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September 7, 2011

Homesick Relief on the Way

Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – I have to go to the capital of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur, and I detest going there. I have to visit the United States Embassy to get a passport for my son and a visa for my wife for our yearly visit to the states. I am married to a local Malaysian.


The capital is like any other large modern, thriving city, hustling, bustling with banking, commerce and the services that accompany any country’s seat of government. There are shopping malls, 5-star hotels, very tall buildings and traffic.


Contrast this with my beloved Kuching, a small city along the Sarawak River. I live in a condo with a pool on the top floor and pubs on the first. I am in the heart of the tourist district, a quick walk from Pizza Hut, McDonalds and two KFC’s. Yet, I am only a 5-minute boat ride from the Malay kiosks that serve the best local food in all of Borneo. A half-hour drive through orchards and rice fields brings me to tropical rain forests, snorkeling on a coral reef and my orangutan preserves.


The people here are kind, helpful, friendly and usually with a smile. They appreciate my mangled attempts to speak, Malay, Iban, Mandarin, Bidayu and any other local language. There are hundreds. Malay is the national language that most people use to communicate, and I have acquired a working knowledge; but I forget words I use infrequently. I could go on and on about this hidden jewel in the Orient.


I miss the states especially in autumn. The hurly-burly of summer slides into warm days and cool nights. Children are back in school, dressed in their new clothes. The festivals, Middletown, Thurmont, Emmitsburg and many others offer their homemade cakes and pies as well as my all time favorite, bean soup. And, of course, family and friends.


Ocean City is less crowded then. Walks along the beach and boardwalk with less people, cheap prices at restaurants and Assateague ponies all harbor a sense of calm, and for me, a sense of the familiar with good memories starting to overtake the bad ones in the three years I took care of my parents. That was a rough go.


Am I homesick? Yes, a bit, especially for autumn. But, I will be coming for two months starting November 5 and I am already getting excited. We will travel first to northeast Montana for my daughter’s wedding, a fantastic reunion and getting better acquainted with my new Montana family.


I can’t imagine what they must think. The new daughter-in-law’s father flies in from a tropical island in the South China Sea with a young bride (she is 43) and an eight-month-old, failed-vasectomy son. I wouldn’t believe it either except they all have met me and know I am for real. I am so looking forward to re-establishing ties that just began on my last visit.


From there we will go to Las Vegas. Hotel rooms run about $30 per night with the recession and I do want to see some shows. I don’t gamble. Okay, the nickel slots occasionally, I admit it. Then travel onward to Frederick and the Eastern Shore.


What I am most excited about is sharing my world with Suriani, my wife. Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Christmas, snow, cold air, the lights, friends, and all the activities that once excited me as child only to be rekindled by sharing the feelings with her. That is what excites me the most about visiting home.


The tickets are purchased, we will get the visa and passport done in a few days and school will finish up (school goes from January-November 15 here). We are starting a pile of stuff to bring back. Yes, there is certainly excitement building in the McLaughlin condo overlooking the Sarawak River in Malaysian Borneo!


For other articles on Malaysian Borneo see Tom’s blog at


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