It’s different. Suddenly Georgetown feels like a city somewhere else. It could be Prague or Berlin. It could be any of the places I traveled alone to, where there are no people I’ve known for years, where I’m a stranger they know next to nothing about. Just this random guy who doesn’t seem to be from around these here parts. Just like they are random people to me who are not from where I’m from.
Every interaction, however brief, is most likely the first and last interaction I will have with them - the guy behind the coffee counter, the lady sharing with me how things changed with the MCO, and Rehan from Pakistan, who used to work in Setia Alam, and now in a bar here. He hasn’t been back to Pakistan for 6 years, he likes it in Malaysia, and he’s doing what he can do to make a decent living and a good life.
He was an unofficial furniture designer when he was in Selangor on a monthly basic of RM1,000, and he earned up to RM1,300 with overtime. I asked him whether he likes Penang. “Yes, back in Selangor and KL I cannot walk after 10pm at night - I was robbed 3 times. Here, I can walk back at 3-4am in the morning after the bar closes and no problem”.
I don’t know whether he has family back home, but he looks happy here. “The tourists are now coming back - from France, Germany and the UK. It was difficult during the lockdown but business is getting better now.”
He told me his boss, Howie, is from KL too. I can understand why, honestly. If I was in Howie’s shoes, I would rather be here too. “KL is too competitive.” Rehan said. Yeah, but to me, not only that - it’s a bit too crowded, and it has a different vibe. More hectic. More to live up to, a stronger need to impress people you don’t know. That’s what every big city is I guess, that’s how it works.
In the meantime, I’m good here with my beer, and just watching the crowd pass by on a Saturday night.