To the Community that Saves

I have been contemplating on what to write for a long while now. Distilling my experiences and thoughts from one year into one post has proven to be quite difficult.

I’ll be honest. The last year of my life has been one of the most difficult years I have ever undergone.

To start, I was basically sick the whole year.
If you read my past blog posts, you’d know some of what I’ve been through. At first, I had a severe case of gastritis caused by bacteria or an ulcer and my esophagus burned every time I walked. My alopecia was also greatly exacerbated by the sudden changes. Then I had dengue. This was one of the most trying moments of my year. Dengue is a mosquito-borne virus that gets exponentially deadlier each time you contract it. It was by far one of the most terrible things I’ve been sick with. I laid in bed and sweat through all of my sheets, switching between burning hot and absolutely freezing. I could not look around unless I wanted to risk a piercing pain in my eye sockets and a throbbing in my head. I couldn’t move my body unless I wanted to feel a pain both sharp and deep in my joints and muscles. Paired with an environment and community I was not familiar with and an absolutely non-supportive organization- it was at this time that I considered going home. I was lonely, I was sick,  I was tired of being sick, and I just wanted to go home.

But then, I didn’t. Much to my surprise, the community that I knew so little about took time out of their day to take care of me. A young man took me to the clinic and brought me porridge to eat. Even though I rudely kicked him out because I desperately needed to lie down, he ended up being one of my best friends in Malaysia. Quite soon afterwards, a nice lady rushed over to bring vitamins and noodle soup, and she ended up being my unofficial god mother.

What I’m trying to say is, what made my experience meaningful and worthwhile amidst all the challenges I faced, was the people. I travel a lot (or at least I try to), I eat all the great local foods and see the famous sights. But in Malaysia, it wasn’t the delicious Nasi Lemak or the breathtaking Cameron Highlands that made my year, it was the people. Hands down.

As I continued to flounder my way through the year, unsure about how to proceed, someone was always there to help me. Whether it was through small fruits and snacks gifted to me at the beginning of class, several much needed fixes to my home, or the several delicious lunches and dinners I was invited to- I am forever grateful to all of my students and friends that have supported me the past year. To the beautiful strong auntie class that taught me a fierce quiet feminism full of dignity, to the Kim Tong Har class that taught me that we take care of our own, to all the crazy children that drove me insane but also allowed me to play tons of games and release my inner kid, to the Wawasan class that showed me lifelong learning, and the list goes on…thank you, I miss you.

Photo: Graduation day for my students! Sorry for the grainy quality!


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