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April 12, 2017

Goodies from the States

Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – Many people here ask me what I bring back from the States and why. My first reply is shoes like Nike, Puma and other brands. "Why should you bring those back when they are made over there" is the reply. Well, it's not that simple.


Shoes, t-shirts and other items made here for the export market are assembled in long buildings with 10 foot fences and topped with barbed wire. The raw materials go into one end of the building and the finished product come out the other.


Shoe boxes or bags are then immediately packed into shipping containers and the doors sealed. They are then loaded onto ships destined for whatever country or business that placed the order. People work in 12-hour shifts with one or two representatives from the States or Europe ensuring quality.


The shoes we buy here are of inferior quality lasting about three or four months. For example, I just tossed out a pair of Nikes I purchased seven years ago, while a pair I purchased locally show signs of wear after three months. And I walk everywhere.


I purchase three pair for my wife, three pair for my son in growing sizes, two pair for Siti and a pair for me.


I also bought a frying pan. Not any old pan, but one that was advertised on television while I was in Great Falls, MT. It was one where for $19.95 you get all those extras. It was copper and guaranteed very cleanable.


I ordered it from Amazon and their two day delivery turned into three weeks. And three came. I packed them into my suitcase and brought it home to my wife. She looked at me quizzically, and I said just try the pan. After a few uses, out went the old pans and she just loves this new one.


We do not have dishwashers here, so there is a lot of scrubbing involved, but not with this one. One ended up over at the kampong and used over an open fire fueled by coconut husks. It cleaned up nicely, but I wonder if the manufacturers had intended it for that use.


Cheese is ridiculously expensive here. I usually purchase 30 pounds of cheddar from Sam's Club and that lasts about a year when it is parceled out like gold. The suitcases go into the bottom part of the plane, barely heated, so the cheese stays cold. The problem was I could only fit two blocks into each suitcase, so I had two left over. What to do?


I looked at my back pack and strapped two blocks into the very top above the clothes. This made the back pack very top heavy. As I tried to put it on, the pack pulled me downward and I had to struggle to right myself.


Then there was clearing security. The big ladies, and I do mean big, hauled out the cheese and asked me what it was. I said cheese. They looked at me as if the elevator didn't go to the top floor. I told them I was going to a country where cheese was very expensive, but they weren't buying that. They took each block and passed it through the x-ray machine, twice. Satisfied, they left everything in a mess and I had to repack.


The cheese went again on top and as I swung around to load the backpack on my back the oft balance pulled me to the floor. It was a hilarious dance and the smiles from the other passengers were quite amusing. I endured comments like "enjoy your cheese" as I processed through the airport.


...Life is good


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