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Second thoughts on Penang
Six weeks into my Malaysian sojourn the lifestyle is beginning to normalise, at least as much as is possible in the topsy turvy world of private equity, which seems to work in three time zones and all of them outsides of sanity hours!
Sleep has been at a premium and I now think nothing of getting to sleep at 6pm in order to facilitate a start time in the middle of the night, and I'm tired at that time also.
I understand night workers have been doing this for years, but fortunately I have avoided the whole concept of 'night shifts ' ever since I worked one week in a factory as a lad.
Since then I have been wonderfully sleep liberated, mostly able to sleep the hours that suit me, rather than suit the system, but money is money and the call to collect it means strange working hours in a global economy!
I posted some photos up on Picassa for friends to see, and one comment was how clean they thought Penang was.
I guess those who live 'up north' (i.e. Europe) assume that anywhere 'down here' must be a poverty ridden slum with no possible sanitation or hygiene, when in fact the reverse is true.
Low wage costs mean many cleaners, and Penang is swept and dusted daily by an army of (mostly) Indian cleaners carrying simple cane brushes and using converted 5 liter oil cans to collect anything that should not be there.
Parking is another surprise.
Penang is a busy city, in reality most of the traffic is in Georgetown, in an area probably no larger that 3 miles square. The great thing is that you can park virtually where you want, with no real risk of being clamped or town away.
Another army of (again mostly) Indian men will each have their patch of road to manage, and will slap a ticket on your car almost before you exit the door!
But the difference is that even if you leave it there all day, your maximum payment will be about 5 MR ($1.50US) and they will keep it safe for you.
My 'man' outside my office takes me to the car under his big umbrella when it's raining, which is frequently at this moment. It's a service worth having rather than a penalty to pay for having the temerity of driving yourself.
Petrol is a delight to buy, especially when you come from Europe where it costs €1.25 per litre, and about €50 to fill up a family saloon car..... by comparison it costs less than $20 to fill your tank in Penang, so driving can once again be a pleasure rather than a privilege.
The last time I was down in SE Asia...
Was in the late 70's and I had forgotten how very civilised the whole thing is, for westerners who earn in dollars yet spend in local currency.
When I last returned to the UK from Asia, I had grown used to living and being treated like a king, and it took a long while to readjust to being expected to fit into the cogged wheel that Europe represented.
If you have never escaped from your birth environ, you may well be unaware that despite the fact that it is raining misfortune where you stand, it will be raining blessings just down the road, around that bend that you have never dared venture past.
Since men first sailed the seas they have been casting their eyes to the distant horizon and seeking fortunes far away, many folk died to set up the pathways for those following to reap the rewards.
Penang was known as the White Mans Graveyard and with good reason for malaria was rife in it's early days, but no longer, the mosquitoes and the heat have been conquered by modern technology, and it's now a safe and friendly place to take advantage of both exchange rates and it's high tech society.
So from my air conditioned office fifteen floors above the most virulent mosquito, I can access the whole world from my computerised telephone lines at negligent cost to my company.
Yes, life is sweet if you live in Penang, unless you are a drug dealer that is, in which case it will possibly be short as well, for Malaysia still sentences drug dealers and murderers to death by hanging, and only last week two dealers and one murderer were sentenced to be hung.
To any young European the concept of capital punishment probably sounds barbaric, however it works here as a deterrent and that seems more important than 'human rights'.... which seem to violate normal folks rights in favour of the rights of the criminal. I don't like capital punishment, but it's biblical and it does keep the lid on those crimes that it covers.
Those being hung are generally able to be termed victims of the society we live in, they are almost definitely from a 'deprived' background and will have been externalised at an early age, most will come from disfunctional families and have started on their path to the hangman from the first time they took their destiny ihto their own hands.
They are generally as much the victim as they are the perpetrator, and there (literally) but for the grace of God go you and I.
So circumstance plays a large part in our destiny.
I certainly fitted the description of who should be hanging material as a young man, and indeed remember the last hanging (of a young 'innocent' boy) in the UK, vividly recognising that this could be me in a couple of years, and being relieved when they abolished the death penalty.
My circumstance led me to escape the existence plotted for me by the world, and to become a dysfunctional citizen of the world rather than a responsible slave tothe world.
I would say that anyone could have escaped, yet know that is not true, for most folk are afraid to step off the map into uncharted territories, unwilling to abandon family and friends to venture into regions unknown, and indeed it was never my intention to take the course that led me to the life I have experienced, it was circumstances, one piled atop another and each one compounding the remainder, until the ONLY way open was to journey forward in hope of finding firm ground again, and mostly without knowing where or even which direction i was heading in.
Mine took me a varied route through mainly pleasant experiences tinged with deep dark troubles for short periods of time, and looking back over the last 59 years, there are few things I would change, even if I could change them, but I am acutely aware that it could have been me that met a grisly death on the gallows, or have gotten banged up into a life of crime and jail time, or stuck behind an ever spinning lathe in some vast factory complex.
Life can be sweet, or bitter sweet, and I guess we are responsible for what we make it most of the time by our attitudes, thankfully God granted me the mind of an eternal optimist who fails to stay depressed for very long.
Each day is a fresh one, and offers new chances and opportunities, and the best thing is that after nearly twenty two thousand days worth of experimentation, you seem to get more of them to line up with your desires and pleasures than miss the mark.
Missing the mark is a literal definition of sin, and I fully confess that I have sinned much during my years, but equally I repented of most everything I could remember needing repentance, and stopped TRYING to sin, which is what most of us do for most of our lives.
For me coming to faith in Christ was THE turning point, and as no bible believers hub can be complete without an altar call, get on down here and start thinking about what you need to confess before you meet with 'THE MAN' or God as we know Him....
Whatever you have allowed your life to become, it's never too late to change the course and find a safe haven to dwell in.
Now I'm off to look around Penang a bit more, and maybe have more reflections on life the universe and everything as I meander about this beautiful island.