Tuesday, October 15, 2013


Over the last few years I have learned more about appreciation and things I have taken for granted.

Hot water & showers- I grew up taking showers with hot water and for me it was just a given. When I moved to Malaysia I rented a room with bathroom in a boarding house and it did not come with hot water. I took cold showers for the first few months and it was so hard. Even though later in the day supposedly the sun would warm the water, since most people’s water tanks were on top of the house, the water was never warm. Plus, for many years now I have taken a shower in the morning, to help wake myself up and so that I am clean for the day. Taking a freezing cold shower each morning was hard. I was eventually able to convince my landlord to let me buy and install a hot water heater at least for the shower. Even though I am currently back in the US, I am still super grateful every morning for a hot shower. Besides hot water, I am grateful that I can take a shower. There were a couple times in Malaysia and once in Indonesia where I did not have water at all. In Malaysia I kept a plastic garbage can full of water (I bought it just for that purpose) so that I could at least take a scoop bath for the day. The one time in Indonesia I was able to go to the club where I worked out and used their locker room there.  When I went on the school’s week camping trip I was able to take a shower every day. It was cold water, but for a week it was doable because I was at least able to clean myself from all of our daily activities.  I thought that once I returned to the US that I would never be in a situation where I could not take a shower, but not longer after I moved into my current apartment I was. There were some issues with my shower and in the attempt to fix the shower the maintenance man did not read the directions. So, I was left without the ability to take a shower. The good news is that I was able to wash myself in the sink, but it just doesn’t quite do the job of a shower and since I was starting a new job, it wasn’t exactly how I imagined showing up to work. No one seemed to be the wiser though. Obviously I have never had to go weeks or months without a shower, but I know from just these few times how grateful I am that I can shower and be clean every day. I know that many people can’t and I am sure there are people out there that would gladly take a shower, even a cold one, so that they can be clean.

My own vehicle- Not long before I was supposed to get my learner’s permit I saw a horrific accident and thought I would never drive, but my parents made me learn anyway. After I turned 16 and had a license I was responsible for getting myself to my activities. I was very much used to that freedom when I moved to Malaysia and no longer had a vehicle at my disposal. My first year there I rode the school bus to school with the students because I lived in what was considered a small town in Asia (but a large city by US standards) and cabs were rare and difficult to get ahold of. Where once I had ridden a bus and thought it was normal, it was hard to go back to riding a bus and being on the bus driver’s schedule. Many times the bus driver was late and I had to wait and wait. Sometimes the bus driver didn’t show up at all and then I had to walk to school and I would be left arriving at school dripping sweat., not exactly how I wanted to start my day. If I wanted to do anything socially I had to rely on someone else to pick me up and then take me back. There was a small group of expats and only one other woman worked. So, if there was any social event the other ladies would not feel obligated to go home at a decent time since they didn’t have to get up the next morning for work. The second year I was able to find a lady and hired her to take me to and from work. That worked a little better. Still didn’t help much with things socially. Sometimes I would call for a cab and there would be all sorts of excuses like that isn’t too far, just walk (but it was too far to walk) or it is raining, so just walk. In Indonesia I had a vehicle again and I was very grateful not to have to rely on others to get me to or from work. Also, my social life was much more active and I could run errands whenever was convenient for me. There were also tons of cabs everywhere, so if there was a place that I couldn’t drive to myself it was very easy to get a cab. I was always willing to give rides to others who didn’t have a vehicle because I knew how it was to not have a vehicle. Towards the end of my time there my vehicle was in the shop for a week and I had to rely on a cab company. It wasn’t one I had used before and there were good most morning, but in the afternoons they would never come to pick me up. The last morning of that week they told me they had no cabs and that they weren’t going to have any available anytime soon. The good news is that I was able to get another cab, so that I could get to work. Back in the US, I have a vehicle again and I am so glad to have one. I am grateful for the freedom it brings me to run errands when I need to and get to work on time and leave work when I am done and not when someone else is ready to leave.

