Adventures in Asia

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.

After an initial few weeks of sweat, frustration, and drama, I discovered a hard truth. No one cared about my constant complaints about the weather or the humidity. Shockingly, it seemed that everyone else was experiencing the same weather I was. I wasn’t adding anything to the conversation – nor was I doing myself any favors. So I got over it!

Sure, I kept complaining – after all, you are reading this blog post – but I tried to keep most of my complaints in my head. And then, I found there was a lot more I could actually start to enjoy about living in KL. The metro system, for example, while not perfect, was certainly much better than in Los Angeles. Getting cheap food from the mamak stalls on every street corner, as well as fresh fruit and juices that would probably cost 10x as much in Los Angeles, was a blessing. Teh tarik, a Malaysian specialty pulled tea that could be had for as little as 25 cents, or strong Malaysian coffee known as kopi became my morning drinks.

Did I miss my single-origin, hipster, artisanal cold brew coffee I enjoyed in Los Angeles? Sure. But the point was to appreciate what was different – and what I definitely couldn’t find back home in LA.

Featured image by Maher Najm on Flickr

Ida is a senior studying Philosophy and International Relations with a minor in Iranian Studies. A proud Southern California native, Ida gets excited when it rains and considers In-N-Out to be an essential part of any healthy diet. In high school, her parents signed up to be part of a homestay program for international students, so she had the opportunity to meet and live with students from around the world – and she wouldn’t have it any other way. Having grown up with parents who are immigrants themselves, Ida is fluent in Persian (Farsi) and can understand the difficulties of adjusting to a new way of life. She hopes to help you however she can in navigating life at USC and in Los Angeles. At USC, Ida writes and edits for the Daily Trojan and competes for the Mock Trial team, so public speaking is one of her specialties. She also spent this past summer as an intern in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and the spring 2016 semester abroad in Istanbul, Turkey. She’s learned a lot in her travels – mainly about the joys of Turkish kahvaltı, Türk kahvesi, Hainanese chicken-rice, and Malaysian teh tarik.