We’re on our way: The men visit Malaysia

Someone recently told me that January is the Monday of months. They were not wrong- I always used to blame it on the British weather- but now I am in year 3 of hot Januarys and I realise there is more to it. It is straight after christmas and it is certainly a long old month.  Luckily now we’re at the end and the rest of the year can begin with more purpose!

At some point in September last year, I woke up to a fancy new whatsapp group which only meant one thing- David and Adam are coming to Malaysia!

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This year, we were treated to a four day weekend in celebration of Chinese New Year. Winner. As life has this knack of flying in a blink of an eye, by the time I got round to looking at flights everything was 5 times more expensive than usual. Therefore a road trip was the obvious choice. At this point I drafted in Ron, our resident Malaysian photography expert for David and also Sarah. A team of 5: 4 Angmohs and our tour guide.

Before setting off I had a bad feeling about the traffic. This was mainly caused by the faces made by Malaysians when I said where I was planning on going for CNY. You know that face when you’re smiling but your eyes are wincing imagining the pain? Eyebrows raised trying to think of something positive to say? Yes that face. ‘Are you really going on that day?’ Why yes….

But the plan still went ahead. Setting off at 6am wide eyed and bushy tailed (well those of us who had not arrived in KL a mere 12 hours before) ready to take on this traffic. I made a load of brownies the night before and bought enough snacks for the day. We made a bet: I said it would take 6 hours, Ron 4 and Sarah 2. Normally it takes an easy 2 hours.

Well I’d love to say that the Malaysians I had spoken to were wrong. I’d also love to say that we zoomed to Malacca without a care in the world.

It took under 2 hours. We arrived in Malacca just before 8 and it was absolutely dead. We had to wait for breakfast! Becca’s Tour: 1- Malaysia’s traffic: 0. I didn’t win the bet but I’m  ok with that.

Coffee-breakfast-walking-lunch-walking- dinner proves to be a winning Melacca combination.

In the evening we headed to the Portuguese settlement a little bit outside the main area- which is where at some point in the past Portuguese people came and never left: people now who look Malaysian Portuguese and serve what seems to be seafood a little bit like Chinese food. They are largely catholic which is reflected at christmas by the amount of christmas lights!  The night consisted of a huge dinner, firecrackers and fireworks. So much fun. Nobody got hurt.

Tour Guide Becca

Of course I also brought them around the city: China Town, Sentral market, a Hindu temple, a Buddhist temple, the City Gallery, hipster coffee shop, thai food. The main things. Of course we went to the helipad, however unfortunately it was raining so we didn’t stay long. Fortunately the Skybar had a beautiful view in the dry! David now will have enough photos to last him a few weeks.

 

The next morning we left our condo at 5am to hit Broga Hill for sunrise. I thought it was worth it- not sure about how the boys felt! I am loving the short hikes to the beautiful views, and luckily Malaysia has an abundance of such things.

While I worked for the next week the boys went to Penang, Langkawi, the Cameron Highlands and everywhere in between. I’m masking my jealousy by ignoring it! They came back to KL with Gin and Tea so all is right with the world.

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Miss you guys already! Hope you come back soon!

 

 

 

 

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Merry Christmas Lah!

Of year two in Malaysia, term one is nearly over.

This term I’ve hit Ipoh, Bali and Malacca and it’s been great. Malaysia you are beautiful and you are forever surprising me. There has been survival of the first term of School of Leadership- even managing to complete the majority of my tasks, and as I haven’t been asked to leave my job yet I must’ve done ok! Overall I would consider it a success.
Considering Malaysia is a largely Muslim country it certainly looks pretty christmassy. The Malls are looking beautiful and Micheal Buble is playing around every corner. Everyone is going all out.

