January 6, 2014

The most exhausting day of your life

When my father got out of the hospital after 2 and a half week we agreed to go through with the wedding.

My fiancĂ© had asked my father for my hand but he never officially asked me if I would marry him. Just the evening before the wedding would take place he took me to a quiet spot at the beach and went down on one knee. The moonlight reflected on the sea, and we were surrounded by the sound of the waves crashing on the beach..eventhough we were about to get married the next day. He sounded so nervous when he was telling me why he wanted to marry me and asked if I wanted to marry him too. Of course I said yes and accepted his ring.  

Instead of 07-07-'12 we the wedding took place on 18-07-'12. We were exhausted after this stressful period but the date could not be postponed any further because the holiday of our guests was almost over! One of my friends even missed the wedding because her flight was a few days before. Familymembers have been busy with preparations for our wedding. They decorated the house and cooked all night enough food to feed the whole village. 

On the day of the wedding I finally got to wear my dress that was specially made for me from my design. My mother gave me something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue. My sister in law did my make-up. In the meanwhile an aunt of mine accidentally ironed a hole in the traditional Malay suit which the groom was supposed to wear. They managed to fix it in time but it was stressful for a moment. 

When everyone was ready we went to the mosque where the nikah (Islamic marriage) ceremony would take place. It is different from marriage ceremonies most people are used to in the Netherlands. In Malay marriages the ceremony is actually between the imam, the groom, the brides father and 2 male witnesses from both sides of the family. I only had to give my consent for the marriage when my father asked me prior to the ceremony.  

My husband therefore had the hardest tasks, the ceremony was mostly in Malay and he had to reply to the questions in Malay correctly. He did not learn the language yet so it was nerve wrecking for him to remember what he had to say. Eventually everything just turned out to be fine. I did read a poem to my parents, which was an very emotional moment and, as usual, my mom and I cried together. 

After the official ceremony at the mosque everyone went back to my fathers house at the beach. The buffet was ready and everyone ate, many village people, family, friends and also tourist came over to congratulate us and eat. 

In the afternoon, we had to sit down of a "stage" so our guests could take pictures with us and speak out their prayers/ wishes for us while sprinkling traditional flowers, leaves and rice over our hands. One of my younger brothers and two of my brothers in law both entertained us with dance performances they prepared for us. Afterwards we went to the beach to take pictures.

All day people came by it had been a long day. When finally the night has come we passed out on the bed of exhaustion and we slept like babies until the next day.

January 4, 2014

Fairytales do not always have a happy ending do they?

 The next day I went to my final exam, it seemed to be quite easy. I couldn't really concentrate because I wanted to finish as soon as possible to be able to spend time with my hubby-to-be. After I answered all of the questions I hurried out of the exam room. 

 I checked my phone on the way to his apartment and I saw several missed calls from friends of my father.. I started to call them back.. They asked me if I have heard anything from my father and if I know where he is because he didn't answer his phone. I told them I don't know, my father lives on an island 600 km from where I stayed at that time so I wasn't able to just go visit him to check. 

 The phone call concerned me so I tried to contact my father as well, he didn't pick up.. The last time I spoke to him he was feeling sick, but there were friends at the house taking care of him so I thought he would be feeling better quickly. When nobody answered the phone I called my cousin to ask if she could check where he is. The village he lives counts only 300 people, everyone know each others where abouts and since it is an island there are only 2 ways out.. 

 As I arrived at the apartment I told my fiancĂ© about the phone calls, I started to feel that something was wrong, he tried to comfort me but it did not help. After just 10 minutes my cousin called me back. She told me that I should meet them at the hospital as soon as possible because they didn't know if my father would make it, I was shocked and asked her what's wrong and then she told me: 

 She went to check at his house, all the doors were locked but from the inside so that was odd. She started calling his name but nobody answered. Then she decided to climb up the walls of the wooden house to peak under the golf plated roof top,  she saw him lying there in his bed. She called her brothers to get help, they broke down the door and found my father, his body was Moving, but he gave no reaction to their calling. They were now on the way to get him to the hospital on the main land, it is a great task to travel that distance if you do not know how much time you have left. Since he was not responding they had to carry him into a car, to get to the side of the island closest to the main land. 

 Later she told me that the last ferry of the day already left and therefore they had to put him on a matrass in a open speedboat, when they finally arrived at the port of the mainland it was low tide so the boat could not dock, there was no option but to wait till the water started rising again. When they arrived at a hospital, the doctors took blood samples and made x-rays. The doctors could not find anything significant quickly but they did not trust the situation and adviced my family to take my father to a larger hospital where they could make a brainscan. This was another 2 hours travel by ambulance, in total they have been travelling with my father for over 9 hours to get from his house to the hospital were he could get any help.

