Disconnection, or how to lose touch with reality


One morning, you wake up in hazy Kuala Lumpur, walk slowly on your balcony and gaze at the Petronas Tower in the distance, observe the Chinese uncle doing his exercises in the sunrise light, smile at the kids in uniform waiting for their morning bus. One morning, you are living your life in Malaysia and it is exactly at it should be.

And the next thing you know, a very few hours later, you are staring at a signboard, written in your own language, wondering why you can’t understand where the train station is. How do foreigners even manage to find their way here is a constant mystery to you…

 I am back in France and, for a while, I lost touch with who I was, where I was, what I was doing. I didn’t know what reality was. It felt both exhilarating and terrifying at the same time. The huge cut in your life, extending over the span of less than a day time, puts you in an emotional limbo. How could you have been talking to friends in Malay less than 16 hours ago, hugging people at a mamak place only last night… and now you are where 80% of your life memories come from? It feels real and it feels wrong. It feels as if all Asia is a dream you are waking up from. You know life in Malaysia is real, and yet you doubt it. It is just… not here.

We all dream to live many lives. You want to be a professional footballer, a constant traveler, a successful businessman, good at photography, this or that. But you know you can have only one life, and you resign yourself to it.

I do have two lives. And when I jump into one, the other one feels so much at odds, as if I had just stopped watching a movie where I had identified myself with a character.

I live in Malaysia. I am a translator, a volunteer, a motorbike rider, a mamak dweller, an advice dispenser, a lover of my friends, a language addict, a discover of religions & cultures.

And I live in France. I am the proud daughter of Brittany, an ex-biology student without a job, a forever gypsy that doesn’t fit in society, a critic of my own people, a smile that isn’t understood, a Buddhist animist that marvels at old-stones churches, a forest hiker, a wild-beaches lover, a friend who doesn’t know where her friends disappeared, and an oddity her family often hardly understands.

I am, I am, I am… What am I?

What if we didn’t actually need the answer to this question?

I have been fighting this weirdest feeling of duality and unreality since I last glanced at those 2 familiar faces in the airport. For as long as the “jump” lasted, I felt I was nobody. I knew I was going back to France, but that was mental knowledge. My emotions, my intuition were just plain screwed up. I kept on half expecting something to happen, because “being back in France” was so out-of-touch with my life that I couldn’t visualize it. I knew the plane was not going to suddenly turn around and go back to Kuala Lumpur and, yet, I half expected it.

Weirdest feeling ever.

It is only when I met my aunt that I reconnected with reality. A hug to my cousin, a kiss to those familiar faces, and I was back into normality.

This is where I realize that my reality lives with the people that surround me. “France” is an abstraction that I can’t connect with, that I don’t own. Belonging to my family, yes, this I can comprehend. Between my 2 friends smiles at KLIA and the warmth of my aunt embrace, I had been in limbo.

Now I am home again.

True, it still feels weird but I expect it to disappear tomorrow, when I wake up & go to bed in the same house, surrounded by the same people. Feeling the spirit of Penn-ar-Bed (“Beginning of the world”, the Breton name of my county) and the smell of the ocean in the air. Yes, I will be home.

I have to say it though. In those 5 years of living abroad & coming back to France, never have I felt this feeling of disconnection that strongly. It totally swept me away and turned me upside down, made me float in disbelief at the confusion of my thoughts.

What made this time different from the others? Probably because KL truly feels home, in the intensity of my sense of belonging there. My life there is strong, and that’s why it clashed so much with my old life in France. Two strongly rooted lives in my little self. The transition was out of this world…


4 responses »

  1. Well, Gaelle, I was waiting for the moment when you will go back and to know about your reaction of being you in your home land. I do know that you loved Malaysia, South East Asia to be specific (Thailand may be bit, your Indonesian family, and big part in KL) and knew about your perception of France in general. But it was quite interesting to read about what you felt while back home.

    Though you told me quite a few times about your impression of your own country vs KL, but still, I would like to ask, what the biggest difference you felt as soon as you entered in your previous world. I will not say your real world because I know your heart still belongs in KL, with the friends around you. What is the thing you were running from and you found in KL, and when you went back you felt that thing is still missing.

    Probably no one would ever can come up with definition of what is right, what is wrong, and what’s not. After all, what matters is what you think is right for you, and you find people around is to say, hey, I know you are right and I will take one more step with you on that path, I will spend one more moment with you on that path.

    Have a good time in Brittany. It’s just a different world. Enjoy it, smile and be happy to think that you got better world for you, the way you want, waiting somewhere.

    • Hehe, that is a long comment, isn’t it?
      My first thoughts when landing were just happiness at catching up for a while with my own place. And then you leave the airplane to be greeted by policemen checking on your identity. *Distrust, too big need for security*. You hear French people jokingly criticising the police over-reaction and about how France will never change. *Phew, there are French people who don’t get fooled by all policies around*. And then realize that, as usual, they are all about complaining. *Dang, me too, smile!*
      What is missing? The connection between people isn’t the ones I’m looking for. They don’t have this deep & fulfilling warmth to them. It is as if people are afraid to go 100% into connecting with others. And when they do, because they do, I still don’t connect fully with their vibe & their point of view on life.
      The nature here feels home, the people not really. In Malaysia, it’s the opposite. The people feel home, the nature not really. I interract with people more than with nature, so… But I still need this link to nature, and I need to come back here.
      Somehow, though, reconnecting with the people here, seem to be harder every time. While I still understand them & their ideas, they often don’t connect with my point of view. So I just don’t talk about some stuff, it would just get me confused or disapproving looks. I’m not here to make people change…

  2. the duality and unreality of belonging in two places at once, is an amazingly surreal feeling.
    i learn to understand and accept that limbo moments within the three years moving back and forth between being away and at home.
    time has been short for us. i am glad that i get to meet you with your charming enthusiasm, your rempit-ness, you malaysian-ness, your french-ness, your smiles, the way you look at life and your adoration for your friends. and i am sad that i only get to know you for a short period of time.
    still, THANK YOU for everything.

    enjoy the warmth of your family, of the home you were born into, of your past and your memories and have a good and wonderful time.

    • Thanks miss :) Seeing you two at the airport was worth every smile you guys deserve!
      It is fitting, isn’t it, that I’m answering your comment on the day that you, yourself, are leaving this country. While I’m going to my hometown, you’re leaving yours. It’s a different kind of mixed feelings, but I remember those as well. I’m sure you’ll make the most out of your life in this far-away country (not that far from me at the moment, actually, haha). Please keep us in touch with your life and with your dreams :)

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