Sunday, 18 March 2012

Missing Canada!


"Thank you for believing in me, for taking care of me, for giving me this opportunity.......As I leave now, looking back, I know it was meant to be.  God brought me here for a reason.  ............Malaysia is beautiful, the people, tjeir smiles, their hospitality, their warmth, that is what I am taking home with me.......I feel like I am taking home some of this 'warmth' with me..........I've changed during my time here,,,,I am so happy that I have. I was looking for something and i found it in the comfort of these walls and these strange streets. It felt like home to me...because of you."

As I read Morgan Reed's farewell card to me, I got all emotional. I called the taxi driver, Mr Gill, who was taking Morgan to the airport. "Can I talk to Morgan?" I begged.

"She just left your house less than an hour ago and you already miss her? How are you going to live in the next few days?" Mr Gill laughed.  He has been the eHomemakers city guide cum body guard for female foreign interns.

Farewell dinner with intern Tzer Haw's family.
Morgan came to the phone, I was so touched by what she wrote that I didn't know how to put my feelings into words, "Hey you, your cards is making Rhon cry. She is sniffing and tearing now. I am about to follow her too...."

"Ohhhhhhhh," she said. "I will miss you guys too!"

That was how we said our last goodbye.

Morgan at a steam boat buffet, and then being treated with a rainbow cake!

I've dealt with 20 foreign interns or young volunteers for eHomemakers in the last seven years. Some  left imprints in eHomemakers while some leave unsavory memories. None has left such deep footprints in my life like Morgan has done. The documentary we were working on required both of us to discuss issues from different perspectives.  Her homestaying with me also meant that we were closely in touch with each other, day and night! This could bring out the worst in our relationship if we couldn't stand each other! 

But in our case, it helped us to reach out to each other,in very human way.

Her cheerfulnees, energetic body, limitless enthusiasm, commitment and the 'can-do' attitude reminded me of the many peopole I met while I was a student in U of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, Canada.   I have fond memories of people in Saskatchewan  --- their genuine friendliness, and their kindness to a foreigner without strings attached.

Barbara Block visiting KL in December 2011. 
City families like the Blocks adopted me as if I were one of their daughters. I made Malaysian dinners for them and got to eat things I couldn't afford. The whole Block family sent me off at the Greyhound bus station when I left for Vermont to do my master's. Mother Block made me sandwiches, put oranges,apples and canned drinks into two brown lunch bags for me. As the bus left the station, the scene of all the Blocks waving their hands at me etched in my memory. 

Kodak moment in my mind. 

Now when Babara Block, their daughter who lives in India, visits me, I make sure she got her delicious pork dishes, dim sum and anything she can't get in India ! The Canadian kindness they gave me when I was a lone poor student can't be repaid with all the meals I can give to Barbara!

Then there was the LaBar Family whose farm in Birsay was my playground. I went there many times to milk cows, picked blueberries and raspberries, sat on the combine when it was harvesting wheat, and yelled at the top of my lungs while riding pillon on a motobike which was flying off the rolling hills.  I used to help Mother LaBar made butter from fresh milk, and head cheese from cows they just slaughtered.
Kodak moment in my mind.

And there was my Agro big sister Irene whose family taught me to roast turkey and made Christmas cookies.  A picture of me holding a big fat turkey was their family's favorite picture for many years.
Kodak moment in my mind. 

Although I was a poor student, these Canadian familiues showed me their best hospitality, feeding me, taking me to the lakes and Banff for camps, driving me to see the Northern lights and teaching me to hunt moose. And when they could, they tried to made me drink beers and milk like they did ( except the Block family..)  And there was so much joy and laughter. Those years were the best carefree years of my life!

I haven't been back to Saskatchewan since I left almost 27 years ago, it seemed like yesterday when I was there learning how to x-country ski so that I could get to the university on time because it was faster for me to to ski than to sink into deep snow that almost reached my knee...........

Morgan told me that Saskatoon is now a cosmopolitan city, it is much bigger than the time when I was there.  Things have changed in Saskatoon and much of Saskatchewan. 

Morgan's bright smile is what endeared others to her. 

Except for the Blocks, I have lost touch with the other famiilies who adopted me. I wish I have the opportunity to see them and find out what has happened to them all these years.

Morgan having BBQ lamb at a luk luk stand in TTDI. 

Image of Morgan carrying the camera on her backpack with the tripod perched on her shoulder will be another Kodak moment in my mind.

She was just like like the first strong Canadian woman I saw when the Air Italia plane I was in landed in a bad snow storm at the Toronto airport in January 1980.  She was the lone woman who directed the plane with two luminant beacons, and then she moved a ladder-like trolley to another plane on her own, walked up and scraped  ice from the window, her long blond hair laid neatly at the back of her neck in a French braid.  Beautiful.                                                                                 Kodak moment in my mind. 

Coming from a country where the state owned utility company sent six men to fix a broken street lamp and taking an hour to do so with a lot of shouting and talking, the woman on the snow covered pavement left a big fooitprint in my mind with her bravery.  She was 'unusual' and fascinating to me because she was in men's work domain and she could multi-task effortlessly.  

Now years later, I am seeing a 27 year old young Canadian lady doing the same thing-  carrying heavy equipment on her own and doing professional work without any assistance. Morgan's genorosity -- buying the HD camera when we couldn't get any sponsorship of such a camera and her arguing with me in my kitchen about why she should pay for her share in the Cambodian trip instead of me paying for her  -- is stlill fresh in my memory. 

The people in Saskatchewan were so very genuine then, and I am still seeing it now in the form of Morgan.

Morgan trying chicken feet, still smiling. 
Now that I think about it, this is what I miss since I left Canada. Life has led me to many countries, meeting with many people and seeing many things.  But I haven't met the kind of genuine people I used to meet as a student in Canada.

I have been living in my own country for over 17 years now.  Sometimes when people give me somethng and then ask somethng back from me, or kick up a big fuss when I ask for help from them ( which is rare and I always make sure I pay them back with restaurant meals or gifts or my personal time to do somethng back for them), I think back about the times when I was in Canada.  I miss the human warmth and the natural instinct of being kind to others.

One day I shall go back to Saskatchewan to thank Canada for giving me an opportunity for an education that changed my life, and I want to tell the families who adopted me that I have tried to be that woman in the Toronto airport in my way all these years.

Oh Canada!

Rhon's feet after cycling in Angkor Wat. Morgan's Canadian feet were in worse shape, with more mud!!
Kodak moment in my mind


No comments:

Post a Comment