We enter the Sinhalese Bar in Ipoh through sliding saloon style doors. Is this the Wild West? What’s with those doors?
The doors are not the only decor faux pas. The insulation pink walls and mint green tiles immediately have our senses on high alert. But there are an aunty and uncle serving beers, a group of men gathered in the corner playing a lively game of cards, and friendly smiles from a diverse Malaysian group reading poetry that greet us. “There is only one rule.” We are told. “Everyone must read a poem.” I contemplate turning right back out the door. However, something seems inviting in the paradox of Indian, Chinese and Malay Malaysians all gathered in a beer station for The Other Festival.
What that meant – we had no idea. It turns out that The Other Festival is a mix of food, art, poetry and music in the Old Town of Ipoh (about a two-hour drive north of KL).
So being good sports, we read poems aloud to the crowd. Then, we stayed for a performance done to live music by a local poet. The words were in Bahasa Malay, so I have no idea what she said. But she held the audience captive. Even the men in the corner, who had become increasingly loud as they drank their Tiger beers, stopped for a moment to listen.
The next weekend, the same friend and I attended a Latin Ball for charity. We got dressed up, had our photos taken with a parrot and salsa danced the night away.
A few days earlier, Shaun and I met a local man and his wife who followed their dreams to set up their own coffee shop. He spent 5 years making a transparent espresso machine and quit his job in IT to follow his passion. He’s only been open a few months, but dreamSS cafe (the extra “s” is for extra luck) is roasting their own coffee beans and baking their home cooked meals with love.
Then just today, I received a message from a friend that Sierra Leone is officially ebola free.
“Peace be with you Trina! Good to informed you that the Ebola virus is over. We reached 42 days last Saturday without a case. So we are free from pains and stress. We are hoping to see a good 2016.”
George is a Sierra Leonean teacher who attended the peace curriculum course I was involved with in Freetown in 2010. In spite of all the obstacles that his country has been faced with, he has made it his personal mandate to teach a message of peace and love to the next generation.
It’s moments like these that have me believing in humanity. Some are simple and others more profound. It’s moments like this that I desperately cling to when I hear of another terrorist attack and the subsequent ignorant comments directed at refugees. We are all flawed, but we all also have the capacity to spread a message of peace and love in the everyday things we do.