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Location: Penang, Malaysia

January 20, 2008

Who is the first prime minister of Malaysia?

I have been travelling pretty heavily recently. Heavy in the sense of frequency and in the context of my current circle of friends and colleagues. Travelling is always something that of interest to me when it comes to seeing things as the first person, real time. Yeah, not forgetting to mention, it is interactive.

I was in Oregon again after more than 2 years break. I am blogging this at the Tom Bradley International Airport, Los Angeles (LAX) right at this moment. The waiting time today is exceptionally long, with at least another hour to go.

When I reached this airport last week, as usual, there were long queues at the immigration counters. When my turn came, I was greeted by the immigration offcier, "Hey, you are from Malaysia, huh?". "Yeah, right, all the way from Penang", I said. The conversation went on like this,

Officer: Let me ask you some questions about Malaysia.

Me: OK, sure. (I thought, well, shoot, it can't be too hard)

Officer: Who is the first prime minister of Malaysia?

Me: Tunku Abdul Rahman.

Officer: Are you sure?

Me: Of course.

Officer: That's correct! This is too easy for you. Here comes the harder one. What was Malaysia biggest mistake?

Me: Err, wow! Well, I will try. Could it be that we "gave away" Singapore back in 1965? Or, do you mean the current policy?

Officer: Right, you know what, Malaysia should not had given away Singapore . Back then, if Malaysia asked Singapore to sign an agreement to give 3% of its revenue to Malaysia as a condition for independence, I am sure Singapore will agree to that. Maybe not forever, but like a term of 100 years... Or, you know, like Hong Kong, it is a lease to the British and must be returned, not giving away just like that...

We chatted for quite a while, we joked and laughed, while many other counters were moving. I was still "stuck" there, but of course, not a negative one. Later, some fellow Malaysians asked me what we were "discussing". It seemed very long to them and they thought I might be subject to special registration and interview. I didn't since I came here many times before September 11, 2001.

Later, this officer told me that he was an ex-CIA agent based in Johor Bahru during the 60s. No wonder he knows that much. He knows much more than I do. It always amaze me that there are all kind of people around the world like CIA agents who might just live next door to you. Well, I believe him. Thank you, sir. I am heading home now and hopefully, we will meet again in my next trip to the US in the very near future.

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