Today I am leaving city skyline views for mustyfusty……
….LIBRARIES! And library-views, of course.
Leaving is always weird. I’ve done it so many times now you’d think I’m alright with the whole business – and I am, by & large, but – I miss home intensely at the same time I’m desperate to be back! Last night I was struck by a desperate urge to run to Dutamas and flop down their with shisha (because it is the most chilled out, laid back thing/place ever?!). But of course I had to pack. In the UK, pubs will replace mamaks.
But – ONWARDS HO! I have done NO WORK these holidays, I am going back obscenely late (I know the libraries will be missing me) and I need to start work ASAP!!! Ahharhghg!! I know holidays are for chilling, and I have, so I’m very grateful… but I still feel guilty!
* * * * *
I am going back late because driving tests in Malaysia are only administered on Mondays, and I was desperate to take mine. KL is a city which was not built (with any conceivable plan, it’s true, but also) for walking. To get from Point A to Point B can be the most painful experience ever for the transportationally-challenged, because it would be too long and dangerous a distance to walk but too embarrassingly short a distance to take a cab, etc etc. I haven’t seen buses in a long time (although I am assured they exist). Miles asked me if there were buses to my area, and I didn’t know what to say: I don’t think so? I’ve never seen any? And he didn’t understand it either, which explains the unique conundrum that one finds oneself in.
Having attempted to take it in September, and failing because my front wheels didn’t touch a yellow line of some sort (bah), I felt I had to get it yesterday! Otherwise I knew my driving plans would be shelved forever (I can’t conceive bothering to drive in the UK, at present anyways – who would give me a car?!).
My driving school is most wonderful an encapsulation of Malaysia and Malaysian life. The place I had to sit waiting in was next to a miniature city-jungle of sorts, hastily fenced off from civilization/the driving school – but the smells of the forest still wafted over. It reminded me of Duke of Edinburgh trips to Belum, and school trips to FRIM.
There was also the most wonderful little old man who would “look after” the test-takers and send them to their first test (the hill-test). He was tiny, and shouted perpetually at the candidates (only ever in Malay, so I didn’t understand much); although he was mostly only shouting numbers, sometimes his face would crinkle up into a mesmerizing mixture of malevolence/benevolence, and he would lean forward and utter (shout) words like “TAI-TAI!!!” confidentially. (I am VERY eager to know what “Tai tai”, phonetically rendered here, could possibly mean. If you know: get in touch.)
His other job, besides seeing that candidates kept going to the cars as they were available, was to bring back the cars of failed candidates (stopped unceremoniously then and there, upon committing the fallacy) to the next candidate. It was the smallest distance imaginable; about a 15 second drive at a slow speed. He would drive it at insane speeds (60? 80?), and take sharp turns at insane speeds also – the tyres would scream, the small Kancil would look as if it were either about to turn over or be driven on two wheels only. This scandalized all the test-takers, who would gasp, whimper, or shriek, according to their diverse temperaments. Some would hiss, “Aiyohhh!!” – the traditional Malaysian/Singaporean exclamation of dismay, despair and disapproval (“Oh no!” would be a reductive but appropriate translation). Others nudged each other, and condemned the little old man roundly: “REMPITNYAAA!!”
It made me laugh A LOT.
(It would be difficult to translate ‘Rempit’ also: I am assuming that it is shorthand for ‘Mat Rempit’, which – though it originally meant a very particular brand of streetracing motorbikers – has, I think, become shorthand for any kind of dangerous street-driving. See ‘Mat Rempit‘, an article as amusing as my little old man and his scandalized audiences.)
Edit: My friend Sara has clarified one thing “Tai tai” means (in Mandarin, I think): “a lady who enjoys life, one who marries a rich husband, dresses well, only goes shopping at Gucci/Prada, does nothing but that” (Sara). It seems a bit out of place in the context of a driving test, but I wouldn’t be surprised…maybe knowing how to drive makes it easier to be the aforementioned ‘tai tai’? Or maybe no ‘tai tai’ would ever drive (because they would have chauffeurs, of course!), so he was congratulating us on not being one? Your guess is as good as mine!