It cannot be argued that it is a little strange. Last week we had sports day (it is december, that just NEVER happens in the UK, with the weather and all) christmas party in quick succession, and christmas party at the weekend. Throw in the tropical weather, the sweat and the continuous frizzy hair and then ask me why I’m a little confused! My body has had about 22 years of seasons, and is used to cold weather (wearing countless layers and mostly darkness) on the build up to christmas. I do have very kind friends that encourage this christmas excitement by making their AC in their car freeeezzinggggg and singing christmas songs at me. It does help a little I guess.

So with this in mind I took matters into my own hands: dug out the old spotify playlist- whacked up the AC and commenced the creation of christmas bunting. My icy attitude is beginning to thaw… I WILL get excited no matter what it takes!

Having said all that, I’m totally gearing up to hit the only place I want to be at christmas. This girl is flying northwest for the winter! At home in the shire with the Gatland clan. (In Sussex, England with my family- for all of you who don’t speak Becca!) I can’t wait to catch up with all, bake a ridiculous amount of treats (including the annual alternative gingerbread house) eat meat again, see London all lit up, breathe fresh air, drive again and let’s not forget enjoy the beauty of the Sussex countryside. You can take the girl out of Sussex but you can’t take Sussex out of the girl.

This is our ‘Dinsoaurs have invaded’ gingerbread house from last year.

Oh yeah, there is the small matter of giving Ying Ying her first english christmas. Are you ready for the social media frenzy that is Ying Ying on tour? Because it is certainly coming whether you like it or not!

I cannot forget how lucky I am that I am even able to travel home. It is a big journey and it certainly is not cheap. I would not be going if it wasn’t for my super generous grandfather and parents who I appreciate so much! Every christmas that I am living abroad but am able to make it home I will value so so much.

 

4 days and counting! Sussex we are coming for you!

Weekend // Contrasts

Yesterday I cried in a random KTM train station in the face of difficulty.  

Today I can laugh in the face of the love of my Father.

Let me rewind a bit. I love to embrace the weekend, and yesterday I was excited for a packed day of celebrations, good food and lovely people. First stop was a birthday brunch in Bu9 round the corner. Delicious. Easy. Next stop was a pool party in Kajang for the late afternoon.

On paper it looks easy, and I thought ‘Yes time for an adventure!’ Perhaps I was a bit ambitious.  Kajang is a bit further out than I have travelled alone before, but I knew you could take public transport. It would take an hour max.

3 hours involving one taxi, one lRT then one train journey later, I arrived at the station I needed.  After 3 cancelled taxis with one on the way to take me to my final destination, my phone decided it was the perfect time to completely die. I had no idea where I was and I had no idea what to do. Even if I had a working phone who would I even call?

Fortunately I had my charger, so I resorted to going back into the station and (fighting back tears) I asked the attendant to help me. I have never felt so vulnerable in Malaysia as I did at that moment.

Looking back, it was the loss of control that got to me. I am proud to be an independent woman- able to deal with most situations, and I love being able to do so without asking for help. On the other hand, I also do ‘damsel in distress’ extremely well. Friends have told me so. But it depends on the situation. At this point at this remote station I couldn’t even reach out due to lack of technology and language barriers.

 

Today is a different story. Just reaching HopeCity church and getting back into the family groove re-aligned my thinking and my priorities. Giving to the ‘first fruits’ offering gave a new perspective that is bigger than my small problem of  getting stuck in a station. Seeing what is above eye level.

You’re probably reading this thinking,’Big deal Becca!’, but it taught me some important lessons.

In the words of the one and only Ying Ying Tan; you don’t need a man, you need the MRT. She is not wrong. Also that it’s ok to be vulnerable. I’m definitely still learning how to balance between ‘strong independent woman’ and ‘damsel in distress’. Thank you Malaysia for always pushing me and teaching me.

 

On a happy note, my weekend ended like this (like it started):

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Monday we’re nearly ready for you!

Hello September

This year is the new beginning. I feel like I should either say yes now and go forward, or turn back. I’m choosing the first.

This is the year I truly say yes, I’m all in. Not, I’m in when I feel like it, but yes to the uncertain, yes to the downright scary, yes to new adventures. This week I am listening to God call me to start the preparations for the future that He has called me to. I’m finally accepting that these future plans won’t just suddenly roll out from nowhere, but in fact they are real and foundations need to be built, paths need to be cleared.

