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14 Writers, 1 Prompt: What’s Your Definition of Family?

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My father cuts fruits for us every day, without fail. At 9pm we munch on slices of pear and watch Japanese news because it’s the only channel worth watching anymore. The cat ignores me yet again to lie down in front of the TV. Sometimes my mother makes a disparaging comment about Japanese fashion being weird, but that’s fine. It’s still fun to watch.

This is what family is to me, I guess. An uncomfortably hot evening spent in silence again and again. No grand gestures, just plain old routine. That’s what families are built on, anyway. A routine that repeats and repeats and before you know it, a quiet love is forged.

– Anonymous

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A family is made of ink. Ink that is unwilling to smudge even when fingers brush over them tirelessly. Ink that first settles itself into the pages of picture books, in the form of cats and dogs. As you grow older, the cartoon animals morph into flowers, and into stars and planets, and into Chinese characters, eager to teach. Occasionally, the pages would be empty, and remain empty for days, except for a single wine stain at the corner of a page. Occasionally, the words are angry scrawls, taking up half a page and goes on and on until your vision blurs. Occasionally, there will be childish hand-drawn castles and queens on the pages, because somehow big sister is capable of changing the world.

The ink slowly makes its way onto your body. It hurts when it does, all those tiny metal needles, but you really want that big, pretty castle and its queen on your skin, because you are capable of changing the world. You really want those flowers you received once upon a time, because you also learnt about the Victorian Flower Language, and how those yellow cinquefoils mean ‘beloved daughter’ and you wish to immortalise that. You really want those stars to fill out the blankness of your skin, so you could be a sky where an Aries and a Sagittarius could exist together at once, because your brothers couldn’t be pried apart even with a crowbar. And all those pages that still write themselves, understood. A family is made of ink.

– Anonymous

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Family is a sense of belonging and trust when you surround yourself with the right people. To quote the ever so cheesy line from Lilo and Stitch, ‘Ohana means family. Family means nobody gets left behind or forgotten.’ As cliche as it might sound, I think that this line describes family fairly accurately.

To many, family is a genetically similar bunch you’re related to, who share the same blood and so on. However, I define family as people you grow with, who you confide in when you feel emotionally down, and most importantly, the ones who  are there for you not just at your peaks, but during your lows as well. To me, when I’m around people whom I call family, every ounce of happiness and comfort becomes amplified in the best way. They make me feel like the downs in life are temporary and make the highs last so much longer. Family gives meaning to my existence and nurtures me to become a better listener and caregiver not just to others, but to myself too.  

– Joyce Chin

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Family,

Sometimes bonded by blood, but sometimes not.

The warm voices that greet me the moment the front door unlocks.

Those looked-forward-to fancy birthday dinners and celebratory splurges,

Shopping trips and homemade Sunday-morning breakfasts.

Family is shouting matches and cold wars,

Those days of which I absolutely abhor.

Arguing about who gets to ride shotgun,

And sulking after someone else won.

Family is made of arms that hold you together when you feel like shattering,

Those who see you at your most unflattering.

Gentle hands that brush away your tears.

Hands that clutch yours, through all the fears.

A ‘ping’ from an incoming text that helps you get through the day.

With family, I can find my way.

– Anonymous

They say blood runs thicker than water, but I believe that a family doesn’t really have to consist of blood. Sometimes, your own family is a mere social construct of what people think and associate families with. Sometimes, your “real” family makes you feel insignificant, like you don’t belong or you feel left out. We don’t have to be literally related to be considered family. For me, family is a group of people you truly belong with. People who are willing to set differences aside and let you thrive among common interests. It’s a union of sorts. People can find a family anywhere – among friends, strangers who could be your new friends, maybe their own relatives, their pets, their lover, their colleagues etc. As long as that group of people makes you feel like you’re meant to be there, with them, then they’re family. A true one, actually.

– Natasha

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It’s effortless connection,

The selfless desideratum to watch another succeed,

It’s unconditional,

The laziest of all bonds,

But also, the strongest.

– Nimue

At a very young age, i had realised that family isn’t only a bond forged by blood. Family isn’t just your parents and your siblings. Family branches out further than that. Family is anyone who stays by your side. To me, family is anyone who’s there when your world comes crashing down. Family is anyone who understands your pain when no one else seems to notice a thing. I recently came across a quote, “ A stranger is family who you haven’t met yet.” That quote resonated with me. That quote made me realise that actions truly speak louder than words and anyone who is willing to make an effort to be there for you when you need it the most, is family.

