Wednesday, 4 July 2012

LIFE OVERSEAS : Here Comes The Sun

WHAT do you do when the sun shines down on Malaysia, putting the land under a hot spell? You run away from it. You either sprint into the nearest shopping complex or into a car that has air-conditioning on at full blast. You use a huge umbrella to shade you from the rays.

A typical Malaysian youth owns a wardrobe full of cotton T-shirts, shorts and flip-flops to withstand intense heat. Some people joke that it is possible to fry not just an egg but also rice on the pavement! Unfortunately in Ireland, most of my summer clothes have to be stored away in a corner of my storeroom.
However, some weeks ago, I retrieved my summer clothes to embrace the heat which magically hit Ireland. For an amazing five days, the temperature ranged between 25˚C and 30˚C. Waking up to a bright sunny day seemed to lift everyone’s spirits.

Suddenly, Killaloe, the town I live in, took on a different life. It was buzzing with pedestrians wearing fancy sun hats and children were happily laughing and playing on the green grass. Families packed picnic baskets, mats and bottles of sunscreen.

It was hilarious to see “lobsters” in the street as many people had freckles and turned a shade of pink due to the abnormal amount of sunlight. I also felt the burn on my skin and it brought back memorable thoughts of the heat in Malaysia.

As there is a lake just two minutes’ away from my neighbourhood, many of us went to the pontoon bridge to relax and soak up the atmosphere. The bridge was filled with people and it was refreshing to dip my legs into the icy cold lake water, which oddly cooled the entire body.

Some daredevils were even jumping off the main bridge which was open to traffic. Clearly it was not a rational decision, as the impact of the landing could kill.
I just watched from afar as I cannot swim.
But I got an extremely odd compliment which I have never heard in my life. “I love your tan!” In Malaysia, all I ever heard about my skin colour were scorns. Although I am Chinese, I am brown skinned instead of beige.
In Malaysia, most teachers and friends had assumed that I was of a mixed race at first glance. A cashier at a petrol station in Subang Jaya had asked if I was Vietnamese or Indonesian.

I wanted fair skin to stop the assumptions. I bought facial products and make-up with whitening extracts or sun protection factor. But in Ireland, people want my skin tone. They spray on fake tans. They bask in the sun for hours, risking sunburn to add a little colour.

It is typical human behaviour, isn't it? The grass seems to be greener on the other side. We are never content with what we have and do not realise what we own until someone else points it out.
Be grateful and love who you are.

The writer is studying at a high school in Ireland. She loves to try all things but is a Malaysian at heart

Read more: LIFE OVERSEAS: Here comes the sun - You - New Straits Times

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