February 28th 1984

posted in: The way back | 0
Eating with Hassan’s family

We treated ourselves to the most enormous breakfast this morning, down the road at the other losmen.  We each had eggs + chips, plus 2 slices of toast with baked beans, plus tea, plus toast + honey.  A veritable scoff of vast proportions.  Thus fortified, we felt able to resume our travels.  Northwards, on to KL.  The first step was the bus straight back to Melaka, + then, the town being small enough to walk out of, that was what we did.  It took much longer to get a ride this morning – we even had a break from hitching to grab a coke. 

But when the ride did come, it was very good indeed, in an air-conditioned car.  The driver, Dee, Chinese, has remodelled the interior himself, he told us.  And very nice it looked too, with lots of dials, switches + accessories, + upholstered in blue velvet.  There was air-conditioning, + one of the car stereos that seem to have become almost compulsory since we left, with 2 slim-line boxes, and a whole host of slide controls – a far cry from the rather crude + simple machines that seemed to do the job.  And this one didn’t even do the job all that well.  We clearly didn’t have all that much to say to each other, so I persuaded Val, nursing the bags in the back seat, to drag out one of our tapes to play.  It was the “Dear Bjorn” compilation that I had recorded in Sydney, but it sounded absolutely appalling – if I didn’t already know the songs well, I wouldn’t have been able to distinguish them.  It didn’t seem to bother Dee too much, however.  He was going up to Petaling Jaya, which is almost an industrial satellite town to KL, so we had virtually broken the trip, as it would only be a local bus-ride into the city centre.  He invited us first, however, back to his house to shower, so I accepted.  It seemed a particularly good idea, since I hadn’t showered for a day or 2, + a shower would make us both look + feel better, especially since we were visiting new people.

It became even more obvious while we were at his house that we had nothing to say, however – Dee is an engineer, + the house, tho’ quite nicely furnished, contained all sorts of tins of electrical parts, mechanical parts, piled in the most unlikely places.  There was even a tin sitting in what looked like permanent splendour on top of the cooker.  Even tho Dee lives with both wife + brother, they apparently keep no food whatever in the house – an extraordinary situation, it seems to me.  Once we were showered + changed, Dee dropped us at the bus station, from where it was a 50 c ride in a minibus to KL.

We were a bit confused as to where we were in KL when we alighted – we wanted to be near the main Post Office, but didn’t really understand how the reality of the roads fitted in  fitted in with the scheme pictured in the map in our guide book.  (It turned out we were exactly 180 degrees confused, but we can perhaps be forgiven some confusion – the GPO had moved.)

We found a telephone, + after many attempts + much confusion, were finally able to get in touch with Hassan, who seemed, I was relieved to hear, genuinely pleased to hear from us again.  He promised to pick us up from where we were in about 45 mins – we killed the intervening time by going for some coffee.  They arrived on time (this was more noteworthy than I imagined at the time) + we were soon whisked back, KL traffic allowing, to their house.  It was shabbier + more dishevelled than I had expected, with all sorts of things lying around in an untidy mess.  There were more people than we expected too – Hassan’s parents-in-law were staying with him, as well as Ima + her baby, Areef Arafat.  Her husband, a film cameraman, was away on location, so she had moved in temporarily.  We would be staying at her house, Hassan had told us.

The evening was dull.  The video was on, Faridah’s father glued to it, with an appalling video on, a Kung Fu movie.  And when that finally stumbled to a finish, he promptly put another one on.  We were rescued from this torture by the arrival of a meal, Faridah having made a big dish of fried noodles.  I ate enough to be polite, I hope, but it wasn’t easy – fried noodles is far from being my favourite dish.  Afterwards, it being by now quite late, we were driven over to Ima’s house.  Small + pleasant, tho’ musty – an old man’s smell.  Maybe because there’s an old man there – they have a live-in housekeeper to look after things, aq strange, silent, wild-looking old man.  Other inhabitants too – I saw one of them run down the stairs.  Ima told us not to worry, but the house had rats.  Maybe she meant mice, but she said rats, + her English is good.  We tried not to appear as nervous as we felt, but we had a very good look around when we went to bed.

Pleasing that the invitation to stay with Hassan was genuine, though it did mean we had to cope with the social niceties – I really should not be so grumpy about it – it was, after all, our choice to take up the invitation.

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