Day 05: Petaling Street

We walked to Chinatown tonight and one of my friends (she is my POC safe space in this predominantly white cohort) started a small coup, dragging some folks in the large cohort away from the touristy large Chinese food restaurant to find some hawkers.

I filled my plastic bag with 3 plump shumai with shrimp, pork, and preserved egg on top (it was Happy Hour, which meant it was only 1 ringgit [about 23 cents] each–an impossible dream back in the States) and a tin of 糯米雞. 

Walking in the smoky air of Malaysia’s Chinatown, I am scrambling to find both of my cameras to record and snap, letting my bag of dinner swing on my wrist as I try to capture the essence of what I am feeling and experiencing (I’m not sure exactly what it is at the time). 

Travelling in groups can be nice for safety and initiative to explore the outer boundaries of your comfort zone that you would have a harder time doing otherwise, but it is also white noise (quite literally white in this scenario). Small talk pulls my senses away from Malaysia and towards this weird American mobile bubble and I cannot find what roams in my heart when I see people who look like me placing skewers over an open grill, nourishing tourists and locals with the textures of Chinatown. 

I leave with this poem by one of my favorite authors:

Chinatowns,” Boey Kim Cheng

Over and over you study the menus, the recipes, the difficult names
of herbs and roots, the cures that awaken a forgotten hunger.
You scour these Chinatowns of the mind, translating them
like sutras Xuan Zang fetched from India, testing ways
return might be possible against these these homesick inventions,
trace the traveller’s alien steps across borders, and in between
discover how transit has a way of lasting, the way these Chinatowns
grew out of not knowing to return or to stay, and then became home.


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