Saturday, August 11, 2007

Kuala Lumpur, Sunday

On Saturday I told Brad that we were going to try to go to church out here, but that it was far away and so we weren’t sure if we would make it. In typical child fashion, he called me to task and said, “Mom, we always go to church. And some people spend a whole day getting there.” He was absolutely right, and boy did it make me feel good to hear it!

We looked up the Kuala Lumpur Branch’s address and schedule on, and found out they meet at 9:00 on some remote street in KL which wasn’t on our map. (I also looked up the weather in Seoul for Tuesday – remarkably, the weather man is predicting 100% chance of rain. So there’s really no chance whatsoever that two days from now it might not rain? With that kind of accuracy, he might want to consider playing the lottery. Or maybe writing fortune cookie fortunes. I’d like one with 100% accuracy.)

Anyhow, we got a taxi to take us out to KL, but naturally he had no idea where he was going once we got to the area the street was in. We had seen a map online but couldn’t print it. Why in the world would a taxi driver not invest in a city map? Could we possibly have been the first people to stump him with a street he didn’t know? If so, do we get points for that?

He eventually found it, with some help, and dropped us off. The building didn’t look like a typical church building, but when we saw the standard “Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints” sign on the side near the door, we both sighed, relieved that we were at the right place. Must’ve been exactly how Brigham Young felt.

We were greeted by a Malaysian woman and an American man (not together) – I think the American man was in the branch presidency. They were both happy to have us, as was everyone else we met. If the country had been surprisingly friendly before, the branch was just as friendly as I had expected them to be to a visiting family. Which is to say, very friendly.

The branch had about 60-70 people there, with several visitors, including a doctor from the Philippines who showed up with us at 9, going from the information on the website, when in actuality the meeting started at 10. A missionary who had served in the branch was there with his parents, they were there to pick him up and had come back to this branch to see everyone he knew there. There were four full-time missionaries, all American. I counted about 4-5 American families attending, the rest were Malaysian and all varieties of Asian races, which seems typical for the country. (It is incredibly multi-cultural here. I love that.)

While everyone was friendly and many people came and shook our hands, a couple of American women went out of their way to talk to me and we chatted for a while about living in Malaysia. They both happened to be here because their husbands work at the US Embassy. The one woman had her six children with her, ages 6-16. I asked what they did for schooling, and she told me about the international school her kids go to. Her 10 year old daughter, who is starting 5th grade like Brad, said that she is friends with a princess! Her mom said, well, it’s actually the niece of the King. Wow, that’s something.

It was fast and testimony meeting, and it was, like everything else on this trip, similar to what I’m used to and different at the same time. It was such a small group of people that everyone was familiar with everyone else. It wasn’t quite as reverent, between testimonies people would turn and start chatting with their neighbors. Those who bore their testimony talked less formally, like they were just in a room with all of their friends. It was great to see the love they had for each other. Those were the differences, but the similarities were that I could feel the Spirit there just as strongly as I do in my super-active Orem ward. The woman who talked about the difficulties of motherhood made me cry. The father of the returned missionary was so proud of his son and grateful for the branch that had shown his son so much love. There were teens that spoke, and converts, and it was just a terrific meeting.

Afterwards, I changed Darcey’s diaper and found Ryan near the side door, talking to the second American woman. Her family had moved to KL from China. I asked her how she gets around town – does she take a taxi everywhere? No, she has a car and drives herself. I couldn’t believe that a regular American could ever adapt to this driving lifestyle, but she told me that it’s actually better here than in Beijing. Wow.

We left church and I hailed a taxi, something else I’ve never done before. The taxi took us to the Petronas Twin Towers, which unfortunately had already run out of tickets for the day. There is a mall right there, another monstrous mall, like 6 floors, and we headed inside for some lunch. I have to say that all of this makes me a little uncomfortable, because we are a pretty strict Sabbath observing family, and it seems hypocritical to toss the rules right out the window on vacation. I don’t have a justification for this, so judge me however you will.

The place was absolutely mobbed, and at one point I looked around and saw not a single other white person in the entire crowd. Ryan says that now he knows what it must be like when a lone black person walks into our ward in Utah – we have never been a minority before but man, we sure are now. Most of the time we don’t even notice, though, it doesn’t generally hit my radar on most days, but every so often it does with a vengeance.

We ate at the food court, and then got out of there just as fast as we could. It was just too crowded, too clautsrophobic. We got on the hop on hop off bus, which Ryan had never taken, and drove around to stop 9B, Central Market. Ryan liked the bus because it gave him a good overview of the city, which he didn’t really have before.

If the mall was too crazy for us, getting off the bus in Chinatown was no improvement. Sundays in KL mean “Sunday markets” where everyone and their mother’s dog has a booth under a tent, selling something. The bus dropped us on the side of the road, and we had the daunting challenge of crossing the street. No sissy crosswalks and traffic lights here, no sir. After standing, waiting like obedient children for the sign to change from “don’t walk” to “walk” we realized that if we were ever going to get off the street corner, we needed to make a break for it. So when the next pack of locals decided it was “safe” to cross, we went with them. This meant weaving between cars stopped at a light and running so as to avoid being run over. Knowing the likelihood of these cars stopping instead of hitting us if we took too long, we got through there just as fast as we could.

Once we got into Central Market, I pulled Ryan over to one side and just stood there for a minute, enjoying some personal space. The market itself was not nearly as crowded as I had imagined, and it was actually enjoyable to be there for a while. Yesterday the zipper on Brad’s backpack broke, so we picked up a new one while we were here, and Ryan switched the contents while I changed Darcey’s diaper. The bathroom I used costs 50 cents to get in, and you are handed a pile of toilet paper when you go through the turnstile. I came back out, checked the now-empty backpack, and then threw it away.

We were done there and headed back outside to race against death while we crossed the street, and waited at the bus stop for the hop on bus. It only comes by every half hour, and we were beat, so we were just going to take it to the KL Sentral train station stop so we could catch a taxi. But we decided to use our new-found taxi catching skills to grab a cab right there. It was Ryan’s turn this time and if he is as effective at catching fish as he is at catching cabs, our family will never starve. Except that if it looks like a fish and not fish sticks, the kids won’t eat it and will actually starve.

So we took our taxi back to the hotel. After a brief rest (napping for Ryan and Darcey, writing for me) we headed out to try some Chinese food. I wasn’t necessarily in the mood for Chinese, but Ryan talked me into it, and I agreed mostly because it was one more type of food to say I had eaten while I was here. So far the list includes: Chinese, Indian, Japanese, Swiss, Italian, and Malaysian.

We picked up dessert at Cold Storage grocery store at the Ikano Power Center, the mall across the street. The most overpriced thing we’ve seen since we’ve been here is real American ice cream, whether it be Baskin Robbins or Haagen-Dazs (which I know is not American strictly speaking, but you know). They clock in at an astounding RM30 per pint, which translates to $10 each. Now, I love ice cream probably more than the next guy, but it was really hard for me to pay this much for something I will buy for $3.50 when I get home in two days. Ryan has two weeks to go, so it was worth it to him to splurge.

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