“You’ve been on my mind,
Talk about a lonely time —
You don’t know how much I need you.”
– The Backpack Song, Bear Attack
When I was in high school, I couldn’t wait to leave and get to university and forge lifelong friendships with new people and leave behind old ones and start over with a clean slate. Now that I’ve been to university and left it — or the first part of it — behind, I’m amazed at how true my predictions were. University hasn’t been a disappointing experience at all, and I’ve met great friends I can’t imagine life now and in the future without.
Last weekend several friends of mine from Singapore, Brunei, and Malaysia whom I’d been very close with in UWA came down to Kuala Lumpur, and we decided to have our little UWA reunion. It was so nice to get together again with these girls after so long; this is certainly one of the best things about doing research at home — I get to be close (or at least reachable) to friends and family.
Come to think of it, I’d only managed to get close with these girls in my final semester at UWA. By then some of us were already in our third — or in my case, fourth — year already, but we’d hardly come across each other, on campus or elsewhere. One of them studied anthropology with me, but the others were in various fields ranging from podiatry to law and commerce to architecture. Sure, we’d see each other very often during Friday prayers or in the musollah, but that was pretty much it.
Things changed during my last Ramadan in Perth. I would see them almost every day when they came to Hackett Cafe to break their fast and to pray tarawikh afterwards. Deep conversations and eating biryani from the same big tray and praying side by side virtually every evening together culminated in a sisterly bond so strong that it has united us in three different countries so far — Australia, Malaysia, and Singapore. We celebrated Eid together too that year, and went out for lunch and shopping trips, and I would always talk about my research with them; they were faithful listeners and keen critics — just what I needed to keep myself afloat during the research and writing process. We called ourselves ‘Gadis Melayu’ and they are even featured in the Acknowledgments page of my Honours thesis.
Last weekend we got together in Kuala Lumpur and had dinner at KLCC’s food court. This was followed by a nice long chat about polygamy and relationships and career prospects and reminiscence of Perth. Afterwards, before parting, we took photos together and made a pact to take our friendship even further — perhaps to the UK, where we agreed to reunite some time in 2016.
KLCC itself is looking pretty festive these days with the presence of a massive Christmas tree out on their courtyard near the pool. The sheer size and yellowness of this tree is pretty impressive, I must say. The tree is in fact even bigger than the ones I’ve seen in Budapest and Zagreb during the Christmas season, but it made a nice background for our group photo anyway.
I like how the ornaments on the tree seem to be popping out against the darker green background. Not sure how much power is needed to light up this massive tree — and there seems to be one in every major shopping mall these days — but if it puts people in a festive and shopping mood, why the heck not.
To those celebrating, hope it’s not too early to wish you all a very lovely Christmas!