(Belated) Selamat Hari Raya!

I just came back from an open house at my aunty’s place today, so I want to argue that it’s not too late to write a nice short post about hari raya. To my non-Malaysian friends, hari raya—or raya for short—is what we call Eid here (though, directly translated, hari just means day and raya kinda means general celebration).

I am thankful for getting to spend raya back home in Malaysia. Raya fell on a Sunday and I was in Philly until Friday morning (and didn’t even buy my tickets until the Monday before that), which meant I arrived literally the night before raya. Though, I guess you could say I arrived just as hari raya started, since the month of Syawal actually starts at sundown but we’re getting a bit too technical here. I stayed in the US solely because I was waiting for my work authorisation to be approved before I could leave and alhamdulillah, by the grace of God, it got approved just in time. I was told it would get approved at the latest by July 12th, and considering how late in the process I applied, it wouldn’t be unusual at all for it to have taken the full processing time so I was already prepared to have to spend raya in the states for the first time. But then I got it approved about 3 weeks early! I am very confident that this was only possible because of how hard everyone was praying for me to come home for raya and I am so overcome by God’s mercy.

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Me at KLIA just after I arrived with puffy eyes from passing out on my flight from Doha. I sometimes use Snapchat to chronicle my 25-hour journey back home and this year, it was with an abnormal amount of newfound Penn pride, apparently.

So yeah, I arrived on Saturday night (and, if you follow me on Instagram, know that I did my usual stop-by-at-McDonalds-on-the-way-home thing!!). On Sunday, we spent the first raya morning in Klang with my dad’s family, as usual, because they’re nearest to where we live. We also had a small 1st birthday celebration for my “niece” (inverted commas because she’s actually my cousin’s baby so not really my niece I guess?), Amelia. Food was good, family time was good, and it was just an all round really good day.

Oh, and I should mention that no one outside of my immediate family knew I was coming home for raya! That made it extra exciting for me, although no one was particularly amused when they saw me that day because I already surprised everyone by coming home early for summer last year so they kinda expected it, lol. Still, I enjoy the look of happy surprise on everyone’s faces, and it was totally worth blocking all my cousins and other family members on Snapchat/Instagram for a couple of days, haha. One of my aunties was a little annoyed because I think she wished I would’ve spared her all the times she spent feeling down about the fact that I wasn’t going to taste her prawn briyani (which she knows I love). Hehe, oops. In my defense, it was totally my dad’s idea.

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My family

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My sisters and me, wearing my baju kurung from 4 years ago because I didn’t even have a new one for this year!

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Me with some of my cousins

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Almost the whole family on my dad’s side

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My friends Ken and May May, and Ken’s parents came to my aunty’s house for raya as well, which was so much fun!

In the evening on the first day, we usually fly off to Kuching (which is on East Malaysia, unreachable via land from the Peninsula, where I live (lol it’s funny explaining all of these things I take for granted, but you know, I never know who’s reading)) where my mum’s side of the family lives. My grandparents were especially happy to see me, which of course made me happy. The only thing was, I was kinda jet lagged. I thankfully slept through the previous night, but it was only because I was tired from travelling. I fell asleep at about 9-ish that night? I could still hear the sound of guests chatting and I hadn’t even changed out of my baju kurung, but I just couldn’t take it anymore. That happened again the next night, though a little bit later in the night… and honestly, that was kind of the extent of my jet lag, which is kind of impressive!

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Some of the parents and my grandparents on my mum’s side

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Almost all my cousins and my grandparents on my mum’s side

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My family waving us goodbye as we head out to the airport on the third day of raya

I usually go to Kuching once a year, so when we’re there we do some visiting, though significantly less so these days. We also try to squeeze in some time to buy kek lapis (layered cakes!) and mi kolok, which are the local goodies, since we’re not there very often. But this year, I’m not interning or anything in the summer so my sisters and I are making another visit in August, which should be fun! I haven’t made a trip to Kuching during non-raya season in a while and I’m excited to go to all the (food) places that are closed during raya.