Families come in all shapes and sizes – that’s the beauty of it. You’ll know that you’ve found your family when they love you for who you are, regardless of your faults and shortcomings. A dear friend, a beloved pet, your neighbour even – anyone who gives you a sense of belonging and peace, is family.

– Nabilah Hassan

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A family to me is a group of people who are always there for each other and willing to support or lend a helping hand even in the toughest of times. It doesn’t necessarily have to be people you’re related to, there just has be that love and inseparability within the group, and the sense of togetherness that unites everyone in it.

– Alex

Family doesn’t always have to be from the same line of blood as you are. Family is people who you share a sense of belonging with, whom you are comfortable with. Family are the people who tell you you’re wrong when you’ve done a mistake but also tell you that it’s okay to make those mistakes. They remind you of who you truly are. It’s important to have family not just at home but among your friends and others around you. It reminds you that you are needed and you have a place in this world when you feel like you don’t.

– ASIRAH BINTI ABDUL KADIR

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Art by James R. Eads

I would argue that just as it is within human nature to nurture, build and love, it is also within our nature to destroy and hurt. As imperfect beings, we cannot escape from the human condition which is to be loved and to express it; to feel pain and to inflict it.

There’s something to be said for prerequisites of a healthy good to bad ratio. (I wouldn’t use the term “no matter what” because abuse and manipulation exist.) It’s just a matter of balances and compromises. But at the end of the day, family are those who you can be the most human around.

– Fajar

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By Studio Ghibli

She stands on a ledge,

Minutes before her mighty fall,

The end to all suffering,

The thought which has been conquering every waking moment.

Today is a good day to die,

She closes her eyes,

A sharp breath,

Pause.

She walks away, the other direction,

Back home now child,

Your mother is waiting for you,

She’s got hot curry for supper and a warm hug to give

Family is what she goes back to

On the worst of days

The darkest of nights

Even with soulless eyes.

– Yumitra K

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The actual definition of family is often the people who are related to you by blood – parents, siblings, anyone born bearing the family name. It can even be your aunts and uncles or cousins. Family is often the group of people we originate from. Or well that’s the case for those who have immediate family. What about orphans? Those who often do not know who their parents are? For them, family would be their caretaker in the orphanage or other orphans they treat like siblings or friends. Family for us sometimes can also be our best friend and our best friend’s family. So what exactly is the definition of family if its categories widen with every new prospect? In my own words, family is where a person feels like they’re home. A group of people who make you feel comfortable and safe, who would go to any extent to save you from a crisis and worry the most about you… they are family. Care and love come naturally from the people who treat you like family. It can be your mother, sibling or friend. Family does not narrow down to just blood-related members, at least according to me. It is anybody who would treat us like their own and who are there when we need them. Family is a foundation for someone to grow from. A foundation if shaken, impacts the whole life of a person.

– Mugilaa Selvaraja

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A family is a nest. A nest where we humans are born, a nest where we are reared, a nest of vulnerability. Fully seen and fully known by all who share the same nest. There is nothing to hide. A place where we can be our truest selves with no fear and no shame.

A family is also a training ground where our potential is incubated and given the room to explode. A ground where we can trust their applause because we have heard their true criticism. A place where we can grow to be the best versions of ourselves.

– Christine Sitambuli

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Family love knows no bounds, it transcends the metaphysical beliefs of the universe, and acts as a binding force that leverages the whole of humanity. Just like how a tree is rooted down to the ground, you are rooted to your origins – your family; even if you lose your way, you’ll find your way back home, to where one is protected, nourished, loved. When you have family, you have everything.

– Jessie Gan

Captain Marvel Movie Review

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Written by Fajar binti Benjamin

 

THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS THROUGHOUT THE ENTIRE ARTICLE.

Look, I am the target audience for Captain Marvel, so to disentangle my hopes and my knee-jerk defensiveness from the reality of this movie was a herculean task. There was a lot of bad press around this movie that I was willing to ignore as long as the movie delivered on what I’d been deriving from fanfiction and what if posts on Tumblr from as young as 15. Steve Rogers as a woman, Tony Stark as a woman, Natasha Romanoff as a more prominent character, stories that utilised the unique experiences of being a girl, set in a world I’ve desperately wanted to be a part of for so long.

