A restart is required, please save your work and reboot your system

There’s nothing like a holiday to make you hit CTRL, ALT, DELETE on the keyboard of life and having just got back from the holiday of a lifetime to Malaysia never a truer sentence has been uttered.

Granted every break in the sun makes you feel differently once you’re back on home turf. You vow to spend more time with your partner, read more, or start writing that novel which you’ve never quite found the time for previously. A few grey months pass and those aspirations have faded along with your tan lines.

For me, this time, it’s much more profound. Malaysia by all accounts is still a developing country. While skyscrapers soar into the stormy clouds in Kuala Lumpur; over in Sandakan people are still living in rudimentary stilt villages perched over the water. Yet everywhere everyone seems to have a great big smile on their face.

Back in England and back to the daily commute, a bunch of unsmiling suits try and barge their way onto the train. All they can think of is the need to get to work to earn enough money to pay the mortgage on their home-cum-status symbol. All they’re doing is willing pay day to come round so they can buy that new dress. They are being consumed by consumerism and it ain’t pretty.

Consumerism is still rife in Malaysia don’t get me wrong. Shopping is practically a national sport and with Louis Vuitton and Tiffany & Co. standing proud at the entrance to the KLCC Suria there’s no doubting that they like to splash the cash. But somehow it doesn’t seem the same there.

Maybe the key is the fact that they are still developing and growing in greatness; whereas we peaked at about the time of the Industrial Revolution and have been slowly sliding down the scrapheap ever since. Whatever it is there seems a great sadness and desperation to our wants and needs whilst theirs seem to be the cherry on top of an already frosted cake.

Granted I was only there for 10 days and probably got a very tourist slanted view of things but still it’s made me look at things differently.

At present they’re trying to rehouse people from the stilt villages into purpose built accommodation. Obviously to improve their standard of living (I saw mice scuttling around a communal area of one of the stilt villages!); but I can’t help but feel they’re a bit ashamed of the stilt villages too (in the same way that perhaps we are of some of our council estates) and want to ‘western-ise’ the area. Some of the villagers are happy to move, others don’t want to. There are even some sea gypsies who have no interest in living on the shoreline let alone in a purpose built block of flats. Can you imagine that in Britain? Someone who by global standards is way above the poverty line being offered a purpose built flat and turning it down to stay where they are? I think what would be more likely is that they would refuse the flat and demand a four bed detached house which we would probably give them!

And there is my first lesson learned – sometimes you’ve got to be happy with what you’ve got rather than craving the next new thing!

More lessons, piccies and links coming soon!

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2 responses to “A restart is required, please save your work and reboot your system

  1. I wanted to leave a post script comment on this piece, as when I was re-reading it I wasn’t sure if I’d portrayed my experience correctly. I didn’t want to make out that all Malay’s are happy clapping anti-consumers. Far from it, in Sandakan, as in many Western towns, the teenagers hang out en masse by the sea wall wearing jeans, logo’d t-shirts and baseball caps. Girls walk along with music blarring out of mobile phones. And the amount of Chelsea, Man Utd. and Liverpool shirts we saw whilst we were there was extraordinary.

    Their desire to be ‘westernised’ or ‘developed’ can be further illustrated by the confused looks I got when wearing my batik style maxi skirt (New Look). Batik is a style of decoration which is traditional to Malaysia (along with other Eastern countries) but the looks I got were almost wondering why I was dressing so old fashioned when I could be wearing jeans like they were. Whilst I’d avoided packing the denim for practical reasons (Top Shop Moto in 30 degree heat with 80% humidity?!) it also showed me the difference between the two cultures. They’re moving forwards and want to develop. We are ‘developed’ and are trying to reclaim some authenticity.

    I guess in a nutshell what I’m trying to say is Malaysia is developing and it would be sad if it didn’t retain some of it’s heritage and charm. We have developed and, well, we’re just a bit sad and unsatisified with our lot really.

  2. Pingback: 2010 the year I… | BABE ON A BUDGET

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