So yes, this is me saying I’m planning on going for it. I am terrified. I will most certainly be tired. But wow I am excited!

 

Time for round two.

KL, I’m back!

The end of the last term at school left me exhausted in every way, but here I am back in the place that feels so like home right now. The Island-UK-Island holiday sandwich filled with copious amounts of sleep fixed it all.

I’m ready. The last few weeks have been a whirlwind:  I flew in on a friday night, little sleep then straight to the first ever ‘She Is’ conference in Asia! A big sleep after that meant no jet lag to speak of at all.

So what’s new? Well, back to the same city, same apartment and the same school for another year. But everything is new.  I’m now teaching in the EAL department (english as an additional language), once I’ve figured out the rabbit hole that is timetabling it’s going to be the best thing.

It looks like ‘adulting’ is the theme right now as I navigate the confusing waters that is the Malaysian tax system for expats. Am I a resident or non resident? At this point I don’t think anyone knows. To further my progression into adulthood, I’m looking for a car and maybe will join a gym. I will try to take it a bit easy as I Don’t want to break any more limbs thank you very much!). I’m also planning on sewing myself a new wardrobe.

At church, I’m going to start helping to lead a mid week ‘Connect’ group as Hopecity is expanding rapidly! Daniel and I will be in SS15 (all I know is it’s very near Sunway Pyramids, the best mall in KL) if you’re around please join us! I’m also considering the HopeCity School of Leadership. Trying this new thing, getting serious by going for it! Why not just do everything you can right?

2 weeks in and it’s not until taxi drivers ask me where I’m from that I remember that I’m not from around here. How can just a year make you feel so at home somewhere on the other side of the world?

I’m so looking forward to the routine and getting stuck in, in every area. I can’t wait for my brother Dan to visit KL in October, and then to take Ying Ying with me to the homeland at christmas! And all the other trips not yet planned.

So yeah, that’s what new with me. What have you been up to?

From bicyles to Mojitos and everything in between: Lily comes to town

Rewind a few weeks: loving the job but craving some adventure.. this ‘half term/long weekend’ just passed was exactly what I needed. What a difference a friend from the homeland makes.

Lily arrived in the way she always does, looking as beautiful and as stylish as ever, not like she’d been travelling for 16 hours plus. Of course, she wasn’t jet lagged and jumped into Malaysia life straight away! As soon as we arrived at my apartment from the airport we got packing for our weekend road trip. No sleep? No problem.

That first evening I took her to Taman Megah with some friends, a chinese food court where she tried everything that was thrown at her. Prawn Mee was her fave. We’re pretty sure there was no meat… ? We may have accidentally ate fish head curry- though afterwards promised not the head part thankfully! Oh, and witnessed a nice British man eat a fish eye.. which I will never unsee.

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Melaka

The next morning we jumped in the car  of the one and only Ruth and road tripped it to Melaka, 2 hours away. The drive was beautiful, empty roads, great music, the best company.

It was so very easy. We simply spent the day cycling round the city. Melaka seems to be like a mini European/Asian Penang type situation with an abundance of cute cafes and street art. I’ve never been to Amsterdam, but it’s like what I imagine it to be. These beautiful bikes, a throwback to my beloved Uni bike, only cost 8 Malaysian ringos for the day. I absolutely wish we brought them home, just to decorate the flat, not being funny there are way too many hills in PJ!

I can truly say this was one of the best days in a long time, cycling around a gorgeous new place with no plan, nowhere to be except for all the uh-mazing coffee shops and restaurants. With two of the greatest people I know!

Our hotel, the Baba house, recommended by the living legend Ying Ying was absolutely gorgeous. A super old Chinese house with corridors and corridors to explore. I think we were pretty comfortable as we slept TWELVE HOURS. That’s a personal highlight of the weekend, I’m not ashamed to admit!

