A TRIP BACK HOME FOR CHRISTMAS HAS PUT SARAH REES IN A THOUGHTFUL MOOD. AS 2013 ARRIVES TO REMIND US ALL OF THE WHOOSH OF TIME, SOMETIMES IT IS GOOD TO SLOW DOWN AND TAKE A LOOK AROUND.
People must have thought I was slightly strange as I rushed around the supermarket, eyes as wide as saucers, gushing: “Look Mum, Heinz beans! Cheap pesto! Hovis bread!!” My Mum has grown used to it by now – every trip home to the UK involves me getting overly excited at seeing familiar things and finding them slightly unreal after another year spent in KL. “Smoothies in bottles! The Daily Mail!”
I am sure many of you ventured back to the home shores over the Christmas break, and I hope, like me, you relished in the familiarity of the place, reconnecting with all the people/places/edibles that you have missed during your absence. Whether or not you want to be back there forever, no one can fail to feel a little joy at returning to the place where conversations can be eavesdropped on, your comfort foods are sensibly priced, and simple requests are (less frequently) met with blank looks.
I often find that, reassuringly, things have not changed too much in my absence, and no doubt many of you will enjoy that astonishment when you learn that certain acquaintances are still in the same boring job, in the same house, still moaning about the same things – if only they knew what a life could await them if they took a risk, like we all have, and seized a different existence for themselves!
Occasionally, the trip home is a sharp reminder of the things that have changed in your absence. Important events have been missed, people you love may no longer be there, and conversations steer around things that you know nothing about. It is in these moments that you realise what you give up for the life in Malaysia, and the price we all pay for endless sunny days and cheap noodles.
Somewhere amid the joyful re-embracing of the homeland, will have come a moment of looking back at distant Malaysia, especially as you try to explain to your sceptical friends and family, about what it is that keeps you there. The physical distance combined with the break in routine makes it easy to step away from Malaysian life and prod it curiously, like bacteria in a petri dish.
We all made the life-changing decision to move to Malaysia, but does it continue to offer the things you sought when you boarded that plane and waved goodbye to your folk? Are the building blocks of your weeks and months the things you really want to be doing? Are you missing things? Forgetting things? Are you, dare we ask, happy?
The year ending makes this stock-taking all the more poignant, and hopefully before or after your brain disappeared in a bubbly buzz you took some time to reflect on the year that has passed – the achievements and the failures – and look ahead to the one to come, if only to reassure yourselves that life is generally heading in the right direction and that you are in the place – both geographically and emotionally – that you want to be.
The most telling moment will have come as you stepped off the plane at KLIA. The initial hours are ones of delicious novelty, with senses heightened, and memories of that first encounter with Malaysia, when the place was still a foreign object yet to be explored and understood, come rushing back. Was it always this hot? I asked myself as I struggled to sleep on the first evening back. Was the food always this good? The sunshine suddenly cheered me like nothing else after a fortnight of greyness and dark, and waltzing outside without fifty layers of clothing made me feel lighter than air.
But once you adjusted to being back again, did you feel a sense of satisfaction? Were you looking back wistfully to the homeland and the life that you are missing? Or did you feel a reassuring ahhh, much like the emotional equivalent of slipping into a warm bath in the depths of winter, safe in the knowledge that you are right where you should be?
I hope, like me, you have returned feeling refreshed, and the feeling that lingers is one of positivity, of invigoration at finding yourself back in a place that brims with opportunity and pulses with a vibrancy that never stops exciting and intriguing you. I hope you have emerged into the new year with a determination to achieve your goals, a feeling of satisfaction at the chapter you closed as the bells chimed at midnight, and reassurance that moving to Malaysia was the right decision for you.
Source: The Expat January 2013
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