Tuesday, June 24, 2014

A Good Time

Welcome to Kota Bharu! Yes, on my very first weekend back In Malaysia, I was presented with an unexpected opportunity to travel through space and time to this Kelantanese never-never land, tucked up in the far reaches of the Malaysian countryside. 

And what a weekend it was.  Unplanned in every sense of the world, I found myself in a fascinating array of places and situations. 

After flying in to the local airport through a pounding thunderstorm, my first hours on the ground were spent cruising through neighborhoods with my host's eldest sister, Linda, and her family, as we picked up assorted relatives here and delivered them there. Many of the passing faces were familiar and it was great fun to watch their ordinary expressions shift in surprise as they gradually made out my pale face in the back of the dark car. Most people did not know that the American would be in town. 

I spent a pleasant night at Linda's house where I shared a bedroom and some sweet if simple conversation with her darling eleven-year-old daughter. The next morning, after watching mother help daughter into her prettiest dress and headscarf, we headed to off to a housewarming party. 

The party was held at the brand new home of my host's second-eldest sister, Yantie, and her family. I volunteered for kitchen duty and soon found myself sitting on the floor in my fancy baju kurung, preparing limes for the drinks, slicing desserts into servings, and chit-chatting with the other women. I love it when I fit in. 

By mid-afternoon, I was ready to move. Off I went, all by myself, to my hotel room in central Kota Bharu where I got myself settled, put out some texts to nearby friends, and sat down to wait. I had no idea what might happen next. 

The answer came soon enough. My friend, Juwe, resolved a handful of transportation problems and soon showed up on my doorstep to take me out and around the city. We walked for several hours, taking breaks to eat, enjoy the scenery, take photos, and eat some more. 

While I love the vibrant colors and gritty vibe of the streets of KB, I especially enjoyed my up-close-and-personal visit with the muddy Kelantan River. 

The next day, I spent time with my other friend named Juwe, who lives in KL and happened to be back in his hometown for a wedding. Interestingly, the two Juwes are best friends from childhood and it was an unexpected treat for me to spend time with the two of them together. 

As afternoon drifted into evening, the second Juwe and I rejoined his wife and children, who I've met before, as well as his mother, two brothers, one sister-in-law, three nephews and one darling niece. I enjoyed a long conversation with one brother about local tourist sites, and looked at a billion of his photos. During dinner, I totally hit it off with the sister-in-law who is a math teacher, just like me, and a beautiful speaker of English. The food, as usual, was to die for. 

By Sunday morning, all that was left to do was meet up with my host's big family for a nice nasi breakfast, and then begin the long journey back to the real world in faraway KL. 

Thanks for the memories, KB. I never know what to expect from you but you always show me a good time. 

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