The city

As we weren’t flying anywhere I decided to book a hotel in KL city centre in order to be a better tour guide. Somewhere central and simple. That plan changed in a big way when I found a deal for the traders hotel.. I couldn’t resist! It was incredible, our room had the biggest view of the Petronas towers, along with the colourful fountains and a fab glimpse of the city skyline.

After free drinks in the executive lounge we set off for a night in the city. After a slight hiccup of leaving Ruth unattended in a bar for an hour (I am so sorry lovely!), we were joined by my current favourite couple Hannah and Deejay.  Hello Mojito buffet! The next day, after the most glorious breakfast spread of my short life, we did the typical KL shopping experience: Chinatown for the fake handbags, Sentral market for the fabric, and Suria Mall for the brands.

Then Lily came to church with me! Lily, it was so great having you in my current world! I really appreciate you taking the time to come along and I can’t wait for you to return the KL for a few more days on thursday. Helipad and sushi here we come!

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What weekends are made for

After a period of crazy, I’m back to normal: trying to fill in as much as possible into a weekend and making the most of being in Malaysia.This is why I’m here. To make connections. Go to new places. Make the most of being young and single!

As always, I learnt a few things:

  • Shopping for a rash vest is difficult especially when you have no idea what one is. ‘Fake it till you make it’ is flawed if your friend actually needs one for a near future diving trip! I love shopping with my little bundle of fun!
  • Sushi is raw fish. I’ve been eating hella sushi recently and I LOVE salmon, just didn’t realise it wasn’t cooked!
  • Cycling on a bike that is too small//with hundreds of gears//up massive hills // at midday is hard. I’m used to cycling in Portsmouth, the flattest city in the country on the oldest bike known to man. Was beautiful though!
  • My patience and endurance can be stretched to good use, Hannah and I took a taxi, LRT and monorail all to get to a Mojito buffet. 2 hours travel all for 60RM (a tenner) all you can drink. Fab night, can’t wait for more!
  • Every week there are new faces at Hopecity and I love getting to know them, especially when they share my love for sushi.

Can I have more weekends like this please?

 

 

Learning the Saxophone ft. Snorkeling: They’re exactly the same.

The sea in the Perhentians is so clear you can see everything. It is absolutely gorgeous.

Last month when we went there, Leah and Cat naturally jumped at the chance to go Snorkeling. Why not? 40 Ringos for 5 places, you can’t go wrong. I was a bit unsure as I’ve never done it before and I was soooo very happy just lying on the beach. But, I absolutely hate missing out. And it would be great right? So off we went the next morning.

To start with I had a right ‘mare. At the first stop we were thrown snorkels and left to get on with it.  I remember I was like, ‘yeah I can do this!’ I jumped right in. Then I swiftly had the beginnings of a panic attack. Suddenly breathing was a bit of an issue.

Every time my breathing calmed down above water, I went right back to square one the minute I tried to go under. I could see everyone else having a great time,  it was fine. Easy in fact. But my brain wouldn’t accept it. Under water means you cannot breathe.

I very nearly gave up and went back to the boat, thinking I would just sunbathe for the rest of the morning and watch everyone. Then something in me told me to keep going. So I slowly, slowly got my head around the fact that even though I shouldn’t be able to breathe under the water… I could! And I could see beautiful fish too! This process took me a while, I looked like a weirdo, but I got there.

The feeling when I finally managed it was incredible. It felt like a real adventure. The coral was gorgeous, we saw 5 sharks, a turtle AND Nemo!

 

This is the same battle with the saxophone. Bare with me…

I know I can physically do it. The facts tell me that by 18 years I grade 8 clarinet under my belt, and my dad will happily tell you I have the voice of a foghorn. The foundations are there.

But there is the same mental block. There is one note, the upper octave D, that I repeatedly cannot manage to produce. I could do it in the past, but I have lost it. My voice can do it, my hands can also. We’ve tried. But together, and the stress of an imminent exam is just making this a bigger ordeal than it should be.

