Tripping II by Janine M. Donoho

Rambutan, mangos, papaya…
“One’s destination is never a place, but rather a new way of looking at things.” While Henry Miller’s words can be life-changing, actual journeys take me further. Thus, Malaysia trumps even Miller’s edgy writing.
            Now a confession. During the interval between May and now, a case of the doldrums swamped me in a ludicrous attempt to ‘overcome life’. After all, the permanent solution to life is, yes, death. Suffice it to say that a death, a wedding, a breakup, and a retirement scattered among friends and family along with my body’s new and exciting autoimmune responses have rolled me down bumpy slopes and over a few rocky hummocks. Where I am now serves as a dynamic resting point. Cue the music for ‘That’s Life’.
Yum–breakfast dessert
            With little interest in rushing toward that absolute end, let this be a resurrection of sorts–an attempt to celebrate this moment or, if nothing else, occupy this moment. Let me start by celebrating the amazing women I met in Malaysia. Of course, this includes my travel companion, the fabulous and often brilliantly contrary Ah-Ying. She drove us along the wrong side of the road, parked in places too small to possibly accommodate our vehicle and took me on food gathering forays that exemplify her intent to ‘eat her way through Malaysia’. Yes, I was her boon companion in this, too. So much tropical fruit, so little time.
A cuppa with Anna
            I met Anna at her and her partner’s hawker stall, where they offered a brisk trade in locals’ favorite American breakfast. While I passed on the fare, the Malaysian white coffee turned me from teetotaler to current French Roast aficionado each morning. Later at a private club, Anna’s marvelous vocals coaxed me into dancing barefoot with another woman. Somehow we blended Middle Eastern and Malaysian dance sensibilities into a memorable evening.
Juliet’s Fluffy Pups
            During a time when we travelers sharply missed our home dog packs, Juliet shared puppy love from her poodle litter. Fluffy little bundles of fur staved off the worst pangs. Then cut to a night of karaoke where I learned that when someone takes the mike and stands up, prepare to be astonished. Juliet and her guy Robert provided brilliant moments of vocal beauty.
            Can we talk shopping? Ah-Ying, stepmom Joann and Ang Guat furthered the daunting task of accumulating music and costumes for my dance troupe. They marched me through Little India and the best Malaysian shopping centers, then celebrated our successes with sublime traditional Chinese food.
Dr. Tan’s racers
            Then there’s Lin, whose memorable ‘Sh-t, sh-t, sh-t’, offered in the way of a kitten sneezing, made me laugh. She engenders the most blissful approach to life and her circuitous tour of the best hawker stalls and restaurants equates with a professional foodies’ tour. Through her husband, Dr. Tan, a veterinarian and thoroughbred horse trainer, I got close enough to touch, smell, and bliss out those stunning four-legged athletes.
Ah-Ying & Yuk Lin in durian heaven
            Sakmoi, Sean Hoay, Jackie and other teachers proffered both insights and energizing conversation over scrumptious meals. Evidently, Chinese-Malaysian children do not freeze in the bright light of profound learning. While here in the states, parents express concerns over maintaining ‘authenticity’ in our children versus the necessity of learning well and deeply, Chinese-Malaysian graduates participate successfully in this increasingly competitive world. Galvanized by high parental expectation along with after-hour tutorials in physics, mathematics and other tough subjects, their children thrive before rising to become their best selves. Yuk Lin, an attorney who now lives in Singapore, epitomizes this approach to success. For fun Ah-Ying, Yuk Lin and I hiked Penang Hill before eating well of laksa and durian in Balik Pulau.
Women in Ah-Ying’s Family Tree
            After an upscale meal in Kuala Lumpur, we shivered deliciously over ghost tales in Adeline’s plush hotel room overlooking the stunning cityscape. In attendance were the extended family of women in Ying’s tree including Annie and Mei Queen.
Auntie Anna’s Restaurant
            Just before leaving, Ah-Ying and I sat with Auntie Anna, wife to the marvelous Chee, who serves as adviser to the Peat Forest Recovery group. We ate sublimely of beautifully prepared food from Anna’s ‘restaurant’.
           At 36 hours away by planes, trains and automobiles, allow me to raise a cup of coffee to these extraordinary women. I wish you well, my distant friends. Thank you, one and all.
For more pix, go to my Facebook page.

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