In the end, red cups are here.

One week in Malaysia. I knew what I was getting into and what I should have expected it to be, but I’m coming to Malaysia this time around (trip #4 for me) feeling like a very different person. I’m married now; my expectations are naturally different. Over the past 2 years that I’ve been back in the States since the last time I left Malaysia, I’ve grown into patterns and habits that. Surprisingly, I’ve grown to love. I’ve gotten comfortable.

Years ago, when I first started traveling, I could handle anything. More than once, I woke up in Addis Ababa to find cockroaches on my toothbrush. In Kenya, my roommate told me stories of how she saw mice scurrying across my pillow. I also remember one memorable incident where our cook accidentally cooked a loaf of bread with a lizard in it.

And through it all, I still brushed my teeth without changing my toothbrush. I still snuggled into pillow at night, and I still ate the lizard bread, although the cook did cut out the reptile.

I’m not so hardcore anymore. I keep my toothbrush in my room, because I kind of have a thing about toothbrushes now. I use one of Reuben’s t-shirts as my pillowcase. I don’t know of any dead animals (besides the mutton curry I ate last night) in my food, but I know there’s plenty of cat hair in it.

I struggle with being here because I’ve yearned for a place of our own for so long, somewhere where we can actually unpack our bags and feel comfortable. This is not that place. I feel totally dependent on Reuben for everything, because I feel incompetent in everything. My mom never taught me to mop a floor, we have nothing but pots (try scrambling an egg in a round-bottom pot sometime), and I can’t even go outside by on my own. Not just because I don’t have a set of keys, but also because there’s dogs waiting to pounce on me and I have nowhere to go, anyway. I can’t even eat the local food like I used to. My stomach has been acting all crazy since we left home, and even this morning I still feel the curry burning in my stomach from last night. Alas, I’m not as young as I used to be.

But as hard as it was for me, my experience in Colorado taught me something. It taught me to choose joy in all circumstances. I learned that I was the creator of much of my unhappiness, and I was creating havoc not just in my life, but in the life of others. Life improves a lot if you just change your outlook on it.

Right now is a good chance to test out this mentality. I could complain, pity myself, or be bitter for having to be here right now. I could demand my old life, routines and habits back. Or I could make the most of it, while I’m here, no matter how much energy that takes. Living with joy seems to me the hardest and the easiest thing to do at the same time.

Right now I'm sitting at Starbucks, the epitome of Western-ness, except everyone around me is watching pirated movies on their computers and everyone is speaking Chinese. But the red cups are here! That, for me, is redemption.

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© Reuben + ErinMaira Gall