A few months ago, I had a small medical scare. I thought my armpits were melting.
Yes, you read that right. We were trekking along in the half-tamed jungle– aka a Malaysian city park– and I told Tyler, with some alarm, that my arms felt as if they were gliding past each other, as if the joints were somehow especially lubricated with a slick, slick sweat. I know this may be veering severely into TMI territory for some of you, but once you live somewhere where the average daily temperature is well above 100F, you kind of accept sweaty topics as par for the course.
So back to the medical scare. It took me quite a bit of time to really figure out what was happening, as I had never before experienced an armpit-melting-sensation. But after a few particularly “slidy” jaunts out to the park, it suddenly hit me, in my very own lightbulb moment. I was wearing a new deodorant! And it was “all natural”! Which meant it had lots of baking soda! And when you add water– or in this case buckets of sweat– to baking soda… it gets slick!
Sweating buckets had become a way of life for us, and we kind of assumed it was the price we’d have to pay for otherwise acclimating well to the sudden change in climate. We figured if we spent a significant period of time in Malaysia, we’d eventually acclimate even further, to the point where we would no longer be drenched at the end of a ten minute walk across the neighborhood. Our new Malaysian friends quickly put that dream to rest, assuring us that sweating is just as much a way of life for them as any visiting tourist.
When we took the all day Murphys See KL tour that these friends planned for us, we saw for ourselves the truth that even native Malaysians sweat. We were all drenched, but none of us cared. I mean, we cared in the sense that it is incredibly uncomfortable. We cared enough to stop off at a drink stand after two hours at the park, to replenish our repleted water levels. But we didn’t mind if someone noticed that the back of our shirt matched the armpits of our shirt matched the shoulders where our backpack straps hit us… and none of it matched the actual color of our shirt.
Instead, we really enjoyed time in one of the prettiest places in downtown KL– a giant park! And we stuffed our faces with all the best foods, and we saw some of the most iconic landmarks that KL has to offer.
Besides sweating in solidarity, we had other things in common. Tyler and Bryan totally had the same sense of humor. There was a lot of ridiculous behavior and giggling in the car that day. I had lots of photography questions for Shaun, who later sent us all the photos in this post. And Gavin was so funny to talk to about his coffee obsession. We kept it light with goofy banter, and also went deeper with cultural questions. Tyler and I were genuinely curious to learn all we could about being Malaysian from the best source possible– our Malaysian peers.
And it turns out, Malaysians in their twenties also talk about politics and the future of their country. They can relate their own travel stories and understand what it’s like to feel connected to a new “home country”. And they can debate religious upbringings and how our early experiences with the Church affect our present attitudes.
And at the end of a very hot day, they too get that sweating is a terrible, terrible reality of life in Malaysia. And I think Tyler was pleased to find that every single one of them sided with him on the humidity argument. It’s the downfall of many a climate.
Since I’m an “all natural” kind of girl, I decided to keep with the deodorant that provoked my initial concern. But it was a great comfort to know: my armpits were not melting in the least. Many things in life have seemed overwhelming and new to us in these last several months, but there have always been explanations. And if not explanations, the consensus that we’re not alone and our experience isn’t new. If you talk to enough people and observe enough armpits, you’re bound to find a confidant who will tell you “this is just life, and this is how you do it”.