THERE’S something appealing about Jo Anna E. Jurczyga. With her warm smile and vivacious personality, she stops people in their tracks.
Sunshine was streaming through large glass panels into the cafe in Bangsar as she walked in, causing others to take a second look.
With her winning and contagious smile, Jurczyga could easily cheer up someone who is feeling the blues.
“Kuala Lumpur is beautiful. It’s summer all the time unlike in Silesia, an industrial region in south Poland.
“I love the climate here simply because Silesia is cold. I am just enjoying it here,” she said.
Jurczyga said her adventure in South-East Asia began “when I was a child”.
“As an expatriate’s child, I moved with the family to Pune in India because my father was a consultant with a company.
“On my own, I have worked in Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia. But of all the countries, I must say Malaysia is my favourite,” she declared.
As to why Malaysia is her favourite, she explained: “Simply because Kuala Lumpur has a three million population. When compared to South-East Asia, this country is like a village. What is three million to Bangkok or Jakarta, where the population is 12 to 15 million?
“Kuala Lumpur is multi-ethnic and not overpopulated. So, it’s a great, great place to be,” she said.
Jurczyga, who studied Management at the University of Pune in India, had a fascinating experience on her first visit to Kuala Lumpur.
“I took a taxi to a shopping centre and for sightseeing. When it came time to go home, I told the second taxi driver my address and he did not know the place. So, I guided him.
“On arriving at the destination, he asked me how long I had been in Malaysia. I told him just eight hours. He was shocked and did not charge me a sen,” she said.
She joked: “If taxi drivers give free rides like this, I will continue to live here.”
Adventurous in nature, she is a volunteer guide with the National Museum, taking people around and explaining to them about the exhibits and stories behind the items.
She also plays guide for new expatriates in Kuala Lumpur by conducting familiarisation tours.
“I am a committee member on the Malaysian Australian New Zealand Association (Manza) that serves as a social network for Australians and New Zealanders living and working in Malaysia.
She added that it was important to take foreign newcomers around Kuala Lumpur and show them what locals take for granted.
“Expatriates must know where the hospitals are in case of emergencies. Explain to them the do’s and don’ts, customs and protocols in a multiracial nation.
“I tell them about the cultures and festive celebrations,” she added.
Jurczyga, who is single, said her understanding of the Malay language was limited to asking for directions and ordering food.
“In Malaysia, I am spoilt. As soon as a Malaysian sees a Caucasian, the conversation is in English. So I don’t have the opportunity to use Bahasa Malaysia,” she pointed out.
As everyone knows well, Malaysia is a paradise for food and Jurczyga quickly discovers her favourite — roti canai, but she also loves chapati, naan and curries.
“I could eat roti canai for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It’s heavenly with dhall,” she said.
She goes to Kampung Baru for roti canai, and she loves to wander through the village that has old wooden houses in the heart of the cosmopolitan capital.
I love Kampung Baru as it is a hidden treasure with beautiful architecture. But too bad the lovely wooden houses are disappearing to the pressures of modernity. Now, the oldest house is 90 years old,” she said.
She added that Kampung Baru was an incredible village that was still clinging to its roots and Malay traditions.
When not visiting Kampung Baru to indulge in her favourite roti, Jurczyga likes to take a drive to other states and is especially fond of Malacca because it reminds her of her hometown Silesia.
The lady also has a soft spot for animals, and has rescued four stray cats.
“I named them Kiwi, Blueberry, Mango and Cherry. These are my tutti-frutti cats that keep me company.”