|New Zealand, 2006|
“The mind is like a parachute, it works best when opened” Robert Dewar
I’m thankful for all the travels I have been blessed with. I appreciate the fact that I’ve had the opportunity to explore this world and its many wonders. Because it is true when people say that travelling opens our minds. It opens our minds to a myriad of wonderful things.
Like great weather and great sceneries. Like well-established systems and efficient public transportation. Like friendly smiles from strangers and well-mannered and well-cultured societies. Like wonderful shops that sell wonderful things and excellent customer service. And of course, great food, what else.
I hate to admit this, but I will. Every time I come back from my travels, I am more often than not... disappointed with my own country. I am disappointed with the public transportation, or shall I say... the lack of good buses, in particular. I am disappointed at how our officials don’t take their jobs seriously at our borders. I am disappointed at how lackadaisical we are about providing good infrastructure to the people. Like how we lack in proper walkways by the roadside or how we fail to provide proper public toilets and how we don’t have enough seats at waiting areas.
And mostly (believe it or not), I am disappointed at the Malay culture on so many different levels, I don’t think you even want to know. Because believe you me, even in countries where the main religion is Christianity, you’d be surprised to see how “Islamic” their culture is.
Yes, when you travel, you learn to demarcate between what is religion and what is culture. And you learn that most of the time, you could be the most pious person but be a disgrace to your religion because of your unsavoury culture.
But of course, there are times when I come back from my travels feeling absolutely lucky to be part of Malaysia. To have such a peaceful country where people can co-exist peacefully. Where people of different cultures and religions can blend and be friends. Where food is abundant and relatively cheaper than anywhere else in the world. And of course, for having one of the most envied climates as it is a mild summer all year long.
It’s just that sometimes, I just wished we could assimilate others’ good culture. Like saying hello to strangers without being looked at as strange and queer. Like not being too “curious” (or in a more familiar term “busy body”) when something is happening in your vicinity. Like not minding when a stranger shares your bench in the mall. Like not being so ignorant about our own country, say for example, when being asked about directions to a particular landmark or being asked about facts like who is the Football Team Captain or where you could get souvenirs at a cheaper price.
These are things/knowledge that we should all be equipped with as Malaysians. Because, most of the people I’ve met during my travels, even if they wear a Mohawk or pink or green hair or super short, short skirts, know these things. They are so acutely aware of their country and their jobs, that I sometimes cringe thinking about the girl at Customer Service/Information Counters I’ve encountered in Malaysia who don’t even know the mall or shop she’s in charge of at the back of her hand.
So you see. There is a lot to improve on. Each time people say budaya Barat adalah budaya “kuning”, I just smirk. Because all they have seen are the things shown on TV. Though to a certain extent I admit that there are cultures which leaves little to be desired, there are very good cultures which are commendable and deserve the right to be considered.
We should compare our country to those countries, which are less fortunate, yes. But only so that we don’t become ungrateful. But to me, the only way forward is to compare ourselves with those developed nations and think about how we could be like them.
If they have succeeded in becoming what they are, I don’t see why we can’t be better.
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