Sampai bila sini?

That was the question the cashier in the cafeteria asked me a while ago as I was paying for my lunch.

Since the only Bahasa Melayu I know are limited to what my fingers can count, I can only manage a curt smile as a reply (which probably looked stupid to her) and a short answer that I don’t understand what she is talking about. After probably thinking that I am such an idiot, she returned my smile and dismissed me with a nod. Then I walked away.

Being the inquisitive me, I won’t pass up the chance to know what the lady meant (and redeeming myself from the land of idiocy, as well).

“Until when will you be here?” So that was her question. Thanks to a Malay friend who translated it in English for me.

I have been cooped in a fisherman’s village resort here in Sekinchan for almost a week now for work. My colleague who was with me in the first few days has gone back home as she needs to prepare for the Haj festival which is observed by the Muslim community all over the world. I was left alone here to wrap everything up.

“Sampai bila sini?”

For me, that question holds more meaning than what the lady is really asking.

With the impending change that is about to occur in my life soon, I can’t help but think deeply and reflect on how my life has turned out to be in the last 14 months.

And as I contemplate on my answer, I find it funny that her question which means two totally different things to me can have the same answer.

Come dinner time tonight, I will approach her and say I understand her now.

“Sampai bila sini?”

I will be “here” until the end of the month.

And then I can walk away.

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