Blazing sun, blazing hearts


I like to visit my friends and their family, because I like to observe how they interact with each other. I think family dynamics can give interesting insight into a person’s character, values, responsibilities and attitudes.

My grandmother tells me that keh (Hakka) people form close-knit families. I saw it for myself in Kulai when I met fefe and her family. They spend most of their free time hanging out with each other and helping each other out.

fefe told us how her brother managed to persuade the Country Inn motel owner to give us a room for the night although it was absolutely fully booked. I saw how comfortable they were to share their cars among their siblings. fefe drove her sister’s car, her sister drove her brother’s car, her brother drove fefe’s car. It was a game of car swap due to circumstancial reasons, but nobody made a fuss.

I finally understood now why fefe appears and behaves older than she looks. I saw how she was a big sister to her baby brother, and as we laid quietly on our double beds in the motel, fefe shared about the sacrifices she made and the financial responsibilites toward her family. Seeing her family and visiting her hometown made me realise why it means so much to her to be able to further her studies in Australia.

We didn’t stay at her sister’s place though she had kindly offered, because we didn’t want to impose on her and her husband. To this, her sister replied, “You know for Malaysians, there is no such thing as pai seh (uneasy or embarrassed), there is only something called ‘cut cost’.”

It’s an interesting perspective for me, and certainly for many Singaporeans and city dwellers I believe. We have grown up to be so thin-skinned. We are too used to keeping to ourselves.  Imposing on people we don’t know seems punishable by crime. To others we must seem so aloof and proud, so particular about everything and not as easy-going.

And that I believe is the true lesson of our journey. To learn from the Malaysians what it means to be warm, helpful, friendly and genuine.

We hung out at fefe’s sister’s place in Kulai till late on Friday night. We played with her dog and talked about everything. It felt right at home, just like catching up with old friends. I was made to feel comfortable, though I had just met them. fefe brought us to have wonderful local food and took care of us.

I particularly enjoyed our chats in the car as we travelled on the highway to and fro Malacca. It was a rare opportunity to be able to talk about our lives and not about work. It made our road trips seem shorter. I groaned in disgust whenever we passed a dead monitor lizard on the road. We were toasted by the Malaysian sun.

In Malacca, fefe’s University friend, Limin showed no frustrations when we got lost on our way to the hotel. She remained patient in guiding us and even packed us lunch to save us queuing up at the famous chicken rice stall. She drove us to selected must-see attractions and then to a dingy back lane for a cockles, clams and cuttlefish dinner on low stools. “It’s dirty, but it’s a unique experience, ” Limin explained. How true!

When we noticed our car vibrating vigorously as we hit the highway back to Kulai, we stopped at a rest station to get help. A Malay stall owner saw that one of the wheels was damaged – it had a nail stuck. He went to fetch his tools to change the tyre, leaving his wife to tend the stall. “Malaysians should help each other, it’s got nothing to do with race or religion.”

It’s true that there are lots of crimes, there are lots of bad people and you need to be on guard all the time in Malaysia. Though fefe kept reminding us to be careful of our belongings and to keep a lookout for dodgy people, though she fed us with horror tales of cold-blooded crime, I could only go home with good things to say about the people.

The trip was special because the people made them so.

Explore posts in the same categories: Food, Friends, Travel

2 Comments on “Blazing sun, blazing hearts”

  1. fefe Says:

    Priceless!!

  2. sharon Says:

    wow, sounds like a great trip!


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