in a beach-side place with an amazing view of the water. I cannot believe that I get to wake up, look out the window, and see this.




Water activities — So much happens on the water, too. From our condo, I can see fishing boats and parasailers, jet skis and sailboats. My boys have tried open water kayaking. A cruise on a yacht or catamaran is a great way to see the island especially at sunset. Whenever I look at this picture, I will think back at the happy times spent with friends in Penang.




Hawker Food — One of the things Penang is most famous for is its food. You know that tip about living frugally by not eating out? It doesn't apply in Penang. You can get a delicious meal that's both filling and inexpensive at hawker stalls. Sometimes, it costs less than making it yourself. All this is just US$4.



Drive-up Fruit Stalls — Drive-thrus are difficult to find in Penang. There's not one for a bank as far as I can tell. Only a few of the McDonald's have drive-thrus. What you can find all over the place is drive-up fruit stalls. You don't have to get out of your car if you don't want to, and you can still head home with healthy eats.




What I will miss most about Penang is the slow pace of life. An abundance of free time is what enabled me to do so much exploring. I spent most of my last decade in Texas being a stay-at-home mom to young kids. Whoever thinks that life is easy is nuts. Every morning when I woke up, I felt like I was jumping on a treadmill and sprinting through the day, trying not to fall down but getting nowhere. There was always so much to get done. As a trailing spouse in Malaysia, that's not the case.

I wonder what life will be like when I move back to Texas. Some of my friends who have already repatriated tell me that their life in Penang just seems like a dream, like it couldn't possibly been real. I'm hoping to keep up this spirit of exploration I've developed and turn it towards reintroducing myself to a town that I previously called home for two decades. It's time to leave Malaysia, and whatever the future may hold, I'm ready to catch a new wave.

P.S. You haven't heard the last of me. This blog will keep going, but I'm going to have to think of a more apropos name now that I'm no longer meandering around Malaysia.



This post is part the following linkups. Check them out for more around-the-world travel inspiration.


25 comments:

  1. Wow, such huge news! I wish you an easy re-entry to life in America...and hope that you can hold on to your Malaysian dream forever. How wonderful that anytime you want to remember, you can open your blog and be transported back. I have enjoyed your posts enormously, and I hope you keep blogging once you are back in Texas!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Good luck in your new adventure. Moving back home will come with its challenges and its comforts after being away.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Oh lordy that drive fruit stall idea is brilliant, Michele! Wow, on you guys moving back to Texas! I can't tell you how thrilled we are that we met you via your blog. We look forward to many more years of that virtual friendship! We wish you and your family all the best always! :)

    ReplyDelete
  4. I'm looking forward for you article about America...

    ReplyDelete
  5. I hope that everything goes well with packing, moving, and transitioning back to American life. What a lovely look back at the last few years in Penang!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Keep us 'posted' (yes, pun intended) on your re-entry to the U.S. Hope you do continue writing a blog as I'd hate to lose touch with you. Safe journey! And remember that old saying about when one door closes and another opens. . .I can hardly wait to see what you find there.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Ahhh.... you are leaving :( I hope you enjoyed your stay here in Penang and all the best to your new adventure. Great meeting you Michele :)

    ReplyDelete
  8. Life never stands still and though you may have gone initially with reluctance, the experience sounds altogether marvelous for your whole family. It may be an adjustment moving back to Texas. I hoep you continue with your blog. I always enjoy it.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I've never had the opportunity to travel abroad on a corporate type of situation, it definitely has its perks and it looks like you visited some amazing places along the way.

    ReplyDelete
  10. You've had such an amazing time in Penang and SEA. I'm looking forward to hearing all about your Texas adventures. Safe travels!

    ReplyDelete
  11. Gosh I am so disappointed about you leaving Penang. I feel you are my Penang family and always had it in my mind that when we visited Penang we would look you up. At least we will have all your blog posts to look back on. Texas does not seem that appealing to me :/

    ReplyDelete
  12. Oh wow! Congrats on this exciting new life change! I'm sure it must be pretty bittersweet right now, leaving a place always is. I look forward to reading about your transition back to life in the states, and seeing what's in store for you next! Best of luck with the packing and moving! xo!

    ReplyDelete
  13. I guess change will always be a constant in our lives ... looking forward to your new adventures in the States :)

    ReplyDelete
  14. I read the headline of this post and thought, Oh, Michele's going to another country. I didn't think you'd be returning to the States! I'm going to miss 'seeing' Malaysia through your eyes but the good thing is now I'll see Texas from your perspective.
    You were very fortunate to live the expat life for a while and experience it with your kids. I'm sure this will stay with them forever. No, you won't be the same after this - travel changes us forever and lets us see and appreciate the world differently. Here's to your new adventures.

    ReplyDelete
  15. I am so excited that you will be moving back to your family again. I'm also very sad that I won't get to read more about Malaysia. Safe travels back to Texas, dear blogging friend.

    ReplyDelete
  16. I'm sure it must be hard to leave, but it seems like you guys have had an experience of a lifetime in Malaysia! I have yet to travel to Malaysia (it's top priority for me in terms of travel to Asia), and I'm sure that I'll still be referring to your blog often as a resource when I finally start planning a trip there. Maybe now that you're moving back to Texas, you'll explore it more, and maybe reading about your Texas tales will be just the push I need to finally make a visit there. Wishing you and your family the very best as you make this transition and as you prepare for new adventures and new life-changing experiences, knowing that the best is yet to come!

    ReplyDelete
  17. I love how you sum up your experience in Penang. And glad to know that Penang had treat you kind. Wishing you all the best in moving back to Texas.

    Certainly hope to hear from you again!

    ReplyDelete
  18. What a a amazing opportunity you and your family have had. I look forward to still following your travel journeys even if they are closer to your home :) Bron

    ReplyDelete
  19. Such a big news, Michele. I am sure that Malaysia was really an enriching experience for your entire family. New challanges are ahead. Bon retour home!

    ReplyDelete
  20. Oh wow! This is massive news! I certainly understand the feeling of leaving a place, not being able to go back to where you were. Not necessarily just the place, but the time is the key. Its bittersweet. Regardless, you're onto your next journey and I look forward to following along.

    ReplyDelete
  21. I loved Penang, my favourite part of Malaysia!

    ReplyDelete
  22. This is huge news!! I can imagine how bittersweet it must be to say bye to a place where you felt so carefree and alive. But I know you will make the best of your time in Texas, and find a ton of new adventures!! I look forward to following the next chapter of your life!

    ReplyDelete
  23. I'm so glad you added the news that you intend to continue your blog! Best wishes to you and your family during the transition to Stateside!

    ReplyDelete
  24. Hi Michelle, I felt so sad reading this. I enjoyed my virtual exploration of Penang through you and I feel like I'm leaving Malaysia with you. I'm sure it's a mix emotion leaving a place you've called home for the last 3 years. How do the kids feel about it? I wish you and your family an easy adjustment in your return to the US and I look forward to read about your new adventures.

    ReplyDelete

I read each and every comment. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. Comment moderation is on, so your comment may not appear immediately.

Web Analytics