As a teenager, I craved representation without really understanding any of the dynamics or complexities behind it. I wasn’t an advocate or anything – I was simply a girl who wanted a female superhero she could be proud of.

3 years later, along comes the perfect candidate, Captain Marvel. You have to understand: seeing a movie like this was my dream. I have wanted this so deeply for so long.

DC’s Wonder Woman came out two years ago and don’t get me wrong, it was a great step towards better representation. However, there’s no denying that Wonder Woman is, overall, a much more palatable female superhero. She’s the perfect balance of sexy and sweet, sentimental and strong, innocent and alluring, knowledgeable and clueless. I am well aware of how paranoid and controversial this hot take is but she’s a female hero made for men. (Which isn’t to say she isn’t also a valid and beloved heroine to me).

But that quality, at least in my mind, disqualified her from being a real icon of progression. Our strong female character still needed to be attractive to men to be given screentime. Maybe I’m being uncharitable. Maybe I’m just bitter.

Either way, I wanted Marvel to deliver on another Valkyrie, Gamora, Mantis, Wanda Maximoff or even Natasha Romanoff. None of these characters have been given their own movie, true. But none of them are ever objectified by their own male teammates either (or in the case of Black Widow, at least not without consequences). Marvel has handled their female characters with a lot more taste than the DCU has.

Which is what had me so excited for Captain Marvel – to give them credit, it’s the only thing this movie managed to deliver on. They gave us a flawed female lead, and the more trolls online scream about how Brie Larson as Captain Marvel ‘doesn’t smile enough’ or ‘doesn’t fill out her suit’ or even ‘acts too stiff’, the more I applaud her characterisation in this movie.

See, Captain Marvel in this movie is a complete, multidimensional character on her own – she goes through a complete arc, she has unique responses, she has a struggle she faces with determination and grace. The only reason many came out of this movie not seeing that is the funny pacing and directing choices.

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Same. (source)

I’ll walk you through the Captain Marvel that I saw. A woman, with powers and emotions she can’t quite control is being treated like an unruly child by the Kree, these stiff, emotionless people who hold all the power in her world (sound familiar?). She doesn’t remember what it is to be human. (Ok, this is a full essay in of itself but what is it with ALIENS in the MCU acting exactly like HUMANS? Aliens are aliens! They shouldn’t have to follow human etiquette, mannerisms, behaviours, cultures and even power structures down to a T!) The Carol Danvers we’re introduced to has no control and doesn’t know much about herself or anything at all.

She just wants to prove herself good enough to be trusted and treated with respect. She’s playful and takes things lightly, not in the way Tony Stark takes things lightly as a cover for how deeply traumatised he really is, but lightly because she actually wants to have fun. A series of events that are cut together too sloppily and too quickly to really be fully appreciated sends her tumbling to Earth and this is where the real fun of Captain Marvel begins.  

Once she starts playing off rookie agent Nick Fury and her best-friend-from-a-previous-life Maria Lambeau along with said best friend’s daughter, Carol Danvers’ personality is given room to breathe. She has this obvious mischievous curve to her smirk, this flippant streak, this understated sass that’s so fun to see, yet she’s also compassionate and stern where the circumstances call for it. We see a few powerful flashbacks that do all the heavy lifting for her character building. This is a woman who stands back up, no matter how many times life strikes her down. It’s not a female trait, it’s a human trait. My beef with this movie begins and ends with how the jerky pacing didn’t give this enough weight. These scenes passed by like a shout-out to the devastatingly impactful movie this could have been.   

The plot takes an unexpected twist when the Skrulls are revealed to not actually be the bad guys that they’ve been portrayed as all along in this universe, but rather the victims of an attempted genocide and subsequent smear campaign by the Kree. I have to applaud Marvel for this ballsy move because not only does it so aptly reflect the real-life political climate of the US, it veers off from the canon of the comics into completely new territory that they’ll have to write themselves from now on.

Our perception of the Skrulls instantly turns on its head. From enemies that we enjoy seeing kicked down, they evolve into the emotional core of the movie, the characters we root and sympathise for (Talos’ hilariously out-of-place British accent certainly helps). Carol Danvers has to face the fact that her ignorance has killed innocent people. That she was fighting on the wrong side of the war. That she went against everything her mentor, the person she respected the most in the world, stood for.

