Thursday, August 9, 2012

5 Unexpected Pleasures of Going Home

Triple Berry Pie with Graham Cracker Crust

This summer, the kids and I headed back to Texas for six weeks while hubby stayed behind in Malaysia, diligently doing the work that instigated our overseas move. I looked forward to the typical things — reuniting with friends and family, eating Tex-Mex and BBQ, shopping at Target and well-stocked grocery stores... You know what I mean. It's the stuff that everyone misses when they are away from home for months on end. I couldn't wait to get my hands on some fresh, summer berries to make a yummy pie. However, there are things I missed without realizing it. They took me by surprise.

Peace and Quiet
When I wake up in the morning in my suburban Austin home, I hear birds chirping. Penang, on the other hand, is a cacophony of noises. I live on a main thoroughfare, and the roar of traffic is constant. Construction on a couple of high rise condos going up next door continues six days a week, sometimes until late at night. At least the explosions have stopped. Someone is renovating a condo twelve floors above me, and it's amazing how the jackhammer sounds carry down through the building. Austin was a sanctuary of peace and quiet. Well, until my kids started arguing with each other.

Wide, Open Spaces
Penang is an island with a few big hills in the middle. Almost all the people live crowded along the edge of the island from the northwestern tip down around clockwise to the southern side. Residential towers reach up for sky everywhere like exclamation points littering the city. As I drove around near my Austin home, I couldn't help but notice how the brilliant, blue sky wrapped around me without interruption. Even though the idea of living in a dense, urban community like Penang really appeals to me, I couldn't help but love how open the suburbs feel.

A science demo that the whole elementary school in Austin turned out for. You can't pull this off in Penang.

I Feel the Need... The Need for Speed
Driving around Penang is city driving. Lots of stopping and going while the speedometer never goes much above 60 kph (37 mph). Cars constantly cut in front of me, and I can't begin to explain how crazy the numerous motorscooters are. I hadn't driven at highway speeds for months. Heading up the freeway ramp, I felt a little apprehensive — kind of like when I was a teen behind the wheel for the first time. But the stream of cars just carried me along. It felt wonderful and free to be sailing down the road. Although, I did notice that the Malaysian maneuvers I've picked up don't work so well at fast speeds. When I drove the 200+ miles from Austin to my in-laws' house, I even became reacquainted with my old friend, Cruise Control.

Great Music on the Radio
Every good drive requires good music on the radio. In Malaysia, I always listen to Top 40 music, probably because that's what most of the English-language stations play. One station broadcasts the Ryan Seacrest show every weekday afternoon. I can't seem to find a classical station anywhere on the dial, although there seems to be one Malaysian station we've nicknamed "Obscure Songs from the 70s." But Austin, self-proclaimed "Live Music Capital of the World", has such a wonderful selection of music on the radio. I was hopping all over the place. ZZ Top, "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me," classic rock, alternative, NPR, concertos, dance.... I kept telling my kids, "Listen up! This is a really good song." My ears were in heaven.

When hubby was growing up, he had a water fountain in his house. Seriously.

Drinking Water
Free water is hard to find in Malaysia. At most restaurants, you have to order bottled water. One Italian restaurant really rankles my husband because all they have is fancy, imported water that costs more than twice as much as the sodas. When we go on outings, the family usually brings along drinking water. Do Americans sufficiently appreciate how easily they can get potable water? All the museums, shopping malls, grocery stores, and entertainment venues in Texas we went to had water fountains. No need to lug around bottles for 3 kids and an adult! At the restaurants of course, the waiters just set it on the table free and without asking. It's such a mundane thing, but I've missed it.

Visiting Texas was wonderful. It was just what we needed. (Missing hubby/daddy was the one downside.) Looking at our hometown through the lens of living in SE Asia certainly brought about a new perspective. But returning to Penang was good, too. Both places feel like home.

This post is part of Friday Daydreamin' at R We There Yet Mom? Check it out for more travel inspiration.


  1. I opened this post just before dinner and wished I could have had your pie instead of our pasta! I'm sure that Malaysia is great, but it takes being away to appreciate how wonderful home really is.

  2. What a wonderful perspective - next time I sit in our famed Austin traffic down I-35, I will remember this post and look at the blue skies, change the radio station a few times and look at my cruise control button lovingly = all in honor of you!!

    Thanks for linking up!!

  3. I can so relate to your traffic congestion issues. I used to complain about how bad the traffic is in Kelowna where I live, until I have a need to go back to Vancouver. Then I realize how good I have it up here. Driving stop and go at 50km/h is no fun at all.
    By the I'm missing your pie too.

  4. It's true that traffic is horrible in Penang. Me and my husband just were in Penang (Georgetown) and traffic was slowly and crazy. I can't understand how motorcyclist can drive so fast and so near cars!

    But here, in Selangor, is also bad traffic jam, but what we can do? I think that so many driving alone. It could be better drive together or use bus, LRT etc..


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