What's In The Air Over There?

Over the last few months, I have heard that friends of friends have decided to uproot themselves, give up their citizenship and go away to a better place.
The first question out of my mouth is “Why?”
Then I go all silent.
I know why. We all know why. It’s not just about “better education for our kids” or “free education” or “they use English over there”.
It’s all of the above and more. More is the unspoken fear and worry because Malaysia today is not like the Malaysia we grew up with. (I assume you are in your 30s and understand what I mean.)
And more and more people are leaving, whether we like it or not.
Our southern neighbour does a great job of luring people – better pay, cleaner living, safer living. I felt so safe when I was in Singapore although my sis cautions me with “Low crime does not mean no crime”. But you see, I have that much of faith in Singapore and its governance. I cannot say the same for Penang or Malaysia.
When I was 14, I had a friend who made the big move to Australia. Her entire family upped and left. Her parents were teachers and they decided staying in Malaysia wasn’t worth it anymore. I didn’t know it then that she was moving to Australia. She told us that she was just moving to Sabah. It was a convenient cover-up, lest we all probed too much. It never occurred to me to ask her why Sabah of all places?
Once her family was settled in Sydney, she wrote and apologized for lying to me. I didn’t see much reason to be angry with her. It was easier telling a lie than having to explain why she had to uproot and go to Australia.
Over the years, we wrote and wrote. In those days, we used the thin blue paper Aerogrammes, writing till the very edges before they were sealed and posted. I could see that her Australian education was so much better than what we were doing in secondary school. Her first Sex Education class surprised her – taboo subjects (well, taboo in Malaysian classrooms anyway) – were taught openly in a mixed class of teenage boys and girls. No one flinched or giggled embarrassingly either. Pictures were shown too.
It was a truly global experience back then reading her letters of how she was coping in school. In comparison, my school life seemed rather dull!
Most friends are upping and leaving for Australia or New Zealand. Some became Singaporeans (happily).
And through it all, I wonder how it feels like to move away.
Then someone tells me this – isn’t it very much like how our ancestors in China did it? One day they decided they had to leave for green pastures and to find a better world for their future children so they hopped on a ship sailing for this part of Asia. They heard of the money to be made. They landed here and decided to make this place their home.
Perhaps it is a new wave of ‘seeking greener pastures’. But I can’t help feeling melancholy over these news.
Will I also do this one day? Get fed-up of all this and leave, never looking back? But how about the people who are fighting against the system, hoping to change it so our future children can have a better country to inherit? Will I give up so easily or will I fight to right the problems in this current system?
It’s that one question which flummoxes me.
What do you think of emigration? Will you do it? What would make you leave and give up your Malaysian citizenship?

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