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Oh Malaysia, What You Taught Me About Being Binary

Imagine you watch a young father and his little daughter playing in a pool area. Suddenly the father jumps into the water and opens his arms widely but the little two-year-old is hesitating. The girl cannot swim at all. She is confused by this shiny blue surface and by all the weird noises that her dad is making. Her father keeps on making wild gestures that she should jump into his arms. He tries to convince that teeny-tiny thing to leave her solid ground. I watch and smile. SPLASH!

In this moment I can feel how incredibly powerful a child’s unconditional love and trust is. The girl would have severe life-threatening problems if her daddy wouldn’t catch her. There would be no chance to survive this. But who cares? SPLASH!

The paradox of true love

Most of us lose this kind of love when we get older – for good reasons! There are many people who do not care if we would drown or not. With every year, we act more carefully because at some point after our second birthday we DEFINETELY get disappointed. We are left, we are deceived, and we are cheated on. I remember the moment when I lost my first love and when all security – that was built over years – burst like a bubble. It’s the story of our lives: we love unconditionally from the deepest of our hearts, and we are loved back, and then our one-and-only-soulmate suddenly disappears.

Some of those beloved people stay for a while and entertain us with I-still-love-you’s and Let-us-try-again’s, but at some point, we are left. Not necessarily left by other people: in some cases the deep love that we felt for another person might have left us. We feel empty, cold, alone and clueless – where did all that love go? Why can’t we feel that true love anymore? Or maybe we realize that all those big fights and mean words in our current relationship are pointing out something:

We are not good together. This does not work. We have to say Goodbye.


I reminisce about this love dilemma, watching both of them wading through the turquoise water. It occurs to me that this scene reveals the most powerful thing about love. Love is pure trust, warm-hearted goodwill, a mutual seeking for the warmest, pleasing and most comfortable moment. It’s impossible to be binary about this: true love is a good, ‘hugging-the-world’ feeling. However, I wonder how can you feel this deep love in your relationship and yet be able to swim on your own and not DEPEND on this love.

I leave my corner and while I am strolling past this blue glittering pool in our modern high-rise building in the midst of Kuala Lumpur, I glance through the fence at the sides of the pool. I walk closer to catch a glimpse at the building next to us: brown and grey, dusty and decayed. I realize again that this city is full of contrasts. You cannot point out one building and say, “This is Kuala Lumpur” or “This is Malaysia”. Rather you have to marvel about this bouquet of different facades, buildings and living areas, about all kinds of people and cultures. Kuala Lumpur is not THIS or THAT, it is both at the same time and an endless variation in between. There are so many things that I cannot even see right now from this pool side.

The girl with the hijab

I walk downstairs to refresh my mind with a strong coffee. I am served by a fully covered girl in a hijab who might be in her early twenties. I can barely see her hands. You would assume that there are mutual prejudices, such as “an obscene European unveiling her hair and way too much of her skin” or “a weird Muslim who covers everything but her face”. When I look in that face, it gives me the warmest smile that I have seen in the past few years. This girl looks at me with sparkling eyes and a friendly glow in her whole face. She is curious, and we start a conversation. Our warm smiles outshine external features such as blonde hair, black hijabs and all visual differences between us. It’s impossible to be binary about this: we are not German or Malaysian, we are something in between that feels incredibly good, pleasing and comfortable.

Suddenly I can feel (!) the answer to my question about love. I can enjoy all loving moments with my partner, when I leave the binary poles of “all mine forever” and “not mine at all”. I can experience pure trust and warm-hearted goodwill with my partner as long as I stay in the “now”. In this moment, love is on my side and I can dwell on the most powerful, unconditional and all-embracing feelings.

And the future? Our future is merely a made-up movie in our head and something that we will never experience. Or have you ever lived two years from now? Ten years from now? Has there ever been an event in your life where you had left the present moment?


Love, Andrea

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