Stranded in Penang- Part 7
Updated: Mar 15, 2021
If it weren’t for the fact that our belongings are strewn around the world and our families are far, far away, that Mike’s work situation is so uncertain with the schools saying one thing and the Chinese government and the British Foreign Office saying another and that I at the drop of a hat have had to turn into a full time home-school educator, I would feel really quite at home in Penang. The reason for this is that so much of the experience here reminds me of my experience of childhood in Equatorial East Africa. The relatively close latitudes mean that the climate is almost identical, with a dry season and two rainy (monsoon) seasons per year, with the dawn and dusk varying only by about an hour the whole year round, (dawn at 7.30 am, dusk at 8pm). The almost stifling heat between the hours of 11 am and 3 pm, the cool, dry breezes at twilight, the infrequent, brief but deafening torrential down pours are so reminiscent.
Of course, as the climate is almost identical, the fauna and produce are also very similar. I have been drinking in the sweet perfumes of the frangipani flower, admiring the pink and purple explosions of bougainvillea and deep, crimson hibiscus flowers fluttering in the breeze. Gideon and Emily especially are enjoying the succulent mangoes and pineapples and fresh coconuts. There’s a locally famous ‘coconut man’ who, (breath in), within a bewitching four seconds has twisted the coconut round 360 degrees in his left hand, while his right hand has landed the blade to make three clean cuts to open it, (breath out). He still has all his fingers.
The wildlife is also so similar. Often you have to hesitate to take a step to allow a cute baby gecko to scurry away into a dim corner. We share the kitchen with a small army of ants, and often prefer to eat indoors to reduce the amount of fly-wafting required. I’m thankful that so far there are no cockroaches but I did meet an incredibly stubborn, 3 inch long cicada who had unnervingly successfully camouflaged himself on my black backpack and was unperturbed by our attempts to flick him away.
Undesirable insects aside, during a short walk on the mainland in a town called Taiping, we saw at least 5 different species of butterfly. Grass yellows were numerous but we also saw a Banded Swallow Tail, a Lime butterfly, a Horsfiled's Baron and a Commander!