After much preparation, the young self-proclaimed Emperor of The Han Dynastory is now serving a full-time mission to the UK with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

He will return in 2014.


Welcome to the Han Dynastory!

As I am now serving a full-time mission with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I have left this blog under the stewardship of a family member, who may post updates on how I'm doing as he/she sees fit.

Enjoy your stay!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

There and Back Again

[written on a piece of paper starting from 5.27pm]

I did not intend to spend my Sunday like this.

Tired, grouchy, pissed and sweaty, standing in the chaotic flux of people, buses, smoke and noise that is the Larkin bus terminal in Johor, Malaysia.

Earlier this morning Ray came back to Singapore from a trip to Malaysia with bad news - his luggage was "lost in transit".

Dad had apparently sent Ray back on a bus as usual, except that this time he had to change buses in Johor, the Malaysian state abutting Singapore. This anomaly caused him to leave his bag in the first bus by mistake. Hence, the responsibility to accompany Ray to head to Johor to attempt to retrieve his luggage became a hot potato between Mom, Shuan and me. As the proceeding events of the day would suggest, I really suck at playing hot potato.

I've never liked Larkin bus terminal, and that's putting it mildly. Hence, I brought along anaesthetic in the form of a novel and lots of Bossa Nova in my phone to ease the pain. It worked, right up to the point when I actually reached Larkin.

Touts, smoke and noise. As I stepped out of the bus, all three greeted me like old enemies who thought we were best of friends. Our first challenge (besides overcoming my utter disgust) was to find the right counter. Thankfully, within minutes I was rapidly switching between English, Mandarin and Malay, making various enquiries and calls to trace Ray's luggage. The task was complicated by Ray's inability to remember his bus number, but eventually, with commendable effort to remain polite, the navy blue duffel bag that ruined my day was found in Bandar Tasik Selatan back in KL, awaiting Dad's picking up. Objective complete. Time to head home.

My day should have gotten worse when a kind old lady helpfully pointed out that the long, sinuous queue almost capable of putting Universal Studios Singapore to shame in front of me was for the bus Ray and I had to take. Interestingly, it didn't.

In fact, it actually got better.

Perhaps I've studied too much human geography and economics. Perhaps I've just been standing too long in the queue. Regardless of the reason, I suddenly found myself looking at the touts, wondering what it would be like if I spent a few days immersing myself in the terminal, shadowing the touts to find out more about their work and lifestyle. I even thought of some questions I would ask them in a survey - how many hours do they work a day? What is their daily/monthly/annual income? Is it enough? do they have other jobs? Are they supporting a family? Why did they choose this job? What do they do for entertainment and how much time do they have for leisure? Are they happy with their current life?

Soon, my geeky interest in gathering information overrode my angst and I actually started to have fun. So here I am, writing everything down (having a Moleskine moment, I suppose). First in the queue to the bus from Larkin, then on the bus to the checkpoint, then in the queue to customs... After all the times I have entertained myself by reading while queuing or travelling, writing is proving to be an amusingly refreshing twist.

And so, I would like to focus my attention back on that last question of the imaginary survey.

Whenever I gripe about the people and environment I face when I'm back in Malaysia (particularly places like Larkin) it rarely occurs to me that these people may actually be comfortable with the way things are. To them, that is life as it is. On the other hand someone coming from a completely different background like me would think it impossible to live such a life. It is the classic case of the town mouse and the country mouse (except that I've been more of a grumpy weasel).

The recent civil and political uprisings may suggest that Malaysians want change (hopefully the kind that brings real progress), but this may not necessarily apply to all levels and individuals of our society. If the government really does come round and makes real progress towards our Vision 2020 (to establish Malaysia as a developed nation), how many people such as these touts will actually embrace the winds of change?

The government recently transformed Puduraya (Larkin's equally evil twin in KL) into something ostensibly comparable to the renowned KLIA. I wonder what happened to the livelihoods of the Puduraya touts? That's a whole other survey waiting to be imagined......

I did not intend to spend my Sunday like this, but wow.