28 Days

October 10, 2016 at 7:35 pm | Posted in Malaysia, Me | 4 Comments

28 Days … It’s the title of one of my favorite movies, with Sandra Bullock, Viggo Mortensen, and a bunch of other famous faces you’d recognize. (It’s good! Netflix it!) It’s also the number of days that have passed since I posted. (Okay, it’s close … no need to do the actual math. Just work with me here.)

While I haven’t undergone nearly the kind of emotional and psychological transformation Sandra Bullock does in the movie, I’ve had a few moments of … joy. There have still been innumerable moments of complete disbelief, despair, frustration, and confusion. (For example: Why is there only one toilet paper dispenser, why is it outside the stalls by the sinks, and will I ever remember to grab a few squares before it’s too late?)

But joy. Joy. Oh, I’ve missed it.

I went with some new friends to a local frame shop and met the shop’s resident canine. As dogs do, he must have sensed my scraped-up soul (or maybe just my long, thick nails) and came over to sit with me. I scratched his ears for a good 20 minutes while my friends made their purchases.

Furry therapy

That one-third of an hour of silent therapy was equally as needed and effective as the 97 grumpy texts I send (daily) and empathetic responses I receive (daily) from patient friends (bless them!) back home.

I also found the tiny but undeniable Halloween section in the grocery store. There were fluorescent orange pumpkin-shaped Peeps and $12 bags of Butterfinger minis. There were plastic fangs. There were giant bags of b-list candy that no trick-or-treater really wants — especially hilarious because there’s no such thing as trick-or-treating here. But thank goodness some traditions carry over even when they are completely lost in translation. DOTS gumdrops and generic jawbreakers for the win.

The girl at the smoothie place I visit 4 times a week occasionally recognized me and gave me a rewards card so I could earn a free smoothie with every 10 purchases. (Yes please!) This came moments after I deleted the Starbucks app from my phone because the push notices were making me homesick. It was iced serendipity. And it was all the sweeter because someone in this strange city that I wander through each day trying to navigate and negotiate and belong in actually remembered me.

I started volunteering in the library at the kids’ school. I’ve loved school libraries ever since Ms. Pearl put on her pioneer bonnet and read us a few chapters of Little House on the Prairie in third grade. And I’ve really missed the Friday afternoons I used to spend at our old school shelving, alphabetizing, reacquainting myself with Dewey Decimal, and searching for the one Pokemon book the computer swears is checked in, which means Every. Single. Kid. wants to have it. (Turns out? Kids here have a Pokemon book addiction, too.)

I went to breakfast at a new cafe and ordered a hot mocha. This is what they brought me:

Caffeinated smiles

Happy Day indeed. The mocha message that represents my expat life still isn’t “Happy All Day” or even “Happy Most of the Day.” And “I Cursed 100 Times Today” or “Here Come the Tears” might both be more accurate frothy messages, but I’ll take these small moments. And the overwhelming sense of relief — maybe I can do this, at least today, right now — that comes with them.

Seriously, do you understand the toilet paper situation here?? What’s your favorite kind of therapy? And what message would you like to see in your favorite cuppa today?



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  1. On the toilet paper situation…if it were the company I work for…I would say it is cost savings. Sort like the soap dispensers never work…even though the bottle is full.

  2. Oh, the toilet paper would bring me to tears too!! I mean, there are few places and times more vulnerable…argh.

    But yes – there are happy moments too, no matter how “small” they may seem. They’re like lifelines when everything feels different and overwhelming. I also noticed you said you have new friends, and that’s huge! Exploring and enjoying food was my therapy, as was writing (at the time there was no such thing as blogging so I just journaled, and emailed and wrote a lot of letters…).

    There *is* one thing you don’t have to feel homesick about right now: this election. I’m feeling like I want to be anywhere but where I am right now 😦

    • Yes!! These new friends have been SUCH lifelines. At first, it was simply that they validated how I had been feeling: “We understand. Adjusting was hard for us, too.” And they offered hope: “It will get better. Really, it will.” And, now, they’re people I enjoy spending time with as we all try to navigate this strange place.

      On Tue, Oct 11, 2016 at 8:25 AM, Fluffy Bunnies wrote:


  3. Hey, there is the J-word! Joy. I am so glad you have found a little joy. Maybe there will be more as you look for it. LOVE libraries! Hope it all starts to pull together for you!

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