03 May 2013


Naomi has passed her first entrance exam at the tender age of five — she will be able to attend the school we had in mind from the very beginning. Things, as they do, work out. Tana-rata is Malay for 'flat field': it is a quiet school in the middle of a palm oil plantation. A metonymy. There is a pool and the school is full of kind aunties.

This was, I believe, the last step in establishing an indefinitely secure life here. I have a renewable contract and the girls can go to school until A-levels, if they want: Mei and Mia are automatically accepted. Now, to have it fully paid for, and I will be able to exhale some more. One thing at a time: everyone has been so patient, but we've done what this post has required, despite the difficulties, and that's something. A kind of academic merit badge.

The future is starting to materialise on the horizon. So many possibilities in the multiverse: I pray to 75 year-old me for guidance. This could be a big year, a very, very big year: I need to keep my head down... I'm writing like a madman, a kind of manic energy overload that, harnessed, leads to an incredible output. After Mia was born, I sloppily drafted my dissertation in 10 days: that sort of energy. The older I get, the better I am at dealing with the energy and the inevitable depression, but it's hard to explain, to put into words. I suddenly feel a rush of endorphins just standing there, no reason: just suddenly, incredibly happy. If I told you what triggered it, you'd laugh. I close the door of the office and a week later there is a research proposal, another journal article, an edited collection going forward, a new class I'm teaching... Where is the time coming from, how is it all getting done? 

Yesterday, the girls played in the park across from our terrace house in Taman Sri Minang and I cleaned leaves out of the gutter around the park. When prodded, the leaves coughed out a cloud of mosquitoes, so I spent an hour digging them all out and pulling out plants that were growing from the damp mulch. A leather-skinned Malay man came out to watch me, smoking and sitting on a bench: he didn't say anything, so after a while I said hello and we started chatting.

He is retired, living in Ipoh, but his son rents a house in our neighbourhood. He told me the council should clean the gutter, and I laughed, making a joke about nothing getting done unless you do it yourself. He used to be an audio technician, he said — worked in Qatar and in KL and we talked about the world as he saw it and I saw it. He smoked, watching me waist deep in the gutter, making three piles of mud and leaves to burn after they dry out. 

The terrace house in Taman Sri Minang, with its fans and aunties and bugs, a kind of home for us. Yoko points to an army of ants walking across the wall from one opening in the door frame to another. There's mould on the ceiling. We talk about moving out, but there's really no better place to go for now. We are situated perfectly for the future here: for Naomi to go to school, for Mei to go to kindergarten, and for me to walk daily to the bus station. Provided we can accept the bugs and the heat, seal all the holes with silicon, and keep our heads above water. Provided it all works out.