I have returned from Malaysia safely and happily, but my goodness what a ride!
On Friday we started the day at 4am in -4 degrees celsius/25 degrees fahrenheit (Beijing) and finished the day at 9pm in about 24 degrees celsius/75 degrees fahrenheit (Kuala Lumpur).
I thoroughly enjoyed being constantly and comfortably warm for 5 whole days. But I will say that KL is one of the most confusing places I have ever been to.
From the moment we stepped off the plane, we had no idea where to go. Signs were cryptic, directions were misleading and everything else was downright unintuitive.
For example, in one public bathroom I tried to get a paper towel and managed to reach up into an electric hand dryer instead – which was built into the wall with a bin underneath and looked exactly like the paper towel dispenser next to it. How I didn’t electrocute or burn myself I have no idea.
It was a reminder that I’ve acclimatised to China. I would venture to say that everyone feels lost and overwhelmed in a new country, but you never fully appreciate how much you’ve become used to a country until you step out of it.
Still, that’s not the reason I’m writing this post. I’m writing this post (completely unrelated to my usual subjects at Creativity’s Workshop) because I lost a dear friend during my travels. And when that happens, it’s important to capture the story behind the friend.
When I first moved into my apartment in early 2010, my new friend was waiting for me. It was a bag. But not just any bag. It was a black disposable shop bag with orange straps for handles, made from a light plastic which almost felt like canvas. Best of all, the shop’s name was written across the side. Jessica.
It was just made for me!
The Jessica bag and I went many places together. We were together the first time I met my husband-to-be. He is notoriously bad at remembering names, but mine he had no trouble with – because it was written across my bag.
It was just the right size to stuff in a bottle of water, a couple of snacks, tissues and a warm jumper. It was perfect. It was useful. It was my companion for almost 2 years.
Until Sunday February 5th.
My husband and I had been out for the day, wandering around Kuala Lumpur until my feet were blistered. We were walking back to our accommodation and he, like a gentleman, was carrying my bag.
The road was relatively quiet, with enough cars and motorbikes to warrant traffic lights but few enough that we felt comfortable walking along a dirt path right on the edge of the road.
My husband was in front of me, holding the bag, when he realised the motorcycle behind him sounded very close.
His hand clamped tight around the straps as the motorcyclist revved his bike, zoomed past us and grabbed the bag.
My husband held fast to his strap and the thief, still holding the other strap, looked back as the bag ripped in two – scattering our belongings across the road behind him.
It happened so fast, and yet I have a slow-motion memory of all our things – books, purse, passport, camera, bottles of water, glasses in their cases, jumpers – suspended in midair as the bag split.
In that moment my bag gave its life, and how grateful I am that it did. Had the thief succeeded, the rest of our holiday would have been spent getting police reports, visiting the Australian embassy for another passport and all the fun of claiming on travel insurance.
As it turned out, all we lost that day were my reading glasses (run over by a car before we realised they’d fallen out of their case) and a loyal bag.
R.I.P. dear friend. And thank you.