Silence is Golden, NOT – June 2012

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This post was written by Marybeth Ramey.

Marybeth Ramey is an award winning writer, TEG’s former Group Editor and a strong advocate for local artists. An American, former University and K-12 Librarian for 20 years in the US, she has been on local university faculties teaching in the Social VIEW Sciences since 1998.

I’m the first and loudest one to complain bitterly about noise of any kind as some of you might have gathered from various columns of mine over the years. But I must admit that total and complete silence for four entire days is just unbearable even for an old grump like me.

Everything had been going quite well for several weeks which in itself was a bit astonishing given my propensity to find trauma, illness, bad luck, hook up with unsavoury characters who cheat me, and relatively minor crises like like trying in vain to unlock my condo door only to be eventually told by the bewildered person inside that I was on the wrong floor; and my very frequent forgetting to “top up please to make another phone call” dilemmas. Somehow I sensed that something major was due to befall poor me. And befall it did.

On a recent Thursday early afternoon, the phone service went down at my condo complex as well as parts of Bangsar. Now to be perfectly honest, I really didn’t care about the phone all that much, especially because I had a handphone. What I DID care about and obsessively so, was being able to log on to my computer.

In early evening I arrived home fully expecting it to be working again yet it was still down. And it would be down for four entire, hellish days.

Most of the residents in my condo are expats and a majority are new to Malaysia. Speaking with several different groups during those four days kept me chuckling at their innocence and naïveté. They actually thought that by calling Telecom Malaysia they would quickly ascertain what the problem was and when it would be fixed. Silly people I would gently chide them.

Among the cornucopia of answers they had received the most common excuse, oh, I mean “reason” was that an underwater cable broke because of the Japanese earthquake. (which had happened months earlier) Righto. Some folks were told the main cable had been struck by lightening. Everyone though received the same answer when asking when the phones would work again – in a few hours. Apparently, 96 hours is the new “few hours” here.

Losing my access to the Internet was like losing my connection to the world which it literally is. To make matters worse, my lovely large flat screen TV had given up the ghost just a day before so there I sat surrounded by the deafening silence and a rapidly rising inclination to give in to my fiercely controlled insanity lurking just beneath the surface.


Although of course I could still read a book or two, what I missed the most was my precious Skype. Skype has been instrumental in restoring my relationship with my daughter who lives in California now with my only grandchild. Rebecca had more or less left home at age 13 to live at first boarding schools and then several years at an Australian University. Upon graduation, she married an American in the Navy where they immediately were stationed for the next 5 years in Japan. We have only seen each other 3 times in the past decade which is quite the opposite of the “other child” who seemed to be velcroed to me for at least the past 60 years. Now the infamous Naim is also living in California and just a mile or so from Rebecca.

It is incredibly difficult to keep up such a long distance relationship for so many years. Emails didn’t do it and phone calls were expensive. Then a few months ago, my youngest sister, or #9 as we call her, suggested using Skype. Jeez you would think being in the media business this would have already occurred to me but it just didn’t.

Well, we hooked up and right away we were both hooked on it. Looking at my 29 year old first born child, so warmly loved and desperately missed, I could see we shared the same shape face and eyes as well as several mannerisms. I was thrilled and blown away by the emotion of it all. Very quickly we lost our hesitation and shyness and discovered we had all kinds of things in common and I realised I really had quite a wonderful daughter. It occurred to me that as much as I had been missing having my daughter in my life that she too missed having her mom in hers.

My granddaughter Raya, and recently turned 3, came over to sit in her mom’s lap to see her Grandmom and the first thing she’s ever said to me “in person” was that she was not wearing any panties. I mean, what do you say to that? Good thing I was not a stranger or a kidnapper type.

It was such fun getting to hear all about her progress toilet training and memories of Becca’s own potty training saga came to mind which I cheerfully offered up as her karma coming back to bite her. Ha ha.

Daily skyping with your adult child is such a magnificent gift especially to us expat parents. Believe me, those four phoneless, internet-less days stretched out like four desolate years. I wanted to express this in some fashion to the TM folks, but by the time I had decided what to say, the phone lit up again as did my mood. I reached for the Skype icon and was back once again in my family.

Souce: The Expat June 2011 issue of The Expat magazine

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