Saturday, October 9, 2010

Three Countries in One Day

Tomorrow its the rather magical tenth of October, 2010  or 10/10/10.

May this prove to be as auspicious as I hope it will be.

At ten past eleven my plane takes off for Singapore.

About eight hours later, my old friend Eveline, with whom I went  to university and have not seen for nineteen years, is picking me up from Changi Airport and then we're off to her home in Jahor Bahru, Malaysia for a few days.

Three countries in one day. W00t!

The last time Eveline and I spent time together she gave me some of the best insights into this fascinating country.

In 1991, I moved to England for what I thought would be a two year stint. I spent a week in Malaysia with  couple of old uni friends who put me up and showed me round the place. In 1991, Malaysia wasn't the country it is today. Nineteen years ago, Malaysia was very much second world.

For a recent graduate who'd only ever been to New Zealand, it was a complete eye opener. At the time I wore my hair very long and dyed it red. I'm about 15 centimetres taller than the average Malaysian woman. And solo female travellers were not very often seen back then. In other words, I stuck out like the proverbial sore thumb. After a day I was completely over being stared at, beeped at, and called out to. It was intimidating. I made sure I was dressed modestly at all times, but still, the stares, beeps and shouts got to me. This was nineteen years ago - tourism and Asia's view of single women travellers is much more understanding and tolerant twenty years on.

Near the end of my stay, Eveline took me down to meet Chee, her then fiancee's parents in Malacca, halfway between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur. The trip down there was one of my best memories - Chee's parents were market traders who lived in a two bedroom apartment in central Malacca. From the humble dwelling there came three kids - now a doctor, a dentist and an architect - all educated at foreign universities. The sacrifices of his parents really hit home. I was blown away - and felt very, very fortunate for my mostly government paid tertiary education.

After a tour of the Malacca wet market it was off for breakfast - at a noodle bar, found under a piece of shade cloth, just outside the market, filled with cats and smells and odd cutlery and bowls of sambal. I thought this was just brilliant.This was how the locals did things. Fantastic.

Eating in makeshift noodle bars, seeing how the locals do things, finding different experiences, this is what I love about travelling.

Nineteen years on, Eveline is a lawyer, happily married to Chee with two lovely kids who I can't wait to meet.

I rather hope Eveline has good memories of me too. Eveline and I met at university residential college - Lincoln College to be precise. She was one of the people who introduced me to chilli and spice and all things different and exotic - and her friendship was always very valued, though unfortunately we lost contact soon after I moved to England. Thankfully facebook allowed us to reconnect last year. She was always a person I wished I'd kept in contact with.

When I told my mum that I was staying with Eveline and Chee she said to say hello. Not a Christmas goes past where she doesn't mention the year Eveline came for Christmas.

In our second year, Eveline came home with me for the year end festivities. Mum still talks of how she sat in the kitchen watching her cook. "What are you doing? Is that traditional? Does everybody do that?", were Eveline's repeated questions. Our family doesn't do the traditional Christmas thing, more Australian seafood and salad, but both were fascinated with what the other did at this time of year.

I just remember that as a good christmas. Things were going to change pretty drastically soon after that.

So nineteen years on - our lives are so different. But I have the sneaky suspicion we won't run out of things to talk about.

With everything packed, ready to go, all there is to do is do the last load of sheets and towels before Alice picks me up and takes to to Melbourne airport early in the moring. I feel incredibly, wonderfully blessed.

Which is just how I should feel at the moment.

Also, my friend D is running his first marathon tomorrow. If I wasn't going abroad I'd be doing it with him - or running a few kilometres behind him anyway. For an engineer he can put together some great words. D's blog gives you an insight into the long distance runner. Hats off to you D - will be sending you energy - you're my hero and I'm incredibly proud of you. My running dreams are being lived out vicariously.

Tomorrow's going to be a big day.




Anonymous said...

Good luck with your travels. I will do my best to make you proud


The Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi Pandora,

I'm off to Kunming tomorrow too.

I;m sure you will have lots of fun on your travels - not sure I will though.




River said...

Have a great time and please bring back lots of photos to share with us stay-at-homes.