Monday, November 7, 2011

Week 2. JB - Malaysia. Looking for work and enjoying the food.

This past week my focus has been on finding employment in Singapore whilst eating lots of delicious local food. However, finding a full-time job turns out to be not as easy as I'd imagined. The Singaporean government recently passed a law to reduce their number of foreign workers. Many of the jobs I look at say 'Singaporean or Permanent Resident only'. I'm keen to work again after taking a break. I'm interested in new challenges such as working in a career related to but not necessarily teaching. So, most days I plough through the job search websites looking for something suitable.

Our friend Jodie works at an International school in Singapore. With her legwork, I was offered relief teaching at the school. I accepted and on Friday, made the long commute across the causeway from Malaysia to Singapore to work as the relief art teacher for the day.
Bus stop at 5am
My day began at 4am in order to get ready by 5am. I was at the bus in the dark just after 5 and the third bus I flagged stopped for me. It was full of sleeping people and I stood in the aisle wishing I was asleep too. We all got out at JB Sentral to walk over to the first checkpoint. The next three hours involved queuing and walking a lot and getting on and off another two buses and 2 MRT's. I knew it wasn't going to be easy and was prepared for the adventure of it all. Rather than feeling sorry for myself, I actually felt empathy for all of the thousands of Malaysians who make this same commute 5-6 days a week. Amongst the crowd were a few elderly, some young school children and a very pregnant Indian woman.

I eventually made it to the school and was given a tour by some helpful staff. My finger prints were scanned and added to the system and I was shown to the art classroom where I was to teach for the day. Having predominantly taught secondary students before, teaching primary students was a new experience and one I enjoyed! Each class came with a support teacher to help out and I was impressed with the students' behaviour and attention. I would enjoy returning to EtonHouse International School as the art teacher if that job was to open!! There is so much potential there for improvement and fun!

The journey home took another 2.5 hours. This time the crowds were worse. In particular, the checkpoint to leave Singapore was full to bursting with people. I stood in one queue for my bus for 30 minutes without moving. So, having observed that the queue parallel to mine was moving (it was for a different bus line), I decided to switch over. The beginning of this queue was miles away! It had grown by about 200 metres in a long curling loop around the entire bus platform while I'd been waiting in the other queue. I dejectedly joined the end and slowly but surely shuffled along with the thousands of other people to eventually cram into a bus for a 5 minute journey across the Causeway to the Malaysian checkpoint. I completed 'Blind Faith' by Ben Elton which was strange to read when in the somewhat similar situation of massive crowds all plugged into their personal communication devices.
Halfway along in the queue for a bus across to Malaysia from Singapore.
A local guy, Chee Heng (who is a friend of a friend of ours in Australia), took us out one night in JB for a real Malaysian dinner. Gosh the food is so tasty here! I'm putting on weight though because most dishes and drinks have added sugar. I'm getting frequent headaches also probably due to the added MSG! We ate at 'Kafe Enampuluhan' and then drove over to 'The Girl Next Door' which is a funkier area of town. The lovely Ireen showed us her cute shop, 'Miss Ireen Handmade', where she sells her original jewellery.

Miss Ireen in her cute shop.
Upon hearing of our plans to find employment, Ireen told me of a job in the fashion store next door as a sales assistant. The salary is 47 Ringgit per day which is about $15AUD. As you can imagine, I turned the offer down. We wandered over to 'The Girl Next Door' cafe and drank flavoured yoghurts in small buckets. The decor was very artistic with funky vintage items displayed amongst trees painted on the walls and furniture from the 60s.
The Girl Next Door Cafe

Rene and Chee Heng drinking yoghurt buckets!

On another night we went out with a retired Singaporean couple who live onboard their motorboat in Danga Bay Marina. They took us to eat local food and Rene jumped at the chance to try a new animal part. This time, Duck feet. I stuck with the meat as simply seeing the feet made me feel nauseous (feet are for walking, not eating!!). Frank introduced us to his favourite dessert: Pineapple covered in Sour Plum powder. It was quite nice but far too sweet!
Rene about to munch on a duck's foot!!
Pineapple covered in sour plum powder.

