“Are you sisters?” poking between my temporary hosts. They laughed.
From then on, mom openly discussed her life. She was a janitor in a primary school. A single mom and her daughter was graduating soon.
“She is going to be a civil engineer. She is so smart! She’s going to make a good life. Not like her mom.” She neglected acknowledging the hard work it took,
raising that girl’s potential. It was because of her that daughter was attending Uni in KL.
I was on a side road in Malaysian countryside. I stood on grass, trying to flag cars down that raced around tight bends. Once a large jungle, it had been made into palm and rubber plantations. This was the main purpose of the road. It had only recently been paved. There were small villages before the main highway and my day’s destination, Malaka.
“We are visiting grandma. It’s her birthday. We must stay the night. Driving is very dangerous.” She spoke about thieves (despite picking me up) but more than that, elephants. “Wild elephants run across the road at night.”
I thought about the plantations. This must have been rare.
The first thing that amazed me was a single mom with her face bulging from a hijab and worked as a janitor spoke English. The second was that two girls on a lonely road picked up a stranger. Lastly, both of their smiling faces protruded from hijabs and far from what I remembered of contact with Muslim women.
It astounded me that mum pulled over. It would have been even more incredible if the last car hadn’t two women in full burqas. The rides were fast. Malaysians appeared unafraid of their neighbors like so many other countries I visited. They were excited to have company. And even more, to share the honey from their bee sanctuary.
“The planet is running out of these guys. We’ve been making very good honey here. We sell online.” Mum was full of surprises. This was my third time in Malaysia. But the first glimpse into real life. And it would have been impossible without hitchhiking.