Some of you may know I lived and went to school in Kuala Lumpur till I was eight. I don’t have a lot of memories from those years, to be honest. I do, however, remember my best friend from primary school – a friend who tracked me down on Facebook this month and followed up with a phone call.
Let me tell you, that was one of the strangest conversations I’ve had. So much time, so many years gone by. I vaguely recall phoning her when we flew back to visit my grandmother when I was maybe 15, and hearing a cold, strange, harsh voice. Her mother said she was being sulky…rebellious…going through a rough patch. I didn’t visit her. That makes it 13 years since we last saw each other.
It’s funny to get a glimpse into a culture you’ve left behind. To see how much parental influence was in her life, to hear the kind of career options they deem suitable for you, and to let that shape the decisions you make. And it’s funny, too, to hear how things are the same the world over – that itch to get out, to travel, to see the world beyond what you know of it.
When I think back, I remember a photo of us in uniforms, outside school, grinning at the camera. I also remember a photo of us on culture day, when we both wore cheongsam(s?) to school – she looked entirely at home in hers, while mine – borrowed, of course – hung awkwardly. I’ve always hated the fact that being of an ethnicity other than the dominant one automatically qualifies you to others as having “culture” and with it, all the trappings of customs, dress and language. But I digress.
Anyway, that’s probably about it, along with a couple of other brief memories. I couldn’t even remember if she had siblings, whether they were older or younger, or anything at all. She, on the other hand, asked about my parents and my family like we’d never left. Which made me feel bad. What kind of a friend was I? Compounded of course, by the fact that she started a conversation on Facebook chat later in the week mentioning how much she missed me (coming on a little strong perhaps? We only went to school together for less than two years…then again, maybe I’m a cold hard bitch with a terrible memory).
Is it strange that I remember so little from my childhood?