March 26, 2020

Flying out of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

In my infinite traveling wisdom, I thought it would be just fine to book an Airbnb right by the Petronas Towers, because in theory we could pop out for food and it would be super easy. But KL is not like the rest of Malaysia. Every building is either a shopping mall or a condominium. We went out for lunch a couple times, but otherwise we had groceries for breakfast and ordered Grab Eats for dinners because it's just so easy. Besides, Mr. Go was starting to feel under the weather and coronavirus had started blowing up in a big way, so we decided not to feel too guilty about staying in and watching movies.

We found surgical masks (after a thorough search because all the pharmacies were sold out) and sought out a child-sized cloth mask for Babs to wear in the airports.

With the last ounces of our adventurous spirits, we went for a walk around a nice lake (Taman Tasik Titiwangsa) and stumbled, wholly unprepared, onto a splash pad. Beyond caring, we stripped Babs down to her shorts and let her play. We wrung her out as best we could afterward and let the tropical sun dry her the rest of the way.

At a weird contemporary art museum we went to because it was free, Mr. Go tricked Babs into sounding out a swear word that was in one of the art installations. Truly the best things in life are free.

We were stretching for things to entertain Babs at this point, tired as we were. The KLCC park was close to our apartment, but it was just so hot in the afternoon, so we found an indoor playground in one of the shopping malls. We sat for an hour drinking Starbucks and let her run off some energy.

Grab drivers were becoming very concerned about coronavirus too. One even called us to check that we weren't Chinese before coming to pick us up, and said most drivers were refusing to pick up Chinese people.

Our evening flight was a welcome struggle. We got our last Boost smoothie and had a brief stopover in Singapore. I was sure I didn't sleep at all on the 15 hour leg, but Mr. Go assured me he caught me sleeping once or twice.

We arrived in Los Angeles and went through the same kind of culture shock we experienced coming home from Spain last year. There was toilet paper in all the bathrooms, and soap! We could read the signage and menus. Barely anyone in L.A. was wearing surgical masks yet.

We'd booked separate tickets to get us from L.A. to Chicago, then a rental car to get us to Green Bay, where we'd arranged to have Grandma pick us up.

Travel went very smoothly, until the flight to Chicago. About halfway through I felt a malaise overtake me.

I closed my eyes, thinking I was simply tired and gassy from the Wolfgang Puck Express hummus box in LAX. Would that was all. Just as I thought, boy, this might end in a vomit, and stood to stumble back to the lavatories, it overtook me all at once.

I flopped back in my seat and yanked the blessed vomit bag from the seatback pocket in front of me, then proceeded to fill it nearly to the brim. Babs slept like a rock the entire time, thank God for small favors. I could barely open my eyes, could barely speak. Between the utter exhaustion and whatever else was making my body NOPE out, I was a useless lump.

Mr. Go asked the stewardess (thank you again Alaska Airlines staff for your kindness) for a blanket and some crackers for me. He wrangled Babs and our luggage to the shuttle and through the rental car office. I stopped off for a quick vomit while Mr. Go secured us our wheels, and then did once again in a McDonald's parking lot somewhere in Southern Wisconsin.

At the Super 8 in Saukville, WI, I passed out before the pizza arrived and slept for the next 13 hours. When I woke at 4 a.m. the pizza had already been eaten for breakfast several hours earlier and I was semi-coherent again.

It was a strange sensation to feel the cold air. We had only our rain jackets and it was probably the illness making my body shiver so violently, but I felt wholly unprepared for the bitter cold, while at the same time being quite thankful for getting out of the equatorial heat.

Home was blissfully comfortable. There's something about travel, especially the bare bones way we travel, that makes us so grateful when we come home to all our familiar conveniences.

We've spent the next weeks processing all we saw and did and how it changed the shape of our perspectives. We kept Babs out of school for a week, limited our contact with people and checked our temperatures regularly. We were in the clear.

Asia was so wildly different from anything we'd experienced before. The unfettered friendliness and hospitality is something we may even brave the long flight for again in the future, which is really saying something. But for now, we're enjoying the perks of our home base and looking forward to all our home-state summer adventures, like gardening (and growing some Thai chiles, holy basil and lemongrass for my kitchen), canning, camping and living the good life.

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