I’ve read the books. I know how important it is to ‘manage your expectations’ before a new posting, and, I’ve seen the theory proven. When we went to Norway in 1996 I did not want to go one bit. I did not want to leave Oman, its sunshine, lifestyle and friendships and I certainly did not want to move to somewhere cold and where I would be anonymous again. Guess how the experience was when I got there? Yep, you are right… terrible. I was the unhappiest I have ever been anywhere.
But when we knew we might move here to KL, we actually came for a few days beforehand to see if we might like it. At the time, we were in Brunei for a few months and loving it. After the small, quiet, calm and unbuilt-up-ness of Kuala Belait, we were actually a bit discombobulated by Kuala Lumpur. We found it vast, frenetic, built-up and noisy.
And so, faced with the reality of moving here, and armed with a bit of prior knowledge, I kept my expectations balanced. I wasn’t sure to be honest. The middle-aged part of me felt comfier in Brunei. The youthful, spontaneous part of me, was up for a challenge, some fun and an adventure.
We’ve learned from experience that you never get to know a place without walking around an area. So, with the sun still high and hot (about 32degrees) at 3pm on Saturday we set off for the nearest Light Railway train station to a place we thought we might like to househunt. We chose the location just to see what happened when we walked to some of the condos and shops we had heard about.
Five miles later we knew we liked it. Away from the high rise and bustle of the city centre we found good, if pricey, shopping malls where I could buy … wait for it… joints of pork with crackling-ready fat on, wine and excellent fresh juices. We found leafy streets of houses and that, surprise surprise, we could smell flowers and hear birdsong. Better still, the higher we climbed up a hill, the more the city below with the mountains behind came into view.
When I caught sight of the very plant that had grown in our Dubai garden and that had filled it with a scent that, whenever I smell it now, reminds me of when Sam and Josh were babies – quisqualis – I was filled with joy.
There, on the roadside were jasmine and oleander, frangipani, palm trees of course. I stumbled over a fallen starfruit that had landed in my path, and there were banana trees, too, outside simple two-storey houses.
It was official. We were hot and thirsty and walking 5 miles in the heat was a bit stupid, though we did keep the shady part of the street and wear hats and sunscreen, but we liked Bangsar.
The only trouble is that, after spending a few hours on the internet, the accommodation available there does not meet all our criteria. Honestly, we thought finding a condo with a large balcony and a pool, within walking distance of the LRT and shops would be easy. There goes proof of a mismanaged expectation.
The next day, we did it all again and walked from our hotel, another five miles through the Botanical Gardens, past the galleries and the old railway station to Chinatown. Not because we wanted to live there, but just, well, because.
We’d heard about the cheap DVD shops and keen for a sit down under a nice fan allowed ourselves to succumb to the lure of a hawker. Before we knew it we’d spent a whopping £3 on the recent BBC adaptation of Great Expectations. This was a perk of the city we had not anticipated.
That evening, watching the film in our hotel room, we discovered that the box had said it lasted an hour and a half; we were tired (no surprise there after 10 miles in two days) and had been watching for two hours already with no sign of a denouement. The top quality DVD we had expected was not quite the quality our salesman had promised. The sound was so muffled we needed to put the subtitles on. Not exactly what we had expected, though a fabulous film with some of the most poetic lines I have ever heard. Note to self: read the book!
The next day, I met my friend Emma and told her about our DVD. Apparently, you can get them for £2 in Bangsar.