Posted by: facetothewind | April 13, 2015

Full Circle


I seem to be having a mental block about blogging these days. It kind of came over me now that I’m back in Kuala Lumpur. I just found myself dragging to do my post-US roundup of photos and stories.

You see, I blog for a few reasons:

  1. It breaks my own isolation by sharing what’s going on inside with the outside world. You get to witness my life as I’m playing it out in the far corners of the planet and as a result I feel you’re nearer.
  2. It’s a way to showcase my meager talents in photography and writing with my even meager-er number of subscribers. Your kind words make me smile and I like sharing this crazy journey with an avid reader/viewer.
  3. It’s a way to resolve something for myself…after blogging, some seemingly intractable problem has now been examined and aired out like old sweaters in the attic. It freshens things up a bit for me and allows me to make some forward movement in my life.

Let’s look at #3. What’s currently on my table to resolve is huge and perhaps so large that I’ve just been avoiding picking it apart. Here’s what’s going on:

While I fell in love with the most wonderful guy in Malaysia, I have come to really dislike the place where the romance is currently being staged. I question what good is going to come of this daring adventure in love. What’s the future for us born of two different nations and cultures? He’s the Chinese son of a widowed cancer-survivor mother. He’s unlikely to ever leave his mother alone for long. And I can’t stand being a prisoner in my cushy apartment for much longer. I promised I would give Chuan a year to figure something out with his job. In that year I’ll spend a lot of time in airports avoiding being in KL. But what happens at the end of that year if he isn’t ready to leave with me? And what happens if I can’t even limp across the finish line? What if well before a year’s deadline I run screaming to a more civilized place? And what about my negativity about the homeland of my boyfriend? It can’t be very pleasant for him to witness my disenchantment. I worry my poo colored glasses will poison our relationship and then I will leave empty-handed. It’s all troubling — what I’ve gotten us both into. We are well beyond the point of no return and any action taken now is going to leave someone hurt: him (and me) or his mother. The mere thought of all this has left me sobbing in his arms a few times lately. I promised him I wouldn’t leave him alone here but if he won’t come with me when I’m ready (and I’m ready), then does my honor come at the expense of my daily happiness?

I hear myself repeating the line from the film Best Exotic Marigold Hotel: “Everything works out in the end and if it hasn’t worked out, then it isn’t the end.” A healthy amount of faith is necessary to abide by that line which, let’s face it, aren’t the prescriptive words of some great guru. They are the words of Hollywood written to make you feel good about your station in life, however limited and riddled with problems it may be. And just between you and me, I simply don’t trust that things will all work out. Tell that line right now to all the people in Yemen or Syria or South Sudan. For them it is the end and it hasn’t worked out. In the words of poet David Whyte, “I have no faith myself. I refuse it even the smallest entry.”

Add to all this my slowly dwindling financial situation: my fast-becoming-worthless Hawaii house, and the limited cachet of a 51 year old self-styled artist lacking in a big fat pension plan. It is the life of a so-called “free spirit” careening into the unglamorous reality of being financially marooned in my old age. I am a person who thrives on simplicity and right now, managing 2 aging homes from afar (homes that have not appreciated a dime in 10 years) while trying to cope with the one I’m in at the moment in KL — it feels like I am juggling so many balls that I may drop them all at once.


Airports where it seems I spend most of my life.

But the trip to the U.S. was an interesting one. It was the first time I went to my home country as a tourist — in and out in a short time, a roundtrip ticket that originated in a foreign country. America seemed, after nearly a year away, like a breath of fresh air, a big juicy bite of good food, a tingling glug of rich, amber beer. It was a month of peace and quiet, wide cycling lanes, flowering trees, and cool nights. And honestly, at the end of my trip, I was not ready to come back to Malaysia. Nothing about Malaysia feels like home. From the ever-alienating-to-an-atheist call to prayer, to the pedestrian unfriendly streets, to the searing heat and humidity, to the unhappy faces of countless unfortunate migrant workers plying the streets looking for work. From the disappointing food options, to the bad (and expensive) beer and wine. From the traffic-choked streets and motorcycle clogged sidewalks to the buzzing maze of shopping malls and oven-like parking garages I get lost in — it feels like I’m wandering endlessly through some underworld with rats scurrying at my feet. Nothing about this place feels like a yes. Nothing except easy medical care and Chuan, who offers up his undying love and embracing arms to me.

I want to run away with Chuan and fortunately we now have the option of marriage in the U.S. with a green card at the end of the process. But how will he take to America if he chooses to do that? How will he be when separated from his friends and family and land of familiarity? Will we just be turning the tables and then he’ll be sitting at my home in the desert, isolated and longing for some good fish balls and curry noodles? There is a price to be paid for our global existence. It is the fallout of families and lovers broken apart for long periods. Or forever. It is the cultural isolation we find in our new homes. It is Chinese filial piety versus American independence. It is me fumbling with chopsticks and he wondering why we eat blue cheese. It is the sting of glass ceilings — of always being the outsider, always the foreigner. It is the distance between people both measurable and immeasurable.

Does it work to one day declare yourself an expat and leave your home country knowing that you are just a click away from bailing on your ideals and running back only to concede failure? Or is life just one big journey with no beginning and no end? And if it hasn’t worked out, then maybe it isn’t the end and you can choose a new location if you’re one of the few lucky people to be able to do that. I am one of those blessed (and admittedly cursed) people with the means and passport to roam freely about the planet. Recreation for me is going on KAYAK and searching for flights to this place and that place, plotting my exit. I want to punch in my destination as “home” and see where that gets me.

Touch down KL.

Touch down Hong Kong on the way to KL.

Anyway, this Pandora’s box of self-inflicted issues to resolve is why I’ve not blogged since I landed back in Malaysia. It seems I’m in need of a direction, a game plan, and some courage to fight for it. Or to simply surrender. I just don’t know which to do. I’ve been paralyzed to unpack my feelings about what’s going on, to take an honest look at what’s going to unravel and get ugly if I don’t do something drastic…

Like chill.
Like be grateful for the love I have.
Like remembering why I came here in the first place.

In the clearing stands a boxer
And a fighter by his trade
And he carries the remainders
Of every glove that laid him down
And cut him till he cried out
In his anger and his shame
“I am leaving, I am leaving”
But the fighter still remains

— Paul Simon The Boxer

So watch the movie of my trip to America and the return to Malaysia at the end…


Click on photos to enlarge or hover over them to see captions…


FORT MYERS, FLORIDA (to see the family)



  1. Bring. Chuan’s. Mama. With you. to America.

  2. I agree with Gillian… bring em home, welcome home! Loved seeing your nephews and their obvious affection for you, and your affection for LIFE! I so appreciate your candid and real reflections, David!

  3. David, have you considered living in a land that isn’t quite so alien? Europe? Latin America? I know several expats who are gloriously happy in those places, which are obviously much more similar to the US than KL is.

    I realize this doesn’t solve the problem of Chuan — that’s a whole ‘nother subject — but it sounds like you dislike KL so much, there’s no point in spending what remains of your life there. I also don’t know how affordable it is for you to up and move again.

    Can you sell your houses? Would that help?


  4. David, This may be your best writing ever, also great photography. I am so moved by everything you wrote here but too many comments to write now. Just one comment: Reminder that you do not have to make any decision today–other than what to eat for dinner–just enjoy the day. I look forward to talking soon. xxxooo Dianna

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