I just need to train my brain.

Once that barrier is broken (and maybe practise more…. I guess that never hurts) I’m well on the way. In the same way as in the Perhentians, I need to train (perhaps trick?) my brain into creating this note.

The exam is in 8 weeks.. plenty of time!

 

So it’s the same right? On a side note, who wants to come to the Perhentians again soon?

 

 

 

 

How to plan your Easter holidays to the fullest: The Grand Gatland Tour

Right now it is so hot. Not just ‘oh, I’m a bit sweaty but that’s okay because I chose to live in Malaysia’, but ‘I’m so HOT I can’t even put any make up on as it will slide straight off my face’ (at 7 in the morning). Before you say ‘Shhhhh…. try living in England where we haven’t seen the sunshine in a number of years’, come/see/experience.. THEN you are allowed to make a comment. We are currently in a ‘heatwave’, which contrary to a UK heatwave which means more than one day of 25 degrees and everyone runs outside with minimal clothing, it has been getting up to 40 degrees and all I want to do is hide in a well air conditioned room. I say let’s all take a 2 month siesta until this little inconvenience goes away! Being the sun-worshipper I am, I hope you can understand just how hot it is!

Apart from this tiny tiny issue, my parents chose the perfect time to come visit me. Two weeks off for Easter meant ample time for a grand tour of my current home. As is apparent by my mum’s FOUR facebook albums (I will add to them when I get a chance mum!), we managed to cover a good amount of places.

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My parents arrived on good friday morning, this was super special as this weekend has always been family time. Normally my church back home does a massive breakfast together which I haven’t been able to attend in years, and I got to steal my parents on this important day! The gorgeous Darshi was so kind as to pick us all up from the airport so we were met by her and Zoe, and then Ying Ying joined us for lunch at Mum’s place! I have the best friends!

We spent the weekend exploring KL, by of course going to some food courts, my pool, the city centre, Helipad and did I mention we tried hella food? They even came to the last ever Hopecity KL meeting in Publika! I hope they liked it through the jet lag.

Singapore

First stop was Singapore. I would say it is like Malaysia but a bit more orderly, clean, new, manmade, and organised. No offence Malaysia you’re great. We stayed in Little India which was fab, except for the fact my Dad couldn’t find a good coffee in the morning maybe as easily as we would’ve hoped. But I reckon we managed very well.

Being with parents means a different style of holiday, which I fully embraced and loved. Mum booked a hop on hop off tourist bus for the first few days which meant we could see all of Singapore whilst listening to chilled out Jazz music. I have retained a lot of random facts about the history and architecture due to this bus. Ask me anything, I can be your personal fount of Singaporean knowledge. Seriously anything, we were on that bus for days. Honestly, I think these Hop on Hop Off buses are genius, make a shed load of money and keeps the tourists off the streets and getting in the way of normal Singapore life!

We did all the tourist things; Gardens by the bay, the botanical gardens, Sentosa Island, the aquarium, China Town. It was great- ever so slightly cooler than Malaysia.

One thing I really loved were the traffic lights. They made cute little PAC man sounds when you were waiting and crossing. I really felt I was inside the game.

One thing I was less impressed about was the price of EVERYTHING. For example, a banana leaf meal in an inexpensive restaurant in Little India was 7 Singapore dollars (RM20 ish/£3.50), where in Malaysia the same meal has cost me RM 7 (£1.50)! You British people are probably wondering what the big deal is… it’s all cheap! It’s all relative. Having said all that, I think Banana Leaf curry was my dad’s favourite, was really delicious. So who really cares!

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Penang

Then we flew to Penang. Veerrrrrry big contrast.We were picked up at airport by my amazing friend Aimi and her dad. That evening we were treated to dinner with her entire family! It was delicious and I am still so touched by how hospitable they all were, after dinner Aimi’s Dad gave us a night car tour of all of Georgetown so good.

