So, it’s tough deciding where to start with a blog about travel experiences… So I’m rolling the dice and starting with Malaysia. It was the location for my 2006 big vacation. I’ll post about it a good bit no doubt. But here, I wanted to start by talking about rice.
In Kedah, outside of Alor Setar, I even had the chance to go the rice museum that let me walk through the history and importance of rice in the area. But what I will forever remember about rice in Malaysia…. is it sitting in front of us. Right there on our plates. Steaming with the latest curry dish on it. Calling to us all. I was visiting a family of friends in a kampung outside of Kuala Lumpur (to us it would have been a rural suburb maybe). And I arrived during Ramadan.
I chose to be there in Ramadan because I remember how these friends observed their holy month in the U.S. when we were all in college. Ninety-five percent of our campus probably didn’t noticed the Muslim students fasting for a month. But I had very close friends and we routinely goofed off between classes together. I still remember the food cooking for dinner and wondering how they could keep from eating. It seemed I should try to see Ramadan from the perspective of being the outsider. I was the one who was outside the norm because I’d eat during the day a few times, whereas the society at large, was fasting from dawn to dusk.
A few hours into the first day, they suggested I get a bite. I shrugged it off. Shrugged it off til I thought I’d starve to death! Yes, by early afternoon, I was stopping and eating. There was no worries from the family though and my friend Rashida sat and visited while I ate a salad.
We stopped by a restaurant early in the day. I thought it was to get reservations. That was only part of it. Our dinner was also ordered! We got back to the restaurant and dishes started coming out. Food, drinks, etc. I was so thirsty I thought I’d die. The rice called me too. It had been a while!
The restaurant was packed. Everyone had dishes, glasses, etc. And yet, the only noise was a few people placing food on their plates. Nobody ate a thing. Not even the kids. I was likely the only person in the place not observing the fast. Friends offered for me to go ahead. They were sincere! Explaining, everyone could tell I was American and they would know that I was likely Christian, etc. I didn’t have to observe the fast. But who could possibly eat in a crowded room of people who hadn’t eaten in more than 12 hours? Not me.
Then the evening prayer was said and everyone started eating. Compared to the silence moments before, I couldn’t believe the sounds! And I also couldn’t get over how fantastic the rice tasted.