“In Malaysia,” a committee member of the Bandar Utama Buddhist Society told me on Saturday, “if you don’t work, you don’t get paid. And if you don’t get paid, you don’t eat.” Which is why the Society has adopted as its charity Limbs for Life, an organisation providing free prosthetics for amputees. Every Saturday, patients come in to be assessed by local doctors, specialists in their fields all, who have given up their precious free time. And from Tuesday to Friday the paid technicians work on the prostheses in a studio below the temple.
As the technicians are all amputees who have benefitted from the service themselves, they’re in an excellent position to advise patients – and I was privileged to witness them supporting a lady as she walked on two feet for the first time in almost two years, gaining confidence with every step. The people I met there really do Make a Difference – and it’s pretty much impossible to describe how humbled I felt.
Following another delicious meal (eaten with my fingers again) and a glass of chilled lychee juice, it was off to the Damansara Performing Arts Centre for a performance of “Macbeth”. Cordelia had spotted this online – and as we’d been exploring the Scottish Play with the Seniors on Wednesday, this seemed too good an opportunity to miss. The performance was in English, but with the actors dressed in Chinese Opera costume – and visually it was stunning. The local amateur actors made a decent job of the verse – although we were treated to “unusual” interpretations of some of the characters …
My time was more limited on the Sunday, as there were problems with my flight home to be resolved (problems that were entirely of my own doing, I should add). So Cassandra and Cordelia took me into Kuala Lumpur itself. On the drive I was able to feast on some fruit that their mum had sent for me, including rose apple and pomeleo (like children it seems, mums are mums the world over!). After a detour to see the Petronas Towers (designed by Russians, apparently), we headed for a Chinese Buddhist temple where, quite by chance, devotees were participating in Quingming, a day-long ceremony of repentance. It was all in Cantonese, of course, so I couldn’t really join in with the chanting (I thought humming along might seem disrespectful) – but the effects were still powerful. After a quick visit to the Medicine Buddha to ask for good health, we went for yet another amazing meal, with yet more new flavours to savour – including, on this occasion, salted duck’s egg and pulled tea.
And now, after a stroll round Central Park (not quite as big as the ones in Birkenhead or New York) and a bit of souvenir shopping, it’s time to go home. I’ve missed Helen (and the as creatives team, of course) these last few days – but I’ll miss Malaysia too. I’ve met and worked with some amazing children and teachers, been treated to incredible hospitality, found calm in the temples in the midst of the city and eaten so much that I’m worried they might not let me on the plane. And one thing’s for sure: I’ll be back.