The heat almost bowls me over the very second I step out of the comfort of my air-conditioned room. A humidity bubble, yes that is what this is – a livid, menacing ball of heat. And in no time at all, my damp shirt is clinging limply to my back despite it being a relatively cool morning.
Normally, I would declare the weather the winner, and retreat back behind into the chilled cube that is my room. But no, not today. I continue right into the monster’s mouth.
Less than a minute outside now, and the first thing that strikes me is the atmosphere. The air seems so alive somehow- throbbing and so full of energy –that I feel invigorated despite the uncomfortable warmth. The smell of fresh nasi lemak and coffee waft past, and I allow myself to be led onwards, towards the low, contented murmur that can only mean a bustling coffee shop.
As I wander on, funnily enough, the buildings catch my eye – I have never noticed them before. In my time abroad, I have grown so used to seeing rows and rows of monotonous buildings with lined pavements set in perfect symmetry that our old, mismatched shop-houses sporting peeling paint and antique door frames seem childish, almost comical in contrast. But as I stare through the dusty shutters, I am suddenly conscious of how they literally are the window to the soul of the local community – they alone have lived long enough to welcome numerous new generations and see the older ones out, along with everything in between; and oh only if the walls could talk imagine the stories they would tell!
My senses guide me through the local market, again so different from what I have witnessed overseas. Gone are the uniform white marquees set in grids and instead an array of ill-assorted canopies and tarpaulin greet me as I am swallowed by the morning crowd. Once more so distinct from the usual markets selling the typical farmer’s ware, these noisy, wet markets provide everything one could possibly need despite the inconsistencies. And again, I am submerged in warmth. But this time, it is the warmth of the people along with bucketloads of humanity. From the butcher that gives out free chicken carcasses, to the vegetable seller that shoves a few sprigs of spring onion into shopping bags with a wink, I am greeted like an old friend, nodded to and smiled at by most.
And as I return their affection, I cannot help kicking myself internally for taking all these for granted before. They all say that the grass is greener on the other side. But the truth is, the grass is greener where you grow it. This is Malaysia – a perfect melting pot of cultures and cuisines, unique to all other parts of the world. This is where I belong. This is home, and there’s no other place that I would rather be.