20 November 2013

Telling a story backwards

This is one embodied experience of Malaysia: Last night, Yoko and the girls came to campus to meet me after a meeting and by chance, one of the PhD students in the department was here, and we all went to dinner in the village of Broga, down the road from the university. Broga, filled with Chinese people and durian, has a gate that you enter and a lovely Chinese restaurant that staff from the university frequent. I told the story of the first time I was there, with my boss and the Dean of my faculty, and I reminisced about coming to Malaysia, what I had wanted and expected. The girls ate happily and ran around, and we came back to campus to walk in the cool night air. The girls played in the fountain in the middle of campus and we walked through the new night market that they have set up here on Tuesday. The moon was full, it has been full the last couple of days.

This is one embodied experience of Malaysia: the bus lurching and fighting its way out of campus. Standing to exit, I steady myself on the armrest, the door already open and curb and grass and stray dog flying by below. What if I fall, I think and then try to unthink. These are not useful thoughts, not fruitful ones. Press on, I think, wait and brace for the stop, I think. Ah, there lah, it's done now. Walk into the heat, up the hill to campus.

Exactly one year ago I was standing looking down at St Martin's church in Birmingham with all the women in my life: my wife, my mother, and my children. We walked up through the German Christmas market and Grandma bought the girls mittens although I told them it was a waste, we wouldn't need them in Malaysia because it was so hot. Exactly one year ago, when I put everything into boxes and we came here. There was snow the day they took the boxes. Two Malaysians who were the first real Malaysians I had met took pictures of the snow on their phones and took our 14 boxes. I remember how empty the garage looked.

The terrace house in Taman Sri Minang is much more empty than the house in Bradwell Common. There are far fewer things: just cheap furniture I bought to last the year, maybe three. I didn't know it was cheap at the time, not until it all started breaking. Yoko and I take stock, it's still early, but what will we take. We have so little, it's been so basic. We'll take Naomi's bike, at least.

The people in Birmingham that I email tell me that come February I will miss the heat of Malaysia. I laugh too, yes, but there are other things to consider. The food is so much better there, right? Yes, lah, it is, but there are other things to consider.