Thursday, October 11, 2018

Global Learnings in Malaysia

Malaysia!  What a wonderfully diverse country, with so many exciting things to offer from food, to culture, religion, climate, eco systems and most of all, some very wonderful people who have become friends.  How did I get so lucky to have this opportunity to travel to a country halfway around the world from where I live for such a global experience?

Clare Frank, my mentor and teacher (she was born and raised in Malaysia), has been conducting seminars for the Malaysian physios the past 12 years.  She started to bring other fellow American PTs the past 6 years to help out in the growing classes.   Since this most recent trip this summer of 2018 was my 3rd time traveling to Malaysia, and having made some wonderful friends and colleagues, I looked forward to experiencing more of the country and her people.

Another American PT colleague, Melissa Urrutia-Holcombe and I flew out to Kuala Lumpur in August. It was a long journey (22 hours) but well worth it on so many levels.  Upon arrival, we were greeted at the airport by our host from Pusat Perubatan University Kebangsaan Malaysia (PPUKM) who dropped  us off at our hotel.  We then met up with Clare who took us out to dinner. In Malaysia, it is tradition to keep guests well fed and this is how we started our trip.  Well fed.  It was really fun to introduce Melissa (this was her first time to Malaysia) to the various foods and culture that I’ve been exposed to in the previous years. 

Teaching class was our next duty. Class was held at the University hospital. It was very exciting to see some familiar faces, old friends and a whole bunch of potential new friends. Teaching in other countries comes with its challenges, be it language or cultural and gender based. But with confidence in my broken Malay and the simple fact that most people speak English, I knew we would be fine. Melissa was great to work with the female participants and I enjoyed working with anyone who would listen! After three full days of class, we said our goodbyes to the class and took many pictures for all social media platforms. Then back to the "Jam"  (the 24/7 traffic jam- very reminiscent of LA traffic with more creative rules of the road) and the hotel to rest before the start of a week of mentoring the out-patient PT staff at the host hospital. 

I was very excited to see more familiar faces from previous years and looked forward to catching up with them both on a personal and professional basis.  It was very special to see how much the clinicians had grown and how mentoring the past # of years had changed them in a positive manner.  (Please note that mentoring the staff had been ongoing for the past 12 years by Clare and others before me.)  The questions posed by some of them reflected the hard work that has gone into learning the movement system. This was definitely a rewarding experience for clinical instructors/teachers like me and those that went before me.   Melissa was able to fit into the mentoring dynamic and learned the ins and outs rather quickly and was a huge support system.   

However, it wasn’t just all work and no play. 

Eating was certainly fun and eventful!  We ate with our hands (actually just the tips of fingers), with fork & spoon (instead of a knife), on skewers, on banana leaf or with chopsticks. There is definitely something for everyone.  Night markets and cuisine!  So much to discuss so little time. There are some amazing foods and some acquired tastes;  but most definitely, Malaysia is a food heaven. Quick history lesson- geographically, Malaysia was a stop en-route to India for sailing ships to trade and acquire spices. As a result, Malaysia has had its fair share of culinary influences and culinary mash ups. The result is very delicious foods that I struggle to find outside of Malaysia and always look forward to when I travel back here.

For all new-comers to Malaysia, there are definitely some staples to try!  Durian and Mangostine (King and Queen of fruits), nasi lemak (breakfast of champions) , fresh coconut water (such a refreshing treat) , Roti Chanai and of course Satay!! And and most recently “Chau tau fu” (stinky tofu) which is definitely an acquired taste.  The durian Mcflurry was a bit of a novelty for both Melissa and me. This durian McFlurry in no way compares to the durian out of the husk or durian gravy....mmmm.   

Kuala Lumpur or KL is a major city that is ever growing from some of the biggest 8 story malls one would ever see, to the beautiful geometric designs of the mosques. to some very impressive sky scrapers. KL tower and Petronas Towers are some architectural landmarks that are definitely a must-see.  Another must-see attraction is Batu Caves that we got to see on this trip, thanks to our Malaysia PT colleague, Rajes, who drove us there.  

Batu Caves is a limestone hill that has a series of caves and cave temples in GombakSelangorMalaysia. It takes its name from the Sungai Batu (Stone River), which flows past the hill. The cave is one of the most popular Tamil shrines outside India, and is dedicated to  Lord Murugan. It is the focal point of Hindu festival of Thaipusam in Malaysia. 

There is so much color in the flower wreaths that are used as offerings. You can use the color of these flowers as a marker while ascending the stairs to the temple. There are 272 steps up to the temple cave, which is not a bad thing, considering that we were eating all the time.  We definitely got our steps in for the day!  Batu Caves also hosts monkeys! I would say that once they woke up, the ratio of monkey to people was about equal. The monkeys are friendly little thieves so beware!  

With so many new experiences and friendships made, our journey had come to an end and it was time "to go back in time" to get home. (Malaysia is about 16 hours ahead of Pacific Coast time).  However, we continue to keep in touch with my Malaysian PT friends through email – e.g sharing articles and answering patient related questions or just checking in to say  "How's it going?"  Malaysia is such a wonderful place to visit but on a professional level, it has been such a rewarding experience to watch the PT profession grow on a more global scale. So, to our friends in Malaysia, TERIMA KASIH  (Thank you) for a life-changing experience and the opportunity to be part of your journey.

Ernie Linares PT, DPT, OCS, FAAOMPT

Doctor of Physical Therapy
Board Certified Orthopaedic Clinical Specialist
Fellow, American Academy of Orthopaedic Manual Physical Therapists  

Ernie Linares is a Physical Therapist and a Movement Links and Dynamic Neuromuscular Stabilization (DNS) certified practitioner. He currently works as a clinical specialist at the Kaiser Permanente Woodland Hills facility and as part-time faculty in the Physical Therapy Department at California State University, Northridge. Dr. Linares also serves on the American Board of Physical Therapy Residency and Fellowship Education as an Accreditation Services Committee Member.