Who Am I?

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
When I started this blog, I was living in Houston. Now my family and I live in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. My blog is to serve many purposes. One to tell everyone what is going on with us in the way only I can tell. Another is for me to vent out my feelings. In other words, this is just my humble view of my world.

October 05, 2010

House Hunting...the Finale!

As stated in the first episode of our house hunting experience, we had looked at 3 different places and narrowed it down to two, Serene Kiara and Duta Tropika. We decided on the place at Serene Kiara and put in the offer letter. After two weeks of back and forth negotiations, we finally had to start looking again since it seemed we were at an impasse with the owners. David and I are very hard-headed people, which is both a blessing and a curse. We really wanted to stick with Serene since it had the biggest space and the new homes with a view. We told our agent to find us a new place out there and went that day to look again. Thankfully we found another place there that did not have the view we wanted but the layout seem to fit us equally as well, so again, another offer letter. We were told this owner was much more accommodating and would have no problems with the requests. The only thing we really had issues with was the timing. This place would not be ready until November 8th. After checking to see that our temporary housing could be continued through that date, we proceeded with the process. After two days of no word, we called our agent again to find out the status. This is when things really began to fall apart. The owner had left the country and would not sign the offer or begin construction until she returned at the end of October (further pushing back the move in date). Up to this point, we had been told it was just a matter of formality and the owner had already agreed to everything. Apparently, this was not true and our second attempt to rent a place to live here in KL fell through. This all happened at the end of our 4th week, meaning I am stir crazy and itching for a fight. They don’t call me a crazy American woman for nothing! We called our agent back again and told her to find something for us to look at back in Duta Tropika again. There had been a unit available when we first began our searches, #77, and we asked if that one was still available. She took us to see them right away and we found that it was still available. Now when I say she took us to see them, I mean this…she took us to see #77 which we asked about and then another unit we had seen in the beginning that we said absolutely no! too. By this point, I am so frustrated with our agent and sick of feeling like we are being jerked around by this woman who seems to be lazy and also seems to lie if it makes her look good. We decided since there was nothing else in Tropika that was available at our price (so said our agent), we would put in our 3rd offer letter. Third time’s a charm, right?? WRONG! I had a bad feeling about this and finally decided to do something. I went back to the website they had given us to look at before we came over and I look at Tropika specifically. I found at least half dozen listings for places that were within our price range. After sorting through the ones I knew we had looked at from the pictures, I found a listing that looked promising and the agent had a website. I checked out her website and sent her a message via email to inquire about the unit. She promptly responded within 15 minutes saying she had a few units there that might work with our budget. She asked some questions about what things I was looking for and asked when I wanted to view them. I had a playdate the next day in Tropika, so I asked if that would work…it did and we met. I got to see three different units than I had seen previously and one that really caught my eye. It was right across from the pool and playground, very convenient for my kids. The space inside was the biggest we had seen in this area within our price range and it had all the things we had been asking for in our offer letters. The down side?? It has no yard, meaning no place for us to put our outdoor table (the new one) to use for dinner outside and it is a link style which means they are bigger but they have even less yard than the other units. Personally, I can live with all of these issues. But David was apprehensive and this has to be a family decision. So this new agent took me to another neighborhood to look at it. I think it would have been nice if we didn’t have kids, but it was just far too sterile for me. The whole time this new agent took me around, I had already told her we had this other agent we had to use through my husband’s company and she said we didn’t have to but she understood. Later that afternoon, I emailed our agent and told her about #72 and asked if she could arrange a viewing so David could see it too…this was a Friday afternoon. She responded with one sentence…”did you see this place with another agent?” I responded honestly and said yes, told her how I found this other agent and gave her the details. I never heard back from her about the place, she did, however, text David later that evening. She told him #72 had an offer on it for an amount above our price and then told us the owners from the other place had accepted our offer and asked what we wanted to do. I decided I would contact the new agent and ask her about this offer, she double checked and said no offer was on it and told us we could see it the next morning if we wanted. David asked our agent again if she was sure this other place was taken and then asked to see a copy of our offer letter. She told him yes on both accounts and said she would email him the letter…we still have never seen that letter. After seeing it on Saturday, he decided that we could go with it and the new agent went about contacting the owner for us to see if we could have the place at our price. She was great! She called or text me every couple hours to let me know what was happening…the owner was not answering the phone due to being on an airplane. At 8pm, she called me to tell me it was a deal! Since our other agent had completely flaked on us, we decided to see if the company would let us just use this new agent alone and not go through the other one. David sent an email to those in charge, meanwhile, the new agent sent us a copy of the offer letter for us to review before having the owner sign it. By Monday morning, the owner had signed it and the new agent (Lisee) was working with David’s company to finalize all the paperwork.  It took 4 offer letters and nearly 5 weeks, but we have a place to live!We get to take possession October 15th and our container is being delivered October 16th. This place is one of the best places we looked at and has the neighborhood we had wanted in the very beginning. God has blessed us yet again with a place we didn’t even know we could have or would want. Many prayers went into finding this place. I am not a patient person (shocker!) and God really taught me a lesson with this hunting experience. But He also helped me to understand that not having everything exactly the way I want it or envision it is ok. He allowed me to take some control of the situation but taught me to do so in a more tactful way than I would have in the past. I did it honestly and upfront. We told our original agent all about the place we liked, that we viewed it with another agent and told her how to contact that agent to help us make the deal. I could have been vindictive, which if I am honest, I really wanted to and would have in the past. But God helped me change, even if it is just a little and even though I have to ask His help every step of the way. Hey, I am by no means perfect but I have a God who is! He continues to bless this family of mine everyday!

