Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Story of Tsunami.

A really big part of me, I never really talk about on this blog. It’s odd; I’ve been writing for a few years on here, and haven’t told you much about this – save for a few times here and there. Even though it doesn't come up in my daily life, it still influences me daily.

What am I talking about? Being a third-culture kid. Growing up in three different countries. Never going to school for more than three years in one place before moving.

It used to come up every time I met someone new for a while - and still does if they ask me where I'm from and I care to go into a little bit of depth. Or if they ask me if I graduated from the high school I work at. "Nope. I actually graduated from high school in Malaysia." Pause. "The foreign country."

The further and further I get from having lived overseas - it's been seven years since I graduated high school and four years since my family moved back to the States - the more worried I am about letting the precious memories slip.

I want to remember it all - all those little moments that added up to a big part of who I am now. I want to remember staying in a floating hotel. I want to remember drinking Singapore Slings in a bar with my whole family. I want to remember rescuing a tiny kitten from the sewer.  I want to remember riding an elephant. I want to remember the Easter we had fried duck skin for dinner. I want to remember.

People ask you a great deal of questions when they find out you've lived overseas. They ask me if it was difficult. They ask me if it was tropical. They ask me why we moved. They ask me if I hated moving. They ask me if I speak other languages. They ask me why I went to college in the US. I love answering their questions. Except when they're blatantly ignorant, like the time a girl in high school asked me, "They all walk around naked all the time in Thailand, right?"

Right. With their spears and loin cloths.

Indulge me as I share my memories now and then. And, please, if you have ANY questions - ask them in the comments. I'll address in them in future posts.

It was the day after Christmas in 2004 and I was a sophomore in college visiting my family in Malaysia. Enjoying sunshine, pool time, and 90-degree weather was the perfect antidote for a tough semester of school. There was a catastrophic tsunami that day off the coast of Indonesia, and the news was coming in slowly about the tremendous loss of life.  Friends in the US emailed me and instant messaged me frantically to see if I was okay - since nearly every country in south east Asia had been affected. (Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia, was blocked from the tsunami by Indonesia's north coast.) I didn't quite realize the extent of the loss yet; I don't think anyone did for a few days.

After a big dinner my younger sister, her friend and I decided to go for a walk. We walked through our neighborhood, among the big houses and their gated driveways, the narrow streets, and the perfect view of the Petronas Twin Towers. As we chatted, we heard a high pitched, tiny crying sound - a meow! We looked around, and realized it was coming from the sewer (gutter?) on the side of the street. Peering through the grate, we saw the glinting eyes of a tiny creature. Ever the animal lover, my sister insisted on going into the sewer to see if the cat was okay.

3- emmie sewer

She emerged with the tiniest nub of a kitten I'd ever seen. She set it on the ground and it wobbled as it walked gingerly.

4- cat's out!

I've never been much of a pet-lover, but this little thing was adorable - so I agreed when Emmie decided she was going to keep it. Emmie is one of the most loving, sweet, kind individuals there is. (When it comes to animals, anyway. Heh.) She called my dad, a definite cat-hater, and somehow persuaded him that bringing home a cat from the sewer in Malaysia was a good idea.

7- don't touch it!

Em wrapped the little furball in her shirt ("Don't touch it! It might have diseases!" I instructed.) and we trooped back home. I'm not sure who suggested it, but we named the cat Tsunami honor of the day's disaster. Looking back, it seems a bit odd or insensitive - but it fits. Tsunami joined my family's other cat, Trixie, and the two have been torturing each other ever since.

When Tsunami has psychotic tendencies and starts to attack something that isn't there, we shrug and chalk it up to her being a Malaysian sewer cat.
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