Monkeys, Policemen, and Immigration Officers (Part 4)

I had to file a police report a week after. I needed one so that I could apply for new travel documents at the Philippine Embassy. Of course, I didn't tell them that the monkeys took my passport. Actually, I just let my Bahasa-Melayu-speaking friends do all the talking.

It was funny. One of them had been staying in Malaysia for almost ten years. The other had been here for almost seven. They had never set their feet inside a police station in all the years they had lived here. And there I was. Barely a month in, dragging them in.

The police station incident was just part of the first act. The second act came in a few months after. My new passport took too long to process, leaving me with an "overstaying" status by the time that I was able to apply for a student pass. That was my first trip to the Immigration Department in Putrajaya. The second trip involved an entirely different storyline. I'll probably tell you that one next time.

Now when friends have problems with their passports and visas, I have the guts to tell them not to sweat it out. I've been through some awesome things. I've seen how God, favor, and - okay - good looks can help turn tables around.

I don't miss policemen and immigration officers though. I sure hope I won't run into them in the near or not so near future.


Monkeys, Policemen, and Immigration Officers (Part 3)

I went to Publika again following my trusty tablet-slash-GPS. It led me through Jalan Duta, a road that passes by Malaysia's big Immigration Office, the one that looks like a huge Middle Eastern castle.

I've had two run ins with the immigration department in Malaysia. I once visited their office while it was still in Putrajaya. I visited it a second time when it was relocated to Kuala Lumpur several years later, you know, because stuff like that happened to me all the time.

I blamed the monkeys in my old school for the first run in. The literal moneys, not the figurative ones. It was my first day inside the campus. I was super excited because, after days of Sungai Buloh quarantine and after days of being under house arrest in Kajang, I was finally able to explore the university on my own.

I had a map with me. I wanted to look for my classrooms before classes started officially. I didn't want to wear a dazed and disoriented look on my first day of school.

I held everything inside a yellow clear book: my map; my class schedule; my offer letter. And my passport.

I would frequently flip through the clear book when I went around the university. I leafed through it to the page where the map was to make sure that I was still on the right track

I had almost made it back to my kolej when I started to feel that something was wrong. Too much nasi lemak? It wasn't that. I began browsing through the yellow clear book. My passport was no longer there.

I tried retracing my steps. But it was to no avail. I couldn't find my passport anywhere. I sent my surrogate family an SMS: "Please don't panic. But I think I may have lost my passport."

I had to give them some credit. They didn't panic (or at least I don't think they did). Two of them even helped me put up lost and found signs around the university. But it was no use.

The monkeys probably took it.

Give me my passport back.

(to be continued) 

Monkeys, Policemen, and Immigration Officers (Part 2)

Some monkeys weren't as stubborn or as fierce. Some of them were just plain naughty, or "jahat" as the Malaysians say here. One afternoon, I was typing stuff out for my thesis. I had some wheat bread at arm's length and a jar of jam. Bread and jam kept me alive throughout most of my postgraduate days.

Suddenly, this tiny creature peeped into my window. I stared at it, unsure of what I should do (my previous monkey run-in was still fresh in my mind). The monkey stared back at me. Suddenly, with one swift movement, he reached out for my bread. And - just like that - he took my break-lunch-er.

There was nothing that I could do. I only found myself screaming out, "Monkey!" I grabbed the jar of jam and brought it close to my chest for safety.

In all fairness to the monkeys at my Kolej, they were somewhat neat and tidy. My friends from other Kolejes said they went inside unattended rooms, opened cookie jars, threw trails of powdered milk and sugar around, and played with liquid soap and shampoo. The monkeys at my Kolej did no such things. At least I didn't think so.

One hot summer day, I left my window open so that the breeze would come in. The worst thing that happened was that I woke up a jar of peanut butter short. I tried looking for it behind my books, underneath my papers. But I couldn't find it. I was sure of it. A monkey pilfered the loot in my sleep.

I miss those monkeys. There aren't any of them around my new neighborhood. Tough luck seeing them around my workplace, too. Those two areas are too developed, too civilized, too modernized. The day I see them outside my window once again would be the day pigs and monkeys fly.

Does the monkey want a cracker?

(to be continued)

Monkeys, Policemen, and Immigration Officers (Part 1)

We were talking about monkeys the other day. Lunchtime conversations at the office are always unpredictable. Somehow, the topic turned from our varying secondary school education systems, to Malaysian All-Girls Schools, to flashers, then finally to the monkeys that frequented my officemate's classrooms.

I've had several face-to-face encounters with monkeys, too. Make that a lot. My university dormitory (they call it "kolej" here) was up a hill surrounded by trees and - consequently - monkeys.

They only came out at certain times - afternoons, near dusk, close to what I believed would be dinner for them. I watched them cross the street one. An entire clan with fathers, mothers, babies hanging upside down from their mummy's bellies, and young adolescent monkeys made up the unusual procession. They gave me quite a shock. I didn't know there were that many of them around.

One other time, this relatively medium-sized fellow kept me from going up my room. He bared his teeth and snarled at me and I made a U-turn while letting out a tiny scream. Another monkey blocked the other entrance to my block. I stood paralyzed with fear. Should I wait for the monkey invasion to die out?

But I had such a long day and I wanted to retreat into the comfort of my room. I did what any tired girl would do.

I bared my teeth and growled at the naughty creature.

Nothing happened.

I stomped my feet.

The monkey remained immovable.

I danced like a wild animal. Eventually, the creature flashed its sharp incisors before he said goodbye.

Bye, Monkey. Bye.

(to be continued)

I Survived AH1N1 (Part 6)

I was discharged from the hospital almost a week later. I was worried I wouldn't make it in time for my university registration. I was worried my meals, my stay, and my surprise accommodation were going to cost me.

