The More Things Stay The Same…

“Okay, those stares, I noticed.” I mentioned to my friend as we walked past a handful of gawking teenaged boys.

I’ve been in Malaysia for a few days now, and I’ve gotten stared at a lot. Like many assumed inconveniences, this bothers the friend I’m staying with far more than it bothers me. Dude, I have pasty skin, bright red hair, and more often than not some article of tie-dyed clothing on my person: I stick out like a sore thumb.

That said, I look a lot less out of place here in Sabah than I did in Korea. Even though I don’t look like anybody from here, people in an ethnically and culturally diverse country like Malaysia are more used to the idea that not everyone they encounter on a daily basis will look just like them. And the absence of that assumption I felt so often in Korea, that I was somehow inconveniencing Korea at large by virtue of my very not-Korean presence, is like a drink of cool water in 30 degree heat, which I really don’t mind having returned to.

I’m still getting stared at, I’m still spending every waking moment of my existence sweating, I still have very little idea what’s going on in the conversations around me, I still have no clue what I’m going to do in a few weeks when I crash-land on my parents sofa yet again, but I really don’t care. A lot of my difficulties and inconveniences and worries and frustrations from Korea are still true in Malaysia, but they’re so much easier to manage here.

Being on holiday suits me.

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