21 May 2009

Resurfacing into the world!

Hi everyone and apologies for disappearing from the surface of the earth. A wormhole in KL has sucked me in and whirled me around at infinite speed for the last week. Also, after criticising a friend's article on an issue dear to my heart (human rights in the Philippines) on stylistic matters I got hit by a second wave of writer's block (the first one being praise about my style of blogging!). Lastly, there wasn't much happening between the last post and this Monday, 18th.

Anyway, on Monday I finally started my new internship (yay!). Those of you who know what I am talking about: congrats for being able to decipher my cryptical messages! Those of you who don't know what I am talking about: Well, sorry but I won't tell you here.

#1 I do not want to compromise my work
#2 I do not want to get into trouble with anyone
#3 There definitely is a safety issue. I don't even type the NGO's name into emails.

So basically, my first few days were hectic. Everyone is very friendly, efficient and organised. However, work is like being thrown into the cold water. It's a bit like being told that you will have a tough exam on a difficult issue and and are only given two days to prepare. Or having to learn as much as possible about a complex machine, you read a lot of manuals but will only be able to really know how it functions once you start to actually use it in practice. It definitely is challenging but there is a lot to do and no time to fool around. This, I guess is what distinguishes an internship from volunteering, the latter sth I've wanted to move on from for quite a while.

Sth that I have a hard time to get a grip on are the longest list of abbreviations used on a daily basis. The jargon goes a bit like this: “Oh Heidi, can you please make sure that ABC [office] receives CD [document] so they can do the EF [process] for the GHI [person]? If you don't know what to do, there is a JKL [document] in the MN folder. Once you're done, please go to OPQ [office] and ask them how far they are with their RS [process]. Thank you!” At some point during this instruction, I usually turn into a legged question mark but eventually say sth like, “Sure! I'll get right to it”, perusing all TUV's for any clue as to WTF I am supposed to do...

Of course, I do not mean to talk my way out. I am here to learn and since people use these terms all the time, there is no point in asking not to be exposed to them. So don't get me wrong, I am not complaining, just trying to give you guys an idea of what work is like from my personal (shrewd?) perspective without breaching any code of conduct.

Also, it doesn't help that my short-term memory is out of practice and I have to bother people all the time about the same damn thing. Therefore, there is only one way through: Revision, revision, revision.

Another great thing is that I am meeting a lot of new people who know people and have been able to finally arrange two viewings for condo flats. One I will check out tomorrow evening and one I already saw yesterday evening – it was a very nice area which is a bit too posh for my taste (too many expats) but seems to be a proper residential area. It reminds me a bit of the town in Austria I went to school in, in character and also in location, namely suburban. To be honest, I was actually astounded how safe the area seemed. While walking alone at night in many Asian cities is generally not advisable, I had the impression that this would be one of the areas where the likelihood of getting mugged is actually lower. First, due to the safety arrangements of condos (security guard, grills on windows and doors) but also because of the demography and accessibility of the place. In other words, you can only get here if you have a car (or can afford a longer taxi ride) and because everyone here is more or less rich and looks like it too, any potential criminal would probably be recognised immediately. While having been spoilt by living in Western Europe most of my life I prefer to live in a demographically mixed middle-class area, it is sad but definitely wise to be careful with living arrangements in many big Asian cities. My mother grew up in such a megacity and although I always used to find it a bit weird she would tell me “to be careful when walking home across Vienna” (a generally very safe city) and when, likely more justified would ask me over the phone whether or not I was “with your friends, yes?” when I call her up while being on a nightbus in London on my way home. She used to be quite a sheltered person and spent the first two and a half decades of her life in an Asian city rife with street crime (and a sensationalist tabloid press culture). However, after staying in KL for a while now and always in a part of town where every Malaysians' eyes go wide when I answer the frequent question of where I am staying. Apart from what I already told you, the area is often associated with snatch-theft (handbags from motorised vehicles, usually motorcycles), drugs and even prostitution (even if I have been trying to train my perception to spot them, I really don't recognise the signs for neither dealers nor sex workers, no matter which continent or perhaps I normally just don't pay attention to these groups).

The prostitution thing is sth an Indian lady actually told me just yesterday and ever since I've suddenly been noticing the surprising variety and display of condoms from street convenience stalls and in drug stores (or perhaps it's because I usually stick to my end of better-lit street blocks and only roamed further today searching for a local pharmacy the next one of which is of course is not here but a taxi-ride away – more on taxis soon!). I kinda peripherally noticed them before (vibrant colours of packages displayed in the glass counters where you have to pay or if a stall, somewhere in eye-height) but hadn't really given it any much thought. I've been reading academic and other expert literature on HIV/AIDS issues in the last few months and also a report on awareness and incidences on several countries in the Southeast Asian region, including Malaysia, so maybe that's why. By the way, while HIV/AIDS has a shocking epidemic scale in many Sub-Saharan African states, Southeast Asia has comparatively and also in absolute figures very low rates. The one country in the region where there was a sudden quick spread about ten years ago (?) was very fast, organised and efficient in tackling the issue very early and has been commended on the quick response (Thailand). However, new infections have been on the rise in the last few years in many countries throughout the region which can be because people are getting careless or because people might be more likely to seek medical attention and therefore report it.

Ok, gotta go and mentally prepare myself for tomorrow's new day at work and visualise while my concentration is still there. I hope to be able to catch up with blogging too by the end of the week, to give you guys some meat! Two weeks ago, I was thinking of writing sth on beauty but gave it up after starting at least 15 times on the draft. Either it's just not my topic or it's a sign I haven't made up my mind yet on my opinion. As indicated, another topic which I saved for later was taxis. Since I so far I had a good time at the hostel I am currently still staying in, I should also put here some pictures and experiences.

Pictures – I am sure you guys are dying to see some images of what Malaysia is like! I yet have to buy new rechargeable batteries for my digital camera and my UK phone I didn't want to use until after I moved to a safer place (ideally with stable internet). Then I will roam around one afternoon and attempt to capture the spirit of KL for you!

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