My first experience with the Malaysian culture happened right as we stepped off the plane in the Kuala Lumpur airport. I needed to go to the bathroom at the end of the plane ride so the first thing I looked for was a bathroom. Sure enough, across the hall from the gate I saw a doorway that appeared to be the entrance to a public restroom. The symbol outside the door was a profile of a man’s head wearing a fez, not the typical icon for a men’s room but we’re in a different country and the picture was of a man so I entered. Immediately around the corner from the entryway was a metal rack with several pairs of shoes on it so I took mine off. Feeling a little strange, I turned around and poked my head around the corner and saw Rohan and Dr. Paterson approaching. They also needed to use the bathroom. Reassured, I left my shoes on the rack and I entered the bathroom. To my left I saw a man washing his feet in a large wash basin filled with water. Confused, i quickly looked right where men were kneeling on carpets praying. The man at the wash basin looked at us as I registered where we were. This of course, was not a bathroom but an Islamic prayer room. The three of us quickly escaped. I grabbed my shoes and walked out as fast as i could before I had time to put them back on. As a group, we spent the next few minutes laughing about what a ridiculous situation we had walked in to. We had already made our mark as “stupid Americans” before we even made it through customs.
A Bathroom Break