I had an adventure in London last week and somehow got lost.
I visited the Malaysian High Commission in Belgrave Square near Hyde Park Corner at 8am, and waited for the door to be opened. My purpose was to get my passport renewed.
I wasn’t the first visitor. A lady in her 60s travelled from Scotland through the night to be the first in the queue. Later a young Malay family with three well-behaved toddlers arrived from Manchester.
It was lovely to meet people from my own country at the High Commission in London. I recognised their colour, their tone of voice, and mannerism. I detected friendliness and warmth through our eye contacts. Their presence made me feel comfortable.
More importantly, we love the same food. At the basement, there was a little unpolished hut selling authentic Malaysian food, the kind of food I used to have from street vendors and hawker centres.
Authentic Malaysian Food
My favourite food is Nasi lemak, a fragrant rice dish rich in fresh coconut milk. Traditional Nasi Lemak uses pandan leaves, which brings out floral aroma, and dried anchovies (or known as ikan bilis). Sambal chili is the soul to the dish.
The modest hut at the High Commission felt just like home. All food was of course halal. Popular dishes included Nasi Lemak, Nasi Goreng (meaning fried rice in the Malay language), and Mee Goreng (fried noodles).
The snack included karipad (curry puff), cucur keria (sweet potato doughnut), and bingka ubi (cassava cake). The root vegetable cassava evokes painful war-time memories to many older people in Malaysia. When Malaya came under the Japanese Occupation during the Second World War, rice became scare, cassave became a staple food.
The MH370 aftermaths
The soft-speaking Malaysian officers at the High Commission were friendly and efficient. I felt a sense of familiarity with their relaxed and unhurried manner.
You may have now known a little bit about Malaysia. We lost the Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 on the 8th of March this year. MH370 was carrying 239 people when it vanished.
While waiting for our passports, a few of us from all parts of Britain inevitably discussed MH370, and how we felt about the tragedy. We all felt incredibly sad. Some Chinese, through the mass media in China, had labelled all Malaysians as ‘bloody murderers.’ Some Chinese celebrities initiated a campaign to boycott Malaysia goods and services. They verbally abused us and looked down on Malaysians from a cultural and moral high ground.
That hurts. Many Malaysians went through soul searching in the wake of the tragedy, especially the Chinese community in Malaysia. Our ancestors risked the stormy South China Sea, overcome a life of hardship and uncertainties and later settled in Malaya. Our ancestors maintained unbroken ties to support their Chinese families in China. However, the missing flight MH370 has now challenged our views on our culture, history, and identity.
We in Malaysia have adapted to new tropical climate and new ways of life. Our taste buds have changed. We have established our new identity.
Lost in London
I had a few hours to spare in London before collecting my new passport. With another Malaysian, we walked to Harrods and acted like stupid tourists. When we walked back, we somehow managed to lose our sense of direction in Belgrave Square. How do you spot an embassy in a large square full of flags? I spotted the Bruneian Embassy, but the Malaysian Embassy was on the other side, next to the Turkish Embassy. If only all embassies were located logically as in the real world.
I picked up my passport at 3pm. I spent all my pocket money on the Malaysian food at the High Commission.
My trip was a success. My appetite was satisfied.