12:18 AM

2 Things in Common

My turn.

My turn to come 'home'. And, my turn to write.

...

Believe it or not, the decision was voluntary.

And believe it or not, it was matched with the usuals of uncles and aunties telling me what an unwise decision to make at this very point in time.

...

I will blame this great tragedy on FES. No, really.

It was the words of a certain few very wise people that urged us students to return to smaller towns to serve, and not just crowd in bigger cities after we graduate. The usual picture is that there is a missing generation - the elderly remaining cuz that's all they've known all their lives, and the little kids that, well really, don't have much of a choice.

The missing link - young adults.

Well, that was vaguely what those wise people said anyway. You get the gist of it.

Being a true-breed KL-ite, there wasn't a 'hometown' for me to go back to as such. But I remembered the analogy. Or rather, it latched onto me and wouldn't let me go!!

...

The other reason came from a mission trip we had to C-land.

The time where I learnt the importance of presenting the gospel in a culturally relevant manner and in the heart language of the recepient.

And that is exactly the advantage I have being a Malaysian. And that advantage came from? Being a true-blue Kebangsaan school student. Speaking the language, knowing the culture - mission school training before I even knew it.

Now, see? We may have picked up lousy studying skills (but make it through uni anyway!) through the SRK/SMK system, but we picked up other skills that are so crucial and precious.

...

So, I bought a one-way ticket home after 3 years of studying.

Didn't I want to stay on for work experience? Of course I did. Anything to prolong the wonderful moments of Australia.

But I figured, learning and gaining experience is a lifelong process anyway. Besides, knowing and understanding how things work here IS an experience in itself. And when I see the need to learn more in order to fill in the leakages of the system, I can always go back to studying.

...

It's been 9 months.

8 months of which I spent being in utter despair at my decision, and trying to come to terms with it without having to bomb anything to pieces.

What have I done to change this place? Nothing much, really.

...

Tonight, I was amongst 10,000 people in a stadium. Praying.

It was the Global Day of Prayer. Malaysia was one of the 216 nations that participated.

As I looked around the stadium, I saw that we had 2 things in common.

  1. We know who our God is. And who the God if this nation is. Most of all, we know His heart for the people and this nation as a whole.

  2. We all knew the words and tune to 'Negaraku'. A song we once sung proudly in our navy blue school uniform with our brothers from another race.

I can't describe the feeling of singing my national anthem with 9,999 other people who still have hope simmering deep within our hearts for this place we call 'home'.

It was the most breathtaking moment of the night.

...

I am more than blessed to see on stage - leaders of the Malaysian church being excited about the things to come, spurring us to continue looking to the One who wants change more than we do.

I am so proud to say that I have great examples ahead whom I can respect and follow! People who have eaten more salt than I have rice, and more french beans than I have french fries - but are still rooted firmly in this place.

And we sung whole-heartedly to Mr Tomlin's "God of this City" ala Malaysiana.

Greater things have yet to come,
Greater things are still to be done in Malaysia.. (..aa..aaaaaa..),
Greater things have yet to come,
Greater things are still to be done here.
...

And tonight is the night that I found 9,999 other people who have kept a teeny bit of hope alive for this place.

I don't feel so alone anymore.

...

Esther Goh
Adelaide, Australia (2006-2009).

9:19 AM

That’s how I decided to come home. Or something like that. Mostly.

I’ve always wondered if it is indeed the most natural thing to do, ya’know, studying in Australia and getting a PR and settling down. Seems like a rite of passage of sorts, for almost everyone I know who got the same experience as I. Of the many nationalities represented in Oz’s international student population, that idea seemed to some extent, very prevalent among Malaysians. Come to think of it, it’s like a culture even.

Malaysian reasoning behind that definitely holds water. Yes, cause and effect. Voting with your feet. Compared in relative terms there are definitely more reasons to stay than not. Great country, great weather, fresh seafood, the prevailing rule of law (mostly) and a decent shot at life despite being born overseas. The satisfaction of one’s thymos! One would indeed be weird in not wanting to live in one of the most livable cities in the world –Sydney- a place I called home for a good four years.

Being at the cusp of full fledged adulthood, the whole thing of “what are you going to do with your life” was a reoccurring theme in conversations amongst my peers and immediate circle of friends. We’d recognized that at school, we’d live from exam to exam. From vacation to vacation. From party to party. But in ___ years time, those markers won’t be there anymore. After graduation, the restraints come off and your life runs off into a big empty field and among us, we’d all shoot off into different directions.

In second year uni after I came across this whole thing about ‘backwards induction’ somewhere in a class I sort of liked. Something about reasoning backwards- from the end of a problem, and determining a sequence of optimal actions to solve that problem most effectively. I guess you could say at that point, i identified “your(my) future” as the problem.

So that’s when I thought about it. The “end” would be my deathbed. What would I want to be able to think and be proud of at that moment before I depart the world? Alex the G said, empty handed into this world I came and empty handed out of this world I go. Undoubtedly, he was a very very rich man at the time, and even today, obscene wealth is very desirable. But I figured, wealth couldn’t be the end because that would leave any means to it justifiable. Wealth had to be the by-product of another purpose, if indeed it was wealth that anyone would seek, right? (Indeed I was young at the time.)

I remembered Mother Teresa. I remembered, in an interview, when the interviewer lamented upon her wrinkled hands and worn out body and that she answered that she was thankful for her body, as a tool, had allowed her to carry out all the great works that she had accomplished. That she knew that because her body was worn out, it was well used, and she could go, knowing she had done her best.

And so it was. I would give going back a shot. To do something about the perverse trend that made it ok to condemn a society without doing anything about it. I resolved to do something I could be proud off at my deathbed, for myself but more importantly for the lives that I could possibly impact in a positive way (like I said, I was young). I knew what was wrong with society. Indeed, all of us do, and so, we work to improve on it. For me, the first step was to remove that big geographical impediment to that end I sought.

That’s how I decided to come home. Or something like that. Mostly.

Sern-Li
Sydney, 2004 - 2007