“Today I realized that I will travel to Penang for reasonable issues and practical reasons. I am missing someone that I choose not to name. I’m only there for a day.” And this is where the excursion began. The day had equally amazed me for a minutia of reasons. When I arrived home from work the fire alarm went off in my building. I was very surprised it worked & very unsurprised that no one believed it. It went off shortly. Later in the evening I practiced music with an old friend. We had gotten an additional gig and practice was nice as always. Work was quite okay. I made up this new math game for three year olds and they loved it. All that was required was some numbers some shapes and two paper bags. The element of surprise is what ultimately sold the game and there was lots of sweet laughter. I also found out that I may have an interview with a University the following week which was hopeful and I had a lead on how to obtain an accredited PhD in Thailand. I really needed some mosquito spray but other than that things were simply grand. I also needed to reserve a hostel so I made a reservation with the Tipsy Tiger, a place recommended on many of the sites and the street art blue tiger I remember taking pictures of from previous visits. It was also said to be a party hostel which was interesting to me. In addition the Tiger Temple in Krabi is one of my favorite places in Thailand so all things made this the most reasonable decision.
Work was proving challenging in only one way and that was that I felt a bit of distain from one of the individuals and I was having a hard time dealing with personality clashes. In addition this American was making me reflect hard on issues such as multiculturalism and racism. I felt really judged because I generally prefer to please people so I was avoiding her in the interim. The classroom was easy and flowing smoothly. Things were becoming more creative and my kids were super sweet. At the time I decided that it should be appropriate, well actually mandatory for schools to have a training on how girls should stop judging other girls specifically American girls that have little abroad experience. At the present moment I still agree with this sentiment but not to such a personal level. Distance has proven beneficial. I also created lettering for our class name that the kids painted blues and pinks watercolor style meets acrylic like.
Finally a flight later in later evening. So to Penang. I wrote to myself first thing in the morning, “let’s celebrate this shit & find love”. I also questioned Penang as I really love the street art and culture there: “will be to Penang soon … let’s see if it surprises me.” Things began too smoothly. I checked in over the counter and I had a 4a window seat which was top priority which never happens. There was also no one in the middle seat which was a strange sense of eerie. And in the split second that I wrote down this thought one of the stewardesses came up to me and said you are on the wrong flight this flight is going to KL. My heart dropped as I seriously have the worst airport anxiety because of several several instances like this. Air Asia had changed my gate number I had checked with them twice and they let me get on the wrong plane even when I confirmed to Penang. At that moment I was in an immigration hell battle with the airline which I had little hopes of winning and was “so so sad”. The only thing I could say to comfort myself was that I hate airports. I screamed and cried and at first they wanted me to pay, then fly the next day, and eventually they agreed to put me on the next flight. It sucked was awful and I felt a bit like a horrible celebrity at the airport and desired to leave as soon as was humanly possible. Eventually everything was sorted and I arrived in Penang at midnight. A one hour flight had turned into ten hours, but I was to Penang I just had to get to the hostel.
I found the hostel with a blond girl speaking in French out front on the phone who paused and informed me the guest house had just shut its doors for the day (at midnight) and only the guests had key cards which had to be obtained when one checked in. Obviously. My luck for the day was outstanding. But compared to earlier I was really just looking at life as more of a hurdle race instead of an end of the world race. So I was directed to a street with many bars, a girl helped me, there were quite a few that were closed or full, but eventually I was kindly ushered in by a hippy looking Malaysian gentleman at the Love Lane Hotel listening to poor techno music with a room full of Germans who gave me a beer and guided me to a spare room. That was my happy world at that moment and while I still had no mosquito spray and was being eaten alive, I was quite happy to be alive and in Penang. I slept so soundly and realized how much I hated the sound of air con drifting off to sleep with an open window with pink bunny sheets for curtains, lilac colored walls with prints of soft light neon green leaves, a thin plain sheet, and a fan.
The morning was definitely the calmest; I went out for a walk taking pictures of the street art, the Chinese New Year festivities, and any intriguingly beautiful thing that I saw along the way. I stopped in a cafe and planned my next steps. The heat is quite hot in Penang and I was tiring easily. It was a strange thing as I decided to go to the next step which happened to be the ocean recognizing all of my familiar landmarks. It was quite strange as a third visit that I felt that sense of familiarity. Something that only changed later when I was directed after the ocean, after the walk to the second cafe break, after the great Indian food to a new street art lane by one of the artists that I admire the most that used their art to criticize the tourism attached to the art as well as the topic of smoking which is now banned at all restaurants. This led me to begin to start thinking critically about the message from the artists and how this was impacting the Penang I had grown to love. I got a little sun burnt wandered some more and finally was ushered by another Malaysian man this time musician who was very friendly and his wife happened to be from Germany.
I immediately questioned her on all of my theories and experiences of German culture and most all points we agreed with. She was very friendly and they invited me to play violin with them when I return, but just as I was about to leave Ii took the last sip of cheap red wine felt a gritty taste in my mouth. The glass was filled with a sediment that looked either like dirt or ashes. I was smoking there and after the street art and the smoking decline earlier I feared that there was something else to this material. I said to myself, they fucking put ashes in my red wine & said it was sediment. If that was sediment it was like ten years of sediment. In hindsight it probably was ten year old sediment, the German girl did message me, “hey I’m the girl from the other night with the horrible wine,” we laughed I forgave the situation and now I can play with them when I return in a couple of weeks.
I almost forgot to mention when I got on my return flight the staff did a count check of the seats six times & the speaker of instructions read the manual immaculately. I was not in priority and on the aisle but I felt safe. There is one remaining topic that I spoke to the Malay musician and the German wife with that is also in conversation with the street art criticizing and reflecting on tourism. They said that in the past two years the tourism has made life difficult for them because the younger generations cannot spend the money, as much money as they had years before. Ironically I did not pay for the sediment wine, but it is a conversation that I am very interested in as to how all of these multicultural voices are coming together and interacting with their environment i.e. music art food culture and interpersonal relationships. Also, I need sex.