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Other than that, this year’s raya has been relatively quiet, I think. I haven’t really gone to any open houses other than my family’s. If you’re not Malaysian, open houses are… I don’t know how to explain… these things where people just cook a lot of food and invite a lot of people over for the occasion and people do it throughout the entire month of Syawal—the month in the Islamic calendar when Eid takes place—so that they get to celebrate raya with as many people as possible I guess? We did dress up until day 4 though, which is pretty standard for us but some people really go all out with it.

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I got inventive and re-wore the top I wore to commencement with my sister’s baju kurung skirt

And that’s about it! To all my Muslim friends, belated-ish Eid Mubarak, I hope you all had a lovely one. I genuinely love seeing pictures of all my friends’ raya celebrations—the food, the dresses, the family pictures—it’s literally my favourite time of year to be on Instagram and Snapchat, haha. Also, in Malaysia, we ask for forgiveness during hari raya, so maaf zahir dan batin! Until next time ❤

Raya continued | Summer 2016

Believe it or not, I am writing right now on a train. I’m quite impressed that the ERL to KLIA has decent wifi! I have taken half a day off from work because this evening, I will be on a flight to Penang 🙂 I’m quite excited because I think I haven’t been there since late 2012. Gurney Drive awaits me eagerly, I know.

The rest of raya week was fine. We had dinner at Pak Ngah’s house on Friday night and took so many pictures. Mak Ngah made mi goreng which made me very happy because it’s not the typical raya food. The next morning, we went to town to buy kek lapis Sarawak. Then, we left Kuching that Saturday evening.

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Almost the whole family on my mom’s side.

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Aren’t “freestyle” pictures the most awkward things sometimes?!

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The one most decent picture of all the cousins I could find.

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All the girls!

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Julia, Aida, me, Amanina, Amirah, Afifah and Aina

You know, it’s nice to go back to Kuching every now and then. I mentioned this in one of my previous (shorter) posts, but I’m not 100% comfortable there, if I may be so honest. I also don’t speak the language. The other day, my aunty said her house “kenak serbu 5 igik motor” and I felt very alarmed because I directly translated it to “my house got attacked by 5 motorbikes” but what she really meant was that people came to visit her house in 5 cars all at once. We don’t have our own house, and you know what it’s like when you try to use the shower at someone else’s house—you just don’t get it. I don’t know anyone there that well… I’m always whispering to my cousins or my mom asking them whose house we are at. But they are family and as, um, disconnected as I may be, half of my ancestry has many roots there. There’s this house we refer to as Rumah Kampung…. It’s not a general term for any house in any kampung. It’s a specific house which has been in my family for like over a hundred years. My parents even got married there.

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Well, in that house, there’s a picture of lots of people standing in front of the house at what seems to be a wedding. It looks ripped out of a history text book. But those people are my family. It’s so strange to think about. Apparently it was the wedding of my great grandmother’s uncle? Or so I was told. I think it’s really cool that a picture of that moment in time exists for me see.

Anyway, when we got back that Saturday, we freshened up and went right back out to Setia City to get SUSHI (!!!!) and watch Finding Dory with my cousins. I know most people have probably seen it and we’re quite late to the party, but we were waiting until raya to watch it. It was such a cute movie! I had so much fun watching it with my sisters and cousins 😀

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May God protect me from evil and also people who dislike sushi and/or salmon

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God, trust me, it was so difficult going back to work on Monday! I completely forgot I had a job somewhere for that entire week. But I’ve finished a whole week at work since then and now I’m off again! I actually only have so few weeks before I fly back to the states and as always, it’s a scramble to make sure I meet everyone I want to. It’s kinda annoying too because sometimes it can feel more like ticking off boxes on a list of obligations than it does a real friendship and I don’t really know how to deal with that. When I was at Penn, I bemoaned this happening and now I’m surprised it’s happening at home too. And if I should be so honest, it’s also a little tiring like physically and emotionally… because I don’t drive and I usually have to depend on people to get me home or to go out so I’m always troubling someone. And because there are so many people I want to see, so many weeks of work, I feel like I’m not giving everyone the attention I should. I’m doing my best, I guess.


(Uh, disclaimer: this post was published 4 days after I wrote it because I didn’t have access to the pictures I wanted until today)