Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Settling in Back Home

It has been about seven months since I left Penang to move back home to the US, so I thought I should write a note here. We have settled in to our new home in Upstate New York State in the US, a country like setting just outside of Rochester.We have a big house with quite a bit of land, including a pool, decks, gardens and 2 puppies. I didn't realize how much I missed having a yard, a garden and a dog! Autumn is here and the leaves are beginning to change color giving us beautiful views wherever you go. It's so nice to have 4 distinct seasons again. After this past winter here I realized that I would rather have a few months of very cold snowy weather than have 12 months of extreme heat and humidity. With winter approaching we are looking forward to the coziness and comfort of our fireplace.

I have discovered that the cost of living where we now live is actually cheaper than in Penang. Food, gasoline, housing, clothing, alcohol and consumer goods are all cheaper. Even though Penang had a variety of good South Asian food, I missed European and American food, such as Greek, Italian and Mexican. I do miss Curry Mee, but we have found quite a variety of authentic Chinese, Korean, Indian, Thai and Japanese food here. There are a number of Asian grocery stores here that have everything found in Malaysia, including durian! So if we don't eat out we can make it ourselves. One aspect of back home that I missed was the variety of consumer goods. There are many, many more brands to chose from here and the prices are a fraction of the cost in Penang. Our car cost a mere fraction of what it would have in Malaysia too.

Last month I had emergency gall bladder surgery for a problem that was misdiagnosed in Penang and it was all paid for by my Medicare. I was constantly worried about getting sick and needing surgery in Malaysia, especially with my money tied up in a fixed deposit under MM2H. Sure medical costs are more expensive here, but the quality is excellent and I am covered by Medicare. Kevin is settling in and is a bit overwhelmed by the educational choices offered to him here.He also likes the cold and snow.

I feel as though we made the right choice by moving. It's not perfect, but if you don't like things you can complain, criticize the government without reprisal and vote to make yourself heard. I do not regret for one minute the 7 years I lived in Penang. It just wasn't for me.  I do miss the people there and also chatting over lunch at the local food court, but I am sure I will return to visit Penang on occasion. Most likely I will not be posting here any more, but if anyone is interested in following my adventures you can read my other blog, Steveso Thinks. Thank you.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Goodbye Penang, Malaysia

By the time this post is read I shall have already left Malaysia and headed back home to the US. I will have left extreme heat for extreme cold, but with hopes of spring being right around the corner.

For those who have been following my departure from Malaysia, I can say that at the time of my departure I still have not received my sinking fund deposit. The attorney said he will transfer the money to my US account, but I am not holding my breath. I have received emails from the Management Committee blaming anyone and everyone for not receiving information regarding the sinking fund. Typical. They blamed everybody, but offered no solution. Utterly useless.

It is too bad that a number of incompetent, corrupt, lazy and greedy people have clouded the wonderful memories I have of Malaysia and in particular, Penang. The memories of the bad will soon be replaced by all of the good. I will be returning to Penang, to visit friends and family, but I will not be returning to live under MM2H. It has gotten just too expensive for me. I am afraid that in the very near future only the super rich will be able to afford this concrete jungle, which I can still remember as a tropical rain forest retreat.

To all of my followers I say thank you and to all of my Malaysian friends and all Malaysians I say thank you and I will miss you all. Good bye, good fortune and good health.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

MM2H Fixed Deposit Withdrawal

One aspect of moving back home that I was worried about was the withdrawal of my MM2H Fixed deposit. When I sold my house I went to the Ministry of Tourism's MM2H website to see what I had to do. It all seemed so simple, except for having to travel to Kuala Lumpur twice.  I contacted Alter Domus and was informed that they would do this for me. The cost of doing this was much less than traveling to KL, staying in a hotel overnight and returning. Also I would be wasting much needed time.

I simply sent a copy of my passport, visa, my MM2H fixed deposit certificates and my airline ticket to Nita at Alter Domus and then handed over my passport before they went to KL and they did the rest. I picked up my authorization letter, took it to the bank and waited. Today I checked my US account and saw that everything was successfully transferred. The whole process took only 2 weeks. What a pleasant surprise! Thanks Alter Domus and Nita.

Still waiting for the Sinking Fund deposit. I am not holding my breath on that one. I have a feeling I can chalk that up for a loss. The condo is all cleared out and just waiting for the big day. If anyone is interested in renting this unit please message me. The unit has a great view of Gurney Drive and is fully furnished with a new American style stove with a big oven and it has great neighbors!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

At Last Great Mexican Food in Penang.

