cat scratches

I am in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

She didn’t say “Hello,” when I stepped up to greet her, my boss.

She simply held out her hand.
I shook it.

“So you’re Korean?

You look like a Cambodian.”


I fell in love with two (American-Koreans/vice versa) women as soon as I arrived in Kuala Lumpur. Gender-benders, queerbos, two bored and frustrated outcasts who felt outcasted by Korea-Town, Los Angeles, California and casted Malaysia and Thailand as their own playground. That didn’t work out. Thailand was too set up and unkind, and Malaysia was not as earthy wild as they’d read on the Internet.

They were going to try South Korea. They wanted a place to call their own. Maybe South Korea was it.
Sitting there at a plastic table, in a local neighborhood outside of our hostel in northern Kuala Lumpur, we instantly made a lot of inside jokes, being
Korean-American outcasts.

I didn’t want to warn them of the difficulties they will encounter as
ethnically Korean outsiders. Androgyny, shaved heads, and going stubbornly against any system, I
didn’t warn them that they simply will not fit in.

Just like in the States.

South Korea needs to be exposed of her own kind that fall well below the status quo. So I didn’t bother telling them about South Korea as I sat across from them, one of them eating a Malaysian burger.
They were bored for being in Malaysia for well over a month, mostly because of motorbike injuries.
I looked at my left foot. I’m still limping since the motorbike accident in Laos.

A Thai-Vietnamese guide looked at me up and down to get a measure of who I was.

“You’re not American. Americans are white and black.”

Standing there next to this displaced man, on the sandbox of Monkey Island, Vietnam,
I simply replied, “Okay.”

This young man with a sneer on his face and a calculating look in his eyes announced that his nickname was “Mr. Happy.”
Disgusted by the look of me and of my cold demeanor, he went on to flirt with the Asian female tourists that were
foldable and vulnerable in size and nature.

I’ve personally coined Halong as, “Hell-On Bay.” The last thing I saw on Cat Ba Island was a girl crying and pleading with the tour guide, in front of our dirty hostel on brothel street, to get her passport back.


I roomed with a Malay Chinese family during my first days working in Kuala Lumpur. I’d never felt more comfortable. Their maid, an Indonesian woman, would slap my back and smile and laugh. “You go shopping?” Every time I left the door to go to work, she’d always assure herself that I was going shopping.
The father guaranteed that he understood my “position” as a born and raised westerner who happened to be Asian. His Chinese ancestors immigrated to Malaysia a few generations ago.
The family took me around to eat dim sum, pork soup, and to their friends’ home where they cooked up a western dinner.

I can’t write. I don’t give a rat’s ass.
I can smell my armpits. I haven’t changed in over two weeks.
I am tired of not being able to trust anyone, especially taxi drivers.

I am happier since leaving Seoul, South Korea. Everything, all makeup, distracting businesswear, memories of people and experiences I wanted to forget, books, everything was thrown away when I left the city I struggled with for three years.


Having passed through several borders, having met many individuals, having stuck with a few, having seen so many things, experienced the highs and lows…

There are occasional, still moments when I do (dare myself to) wonder whether things would have been different between us – two individuals – if I had been comfortable with where I was in Seoul, South Korea, and with who I was.

Bending down to retrieve things in the purse on the floor of your home. You grabbed and let go of my hip bone. That was the last gesture.

I do sometimes wonder if… we would have lasted, if we would have been doing this together as originally promised.
If I had been comfortable in Seoul, with myself, if I had known the mother tongue and showed you around a city that’s not even my own…
or if we had met in the States…
I wonder with carelessness. I’ve already fallen in love many times. I’ve fallen in love with moments, with sights, with smiles, with topics of conversations, with charisma. I am happy to be embracing every moment. Sometimes the mind drifts. This mind drifts to, “What if…”


he cried yesterday. In public during work hours, people are not to show their emotions, unless it positively reinforces the work environment. Sometimes, life is hard in a country that’s not yours, something like that he told me.

Sometimes people ask why this perpetual battle against loneliness.

December 28, 2010
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
a small, clean and quiet hostel in the corner of the end of Chinatown

A young Japanese couple arrived yesterday at my hostel. With their 50 Liter plus hiking bags, the young, hip father (a la Odagiri Joe) was holding his three year old son’s hand.
My hostel in KL is small, extremely clean, and home. “This is your home. Make yourself at home!” The small staff is mostly Malay Indian, with the exception of one lady, and they have been too kind to us. Us as in perhaps around 7 people.

Anyway, the young couple was on the couch this morning watching a Pixar movie. The son was sitting in between his parents.

The smallest pair of shoes in the sea of neatly aligned shoes outside of the entrance belongs to the son. They are miniature hiking boots.

Backpacking it, roughing it on the road, with your partner and your young child has got to be one of the most attractive things about having a family. It’s one of the greatest turn-ons to have two partners venture the world with their baby child.

December 29, 2010
The fifth generation Chinese Indonesian at my hostel bought the four of us Indian fried rice and fried chicken, all contained in a plastic bag.

After that I took a three hour nap. People I met in Korea and a few people from college were involved in a dream about chasing and running away. We were all hiding in dark corners of a house, running and hiding from the police.

I’m always running away and hiding in dark corners and under bed sheets in my dreams.

I had to sit on a bed. Under the covers were people hiding.

Anyway, so I had just woken up. It’s monsooning outside, and I’m afraid to go outside because Chinatown’s streets smell of urine and trash when the days are hot and dry. I’m imagining the residue of those things seeping into the water now.

December 30, 2010

Last night the dream was set in Australia and Japan. I am looking for a home. Australia might be it. I wish both worlds can smash into one, and open a small and humble spot for me.

I’m in a franchise coffee shop inside a mall in Kuala Lumpur, and my head feels like this:

They heard me singing and they told me to stop,
Quit these pretentious things and just punch the clock,

These days, my life, I feel it has no purpose,
But late at night the feelings swim to the surface.

Cause on the surface the city lights shine,
They’re calling at me, “come and find your kind.”

Sometimes I wonder if the world’s so small,
That we can never get away from the sprawl,
Living in the sprawl,
Dead shopping malls rise like mountains beyond mountains,
And there’s no end in sight,
I need the darkness someone please cut the lights.

We rode our bikes to the nearest park,
Sat under the swings, we kissed in the dark,
We shield our eyes from the police lights,
We run away, but we don’t know why,
And like a mirror these city lights shine,
They’re screaming at us, “we don’t need your kind.”

Sometimes I wonder if the world’s so small,
That we can never get away from the sprawl,
Living in the sprawl,
Dead shopping malls rise like mountains beyond mountains,
And there’s no end in sight,
I need the darkness someone please cut the lights.

They heard me singing and they told me to stop,
Quit these pretentious things and just punch the clock.

Sometimes I wonder if the world’s so small,
Can we ever get away from the sprawl?
Living in the sprawl,
Dead shopping malls rise like mountains beyond mountains,
And there’s no end in sight,
I need the darkness someone please cut the lights.

Last night a fellow hostel’ler told me over an Egyptian dinner outside about the importance (for him) to have an intimate partner. I don’t understand these concepts people hold about open relationships, intimate relationships, ###gomy…

The older I get, the more I don’t understand human nature, the more I feel like a child.

There was a girl from Japan who left the hostel yesterday. She was like a curious child, a whimsical one, someone you just want to have around you all day, every day. We all felt a little sad when she left to go to Sri Lanka.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s