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Melaka Archives - St. Stephen's University

Now let’s analyze travel and time.

By | 2012, Asia | No Comments

Before this trip, when I traveled the journey was towards a destination. We were moving–traveling towards a new home–or I was going to a weekend away–an event. Travel was a string of moments leading somewhere.

  • 15 hours staring at a corn field that never seemed to end.
  • The rush through an airport burdened with everything I stuffed into my pockets at the last moment– everything that I of course will not use this weekend, but that I daren’t leave behind.

This type of travel is different. I’m not going to end the journey for another six weeks, and my destination when I get back isn’t home. I’m not racing towards a permanent destination, or (for now) any destination at all. The journey its self is the destination. The journey is the event. I have to tamp down the impulse to look forward, and pause to look at what’s around me.

  • Listening to the growl and cough of a tricycle motor in my ear, smelling metal, oil and dust, seeing greenery and the occasional canny spotted dog by the side of the road.
  • Enjoying the cooler temperatures in the hostel as we wait for lunch, watching smartly uniformed students hurry by the windows, and smelling curry, bananas and rice.

Myself looking out over the straits of Malacca. Photo Credit: John Patchell

However, despite how difficult it has been for me to pause, pausing is only the first step. Pausing still means I have an overriding mission I’m barreling towards, which I condescend to look away from for a moment. Not the mindset I want to be traveling in. Instead, what I should try to do is stop aiming myself towards the future at all. I should enjoy the moments I am in for the moments they are, not compared to the moments I wanted them to be, or as obstacles between the moments I’m going to experience next week. (That’s the ideal, at least.)

  • Sharing a bench on a bus with a classmate as we travel through Manila. The unfamiliar architecture is flat-roofed and hundreds of small signs crowd above and around store windows. We’ve been traveling since 5 am this morning. It’s dark, but still hot and humid out, though the air conditioning on the bus is sucking the water out of the air. We all smell like travel (i.e. not good) and someone on the bus has been burning incense recently. The traffic is a busy snarl of horns and engines swirling past the bus. The bus driver starts a cheerful song, and I hear the whole-hearted laughter of one of my classmates as we recognize the (very dirty) tune.
  • Holding the hands of someone I don’t know as I learn to dance between clacking bamboo poles. It is hot in the gym. I had a stomach ache this morning, but it’s going away in the adrenaline rush of staying on beat. An audience of students is watching me dance, and they start to cheer as I successfully keep my feet from being caught.

Moments that I wouldn’t trade away.

Melaka is the new Malacca

By | 2010, Asia | No Comments

What is this blog about Malaysia doing here amongst the Thais?
Short answer, when this blog was due, I was suffering from a sunburn.
[And I’m tardy.]

Now, I mean an equatorial sunburn. Not a Canadian beach sunburn.
Those who were there – you know…
For those who weren’t, let me tell you this:
yes, you can get cankles from a sunburn,
and yes they can keep you from walking for three days.

But I would not trade that sunburn for anything.
Why? Well let me share something I learnt that awfully hot day in Melaka
-and if you get nothing else from this entry, then that is fine –
THE BEST WAY TO ABSORB A HISTORY IS TO BE IN THAT PLACE.

Melaka was the port of destination of ships from England to Korea, from the 15th century onward; it was hailed the Venice of the East.

Today it is simply an industrial port city, with dirty beaches,
and  its historical significance is lost on people.

This maddens me.

How is it my colleagues and friends in Ontario do not know a thing about Melaka?
Do you, the reader, know a thing about Melaka?
I can never know for sure.

All I know is I stood in the waters of a beach on the Straits of Malacca –  in the same waters that moved along the traders of Iberia, Britain, the Low Countries, Arabia, India, China, Korea and Japan. And in that moment, the reality of what I had read of this city came to life; this was once a great place.

I think we can all honour the city’s legacy by at least recognising it’s name when it arises in conversation. It has a worthy legacy, and our own ancestral history could be linked to the trade that once happened there.

Amazing to think that the world was small even 500 years ago.

Liam