After almost one month in Malaysia, I can hardly believe how quickly the time has passed. No matter how much I was warned that the time would go by fast, I find myself sitting here in disbelief that a month has passed and only five remain. Yet here I am, a month in with so much new knowledge, growth, excitement, and curiosity for the remaining five months.

Sunset view from the apartment. Brigitte Larkin (right), Sabrina (left)

While travelling solo across the world was a scary and new experience, I found comfort in creating a new daily routine. Now I find myself reflecting on how different small tasks in my life have changed into something new. My (almost) daily iced chai lattes from Starbucks are now becoming drinking teh teriks, a hot or cold Malaysian milk tea drink, every morning. Picking up an apple or orange from the UVIC dining hall has now become picking up mangos, dragon fruit and watermelon from the fruit stalls on my way home from work. Eating lunch alone has now become eating with coworkers from the office or the teachers at the school. And turning on the heater when coming home from class has now become blasting the AC after walking 8 minutes home in 33-degree heat. Somewhere within my first month working at MSRI and living in Malaysia, I started picking up new daily habits and am creating a version of home here.

Brigitte and I have an almost daily ritual where we eat mangos, drink tea and journal our thoughts for the day together at our dining table.

I felt a sense of comfort within the first couple of days of living in Malaysia. And interestingly enough, I found comfort in seeing representation in stores, advertisements and graffiti too! As a second-generation immigrant living in Canada, I was always aware of how I stuck out as a POC; however, here and maybe for the first time ever, I look like the people around me. For the first time ever, I did not feel the need to give a ‘fake Starbucks name’ when the barista asked me because here in Malaysia, my ethnic name is considered familiar and normal. My name was not given special attention due it its unique spelling or pronunciation because it’s the norm here. I was not hesitant to say Faaiza or worry about having my name pronounced wrong when called. It was a different experience I am not used to.

While I have enjoyed this sense of comfort in being surrounded by POCS, I have encountered some challenges. I have struggled to see how I fit into the Western world that I was born into; however, while I am here in a place where I seem to ‘physically fit in,’ I am struggling to see how I am supposed to fit into a world that is suppose to be my norm. However, I still feel like a foreigner at heart. Being unable to speak any South Asian language or Malay when it is perceived that could have been the most difficult. However, now I see this discomfort I am experiencing as the perfect opportunity to learn the language and practice with the people around me. It is exciting to be surrounded by your own but still feels like an outsider; I am both interested and scared to see how this experience plays out in the coming months.

Overall, this has been a crazy month. From carrying suitcases down 15 flights of stairs in 32-degree heat to finding a small lizard in the kitchen sink to eating RM5 Ramen bowls with new coworkers and friends. Who knows what the next five months will look like, but all I know is that I’m excited.

Faaiza (right) and Brigitte (left) at Batu Caves