Alighting in Malaysia

When the lights dimmed ever so faintly while I sat with two friends in a local pub (so out of character for me!), British ex-pats filling the place to capacity, their eyes glued to the cricket match being broadcast live from Sri Lanka on the half-dozen flat screen TVs, I silently wished I was elsewhere to mark Earth Hour; in a place more shrouded in darkness, silence and peace.

Like Nepal, for example, where the load-shedding Buddha (my figurative creation) would have generously ensured significantly more than one hours’ worth of power outage; and where I met Michelle (she built a home outside Pokhara for a still-growing family whose children she supports and visits annually; and I met her there, at Farmer House) – the woman and friend I’ve come to visit in Malaysia. Sort of… Because right now, Michelle is half a world away, visiting her daughters and grandson in the UK. But those are just details really.

So here I am in Malaysia, a country I’ve never been to before. You’d think I would have wanted to jump right in, mark a map, head out to tour the city. Well, perhaps that was the general idea before I arrived. But, if truth be told, aside from sideways glimpses of the Petronas twin towers, museums and mosques, the bird park and other sights through the windows of a car, my ten-day stay in Malaysia (thus far) has been full of surprises.

And though I’d really like to blame Michelle for the fact that I’ve not hardly seen any of the sights in Kuala Lumpur (KL), I’d surely be fooling myself; because although it’s technically her ‘fault’ that my sojourn in KL thus far has been lacking in traveler-focused activities, I’m nothing short of grateful to her for inadvertently leading me down a different path. Little did I know, when I arrived in KL from Phnom Penh, that I would be getting right down (again!) to the business of healing my body, picking up with my recovery from where I left off a couple of months ago. But that’s what happened… little by little, with a few tweaks and twists.

OK, so there was more healing work to do, that would soon become apparent; but first we needed to kick up our heels a bit, dig into a bit of that Irish luck for the road ahead. What better way than joining the ranks at the swanky St. Patrick’s Day celebration hosted by the Irish Embassy at the Sheraton Hotel?! I went because Michelle was going; and Michelle went because her friend Liza (of Irish descent but a long-time expat herself) invited us to be her chaperones (aka gate-crashers).

A smorgasbord of food (predominantly non-Irish) was served; but the real treat was an endless supply of Bailey’s Irish Cream. Conversation ranged from the quality of international schools, life and traffic in KL (why, I wondered, is traffic a topic of conversation? Ha!) to the upcoming Full Moon Harrier Hash. And a group of local Malay students, in private school uniforms, sang traditional Irish ballads and played a couple of jigs. A cross-cultural experience, par excellence.

Then I started to meet more of Michelle’s friends, and their friends, and, well, it’s all been uphill from there…

Though the lights were temporarily, ever-so-subtly, dimmed last night, I am in constant awe of the hidden shining beacons, human lighthouses with love, heart and soul, that I discover even in the remotest, hardest-to-reach (traffic-jammed) pockets of this enigmatic city.

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