Field notes from a day at the Asian mall

Last Friday was a public holiday here – Malaysia, being as multicultural as it is, has the most public holidays of any country in the world, because everyone allows time for others to celebrate (plus, the workday is assumed to be 6 days, with an “off day” instead of a weekend – so holidays are needed to balance that intensity out). Here is a link to what public holidays are: http://publicholidays.com.my/ And here is a link to what holiday we [weren’t] celebrating – http://publicholidays.com.my/wesak-day/ . There are relatively few Buddhists here that would have had religious requirements for that day, so many people were out and about, having a festively free day.

We chose to go to Centre Point Mall – a mall that has a nicely organized western area and a haphazardly laid-out eastern side. We were looking for school shoes for Dante, and knew that the better deals were to be had on the eastern side. However, there are trade-offs: to buy shoes in the more haphazard area, you have to get someone to help you because the boxes are all jumbled up – you can’t pick a shoe and see what sizes they have. If you want to look at a pair of shoes and see what sizes/colors they come in, you have to go to the western department store, where you pay at least double for the privilege of wide walking areas and items that stay where you expect them to.

We were looking also for a DVD movie to watch at home for our family movie night. Almost everything here is pirated, and most movies come 8-to-a-disk. So you don’t look for a movie, you look for a collection. When I found an 8-movie collection I liked, it was 15.90 RM (about $5); I know to ask, “little discount?” But I am always surprised when they give a deeper discount than I expect. Usually it’s on an item I already consider to be a good price, too! So when I asked for a discount, willing to pay the 16 RM, I had to hide my surprise when she offered “10 RM?” Ummmm, yes, thank you. (The issue of pirated movies is one that isn’t really even in conversation, which is another surprise, given how interconnected our world is. I would think that Fox or Disney would have acted on this already.)

Incidentally, as we sifted through the children’s DVD’s, I saw a disk that contained a mix of movies – including, side-by-side, the South Park movie and “Barney & Me.” Priceless.

Then we went to wash up before lunch (though it’s BYO soap, TP, and you dry your hands on your clothes), and saw this sign:

“No dish washing in the toilet.” Whether that means “toilet” as in “facilities” or as in “commode,” I don’t know (there is a hose & spigot in every stall to wash down whatever needs washed down). As this was near a favorite lunch spot, I tried not to think on this too hard.

We also saw this sign: Which cause me to make a severe mistake: I read it aloud. Later, when we were about to head home and Cade was tired and yet did not want to leave, he knew just what to do: he leaned over and spit several times, right on the floor. Sigh.

While there we did get a great lunch – Dante loves a big bowl of noodle soup, though he asked Eric and I to eat the noodles so that he could get to the broth. After walking around, we returned for an ice cream dessert. We ordered at the main counter – the boys wanted what was in a picture there, the “Colorful Sundae.” Ironically, when we ordered, they shouted across the restaurant, “Orang putih – colorful sundae!” (meaning, “the white people want a colorful sundae!”) They knew just who to deliver it to. The “colorful” part was having sprinkles, but the ice cream flavors were yam, sweetcorn, and vanilla. Purple, yellow, and white – colorful flavors to our western palatte.

They were having a Harvest Festival display at the mall – the Festival is actually today and tomorrow, but the mall set up handicraft vendor displays, like many huts. The Harvest Festival celebrates the many tribes and indiginous people (“Bumi Putera” – which is beautiful to say, too, “boom-y Pooterah”).

Hopefully everyone knows not to buy souveniers at an inflated price here; on the other hand, the vendors here are real people seeking to earn money for their families. There is a large Handicrafts Market on the waterfront in KK – a much better place to shop and bargain. There is not much of a market for fine art beyond woodcarvings, but hopefully that will change as tourism increases here by leaps and bounds.

The biggest thing we did at the mall was to try – for the first time – family karaoke. For 8 RM (under $3) you get a room to yourself for ½ hour, with microphones and a karaoke machine. What was the first song that Eric picked out? “500 miles.” “If you miss the train I’m on, you will know that I am gone… Lord, I’m five hundred miles from my home.” Which made me remember that while doing karaoke when I studied in China, the song I was landed with was Edelweiss – “bless my homeland forever.” Singing about home is a pretty vulnerable moment. The next song that we recognized on the song list was “O Come All Ye Faithful” – we figured, that would be fun to sing. There was a video screen that played scenes associated with the song, and, inexplicably, the video footage was of Buddha statues from around the world. (???)

Our big purchase from the day was finally finding a Chinese Checkers set. I’ve been looking forever because it seems Dante is ready for that level of game. I did not expect it to be so hard to find Chinese Checkers in Asia!

On the way home I was delighted to find that I knew several different ways to navigate downtown to get home, and that I knew which lanes did what. When moving to any new place, that is an accomplishment; I’ll count it as double because of driving on the opposite side of the road and reading signs in Malay!

When we got home we were all exhausted and overwhelmed from so many experiences. Of the above, which surprised you most? Which would you most like to encounter?

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