A Stranger in a Strange Land

(Title Pinched from another writer, of course)

Back in 1970 my husband took me to my in-laws’ house. We’d landed in KL at night, and were taken by car to the family home in Melaka (Malacca) where my husband had grown up.
When I saw it for the first time, a coconut tree had fallen across the village power lines, so we arrived in the pitch dark in the kampung (village).
The picture of the family house below was taken much later (2010), but even in 1968, when I first saw it, it was beautiful wooden building in the traditional Malay style of the area, where the tangga (steps) are a speciality, and the best side of the curtains always faced outwards… It had running water and an indoor toilet, and (usually) electricity.
My husband was whisked away the next day to go to Kuala Lumpur to start his new job at the brand new university — in effect, going overnight from Ph.D student to uni lecturer, designer of chemistry labs and planner of degree courses, all for a uni that had no campus yet, let alone a permanent building– but with the first students already on their way.
In the meantime, I was struggling to find my feet in the kampung. No one told me that the adult classes I had taken in Australia in the Malay language were really not all that useful, seeing as my husband’s village spoke a dialect that had more links to Sumatra than Malaysia! (Happily, though, the village was matriarchal, a bit of an oddity for a Muslim society.)
Anyway, my husband’s lovely family did their utmost to help — and they became very dear to me over the years. Back in those first days, they were off working all day, my husband was off in Kuala Lumpur, so I was left to amuse myself. I looked around for something to read. There was not all that much in English in the house, just school text books and…shelves of Mills and Boon. For the next ten days or so, I read two M&B romances a day.
Never, never ever, ask me to read another. Please. Especially ones written in the 1950s and 60s.
Oddly enough the farmhouse where I was born, and this kampung house, had similar addresses. Back as a child in WA, I lived at the 14th mile peg in Kelmscott; this house’s address in Malaysia was at the 19th mile peg… 19 miles from Melaka town.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.