|This is Ayam Golek...also known as rolled roasted chicken. I hear it's delicious.|
It was early August 2008. Summer was in full bloom and there was, as usual, a certain lushness to the season that made me want to roll out some pies. Blueberry pies, blackberry pies, peach pies...I was really in a mood to bake.
So in that spirit, on August 4, at 7:40 pm., I impulsively posted this status on Facebook: "Diane will bake you a pie. Just ask."
I had no idea how my life was about to change.
|Early morning bubbles float along the winds of chance on Broga Hill, |
a popular hiking spot outside Kuala Lumpur.
Within a few hours, a new chat window popped open and I glanced down to see who was greeting me. Wait. I didn't recognize this name; the combination of letters was so unfamiliar to me that I couldn't have pronounced it for love or money. What was going on here?
In a flash, I remembered that in the past few days, I had been indiscriminately adding dozens of Facebook strangers to be my allies in the Mob Wars application that was so popular at the time. Ummm wait. Sure, I added those people to play the game, but I didn't have any plans to actually talk to them. This was quickly becoming weird and unsettling; I was determined to make a quick getaway.
But my conversation partner was quite at ease. He cheerfully greeted me in polite English with proper punctuation, and asked me very directly if I would please bake him an apple pie and have it couriered to him.
Haha alright fine. I'll play along. Sure, I'll bake your pie, mister. Where would you like me to send it?
|Land of big brown eyes, strong white teeth and many a peace sign in pics. |
These Malaysians definitely like to chuck the deuce up.
And this was how I met my first Malaysian friend. Over the next few weeks and months, not only did our friendship deepen and grow in surprising ways, but I began to meet his friends, and his friends' friends. Each person I met was as nice and enjoyable and interesting as the next; the neverending circles of friendship continue to grow to this day.
Now I had had other international Facebook friends. I was no stranger to online friendships and I had met lots of nice people. But there was something about these Malaysians that was different.
|Wait.. is that a Malaysian head photoshopped onto Italian footballer Paolo Maldini 's body?|
Yes, I do think it's funny. Hilarious, in fact. Lolz.
I soon learned that my new friends were not merely Malaysians. Yes, they were citizens of the country of Malaysia and they were also mostly Malay, the indigineous people of that area of southeast Asia.
But more specifically, they are Kelantanese. Born and raised in Kelantan, one of the 13 states of Malaysia, my newfound friends have a unique identity and pride in their motherland that the ordinary Malaysian does not. I can best compare it to the brotherhood that exists among native Texans, although the Kelantanese are more gentle-spirited and less larger-than-life than the average swaggering good ol' boy from Texas.
|The Kelantan Market is a source of great local pride and a must-see destination for any visitor to Kelantan. |
It's definitely on my list.
Three and a half years later, I can't imagine my life without the Kelantanese.
Generous, kind, open-hearted and fun-loving, the Kelantanese bring a lot of light and laughter into my life. Ineffably cheerful and genuinely humble, they make wonderful friends.
|These five gentlemen are kind, funny, clever and entertaining. Plus they wear really nice t-shirts.|
We talk a lot about food. They have taught me all about Kelate cuisine such as nasi dagang and ayam golek; I post pics of my meals to show them my American home cooking. Food provides both a common bond and an endless source of curiosity about each other's lives.
|Fred Flintstone is alive and well, and currently eating brontosaurus drumsticks in Kuala Lumpur.|
Despite the huge differences in our cultures, we all watch the same movies, listen to the same music, and enjoy discussing all variety of artistic expression. Their devotion to the local football club, The Red Warriors, is addictive and I've become a flag-waving fan in my own right.
|This is the Khota Baru Rebel Squad, proud supporters of the Red Warriors. |
I am not only a card-carrying member of the KBRS but also the president of the Seattle Chapter.
Although I am a Christian and they are Muslims, we honor and respect each others' faith and learn from the differences. They wish me a blessed Ramadhan, I send them Christmas gifts, and it's all good.
|On Islamic holidays, my friends send me pics of themselves slicing open the throats of live animals.|
It blows my mind and makes me proud, all at the same time.
They are ridiculously, hilariously funny. They enjoy my sense of humor and I totally embrace theirs. It's really quite shocking how we can amuse each other will silly little comments, a fact that often vexes my other friends who may find themselves tagged into a Facebook status conversation that ends up with 50 or 60 nonsensical Kelantanese posts.
|Wait...how did I get this pic of JUDE LAW???|
While most of our conversations are light-hearted and entertaining, our conversations can go deep when necessary. Together, we have shared births, deaths, weddings and break-ups. Not every type of personality translates well to the arena of online friendships, but the Kelate traits of honesty, openness and kindness make it very easy to build a real relationship that endures the test of time.
|I've already started building friendships with the next generation of Kelantanese. :)|
And that is most important of all. My Kelantanese friends and I share life in a way that is honest, open, fun and very real. They are my companions and blood brothers, and I feel blessed beyond words to have found them.
|Hey, Jurie...here's that apple pie I owe you.|
P.S. Photo credits go to Jurie, Fish, Pjoe, Mouse, Fros, Epy, Puwer and Lokhman. Thank you for giving me permission to use your beautiful work!
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