431: Home Sweet Home
“Ladies and gentlemen, we have just arrived at Penang, Malaysia. Thank you for choosing Malaysian Airlines and we are looking forward to serve you again. Have a pleasant journey.” It was a long trip from Canada to Malaysia, and for seven years since I last stayed in Malaysia. Even though this country was where I grew up in, but I migrated to Montreal, Canada at the age of twelve. Something important in Malaysia lured me into the nation. Something inseparable with me. Faint memories intruded me like never before. The beach. The durian. The sea breeze. The… “Ma’am, the plane has landed, please exit the plane.”
Right in the airport, different foreign languages were exchanged but none of those I recognized. Luckily, all the signs were written in English. My tummy started to growl as I checked out my luggage. The first restaurant appeared to me was an Indian restaurant. The restaurant was crowded with people who queued in front of counters of dishes. Following a guy in front of me, I got what the guy got: some curry fish with rice cupped on the dish. The first taste of the curry fish was horrible. The dish was spicy that made my tongue burnt. For what I did the next second was stuffing all the rice into my mouth. Everything was so overwhelming: the bizarre languages and the strange food.
After some rest in a nearby hotel I got into a bike and ventured around my childhood niche. What appeared next suppressed me. The high rise buildings have replaced all the villages around. The original spot for the lake was now a soccer pitch. I was lost in the middle of a city, in the middle of my old village. “Natalie!” Suddenly a voice shouted out from behind. I stopped my bike and turned around. Finally I saw someone I recognized: Fatima, an old friend of mines from my childhood.
Fatima took me to a small store with a banner that printed the words ‘Kopi Tiam’. She told me that this is a well-known Chinese-Malaysian hawker store and I should try their noodles. Due to the first impression of when I tried Malaysian food the last time, I learned my lesson by taking a sip of the soup first before I eat the noodles. The only word to describe the taste is ‘Awesome’. This is a taste of my childhood. This is my weekend breakfast in my childhood. Of every bite I have of the noodles and every sip of the soup, it warmed my heart like the fireplace in the cold winter. It was so delicious that I finished two big bowls of noodles in twenty minutes! Unaware of my surroundings, I started to laugh with joy, because I have found one part from the missing puzzle I have been trying to put together for the past seven years. Fatima took me to eat some Malaysian snacks after the delicious lunch I had. By the end of the day, my tummy is full and I am happy to have taste so many kinds of delightful food in Malaysia.
After four days of eating delicious foods and meeting childhood friends, it was time for me to tour Penang, Malaysia on my own to find the rest of what makes Malaysia so special to me in person. So, I took the bike that I’ve been using for the past few days to take a tour of this lovely state. I went to museums and hot tourists visit places and yet, I cannot find that instinct or what known as the feeling of something is missing. So, I asked villagers and commoners of where they usually go to play and found the botanic garden. It wasn’t as fancy as the museums with air conditioner or the hot tourists’ places with extremely fun activities. It is just a normal field with kids flying kites and families having picnics. Once again, I felt that knowingly familiar feeling I’ve got. A minute or two, I stared at the blank sky as I taught to the good times I spent as a kid in this land I have been standing on.
The familiar smells of the air, the familiar languages villagers spoke of, the marvellous dishes hawkers cook, the wonderful landscapes of the rainforest and the smooth cut grass all reminds me of the dream that I dreamed so much on. That warmth feeling you felt and the warmth hearts of people who lived here really made me feel like I belong. Because that feeling that I had been always wondering about is Home. And finally, I am back to my Home Sweet Home.