Back in KL!

another quake, UGGGHHH…

Back here on Petaling Street, the central backpacker haunt of Kuala Lumpur, the most impulsive indulgence inspiring night market ever (ask my sister, whose simple half an hour here produced that fancy “original” designer handbag). back at the international hostel that I have continued to frequent since that very first night that I found myself on the streets of KL, tired and wonderfully out of my element. At least I’m not expecting an end to the noise from motorbikes and street stalls that never comes at night, making it a bit easier to sleep. Reunion with my friend Veena, graduated from University in Penang and living here in the big city, has been delightful. Off to meet her for lunch, actually.
The world is on fire, even from the vantage point of normally non-political Malaysian mass-culture. Then I looked at the news, and saw the thousands and thousands that have taken to the streets in protest of Israel’s actions in the Middle East. But then, Indonesians, for all their similarities with Malaysians, seem to be altogether different, something I look forward to understanding more over thenext few months. I’ve spent a lot of time taking advantage my international vantage point, talking to my foreign and Muslim and Buddhist and other friends and acquaintences, trying to get an understanding of what my generation, my peers around the world, are thinking. Is there a line being drawn between Islamic and Western worlds? I certainly don’t think it’s predestined, but the possibility seems all to real to not scare the hell out of me. Malaysia and Indonesia are so very important in this question I believe. Both are countries with Islamic majorities, yet they are incredibly different from the countries in the Middle East. They are places where lines are being drawn, places where these lines could become battle fronts if we, the citizens of the world, are not vigilent in our pursuit of communication and understanding.
But then, perhaps I shouldn’t be rambling like this, using my mass email as a platform. Sorry. Another important cultural flow, represented by the hoards of Chinese school boys that fill this cyber cafe with their all too vocal reactions to their online multi-player video games seems to be driving me nuts…

Taking the streets

As a student in Malaysia, I was always struck by the apathy that seems to charactize so much of the people that I meet. Part of this, of course, is the pledge that University students are forced to sign, promising they will stay out of politics. This seems endemic of a broader cultural trend, however; it has been easy for me to get the impression that most are more worried about simply obtaining the basic necessities, or, on the other end of the spectrum, in self-gratification.

This observation seems even more important when I look at news headlines and see that in Indonesia, the country just to the South, with the same basic religion and ethnic makeup, thousands of people have taken to the streets in protest of Israeli action in the Middle East. This is a complicated web just begging to be examined an over-confident American exchange student sure of his ability to comprehend a complex world.

I’ve been on a mission here in Malaysia, trying to get a bit of a sampling of what my generational counterparts, be they Muslims, Christians, Buddhists or other, are thinking about what’s happening in other parts of the world. And I’m excited about getting to Indonesia, to discover if and how my peers there are different.

Tiny, Tiny World

I wanted to run to the CC this morning, quickly before I meet Fiza for lunch over in Gelugor. Amazing how the world gets smaller and smaller, every day it seems. I was in Southeast Asia not 4 hours before running into someone that I knew from a previous life in Penang, without even leaving Bangkok International. My time here in Penang has been one encounter after another with folks that recognized my face, with places that I felt I have traversed and lingered in many many times. fiza and cheryl.jpg Hi-class dining at the best Malay street restoran with friends is a daily occurance. My friend Pourchesta, an Iranian doing her Masters degree at USM, saw this tall thin orang putih and recognized him instantly. She treated me to tea at a kedai kopi, and we discussed the political and cultural currents in our respective countries, and how it all comes together in some weird way through our shared Malaysian experiences. pourchesta.jpg

Catastrophic Java

hello all,

thank you those of you that have sent emails after hearing about the
earthquake and subsequent tsunami in Java. if you haven’t heard about
it, check out the news, it’s really sad.
i am still visiting my friends here in malaysia, enjoying myself a bit
before hopping on the plane in a few days down to java. i’m having a
great time, though i cannot help but be struck by that “peculiarly American
guilt- that I should be up and doing something constructive,” as journalist
Tracey Dahlby so aptly puts it. i am definitely looking forward to going down
back to indonesia, and am by no measure frightened by the place, but the
frequency of unfortunate events (earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanoes etc)
is enough to at least perk the ears up. the thrill of adventure and the
maintenence of a healthy naivete are imortant, but a complete disregard
for caution is another thing altogether. i don’t believe there is anywhere
near that kind of danger in java, and am pretty quick to tell anyone who
thinks so paranoid.
anyway, thank you all for caring about me, and i hope all is well on
your side. missing you from malaysia.

Selamat Tinggal!!

Well. All right then. I guess this is it. One last cup of coffee here on Lyndale Ave, one last afternoon in old Minneapolis. Did you know my mom got a pair of kittens the other day? Any suggestions for names?