This is where the movie stumbles over itself. This is where all the potential becomes wasted. Because instead of pausing to give weight to these enormous revelations, instead of letting Carol go through the five stages of grief, instead of taking this opportunity to make her look human, they jump instantly into upping her powers and turning her into a CGI blur of power. From the point where she rids herself of her handicap onwards, the movie passes in a bland haze. For goodness’ sake, the most impressive special effect in this movie was the de-ageing tech used on Samuel L Jackson’s face. Apart from that, sequences that should have been gorgeous, what with our main heroine glowing in technicolour, were messy and forgettable.

I do however enjoy her final choice to not fight Yon-Rogg (played by Jude Law) when he challenges her to fight, fist to fist, no powers. Yes, it’s a de-escalation of tension, and choosing to fight him would have still been in character, but ultimately, it would’ve brought her character full circle, back to playing the Kree’s games in order to prove herself. “I have nothing to prove to you” is a powerful message for women to take home. We do not need to excel in male-dominated playing fields to be valid. We do not need to reject our unique strengths and ‘play fair’ for our successes to be valid. We do not need validation. Period. Let us be who we are without barriers or expectations and see what we bring to the world with that freedom.

Carol Danver’s character arc is completed at this point. She grew from volatile to gaining control over herself, from desperate for validation to validating herself, from a soldier to a captain. This is what I loved about the movie.

Unfortunately, this hint of genius characterisation work doesn’t equal a great movie.

Higher, faster, further baby! This tagline is so exciting. It promises impact. This movie was supposed to hit us like a brick, instead we felt the sensation of a foam ball bouncing off our collective faces. It wasn’t energetic, or focused, or stylish. None of the fight sequences stand out the way sequences in The Winter Soldier, Civil War, Ragnarok or even the Ant-Man movies did. Co-directors and writers Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck have never ever helmed a huge blockbuster project like this. Marvel took a gamble leaving a high-stakes movie in their inexperienced hands, and it didn’t pay off.

Captain Marvel not only needed to be a good movie, it needed to be distinguishable from its predecessors. It needed to lean into a style – whether that be retro, neon, under or overstatement, upbeat or grim, anything, anything. As movie number 21 in the MCU, mirroring the release schedule and progressive sentiment of last year’s highest US box office grosser Black Panther AND as Marvel’s direct response to Wonder Woman, it had to be something. Not just the hint of something.  

There is a great movie hidden somewhere within this merely good movie, and that is what frustrates me the most. Captain Marvel is blamed for being a bland character rather than bad cinematography being blamed for not fully capturing that character. Bad pacing has people walking out underwhelmed as they cite a boring story or bad dialogue, but not the invisible force driving a movie in its craft that simply wasn’t there.

To the world, Captain Marvel with its huge opening – the 6th best opening in the world ever, behind only Infinity War among Marvel films – is a success story. To critics, it’s a good movie with some issues. To haters, it’s a rubbish film that’s only coasting along on the success of the universe it’s set in and women’s desperation for representation. To little girls, it’s a fully dressed heroine who teaches lessons of self-confidence and strength to aspire to – a wonderful contrast and enhancement to Wonder Woman’s equally important lessons of compassion and kindness.

To me, it’s a dizzying shame of wasted potential, but it’s also a beautiful continuation for the amazing female characters Marvel has been granting us consistently in their lineup of women, this time finally brought to the forefront. They stumbled on the execution for this one sure, but I believe we’ll be getting much better movies out of the two strongest Avengers for years to come (the second being Goose the Flerken of course).

Now onwards to Endgame!

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Our strongest avenger is such a good good girl. (source)

 

Reminiscing Through Hot Chocolate

By Natasha Effendy

 

the first sip.
this cup of hot chocolate
fills my belly and mouth
with an inevitable warmth,
making me feel so at home.

the second sip.
suddenly burns me
with nostalgia,
reminding me of
the first time i saw you in that cafe,
drinking hot chocolate.

the third sip.
the cocoa powder tastes bitter
across the expanse of my taste buds;
i grimace.
remembering you
makes me reach for the sugar,
but sugarcoating the memories
doesn’t do this drink justice.

the fourth sip.
i dip the cookie
into the creamy surface
but its other half
instantly breaks off.
a symbol of how we parted ways,
snapping my heart in half
with your filthy hands.

the fifth sip.
the hot chocolate
holds a bittersweet resemblance
to your milky brown eyes,
and recalling how they looked
pains me even more.

the last sip.
the final few drops
swims away from the china
and slips down my throat,
leaving my belly burning
with an unspeakable nausea
because my mouth is sour
from our expiry date
and i just can’t seem to stomach
that one memory
of you leaving me.

