A lot has changed in the 11+ years since my family moved to Malaysia. When we first arrived, donuts didn't exist in this city, T.G.I Friday's and Chili's weren't built yet, and you had to go to the capital of the country if you wanted to experience Burger King (I never did, given my hatred of fast food burgers, but you know, if you wanted it, Kuala Lumpur was the place to go).
Malaysia has changed in the past decade, and so has my family. When we first moved here, I admit we were a bit flustered by all the 'normal' things that we could no longer find or afford. Convenience foods like canned or frozen fruits and veggies were very hard to find when we first arrived, and also very expensive--we're talking $3-4 USD for a can of beans. Like many large families growing up in the 90s in the midwest...we'd been raised on lots and lots of frozen and canned veggies. The kitchen scenario was a little different once we found that everything had to be bought fresh and cleaned and cut and peeled by hand.
One could say that Malaysia forced us to eat more of an all-natural diet. Funny thing is, now, none of us kids will touch a traditional bland bowl of veggies that came out of a can or a freezer bag. We got all spoiled by dishes full of green beans and cabbage and bok choy and okra and spinach, cooked with generous amounts of chilies, turmeric, onions, garlic, or coconut milk stirred in.
You really can't go back to canned green beans after you've tasted the glories of stir-fried spicy turmeric green beans.
When we first came, also, it was rather impossible to purchase many basic craft supplies here. For a homeschooling family with a lot of little kids...this was rather distressing. In the years since, the crafting community in Malaysia has grown immensely, and a lot of supplies are more widely available now, if you know where to look, but in years past, this was not the case. When Mom was put on bedrest for the 2 months before Sarah was born, she immediately asked her family to send her a box of embroidery thread and patterns and projects to embroider, because she knew that sewing would make the weeks of bedrest a little more palatable--she ended up embroidering an entire baby blanket before the littlest one arrived.
In those early years, my family developed a regular list of requests, full of things that were difficult/impossible to find where we lived in Malaysia, that we'd send to anybody interested in sending us a care package. After you read this list you might understand why my baby sister views America as the land of really awesome candy..
Here is our care package list:
-Twizzlers Cherry Pull'n'Peel licorice - cherry
-Twizzlers Regular licorice - cherry (but none of that Red Vines stuff)
-Ranch dressing packets (My Dad loves Ranch dressing, but it was impossible to find--dry packets made it possible for us to make it here)
-Nerds (a highly beloved candy)
-Wheat Chex (this was just for me--it was my all-time favorite cereal and the only one I ate)
-Brass paper fasteners
-Any clothing that falls outside the limited sizes available here: i.e. my brother's size 13 shoes, or my 5'8'' sister's jeans.
-Spray'n'wash Stain Stick
We sure got pretty excited about all those care packages that our aunts and uncles so lovingly put together for us for Christmas or other events.
As time has passed, we've certainly improved at living with what's available here, although my parents have been known to wander a supermarket or Hobby Lobby in awe when they've gone back to the USA on a visit. And these days, the care packages have started to go the other way around the globe, as we send things like bags of Malaysian curry powder, packets of uncooked papadam, tubes of henna, and batik tablecloths back to those college kids who are missing home. It's interesting to look back and see how the tables have turned as the years crept by.