An example of the little interest I put in learning the languages of the countries I visit is that, after repeatedly coming to Malaysia and staying here for three months each time, so far I have only learned to say “apa khabar?”, how are you?, and “terima kasih”, thank you very much (terms I will surely forget in a couple of days).
How nice is the Malays’ way of greeting you with their gaze and, perhaps, the beginning of a smile. Umm, since I mention the stays of three months, which is the duration of the free visa given to us citizens of the European Union, I will clarify that mine expires the day after tomorrow and I already have the ticket of the ship with which I will depart. This means that I am on the coast, and more specifically in the beautiful city of Malaca, which I fell in love with last year.
I stay in the same boarding house in China Town as then, the Voyage Home Guest House, and also in the same room (out of the five there are). Apart from being an old two-storey building, lovingly decorated and with very friendly service, it is two minutes from the Melaka River, where, in addition to eating the best pizza I have ever tasted, I like to have a few beers at dusk listening to the bustle of hundreds of minah birds getting ready to sleep in the trees. The narrow boardwalk that runs along each bank is pedestrian and causes me what I could call a Venetian sensation.
As much as I like the anonymity I find in cities where I don’t know anyone, this time I haven’t managed to make my precious social loneliness a reality by having established a relationship with a Malaysian. He’s a very generous guy, and also a good cook, who at night loves to surround himself with friends of all races, whom he serves one beer after another. He has a company in Arabia and comes from time to time to Malacca in order to become beer blind.
Yesterday there were a dozen of us: three Malays, two Chinese, one Tamil, one Japanese, one Burmese, one French, one Taiwanese, one Somali and myself. These meetings are held on the porch of the pension next to the street (“Blacksmith Street”, also called Street of Tranquility, although now I have lost a little of it since they opened a damn karaoke), and in them participates a terrier of three months, white and ugly as a pitbull, which its owner has baptized with the name of Pablo in memory of Pablo Escobar. It is a rare case, because Muslims are forbidden to have companion dogs.
Asia no longer accepts synthetic garbage from Europe and North America (China was the first to say enough), and last summer Malaysia returned five contaminated plastic containers to Spain: in recent years the plastic garbage that Malaysia received from the West increased 1.370%.
A Spanish globe-trotting veteran killed himself while traveling in a pickup truck. The very fool did the foolish thing of standing up without holding on and broke his head when the vehicle hit a brake. His poor parents, more than seventy years old, had to go through the rough patch of crossing half the world to repatriate the corpse.
Malaysia has become one of the most popular destinations for Spanish tourists. But, as an official of the Spanish Embassy told me, among them there are also many faces that have sometimes been arrested for stealing or asking for charity in the street. In such cases, the embassy must contact their families and send them back home.
Malaysia is an unusually well-organized country where, say, disciplined queues form to get a ticket. On escalators people stand to the left to let those in a hurry through, and you’d think you’d be in England. A similar case is that of punctuality in public transport. There was a sign at a railway station warning that smoking a cigarette was punishable by a fine of ten thousand ringgits (more than two thousand euros!) or two years in prison.
I spent a couple of days in Kuala Lumpur to pick up my new passport and go to the Immigration Office in the city of Putrajaya. It was a very busy day: three journeys by Metro, two by train and two by bus. I stayed at the same hotel in China Town as the previous time and discovered that on the ceiling of the room there was an arrow pointing in the direction of Mecca. When one of the usual storms broke out, I again appreciated the porticoes of all the old buildings, where you can move around while it rains. Just like I did a month before, I took advantage of the cheap Indian restaurants in the surrounding area, where they still use banana leaves as dishes. In them I feel at home and I love the Hindustani way of being.
Traffic signs on the road. Watch out: elephants! Watch out: tapirs! Floods: “Park at your risk!”. There are also warnings for motorcyclists indicating the distance to the next shelter in the event of a storm.
If you take a look at the map of the Malay Peninsula you will see that it has hundreds of rivers and large areas of dense woodland. Although, as I have already mentioned in other chronicles, palm oil companies are sweeping away many of Malaysia’s jungles, the government has created reserve territories for tribes (as in the German Black Forest, where only peasants can own more than a thousand square meters of land).
Here are a few more images of Kuala Tahan that were left in the inkwell the week before.
The cotton-like morning fog that sticks to treetops. – There are frogs (which I have never seen) whose “song” is more like a bark, although it could also be confused with the squawking of ducks, “cua, cua”.everywhere in Malaysia where nature still reigns, there are wild chickens that peck from one side to the other and spend their nights on tree branches. In the “Park Lodge” there were three roosters, now only two because the last day I saw a neighbor hunting one in the simplest way: he placed on the ground a cord forming a circle, which had a knot runner, and spread in the center a handful of rice. The hunter waited patiently for one of the roosters to get into the trap that would lead him to the casserole.
In the same way that there are animals and insects that have lost their sense of sight by living in places lacking light, are they deaf? I watched a report in which animal lovers released lobsters from pots and released them into the sea; and I thought of the good energy that this kind of action provokes in you, which, of course, is the opposite of imprisoning and depriving a living being of freedom.Pulau Kapas’ close friend sent me an email with some good news: Our friend the eagle has regained her freedom and is once again sailing the skies of the island! Did you know that sharks sense the arrival of the great storms several days in advance and remain safe at a depth of more than twenty metres until the storm has passed? It was discovered by a team of biologists who were studying a group of them that suddenly disappeared into the depths of the sea. 952 square kilometres of Chitwán National Park in Nepal, where more than 700 species of animals and 100 species of fish live in its rivers. The number of their rhinos increased to 605 due to migrations caused by flooding in other parks. This overpopulation has also led to more deaths: 21 in the last six months. They were all under 25 years of age (they live to be 60). 11 died of natural causes, and 10 from sustained wounds fighting with others over territorial issues. Thanks to army patrols that constantly patrol the park, during the previous two years not a single rhinoceros shot down by poachers died. Good!
And that’s all for today, my dear papanatas. Bom Bom.
The Cosmic Chronicle, by Nando Baba