[By Marie Blaise Capo-Chichi]
There were many things on my mind back then, but my main apprehension when I stepped into Malaysia for the first time was simple: not being able to fit in.
‘Kenapa’, you say?
I had mostly spent all my life in Africa; I have moved quite a bit, but only within the African continent. I really was not sure what to expect and wound up spending long hours trying to figure out if there where people from my part of the world here, to reassure myself that I could fit in.
My expectations were not really high when I got here. But Malaysia surprised me. Not only did I meet people from my niche of the world but I encountered individuals from various different backgrounds. I met Malays, Chinese and Indians. I had met people from India and China back home – the difference here, though, was that despite belonging to different ethnicities, they were all Malaysians – all part and parcel of the same country. It took me a while to wrap my head around this new concept.
When I finally did, I was exposed to a world of linguistic, cultural and religious diversity and gone where all inhibitions. I was totally ensnared by the national kaleidoscope I had chanced upon. I learnt about the culture of three different sets of people who would normally be found in different countries, not to mention a handful of others, right in the comfort of my campus. I have savoured food from all across Asia right here in Malaysia, and if I may say so myself, am in the process of mastering the use chopsticks, a feat deemed impossible by most that know me. I have visited a Chinese temple and acquired quite a bit of knowledge about their beliefs and customs thanks to my friends’ avid explanations. Now I am looking forward to learning more about the Indian culture, starting off at the intricate hub of Brickfields and gradually working my way outward.
The Malaysia I have come to know is akin to an ongoing knitted piece of work, with convoluted patterns and diverse colours, which gets more intricate, more beautiful and more enmeshed as time goes on. All these different threads come together as one, so much so that if one thread was taken out, all will unravel. Malaysia is a piece of art – sturdy yet fragile, a contradiction that portrays her beauty, with nuances and layers that will take me years to discover and learn.