A good place to stay for a while
Johor Bahru, Malaysia
We have been very busy since we arrived here in Johor Bahru, Malaysia - last December of 2013. We are in a marina - Danga Bay Marina Club. The rates are pretty good and this place reminds us a little of home. There is a MacDonalds in the nearby mall. The mall is big, 7 floors with a movie theater. We all went to see "The Hobbit" (part 2) around Christmas time. Tamsyn and Griffyn hadn't seen a movie in a theater since we left North America in 2011. So it was a big treat for us. We had chocolate dipped ice cream cones at Mac & Dons. We Christmas shopped like most Americans at the mall. There are many things here that remind us of back home and at the same time, this place is very different.
This place seems like a good place to stay for a while. We all need some time to be grounded and not in mortal danger as we make harrowing passages. The kids need some stability and a chance to make friends, kick a ball around. Owen and I need some time to figure out our next move. We are tired, tired of traveling, boat repairs, bad weather. And our coffers are empty. We need to rebuild.
I don't think I would ever have planned on spending time in Malaysia, a country I knew little about before arriving. But like many of the places we have visited on this trip, there are wonderful surprises here. Most people are Asian. Malaysians are Malay, Chinese, Indian, Indonesian, Thai, Philippino, and European primarily. This culture is ethnically diverse and also very tolerant. The Malay (meaning everyone who has a Malaysian passport even though they are ethnically Chinese - for example) are gregarious, considerate, generous, spirited and have a strong desire to become more westernized like their neighbors in Singapore (and China), so ex-pats are respected.
Everywhere there are huge apartment complexes and waterfront malls being built. The air just teams with industry (and noisy dust). There is a ton of Chinese investment money pouring into Johor Bahru right now. JB is across a bridge (the causeway) from Singapore - a wealthy, prosperous, nation state. And despite it's small size (an island nation of one city), Singapore has a tremendous influence on the well being of JB. People are investing here because of it's proximity to Singapore. It's quite cheap to live in JB compared to Singapore and the Singapore dollar is strong. So if you work in Singapore your money will go far in Malaysia.
However commuting to Singapore, from JB is a drag. To arrive at work by 8 AM, you get up at 5 AM. You leave work around 5 PM and arrive home sometime after 8 PM. If you want your kids to attend good schools (the local public schools in Malaysia are still quite poor), you try to get them enrolled in International Schools in Singapore - and they commute with you through customs twice daily. That's a long haul for kids. In the last year, 5 brand-spanking-new International Schools (K-12) have opened their doors. They are all competing for the kids whose parents work in Singapore, but live in JB. Now parents can hire a local driver/babysitter for their kids to take them to and from school, while they do the long commute to Singapore solo. These new International Schools are big complexes which offer boarding options, state-of-the-art sports facilities, and lavish performance spaces.
It didn't take long for me to realize that I could probably get a job teaching here. I am an ex-pat armed with a Master's Degree. So that is why we have been so busy here since we arrived. I spent three weeks pounding the pavement and was offered three positions in three different schools. I am currently teaching Art, Music, Speech & Drama, Writing and English as a Second Language (all at one International School) to kids from Kindergarten to 9th grade. Owen is also teaching at the same school. His subjects are Science, Geography, Environmental Studies, Chemistry and History. (There are Malay teachers at the school too.) Tamsyn and Griffyn receive free tuition, are making friends, playing ball and generally liking being around their peers again. We are all-of-a-sudden quite busy. Yes we have joined the rat race again. But like all cruisers, we arrive at this destination - this decision, knowing we are still quite mobile should we change our minds. Even though Madrona is currently tied to a dock, we sleep on the wake of her next move. She is resting with us. And we dream about the future knowing we have time to get there.