It was actually due yesterday, so I'm just hoping for a good grade on this, and I have to admit, I'm actually pretty proud of my piece, which is why I'd like to share it with you.
I chose to write about Malaysia, and if there's any Malaysian relatives reading this, I hope you enjoy. That also goes for the rest of you. Here it is:
I have a love-hate relationship with Malaysia. On the one hand, I love seeing the Asian relatives, eating oily foods every day, and escaping the vast and boring continent. On the other hand though, I hate the heat, I hate the constipation but, most of all, I eventually feel the excruciating need to leave the country’s havoc behind.
The moment I step outside the deceptively air-conditioned airport into the sweltering heat, I know I have officially arrived at my second home: The humidity hits me like a wall, blocking any cool clean air from entering my nose. I’m already drenched in sweat, that energy-sapping, body-wilting sweat (partly due to the leggings my mum insisted I wear on the plane), my legs are stuck in place and trembling from the heat (partly due to the leggings my mum insisted I wear on the plane), and I feel like I’m being trapped in a furnace (yes, again, partly due to the leggings my mum insisted I wear on the plane). We stand amongst the unorderly stream of cars, the irregular aggressive honking, and the smell of pollution, waiting for my uncle who is half an hour late as he is every year.
“Don’t wander off, girls,” my mum warns my sister and me. “Malaysia isn’t like Australia. People will kidnap you and sell your organs or use you for prostitution.”
“We know, Mummy.”
An hour later we’re driving past restaurants with no doors, no walls, and no sense of hygiene, anticipating the delicious food. The streets, filled with open drains, reveal odious brown water to the nonchalant population. Cars and motorbikes, crisscrossing in a chaos with no direction, all selfishly try to find the best place to illegally park. It couldn’t be more foreign from Australia, with its clean cut roads and green trees, with its perfectly polite population and consistent predictability. Malaysia is bustling with outlandish people, selling pirated movies in plain sight, ignoring the assortment of rogue animals inhabiting the streets.
As we turn the corner between the shanty houses, the first thing I see is the makeshift clothing line. Then comes the rusting white gate, groaning open, and finally we are parked on the tiled driveway of grandma’s house.
“Ayah. Look how much you’ve grown M.” My grandma waddles towards me, arms wide open.
“Why you so big one.”
“She’s Aussie. That’s why.”
I feel like a giant amongst this family offshoot of midgets, much like I do out with the wider population.
No matter how much I need to go to the bathroom after a full day of travelling, I don’t. I’m not ready to deal with the perpetually damp, mouldy bathrooms, which have no shower stall but rather a basin and a bucket. Instead I stay outside in the balmy Malaysian night, making small talk with the relatives.
“Who wants roti canai?” my grandpa finally asks. The words roti and canai send my sister and me dashing inside. We’ve been waiting for this moment for 11 months. Our mouths are watering in anticipation of the oily scrunched bread, dipped in curry that is uniquely associated with Malaysia. I have an almost spiritual connection with the bread, once even being diagnosed with a throat infection for eating too much of it.
Food is one of the fundamental reasons as to why I love Malaysia, which is why I get annoyed at the utter lack of appreciation my native cousins have.
“You’re so lucky,” one of them says as we jump over a drain to enter the ridiculously air-conditioned mall. “You get to eat steak every day.”
“I don’t like steak.”
“How can you not like steak? You’re Australian.”
“I just don’t.”
“Well I love western food.”
“I do too,” my demanding younger cousin chimes in, which is how we end up eating at Pizza Hut rather than Roti House, against all the adults’ wishes, and mine.
The shop has a surreal smell, like it’s pizza but at the same time it’s not. When I see that five waitresses are needed to serve the massive quantity of dishes on the counter, I know the food belongs to us. I’m considerably surprised and delighted, though, to see that my pizza is covered in Asian spices, served with a side of rice, looking like an Asianized distorted pizza, not ‘western’ at all.
“So, did you hear about Andy? Such a naughty boy that one,” my aunty says. And the gossiping has begun.
“He’s your father’s sister’s husband’s brother’s son lah. Surely you must know him one.”
I shake my head. “How’s he naughty?”
“Ayah. He sneaks out at night, gallivanting with his friends doing who knows what. He failed third year three times.”
“Always playing video games. Never studies one,” an unknown relative adds, three hours later. By this time our dishes have long been cleared off the table and the restaurant staff are giving us death glares, but conversation is still in full swing, among the adults at least. Us kids aren’t complaining too much either, preoccupied with the free wifi supplied in this restaurant, along with every other shop in the country.
The next morning I wake up feeling pregnant with toxic gases, oil, and pizza from the night before. This isn’t unusual as I’ve been waking up bloated every single day I’ve been here, and every single day I’ve still managed to scoff down a massive breakfast of fried rice, fried chicken and fried chili.
“Why doesn’t Malaysia have any healthy food?” I complain.
“What do you mean? We got loads of healthy food,” my aunty says, handing me a bowl of fried vegetables swimming in oil.
Well, it’s the best I’m gonna get I think to myself, gingerly spooning the vegetables onto my plate. “So, what’s the plan for today?” I gurgle, my mouth full.
“We’ll probably go to the mall,” as we have every single other day. I inwardly roll my eyes.
My cousin and I jump over the drain to enter the mall, passing the threshold between extreme heat and freezing cold. I’m still unsure as to how I haven’t caught the flu yet. We clutch our bags, wary of pick pocketers in this freakishly dangerous country. “I want western food!” my younger cousin demands yet again, causing us to end up at Nandos, where they serve all chicken with a side of rice. My massive extended family takes up the biggest table in the restaurant, inconsiderately yelling over every other customer.
“Ayah, that boy Andy…” my aunty begins. And here we go again.
I just want to go home.
And that was my creative, but just note that a lot of the descriptions were slightly exaggerated. Just slightly.