A place untouched by time. One filled with childhood memories.
The price of food here almost reminds you of good ol’ days. The kuih above costs 80 cents. Nowadays it can go up to RM1 for a smaller portion.
It is a box filled with mementos, jewellery and bits of odds and ends. It once belonged to my grandmother. And it was time to go through it.
She was a collector of Malaya/Malaysia notes. I could have sworn she’d shown me her banana currency once (used during the Japanese occupation; deemed worthless after the hyperinflation that occurred then) but I can’t be sure where they are now.
She had written the details of all her children’s birthdays on a neatly folded note, tucked in a red pouch that also held rings.
She had been safeguarding a bracelet once worn by an aunt as a baby. She kept the gifts she got over the years.
Her youngest grandchild, barely a month old, will have her close through a band around his wrist, a delicate item picked from her box of many things.
I think it’s poetic.
It’s been about six months since I graduated. I can’t believe it myself. When I got an alumni invitation for the launch of the university’s regional office in KL, I was a little hesitant at first. But I’m glad I went in the end.
Apparently there are 760 Malaysian alumni recorded. Didn’t think there would be so many. Many seemed shocked to learn that I’m from the latest batch, especially since only one other 2013 graduate attended it.
It was a good evening overall. Met a bunch of lovely former graduates. Got some UEA goodies including a Keep Cup which I never got around to purchasing while I was there. And had a flood of fond memories sweep me away to Norwich again.
There are so many people I miss today.
Even got a very, very small video shout out from one of the current Malaysian society committee member. Aww shucks.
On the 10th of October, I packed the past three years of my life into boxes and bags, and took a 13-hour flight from the UK to Malaysia. Leaving was emotional, as if half my heart had sprouted roots, refused to leave. Then somehow as I starting unpacking, I realised just how much I had brought home with me.
I’d brought back the concrete walls of UEA and the cobblestone roads of Norwich. I’d brought back the line of ducklings in the river, the swan on the Lake, the sparkle of every firework erupting in the skies.
I’d brought back the three-legged cat, a Battlestar Gallactica Marathon, that funny moment just before a friend slipped on the ice. In my mind’s eye there is a castle upon a snowy hill, an arcade by the seaside and a country house on a landscape that stretched for miles.
Being locked in a lecture theatre when I went in to play the piano. Getting lost from following the silhouettes of too many churches. Watching the sun set and rise in the library (a beautiful and tragic scenery). A picnic in the Plantation Gardens. Smoky barbecues.
Listening to Of Monsters and Men in a corridor of the Union House. Watching plays in the drama studio. Watching musicals. The Woman in Black. Museums. Ice-skating and tobogganing. Playing Quidditch.
There are the wafts of the Wafflehouse goodies and the frothy Cromer waves. Pigs-in-a-blanket, Yorkshire puddings and mince pies. The caramelised apple of Brighton. A pancake dinner. Italian pasta in Florence. S’mores by a student accommodation. The crack of the crème brûlée the same way Amélie does in Paris. The ‘best’ fish and chips. A cup of tea (milk and two sugars, please).
I’d brought back a series of firsts. My first concert. That first time reciting my poems in an open-mic. A first Christmas dinner. London Fashion Weekend. The first time watching two friends walk down the aisle.
Seeing another issue of the student newspaper in print each fortnight. Cooking enough to feed a hundred. Mortarboards in the air. First internship, second internship, third and fourth. The dinner get-togethers. The takeaways.
A level of confidence I’d not felt before. A bigger pair of eyes and an open heart. The realisation that the world is much smaller than I last remembered it. The many, many faces.
I listed these in my head as the taxi drove me away, as I waited for the plane to take off (half an hour later than it was supposed to). Now I realised that I have carried all the memories and faces home and have no doubt that I will carry them with me wherever I go.
I can only wonder if, after three years abroad, I have left anything behind.