Day 5: Malaysia…Who knew?

Day 5: Tuesday, 21 April 2020 – Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (3.1390° N, 101.6869° E) (5,425 Covid-19 cases & 89 death as of today)

Before we start…today is my family’s 40th day in self-quarantine. Again, we know how lucky we are to not have to work outside our safe and secure home environment. It is not lost on us, but neither is the reality of this pandemic. And despite what some elected officials say, “No…no there is nothing more important than living!” So please, be smart, use your head and have empathy for others–stay home and be safe, it’s not time for normal yet.

And by the way, I was looking up where quarantine came from in this handy little book I have entitled “On the Origin of the Species homo touristicus” (I am editing the 2nd edition for a Spring 2021 publication), and found out this citation from 1370: “All newcomers, be they travelers, pilgrims, merchants or gypsies, were required to spend 30-days (a trentine) on nearby isolated islands before entering the walled city of Dubrovnik to ward off the spread of the Black Death. By 1448, ships arriving in the port of Venice were required to undergo quaranta giorni (transl. 40-days) of isolation to ferret out bubonic plague carriers–hence the term quarantine. BTW: Why 40 you ask? It’s all Biblical…forty in the context of purification: the forty days and forty nights of the great flood in Genesis, the forty years of the Israelites wandering in the wilderness, and the forty days of Lent.” …Now you know, maybe too much!

Anyway…Malaysia is one of the planets few megadiverse countries; its natural bounty runneth over. On top of that, the British have been here and that means the nation’s infrastructure is also top notch. A great place to explore if you haven’t already from Penang in the north to Melaka in the south…and don’t forget about the far away state of Borneo too, that I was lucky enough to decompress in after a particularly grueling campaign election season in 1996, when I went off the grid for a little longer than my loved one’s had wished. But I digress…

Speaking of embarrassing–okay I wasn’t, but this surly was–I remember one early transport between our hotel to KUL airport to catch a morning flight onward to KTM (Kathmandu) just a scant three degrees above the Equator. Our jobs directing and coordinating the annual Global Scavenger Hunt are at times equal parts taming lions and herding cats, but on this particular morning it was rather thorny because one of our tom cats was out a little too late the night before. In fact, the bad boy hadn’t actually returned to the hotel when our collective wake up calls summoned us all at o-dark-thirty. Nonetheless, we loaded up as we are prone to do knowing that everyone can when necessary, actually take care of themselves as consenting adults; when just as the doors closed and as the wheels began to roll, a staggering figure arrives on the scene. All aboard now, he is not so nicely helped to the back and two nice men helped tie his shoes (kindly of you Gerry & Phil!) and then given a place to sleep it off a little on the bus aisle floor as we journeyed to the airport. But what I really remember of that morning was a split second happening while disembarking. Everyone long gone already, the last to exit of course was he-of-little-sleep, and as he finally alights barely looking right–when he should have been looking left as we were in an English right-hand drive country–he stumbles precariously on the last step off as a large transport truck whooshes by literally inches from his nose (I swear the aerodynamic slipstream/vacuum was all that saved his sorry ass.) and straightening him ramrod-like in the millisecond that his unmemorable life surely flickered in front of him. The bus driver, big-eyed and flush-faced in sheer horror looks at me standing outside in front of the bus with a deep sigh of absolute relief. I looked at him, shook my head smiling and said, “Well, that would have been a lot of paperwork!” Onward we journeyed to Kathmandu on Bob Seger’s orders…

Anyway, today’s happy memory again comes from some near and dear to me, my daughter Petra who has a 2008 event memory:

“At 13, I was naturally unlikely to stay put and stand still as told, having just arrived at the elephant sanctuary Kuala Gandah in Malaysia. I remember some mixed emotions: ecstatic at the prospect of seeing and feeding elephants, sad for many of those elephants injured by hunting traps and the loss of their habitat. I followed a little path off the main track towards the sound of a river. It was the kind of nature that is loud and quiet at the same time, the river and the birds and the sounds of the jungle melding together. So there I was, my dad and little brother Lucca close behind, and suddenly there’s a baby elephant walking towards us. Out of nowhere. No one else there but us and a little elephant. He walked right up and stuck his stick in my face, sniffing around and greeting us all in his cheery little elephant way. With my brother there, not even three at the time, it’s hard not to see the similarities. Both curious and goofy little kids. It’s hard to explain that moment, to explain just how incredible it was. There were no fences, no handler, no distance. Over a decade later I still think about it and after all the traveling I’ve done since then it stands out as an incredible experience. I’m not even going to apologize for the cliches, because I got to hang out with a baby elephant.”

Indeed she and we did…

BTW: An old elephant trick, that if you breathe into their trunk, they will remember you forever!

But this being Day 5 of the event–and typically Day 3 for us actually on the road because we lost a day flying over the International Dateline–something else occurs among our group of travelers that I call the infamous 3rd Day Syndrome. It comes as no surprise to our alum, that this event can make you laugh, as well as cry. It is a great test of self, that is at various times: intimidating, scary, overwhelming, stimulating, breathtaking, frustrating, challenging, stirring, dynamic, thrilling, exhilarating, inspiring and utterly joyful. But beautiful smiles are not all we bear witness too; and one thing is certain by Day 3 knowing that We are not in Kansas anymore!

The dreaded 3rd Day Syndrome wreaks havoc on individual participants, competing teams, and the entire event. It is a drama that plays itself out every year after individuals and teams realize what they got themselves into by participating in an amazing, yet demanding and challenging, 23-day around the world travel adventure competition. Part of it is the world we live in, and there are always a few nervous twitches among those not as connected as they usually are to their info and social bubbles; their minds are detoxing from scrolling, texting and emailing incessantly–some would say obsessively. But I promise them that they are living life to the fullest now traveling and on an unparalleled adventure, and not missing out on anything, just another day with the same stuff being reported, and that they should all realize that this is now their new reality for the next 19 days to come…so, let go of the daily grind, be in the here and now and enjoy! Secondly, it is normal for travelers with heightened emotions, jet lag, place lag, culture shock to go through this…but, more insidiously, these heightened emotional states especially occur on the 3rd day of our event because that is when the official results (scoreboard) of the first international leg are usually revealed to all. And so individuals ands teams, who have puffed themselves up confidently and maybe braggadociously for the last three months, as being in line for the throne of The World’s Greatest Travelers™ crown, realize all-too-suddenly, that now they might not be. That they are just average, or worse, wannabes. So, what does an ego do? How do we save face with the whole world watching now? Do we accept reality and carry on and play the game for the fun it? Do we throw a hissy fit blame others and complain about the woulda, coulda and shoulda’s? Do I quit, saying I pulled a muscle or are now under the weather–at least a NC (non-compete) note is better than a eighth-place score? Do we search to find our happy medium Goldilocks spot and compete on our own terms? Do we quit and just say screw it and pretend we don’t care about competing, really? What do they do when the 3rd Day Syndrome occurs; as the Ringmaster for 15 such events, I can without reservation say, all the above! And it is utterly predictable too…

I offer you my perspective on the sometimes dreaded 3rd Day Syndrome in a little YouTube video here.

Here are a few other Malaysian memories…

Friends at Batu caves…and a really tall building it seems.

Tomorrow you are taking us to Indonesia and then the beguiling island of Bali.

Stay safe and well. Till tomorrow…

Please send any memories you want us to post to ringmaster (at) globalscavengerhunt (dot) com