Southeast Asian Frustrations

It has been obvious to us that since we moved to Malaysian from Indonesia, stuff has been more likely to go our way.  The way that we like to describe it is that while in the US, things normally work, here in Malaysia, things almost work, while in Indonesia, things almost never worked.  Our visa processes were relatively smooth and straightforward and only took two months.  The mass transportation systems come very close (but certainly not the whole way) to forming a seamless metropolitan mass-transit system.  Our trips to the grocery store have been largely successful.

For the past two days, though, we have been really craving bean sprouts on our food.  Yesterday we were determined to make char kwey teow for dinner, a dish which requires bean sprouts.  Yet try as we might, our giant supermarket did not seem to have any.  Huh?  We mentioned in a post a long time ago that an Indonesian grocery store being out of banana leaves and coconut is like an American grocery store being out of milk and eggs.  Well, in Malaysia, not having bean sprouts is like not having flour.  Totally inconceivable.  Today, we went back to check again for our salad, and they are still out.  All we want is some bean sprouts–we’d be surprised if a supermarket in the US did not have any, so this is extra dumb.  They have also been out of rice vinegar–sort of like an American supermarket being out of regular vinegar.  It is telling that our regular supermarket here is also a Carrefour, France’s global answer to Wal-Mart, which was responsible for our inability to make sweet coconutty deserts steamed in banana leaves in Jakarta.

Our other frustrating issue has been the changes at our gym.  It is in the process of being bought out by an American chain called California Fitness, and downgrading its service level from awesome to terrible.  About two weeks ago, when Betsy was still here, we asked the guys at the gym if we could have new workout cards.  We have already used up the ones they gave us when we arrived.  This created a giant disaster.  Turns out to get new workout cards, you have to sign up for a free weight-training assessment with the new physical trainers.  OK, fine.  Free is good.  Well, not really.  The new physical trainers are incompetent.  First, the guy assigned to us, Anil, called us at 5:25 on Tuesday to inform us that we had an appointment for 5:00 on Tuesday.  We were already at the gym working out at the time, so we missed the call, of course.  Then Anil set up a new appointment for today at 4:30.  Except for today is his day off, which he seems to have forgotten, so we ended up being “assessed” by two numbskulls who know less about weights than we do–which is hard to accomplish.  We insisted that we could wait until we could see a real trainer, but no.  It apparently would be much better if they did a half-ass job assessing us extra-quickly, with Anil calling us back later to set up another free session.  We would like to train with a guy we know named Prabha, but he has been transferred to another gym.  What a mess.  We still don’t have our new cards, which is all we really wanted.

The difference is, local Southeast Asian frustrations are at least the source of a good story.  We will always laugh at our visa issues in Jakarta.  In this case, though, a lousy American corporation has bought up a good local one and is ruining it.  That’s not funny, we can find that at home.  As Dogbert say, just wave your hand and say “Bah!”

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