I was thinking today of independence- that is freedom in a country- as it was just the 4th of July. The 4th came and went here, as there are no spectacular shows of fireworks to celebrate. We did go out of town for a nice wedding, and my husband and I decided that was our celebration of USA's independence! Of which, by the way, we are both very thankful... and I am much more thankful today than I was over two years ago when I first came to Malaysia.
I haven't actually written on this blog in some time, as I've mostly posted pregnancy and baby photos for quite a few months. I am sitting down now as baby naps, and may soon wake up, to write a few lines on this important topic.
As of this past May 1, it has been two years since I came to Malaysia. In many ways I can't believe it's been that long, as I still feel I am very very new to the country! I am noticing, however, that I have slowly adapted to some things. It's the kind of adaptation that you don't see as you go along, but rather when you stop in the 'now' and look back to the 'then'. Part of that adaptation comes when you can wave at your neighbors, ask how their kids are doing; or when you are actually involved in friend or family issues that are going on and you spend time in your day mulling over solutions to the issues. In other words, when life is normal!
I have wanted to write about life in Malaysia, but always thought I would wait until I had some perspective. Well, then you find yourself wrapped up in culture shock and you can't figure out what to write about! Anyone who has moved to a new country, or a new culture can probably tell you that it took some time for life to be 'normal' again. I can't sum up the experience, nor can I put my finger on what exactly the differences are between countries and between lives. Therefore, you readers have to deal with my snippets of info as I write it!
I said I was more thankful today than I was over 2 years ago, for the independence found in the US. First of all, we are not in jail here, I will make that clear! However, there is a very different 'feel' in countries. My husband feels it as well. When you step off that plane in the US, you 'feel' a freedom that is not offered to many people in this country. President Obama was here just a month or two back, and though I am not a supporter (to say the least) of our current government, I agreed with something Obama said to the government here. He said (something along the lines of), any country who does not give equal opportunity to all it's members will never thrive as a country. In all of Mr. Obama's diplomatic words, he pretty much sums up Malaysia in that sentence.
We live in a world that is increasingly hostile. I am not going to pretend to be a master of the current issues... I am far far from it. But, I do feel that I have had the privilege in this country - stop.... yes, I did say privilege- of experiencing a bit of what some people deal with their whole lives. Indeed some do not know what it is to feel the 'freedom' that exists in the US. Some will never know. I had absolutely no concept, living in the US, of what other people in the world may be experiencing as their 'normal' life. Yes, I considered myself sympathetic and aware of situations. You grow up being aware of poverty existing somewhere out there, of conflicts between groups of people... but surely that doesn't REALLY exist. Or it only exists in the Middle East, which is far far away from us. Afterall, look at the carefree life that we are living right now!
Now, Malaysia is not in the Middle East, and there is no war going on here. But, there are realities in this country that I never had to know in the US. Granted, I was growing up, and you just don't have to be exposed to much when you are living in small towns, going to school, meeting friends. That is life as you know it. In Malaysia, there are three main ethnic groups- the Malays (Muslims), Chinese, and Indians. The Malays are the country's 'people', though they are not actually the native people here. The government is Islamic, and so the Malay people are given privileges that the other groups of people are not. This is what Obama was referring to when he made his statement.
My husband remembers a very different Malaysia growing up. People were friendly to one another and it didn't matter if you were Chinese, Malay, or Indian, you could go over to one another's house and eat and socialize. That can still be the picture today in some instances. However, as in many places in the world, there are issues surfacing to divide the country and the racial groups. For example: as Christians and Catholics here, we are quite the minority, as most of the country's people are Islamic. A recent case was going through the courts to decide if our Catholic newspaper could print the word 'Allah', which is Lord in the Malay language (actually it is an Arabic word, I believe). It was just ruled that no, Christians or Malay-speaking Christians (most people here speak or understand several languages) CANNOT print the word 'Allah' in their papers, as it will confuse the Muslim community and may become an issue of national security.
I shook my head when I read that. National security? Confusing the Muslims, when the Christian population is at ... 2 percent? Hmmm... There are other 'unfairnesses' that this government supports to keep its people divided. How does this play out in every day life? In running our business, when I get a phone call- sometimes the first question is 'are you Chinese'? And if no... 'are you Malay'? No. 'What are you?' I have to laugh, as I say, I am American, and that throws them for a loop! But, in all seriousness... these people are calling for professional services, and they are asking what ethnic group I fall into. It is still very strange and maddening for us! But, that is the reality here. As a result, it is very difficult for some things in society to progress. And for our family, who identify ourselves as Catholic, not necessarily with an ethnic group, it can be all the more frustrating to serve the people.
Why are we here, you may ask? And yes, we ask ourselves that question from time to time. Afterall, we both love the US and would prefer to live there! But the Lord looks out for our sanctity, not our comfort. And we are here to serve the people... for now, for a time.. however long God is calling us to be here to try and make a difference. It could be 5 years, maybe more, maybe less, we don't know!
I am not writing these things to say Malaysia is a bad country, or Muslims are always horrible people. Afterall, we are called to live peacefully together and I have met some very kind and friendly Muslim people. But there are some definite things to be said about their religion that come as a warning to us who may be naive in enjoying our freedoms in 'the west'. I don't know the solution, and I won't pretend to know all the facts. I will just leave it at that.
And so life goes on, and we can and have had some wonderful times here and now. We have family and are even making some friends. Most of all, it is important as Christians, to remember that God will not call on you for more than you can handle. But it is important to realize all you have to be thankful for, no matter where you are in your life.
At that, baby is awake! She is making it clear that she is hungry and a ticking time bomb in her little rocker. So I will close this long writing! God bless the USA, and God bless our World! Amen.