A couple of months ago I tagged along with Leen while she met with a potential supplier for her clinic (which, God willing, she’ll be opening in early October). I didn’t really want to be there, but there I was, watching the supplier pull shiny metal instruments of torture out of his briefcase. He was a really nice guy, actually, very friendly. We made small talk and when we got to the inevitable where are you from? stuff he said, “Oh, I know someone from Nova Scotia. One of my teachers at UPM. She’s from Cape Breton.”
My jaw dropped.
“She lives right here in Kajang.”
My jaw dropped even lower, narrowly missing the sharp dental implements scattered atop the table.
Next time we met up with the supplier, we called his former teacher. Her name’s Karen. “Oh,” she said, “you’re from Sydney? That’s where I’m from. What’s your last name? MacVay? I’m sure I knew MacVays. What’s your father’s name?”
Who’s your father? is a standard question among Cape Bretoners. Well guess what? She actually knows my father! Turns out they grew up in the same neighbourhood. She left a long time ago, though. She married a Malay guy she met at university (who passed away last year), then moved to Malaysia. She’s been here for 40 years, and spent most of that time teaching at UPM. She taught in English at first, but when the government switched language policies she found herself having to teach in Malay. Needless to say, she’s quite fluent now.
One evening a couple of weeks ago Leen and I (and the boys) had dinner at Karen’s place. It was a Malaysian buka puasa, Cape Breton style. Roast chicken, mashed potatoes, gravy, apple crumble, brownies…and great conversation, all of it taking place in the kitchen. Just like home.
It was great to hear her speaking Malay with Leen. I think one of these times I’ll have to get video of me and Karen having a conversation in Malay. Now that would be cool.
We had a great time getting to know Karen, as well as her daughter Nadira (who’s a student at Cape Breton University), and also her son’s wife Becky. I’m sure we’ll be seeing them again and getting to know them better. After all, Karen’s place is only about four kilometres away from ours! And to think, when I was a baby, I lived just a few houses away from Karen’s family.
It’s still hard to believe that not only is there someone else from home who married a Malay and moved to Malaysia and speaks Malay and has half-Cape Bretoner/half-Malay kids, but she lives five or ten minutes from me. Yes, it’s a small world after all!