I met Marisha on a Bolivian night bus from Uyuni to Sucre. Cumbia was playing on the radio at the time, and before registering that the book she was reading was in English, I’d thought she was from South America and was tempted to ask her for an impromptu cumbia lesson in the bus aisle. We spent several days in and around Sucre, exploring, eating at the Mercado Central and hiking with non-profit trekking company Condor Trekkers. Marisha had just finished her studies in Economics in London and was traveling through South America before returning to Malaysia to a job awaiting her in October.
Keep reading for her interview…
How has being Malaysian left its mark on you?
I think actually that being of mixed parentage has left a greater mark. Because of my looks, I don’t feel Malaysian when I’m there. I feel much more Malaysian now, having left, and it shows in the way I lead my life. Malaysia is a developing Asian country, but I was lucky to live in the city and be aware of and able to compare my quality of life with that of people suffering from poverty.
What would your 13-year-old self think about you if they met you?
She’d be surprised that I turned out more hippie than she would have wanted! At 13, my vision of a successful life was making money, achievements and having material possessions. She’d think I had softened and that I wasn’t as driven as she expected. My experiences have made me this way and now I place a greater value on their value. 13-year-old me wouldn’t have understood the value of experience.
If you could meet your 13-year-old self, what would you say to her?
I would tell her three things: To spend time doing what she likes, not what “adds credentials.” Do what you enjoy and do it continuously, as it’s much more fulfilling than crossing things off as list. Also, to read more, as that’s how you expand your mind. And finally, to know that everything is temporary and that she should get used to it.
How do you make decisions?
I choose to do what I would enjoy more and what would give me the greatest utility.
Do you think you’re on the right path?
I think it’s a safe path, the path that my parents’ generation would be happy for someone of my age to have. I think I’m built for more adventure and risk and am currently contemplating if I will change my plans. I would like to experience more adventure in my twenties.
How do you feel when you think about your future?
I think it’s really exciting. As you get older, there are more options, including things you can and can’t do, but mostly things you can. I have a lot of ideas, the thing is that I just need to sit down and choose. I’m contemplating which big fantastic idea I’ll choose. But I need to go home to do that. I’m sad to leave London, but as I said, everything is temporary.
What fascinates you about Malaysia?
How short our history and time as a republic has been. Also, how the composition of our population combines to produce ridiculous outcomes. Some really stupid things happen, but people’s reactions to it are just so interesting. There’s a duality of perception which is fascinating: Both forward-thinking and really ancient, or not at all rational.
How people choose to live their lives.
How much I enjoy daydreaming and creating an alternate world in my head. I think sometimes I waste so much time doing that!
What scares you about Malaysia?
That we are going to run out of oil and that the government has been too reliant. Also, that while we are a moderate Muslim country, there still exists an extremist wing.
The same thing scares me: How some people choose to live their lives.
That I won’t live up to my own expectations.