MALAYSIA: It IS a Small World!

7:00 am, Taipei International Airport, en route to Kuala Lumpur My two favorite things about traveling are returning to Los Angeles and leaving it. There’s so much about America I wish I could change (our propensity to bomb small countries most of us couldn’t locate on a map is one thing). Yet, my seatmates on Eva Air’s 13-hour flight from Los Angeles to Taipei reminded me of one of my favorite things about our country: It’s willingness to embrace immigrants and offer them extraordinary opportunities.

Ian Khoh & Dina Chroek on Eva Air flight from LAX to Taipei.

Ian Khoh & Dina

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Chroek on Eva Air flight from LAX to Taipei.

#IanKhoh is a 23-year-old from Penang. (Yes, the very Penang where I will spend 3 weeks in July while housesitting! What are the chances?) Seated next to him was #DinaChroek, a 21-year-old from Cambodia. Both men have studied in the US: Ian is an engineer working in Minneapolis. His girlfriend (also Malaysian) works in Lincoln, NE. Dina is completing his studies in finance near Boston. His parents own a donut franchise in Clarksville, MS. Ian and I got into a spirited conversation about how technology has opened doors to traveling. I recalled the days when I had to sit by the phone if I were expecting a call. With “callus interruptus” not yet invented, I couldn’t even make a call while waiting! I reminisced about how people would leave clever outgoing messages to

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entice reluctant callers to leave a voice message. Technology sure has made us mobile! He told me his father was the first in their village to get a TV and how the entire village would come around for TV nights. I recalled being shocked when I saw The Wizard of Oz on the big screen for the first time. “Oh my God, it’s in color!” I cried out in the crowded theater. As a girl, I’d seen it every year on our small black-and-white TV and thought that’s how the movie had been made. But, I digress. How fortunate these young men are to travel and create extraordinary opportunities for them, their families and their futures – and how fortunate America is to have them! Postscript: As I sat under a whimsical balloon structure in a charming waiting lounge at the Taipei Airport, a Taiwanese man approached me to chat. He works for the NIH and lives in Columbia, MD. “I know Columbia,” I responded. “I used to work for an organization that canvasses door-to-door to raise money to lobby for the Clean Water Act: #CleanWaterActionProject.” “I know Clean Water Action Project!” Yen Lee exclaimed. “They still come to my door!” Who’d’ve thought that I’d meet someone in an airport in Taiwan who knows the group that hired me on my first job? It is indeed a world getting smaller. How fortunate I am to experience this!