People Are Often More Than What They Seem!

This morning was another one of those magical ‘God-planned’ mornings where coincidences happen at just the right time, down to the microseconds that you just can’t help but feel like it was all planned out beforehand!

I woke up earlier than usual, naturally, feeling refreshed and wide awake!
In fact, I woke up more than an hour before my intended alarm!

Seeing that I still had so much time, I said my morning Rosary and journalled before starting on my usual morning calisthenics routine. (bodyweight exercises)

When I was done, I decided to go out for a walk around the neighbourhood as it was my 3rd last day here in Melaka. I wanted to savour the peaceful morning atmosphere of this UNESCO heritage preserved site as much as I could while I was here.

Just as I stepped out of my room and was checking my phone, someone called my name.

“John, lim kopi?”
(John, wanna go for breakfast?)

It was Sera (not her real name to respect her privacy).

Sera is one of our restaurant’s longest serving staff. She stays in the room next to ours. Normally, her door is closed but this morning her door was open and that must have been how she had noticed me.

I was surprised at first.

Sera is often very reserved and keeps to herself. I’ve often seen her go out for breakfast every morning as she passes by the area in the restaurant where I exercise on her way out. She has never asked me out for breakfast before.

Furthermore, my impression of her is that she is not exactly a ‘social butterfly’. Partly because of a language barrier and partly because of her character.

She is Indonesian and so speaks Malay most of the time. A language of which I have a very rudimentary grasp. However, from her many years of work experience here, she has the ears to understand quite a bit of Chinese, Teochew, Hokkien and English as well! (“Lim kopi”, is a combination of the Hokkien word for drink, “lim”, and the Malay word for coffee, “kopi”)

Because of this. I have always found communicating with her quite tough. We usually end up gesturing and making noises and using very simple ‘mono-words’ in the kitchen like:

“John! Rice!”
Here, she’s asking me to plate the rice for the Kampong Curry Dish she is cooking.

“John! Potato, bring!”
We ran out of potatoes in the kitchen and I would have to fetch some from the front.

Besides the communication barrier, she likes to wear earphones when she goes out which gives us another anti-social impression as I often think twice whenever I have something to say to her.

Lastly, she really takes her time to walk and we often have to wait for her to catch up when we go out.

So you can guess, we don’t really interact much and I have been trying by learning some simple Malay like “Selamat Pagi!” which I greet her every morning with, accompanied with the broadest smile I can manage.

So, back to that instance when she asked if I wanted to “Lim Kopi”.

I first thought about my initial plans. Hmm, no problem, I could go for that walk after breakfast then. At the back of my mind, I was half-suspecting the angels at work again. So I entertained them (and God’s plans), agreed and off we went!

Even before we went out, she was already whipping out her earphones to put on.

As expected, it was a silent and awkward short walk.

We headed for her favourite breakfast place which is conveniently located at a makeshift shop beside a carpark near our restaurant.

Sera breakfast place.JPG
Image taken from Google Maps

Here, according to her recommendation, I ordered a Nasi Lemak (traditional coconut rice) as well as a Kopi-O-Koh-Song (black coffee without sugar or milk).

We sat down at a sheltered sitting area which I was totally unaware existed haha. I was half-expecting to sit at the tables outside under the shade of the enormous tree and at the perils of the local birds’ droppings!

Sera 2.jpg
View of a local school from where I sat

The food soon arrived and it was really good! For 3 RM (about SG$1), it consisted of a plate of coconut flavored rice with a sunny side-up egg, stir-fried Kangkong, dried Ikan Bilis (small dried fish) and sambal chilli which was very well balanced between sweet, salty and spicy.

Sera 3.jpg
Simple yet delicious breakfast this morning of Nasi Lemak and Kopi!

We didn’t talk much at the start. I ate my food quietly while she she smoked a cigarette or two before starting to eat. We both laughed as the owners teased their pet puppy which was tied up near to where we were seated.

Then I decided to ask her what she was listening to.

I pointed to her earphones, and gestured:

“What music? Apa?”

Her face lit up!

“No no … this … er …” She was trying to find the words in english as she muttered some Malay.

She started gesturing at my phone and saying “App … App!”.

Then she showed me her phone and pointed at an App called Smule.

“Ohhh”

She opened the App and showed me what and how it operated. It is a Karaoke app that one can use to sing along and upload videos onto a large social network of people who are also using the app.

She showed me her account. Below her profile name, she pointed to a number – 10,532. Then she pointed to herself. I was a confused at first because next to that figure was a malay word I did not recognize. It took me a few seconds to register and when I did I exclaimed:

“WOW! Ten thousand followers?!”

Besides that, she also has uploaded more than 600 videos of her singing. Sometimes by herself and oftentimes as a duet with other users of the app.

I was thoroughly impressed!

As a gesture of goodwill, I decided to download the app and give it a try and follow her at the same time. I sang my first song “Perfect by Ed Sheeran” and admittedly, I had no idea I sounded like that! The ambient noise wasn’t exactly the perfect place to record too haha.

Since then, it feels like an invisible barrier has been broken between us and we even agreed to try singing a duet tonight!

I feel like this morning’s events have taught me a lesson or two about not becoming too absorbed in our impressions about other people. That often, there is so much more than what meets the eyes and that our individual thoughts may poison our own minds if we stick to the negative impressions we have.ย 

I have come to realize, through further interactions and watching her videos and talking to my boss, that there may be lots of other reasons why she behaves the way she does. And that besides being a really talented singer, she is actually a good soul who cares very deeply for her daughter in Indonesia and has to work here to earn money to support her.

So, moral of the story?

  1. Don’t trust your first impressions!
  2. Never judge others before getting to know them!
  3. Often, what you see is just the tip of the iceberg. People have such a deep well of history and life experiences that have molded them into who they are today and it may take more than a conversation or two to really get to know them!

Sometimes,
people aren’t who they seem to be
and sometimes,
people are so much more than you
originally thought!

Have you ever had such an experience?

Links

  1. …ย calisthenics routine. (bodyweight exercises)
  2. …ย this UNESCO heritage preserved siteย as much as I could while I was here.
  3. …ย Sera is one of our restaurant’s longest serving staff …
  4. … I sang my first song “Perfect by Ed Sheeran”ย …

 

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