Saturday, July 16, 2005

Brian Earns 72 Virgins...maybe

It's been raining in Kuala Lumpur for the last few days so we're off to Thailand tonight on the overnight train. We had a good time here, although KL is not exactly what I imagined.

Yesterday we went to Petronas Towers (which some people claim are the tallest buildings in the world...personally I don't care about tall buildings but for those of you who do...) and walked around the area. We ate good food, took pictures and tried our best to dodge the raindrops. Which was hard since they were falling in thick, heavy sheets. Then we went to the Central Market which was sort of a disappointment. After spending some time in the Night Market, haggling over a difference of 5 ringgits, the Central Market was tame and a little boring. The stuff was nice but it was all indoors and clean. There were no smells, nobody was yelling and the merchants didn't bargain. How in god's name does that fit the description of an Asian market I ask?

After the market we headed to Masjid Negara, Malaysia's national mosque. The dome of the mosque is adorned with 18 points - representing the 13 states of Malaysia and the five pillars of Islam. It was all really beautiful and peaceful. I, of course, had to be fully covered and I was feeling pretty cool in my full length robes and hijab (headscarf). I felt Muslim...well, sort of. Not long after we arrived at the mosque we had quite an incident. I heard a woman yelling and turned just in time to see her running up to one of the large pools that divided the main floor. As I watched the mother run towards her, a little girl tipped over head first into the pool. The mother started screaming and tried to reach her but the ledge was too far above the water. We ran up and the little girl (who was not even two) was struggling under the water. It all seemed to happen in slow motion. Before I knew it, Brian had dropped his pack and had jumped into the pool. He scooped the girl out of the water and held her up to her mother. She didn't breathe at first but we were all very relieved when she started to cry. I will never forget the look on her face as she came out of the water...her eyes were huge and she looked absolutely terrified. The mother, who I think was in shock, took the baby away and Brian climbed out of the pool. He was drenched head to foot and had cut up the back of his leg on the pool edge. My adrenaline was racing and I just wanted to cry...I don't really know why. I was so proud of Brian and so relieved that the little girl was okay.

The mother and the girl came and found us later and thanked Brian. The mother had calmed down by then and the little girl had been dried off and changed. The mother thanked Brian profusely and the little girl, cueing from her Mum, shook Brian's hand. She was cute but looked thoroughly confused.

It was all just such a strange situation...there I was in Muslim robes, at a mosque in Kuala Lumpur, watching Brian save a drowning baby. If I'm wrong and there really is a God, and if half the world is wrong and Allah is the one true God, then I hope he has a very good memory.

Just as we were leaving the mosque we met two women sitting on the steps. They called us over and we sat and chatted with them for about an hour. They were so kind and friendly, and obviously very passionate about their faith. They talked with us about Islam and we had a long chat about Sharia law...that's not entirely true. They had a long talk about Sharia law and I just listened. This is not because I agreed with them, it was because I wasn't about to get into a religious debate with two nice Muslim women on the front steps of Malaysia's national mosque.

Which brings me to this: Why is it okay to tell people that you believe in God but it's not considered okay to say you don't? On our way to the Malaka train station a few days ago the taxi driver asked us if we were Christian. We told him that we aren't. He asked us why. We gave him the PC answer...about everyone just getting along and how you don't need religion to be a moral person. He then proceeded to tell us that he knows Jesus Christ is the Saviour of the world and that God loves us, ya da ya da ya da. Now why is it generally unacceptable (and usually considered rude) for me to reply with "I know that Jesus Christ is not the saviour of the world and I believe that God is a convenient excuse for a lack of personal accountability"? And why is it okay to be referred to as a "non-believer". I don't call someone who prefers showers a "non-bather". I believe in things...just not the same things as others.

Part of me wants to start telling people what I really think (only after they ask of course, because I certainly don't run around asking strangers if they believe in Santa Claus and then grilling them as to why or why not) but I know how that would be perceived. Crazy athiests...always trying to justify their lack of faith. What I will probably keep doing is smiling and nodding and saying "thank you" when people tell me they are praying for me. Or maybe I'll just return the comment with "and I'm chewing ju-jubes for you" because to me it's all the same.
Sorry about the rant...

In a few hours we are heading up to Thailand on the overnight train and will be in Hat Yai by morning. I can't wait. Malaysia has been fun, but to me Thailand is where it's at.


terri said...

Thailand is where it's at. Do you know where you're going yet? My dad lived in Banchang, near Pattaya, if you end up there. There's realy no reason to go to Banchang -- it's just a small town, a holding spot for the foreigners who work in Rayong. Pattaya is a big tourist town and a popular honeymoon destination. There are also a lot of foreigners there, so there's plenty of North American fast food chains. The beaches are okay, but nothing compared to the south. There's a little island nearby called Koh Samet (spelling may be incorrect) that we visited -- just cheap bungalows and beach, which was lovely after the tourism and Western influence in Pattaya. We spent our days alternating between sitting in the sand and playing in the waves.

While you're travelling in Thailand, my Thai step-grandparents are visiting Newfoundland. So far they've been taking lots of pictures of trees and water, but I imagine that might get old soon.

My grandmother always tells me that she's praying for me when I talk to her. I'm not sure if she means that she's praying for my eternal soul or my general health and well-being. Could be both. I just say "That's sweet of you" because, well, she feels like she's helping me that way somehow and I don't feel like arguing with my grandmother. I don't make specific requests. I'm sure there will be another annual battle of "What do you mean you're not going to church? I want you to go to church with me. Why won't you go to church with your grand/mother?" when I go home.

Suzanne said...

Enjoy your first trip to Thailand. Interesting times in the south; have you heard that the PM now has extensive emergency powers to quell the insurgency in the south? I'm interested to hear what you see and experience while you're in Hat Yai, Yala areas. Needless to say, don't hang out at police stations, mosques or temples, or with large groups of monks.
Remember, Krabi and Ton Sai Beach is where it's at for climbing. And the Thai government is trying to make Ko Samui their first 'drug free island'. So, just skip it and head straight to Ko Phagnan.