If you haven’t figured out by now, I’m back from my lightning trip to KL. It was a chaotic, absolutely full-on, but successful trip.
I headed off last Wednesday on the 10am flight. I had an exit row to myself so was able to stretch out listening to my music or books. As on most flights I found myself flit between ennui and discomfort, though not as bad as some. The plane zoomed, insulated from me by the big noise cancelling headphones on my ears, the flight attendants wheeled trolleys up and down the plane while I supped on snakes and shifted from seat to seat. Once, somewhere between the north coast of Australia and Indonesia I looked out the window to find a tiny, pretty looking island ringed almost entirely by a sandbar emerging from the blue waters. It was a pleasant distraction.
I arrived late afternnon and made my way to Whisky’s condo in Bangsar. He joined me soon after and with a fond reunion and a drink under our belt we headed off for dinner across the road. The food was fine, the conversation interesting, and it was not too late by the time we returned to his place. We sat down and talked some more and after half a bottle of 18 year old Glenfiddich hit the sack. I was bushed.
Next day was the first day in the office. Didn’t know what to expect and figured I’d just go with the flow. Had about 7 meetings through the day with about 11 different people asking them questions about what they do, how they do it, what they want and so on, while I made scribbled, cryptic notes. There was a lot to take in, but I was reasonably happy come the end of the day that it hadn’t got away from me.
I’d been due to have a much needed haircut in Melbourne and failing that I popped across to the local mall to get a cut. just the same I told her, just shorter. I came out looking a little like Jerry Seinfeld when he got his neat haircut. I mussed it best I could, but it wasn’t working.
Whenever I travel I normally feel out of sorts for about 24 hours. The act of flying any distance seems to mess with my metabolism, with the result that I felt bloated and musclebound. Normally a day of sedate living – light on the food, the appropriate amount of sleep, some moderate activity – will see me right. That didn’t happen in KL, and I guess, in hindsight, never was.
Whisky was keen to catch up and make the most of our short time together, and I was too. I fully expected some big times, and was up for it, mentally at least.
Thursday night we went further afield and had dinner at some cool looking joint under the stars. The food was ok without being supreme, but I wasn’t particularly hungry in any case. Still, a couple of beers, a couple of wines, and a mojito kept me in the game.
From there we wandered on. Whisky wanted to take me to one of the hostess bars, and I was keen – from a cultural perspective – to check them out. We found a road lined either side by these bars. We walked up and down and then went into one. We were shown a table, and then were joined by a young Chinese Malaysian girl. Her job basically is to entertain us, and ultimately to encourage us to buy more drinks. That’s the theory.
She was a nice girl, but not nearly as pushy as I think you need to be in a job like that. Not that I was complaining. I don’t need anyone to tell me to buy more drinks. It was loud and I was feeling mellow and I didn’t really have the get up and go to engage in sparkling repartee, especially with a woman who had joined us not because she thought we were swell, but because we had money to spend.
This was a trend that emerged through the night. We went to a couple more places and I found myself feeling more and more disengaged. I discovered that I didn’t really like this scenario. I don’t need, or want, to pay someone to keep me company. I’d rather they hang around because they want to. On top of that the sheer logistics were tough on me. Most places were so loud that you had to raise your voice to be heard,. Well and good, but then the language barrier intervened unless I remembered to throw in a few token ‘las’ to make myself understood. In the end it was just too much hard work.
I do surprise myself sometimes. I’m as open minded as they come. Live and let live I reckon. I sat there in various bars while various girls tried to engage with me and I didn’t really want anything to do with it. And for all the reasonable excuses I made before, ultimately it’s because I couldn’t reconcile myself to that situation: a man with money being preyed on by women without it, charming and handsome by virtue of my wallet. If I sound like I’m being moralistic I’m not really – I don’t judge these girls doing that job. Good luck to them. And honestly, I leered at a few in one bar as they got up on stage and danced – they had the goods. It’s not me though, and I found it a trial, unlike Whisky who was well into it.
It was about 1am when we got back to his place – about 3am Melbourne time – and once more we sat on his couch and talked while we polished off the remaining half bottl;e of Glenfiddich.
Back into the office Friday. I felt ordinary at first, but even as that passed I felt bloated and as if I was about to burst out of my fitted shirt like Lou Ferrigno. I had another 7 meetings, and met with another 10 people, though it might have been a hundred. By now my brain was beginning to hurt, and one point some wadding fell from my ear. It was a challenging gig: two days to extract the necessary information, map divergent processes, and get some handle on people’s expectations of a new CRM. Somehow I did it though. There was more to absorb than I feared, but I managed it better than I expected. Come Friday afternoon the synapses were really firing, I was beginning to find connections and making sense of disparate elements. and even forming some preliminary conclusions. I felt quite excited, maybe even a little chuffed. Had I another day I’d have loved to go back to the first days people and ask the questions of them made obvious in my meetings with people on the second day. Not to be. We left, the book closed, I either had it or I didn’t. I thought I did.
Whisky’s parents were visiting from Perth. Booted out of my bedroom I set up in the spare room. Introductions were made, belatedly after all these years, then a few bottles of wine consumed before we headed out for dinner. We went to a palm leaf restaurant in Bangsar Village, a variety of really excellent Indian food served on the spot. Afterwards we went for the obligatory massage, this time a foot massage. It was excellent. My guy was a smiling Chinese from the mainland looking forward to getting home. I had no Mandarin, and his English was ordinary, but he managed to tell me that Malaysia good for bosses, no good if you’re not. Then as he expertly worked on my feet he’d exclaim how tough they were, and how big. My feet are not my best angle – size 12EE, and not far from being flat.
Saturday I slept in. Then I went across the road, wandered around upmarket Bangsar shopping centre eyeing off bits and pieces, though all I bought was a little bottle of wild raspberry vinegar. To Bangsar Village I went where I bought my DVD’s cheap, and then went for another massage – this time the full body version over 1 1/2 hours. She was very capable, bending me into shapes I rarely have the excuse to try at home. It was one of the best of the many massages I’ve had in Malaysia. You really can’t go there without having one.
I flew out that night. I bought my duty free (a bottle of gin and some chocolate) then sat waiting with my headphones on, feeling very much the jaded traveller. I hoped to have a row to myself, but the plane was full. I was squashed into place listening to music and trying all sorts of combinations to find space and comfort. Maybe the massage helped. Each time I found myself settling into a rough snooze they would put the cabin lights on for reasons I cannot fathom Judith. What the…? It’s 3am and the lights come on. Such was a painful journey endured. We touched down a little before 8am and it was good to be home.
Strange, concentrated trip. I was gone 3 days but it felt longer because I did so much. On Saturday we’d watched a little AFL footy from Melbourne, and rather than seeming familiar it felt a little foreign, almost otherworldly. In that brief space of time I’d begun to move to local rhythms.
After a sleepy Sunday I’ve been busy this week doing my research and putting my report together. My mate the CFO wanted me to add something extra in, something about IT strategy going forward. Happy to do it, but they’re getting a lot at a discount price. My report is 90% done, about 15 pages of facts and opinion written, hopefully, with not a little art. Now it’s Friday, drink in hand (hey diddle!), time to relax.