Lost In Malaysia

Lost In Malaysia

This week I arrived in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to speak to a group of entrepreneurship students from INTI University and ELAI University.

I stayed with some friends from Ghana, who work in the oil industry, and because they work with people halfway around the world, they never sleep, but then neither does the city of Kuala Lumpur. I went shopping at 11pm one evening and stumbled into the movie theatre on the 7th floor. I saw that “Taken 2” was playing in 10 minutes and because I was jet lagged and I took a liking to the first “Taken,” I decided to watch it.

The movie ended at around 2am and I was quick to look for the exits in the mall. I started to make my way towards a gate but it was blocked off. The entire mall was closed, locked shut. A few people followed me because they thought I knew where I was going and we randomly found some night workers. They were painting a section of the wall that had been chipped. One of them led us down a very small corridor with lots of turns, and finally it lead outside where it was raining.

I brought out my phone because I saved the address of where I was staying in my “notes” and the flashing battery sign lit up. It was dead. I looked up to see if I could find someone that would light up like an angel and just tell me they knew me and they could get me back home, but I didn’t see that. I saw people with lots of make-up, large fangs and pale faces. The buildings had spider webs attached to them and the fountains were filled with a red substance. Where the heck was I?

There’s something about being in another country where you lose track of dates and time. I had forgotten that it was Halloween night. What added to the eeriness was the fact that I had just watched a movie about abduction. I walked quickly but calmly and bumped into a security guard who spoke broken English and tried to explain to him where I was trying to get to. He looked at me like I was an alien. “Do you know where Wakatama is?" (Wakatama is the name of the person that planned my wedding 2 years ago. What I was trying to say was “One Utama.") I was not getting through, and I kept searching my pockets for something, anything that would help me.

I don’t know why we do that. Even though you’ve searched every inch of your pocket you still keep searching. This security guard asked me where I was from and what I doing here, but got more confused when he found out that I was a white African, with a British accent, an American passport, and staying with Ghanaians in Kuala Lumpur, he stopped talking to me. In an instant my world became smaller and more ridiculous.

One more search through my pocket and I found a folded coffee shop business card that was within walking distance to where I was staying. The night before I had gone to a local coffee shop called “Artisan.” Once again my love of coffee had set me free. I held it with such triumph and smiled largely at the security guard while handing it to him. He still looked at me strange but moved on to help me flag down a cab.

Tip: When you travel, keep the address of your residence on something that won’t die.

Malaysians are great people. I had dinner at the “le Meridian” where you’ll get every type of indigenous cuisine including snake fruit (buah salak), which is a local Malaysian fruit. 

A quick update, this past week I helped manage a few concerts where we had in excess of 1,000 people show up for a band that wasn’t too well known in the city yet. NILAI University asked me to speak to a group of their entrepreneurial students—a few people also joined from INTI University nearby. These bright minds consisted of people from Ghana, Zambia, Nigeria, South Africa, Zimbabwe and a few from Malaysia, China and Indonesia. There was debate on how Malaysians could work more with Africans. The students really started to look at boundaries of stigma that have blocked market interaction. I think you’ll see the students from NILAI do great things.

A Few Quick Lessons & Thoughts from Malaysia:

  • Don’t get into a cab that doesn’t have a meter. They WILL charge you double.
  • Drinks are expensive. A plain filter coffee goes for 10 Ringgit (over $3 USD).
  • However, food is relatively cheap.
  • Always carry your address on something that won't die.
  • The reason I'm here, Southeast Asians are interested in doing more business with Africa.

Cheers for now, and more updates on my travels as I make my way back to Zimbabwe early next week.

Tommy.

(Feature Photo: Trey Ratcliff)