CoaTW: Redefining Malaysia's capital

lifestyle
November 21, 2013
This article was published more than 2 years ago.
Est. Reading Time: 4 minutes

Rick Kanary
The Silhouette
The excitement was palpable as the 777 from Cathay Pacific touched down on the runway in Singapore.

All the sights through the jet's window were new and exciting, it was literally a jungle out there− even at an industrial site like the airport. As I made my way off of the plane, I was possessed with a feeling of grandeur, similar to the awe inspired in a child at Christmas. I just couldn't wait to get out of the confines of the airport and soak in this wonderful and exotic foreign land.

I successfully made my way through customs to find my father and three of his business associates waiting for me with a luggage cart. Each of them could sense my new luminescence, and made jovial remarks about it. My father and I needed to catch an airbus to Kuala Lumpur in a few hours so we all decided to grab a quick coffee, sat around a quaint cafe table and discussed culture, currency, and travel. I polished up my latte, we said our goodbyes, and my father and I made our way to the gate for our airbus.

Once we landed in Kuala Lumpur, we made our way onto the tarmac into the overwhelming humidity. As the Canadian I am, I was dressed for our late fall weather, which I realized was clearly counter productive as the blast of heat washed over me.

We followed the queue past various baggage handling vehicles and equipment, eventually finding ourselves in the airport to make our way through a security check and retrieve our baggage.

One of my father's three associates, a lovely woman by the name of Angeline, had already made arrangements for a driver to pick us up from Kuala Lumpur International Airport and bring us to our hotel, which was located in KL's embassy district. Thank goodness I took as many shots as I could through the cab's windows because the drive was a reverie, a quilt of exotic multicultural buildings and landscapes mixing Indian, Thai, Chinese, and Malay influences.

The hotel was quite a nice place with a peculiar architectural design. There were fountains throughout the main floor, with a row of rubber plants growing against a greenhouse style overhang. Much of it was open concept, with various apertures to the outdoors. But, this is not meant to be a memoir of architecture or travel. I write this particular article to address the overwhelming gratitude I feel to be a McMaster student, and a Canadian Citizen.

This was a business trip, but I was also committed to keeping up on my lectures and schoolwork. Thus my days began early and ended very late. A lot of my time was spent presenting training modules to Great Eastern Life's team of trainers, and in the hotel room, smoking, typing, reading and postulating.

Amidst this hectic schedule, we did find time to visit the city, which is quite an incredible place, mixing influences from so many different cultures that it was a sensory overload.  The sights were wonderful, the food sumptuous, and the people thought-provoking. This brings me to my reasons for feeling such immense gratitude.

One evening, while Skyping my girlfriend, Kristin, the housekeeper had come in to tend to my room. While he was making my bed I made my way to my father's room to pick up a few things and Kristin, who had had a few drinks with her friends prior to the call, decided to strike up a conversation with him.  When I returned, an entire story unfolded that obviated any right to ever question how fortunate I am.

As it turns out, the housekeeper, who's name is Ken, had come to Kuala Lumpur on a work Visa from Bangladesh, leaving his wife and five-year-old son, whom he had never seen. He was contracted by an agency to work for the hotel, who had rented him a room at a hostel and paid him the sum of 900 Ringettes per month, which totals roughly 330 Canadian Dollars, all of which he sends back to his wife and family.

Ken works 12-hour days, six days a week. He shared a few stories of his life experiences in Bangladesh that would make your teeth rattle. Needless to say, Kristin immediately attached herself to Ken, requested his phone number and address, promised him she would look into immigration laws and a job opportunity.  She was almost panic-stricken and I was aghast.

You hear stories, through the grapevine, through modern media outlets, in your textbooks, but that doesn't compare to shaking the man's hand. I promised him that I would look into the possibilities, and his gratitude was overwhelming. He returned to my room the day I was checking out, insisting we are brothers, that I must help him and his family come to Canada, speaking of our country like it was a mythical place.

I could discuss the differences between the two sides of the planet, but I would rather emphasize the similarities.

We all seek freedom, the peace of mind to be able to strive for more, and the dignity in being self-sufficient. This is NOT available everywhere to the same degree that we experience it here, particularly as students at such a fine university providing us with the cultural capital that millions across the world will never have the opportunity to earn.  The years you spend here, learning, growing, living, are invaluable.

They are a social and cultural capital worth far more than any mundane printed-paper, manufactured good, or presupposed precious material.

Author

  • Alexandra Reilly is a third-year communications student and has been writing for the Silhouette for two years. She started her career in sports writing as a weekly volunteer and covering women's volleyball in her second year. Now she works as the assistant sports editor of the paper and hopes to one day work in sports media and broadcasting.

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