By Ida Ibhari
When I first got the notification that I had been accepted for an internship in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, for the summer, I was of course excited – but also a little apprehensive. Though my roots are in Iran, I had never traveled to East Asia, or Southeast Asia, before. Nor did I know much about the culture, or language, or even the food.
Several of my family members who had been on trips to Kuala Lumpur tried to tell me what to expect.
“We were walking on the road and it was so hot, and sunny,” my aunt explained. “Then, all of a sudden, buckets, really, buckets of rain started pouring down.”
So I made sure to pack an umbrella – an item that I never even had a need to own, living in drought-ridden Southern California. What I wasn’t prepared for, though, was the humidity. Living in California, I was used to heat, but I was also used to cooler, breezier night temperatures. I always heeded my mom’s advice, and always, always, brought a jacket for later on. So I was shocked when, upon getting to the international arrivals terminal at Kuala Lumpur International Airport, I walked outside at around 2 a.m. to be promptly greeted by sauna-like conditions. What?
The weather and I had constant battles. For some reason, I kept thinking that this could only be temporary, that perhaps this was a passing tropical storm, or some kind of lingering after-effect from a hurricane. I checked the weather everyday – fruitless, given that it didn’t really fluctuate much. And I kept bringing my jacket.
My landlord warned me that I needed to turn off the air conditioning when not at home. I resisted – getting home involved a sometimes cramped metro ride, followed by a mile-long walk home. I quickly learned that the laws of physics were very different in KL and walking a mile there somehow was a lot longer distance than a mile in Los Angeles. So, I wanted a cold, icy room every day.
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