September 27, 2010

A New Perspective

After 3 weeks with us, Tony went back home.  We have missed him but are so grateful that he came to help.  While he was here, he gave daily updates to the fam back in Australia.  I always like hearing his point of view on things, so here is some of those views.  With his permission, I am publishing emails to the family.  Remember, he is an Aussie and they spell things differently as well as talk weird! LOL Love you Tony!

Hello all

Still busy here in KL. The kids are getting a bit apartment crazy now; we try to get out at least twice a day. In the morning after breakfast, Vikki, kids and I usually head for the big children’s park below us right in the city centre (KLCC). It is usually very hot and humid and so an hour in the park has us feeling like getting inside and we head for the Petronus Towers shopping area. We have visited the wonderful aquarium under the shopping area and know most of the place inside out now.

Tuesday was my big test with Zoe and Nic all day. Davo and Vikki left at 0630, but the kids didn’t wake till about 0800 – great start. We had breakfast in our room (we have a small kitchen and had cereals and toast). Then we headed for the park and played on the great array of equipment for an hour or so. After that we headed into the Petronus mall and found some chicken nuggets and fries for lunch. We ate out in the park under a shelter which was quite pleasant. It is always warm here and of course humid but it is pleasant if one is not under strong exertion; I would not like to be building Bob & Gail’s house in these conditions – Kiwi would melt away to nothing!! After we returned to the apartment, the kids slept for about 1.5 hours – this is always a good time of the day when one can read the newspaper and a book. Some TV children’s movie time was followed by our almost daily visit to the swimming pool (provided there is not rain and lightning). We spent an hour or so there and returned for bath and shower. We watched the rest of a movie and spent time until it was tea time for the kids. Davo & Vikki arrived home about 1830; both passed all the training and will get Malaysian licences, and David will get his company car in the next couple of weeks.

After breakfast on Wednesday morning Vikki had to go to Halliburton for a security briefing; about 2 hours. After lunch and kids sleep we spent a little time in the giant book show in the exhibition centre (alongside the park and connected to the Petronus centre). I bought a copy of Anna Karenina ($12)and a book light ($4) and we bought some children’s books; prices quite low. Then David joined us and we had dinner in a Vietnamese restaurant in the Petronus centre; excellent food and we will go there again.