In the meanwhile, I was desperate to get to the hospital to see my father, but it was over 700 km travel to get there. We checked out if there were any flights but the first one would leave the next day. Therefore we decided to get the transnational nightbus  which would be an 8 hour drive. We packed all of our belongings and left, unfortunately without the chance of saying goodbye to all of my exchange friends.

 We tried to grab some sleep in the bus, the airco was freezing which made the ride very uncomfortable. When we finally arrived at the hospital the next morning, it was a scary experience. The hospital was not like any hospital I have seen before. I felt like I was in a war movie, where you see a large ward, with dozens of patients lying next to eachother, I saw people with black limbs waiting for amputation, bleeding bandages, unbearable noises of people screaming and moaning, and a bad smell it was undescribable. It was an unforgettable experience which made me appreciate our care system and facilities in the Netherlands so much.

 Then we got to see my father. His arms were tied to the bed because his body was moving with spasms and when he opened his eyes, they were empty, like his soul had left. The scan showed there was an abnormality in his brain. This hospital seemed incapable of helping him as well thefore we decided that he should be transferred to a semi-private hospital in Kuala Lumpur next day to ensure he would be treated. Yet another travel by ambulance for 4 hours. I went with him in the back of the ambulance. The ambulance was racing with the sirenes on all of the time, he already seemed to gain more consciousness. He could not speak but his eyes made contact with me again, everytime he closed his eyes I was still afraid to lose him. I prayed in his ear all way long until we arrived at the next hospital. 

He was taken in to intensive care and he was examined intensively, they could not define what exactly was wrong with him. He was in and out of consciousness for over a week. Still unable to eat, or speak. We saw him emaciate more everyday. My strong, handsome, proud father as I have known him turned into someone he would never want to be, weak, dependent, disabled. It hurted me to see him like that, fortunately my fiance stood by me every second, we spend days, and nights next to his bed, taking turns with other members of my family. In the meanwhile family and friends from the Netherlands were arriving, for our planned wedding, we had to postpone the event, but they flew over anyway to support us. Because at that time we did not know if my father would make it. 

 In the second week in the hospital my father gained more conciousness. They have given him a cocktail of antibiotics, they assumed that he had meningitis. He could slowly start recovering.  His short term memory was affected, he did not remember anything of the previous weeks. He had to practice how to speak again, and since he had been bed bound for over 2 weeks, with almost nothing to eat, he needed physical therapy to strenghten his muscles to be able to keep balance and walk again.

 His recovery came almost as sudden as his sickness, it took some months for him to become  "normal" again. For me it was a emotional rollercoaster. From being happy, to sad, to scared, to angry, to hopeful and finally grateful. Thank God, I am blessed to have my friends and family who have supported us during our ups and downs, even when I was so far away. Every difficulty in life gives us an opportunity to learn and grow.

"Allah does not burden a soul beyond that it can bear.." (Quran 2:286)

January 2, 2014

An end is the start of something new

Finally, one more exam to go and the exchange period was over.
My love would finally arrive after 5 months! To pick me up, to take me away and marry me on the beach of the tropical island I was born...Daydreamed about it all of the time!

I was too excited to study for my last exam, I just hoped that all the classes I have attended were interesting enough to remember. 

I borrowed the scooter of a friend to drive to the bus stop where he would arrive.I was so nervous about how it would feel to see him again after all this time, would it still be the same?  

At the bus stop it was very busy, there arrived and and left many transnational busses. His bus was late so I waited, walked around if I would see him anywhere..but I didn't. After a while he called me, he asked me if I forgot about him and why I wasn't at the bus stop? I told him I was there looking for him but I couldn't find him. I asked him where he was so I would go his way.. I turned around and I saw him from a distance, I started walking towards him and everything around me became blurry.. All I could see was him.. How he walked, the way he wears his hair, the big bag he was carrying.. And as I came closer I became aware people were looking at us and it made me shy.. I gave him a modest hug, and then I smelled him.. wauw it was so amazing to smell him after all this time.. Even though he had been traveling for over 24 hours, the scent made me fall in love again in tenfold. 

 I couldn't stop staring at him and smile all the time.. They say you don't know what you've got till its gone. The exchange made me appreciate what we had and the fact that he had let me go to malaysia to have the experience of a lifetime studying at USM, while he was waiting for me reassured me that this was it for me. 

 We went to drop off his bags at the apartment of my friend, he was exhausted from the travel and I had to get some sleep for my last exam the next morning so we only had short time together, but it was all good because we were about to spend 2 months of holiday together, and hopefully our happily ever after...