With only a very short time before I move out of Penang I finally discovered a Mexican restaurant on the island. A few days ago a friend told me that a Mexican restaurant has opened in Tanjung Bungah at Hillside. Apparently it has only been open a few weeks. So tonight Kevin and I gave it a try.

The restaurant is located at 27, Jalan Sungai Kelian | 11200 Tanjung Bungah, PenangPenang Island11200Malaysia, in a building formerly occupied by a Thai restaurant. The name of the restaurant is Grumpiez Green Pepper Mexican Cantina. The owner and chef, Bob, presented us with the rather extensive menu of authentic Mexican dishes. We ordered the super nachos as an appetizer, thinking it was the typical Malaysian size appetizer. Wow were we wrong. I was huge and easily could have been a meal for two. It was really delicious, especially the home made guacamole.

Kevin ordered the chimichanga. Sorry, but I was too busy eating to remember taking a photo. According to Kevin it was very tasty. I ordered the spicy pork hard shell tacos, which were great. The dish consisted of refried beans and rice and beans. 

We both had a refreshing glass of Sangria to drink, even though they had our favorite Mexican beer Corona. 

For all of those Americans who miss authentic Mexican food and those of you who either have missed it or have never had it I highly recommend Grumpiez Green Pepper Mexican Cantina. I definitely go back there before I return home.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Leaving Malaysia is proving more difficult than coming here!

When I applied for and received my MM2H visa it was relatively simple. When I prepared to move to Malaysia I sold my house, signed the S&P agreement, had the closing and transferred the money to my account in Malaysia, in a month. I had already put a down payment on my condo in Penang so I only had to wait a moth to move in.

When I decided to leave Malaysia a friend offered to buy my condo at the price I had asked, so I was expecting a quick procedure. To make things easier we used the same lawyer (the one I had used when purchasing my condo). All particulars were given to the lawyer in early October and all we had to do was to sign the Sales and Purchase Agreement, which usually takes a week or two here, whereas back home it would take a couple of days.A friend from the US had come over to Penang for 3 week vacation and sold her house and signed all of the documents within 2 weeks. Because of this knowledge I wasn't too worried. Well I was wrong! After a couple of weeks myself and the buyer made several calls and were told that the S &P would be done in a few days. Many times our calls were not answered nor were they returned. Emailing the lawyer was a joke. Not a single email was answered. Finally in December the buyer got a call to sign the S&P and close the deal. Three months for a simple, uncomplicated real estate sale! Unbelievable! It was either laziness or complete incompetence, or both! I must point out that while the lawyer was farting around, the Malaysian ringgit was going down the toilet and I lost $8000USD when I transferred money to my US account.

Now that that matter was taken care of I started to look forward to receiving my Sinking Fund deposit. Another adventure. For those who do not know what a sinking fund is I will try to explain. It is an account established by a condominium management committee to be used for large maintenance expenditures or emergency use. Each condo owner pays into that fund which earns interest over time. When an owner sells the property the buyer pays him the amount of his initial deposit, if the fund has not been used. The Management of the condo, at the request of the buyers lawyer, notifies the lawyer as to the amount of the deposit to return and if any amount was used. Since I had served as member of my condo's Management Committee for two years I know that none of the money was spent, at least 2 years ago. So I totally expected to receive my money promptly. Once again after 5 weeks, I received nothing and heard nothing from the lawyer. Once again all of my phone calls and several emails went unanswered. Finally I received notice that the condo Management Company and Committee had not replied to the lawyer's request.

After hearing this I went to the Management Office here at my condo in Tanjung Tokong to inquire about this problem.I spoke to the supervisor, who told me that there was no money in the sinking fund. I told him that was wrong and I wanted the manager to call me. He took my telephone number and said he would call me with more information. Of course he never did. I then returned home and emailed the Chairman of the Management Committee. I never got an answer. A few days later I emailed the Secretary of the Committee. I didn't get an answer.  Then I emailed a friend who was a member of the Committee. She did answer, saying that the Chairman refused to tell anyone anything about the Sinking Fund.  Once again I emailed the arrogant Chairman, knowing full well that he would ignore me. I still haven't heard from him. My latest move was to notify my lawyer about the behavior of the Management at my condo. I have a feeling that they know I am leaving and will do nothing about my sinking fund deposit. After living here for almost 6 years I have learned that the management committees of many of the condos are rife with corruption. It is is not uncommon for the committee or a member of the committee to embezzle the entire sinking fund. Many good people serve on these committees, but are discouraged by the number of people who serve only to make money from illegal activities. This type of behavior is unfortunately tolerated. This does not only effect the lower and middle income projects, but also the luxury condos like mine and even the super condos.