The next day ‘Tour guide Becca’ snapped into action- I actually planned a route, read a map and guided my ever-so-slightly hot and bothered parents successfully around Georgetown to see all the street art. Anyone that knows me will know that is no mean feat. Honestly, if teaching doesn’t work out for me – I’m going to become a Penang trickshaw driver/tour guide.

Later on that day I spent a few hours in the hotel Jacuzzi with a french family, speaking only in French! The mother was very complimentary about my french!

Langkawi

After two days we took a boat to Langkawi. We watched the best film about a man from India trying to get a Mute girl back home to Pakistan. Honestly if knew what it was called I would so recommend it.

Beach. Sun. Wine. All you need for a chill at the end of a trip that your daughter has dragged you on!

I absolutely loved having Mr & Mrs Gatland here with me. They got to meet my friends, go to my church, eat the food, experience the heat. I feel like I learnt new things about them and we had a great time!

Will you come back soon please?

The Perhentian Islands

The day after my parents left, I went to the Perhentian Island. You know when you book things in advance and you think you’ll be fine to fit in as much as you can into two weeks?Yeah I think I need to calm down on the plans. That morning I was not feeling KLIA at all. However I’m so glad we went. Leah and Cat were perfect friends for a island getaway. We had to cab, fly, cab, and then speed boat it but oh my goodness it was absolute paradise.

I also went snorkelling for the first time. After a minor panic attack about not being able to breathe it was incredible! We saw a number of sharks, a turtle, nemo and many many more beautiful fish!

We are two weeks into the summer term and the Easter holidays feel such a long time ago. For the first time I can remember I feel rather homesick, which must be because my parents have been here.

This afternoon I am having an epic bring and share English Roast dinner with some incredible ladies. I even found BISTO GRAVY. That should help!

 

 

My KL Bucket List

I love lists.

I make lists for every aspect of my day; to-do lists, future plans, what food I need to buy, what I am worried about, what I’m happy about. And so on and so forth.

With that in mind I have complied a small list outlining what I would love to achieve in my time here.  I can’t believe I haven’t done this sooner! I have decided I will achieve these 30 things in the next 16 months. Who wants to help me!

  1. Climb a mountain. Preferably an easy one. You know, broken ankle and all. ✔
  2. Take a road trip. With a car. Malaysia. Tunes. Sunshine.✔
  3. See the fireflies. Find out how to get there. 
  4. Go on holiday by myself. To quote Miss Henderson AGAIN, ‘ I am a strong independent woman and I don’t need no man’.
  5. Pass grade 1 saxophone. In July a bunch of staff at BSKL are taking up a new instrument for charity!  You can sponsor us here. I need to tell more people so I will practice more!✔
  6. Learn to cook a good plate of fried rice.
  7. Take a train. North/South/East/West don’t care!
  8. Go to Gili Islands in Lombok. 
  9. Take a boat in Vietnam
  10. Go up the Petronas towers.  
  11. Go to the Phillipines.
  12. Visit New Zealand. 
  13. Meet a monkey in Borneo. Not get too friendly. Becca doesn’t share food!✔
  14. Full moon party. Tick off Darshi’s #30thingsbefore30 list!
  15. Hike to a Waterfall.✔
  16. Get a tattoo. And another piercing. 
  17. Write my name on public property. ✔
  18. Turn off my phone for at least 24 hours. ✔
  19. Climb a tree. ✔
  20. Try Lobster. I am from Sussex after all.✔
  21. Meet a famous Malysian. I’ve seen a prince from afar- does that count?✔
  22. Sew a quilt with African and Asian fabric. 
  23. Go to Tioman and Perhentian Islands. One’s already booked. Wahoo.✔
  24. Tie dye all the things. Housemate goals.✔
  25. Have a Spa day. ✔
  26. Be able to run again.✔
  27. Drive a car in the city. Live to tell the tale.
  28. Bake a cake for someone special. Just because. As colourful as humanly possible.✔
  29. Spend an evening listening to Jazz in no black tie. ✔
  30. Try Surfing. 

Let’s do this!