British colonial architecture,
raging equatorial thunderstorms,
the latest trends in headscarf fashions,
visits to the police station,
and Indonesian soap operas.
And all of that was great. I loved learning and living in a radically different part of the world, where my curiosity was endlessly provoked by fascinating, never-dreamed-of things.
But when I reflect back on my trip, those novelties and nuances fade away, and a much more important revelation comes to mind.
What mattered most about my trip was the people.
|^ Our first meal together was a very familiar one: chicken nuggets and french fries at McDonald's. Then I took a bite of Aleesya's durian creme and I knew I was not in Kansas anymore.|
|^ Merey models at Merdeka Park. |
|^ This is the road that Muahahaha built.|
|^ Ramona was powerless to resist my sleep-inducing snuggles.|
|^ Me, Merey, Muahahaha, Pija, and Ramona...all present and accounted for!|
And it wasn't just that my Malaysian friends turned out to be just as friendly and funny and cool as I expected them to be. Psh, I knew they would be amazing.
Here's the thing. When I arrived on their collective doorstep, nine thousand miles from home, I was alone and defenseless. Sure, I had some cash in my pocket and I wasn't exactly without resources, but I put myself completely into their hands and gave myself over to their care.
Stepping out of my standard take-charge roles of mother, household manager, and teacher, I let go of my normal state of being in control, and I surrendered myself to these people on the other side of the world.
|^ Lokhman works his lenses at Batu Caves. Wait, where are the bride and groom?|
|^ Aleesya perfects the art of the elevator selfie,while Xeera looks on approvingly.|
|^ Any historic site that features a cannon is top notch in my book.|
|^ Early on Easter Sunday, we went to a hot air balloon festival. Happily, the morning air was not yet hot.|
And remember, I didn't give myself up just once. Every two or three days, with each change of households, I repeated the process of releasing my expectations, allowing others to take control, feeling my way into the unique rhythm of a new family dynamic, and going with the flow.
Without a doubt, my hosts were amazing. Sensitive, thoughtful and generous, they took wonderful care of me, and I am endlessly grateful to each and every friend who took me in..
But I would be lying if I said it was easy to adjust to this new way of life. Fun, scary, exciting, bewildering, enlightening, confusing, always surprising - my emotions shifted from moment to moment as each day unfolded like a kaleidoscope, a pitch-black roller coaster ride of unknown twists and turns.
|^ Mak, Xeera, me and Ekin, preparing to eat the meal of the century. |
|^ My host's nieces speak beautiful English. Plus they are adorable.|
|^ These two older girls befriended me at the pool and convinced me to tutor them in English. We had fun with that.|
|^ Apparently, I now pose for pictures while soaking wet. I have no shame.|
I put my complete trust into people whom I had never laid eyes on.
|^ I took these darling Kelantanese nieces to the pool for some swim time; they were wild little water babies.|
|^ Hipsterism reigned at Pjoe and Amy's wedding.|
|^ My illegal boat ride across the Indian Ocean, courtesy of my sweet-talking companion and the ship's captain whose head she turned.|
Well, of course I survived. I thrived!
And my friendships thrived too. These are people that I would now trust with my life.
Oh wait, I already did.
|^ Sani and Juwer took me to see the reclining Buddha. Tick that one off the ol' bucket list.|
|^ A happy pyramid of last-minute posing. at KLIA.|
So here's to my Malaysian friends who took me in and cared for me, in the most literal sense of the word. Our worlds may be far apart and filled with differences, but you treated me as your sister and for that I am awed and grateful.
You all were the reason that I came in the first place.