Friday, February 11, 2011

Reflections

It has taken me a few days to process my thoughts on this trip. This was a trip like none other we have taken. The scenery is certainly not as splendid as the Alps of Austria or the hills of Slovenia. The environment is not as relaxing as being on the beaches of Hawaii. The weather is much less desirable than Yosemite. However, This trip leaves me with a profound awareness of the fragility of our natural resources and diminishing plant and animal life that have lived on our planet since the beginning of time. The fact that these remaining areas are unsustainable and that once gone, irreplaceable, leaves me feeling small and helpless.

It is almost as if I have been transported in time, so great was the contrast between the initial and ending parts of this trip.
I felt a sense of peace walking through the rainforest, so close to nature, yet vulnerable to the unpredictable forces that occur in this environment. The rain, leeches, insects, animals, and changing weather, in this remote environment are beyond my control and made me consider how difficult life was for those forging new paths and fighting for survival long ago. Fighting the elements without the creature comforts of a hot shower, warm bed, modern medicine, 4 wheel drive, running water etc. How difficult that must have been. Flying over the acres and acres of palm trees, born out of land that was cleared of forest, made me gasp. How little remains of this forest; this small enclave of conserved land is all that remains. The local paper tells of the Malaysian government setting aside funds for future development to increase economic returns for local residents. What will happen to the orangutans, the monkeys, the rhinos?

I walk through the streets of Kuala Lumpur, filled corner to corner with high rises, megamalls, overpasses, and towers, a city filled in with concrete and glass, cars everywhere, and think about human consumption and what it really means. Progress is endless so where does it take us? Are we all destined to a life in a mall?

I feel so deeply immersed in the culture of Malaysia and how this island and its people came to be. The audience of this wedding include those from the Bario village of Sarawek, who travelled all day to take part. The 1,000 remaining people in this small tribal village carry on the traditions of their ancestry, an ancestry is is destined to disappear in the next couple of generations. We are a melting pot of cultures and sustaining individual culture is nearly impossible. After a while, all become Malaysian, neither Chinese, Malay, Kelabit or Indian. Just as we all become American, neither Chinese, Japanese, Italian or Russian.

I am grateful for the opportunity to feel the rain on my sweaty body as I walk over the canopy of forest, hearing the gurgling of the frogs and the cooing of the birds. I am also immensely grateful for the chance to experience and interact with an ancient culture of people and the very accepting Malaysians, who live so harmoniously together. They set an example for the rest of us in the world.

Lastly, I was struck by how similar we, as mothers are, regardless of culture and geographical location. The Malaysian young mother, the Muslum mother of grown children, the Irish mother to be - we all share the same hopes, dreams, and pride in our families. We fight the same stereotypes of mothers and women in the workforce, and we share the same frustrations of being the best mother, wife, daughter, and worker we can be. We are more similar than different despite the color of our hair, tone of our skin, our headscarf or lack of.

My life feels significantly richer, the adventure we had will never be forgotten.

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