It turned out that I didn't have to worry much. Registration was still ongoing. And my whole hospitalization was free.

I only had to worry about coming out of the hospital looking weird and funny.

They gave me a duck-billed face mask. When I put it on, I really did look like I could go quack. And then they asked me to wipe all my belongings with a disinfectant. And then I had to put them all inside these big yellow bags labeled as "hazardous waste." I had to wash myself with a weird red chemical. They took every precaution to get all traces of the virus out.

Then again, I was free to go. I was led through a maze of hospital corridors, and was brought to my surrogate family who were there at last to finally fetch me.

I grinned at them sheepishly through my duck-billed mask.

We didn't know there would be more adventures up ahead.

* * *

I'm sure there was something - some lessons to be learned from that whole experience. Don't get too stressed out before taking a life-altering flight? Make sure to get lots of Zzzs and Vitamin Cs? Be grateful for everyone looking out for you, who'll wait in the hospital during the wee hours in the morning only to find out they can't see you because they'll risk getting the disease, too? Be grateful for the people at home whose concern and understanding are indeed heartwarming? Be thankful Malaysia has awesome quarantine facilities, because, gosh, what would have happened to me and my entire surrogate family if we all just shared a big group hug and then we all got AH1N1 and then we wouldn't know we'd all be carriers of the disease?

Yeah... Those were some lessons well learned. So, here's a t-shirt for everyone who survived AH1N1, too.


I Survived AH1N1 (Part 5)

There were four beds in my new room. Two were unoccupied. Well, since I was to occupy one of them, that meant there was one more room for one more unfortunate soul.

My two other roomies - a mother and a daughter - looked Chinese. They mostly kept to themselves. I kept to myself, too.

I had only my hand carry luggage with me. The airport people didn't find my luggage anywhere in the LCCT's luggage conveyor belt. Ate Grace probably already took it. Thus, all I had with me were my money, my laptop, some papers, a notebook, a pen, some stationery and... that was all. 

I had Ate Mian's number though. It was a good thing I remembered to jot it down. 

I wrote her a note, using a page from the stationery. I asked for an adapter for the power outlet, a malaysian sim, some credit for the sim, and a change of clothes. "Pambahay", I wrote. I called one of the nurses and asked if she could call the number and read the contents f the note to the receiver. She took the note, put it in a ziplock bag, sprayed some stuff to disinfect it, and then granted my request.

Some time later - I honestly had a very warped sense of time - there arrived a package inside a bigger ziplock bag. The bag contained everything I requested. Plus a book and a long note from Ate Mian. Something to "keep me occupied", she wrote.

I don't have a copy of that note anymore. Sadly, it got lost during one of my many moves. But I remember her telling me how my arrival had affected them all - in a good way, though.

She and a couple of friends from my church and university were supposed to be my surrogate family in Malaysia. I forgot  her exact words but she said something along the lines of how the incident really taught them other facets of how it was to be a real family.

We would go through many more ups, downs, funny, sad, and crazy fiascos in Malaysia for the rest of the time that we were all here together. But I'm glad I went through that rollercoaster of a ride with them. I'm glad I had them as a family here in Malaysia.

Just passing the time away...

(to be continued)

I Survived AH1N1 (Part 4)

They gave me a couple of minutes, or maybe hours, to prepare my stuff before they transferred me to another room, one filled with other AH1N1 patients. I received a phone call during that interlude. It was my mom and dad.

"Anak! How are you? Are you in the dorm already? Mian gave us this number when we asked how we could contact you. How are you settling in?"

Oh gosh. How was I supposed to break the news to them?

"Uhhh... Hello, Mom - Dad. I have good news and not so good news. The good news is that I am safe and sound here in Malaysia and that I have pretty good accommodations. The bad news is... I'm actually in the hospital. They tested me and found out I'm AH1N1 positive. I have to stay here for a couple of days..."

"Wow... that's... is that so? Okay, you take care, daughter, and let us know hen they let you out."

"Alright, I will. I love you!"

I'm glad my parents were (and and still are) kind and understanding. I'm glad they didn't throw a fit when they found out that I was quarantined in some unknown hospital. I had made a promise to myself that I wouldn't make them worry about me but, oh well, things happen. I just chose to be grateful for them right then and there.

Well, with all that said, I had to hand it to Ate Mian or whoever it was who managed to get a hold of the hospital's phone number.

The morning before moving. See, you can see the telephone.

(to be continued)

I Survived AH1N1 (Part 3)

I don't know, exactly, how long the ride to the hospital took. One hour? Two? Probably not three. I remember staring into the night, into the brightly lit highways. We had probably already passed the Kuala Lumpur city proper. How far was this place from Kajang? The mountains lining the highway looked odd. They looked like lime stones, like the ones you see in prehistoric cave walls.

We eventually arrived in what I found out later to be Sungai Buloh. I think I just looked for a sign so that I would know where I was.

I don't recall going through a formal hospital registration. I stepped out of the van, and then I eventually stepped into a room with a hospital bed, an end table with a telephone, and an enclosed lavatory in the corner.

"Make yourself at home. Someone will come to take some swab tests later."

I remember asking God if I was dying. AH1N1 was highly publicized then. I never cared enough to do research, though. I had no idea if it was a life-threatening disease or if it was just a much-ado'd-about flu.

"There's a reason for all of these. There's a reason for all of these. I'm not going to die. I'll get home to Kajang soon. Tomorrow they will release me. Tomorrow I'll be out of this place and this will all be just a memory."

I sunk into restless slumber. A nurse came in the middle of the night to take some tissues from my mouth. A few hours later, the doctor came in with the results.

"Miss Mari I'm afraid we will have to keep you here for a couple of days. You are AH1N1 positive."

Of course I remembered to take a selfie.

(to be continued)