At home in KL

So I’m in KL now, arrived first thing this morning. It seemed an easy and uneventful trip. One evening I’m in Melbourne, the next morning in Kuala Lumpur, and ahead of schedule.

I’m at Whisky’s now. I arrived so early that I was able to catch him before going to work. Then, feeling pretty spruce still, I changed into my togs and went for a swim.

I lay there reading my book on the banana lounge while about me workers plucked weeds, tidied the garden, or gave the pool a good clean. The sky was the hazy blue I’m familiar with here and framed by the elegant condo’s expats live in and a shroud of tropical green. I thought about how things can be tough, but not so tough that this doesn’t exist, and I don’t experience it. I’m one of the lucky.

Earlier I had done a few leisurely laps of the pool, mostly underwater. I felt my lungs expand, my muscles lengthen. I thought back to when I was a kid and how, for years, I had swimming lessons every Saturday morning and at school. Swimming seemed to be a big thing then, more so than it seems now, and every kid I knew swam. I did a bit more than most, though my memories are hazy. I tend to think I had 3-4 years of solid swimming lessons, enough that I was one certification away from being a qualified instructor eventually, though I was only a kid. It probably only was a couple of years, really, though I never stopped swimming throughout my childhood. I remember I gave away swimming when I was invited to join a club to swim competitively. I understand why I declined it – swimming by then was a drag – but I regret a little that I never did. I was a pretty good freestyle sprinter then – today, I’m like a brick with arms and legs.

In the normal way of these things, it occurred to me that I should have asked mum what she remembered of my serious swimming days when I was about 7-10. Naturally, I never will now, but the realisation was easily accepted. Earlier I’d been travelling in on the KLIA express train and thinking how mum would expect me to check-in with her, “arrived safely”. It used to drive me crackers sometimes; she was so protective and paranoid. There were times I’d leave her home after a visit and stop off somewhere on the way home, and she would call. When I didn’t answer, she would begin to worry that I’d been in an accident or something equally silly. She was like that, and though it used to put unreasonable pressure on me, I came to accept that of her.

That went through my head as I looked out the window at the passing scenery. I couldn’t call her, and I felt a twinge at that lack and understanding that it would be some time before I grew accustomed to that. I decided then that I would not disregard it. Instead, for now, I’ll make those gestures to her in my mind as if she could here: I’m ok mum, home safe, arrived safe, don’t worry.

For some reason, I don’t like travelling at night, though it’s pretty well normal when going to Asia. Given a choice, I’d head off at about 4pm wherever I’m going; to travel at midnight or thereabouts seems somehow depressing. Still, the airport was busy last night. Lining to check-in, I looked about me and for the umpteenth time was surprised at how few Aussies, or indeed Caucasians, were on a flight departing Oz. I should be over that by now. I watched idly as the queue slowly snaked forward, roused briefly by the sight of long legs in tight pants and all the possibilities that presented to my bored mind.

I changed my currency, went through customs, bought my duty-free – a memory stick for my camera and some lollies for the trip. Then we boarded. I had my exit row by the window and watched with jaded eyes as the plane filled. Soon the vacant seat beside me was snapped up, and then we were taxiing down the runway and taking off on time to the minute – very rare in my experience.

The night went by. I watched The Artist, a very clever movie and entertaining in its own way but a strange viewing experience for those unused to silent films. The French guy who won the best actor Oscar gave an irresistible and very likeable performance whatever his name is.

The plane droned on. I slept. Fitfully. The lights came on, breakfast arrived, and I passed up the Nasi Lemak I couldn’t face at 5am and instead had the soggy scrambled eggs. It was dark outside still when we touched down, 30 minutes early, yippee – that’s a good flight in my book. I bought a bottle duty-free, had no dramas in immigration, collected my bag and strolled out to discover that here I was really, in KL finally.

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