The Power of Red

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Written by Ng Li Wei

 

It’s a time for celebration. The streets are ablaze with bright lanterns. Shopping centres are competing for the unofficial prize of Best Decorated. Generic festive songs are blasting from every radio and speaker in existence. Thousands of cars flock in and out of the city, some doing last minute shopping, some leaving for their hometowns. Car alarms are set off and neighbours kept awake as an array of fireworks dot the night sky.

It’s a time for family. For the Chinese, this means reunion dinners that allow children to stay past midnight. Gatherings that bring family members together from all over the country. Tossing yee sang – a Cantonese-style raw fish salad – and engaging in light gambling with cards or mahjong is a surefire tradition.

And more than ever, it’s a time for red. Red lights strung on outdoor walls. Red ang pow packets concealing money, waiting to be given out. Red spring couplets (chūn lián) pasted on the front door. Red clothes on the first day of visiting relatives – because God forbid if you show up in any other colour.

Whenever Chinese New Year comes up, the first thing brought to mind is the colour red. It has become a representation of Chinese culture, proudly paraded around during Chinese New Year. Interestingly enough, another celebration that also embraces red is to coincide with CNY this year – Valentine’s Day. These two events are particularly related to red, yet in both cases the colour is associated with completely different meanings and symbolisms.

Red, in the Asian or, more specifically, Chinese sphere of the world, is generally recognised as a good colour. It indicates good fortune, prosperity, and success – all terms that sound particularly uplifting from a business standpoint. It is also considered a lucky colour, hopefully able to bring not only the individual but also their family more luck and wealth.

Red is such an important and significant colour in Chinese culture. China’s flag is coloured red. In the past, the emperor used to issue decrees stamped with red ink. Traditional weddings had the bride and groom dressed in red from head to toe, even coating their bedroom with red cloth. Red hard-boiled eggs are eaten on a baby’s one month birthday. Throughout history and to this day, red remains a proud, defining characteristic of the Chinese culture.

The symbolism of red came from an old myth that concerns CNY as well: every year on CNY, a beast called Nian would emerge to feed on villagers and their livestock. The people soon discovered that Nian was terrified of the colour red and loud noises, and therefore began using red lanterns and red firecrackers to scare away the beast. Once the evil spirits and beasts were warded away, only then could good things enter the household. The colour then evolved from being a warning and a scare tactic to a symbol of fortune and prosperity. The tradition of hanging red lanterns and playing with red firecrackers – especially deafening ones lit on the first day of CNY – continued to be passed down from generation to generation.

Another reason red specifically symbolises fortune and prosperity is due to the Chinese culture’s strong fixation with money. If you were to ask anyone of the older generation about the validity of this statement – believe me, I speak from experience – they will say that yes, money can and will buy you happiness. The wealthy are the more well-off. (In hindsight, they’re not wrong.) Embedded in their mandatory shouts as they toss the yee sang are wishes for tsunamis of money to flood through their doors. It is seen as the foundation of their family-centric society. Money is required for everything – starting a family, adequately supporting that family, improving the lives of that family – and the Chinese have integrated that prevalent mindset into their most defining colour.

In stark contrast to how the Chinese culture perceives the colour red comes the Western interpretation. Red, in the Western sphere of the world, has dual meanings – it’s seen as both a good and a bad colour. On the good side of the fence is the red of romance, passion, and desire. On the bad side comes the red of anger, danger, and violence. Again, two very polarised viewpoints of the same colour.

The Western idea of red can embody every emotion ranging from love to hate. Red roses given to a lover on Valentine’s Day. Red lipstick marks on a note stuck to someone’s locker. Doodles of red hearts surrounding a name in the corner of a textbook page. But also – red stains on your vision as you charge toward your sister’s bully. Red alarms of an ambulance flashing and speeding down an empty street. Red blood gushing out of an open wound.

Red is known to evoke positive – mostly romantic – feelings due to it being the colour of the heart and blood and, more specifically, their connection with the scientific results of love. Seeing someone you’re attracted to causes a stimulated, accelerated pumping of the heart, increasing your blood pressure. As blood gushes underneath the surface of the skin, the person would appear to be flushed or blushing – red. Naturally, the colour began being associated with the emotion. Studies found that red can heighten a person’s attraction to the other, for example a man being more drawn to a woman wearing red clothing.

