Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Malaysia On My Mind

Meltingpot Readers,

I have a new friend. Turns out we both live in Philly. We went to the same college (although not at the same time). We both have two kids. We met actually when our kids were taking tennis lessons at the same school. Then we bumped into each other again at the music school where both of our older sons take lessons...on the same day! We knew we were obviously destined to be friends. But there's more. My new friend came to Philly to teach at Temple University. That's where I teach. But here's the part where we really bonded. My new friend is also married to a Spaniard! We have so much in common. So much to talk about. But did I mention my new friend is Malaysian?

Here's the thing. Prior to meeting my new best friend, I don't think I ever really thought about Malaysia. I didn't have any negative feeling or thoughts about the country, it just never passed my radar screen. I've never read books about Malaysia, seen any movies set in Malaysia, nor known any people of Malaysian descent. But it's funny how all of that can change just by meeting a single person.

I am now officially intrigued by this country that is truly a meltingpot of cultures, Chinese, Indian and Malay. Coincidentally, soon after meeting my new friend, I was taken to a Malaysian restaurant for a dinner party. The food was delicious and sparked my interest in learning even more about Malaysian culture and cuisine because throughout the evening I sampled dishes with seemingly distinctive African influences. I sampled a dish with okra and shrimp, sweet potatoes were also on the menu and dessert included a sweet red bean soup that also featured black-eyed peas. Hello!

In two weeks, my new friend and our very mixie families will be celebrating Chinese New Year together. She's taking us all to Chinatown and to her favorite Malaysian restaurant. I can't wait. In the meantime I'm trying to learn all I can about Malaysian culture. Not because I want to impress my friend but simply because I am now officially intrigued. Anybody have any good books and or movies to suggest?

I just love it that besides having a new friend (and el esposo loves my friend's esposo too which makes things even better) I get a chance to learn something new about the rest of the world. I get access to learning about an entirely new culture. This is why I love living in America's meltingpot. What about you? Have you ever found a friend from a completely different part of the world but you bonded instantly? What brought you together and what did you learn from the experience?

I'm listening.



Itsbugart said...

Africa has contributed far more to the world's food supply than most people realize! For more cultural/botanical history I highly recommend In the Shadow of Slavery: Africa's Botanical Legacy in the Atlantic World by Judith Carney & Richard Rosomoff and
Black Rice: The African Origins of Rice Cultivation in the Americas by Judith Carney

LT said...

Wow, what great book ideas. I will def. check them out! And it's true. The world really looks smaller when you sit down to eat.

Lucy Mair said...

Well, I've been to Malyasia, does that count!? I loved the mix of Indian, Chinese and Malay cultures. I ate amazing Indian food on the streets of Kuala Lumpur, visited the gorgeous Perentian Islands off the coast where there was no electricity so we ate by candle light, and spent a number of days hanging out on a beach on the East Coast waiting for the famed sea turtles to come ashore. We were rewarded when someone banged on our door in the middle of the night and drove us down to the beach where the mother turtles had come ashore to lay their eggs. Only Malaysian I remember: selamat datang (welcome!) Thanks for reminding me of my Malaysian adventures!

LT said...

Now you've made me want to go to Malaysia too! Thanks for the taste.