Today I visited the Kuala Lumpur Foundation to Criminalise War at the offices of the Perdana Global Peace Foundation (www.perdana4peace.org). The offices were on the top floor of an impressive building of Islamic architecture with a large open space in the center with fountains. This beautiful building is located in a lovely large park with a bird park, an orchid park, a butterfly park, Islamic Art Museum, planetarium, etc.
I had made an appointment for 11:00 with a young man named Qaiyu, hoping to meet people and perhaps volunteer or find work, get help with a visa, or find some way to continue in Malaysia in which I could contribute to their efforts. I'm not sure that they knew quite what to do with a visitor like me, but they were polite and offered me lots of material to read. Bulletin boards were covered with articles on their efforts to hold a war crime tribunal which tried Bush, Jr. and Tony Blair last fall, as well as other issues that they are involved in, such as collaborating with the activists of the Free Gaza Movement. People were coming and going; there was a Board meeting happening.
Eventually some people came and sat at the large table where I was sitting and held a meeting in Bahasa Malaysian. One woman gave me her business card as she was sitting down, Suwaibah Mohd Nasir, Event Director/Athlete. I was a bit puzzled by this, but just now I looked at her card again to get her name to write in this blog, and saw that her website was wwww.sailingsahara.com. I could see her sailing a boat, but I couldn't decide what her sport was by just looking at her at first.
By the time I was handed a bright green bag with a t-shirt with a Perdana Global Peace Foundation logo and bold letters saying Jelajah Keamanan (roughly translated in Bahasa Malayu, "Explore Peace", a vari-hued green-striped mug with their logo, black buttons that state in red and white letters: "Expose War Crimes: Criminalize War", a folder with more brochures to read, and two CDs on Exposing War Crimes and Criminalizing War, I'd had three conversations with different individuals in the office about myself and what I was considering might be effective to stop wars.
I was asked what my availability was in May to help out with another tribunal on torture, and I said that I didn't know, but I'd be in touch. I was also given a brochure by an older woman in the office who didn't seem very impressed by my lack of credentials among international peace activitists, which she said would give me free admission to a film festival, the Kuala Lumpur Palestine Film Festival 2012 from February 4-6 at the GSC Pavilion in Kuala Lumpur. At the top of the brochure above a photo of a high wall topped with a fence of electric wire and a round guardhouse tower protruding from it, are the words "End the Occupation!" I will go to see Budrus, Tears of Gaza, Waltz with Bashir, Abu Jamil Street, Inshallah Beijing, Bethlehem: Hidden from View and Home Front. I'm sure this will be an education for me about what's been happening in Palestine that I would probably never have gotten if I had continued to live in the U.S.
If this interests you, you can get more details at: www.vivapalestina-my.org.
Someone in the office told me about a resource that helps expats settle into Malaysia, "Second Home." I could see that there was limited space in the office for a volunteer like me to come in and work. Everyone was very polite, but I don't think they were comfortable with how to find a way to engage me in their work. Yet they didn't want to discourage me either. I guess I seem too transient at this point to take very seriously.
On my way to my appointment at the Perdana Global Peace Foundation, I stopped for breakfast at an Indian restaurant, ordering chai and roti canai, which I saw this woman eating. It turned out she was an attorney who invited me to join her for breakfast and who was very pleased to meet me. She said that she'd like me to teach her daughter and a young nephew she was raising, as well as an adult she knew who would like to study English.
We trusted each other implicitly; some relationships are like that right from the start. My instincts aren't always reliable about how trustworthy people are, but I am never wrong about someone I feel this positive about. She also said she handled real estate and could help me find a place to live. We talked about engaging in international trade together. We also discussed stem cell research and collaborating on placing students in universities, which could pay well as an agent. I was pretty open to all of her ideas.
She left before I did, and when I went to pay for my breakfast, I found to my surprise and pleasure, that she'd paid for me as well. I think I am discovering that Malayasians are friendly, polite and hospitable, and I'm beginning to like them as much as I do their city.