Whereas Papa Yong hails from the bustling city Kuala Lumpur, Momma Yong grew up much quieter town of Kota Kinabalu. There’s an unending rivalry between the two cities between them, so it’s dangerous for me to pick a favourite.
When we arrived in Kota Kinabalu it was early evening. We were promptly picked up and driven to Momma Yong’s parents place by a family friend. As we slowly squeaked through the front door, I was immediately taken aback by the impressive physicality of Sara’s grandfather who is ninety-three and who could be seen through the back window of the house chopping coconut husks with a freaking machete in the backyard. What a cool guy. He walks up and down the steps of the house with ease, and even plays golf twice a week. I asked him what the secret to longevity was, and he said to “…drink beer, don’t hold grudges, and enjoy everything in moderation”. Beer? I can do that.
Sara’s grandmother is considerably more frail but her mind is still sharp. She doesn’t speak much English so it’s difficult for me to communicate with her, but it feels really good to make her laugh (usually from my being an bumbling idiot). She’s very particular about where things are places and where people are seated. She is like a wise an all-seeing owl, and even scares birds that wander too close to the open front door. When the do, she bangs on the table and shouts, “Go away, bird!” in Malay.
Each night before dinner, Grandpa Chin invites me to share a Skol beer with him overlooking the expansive backyard with the squirrels, lizards, and birds who forage amongst the coconut and mango trees. He buys the beer for 60 ringets a can (which is equivalent to $0.20 CAD)! It’s a quaffable mass-produced lager beer that really hits the spot in the heat of the Malaysian sunset. The beer is smuggled into the country which is how he gets it so cheap. To recap: Grandpa Chin is a machete wielding war hero (did I forget to mention that?) who’s 93, plays golf, and is a freaking beer pirate. What a cool guy!
It’s only been a short while, and already I miss Grandpa and Grandma Chin. When we return in a few years, we plan on repainting the entire interior of the house. I’ll have conditions though; I won’t raise a single finger unless I’m guaranteed a healthy ration of pirate beer to share with a friendly old man.