On every other day or so we seem to get great lightening, thunder and rain storms, usually in the afternoon. It is near end of dry season and so kids have some wetter times still to look forward to. Being on the 29th floor it is quite spectacular when the clouds come right alongside and the thunder and lightning are simultaneous.

Today, Thursday, the real estate agent retained by Halliburton to help find accommodation called to get near finalising the contract for the rental house. David and Vikki have requested a few more things be installed like more curtains, and they have offered to share the cost of a dishwasher with the carrot that it will be left at the end of the rental period. The owner had agreed to put in a water filter (whole house job which seems needed for westerners at least) in exchange for not putting in a dishwasher, hence the try for a bit more bargaining. They should have it all tied up early next week; a Muslim lady owns the place and so nothing will be done over the Raya weekend.

The air freight arrived this afternoon; three boxes; and so now the kids have plenty of their favourite toys and much more to occupy them in the confines of the apartment. We retained one of the big boxes as a cubby house that is getting plenty of use already. This evening we walked back yet again to the Petronus Galeri and went to a Thai restaurant for a very nice dinner. Now we are back and the children are getting ready for bed. Tomorrow, also a holiday, we may go to visit friends and see the proposed house from the outside, and Davo and I may get a game of golf in over the next three days with colleagues.

The end of Ramadan approaches and Malaysia has 3-4 days holiday. Many people go home for ‘Raya’ and the roads have been chaos. The front page of the newspaper today showed motorcycle gridlock where a whole section of highway looked like an MCG crowd had all got on motorbikes and just ground to a stop- you could only see people shoulder to shoulder with the motorbikes submerged beneath; another photo showed a train filled to bursting, but then you could not see the roof as that too was covered with people. It is quite nice in KL as so many have left for the country.

Yesterday morning (Saturday) we all rose in good time, had breakfast and walked down the street and boarded the hop-on-hop-off bus for a round tour of the city. It was interesting and we saw a number of the main attractions that we had thought of visiting later. It is hard to fit things in between when Nic needs a sleep and kids eating (Nic can go ballistic when he is hungry and tired). Zoe has been having a mid-day sleep too but then stays up late, or at least stays awake in bed till late and so Vikki decided to dispense with Zoe’s day sleep, starting yesterday. It worked well and she went to bed earlier, slept straight away and didn’t wake till after 0800. So with a new routine we only have to fit Nic’s sleep time and Zoe’s quiet time. If we tire Nic early he will sleep early and give us a longer afternoon to do outside visits. We will go swimming earlier in the morning and then get Nic to bed, have lunch and go out. We want to visit a couple of shopping malls we haven’t been to yet, and also a wonderful Bird Park.

Yesterday, after the first round on the Hop on & off bus (stayed on for one loop, about 2 hours), David and I went back to the Chinese District to see whether other visits might be appropriate. It is busy, smelly, and dirty. Masses of small retailers along the roads trying to sell stuff; lots of dodgy watches, t-shirts and other clothing, food, eye wear, etc. Not a place I want to visit again or buy anything – too risky although can be cheap with bargaining. However, there did seem to be some opportunities for copy label children’s clothes and Vikki might take a look without the kids in tow. We also visited the Central railway station where I might depart from as it is fairly easy to get to, there is Malaysia Airlines luggage check in, and a fast train to the airport (28 mins vs 1 hour by cab). We took a train from there back to our station which was fast, cheap and good and so I can get there in reverse on leaving. However, taxis are cheap and that is also a possibility straight from the apartment on Saturday evening.

