Wed 5 May 2010
Rich is amused that there isn’t a city I have met that I haven’t liked. Well, met one that didn’t do much for me. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Petronas Towers, a few old buildings, and that’s it. It’s a city busy in the business of living, with no time for pretty. I did happen upon the Masjid Negara (National mosque), where 15000 men can pray at one time. The mosque had volunteers explaining Islam. I got to talk 1:1 with Dr. Mohammed (PhD Political Science from British Columbia, Canada).
I asked Dr. Mohd why he was volunteering, what’s in it for him. And he responded, “Most people either don’t know anything about Islam or what they know is CNN’s version of Islam, and we all know CNN gets it wrong 5 times a day!” He spent an hour walking me through some basics, answering my many questions (what’s with the veil and burqa, do men have a dress code, what about the month long fasting). I found it interesting that some of the answers were as simple as “The Quran Says So.” Kinda sorta sounds like "Because mom said so."
I walked away being impressed with people volunteering their time to educate others, with how gentle and non-radical the conversation was, and thinking about what Mahatma Gandhi said, “I do not want my house to be walled in on all sides and my windows to be stuffed. I want the cultures of all the lands to be blown about my house as freely as possible. But I refuse to be blown off my feet by any.”
To get away from KL, I went 2 hours south to Melaka. In school, I studied all about Malacca Straits and how it was the gateway to the spice trade in India. The place is perfectly preserved, almost an anomaly in the midst of modernity. It’s a UN World Heritage Site with a wonderful street named Harmony. Harmony Street has a Hindu temple, a mosque, and a Buddhist temple all in one row, built 400 years ago. The people of Malaysia are very proud of their multi-racial, multi-religion state, in the spirit of what they call One Malaysia.
Random bits of KL stuff:
1. The National Monument of Malaysia honoring soldiers is designed by the person who designed the Iwojima Memorial in DC. They look eerily alike as does the flag.
2. The Amazing Race had an episode in which contestants had to get their feet cleaned in a fish spa. You stick your feet in a tub full of fish and the fish eat away the dead skin. Ewww. KL had a street with a row of such fish spas.
3. Lots of motorcycles in Malaysia. I didn’t see a single woman on one. What’s up with that!