A home- Back when I was 28, my dad built me a custom built house. It was something that I had hoped that he would do for me someday, but I had no idea that it would work out so soon in my life. I enjoyed my home very much and thought I would live there for a very long time, but my life path changed and I went off to pursue my dream of teaching overseas. When I lived in Malaysia I rent a room with a bathroom in a boarding house. It was about the size of a dorm room and the landlord was pretty strict. I had to be quiet at all times and couldn’t have any company over. I went between sitting on my bed, to the computer chair to the little rattan chair beside the bed. I wasn’t allowed to cook, but I was able to have fridge and microwave, so I could make a few simple things like bowls of vegetables and sandwiches. (All of the other residents had vehicles and were single men, so they were used to eating all of their meals out.)  I also wasn’t allowed to come down to the kitchen if they had company or eat in my room, so sometimes that made the weekends very long when I was so hungry waiting for the company to leave. Many times I wished that I was back in the US in my nice, comfortable home. Although, I was grateful that I at least had a roof over my head because I know that some people don’t. In Indonesia I was in a townhouse that was brand new. It was much better than my room. It did have some problems with leaking when rainy season started and that made it kind of hard to constantly be cleaning up all the puddles. There were also some issues that it had like toilets that leaked and showers that leaked. It was hard to be patient because I was there an entire year and except for the first three months there, I had those problems the whole time and they got worse as time went on since they weren’t dealt with by the people who were supposed to take care of them. Now I am in an apartment complex. Part of me feels like I am back in college because of noisy neighbors, a tiny kitchen and having to use a laundry room to do laundry. I am grateful in both the house in Indonesia and now here that I have the ability to cook and bake again. Neither of them may have the kitchen I had in my home, but having a kitchen I can use is pretty nice. One of things I love to do and use as a stress reliever is to cook and bake. Not being able to do that for the two years in Malaysia was tough. It was hard to eat pretty much the same thing every meal for two years. All of these have taught me that even though I am grateful for a roof over my head that I should have appreciated my home even more. I am not doing my goals in the order I thought I would and I may never have a home again, but at least I got to live in it for a year.

Climate- I knew from my times visiting my grandparents in Minnesota and a trip to Wisconsin once that I wasn’t really a fan of humidity. I was told that the climate in Malaysia was much better and that I really wouldn’t mind the humidity. I didn’t like the heat and humidity the three years I was overseas. I disliked sweating and smelling every day. I didn’t like wearing wet clothes. Also, it took a long time for them to dry. I have sensitive skin and I had even more problems over there with the constant sweating.  Now that I am back in the US I appreciate the dry climate even better. Even though it was hot this summer it is now going to fall and things are getting colder. The other morning I was able to go for a very invigorating walk and breathe all that fresh air. I like being able to be active and really having to be active before I sweat, not just standing still. I also like the fact that I smell better because I don’t sweat all the time. I know that some people don’t like the cold, but I love it. I love wearing sweaters, slippers, hats, scarves and gloves. Being able to cuddle under tons of blankets to sleep. I didn’t sleep as well on top of the one bottom sheet over there as I do here under a couple of blankets. It is also nice to not have to run the a/c at night when I am sleeping. I could look out the window in Malaysia or Indonesia and think that it looked beautiful out, but when I went outside it never was. Here I can look out the window and think it is beautiful outside and when I actually go outside it really is beautiful. I like that I can also open the windows and get fresh air that isn’t hot and stuffy.

I am not saying that the US is better than Malaysia or Indonesia. There were lots of things that were great over there too. Over there I was able to do much more traveling around the countries that I lived in and to other countries that I wanted to see because things were so inexpensive and it was easy. Since I am back in the US I have realized that there were some things that I didn’t appreciate as much at the time when I was over there. I accepted a job and now I know some things I didn’t at the time I accepted the job. One of them is that I was able to live pretty comfortably money wise on my salary in both countries and have money to do some traveling.  Now I am in a position where I am barely able to make ends meet. So far I have been able to pay each bill and not have any debt, but I can see how if I get my haircut or do social things that it would be easy to do. I love to travel and there are several awesome places in the state that I live in that I would love to see, but right now all traveling is out. I always thought that with a college degree that I would never be in a position that I was living paycheck to paycheck just trying to take care of the essential bills. I can see how easy it can be for people to go into debt. Another thing I took for granted was planning time. I have always had at least 60 minutes of planning time, but in overseas sometimes I would have two hours total during the day so that I didn’t have much work that I had to take home or many days that I had to stay super late. At my current job I have about 30 minutes while my students go to specials, if I don’t have meetings. So, almost every day I stay late. I can see if I didn’t have to stay late or take work home I could get a part-time job to help make some extra money. Definitely thinking about getting a summer job to help make extra money for next year, so I can breathe a little more.

