Malaysia’s hot, like bloody HOT, and if you’re anything like me you’ll be sweaty, hot, and uncomfortable all of the time. I’m a mountain kid from the Rockies, where the air is cool and dry. Polar opposites of the humid heat that is high near daily. When I told my folks about this Internship that would take me to the other side of our planet, their first thought was that I’d die in that heat. Right before leaving for Malaysia, I was in western New York, for my buddy Jules’ graduation, and honestly, that spring heat and eastern humidity had me feeling it. Truth be told, there wasn’t a day that a “v” didn’t form upon my chest. The sheer amount of sweat destroys your clothes, I like the simplicity of a plain white t-shirt, but they just got destroyed, turned an orangy pink colour, and eaten through. My uniform quickly lost the buttons, collars, and aura of professionalism, ending up with a t-shirt and synthetic hiking pants combination. The kids in my classroom didn’t mention the sweat, they knew the feeling of being new here (Malaysians on the other hand, they definitely did mention the sweat). My adopted family lived a thirty-minute walk away from my apartment, and eventually, I learned to bring a spare shirt along with me.
The forest surrounding Kuala Lumpur are rainforest, with a humidity of a hundred percent within the shade of their thick canopies. It’s truly shocking the instant change you feel walking into the jungle, you just start dripping (make sure to bring a whole lot of water, if you decide to go hiking, and you’ll want to hike through the jungle, it’s a treasure of novel biodiversity [from the perspective of somebody from the Nearctic], exploring the Arecales, Dilleniales, and Zingiberales of Indomalaya). Outside of the jungle isn’t much better, since you’re out exposed to the scorching, unrelenting heat of the sun. Layer on the sunscreen, but even then you’re bound to get burnt.
The rain brings sweet relief from the Malaysian heat, dropping the temperature down from the daily norm of 30℃ to a chilly 25℃ (after 6 months in Malaysia I started finding this cold). But this relief from the heat comes at the price of destructive rain. From the moment I first got to Kuala Lumpur I was told stories of the rain. “Beware if you get rained on you’ll lose your hair”. “If you get caught out in the rain, shower as soon as you get home”. So the sun will burn you and the rain apparently will turn you bald.
There’s an expression about Malaysia “Whether rain or sweat, you will get wet”. From my experience that expression is spot on. When you come to Malaysia just expect to be wet. Expect it to be hot. Expect to sweat. Expect to be uncomfortable. Discomfort is an absolutely brilliant state, it forces growth. Lean into that discomfort, be scared, be lonely, be open, be vulnerable, and grow from it. You’ll come home from this experience with your pockets full of memories, and stories, a few new skills, a hand full of friends (for me second family), a great experience, and a whole lot of personal growth. Have fun!