(A day after checking my semester result, December 2010)
A stop at a pump station
We almost reached at Houston City, after almost 4 hours driving from Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Suddenly, my Blackberry rang. I checked on my hand phone screen. The caller was my Facebook friend, Roslinda Rosli. She is a PhD student in A and M University, Texas. She has been in the United States for almost three years. I got to know her from my colleague, Faisal. He asked me to join this Malaysian Graduates Facebook Group, and introduced many of his friends. I did not add anybody of them, hoping one of them would do first. I was right when Roslinda Rosli added me in as her new Facebook friend. We clicked, and become good Facebook friends.
“Hi Dency, mana kamu sekarang?” She asked my where about.
“I tak tau lah, tapi memang dah kat Houston ni. Jap I tanya dengan kawan I dulu.” I told her that I would ask from my friend.
I asked Jesus the exact location of where we were. He mentioned that we were somewhere near 771 Exit. I was not familiar with that road term. I continued with my conversation with Roslinda, assuming that Roslinda would know about the 771 Exit.
“Akak, kawan I cakap 771 Exit. Saya bukan nya tau sangat area ni Kak. Macam mana kita ndak bertemu? Akak ada idea ke?” I asked whether she knew any areas along the road to Houston City, where I could stop and wait for her to pick me up.
“Adik kat 771 Exit kan. Apa kata Adik stop aja mana-mana pump station kat 774 Exit. Akak akan ambik Adik kat sana. Senang lagi.” She asked me to tell to my friend to drop me at any pump stations near the 774 Exit.
I told to Jesus about Roslinda’s plan. He agreed with my idea. Within 20 minutes, we saw a pump station almost near to the 774 Exit. Then, he turned his car into the left side of the highway and entered into a junction next to the pump station. Jesus stopped his car, and helped me to carry out my big, purple bag to the pump station. He talked with the pump station manager that I was expecting my friend to pick me up and to let me stay in for a while in his station. The manager just agreed with him. Jesus said goodbye and then hugged me. I saw him entered to his car, and he drove out and continued his journey to Mexico together with his girlfriend.
A surprise greeting
I felt a bit awkward inside the station. There were two of us, the manager and me. He smiled at me, and I smiled back at him. Then, I put up my courage to ask a favour from the manager to give his station address, so that I could send a text message to let Kakak Roslinda to know where she supposed to pick me up. He gave a receipt with the station address, and I thanked him. He just smiled at me. Then, I walked around the station while looking for some tidbits that nicely arranged on shelves. After 10 minutes searching around, I ended up picking a packet of raisins. I went to the counter and paid it. While the manager waiting for my debit card to make the transaction for the payment, he asked me where my friend was.
“Not sure. She is on the way now.” I told to him while he gave my debit card back to me.
“What is your friend doing there?” He asked again.
“She is doing her Phd at A and M Unversity, Texas. I also do my Phd, but in LSU Louisiana.” After answering him, he got so curious to know me better.
“How many years already have you become a Phd student? May I ask also, I think you are not originally from here? Is that correct?“ He asked so many questions in one go.
“Ah, one year and four months already and I’m from Malaysia.” I answered his questions.
“Oh my! Apa khabar? ” He said ‘how are you?’ to me in Malay language, the national language of my country.
“Khabar baik (I’m fine). You know the Malay greeting. Did you ever visit Malaysia before?” I still surprised after knowing the manager could say few Malaysian words.
“I ever stayed in Malaysia for five years. My father worked as a diplomat officer at the Pakistan Consulate in Kuala Lumpur. I was 10 years old, when my father transferred to Kuala Lumpur. We stayed somewhere near to my father’s office. Do you know nasi lemak? That was my favourite food when I was in Malaysia. I always went to this street just to buy the nasi lemak. Did you ever go to that street? ” He opened his experience staying in Kuala Lumpur, the capital city of Malaysia.
“Nasi lemak, yes one of the delicious food in Malaysia. That street I don’t have any idea as I’m not from Kuala Lumpur. I am from Sarawak, the East Malaysia. Kuala Lumpur is in West Malaysia.” I explained to him that I came from the other state of Malaysia.
“Sarawak, I never know it’s another state in Malaysia. Where is your state located?” He wanted to know where Sarawak is.
“It’s located opposite of the West Malaysia. You need to fly crossing over the Southeast China Sea.” My right hand made a flying gesture.
“I see. I would like to go to your state and to Kuala Lumpur. It’s been more than 30 years since my family moved back to Pakistan. Maybe I need another two to three years, and then I can take a long vacation to travel to any places that I like together with my mother.” He mentioned his desire to come back to Malaysia.
“I hope your wish will come true. I just wonder, are you Pakistani or American?” I was curious about his citizenship as he could get a license to operate his business in Texas.
Before he could answer my questions, two American customers came in to buy cigarettes and some chips. When the two customers walked out from the station, the manager continued our conversation. From his story, he has been in America for 25 years. He applied to be an American ten years ago but still maintaining his Pakistani citizenship. It means that he has dual citizenships. Pakistanis is permitted to take dual citizenships from 16 countries, including the United States. He did asked me whether I would like to stay in America and applied as a resident. I told to him my intention was, to go back to Malaysia and serve for my people after finishing my study. He was glad to hear my explanation, and he wished that his country should be like Malaysia, where there are many jobs available for Malaysians. He left Pakistan to America, because it was hard to get any jobs with decent salaries when he was in twenty. I asked whether he was happy with his decision to stay forever in America. It was not surprise to hear his reply that he was happy, and he expressed his wishes to take his other family members in Pakistan to work and stay here.
Suddenly, I received a text message from Kakak Roslinda. Her message stated that she already arrived at the station. I was happy and told to the manager that my friend had arrived. I opened the station door, and I waved my hands to Kakak Roslinda. She was in her car when she saw I was waving at her. She waved me back. I entered to the station again and took my big, purple bag. I said thank you to the manager for letting me in for a while. He wished me good luck in my study, and he said his last words to me.
“Selamat jalan, jumpa lagi di Kuala Lumpur (Goodbye, till we meet in Kuala Lumpur).”
I replied to him.
I replied to him.
“Semoga kita bertemu lagi (Till we meet again).” I waved goodbye to him, and he did the same thing.