I have more I have been thinking about, but this is quite a long post, so I will quit there for now.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Cries in the Night

I was super tired Thursday night October 3, 2013 so I went to be early around 8:30p.m. I woke up the next morning slightly before 4:30a.m. to use the restroom. When I got back in bed I heard this knocking on a wall and then I heard a man calling for help. I lay there for a few minutes and he kept calling for help. I couldn’t tell where the man was. I knew that the people in the apartment below me were two ladies and it wasn’t them. I don’t know who is in the apartment to the right side of me, but it didn’t sound right next to my head. I knew that there was an older man on the left side of the ladies underneath me, but I didn’t think that it was that man. I got up and went out to the living room and I could still hear the man. I have really good hearing, so I knew that just because I could hear this guy didn’t mean that he was in the apartment complex I was in, he could have been outside or in the one behind me. I hear the family in the apartment complex behind me all the time. I opened the window and I could still hear the man. I couldn’t decide whether or not I should call out, “where are you?” I know there are some homeless people that hang out at the park across the street and that it could have been one of them. At one point it sounded like the man was walking away. I couldn’t decide what to do. I went out my front door to listen but I couldn’t hear anyone.  I thought about calling 911, except that I didn’t know where the man was located. I knew I couldn’t go back to sleep though. I also thought about the shows I had watched where they mentioned that if only someone had called 911 the person would still be alive. I didn’t have a phonebook to look up the regular number for the police but I finally remembered I had gotten a book from the chamber of commerce and that they might have the number in that book. I did find the number and called the police station. I told the man that answered that I could hear a man calling for help, but that I had no idea where he was located. He took down my information and told me he would send some officers to check it out and if they had any questions they would contact me. I got dressed and probably five minutes later three officers showed up at my door. They had walked around but the only lights they saw one were mine and they hadn’t heard anyone crying for help. They asked me some questions like how long had I heard the cries, where was I when I first heard them. I invited them in and at first they declined but eventually they came in and asked me a few more questions. They told me that they would hang out for a few more minutes and if I heard the man calling for help again that I should call them back. I told them that I knew the guy on the bottom floor on the left side was an older gentlemen but I didn’t know who was on the right side and that the people under me were two women. They woke up both the guy and the ladies under me and I felt bad about that. I sat in my chair out in the living room for about another five minutes after they had left, debating whether I should try to go back to sleep before I had to get up and get ready for school. I finally decided that I would at least lay back down on my bed until it was time to get up. As soon as I got back to my bedroom I could hear the man calling for help again, but this time it was weaker. I got up quickly and went out my front door.  At that same moment one of the ladies from downstairs was coming out of her apartment and I asked her if she could hear him too. She said that she did and she had called the officers back to tell them that it was the man in the apartment next to them. He was an older gentleman. She went down the sidewalk a little to see if the officers were able to get in and help the man.  They were able to do that. She said that it was lucky that I heard him and that she hadn’t heard him before the police woke her up but after she was awake she had listened for a few minutes and then was able to hear him from her bedroom, but it was very faint. After that I went back into my apartment because I knew there was nothing more I could do. A few minutes later the lady from downstairs knocked on my door to tell me that the police had called an ambulance for the man. She told me that normally she is a light sleeper but was so exhausted that she hadn’t heard anything. She said that their dog hadn’t even barked. She told me again that it was lucky that I had heard the man calling for help and had called the police.

I am so glad that I did hear the man calling for help and that I called the police so that they were able to get him the help he needed. It is scary to think that since this is an old man that lives alone that it could have turned out much differently for him.