Tuesday, July 25, 2006

International night

Saturday was most unusual. That evening Prasad and Ganesh visited and stayed for dinner. It’s been awhile since we last met up, Prasad in particular who went back to India, got married and became a father. He had last worked in KL 2 years ago. God has been good to him. The two Indian nationals from Hyderabad are working in KL. Ganesh is Hindu but he has been to our church a couple of times so I asked what he thought about it. He shrugged and said okay. He has no aversion being among Christians and we were glad for that.

At home with us at the time was Rawna, a Myanmar pastor who’s studying theology at STM in Seremban. He stays over during weekends and that evening the three found much in common as Rawna was in Hyderabad for 5 years until 2001. For ahile there was a bit of Telugu, mentions of railway stations and obscure streets. Then there’s Ravin, a Sikh who’s putting up with us until he finds alternative lodging. Ravin’s the sort of guy you don’t want to meet in a dark alley, but there you go. Rolls his own tobacco too. So there’s this animated conversation about food and places going on back and forth among ‘displaced’ persons in the very Chinese enclave of Setapak. Hmm.

After Prasad and Ganesh left, we waited for our next caller. Ivy was bringing an Arab student for a visit – he wanted to meet a typical ‘Malaysian family’, said she of her English language student. We did our best to be typical when the doorbell rang. I half expected a man in robes and keffiyeh but Salem our Arab Muslim visitor from Riyaddh was in neither. Simply dressed in white-sleeved shirt and dark pants, he greeted us politely after he took off his shoes. Salem’s married to a religious teacher (burqa-draped, but she didn’t come along), so you can imagine the extraordinary circumstances in which a Chinese Malaysian woman who’s not his wife became his driver and guide for the evening. Back in Saudi Arabia, religious Arab men do not walk in ‘proximity’ with women who are not their family or spouse. For Salem, that night was a first.

Salem smiled often, spoke softly with twinkling eyes as he tried to arrange English words in meaningful sentences. He searched haltingly for the right terms to ask about our family, our kids, my age (“you very old!”), describe places he had traveled to, unscrupulous taxi drivers, and of course his country (“Malaysia very beautiful, er,- next to Saudi”). We had just started talking about American guns and weapons (!) when Ivy signaled - time to go. 10.45pm. Wife wants him home by 10pm. Salem is sheepish. Would we be meeting your family before you leave KL, we asked? His wife is shy, he said, but he would speak to her about it. Gracious man. Interesting evening.

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