Saturday, August 31, 2013

Independence Day-Hari Merdeka!!!

Selamat Hari Kemerdekaan!

Patriotism is an intriguing characteristic that people of Malaysia cherish. I have seen people here of all races and religions fondly supporting their country through thick and thin. I especially got to see some of this patriotism during the Merdeka parade today. There, I saw tons of people of all backgrounds celebrating their nation's independence day.

This day marks this country's 56th anniversary of independence. From 1511 until 1957, Malaysia has passed through the hands of several countries. First, Portugal ruled over Malacca, after which the Dutch took over the colony. In 1786, the British entered Malaysia, and they grew increasingly powerful until World War II, when the Japanese gained control of Malaysia. My school here was actually a headquarters of the Japanese in Ipoh. It was known as Perak Shu Seicho and was used as the headquarters between 1942 and 1945. Japan ruled over the country for three years, and when the war ended, the British took back control of Malaysia. Until independence in 1957, British and Malaysians tried to come up with a plan for Malaysian independence.

Clearly, Malaysia has had a rich history and has been influenced by several European and Asian groups. To this day, you can see Dutch and Portuguese influences in Malacca, which is pretty amazing given the time and amount of conquerors this country has seen since Dutch or Portuguese rule.

Anyways, today, I had a chance to celebrate the amazing history and independence of this country. This morning, my host family took me to the Little India area in Ipoh. There was a nice parade and a lot of festivities there. We arrived kinda late, so I didn't get to see most of the parade, but I did get to take a couple nice pictures. I also got to see people of completely different heritages coming together to celebrate satu Malaysia ("one Malaysia") on Independence Day. I really enjoyed seeing this interaction on one of the biggest days in Malaysian culture and history.

Considering that the U.S. celebrated its 237th anniversary of independence this year, Malaysia is extremely young compared to the U.S. However, the culture that has been after independence has become so established in this country. To the point where you cannot believe that this country is only a few years older than a half-century. And yet, Malaysians have been able to incorporate international culture in their pop culture, entertainment, dress, and food. The mix of not only ethnic Malaysian cultures but also of international influences is pretty amazing here. While you do see this in the U.S., there are somethings you will not see in America. Unlike Malaysia, you will not see people of different races wearing their cultural clothing to a large extent in the U.S. Here, you will see Malay people in baju melayus and baju kurungs, Chinese people in cheongsams and samfoos, Indians in sarees and salwars, and people of all races in typical modern/Western clothing. You will not see Chinese alters and Buddhist and Hindu deities on the side of the street. Here, you can see alters and idols of deities of many different religions near Chinese and Indian stores and stalls.

To the point, however, I want to wish everyone, "Selamat Hari Kemerdekaan!" I hope you all Malaysians are able to celebrate this amazing day with your family and friends!

Here are some pictures from the parade earlier today:

The streets were fenced off, and so, you wouldn't be able to see any cars there.

A crowd of people watching a military tank from the parade pass by.

Me in front of the Little India Gate in Ipoh

In front of a Malaysian flag

The procession of famous people leaving the area

Me with two members of the armed forces

The military band playing

Selamat Hari Kemerdekaan!


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