My Time In Malaysia: No Smiles In Penang

penang

I got married, became a father overnight, and moved to a completely alien (to me) country. And then I stopped writing. I think we can all agree that that was really dumb.

So with the next few posts I hope to catch everyone (including myself) up to speed.

Living in Penang was not what I was expecting. As an American Muslim of South Asian descent, I had no cultural or linguistic framework for what I came across in Penang. I expected (naively) Arab-style hospitality– you know, where they see a foreign person on the street and then invite them for tea or dinner. That happened to me all the time in the Arab world (especially Egypt). Instead, about a month into my stay in Penang I noticed that nobody was smiling at me on the street, post office, grocery store, anywhere. In fact most looked away, and seemed to go out of their way to be unhelpful… especially the Malay Muslims.

I’m not that ugly, am I?

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Things You Should Say (And Really Mean) To Your Future Mother-In-Law

Note: This is the 3rd part in a series about how I met my wife (and daughter). Just joining us? Check out Part 1, Part 2Part 4, Part 5

Question: How do two fairly practicing Muslims with limited financial means make an informed decision about marrying each other when they live on opposite sides of the world?

Answer: They live together for a month.

Was that the collective bunching of a billion Muslims’ panties I just heard?

What we did is not for everyone. Our situation was extraordinary. This is where traditional approaches to courting fail.
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How I Met My Wife (And Daughter) Part 2

Note: This Is The 2nd In A Series About How I Met My Wife (And Daughter). Just joining us? Here’s Part 1, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5 

We left off just as I boarded a plane back to the U.S. in April of 2009. I had just stayed with EyeDot and her daughter WarriorPrincess for 3 days at the end of my Malaysian adventure. While there, EyeDot and I developed an interest in each other.

Just seven days after I left, EyeDot launched a scheme to get me back in Southeast Asia. She suggested that she ask (read: she ordered) her younger brother to hire me to photograph his wedding in Penang two months later.

You read that correctly. She, the eldest in the family, tried to get her family to fly me (the youngest in my family) across the world so we could have an excuse to get to know each other. Talk about ovarian fortitude!
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How I Met My Wife (And Daughter) Part 1

Note: This is the 1st part in a series about how I met my wife (and daughter). Check out Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5.

It seems like a romantic comedy plot [as long as I get played by Hugh Grant, okay?] or even a Bollywood movie [without all the drama and dance numbers...] but it happened. I met and married a woman exactly halfway around the world, adopted her daughter as my own, and moved to Southeast Asia to be with them.
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Beautiful Things: Toronto And Getting Lost On Purpose Edition…

“Turn Left, Ahead”

I have no intentions of turning left.

Turn Left!“ The sultry female voice commands.

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What Is Wrong With My Ass: Stories From My Time In Syria

I spent about four months in Syria, living in a neighborhood called rukn al-din, in the northeast of Damascus.

While there, I lived in a house with several other Muslim men (and one Christian) from around the world. Eventually, everyone in the house except the Syrians and the German did not speak with me, refused to let me eat with them, and branded me a Sign of The Day Of Judgment. Suffice it to say, I make an impression wherever I go. More on that in a follow-up post, though.

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Gender, Mobility, & Touchy-Feely Men In Pakistan

So, tomorrow we’re leaving for Islamabad, God willin’. My husband’s stomach is all Pakistanified—he’s having the true experience, poor guy. I’m wondering if we should cancel our delayed Northern travels altogether, but he’s really keen to go.

Yesterday, after much repeated insistence, we were given enough liberty to go out around town with Dinu Bhai. Everyone’s terribly protective and feels responsible for us, so sweet as it is, it’s a bit difficult to act like an adult. Also, this idea of going out wandering without a particular purpose has limited currency here. The idea is that you (women or mixed gender groups) go out with a particular purpose. Only men seem to just hang around in public space in Hyderabad. It’s pre-feminist revolution: men own the public sphere. Even fairly overt and dramatic affection between men is tolerated in public, while even minimal affection between sexes, even spouses, is just not seen and, I’m told, not tolerated in public. This is generally accepted as an appropriate exercise of modesty. I suppose affection between women is generally alright here, but because women are generally only in public with some business, you just don’t see it.

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