Soon I will be leaving Penang and these unfortunate events will be just minor bad memories of my life here. Thank God I have many more good memories of Penang that will stay with me forever.  In my last post I will bring everything up to date and say good bye.

Monday, February 3, 2014

The End of an Adventure

About 6 years ago I arrived in Penang to start a new adventure of an American expat living in Malaysia. The country, the climate, the food, the customs and culture, and the food was all quite new to me. Everyone told me that I would get homesick immediately. I really didn't get homesick, but I did miss some of the things I could buy back home.There was not the variety of consumer products I was used to back home, but I sort of got used to that, ordering what I really wanted from Amazon, having friends or relatives send items or buying them when I went home to visit. Some things I just had to accept, like having no screens on the windows to keep the bugs out and silly little things like electric can openers and oven broilers.

I did miss many of the foods I like from back home, like real Italian food, Mexican, Tex-Mex and Greek food. The chains here that sell it are really bad. I grew up eating Italian food and found nothing here that has come close. Western food, as they call it here in Malaysia, is atrocious. If someone wants to make their own Italian or Mexican food they almost have to take out a bank loan to buy the ingredients, if they can be found at all. I found it impossible to find real Italian sausage, sweet or hot, as no one has ever heard of it. What most people call sausage here is actually cheaply made and is actually not so tasty hot dogs. Also most restaurants don't serve pork and you can't make decent Italian sausage with chicken!

I really enjoyed the variety of Asian food, however. I very much like spicy food and hot peppers, which thankfully I had no trouble finding. Even though the local food was great, I at times could not get used to having rice at every meal. It seems that when you go out to a local place for dinner you start off with a plate of rice, which is about 85% of your meal. Because of all of the rice I ate I packed on the pounds. I found it very difficult finding vegetable dishes without them being drowned in oil. Salads are only found in higher end restaurants or you have to make them yourselves.

The above are some of my pet peeves about living here, but they are not really that important. The one aspect of living here that I could not overcome was the weather. I have chronic bronchitis and asthma and I have found it difficult to breathe here. I thought I would get used to the heat and humidity after a while, but in the past couple of years the weather seems to have gotten hotter and more humid. I found that there were many days that I had no energy because of the heat and humidity. When I went to the gym I had a hard time exercising as the gym was often stuffy and there was no air circulation. The locals were wearing jackets and I was dying in the heat. I tried losing weight, but did not have the lung power to carry on much intense cardio.

I do love the people here in Penang though and have made many good friends. I mostly socialized with the local population, with most of my friends being Chinese or Indian and Malay. I can honestly say that I really didn't care to hang around other expats, except for a few close European friends. I found that a number of the expats did not look too kindly on Americans. I expected that when I moved here I might get some rude and  prejudicial behavior from the local Malaysians, but I never got any from them. I got it from some European expats! When I do leave Malaysia it will be the people I will miss the most. The local people were always kind and supportive and treated me like family. They did not see me any differently than anyone else living in their neighborhood. For that I am grateful and extremely happy.

This will be probably my next to last post before I abandon this blog, as I will be moving from Penang soon. I want to thank all of my readers for their support and kind comments. I tried to publish interesting information that I thought would be informative or at least entertaining. I enjoyed reading all of your comments, even the one from an expat telling me to go back to America, because he did not agree with my views on another blog that I write. That comment I did not publish because of the language!

I guess that living in a tropical climate is not for everyone, even though it sounds like paradise. I feel that if you are looking for paradise, you will never find, as it is human nature to complain about something. If my health had been so that I would not be effected by the weather I would be happy to remain. I will continue to recommend Malaysia, as a retirement choice, even as the costs of applying for the MM2H and the cost of buying a home here skyrockets. There are other personal aspects about living here that bothers me, but are best not mentioned here. As I have said before the best part of Malaysia is its people and your life will be enriched by knowing and interacting with them.

My final post will most likely describe my moving from Malaysia and the not so delightful experiences of selling my home and getting my finances returned. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Gong Xi Fa Cai - Happy New Year

Gong Xi Fa Cai
 To all of my Chinese friends in Malaysia and back home in the US I'd like to wish you all a very happy, healthy and prosperous New Year.