MONDAY 13 SEP 2010

Sunday was quite busy again. After breakfast and a swim we got Nic to have an early sleep and by 1200 we had caught a Taxi (Tekse) to Plaza Damas to meet James and two children for lunch. Rachel was at home with Archie who she had had to the doctor with a fever. After lunch we went back to James & Rachel’s house, nearby, and by now Archie was feeling better. We had a pleasant afternoon including swimming, kids playing and adults socialising. Rachel had had a hectic week with all three children to the doctor at various times. (flash forward to Monday morning and when we meet Rachel we find that she had again been to the doctor to find that two children have ear infections and so more antibiotics). On Sunday evening after returning to the apartment we had a light dinner downstairs in the restaurant where we have breakfast every day – there is an up market restaurant on the top (39th) floor that we haven’t visited for dinner yet as it had all sorts of special arrangements for Ramadan.

It has rained probably all night, but is fining up first thing. David has gone to work early (still only a 4 day week as 16th is yet another holiday (17 public holidays a year and they call Australia the land of the long weekend???) – David won’t work a full 5 day week until after I leave. Vikki, kids and I had breakfast and then caught a Tekse to Plaza Damas where MANZA (Malaysia, Australia, NZ Association) was having a Mums (and puppas) and kids play group at a Toys-R-Us playground. They do this each Monday at various places, on about a six week rotation, so it is good for Vikki to make contacts and for the kids to mix. It was enjoyed by all; Vikki and I took turns on duty and I had a walk around the plaza and then Vikki had coffee with Rachel who had come over without her sick kids (maid looking after) to introduce Vikki around.

Following the play group we did some shopping when Vikki was able to find a cooling pad/dock for her computer which tends to overheat, and also a wireless router which David will be able to set up here this evening and later use in their home. I also bought a small car garage for Nic from Toys-R-Us as he had so enjoyed the one at home (Goolwa) and one at Rachel’s place; I also bought a Buzz Lightyear for Zoe and so was able to redress a little of the toy giving for birthdays that has been much more difficult for our remote grandchildren. After lunch we caught another Tekis home and Nic went down for a well earned sleep.

The Tekse taking this morning proved to be a cost effectiveness test run. We know that Blue tekses are better but considerably more expensive than the red tekses. We got a blue from the hotel and it cost us RM35 to the plaza and a red one back cost us RM13. There is another hazard that many red tekses in particular try to ask for a fixed price and not switch on their meters; many say their meters are not working. We had been alerted to this and insist on the meter being used and if they refuse, or are particularly reticent or grumpy we just tell them we will get another tekse; this happened at the plaza and we despatched one red and got the next one who had no hesitation to use his meter and help us with the pusher – hence he got a tip of RM2 for being honest and helpful. The expats already here had told us to insist on meters, that reds are OK if they comply and of course about half the price of the up market blues. However, even the blues are much cheaper than in OZ or the US, or indeed most of the rest of the world. Most Tekses have a sign on the side saying that haggling is prohibited, but some still try anyway. For those in OZ who said we should haggle and think they get the price down are wanking and it is always best to get the meter used. There is our lesson for today and at least we know the deal next time we visit.


After breakfast Vikki, kids and I were picked up by Manjeet, the real estate agent retained by Halliburton, and driven out to where the house is that D & V have been negotiating over. At the moment they are in a stalemate with the owners who want them to pay RM500 per month over their allowance and will not pay even half of a dishwasher. We had a look at that place again this morning as there were workers there installing lights and air conditioning. It is certainly a big place on three levels. However, while we were there we came across a colleague of Manjeets who showed us another option (only from the outside as the estate office is still on holidays). This house looks like almost the same design as the other, but not quite the views, however the owners sound much more agreeable and will install water filters and dishwasher and other good internal furnishings like curtains all within David’s allowance. They will look at this place tomorrow morning and if OK will sign up for it.

In the meantime, Vikki has found that Zoe may be able to get straight into Kindergarten at the British International School nearby and so she is proceeding with that. The application is made and interviews will follow. This is a good option as Halliburton will pay the fees for this whereas they have to pay themselves for pre-school or day-care outside the formal school environment covering kindy to year 12.

Hope you all enjoy his view as much as I do!