GEORGE TOWN: After experiencing the colourful Hari Gawai (Harvest Festival), next on Wayne Shu Guo Qi’s bucket list is celebrating Malaysia Day in the Land of the Hornbills.
The diplomacy and foreign relations officer just cannot wait to return to Sarawak to reunite with his fiancée, a journalist in Bintulu.
He was amazed by the warmth and sense of tolerance of the community during his first visit to a longhouse early this year.
“It was a fun and enjoyable experience, mixing with friends from so many ethnicities during the Gawai celebration.
“I appreciate the sense of value, closeness and strong ties shown by the community. The longhouse community came together and shared the tasks to ensure the celebration was a success.
“Everyone just enjoyed themselves with music and the homemade rice wine, tuak.
“It was so different from celebrating Chinese New Year, which is predominantly an inner family circle celebration,” said the 27-year-old from Cameron Highlands.
Shu, who is now working in Kuala Lumpur, said he did not mind moving to Sarawak, citing the non-hectic lifestyle and warmth of the people as the reasons.
“The local people are caring and generous. When I visited one of the Chinese restaurants there, I could see Muslim and non-Muslim communities sharing meals together.
“If I have children, I want to raise them there as it will surely help them to learn the ‘Muhibbah’ spirit,” he said.
Shu, who met his wife-to-be at a leadership camp in Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM), said they got along well despite the cultural differences.
“She is helpful and kind. Since we are in a long-distance relationship now, we have been working hard to seek common ground and sustain our relationship,” he said.
Shu said he was brought up in a liberal family and that his mother had taught him to be culturally sensitive since young.
“I went to different religious and cultural ceremonies, besides open houses during festivities such as Hari Raya, Deepavali and Chinese New Year.
“Since my fiancée studied in Penang for four years, she is no stranger to Chinese culture.
“There are mixed marriages in her family too and she has been celebrating Chinese festivals since young,” he said.
Project manager Cynthia Lawrence, 37, and her husband Gregory Emmanuel, 40, have embraced each other’s cultures.
She is a Sino-Kadazan while her husband from Klang is of Indian-Portuguese-Chinese heritage.
“My in-laws are really into food. My mother-in-law is a good cook who can whip up Chinese, Indian, Portuguese and Malay dishes.
“As for my husband, he loves to try out different traditional dishes every time he visits my hometown in Labuan,” said Lawrence.
She has settled down in Penang after getting her bachelor’s degree in USM in 2004.
She met Emmanuel, who is now a design engineering manager, during a church camp in Penang.
“Our life goals are quite similar. We learned about each other’s culture and appreciate our differences.
“I still wear my traditional attire for special occasions.
“As for him, he is leaning more towards his mum’s heritage.
“Reunion dinner during Chinese New Year is a must. Being a Catholic, they also celebrate Christmas.
“This is what makes Malaysia special!” she said.