Here in Kuala Lumpur is where I will spend a small amount of time throughout the year. The position that I have will require me to be back in this area at infrequent times. So that being the case, my college has secured an amazing condo overlooking one of the most prestigious sections of KL.
My main office, though, is located in Serimban. So I will be there for the bulk of my time. And while I like the apartment in the city, I absolutely love my four bedroom house in the country. It’s really incredible.
It’s fully furnished with a washer, all the furniture you would want, appliances, great views and tons of space to spread out and relax.
I have a room that I keep for meditation. Then there’s my office where I edit photos, films and books that I am always working on. Then I have a guest bedroom. And then there’s my bedroom – the master suite, of course.
On top of that, there is a separated dining/kitchen area, a foyer and a living room. And this is in addition to the three bathrooms, giant back patio and open front porch and driveway.
I was very excited to be offered the position here. The pay is really awesome. And this is especially so, considering the fact that my apartment in the city and my house in Serimban are completely paid for – including utilities.
The other great part about living here is that the climate is very agreeable. I have grown to like the warmer weather since first arriving in Southeast Asia in 2009. And since Malaysia has only two seasons (both hot), it makes for a lot of unexpected benefits.
For instance, there is no need for hot showers. Dips in the pool are much more relaxing. Exercising really draws a good sweat. Growing plants in my garden is almost never a problem. The building materials here are mostly concrete, so there is little to no maintenance on the exterior of the buildings. A cool breeze throughout the house is never taken for granted. The heat can increase the pressure during the rainy season and make for some beautiful and active storms – not to mention unbelievable sunsets.
The downside is that foods go bad a bit quicker and I wash clothes more often due to sweating a little more throughout the day.
But the fringe benefits are also a huge consideration to living here in Asia.
Beyond the great pay and the luxury accommodations, the university also covers my insurance. This is pretty huge when you do as much traveling as I do because there is a fair amount of risk that comes with taking the kinds of risks that I am used to taking.
Asians also LOVE their time off. So throughout the year, each Asian country has their own national holidays. Then there are the New Year’s celebrations. And since there is a different New Year in almost every country, they like to celebrate them all. There are also plenty of religious holidays. They celebrate Hindu, Dao, Buddhist and Muslim holidays here. So when you add them all up it comes to a lot of time off.
But if that wasn’t enough, there is also contractual time-off as well as mid-semester breaks and weekend days. And since I am only working four days per week, I am looking forward to quite a lot of time to finally work on my books, photos and films.
If that wasn’t enough to turn me onto the position, Asia, itself, is an amazing place to work.
First of all, it’s incredibly cheap. Even in the cities you can expect to pay much less for the same or similar items in the west. But in the country where I live, it’s even cheaper than that. Buying from markets, eating at the school and having already bought all the clothes that I am going to need will all contribute to the ability to save up a lot of money.
In Asia, instructors of all types are held in very high regard. It is seen as a position of expertise, deserving of respect and requiring obedience. This idealism has a long lineage in Asian history. But basically put, all of the teachers throughout the various Asian country’s history there have been wise persons who have given a lot to their community, created a great following and have provide their people with a wealth of long-lasting benefits. They tend to remember these important people throughout their culture, their religious beliefs and their heritage. And this translates directly into the family where the children are to be taught and the parents are to do the teaching.
So it goes without saying that the instructors that bring their knowledge to these countries are expected to be treated as though they are a “parent” or “leader” of sorts. And they take this very seriously.
So seriously, in fact, that I have my own driver to take me to and from work and around town at the click of a mobile phone’s buttons. I will probably be getting a motorbike soon. But in the interim I know that I will be well taken care of.
This level of attention to the teacher also breeds a lot of respect from the students. Where in the west the students can range from emotionally disturbed and socially closed off, to reckless and downright dangerous, Asian students are well-mannered, respectful, engaging, attentive and focused.
As a teacher, I’ve never seen anything like it in the west. If I tell the students to begin a project, the only thing I hear back from them are questions about the material or if they need additional information. In the school where I did my student teaching, I’d give an assignment and spend the next 30 minutes trying to keep enough of them on task long enough to take care of the other students who were sleeping, goofing off or causing trouble. It’s like night and day.
And where there are few times when students in the west would ever trust their teachers enough to develop any personal relationships, bonds are formed, maintained and held dear in Asia.
Of course, this describes the younger students in secondary school that I have taught before. But because I prefer teaching on the college level, that’s where I started looking first. So the students that I have here are a bit older than the ones I’ve taught in the past couple of years in Taiwan, Thailand and even as a substitute in Guatemala.
There is an interesting difference in students from this particular age bracket, I’ve noticed. While they are still diligent, focused and respectful, I find that they are a lot less reserved and tend to ask more questions.
When I first arrived and started teaching in Thailand, I had to work very hard to get the students to interact with me. This is because the style of teaching throughout Asia’s native schools has largely been rigid, standardized and quite dry. This is because Asians love symmetry. They love uniformity. And they expect to be treated like they are all the same.
So what do students do in class? Shut up and listen. What do teachers do? They do the talking.
This has classically been how the native schools have been operating since the creation of the educational system here. So when someone from the west is invited in to teach, they bring with them a bit of a spark or a nuance of the type of laid back atmosphere that we were brought up in.
This can end badly, of course. But with the right experience and an open mind, western teachers typically do very well here.
The college students that I have are much more laid back than the younger students. They have loosened up just enough to be comfortable speaking with the instructor. And so they are much more engaged in the discussions. It’s a nice mix, I think.
In any case, I will have three-day weekends every week and several vacation days and holidays every semester. So while I haven’t had as many photos in my blog lately as I normally do, I will be heading out much more often to gather lots of great content to post along with these long journals!
Look for my next blog where I capture video with the King of Malaysia – who just happens to rent the penthouse flat in my apartment building!