I have lived my entire life as a minority, and here in Beijing, I’m considered one of the majority in China, but when asked, I tell people I’m a Malaysian rather than a Chinese.
I guess the time machine is working overtime, because time seems to be moving at lightning speed. When I look back, it seems like in a swoosh, it’s already been a year since we decided to make our way to the most populous nation, China. I’m not one who embraces change so easily, what more with a move to a country I’ve always had negative impressions about. But I suppose marriage is all about compromise, and I have to agree with Shawn that “it’ll be a great story to tell”.
So much has happened since we moved here. Good or bad, we have learnt and gained so much and never thought that two “bananas” would have survived here in the ancient city of Beijing, considering how limited our spoken Mandarin is and the bad impression Shawn had of China (those who know Shawn well will know what I mean. Haha.).
I must say the best thing about moving here is Shawn and I finally have some privacy and alone time together. Just when I thought we knew everything about each other, we began to REALLY know about each other’s whims and fancies.
I have to admit, we are very comfortable living here. For example, Shawn’s company provided us with a nice huge apartment with complete amenities (clubhouse, tennis courts, swimming pool, etc). The wet market, hypermarket, and subway station are all just five to ten minutes of healthy walking away. I get to fly with Shawn when he goes on business trips to places like Shanghai, Hong Kong, and hopefully to Munich soon! And oh, not forgetting, unlimited and comprehensive medical benefits. TEEHEE!
I guess the biggest inconvenience of living here is that we don’t own a car. No doubt public transportation here is excellent, nothing like the public transportation in Malaysia. We get around the city by bus, taxi or subway. Shawn tells people he goes to work with his BMW (Bus, Metro, and Walk). Of course, living here has also opened our eyes to a lot of things that are not desirable as well. We have seen a number of strange sights in the subway like pretty girls speaking loudly and rudely on the phone, pretty girls with unshaved armpits, getting squeezed and pushed into the subway together with smelly, sweaty people during peak hours, taxi drivers that drive recklessly, some are rude, taxis that have heavy smoke and cigarette stench, and many other experiences and sights, which one would generally avoid. Makes us appreciate our life back home (and our own car to drive around!).
Shawn and I, or rather just me, have lived with a maid our entire life and I’ve hardly stepped into the kitchen. Of course I’m not all that dependent and what Chinese people say xiao jie. There was a moment in my life when we didn’t have a maid and I had to help out in the housework. That went on for a year or more and we survived without a maid! HAHA! Moving here without a maid, of course, it isn’t that bad. We initially had, what the Beijingers call, an ‘Ah Yi’, to come clean the apartment every week. But things got a little complicated and we discovered that the Ah Yi wasn’t a very pleasant person, so we decided to live without one. Till today, we have been cleaning the apartment on our own, and I must say, it is not that hard. Of course it’d be a luxury to have someone take care of household chores full time.
I began to explore and cultivate this skill called “cooking” since we moved here. We don’t really like eating out all the time. Whenever I can, I’d get on the web and browse for recipes, try new recipes whenever I can, or rather, whenever I can find certain ingredients here. It is quite a challenge to look for ingredients especially those in Western recipes. Even if I could find those ingredients, it’ll probably cost me a bomb! Going to the wet market weekly and finding how cheap some things are like chicken, pork, beef, vegetables, fruits, beancurd, etc is definitely a wonder to us.
To my surprise, the wet market here is not extremely disgusting and dirty. Some wet markets here are sheltered, which makes marketing here comfortable especially in the winter. It is also a good way for me to improve my Mandarin as I’d need to bargain and ask for certain things. I can practically find most things I need to cook a decent Chinese / Malaysian meal.
Shawn is the best person anyone would cook for as he eats anything and everything I cook, good or bad, he eats and gobbles them all which makes me happy to see that he’s satisfied with my cooking. Definitely gives me the motivation to cook more and try more recipes. On and off he gives his critiques and gives me some ideas. Hmm… I hope he cooks for me someday (and I don’t mean instant noodles!) HAHA!
We have made a couple of good friends here in Beijing, even though, we tend to be a little anti-social since we moved here. Not just because we’re growing older, but also because, most of us here travel regularly and the city is so huge that sometimes going to a place to meet a friend, takes us about an hour on the road or in the subway. So, normally on weekends, we take things easy, go for a nice movie, or grocery shopping and at night we treat ourselves a good meal.
Another weird experience we had is paying the utility bills. Unlike back home in Malaysia, gas, electricity and water are paid using a prepaid card. Every utility meter has a prepaid card where you have to pay in advance, and slot the card into the meter to top up the units before using. Because of such system, we note down the units for each utility every month. But sometimes we tend to forget as we travel frequently. So there was once we ran out of electricity, but thank God, it happened early in the morning when we just got up. Finding a place to top up the prepaid card is a hassle here as not all banks have such service, only the Bank of Beijing has the kiosk machine where you can recharge with a debit card. Times like these, I really wish that I was home.
As I’m still attached to my company back home, I make frequent trips home. I drag myself every time I go home as life in Beijing is so relaxing for me, unlike when I’m home, I get overwhelmed with tons to do, and not just for work but also for personal errands. However, on my last trip home, I had a very strange feeling of reminiscence. I made a trip to Jalan Masjid India in KL as my mum wanted to buy some materials from Kamdar to make seat covers for the dining chairs (it was her home project, inspired by Project Runway, LOL). I begrudgingly chauffeured my mom, thinking that I’d feel out of place, being the minority there. But to my amusement, I felt totally at home! That sense of being a Malaysian suddenly became clear. Somehow, no matter how comfortable I feel in Beijing, there is still no place like home. I have lived my entire life as a minority, and here in Beijing, I’m considered one of the majority in China, but when asked, I tell people I’m a Malaysian rather than a Chinese. At the end of my last trip home, I find myself dragging my feet to return to Beijing.
There are some things that I can’t get over and put up still here in Beijing. For example, the spitting (really makes me wonder why these Chinese have so much to spit. I think in a day, if you gather all the spits in Beijing, you’ll probably get size of a football field or more of spits.), parents encouraging their kids to pee or shit anywhere but not the toilet, people jumping queues, and many other strange observations.
You will hardly ever find anything like that in Malaysia. In fact I feel so warm and at home almost immediately when I step into MAS airplane as I’m greeted by our very own Malaysian aircrew. I have never failed to fly by MAS every trip back home. And in the flight, I have never ceased the opportunity to speak in Malay or rojak English-Malay to the flight attendants. Whether you are Malay, Chinese, Indian, Kadazan, Iban dan lain-lain, only Malaysians are able to speak such language. HAHA!
Oh and not forgetting, the scrumptious Malaysian food like nasi lemak, roti canai, cendol, assam laksa, hokkien mee, fish head noodles, yong tao foo and many more, which makes all things Malaysian. Oh how I miss home. Malaysia Truly Asia indeed.
Moving out of your home country may be a good thing. It is truly a life experience but there’s no place like home. There may be flaws in Malaysia, good or bad, I would still say, “AKU ANAK MALAYSIA” and I’m proud of being Malaysian!
Here’s to all Malaysians living in all parts of the world and back home in Malaysia.
Selamat Hari Merdeka! We are not just celebrating 55 years of independence, but also 55 years of peace, harmony, love and all things Malaysian! Let’s keep up the true Malaysian spirit!