Balgees, who moved to the United States when she was fifteen, remembers meeting me once in Virginia. But in KL we have become more than acquaintances as Balgees and Idris have become our family away from home. They have driven us to grocery stores, malls, and major tourist sites. They play with Yahya and hold Lut as my mother, aunt, or sister would.
I laugh heartily as Balgees fascinates me with stories of her immersion in black culture while living on the South Side of Chicago and attending a majority-black university. It's as though we've been friends for a lifetime.
We both sigh with relief when we are welcomed by familiar scents and sights in the new malls that draw expats and tourists. We long for home. But when prayer comes in, we take advantage of Muslim space. Instead of stealthily praying in a dressing room as we would back home, we pray comfortably among our Malaysian Muslim sisters in the mall suraus, or prayer areas. The natives put on their traditional Malay prayer garments, submerging their fashionably covered bodies in a sea of modesty. But Balgees and I ignore the prayer garments set aside neatly in bags for surau worshippers. We are fine with praying in our everyday clothes.