It was a week before the late Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s funeral when I arrived in Bangkok for a conference and I did not expect that my world would turn black for the next week.
I was dreading this Chinese New Year. I didn’t want it to arrive.
Chinese New Year was my favourite time of the year. I loved the family gatherings, dramatic Blackjack games with my cousins, and feeling nauseous from overeating Kong Kong’s secret bak kwa stash. But my most cherished part of CNY was the second day, when I visit mum’s side of the family.
Death doesn’t visit often, but this time he sneaked up on us on a rainy Sunday afternoon.
It was a surprise visit that was due but came too soon.
In a quiet, dusty alleyway in Coptic Cairo, a toddler, barely 3, cries mercilessly as he was forced to get a tattoo.
“Can I take a photo with you?”
Her bright, young eyes, full of enthusiasm and wonder, looked into my jaded ones. I remember having eyes filled with sunshine like hers. Now they’re just tired and disenchanted; tired of travelling and disenchanted at the phlegm-spitting, queue-cutting, rude, and conflicting country that I am finally leaving.
When I was a young girl, I’d catch moments of mom getting lost in her own thoughts. Sometimes while she drank her coffee or methodically ate her dinner, her eyebrows would scrunch up to form a little hill between her eyes. I could see the gears turning in her head; she drifts off into the distance.
Can you believe that after seven months since my return to you, people are still asking me why I came back? Just last week at breakfast an auntie asked me “Why don’t you continue working there? Malaysia economy and politic is so bad now, stay in New Zealand better.”
When I first heard about David Wu’s 4,000km cycling expedition from Kedah to China, I thought it would be a story of a man discovering his home. ‘This would be an article of a lost man finding where he truly belonged’, I thought as I get ready to meet him.
This was never meant to be a journey of self-discovery.
My mom always told me never to talk to strangers. I’m glad I didn’t listen to her. They have so much to share, and so much to teach. Just like these random guys that I met on my wander in New Zealand.