Take It From Me

Expatriate Lifestyle - - Contents -

Name: Wal­ter Yurt’s ca­reer as a banker with JP Mor­gan Chase came to an end with the fi­nan­cial cri­sis of 2008. He then worked with the Ford Mo­tor Com­pany, but his pas­sion for writ­ing re­mained un­ful­filled un­til he came to Malaysia to teach English. Since then, Wal­ter has had two books pub­lished about his life here: Find­ing My­self and Find­ing My World, the first of which is cur­rently be­ing trans­lated into Ba­hasa Malaysia. This year, Wal­ter’s first play, ‘This Place of Ours’, was short­listed by the Kuala Lumpur Per­form­ing Arts Cen­tre’s ‘New Play Project’, a six-month work­shop for play­wrights.

First ex­pe­ri­ence in Malaysia

I was picked up at KLIA by my head­mas­ter, a teacher and a driver, the lat­ter of whom will for­ever be known as ‘Mr Gig­gles’. He was one of the few Malaysians I’ve met here that didn’t understand English; yet dur­ing the whole trip into the city, when­ever any­one else would say some­thing, he would burst into laugh­ter. Just from that kind man and his funny re­ac­tion, I im­me­di­ately knew I had moved to the right place.

In­spi­ra­tion to write

I tell my friends that the en­tire coun­try of Malaysia is my writ­ing ‘muse’. Af­ter all this time, I still can’t be­lieve how lucky I am to have landed here, of all the places in the world. On most days, I wake up with the feel­ings of a child on Christ­mas morn­ing: I can’t wait to see what’s wait­ing for me! The peo­ple, places and cul­tures of Malaysia in­spire me like nowhere or nothing else in the world. I love writ­ing about other South­east Asian na­tions, but Malaysia gets my pen mov­ing quicker and eas­ier than any other place on the planet.

Lo­cally speak­ing

While I know my share of bad words in Ba­hasa, I won’t share my favourite ones here. The one Ba­hasa word I do use a lot, es­pe­cially when I am driv­ing, is ‘bodoh’, the Malay word for stupid, which is a lot nicer word then the bad English words I could use when I’m deal­ing with a bad Malaysian driver. Plus, it’s re­ally fun to pro­nounce it cor­rectly with heavy stress on the sec­ond syl­la­ble: BODOH! An in­ter­est­ing side note for my ex­cuse of not be­ing able to speak Ba­hasa flu­ently is that ev­ery Malaysian I meet al­ways wants to speak English with me.

Things to do in KL

You can’t go wrong with any­thing that the Kuala Lumpur Per­form­ing Arts Cen­tre (kl­pac) puts on.the Sun­day af­ter­noon edi­tions of the per­for­mances by the Malaysian Phil­har­monic Orches­tra are a more rea­son­ably-priced al­ter­na­tive to their great Satur­day night con­certs, es­pe­cially if you are rel­a­tively new to clas­si­cal mu­sic. And if you are a new ex­pat in Malaysia, the cul­tural events that sur­round all of Malaysian’s re­li­gious and sec­u­lar hol­i­days are a must!

Time to eat

As my weight and waist­line will at­test, I love Malaysian food from Old Town and Madam Kwan’s nasi lemak (or any re­li­ably clean road­side stall), mee or Maggi goreng at any branch of Pelita to any­thing slapped down on a ba­nana leaf at Devi’s Cor­ner in Bangsar or Kanna’s Curry House in Pe­tal­ing Jaya. My In­dian and Sikh friends have re­cently turned me on to long Satur­day af­ter­noon lunches at Sen­tul Curry House, where one can graze for as long as your stom­ach can han­dle it.

Va­ca­tions

I love hit­ting the beach, my favourite be­ing Redang, fol­lowed closely by any of the big re­sorts in Langkawi. I think one of the coolest places in the world is Taman Negara, the coun­try’s 160-mil­lion-year- old rain­for­est. For the bluest skies in the world, cou­pled with beau­ti­fully nice peo­ple, give me any­where in Sabah or Sarawak.

Camp­ing out

I was into camp­ing with my Malaysian friends un­til a few sum­mers ago when we pitched camp a little too close to a beau­ti­ful stream in Pa­hang that tripled in size within a half an hour due to a down­pour. An­other time when we camped out at an­other spot in Pa­hang, we found the area void of other campers that week­end, which was nice. When we got back to KL, we found out the rea­son that no one else was around was due to a tiger sight­ing in the area a few days be­fore our stay­ing there! I tend to stay in ho­tels these days. EL

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