4-Jul-2013 (that’s how I format dates now). In the US it’s the 4th of July, a day to swim, BBQ, eat watermelon, shoot off fireworks and celebrate my sister’s (no sharing her age, but she’s younger) birthday.
This year my celebration will begin at 5 a.m. when my alarm tells me it’s time to get up and get ready for work. It’s going to seem strange not celebrating my country’s (or sister’s) birthday this year. When I lived in China I was amazed at the amount of fireworks they set off on July 4th. You would have thought it was their independence day. I don’t expect the same to happen here. Jen (a friend from work) asked me how we (the office) planned on celebrating; she knows it’s a big holiday in America. We had 3 tables worth of fruit and snacks and a water balloon contest, which I lost. Lesson learned, don’t make suggestions if you don’t want to be either on the committee or in charge of the activity. I guess you figured out whose idea it was to eat and play in the afternoon. Management gave us a couple of hours to play and eat, I’m very grateful they agreed to celebrate our home country, even if it for a short time.
A new work friend, Rachel, had the opportunity to visit the States for the first time last month. Business called and she jumped at the opportunity to go. She visited both Houston and Las Vegas. When she returned she walked into my office and stayed for 2 hours telling me everything she loved about America. Starbucks is better in America. Baskin Robbins has Raisin Rum ice cream in America. America has cream brulee. She questioned why doesn’t Malaysia have cream brulee, have I ever had it? She was star struck when I told her I make a pretty good one and I enlighten her that the reason Malaysia doesn’t have it is because they don’t sell real vanilla. She wanted to know why no one bothered to tell her to bring back vanilla. Had I known she was going to love the desserts I would have forewarned her to pack up several bottles. Rachel is a small woman, after 6 months in America she wouldn’t be so small. She loved the food way too much.
Today I got a text from Rachel telling me a co-worker who travelled with her had just told her he misses the States and was ready for a return trip. Rachel told me she wants to move, something not easily done for a National. She told me, ‘I can smell freedom in the air there’
According to Rachel, it’s the ability to climb the corporate ladder without concern over your race or culture. To Nava, it’s the chance to provide for your child and know they will have the opportunity achieve more. To Liyana it’s the freedom to choose her own husband, no matter his religion. To Yong he could promote his photograph and possibly start a business. These are just a few samples from just a few of the people I’ve met in the last few months. Opportunities we take for granted in a free country. Living here I don’t feel overly oppressed, yes, I can’t go out on my own, but it’s a safety issue more than a political one.
In my life I’ve been blessed with a citizenship in a country that embraces each of us for who we are. We’re allowed to voice our difference of opinion over politics, religion or the latest fashion. We can practice any religion we want. Or we can choose to not practice any religion, it’s your choice.
I looked for a church when I first arrived in Malaysia. I was told that yes, this is a Muslim country but they had churches for other faiths. I found one Methodist church, not in my neighborhood; oh, and they hold their services in Chinese, not gonna work. So I listen on the internet, it’s not the same thing. I miss Pastor Kevin and Pastor Pat. They are really great in person.
My freedom is a treasure, I appreciate it more every day when I realize I can’t access something that would be available to me at home. I love my adventure, I love the different cultures, and I love that when I get back to the states I’ll smell the freedom and appreciate it all the more knowing how many in Mountasia would like to smell it too.
And I’m wishing my sister a very Happy Birthday from very far away. Love you Britta, and I hope your family makes your day special.