Dear Loyal Readers
Welcome to another epic, and this time I have good news – I’m not going to rant about anyone in this email (even the kids that stole my Yukult from the fridge – it makes me feel like I’m back home). Instead I’m going to make some of you very jealous, and make my mum shake her head as she realises that all her lessons in being a guest go out the window when visiting a Chinese family. I mean, get this – they give YOU presents! But more on that later – let’s go back and start at the beginning.
I was born in… ok too far back? Fine, you remember a couple of weeks ago when I told you that Ying, the awesome lady who runs the hostel I’ve been staying at in Melaka, invited me to spend Chinese New Year with her family in her hometown? Well, I know you only got the email the other day, but I WROTE it ages ago and didn’t send it because of the dramas with the photos, so in my mind you guys knew about it ages ago. Anyway, I accepted her invitation because – you know – I could. As I mentioned I had a few misgivings:
1. I had literally known Ying for about 1 week. For all I know she made a bit of money on the side by dabbling in White Slavery (best excuse I’ve ever heard to get a tan right?)
2. I’m ‘allergic’ to incense, which is to say I become extremely nauseous and can black out if the concentration is strong enough.
3. It meant I would have to back track on my travels, adding at least 2 extra days of bus travel, not to mention at least an extra week in Malaysia.
4. Ying is the only person in her family that speaks any English, which would make for sparkling dinner conversation.
As those of you with Facebook would know, I did end up going, had an absolute blast and as it turned out, none of the above points even mattered. As you can see, I’m still only a ‘slave to the music’, making my way through Malaysia (ok, ok, more like being totally lazy and chilling in Melaka). The family did light some incense, but it wasn’t very strong and I barely noticed it in my room. Backtracking ended up being a blessing in disguise, as I felt like I had a ‘home base’ in Melaka, and now use it to recharge my batteries. I even bought a Jaffle maker (sandwich grill) and introduced Ying to the awesomeness of a melted cheese and chilli tuna toasted sandwich – something I was seriously craving here in Malaysia (although this being Malaysia, their version of ‘Extra Strong and Bitey cheese is about the same as the extra mild in Aus. Also, their peanut butter is sweet :S).
The last point turned out to be the least problematic. Ying happily translated anything that needed to be translated and no-one felt the need to have that awkward small talk that usually occurs around strangers. Also, it help that Ying’s family is crazy big, so no one ever ate together, it was basically a massive buffet available all day – people could just eat whatever they wanted. This is how all my yogurts got ‘stolen’ – because of this awesome communal atmosphere.
I seriously don’t know how they can eat so much though. I thought I had a good appetite, but often I can’t finish an entire street food meal, whereas Ying will finish the entire meal, and be snacking as soon as we walk out the door! I asked Ying how she managed, and she said that there were so many hungry people out there; you should finish all the food on your plate.
I told her that this is what my mum used to say (that, and that it was not polite to leave food on the plate), but that there were now so many fat/obese people in Western countries, that people shouldn’t eat if they’re not hungry. If you’re that concerned about hungry people, donate to the Red Cross, or help out a local charity. Don’t just eat more food – where is the logic in that? How can parents encourage their kids to eat more than their body needs? Recently my mum said to me that she wished she had looked at this issue differently when we were growing up, but I guess she did a 99% perfect job anyway 🙂. I did add that if you serve yourself, you should eat everything on your plate as you should know how much you can eat, but again, I think it’s better to be kind to your body than force feed it in the name of politeness (the next few paragraphs will show how bad I am at following my own advice).
Ying, Sama (the Japanese girl I mentioned in my last email) and I got a lift from Melaka to Muar from one of Ying’s sisters on the 9th of Feb, Chinese New Year’s (CNY) Eve. We wanted to take the bus, but they were all full, so luckily we had local contacts! Riding in the car with us was Ying’s adorable little niece, Jamie (see photo), and everyone in the car laughed hysterically when I explained that we called the two ponytails she had ‘pigtails’. Actually, they find many things about the English language, Western culture and Australia fascinating.
They loved the fact that the sex of crocodiles is determined by the temperature of the eggs, that we have fish that change sex from male to female as the fish ages (we got on this topic because they were guessing what sex their other sisters unborn baby was), and that we also have fluffy chickens with black skin that lay blue eggs (Silkies). They didn’t believe me on the last one until I showed them photos on Google.