Wherever they are or how long they have been away, home is close to Malaysians’ hearts. This Merdeka, they reflect on what Malaysia means to them. Read their stories on Star2.com.
By SHAMSUNAHAR SAID in QATAR
I have left Malaysia to work abroad since Aug 1999. Since then, I have worked in four different countries around the world – the Netherlands, Oman, Norway and Qatar.
So, I have enjoyed many different ways of celebrating our Merdeka Day. I had initially expected the Malaysian embassy to organise Hari Merdeka events. But this was not the case in all locations.
Then again, it is our Hari Merdeka, so it is a day for Malaysians to celebrate it in our very own ways.
In general, if Hari Merdeka falls on a weekday, we’d celebrate it the following weekend so everyone could join in.
When we were in the Netherlands, the Malaysian Embassy in The Hague – Datuk Faridah Ariffin was the ambassador then – organised a family day for the Malaysian community there. The embassy was keen to organise the event as there were many Malaysians living around The Hague, Rotterdam and Amsterdam.
Malaysians gathered for sports, makan, hoisting up the Jalur Gemilang and great fun. We even played sepak takraw, impressing our young kids and spouses with skills we seriously thought were long gone. But after that we became aware of muscles we never thought existed by how sore they were for days.
In Norway, there was no Malaysian embassy. So we organised our own Merdeka celebrations in 2014. The small community of five Malaysian families in Stavanger gathered at the mountains in Sirdal. We rented cabins and drove up in a convoy. We gathered at one of the cabins for our Hari Merdeka celebration. We prepared a barbecue, and each family brought some dishes and desserts.
We even organised a quiz on Malaysiana stuff and history and played national day songs to add to the atmosphere. We decorated the cabin with Jalur Gemilang flags.
The most important factor was of course the genuine Malaysian spirit, camaraderie and humour.
I was asked to make a spontaneous speech before dinner which I declined because I was unprepared. But I felt bad and couldn’t sleep that night, so I wrote my Merdeka speech and emailed it to my fellow Malaysians. It was well-received; I was happy and humbled.
I moved to Qatar last year. There were about 15 families in Qatar Shell and one of them organised a Hari Merdeka celebration in her home. The house was decorated with Jalur Gemilang and we feasted on a potluck of sumptuous Malaysian dishes. The Malaysian spirit was strong and newcomers to the community like me took the opportunity to get to know my fellow citizens. We shared updates and views on the latest affair in our country. As the host was also supporting the “Say Something Nice” campaign, some of us signed off our pledges of love of our country on a big piece of paper.
It is always meaningful to celebrate Merdeka with my fellow Malaysians, wherever I am.
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