'For Adventures of a lifetime'

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Blog No. 12 - Malaysian Time Warp

Our supposedly “unlucky” Friday the 13th, began very slowly, with a welcome sleep-in and a somewhat less than welcome exposure to Cliff’s truly awful music taste. The most atrocious example of which would be his remark of “I rather like it!”, upon hearing Rebecca Black’s ‘Friday’. The day continued with an Indian-style breakfast of roti cannai and kopi tarik, with some opting for the a la melayu option of nasi lemak. If you found the previous sentence confusing, imagine for a moment trying to pronounce them correctly, ascertain their ingredients, and then communicate your order to a waiter who speaks exactly zero English. All before you’ve even had a coffee. We were unable to Google these terms, as you doubtlessly are (Ed. have fun J).

After we’d eaten and spotted the obligatory rat in the restaurant (Ed. he’s not joking people!), we ventured forth to explore Rawang’s colourful shopping district where one can find such bargains as ‘Adidos’ sneakers or ‘Gacci’ watches. After wasting money on stuff we didn’t need, and didn’t really want anyway, Cliff decided that the purchase of a machete (Palang in Malayan), approximately the size of Eddie, was “necessary” for our trek. The only useful purpose for it I can think of, seeing we’ll be travelling on established trails, would be dismembering unhelpful members of the expedition, but that may just be me (Ed. I am drawing up the list as we chat!!!!  Who do you think may be first?

 On our eventual return to Kirtarsh we threw ourselves into making Christmas arts and crafts with the, primarily Hindu, residents. But the enthusiasm of the resident’s response shows the power of small mercies and kindnesses to traverse all cultural bounds. Spurred on by our success with the crafts, Haydn, Eddie, Nick, and I offered to clean the ‘blind rooms’, the part of Kirtarsh that houses its neediest residents and is a side of Kirtarsh outsiders rarely see. I must emphasise the difficulty of this task, not only because of the physical discomfort in cleaning the rooms, but also the emotional strains. It was hard to imagine living in a place as, confrontingly disgusting as the blind rooms, and the realisation that people actually do live there, was very, very difficult and I congratulate the boys not only for a job well done, but an experience well handled. (Ed. Here, here!!!!)

Once we had cleaned up, we rejoined the group for lunch, and returned to teach some of the more able residents Cliff’s “Pool Song”. One resident in particular, Justin, has been a fixture at group meetings or activities and has been a certifiable miracle for group morale. His unquenchable enthusiasm, and simple zest for life, in someone as profoundly disabled as he, has been an inspiration. And so the day continued; singing, playing, drawing, and just interacting, trying to brighten the lives of these people if only temporarily.  Conor, generously cleaned the kitchens, much to the appreciation of the three permanent staff.

After dinner, Mr Mannivannan had offered to take us to the Christmas lights display at iCity, but due to his distinctly Malaysian timetable, he arrived to pick us up at 8pm(one hour late) which would bring us home around midnight, which the powers that be (read; Cliff) decided would be too late. So, he offered to take us to the Batu Caves, a mere “twenty minutes” from Kirtarsh, and so we went, planning to be back at Kirtarsh around ten. However after more than forty minutes in the van, we realised that Mr Mannivannan had meant a ‘Malaysian twenty minutes’, a specific interpretation of the phrase “twenty minutes” none of us had previously encountered. But it was worth it, the entrance to the Batu Caves is a stunning 100-ish metre high recess into limestone, surrounded by lavish temples and an enormous statue, being a Hindu religious site. After the jaw-dropping arrival, we went off to explore the immediate area, to gawk at temples and sample some of the local Indian-style sweets. Which turned out to be a two bevelled edge, some sweets were truly delicious, made with condensed milk or rosewater, while others were eye-wateringly awful, which seemed to contain the ingredients of candle wax and vomit.

Not sure we'll be eating here!!!

Once we had finished our sweeties we further explored the temple district, eventually stumbling across a traditional Hindu wedding, being held at the foot of Mt Batu which we, naturally, decided to gawk at. The lavish costume of the guests, particularly the gold embroidered saris and the henna tattoos, drew us toward the centre of festivities and before we knew what was going on, we were being photographed with the happy couple by the wedding photographer, at the insistence of practically everyone. After laughing off our accidental wedding crash with the bridal party, we made a hasty exit, before we crashed the reception too. Mr Mannivannan, amused by the antics of his charges, insisted he take he take us to downtown KL to see the Petronas Towers lit up, another half an hour down the road. While we were on our way, we happened upon the “Ishita Restoran”. Presumably the owner of the restaurant does not have a firm grasp on English, or perhaps he does, and a wicked sense of humour. (Ed. Not sure I’ll be eating there!)

So when we finally reached the Towers, there wasn’t much to do, other than stare, open mouthed at the staggering scale and beauty of the architectural triumph before us. By now this was the third or fourth time this evening we had stood in such stupor, and I am beginning to understand why all Malaysians assume tourists are morons before proven otherwise.

The way back was decidedly uneventful, as we all slept soundly, with just the road noise and Mr Mannivannan’s peculiarly loud breathing to keep us company . I managed a few moments sleep, between Lucy’s bony head occasionally battering my shoulder, and Hayden’s feet being a little too close to my breathing holes. Somehow, by the strange mechanics of Malaysian time, we arrived home at midnight, our lofty western ideals of punctuality and timekeeping shattered.  Which, incidentally, was the precise time we did not want to be home by. Go figure.

Quote of the day: (Ed. We cant think of one L)

Sun Chart: 4

Good night kind people


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