Friday, November 03, 2006

Hala!

I'm thinking Bush can listen to reason, and not just Cheney. A week has passed since the story first broke and no missile launch yet! If there was going to be a launch, it would have happened already. I think it must have been immediately scrapped after the international uproar we have just seen.

But also, I think maybe the announcement of the launch could have been a big hoax by the Pentagon in order to calibrate just how the Muslim world would react to such an announcement (that the US would be so bold as to conduct such an exercise in right in their backyard). Ha! it's not that funny, of course, unless one has a particularly dark sense of humor.

In meantime, news of which I know you could care less, but which has all of Malaysia talking –it is the first positive news to come out of this country since the events of 7/27, which we are all still dealing with.

As it happens, the Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin has been elected to succeed Tuanku Syed Sirajuddin Syed Putra Jamalullail. This means that Zainal Abidin will become the 13th Yang di-Pertuan Agong of Malaysia when his term starts on December 13, 2006.

I know what you all are thinking: electable kings?

Well, Malaysia rotates its monarchy. The country gets a new King every five years.

Hey, it wouldn't be the other side of the world if it wasn't ToPsY TuRvEy.

But, look, it's how they do it and the timing feels absolutely right:

A new era demands a new monarch.

I have since learned that the outgoing monarch, Jamalullail, presided over what many here identify as period of modernization. Seemed like a good idea at the time, I guess, but now in the wake of 7/27 many are questioning whether or not to continue on this path.

You see, on this side of the world, you must realize, 'modernization' isn't automatically a positive concept synonymous with 'moving forward'. Rather in most people's minds it is equal to 'westernization', which is not necessarily a good thing, –if you ask most people here.

In fact, most people I've talked to tell me that they believe Zainal Abidin will move the country in just the opposite direction, towards some uniquely Asian and quintessentially Malay ideal (despite the fact that even his supporters say this is not likely).

FYI: It's not just Malaysia that that harbors an anti-modern, anti-west, anti-globalization sentiment. This 'War on Evil' is producing a similar impact on policy throughout the developing world. Counter-terrorism measures from Morocco to Singapore are casting visiting westerners as the possible 'enemy within'. All those pasty white tourists? Quite suddenly they look less like fat beach bums and more like suspicious whack Christian crusaders.You can't be too careful, you know.

Indeed, in this part of the world we are seeing white Europeans become increasingly vulnerable to harassment. Everybody from twenty-something Irish ravers to sixty-year old German couples have been heckled, and even beat up. When I was a kid I wanted so badly to look like an American that I dreamed of having blond hair and blue eyes (and a surf board). So, quite a turn of events, because for the first time in my life I'm thankful I actually look the geeky side of Babylon!

Still, one wants to sit these Malays down and tell them sending the Europeans home will ruin their economy. But maybe they already know that and they just don't care. If Zainal Abidin does indeed turn back the clock on Globalization, the tourists and the expats will no doubt conclude that the curry's not worth the madness, and go back home with the entire tourist industry in tow.

It's not going to be pretty (if it pans out that way).

Hey, and as it happens, I may be leaving Malaysia soon, too! Word from Doha is that perhaps in a month or so they will move me off 7/27 background and attach me to an Indonesian naval vessel securing shipping lanes from African piracy (it's a multi-million dollar business, apparently). See, this is what happens when all the real reporters in your office have been killed in a single tragic accident –as everyone in the Kuala Lumpur offices of Al Jazeera was.

Sick and sad but true:

If you happen to be lucky enough to still be alive (if that is how you choose to look at it), you get promoted, if only because no one else is available to do the work.

It's not really a promotion though, just a change of venue. But it would mean they think I'm ready, which actually seems like a ludicrous idea to me. Still, surviving two towers falling over head does imbue one with some measure of experience.

I've been here all of three months, so I fully understand just how inexperienced I am. At the same time, surviving the events of 7/27, and then remaining here to cover the aftermath has proved such a heavy emotional exercise for me, that I feel like I've been here three years!

It might not seem very exciting to get assigned to a Navy ship, but I’m looking forward to spending a little time somewhere else, out and away from Kuala Lumpur. I think being on the sea will clear my head, and possibly heal my heart, as well.

One can hope.

That said, when and if they do relocate me, I will miss the beef rendang here. Truthfully, I've been eating it ALL the time –breakfast, lunch and dinner. And quite possibly, only a toxic overdose of salmonella will cure me of this foodie obsession. It's really out of hand! I can smell the coconut oozing out of my pores when I sweat.

Sexy, huh?

No?

Y'know, I think the Malay women might actually think it is, ha ha –insider knowledge, don't ask.

Enough for today, it's back to business, and beef redang also awaits.

Oh and everyone in Malaysia thinks we've heard the last of this missile business. Neither the White House nor the Pentagon can be that dumb.

Yalla bye!

Siraj!