Wednesday, April 10, 2013

48 Hours With Xeera

Xeera is my host's sister-in-law and I'm happy to say that she's my friend, too. On paper, we might look like opposites but in real life we are birds of a feather. We both love action movies, late-night adventures, cookies for breakfast, and playing with Aleesya. We're both highly visual, interested in all kinds of arts and addicted to Instagram. Whenever we get together, we always have fun.

So last week, when my temporary hosts' baby decided to make an early appearance and I needed a new place to stay, Xeera kindly took me in and kept me happy and entertained for two days nonstop.

We met up after work on Thursday at a mutually convenient location - IKEA - and enjoyed this eclectic feast. Meatballs and gravy, french fries, chicken wings, apple pie and an almond tart. Every bite was delicious.

Afterwards, we wandered over to the nearby movie theater to see G.I.Joe. No chick flicks for us; we prefer explosives and subterfuge in our cinematic adventures. The plot surpassed my expectations, and I'm happy to report that I remembered to grab a sweatshirt from my bag in the car. Malaysian movie theaters are outrageously cold, and I'm glad I didn't have to worry about hypothermia.

Then we went home for the night. Here is my cozy bed at Xeera's place.

We slept in a bit the next morning,and then headed off to Bangsar for some toast and tea. The peanut butter I was served could have been from my cupboard at home; it tasted exactly like Adams Original crunchy. A friend of Xeera's joined us for chit chat and it was a very pleasant way to start the day.

At this point, we parted ways. I headed off to spend the day at KLCC, a major tourist center and shopping mall. And Xeera went to her office for a solid half-day's work.

By 5:30 pm, we met up again and headed to Mid Valley Mega-mall to meet most of the rest of the family, including Aleesya. Xeera got some fun shots of us wandering around, and Aleesya and I played a spirited game of hide and seek in the men's department of a clothing store while her grandfather tried on shirts.

Eventually we all made our way to the food court and enjoyed a fresh and spicy dinner of fish and clams grilled in Portuguese style. I found out later that this involved mass quantities of anchovies, which generally turn my stomach upside down, but it was too late to worry about that.

After dinner, Xeera and I went back to Damansara to take in a pasar malam, or night market. Imagine a vast complex of fresh air stalls, settled on a firm concrete foundation but mostly open to the elements with plastic tarps for roofs and the occasional wall. Sold in these stalls are a dazzling array of clothing, handbags, shoes, fragrances, and who knows what else, all at deeply discounted prices. We wandered up and down the aisles for a long time, taking it all in. Xeera bought a few things, but I was too overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of the stuff to choose anything more than a coconut milkshake. It was a very wise choice, though, if I do say so myself.

Next morning we stayed at home. Xeera did her chores while I slept in. I'm shameless. We left home around noon, and after a quick stop at an Instagram-worthy car wash, we met up with Xeera's sister, Wannie, who joined us for the rest of the day's adventures.

Our first stop as a threesome was for food. These girls don't mess around. We went to a hole-in-the-wall joint in Kuala Lumpur and I ate a delcious bowl of noodles. My compliments to the chef!

We stopped by the family tailor and picked up several custom made garments. My new baju kurung was ready and I tried it on to be sure it fit. Like a glove. I've never had a custom made outfit before. Only in Malaysia.

After that errand was complete, the sisters took me to explore what they described as the city's biggest pasar malam. But wait. It's not night. Yes, they explained, just think of it as a night market that starts early.

Okay. I can deal with that.

We walked among a dizzying array of sights, sounds and smells. I was constantly on the lookout for those two shawls - Wannie's was the yellow and Xeera's the purple and teal. Without those two colorful heads in sight, I would have been lost for sure.

We spent a lot of time looking for shawls to wear with their new baju kurung. Intuitively, I understood the fine art of wanting a shawl that coordinates with one's outfit, while avoiding an overly matchy-matchy look. But I cannot grasp how these two women could evaluate the altermatives and choose such lovely shawls amidst the mass chaos and infinite options of the pasar malam. I take my hat -err, headscarf - off to them.

Finally, the perfect shawls were purchased and our thoughts returned to food. We browsed a fabulous dessert shop, passed several giant deep fat fryers that were just a few inches away from the crushing crowds, and enjoyed the colorful bounty of fresh roasted ears of corn.

But our target was this interesting shop full of Kelantanese food where we bought some yummy nasi dagang to take home for dinner. After we bought the food, I asked Wannie and Xeera if the men working there were from Kelantan.

Yes, they said.

Hmm. That's what I thought. But, I wondered, how could you tell?

Their slang, my friends replied. The Kelantanese dialect is very distinctive, and easy to pick out.

Well. That may be. But I couldn't understand a word they said, and yet I knew without a doubt that these men were Kelantanese.

How could I be so sure?

They were wincingly, awkwardly, painfully shy. The classic hallmark of a Kelantanese man.

With our supper in hand, we headed back to the car and the home of my host. After a delicious meal and a Malaysian movie, Xeera and I parted company. Our visit may have ended but those 48 hours of fun will live in my memory for many years to come.

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For more stories about my favorite Malaysian playmate, Aleesya, read these:

Day One
Malaysian Memories: Part Two

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To find all the stories of my amazing adventures in southeast Asia, go here:

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