17 September 2013

What we show and don't

I don't know when I stopped taking photos of things in Malaysia. Yoko still has energy for it, but I don't.  On Sunday, we took out some Japanese college girls that Yoko had met at the mall. 18, 19 years old, the two of them took pictures of everything they saw in the market, and I watched them and watched the Malaysians watching them. Naomi and Mei watched as an old Chinese man pulled apart a chicken, cover in blood. Naomi was stoic, but realistic, 'It's okay because we eat it.' Mei was mesmerised, looking carefully at the cut neck. 

I'm happy to give this to them, to my children. Let them see the world as it is.

The Japanese college girls were energetic in a way that I had forgotten Japanese women of that age can be. At the same time both adults and children. Yoko kept buying them different kinds of food: try this, drink that. Naomi and Mei and Mia bounded around, full of endless energy too, but I felt, again, sapped and flaccid, as I have for a while in Malaysia now. I want to see it as foreign, for the smells and tastes to be new again.

I say that, but things still surprise me. Last night, the mid-autumn moon cake festival that our Chinese neighbours celebrated. Coming home from the new Speedmart 99, I met our neighbours walking up the road carrying paper lanterns hung on sticks. Other neighbours bought moon cake that Naomi attempted to cut evenly into five pieces.

Naomi and Mei continue to impress: saying goodbye to a vender selling us food at the hawker stalls, Naomi greeted the man in Chinese and he smiled broadly. She said it so naturally, telling Yoko all the things she had learned in school and then counting to 10 in Spanish. The world is so big for them. There's so much out there.

At the foot of the hill at Tanarata today, Naomi hugged me once and then, before going, came back for another hug. 'I love you/ stay with me' I wrote in my Bahktin poem. She walked off quickly then, up the hill, diligently pulling her rolling suitcase. I love you, I wanted to shout out again: I love you.

This all weighs heavily on me as I think about my next move and what my agency in the system can accomplish in terms of change. For now, at least, it looks like the choices in the immediate future will be clear enough: hard in the short term, but best in the long term. We need to now accept the different versions of the world as they are, not as I want it to be or think they should be. At least I have the agency to reject the most onerous version: it's only a matter of deciding which one it is.
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