Friday, November 10, 2017

Kamaliah's 27th Birthday

One morning not a long time ago, as I was preparing to go to class, I heard Kamaliah say:

“Semalam abang tengok ratio lelaki:perempuan untuk predict anak kita boy/girl lagi ke??” (Were you looking at the male:female ratio to predict our baby’s gender again??).

The previous night, we were surveying on Google for the best strollers around (still contemplating between Nuna and Uppababy). Somewhere along the way Kamaliah fell asleep, and suddenly I find myself pulling up graphs for the Malaysian population’s gender ratio and the predicted age-dependency ratio. The next morning, when Kamaliah saw all these graphs on her Macbook, she immediately knew what I was up to (it was not her first time seeing those graphs).

Kamaliah will tell me that I am lame for predicting our child’s gender based on the latest ratio (107 males : 100 females), and for worrying too much that the high dependency ratio in 2050 will cause our child to be burdened by high taxes to finance healthcare for the old population (a positive argument for national health insurance).

Such a pity marrying someone who’s so much into health economics! Kamaliah learned these less useful things from me, but on the other hand, what I learned from her is so so much more. Let me name a few. Kamaliah taught me to cook good Malaysian food. One of our favorite do-together thing now is our cooking! You see, I was hopeless before, but Kamaliah persisted in teaching me and now I can cook Malaysian food…not that great as her…but edible. I also always enjoyed going to the Asian grocery with her, and her eyes will lit with excitement and she will go “Abang, abang, abang tengok ni!” for every single item she found that is made in Malaysia.

Another thing I learned from Kamaliah is to replace ‘screen time’ with ‘people time’. We spend so much more time together these days, and we had a lot of weekend adventures together. We went whale watching, strolled through Salem in the midst of Halloween season, watched our very first Broadway theatre in New York, went seafood hunting in Cape Cod, and drove through the roads to New Hampshire to admire the beauty of autumn foliage. One of best sayings we also learned from the whale-watching tour guide is that “sometimes people spend too much time looking at these whales on their phone screens that they forgot to enjoy the majestic experience of being in front of these big creatures”. Since then we put our phone down, enjoyed experiencing one of the largest animal on earth in front of our eyes, and do not care much anymore about likes and comments on social media. We’ve practiced living in the moment since then. It is so much fun when you have one person you can share all these great memories with. One like and live comment from her is all I need.

However, all of these learning could not beat the exciting lesson of being future parents! We can’t wait to welcome our baby into this world. During our last doctor’s appointment, we can already see our baby move his/her hands. It was so surreal, and literally changed my perspective on life. For the first time it feels so real that we will be having someone who is totally dependent on us, everything we decide, everything we do will affect him/her. People say that once you have children, everything you do, you will have them in mind. I guess we can start to feel that.

Happy birthday Kamaliah, my wife, my love. Thank you for being so strong, patient and supportive. I pray to Allah to always keep you within his blessings, each hour and every day, and be the light that guides you, each step along life’s way. Thank you for all the great times, and let’s look forward to growing up (and old) together as parents, insyaAllah!

Friday, May 5, 2017

Our First Wedding Anniversary

Last weekend Kamaliah and I celebrated our first wedding anniversary. We spent time on a private island north of Pulau Kapas in Terangganu. The trip was much more of a honeymoon than the one we had last year in Cambodia, which we end up seeing patients at their houses instead. People say the first year of marriage is the hardest, I guess because as in any process of learning, the beginning is the toughest part. It was even tougher because 2016 was a year of drastic change for me. Several months after we got married, Kamaliah found out that she was pregnant. Not long after, Hospitals Beyond Boundaries shot to international prominence. She was there in New York when it all happened. Kamaliah had to bear the brunt of me shifting attention from her to the public which constantly barrage me with questions, interview requests and speaking engagements.

Upon returning to Malaysia, we received the distressing news that our baby's heart was no longer beating. It was such a hard thing to accept. At that same time, I was so occupied with prior speaking engagements and interviews, something that I regretted. I remembered the day she miscarried, I came back at night from a talk, and saw her crying on the bed. I was lost for words, and we only spent the night in silence, hugging each other till morning.

I still regret that I didn't spend my time at her side during the moment that she needed me most. But Kamaliah still stood by my side, and was always my number one supporter. She was always there to cheer me up with her wide smile. From the first day I met her, I've always had it in my mind that she is a person with an infectious smile. People just couldn't help smiling when they see her smile. She brings cheer to every room she enters, and I am blessed to have her exuding cheerfulness into every seconds of my life.

One year spending time with her, I realized that unconsciously, my life priority has slowly changed. If I can summarize everything she has taught me the past one year to one word, it would be: "humility". Being the super ambitious young man I used to be, it took a strong woman like her to change me. For the first time in my life, I find great satisfaction in fulfilling the need of someone other than myself. I begin to think as a couple, no longer as my own self. At a time that I thought I was "oh-so-human-look-at-me-I-am-humanitarian', she taught me what being a real human is all about. About sharing, caring about those who are close to us on top of caring for strangers, and knowing that no matter how amazing your life achievements are, it would be depressing if there is no one for you to share it with.

Kamaliah, I would like to thank you for holding on and teaching me what the real important things in life are. Thank you for being such a great wife, and I am looking forward to the years and experiences we'll forge ahead as husband and wife. Happy first anniversary to us, love you to bits!

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