By Leland Chow
For Malaysians who leave the country for their tertiary education, what they miss most is Malaysia in general, from the delicious food and friendly people to its rich culture. In most universities with larger populations of Malaysian students, there is at least an annual Malaysian Night.
Malaysian Night is a night event where Malaysians get to showcase their culture to both international and American students. It usually requires a semi-formal dress code, so it is a time where everyone can let his or her hair down and dress up. Some students choose to dress up in their traditional outfits, so seeing a baju kebaya or a cheongsam is not uncommon. On that night, guests are usually served Malaysian food, and they are entertained with various cultural performances.
At the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL), Malaysian Night is generally viewed as one of the largest cultural nights after China Night. As I was a committee member in the 2014-15 academic year for the Malaysian Students Association (NUMSA) here, I helped to organize the event by selling tickets.
It is normally a pretty stressful occasion because we hope to give all Malaysians a night to remember. Normally, there are also other guests who are not Malaysians. They are other international and American students, hence it is important for NUMSA to organize the event, and do well.
This year, I decided against volunteering at the event, as it is most probably my last year attending the event. I also wanted to enjoy myself with my friends, so I decided to go as a guest. As a table cost $128 ($16 per person), while an individual ticket cost $17 per person, I gathered my friends and we paid for a whole table. The best part was that my table had more American and other international students compared to Malaysians, so diversity in my table was apparent.
Malaysian Night 2016 started at 6pm, but check-in time was about 5:30pm so that those people with ‘Malaysian timing’ can still make it in time to the event. Before going in, there was a photo booth with a ‘kampung’ as a backdrop, as this year’s theme was ‘Balik Kampung.’
We were served with authentic Malaysian dishes such as Nasi Minyak with Ayam Masak Merah, Papadom and Arca Timun. They were quite delicious and reminded me of the Malaysian food that I miss back home.
The performances were also quite diversified, with many performers singing and dancing.
What was surprising was the lack of a play that we would normally see during the event. The play each year was usually a great way to educate non-Malaysians about the Malaysian culture. However, eliminating the play proved to be a good choice because I truly enjoyed each performance better than a whole play.
As with any other Malaysian Night every year, there was also a lion dance performance. The silat performance also did not disappoint because it was quite realistic. My favorite, however, was the Indian dance which was a mash-up of many Indian songs. It was even better because a few of the dancers were actually not Malaysians, but American students! Another memorable performance was the ‘wayang kulit’ which I found to be interesting. Instead of using leather, the performers used actual humans, possibly to save costs and time.
The night ended with a fashion show, which was the major highlight. We saw models parading in traditional clothes. The models were mainly non-Malaysians, which further enhanced the point that everyone looks beautiful in each race’s respective traditional clothes. I even lent my samfu to someone so I was quite proud when my samfu was worn on stage.
Malaysian Night reminds me that even if I do not go home, there is a always a night where I can truly feel like I am home again. Sharing the best of the Malaysian culture is something I always try to do whenever my friends are around, and I am definitely glad to say that I have successfully shared my culture with my non-Malaysian friends.