(Written on 9/27/2011 in Terengganu, Malaysia)
Today, as I routinely do, I ate Indian flatbread with curry at the shop across the street from the school where I teach. Less routine was that I made a 5-year-old friend.
I was watching two little girls interact with their little baby cousin in a stroller, and they noticed me admiring their cuteness. Often little Malay girls, especially in a small town like Kuala Berang, will shyly cower away from me. So I was floored (almost literally) when, as the two of them walked past me sitting there eating, the smaller one - maybe 4 or 5 years old - gave me a rock-solid punch, right in the shoulder! I was initially so flustered by this that my hand slapped down into my curry bowl, splashing the spicy orange sauce all over the table. My face must have shown a mix of shock, anger, and amusement, but the hilariousness of this bold little girl's action quickly sunk in. I started cracking up, utterly delighted by this strange occurrence. Equally delighted were the dozen or so laughing ladies in the shop who saw it all.
I started talking with Little Miss Mike Tyson in basic Malay and learned that her name is Amira. I hope to see her at that shop again some time -- I snack there several times a week, after all. Oh, and when I asked the shopkeeper where in the world she learned to punch tall, foreign-looking strangers like that, he shrugged matter-of-factly: "television".