Singapore scene... so futuristic!
Rene and I ventured over to Singapore for the day to deal with his Mac laptop which he'd put into the official Apple store over a week ago. They'd looked at it and quoted over $1000 to replace the Motherboard. It suffered during the modem meltdown. Rene decided instead to take his precious laptop over to Sim Lim Square where I'd had my laptop fixed cheaply and quickly. Sim Lim Square and Tower are full to bursting of mulitple levels of gadgets and electronics - a geek's paradise. Rene of course loves it and so we ended up stuck there for hours. I enjoyed our time before and after Sim Lim. When we explored Orchard street (an upmarket area of Singapore) and ate a cheap delicious lunch in a foodcourt where you stand up to eat around small, tall tables. We also had a relaxing afternoon drinking beers and making life decisions!

Rene happy - he's about to eat Chicken hearts!
Cool Singaporean advert on Orchard St ... I think for Christmas?

We have continued to enjoy the company of Nick and Jan from Yawarra 2. Their shower has been such a God-send and their company has helped me to not feel so homesick. Jan introduced us to freshly-squeezed lime juice with Rum as a sundowner (limes are super cheap here) and Nick relished in introducing us to their all time favourite food - Roti Canai. This is essentially fried dough but it's spectacularly delicious and the preparation is amazing to observe. The chef rolls out a tiny wad of dough until it's paper-thin and massive. He then folds it in, trapping air as he does so. It's fried in loads of oil and then served with a tiny bowl of dahl or chilli sauce. YUM! Nick showed us a second hand clothes store and I bought a cute jacket for 5 Ringgit. Jan showed me the local wet markets - called Kip Mart which are bustling with people and shops. We stocked up on fresh fruit and veggies as I've realised that the only way to eat healthily here is to cook at home (eating at home is actually more expensive than eating out!).
Rene steps off Y2 after having a shower and catch-up :)
Nick diggin into his Roti Canai
Our Couch Surfing friend, Josephine, took us out to the night markets in Taman Tun Aminah district (a Chinese area of town). These markets were huge and, as usual, so busy! We had a whirlwind time walking through the crowds, sampling various foods and drinks and buying fresh fruit and veggies. Highlights included drinking warm soymilk and freshly squeezed sugar cane juice ('with no added sugar'). It was a friendly atmosphere and we felt quite safe as foreigners have barely ever (maybe never) gone there. Afterwards, we ate dinner at a Chinese restaurant, 'Kah Kah Loke' (meaning 'everybody is happy'). Rene enjoyed eating pig's intestine soup while I preferred the steamed tofu dish!!

Petai Padi... I think... green pods sort of like garlic.
Bee Ling, Josephine and me drinking fresh sugarcane juice!
Our meal at Kah Kah Loke.
On Anima, the usual jobs continue - albeit slowly! We bought a second hand air conditioner which is far too powerful for our needs but it was all that was available for what we could afford. It's so cold inside now that I find myself shivering while it's dripping hot outside!! Despite having all of the hatches and windows closed and burning repellent coils all of the time, we still have mosquitoes finding their way inside. This is a real worry for us as the mosquitoes here carry dengue fever!

So, at the end of our second week living here in Johor Bahru, Malaysia, I'm feeling more positive than I did at the beginning. We continue to have set-backs but overall, things are looking up. I've figured out teaching is not as bad as I imagined and I'm slowly building up my Ashtanga yoga practice again. We've been cleaning up inside Anima, trying to get rid of more of our belongings that we don't use/want. I'm still very much looking forward to when we make the move over to mosquito-free Singapore, but until then, I'm happy living in the moment. Experiencing Malaysia and enjoying the company of people around us.


  1. Amazing journey you've been having thus far!

    All the best in your search!