To be honest I didn't always have this feeling.
I only started making a point to visit 马来西亚 every year from about 2013 onwards.
Interestingly, to complement this newfound yearning to return to the home of my parents, my sense of identity with South East Asia in general became particularly pronounced after a visit to Vietnam and Cambodia during Christmas 2015.
The countryside trip to Battambang, in particular, opened my eyes.
I think what fascinates me about SEA is the cultural nuances that can be found across each nation. For example: the influence of India, Buddhism and the Hindu concept of kingship to varying degrees on Thailand and Myanmar; the brotherhood of Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam; the totally different language spoken by the Vietnamese that effectively acted as a defence mechanism against a Chinese takeover; the ejection of cousins Singapore from Malaysia (and see where the former are now!); the affinity and similarities between Chinese Malaysians and Chinese Indonesians; the influence of Portugal on the Philippines; and the list goes on...
However, I think what drew me closer to SEA was its people. While in countryside Cambodia I noticed how tough life was as farmers toiled under the unforgiving sun. That didn't mean life was any easier for those living in towns or bigger cities. Life in general is tough.
|A photo I found on my desk. A handful of Cambodians hitch a ride atop a mound of miscellaneous items.|
But people persevere and they have tremendous grit - they battle through life's challenges with little complaint. And that amazes me.
But that is a little besides the point - I got a little distracted there.
The truth is, whenever I visit Malaysia, my aunties and uncles always make me feel very welcome and there is this unshakeable sense of belonging.
Just recently I surprised my grandma by paying her a visit on 1 April 2018. I stayed up until 15 April 2018. It was probably one of the best trips I've ever had because I also got to spend quality time with my dear girlfriend and her family.
My thoughts are with Malaysians and everyone in South East Asia.
I know the world is a big place and suffering exists everywhere, but I do hope that living standards and the quality of life will improve in South East Asia, and of course that includes Malaysia. There are a lot of people stricken by poverty -- and if not that, suffering and hardship. My heart goes out to them.