Similarly, red can also stir negative emotions, namely from the sight of substances like blood. Red is the colour we see when we are wounded. In pain. Crying. Screaming. It brings up jarring images of gore, of violence, and of death, all very much unpleasant things. Subsequently, red came to be a sign of warning. Its striking hue further intensifies its power as an effective warning symbol – bright and ominous at the same time. Red in traffic lights warns cars to stop moving on the road. Red dripping from your nose warns you that your body’s not well.

Two halves of the world; two separate cultural traditions; two respective mindsets. All of which can be represented through contrasting views of a single colour.

Hands

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Written by Rachel Goh

Five fingers
on each hand
make ten


yet, still,
they
fall short
of reaching


the cookie jar on the topmost shelf
the eraser in the nook between wall and desk
and
the hands extended to you
over the railing


your eyes say you’re tired
you’ve had enough
you want to let go
and
the wind tugs at your feet
tantalising,
promising
an eternal rest


yet, still,
these hands,
five fingers on each making ten,
seize and,
cling
on to that lifeline


you stretch a hand up


ten fingers,
five on each,
fall short
in the end

 

Alive

Alive

Written by: Mugilaa Selvaraja

When the hollow depth within you
Bursts into millions of flames
You’re awakened by your being
A heart thumping so fast
You feel alive
Gasping for breath
To know nothing can be
A better feeling than this
Here and now
Alive
The carte blanche present
In your very hands

Five Unconscious Things Malaysians Do Travelling Abroad

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by Ng Li Wei

 

Even after a few weeks of being back in school, most of us (all of us, really) have yet to adjust to the sudden change in lifestyle. Suddenly, we’re being controlled by our clocks again and forced to face the horror of assignments, lectures and this strange feeling of having a purpose in life.

So I bet we’re all longing for the holidays to return, even if we won’t admit it. The good old days of lounging at home or going out with friends, finding the time to read books or watch movies, or if you’re lucky and have the privilege to do so – travel.

As a Malaysian and as someone who has travelled quite a lot, I’ve thought a lot about the weird things that Malaysians do only when we’re overseas – things we don’t necessarily realise we’re doing. Here are five examples. (I’m guilty of all of them.)

 

1. Compare the country’s climate with ours.

This happens the literal moment we leave our country’s border. It doesn’t matter if we’re in Singapore or Canada – we will compare their weather with our own. Malaysia is famous for its hot and humid climate that lasts throughout the year and, despite complaining about it 24/7 when we’re in the country, it becomes our favourite topic when we leave the country.

“It’s so cold here – I love it so much. Back in Malaysia, I’d sweat the minute I step outdoors. It’s terrible.”

“What’s the temperature today? 30 degrees? That’s tolerable. It’s been 35 every day in Malaysia ever since I was born.”

Every single time we do it, it sounds like a mixture of pride and shame at the same time. We like to boast that we can handle hot climates since our country is similar, and yet we hate that it is the way it is.

2. Speak our second or third languages more often.

Basically, we tend to speak in languages that are not our first. I’ll use myself as an example. For me, English is closest to my first language, having spoken and learnt it for so many years. Yet, when I leave the country, I find myself speaking to my family or friends in any languages except English. I use Malay when I’m in France, Mandarin when I’m in India, and dialects like Cantonese and Hokkien when I’m in Russia. (I might not have been to all of the listed countries but use your power of imagination.)

I think it has something to do with finally having a chance to speak without others being able to understand you. In Malaysia, all we can do to not have our conversations eavesdropped upon – and unfortunately understood – is to speak in hushed tones. To whisper. But in other countries, we can suddenly speak loud and proud without having that worry or caution. We can insult people’s hairstyles and compliment their attractiveness without them even blinking an eye.

3. Convert the prices of EVERYTHING to our currency.

‘Everything’ here can range from food to handbags to oil prices. Admittedly, Malaysia’s currency is not the strongest. However, this doesn’t prevent us from making the process of purchasing items more (or on rare occasions, less) painful for ourselves.

