Long, long way from home

By Accents

IT HAS been an eventful month in many ways. Sadly, my Polish grandmother passed away and it triggered thoughts of how far away I actually am sometimes from both my Polish and English families.

Chatting on Skype or Facebook and an SMS or phone call are good ways to keep in touch with what’s happening in the family, but it certainly cannot replace being there. I have been asked many, many times, do I like Malaysia?

Well, like any place in the world there are pros and cons, one of which is the distance away from my family resulting in the lack of quality time that I have with them.

It takes a long time to get home and those few days of travelling time knock out your sleep cycle and eat into precious holiday time that can be spent with loved ones, so you arrive with the best of intentions but might not have the energy to keep going at full strength.

I am not a morbid sort of person and I’d like to think that the experience of living and working away from home, though at times very, very frustrating, has given me a better outlook and attitude in life.

However, I got around to thinking about my life in a foreign country and how often I go home to see my family and felt like it is high time for a good break.

As people often say “you never know what’s going to happen from one day to the next” and that’s very true. It is essential to “seize the day”, “grab the bull by the horns” and “climb every mountain”.

There are a whole lot more cliché and phrases I can muster up but the basic meaning is the same — don’t let time and life just pass you by as one day you’ll look back and wonder where it went and what you actually did with it.

I know I’m sounding very reflective compared to my normal ramblings, but in essence, it’s something I have been guilty of too.

There was a balance sheet in my head for the cost of going home and then a reasoning as to why I wasn’t seeing other places and taking the time to explore Asia and, particularly, Malaysia.

Do I not see my family and hedonistically go to Singapore or Thailand or even Europe? But at the same time, I was single so I had no one to accompany me and it’s not much fun going on holiday without your mates or partner.

When I was first in Malaysia, I went back to Britain for holiday twice a year for a couple of weeks each time but this was a long travelling affair and costly, though luckily at the time MAS flew to Manchester direct, which was great.

But then, travelling to KLIA takes around one hour, long haul waiting time is three hours before the flight, getting ready packing etc, maybe another hour and then getting out of the airport and getting back to sunny Blackburn on the other side is maybe one-and-a-half hours, so in total that may be approximately 20 hours to get there and the same is applicable on the return journey, so I would lose two days of my life every time I did the round trip.

Like a good son, I’d try and bring back a big smile and some gifts, make my mum proud and my siblings envious of my expat life and I’d get the family together and we’d take a trip somewhere, not too exotic but interesting nonetheless.

So I’d hire a big car and we’d hit the road for a few hours to somewhere the sun was shining and where people had different accents.

They were certainly great times and I only remember the sun and the sand, the blue sea of Cornwall and the enigmatic beauty of Tintagel, the surfers in Scotland (that’s right, surfers) and the whole family just being together.

But there is of course a price tag to all this. Flying home could come up to RM5,000, hiring a car at £50 per day (and that’s cheap) for 10 days at an average exchange rate of RM6 to the pound, is RM3,000, filling the car three or four times in the 10 days when a full tank costs between £50 and £60, around RM1,000.

Then we factor in the dining out a few times, taking a taxi of course – because we don’t drink at all in Britain if we are driving – and you soon hit RM10,000 and more.

I remember having a budget of around £2,000 (about RM12,000) for the 10 days, that’s not including the flight ticket, and after four days I was down to half of that amount. I budget at RM20,000 for two people for two weeks inclusive of flights, that’s a nice chunk of cash.

It’s not an excuse to not go home.

Actually, I have been enjoying explo­ring Kuala Lumpur and the surrounding areas on the bike or flying out to nearby countries.

These trips also cost money and take time but not as much and I had wanted some “me” time instead of just always focusing on family.

That’s the hard part of being an expatriate, to take gains and make sacrifices.

I like many things about Malaysia but I also really miss England, partly because of the infrastructure, the music and youth culture, fashion, the weather (sometimes) but for the most part, I miss just spending time having a beer in the pub with my brother and listening to my mum and sisters gossip or my grandmother’s stories about World War II and having a chance to play with my nephews who grow so fast it’s unbelievable.

I pity those foreign workers who don’t see their families for the duration of their time in Malaysia; it can’t be easy not seeing your wife and children for five years, or more in some cases.

So for those of you who don’t live or work internationally or never have, spare a thought for those of us who do. Sometimes, it’s a long way back home.

A weaver by trade and general manager by profession, Rob has been residing in Malaysia the past 10 years after moving here from England in search of adventure and professional experience. He’s a proud Hasher, a serious music lover and an absent diver.

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Opinion , Accents column , Robert Plachciak


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