When we’re spending money in other countries, like the United States for example,  it gives us an odd sense of relief when we know that we’re able to buy a large bowl of noodles for five dollars. But we won’t stop there. We’ll feel satisfied only when we’ve converted those five dollars to 20 ringgit, and are suddenly absolutely horrified at this monstrous bowl of noodles.

When the situation is reversed and we find out (after converting the price, of course) that things are cheaper, only then will we relax and start cheering and celebrating.

4. Complain about the existence or nonexistence of things.

Straight up, the one thing Malaysia doesn’t have is Clean. Toilets. It is literally impossible to find a toilet in Malaysia:

  1. Equipped with toilet paper
  2. With clean, dry floors
  3. That doesn’t stink

Therefore, after we enjoy the bliss of all three conditions stated above in other countries, it opens up a whole new world of possibilities for us and we will never, ever stop talking about it. We’ve been transformed by this transcendent experience, so whenever we enter a public toilet back in Malaysia, we’re going to bring that topic up endlessly.

One redeeming quality that Malaysia has, I will say, is the service of providing boxes of tissues in restaurants. It’s become a common practice throughout Malaysia – at least, to the restaurants I’ve been in my very small area of Malaysia – and it really is great and something I take pride in mentioning.

But this causes me to expect the same treatment overseas as well, and I am always disheartened to find out that this is not the case. So this cues another round of complaints where after every bite in that foreign restaurant I will find the need to mention that “at least restaurants in Malaysia provide tissues for their customers”.

5. Miss Malaysian food.

Okay, I was lying about the tissue boxes. The one redeeming quality that Malaysia has is undoubtedly its food. It’s like the central hub of the world for food, the place where the various cuisines of the world can be found. You don’t have to travel the world to taste the food of every country. You can just come to Malaysia. We have it all and more, combined with our own stellar produce. We know how to make food taste good.

 

 

 

 

 

When I’m eating in another country, I’d get bored of the choices within three days. Where’s the roti canai? The char kuey teow? The asam laksa? Compared to what we have back in Malaysia, it really… it just can’t be compared. In Malaysia, it’s possible to have a different meal every day for an entire month.

This phenomenon presents itself as an ache in our hearts after spending more than a week abroad. Yes, you’ve enjoyed the cuisine at its origin, but there is something about the taste of Malaysia that adds an unreplicable flavour to the food. This renewed longing for Malaysian food, inevitably, pulls us back to our country. Back home.

Rainbow Colours; monochrome skins

Image Source

Poems by Rachel G. and Koh Ze-Wen

 

Rainbow Colours
Rachel G.

Red is –
the flush of your cheeks
the autumn leaf in your hair
the smudge of lipstick on your lips

Orange is –
the colour of the sunset against your skin
the fruit you love so
the fence of your father’s house

Yellow is –
the shade of your favourite sweater
the sunray warming your skin
the canary you watch take flight into the skies

Green is –
the colour your eyes used to be
before white it turned

Blue is –
the sky of
the day we last spent together
the colour of your hands
when all is said and done
and you’ve gone cold

Indigo is –
the bruise on your cheek
the smeared mascara
on your tear-stained face

Violet is –
the mark on your neck
tattooed fingerprints

 

monochrome skins
Koh Ze-Wen

there is no teenage emotion
that is quite the shade, or
temperament, of
shame.

anger, and its cuts – trendy;
grief and its roots, in your lungs –
easy to romanticise, that kind of
suffering.
but shame
is ugly, sits
in your skin, acid
in your stomach, sizzling.

for a teenager, no label
is worse than
try-hard.
cringeworthy.
no scald quite like
caring when nobody else does.

we wear apathy like armour.
monochrome skins, shifting
to conceal
what is embarrassing.
(our hearts)

60 Seconds

Image Source

Written by: Natasha Effendy

 

the night is young,
but it ages too quick
under my fingers.

i feel his breath
blossom within the radius
of my flushed skin
as his facial features near mine…
my body and nerves stiffen,
ready for what’s to come next.

he steps in;
he dares to move in
with the crevices of his
rosebud lips that remind me of
springtime
in the middle of this winter;
they touch mine,
and my emotions implode.
honey.
that’s all what i could think about
because that sweet, slow taste
hangs reminiscent
upon my own tongue
and feelings
which inevitably begs for more.

one minute.
that’s all it took
for my world to wake up
from a darkness
that settled in my chest –

my night brightens.
i feel the fireflies and
Christmas lights
switch on;
resurrecting the old flame
i used to smother
until now.

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