"We met when work sent me to Australia to learn a laboratory technique for my research in Malaysia, and he was teaching me how to use the equipment. For our first date, we went to the circus.
I was in Australia for six months before returning back to my job in Malaysia. We kept in touch through letters, but after a while we realized that it was difficult to be together. I was bonded to the Malaysian government, and he couldn’t get a job in Malaysia.
Four years down the road, I received a letter from him out of nowhere. Imagine my shock! Apparently he got sick and it changed his perspective on life. We exchanged letters for a few more months before he asked me to marry him. At this point, we still didn’t know how we’re going to be physically together, but we took a leap of faith.
We did long-distance marriage after Peter’s visa to Malaysia ran out. One evening, I got a call from a good friend telling me about a PhD scholarship to any Australian universities, offered by the Commonwealth government. This is your chance to be with your husband, he said. I stayed up all night filling in the scholarship application. Out of 2000 applicants, I was one of the two that got it.”
“That was the next four years settled, at least. I had a good job with CSIRO, the top Australian research organisation and was looking for any scientific jobs in Malaysia. But science was not a thing in Malaysia at that time. During those four years Noni was in Australia, I wrote letters to research facilities and universities in Malaysia, asking if they would hire me.
Universities required a minimum of a masters degree for any teaching position, so I enrolled myself in a part-time Masters degree. I spent four days working full-time, and one-day a week at the university for classes.
Weekends were spent catching up on studies. It all paid off when I got a teaching position at Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) on a 2-year contract basis with possibility of renewal. That got around the difficult Malaysian immigration policies for foreigners.
I still needed to become a Permanent Resident (PR) of Malaysia. That way, even if my contract didn't get renewed, I could continue living in Malaysia. Everyone I talked to about applying for Malaysian PR told me how difficult it was to get. You will be rejected for a minimum of 4 times before they even consider you, and that usually takes about 10 years. Somehow I got it at the first try in just a year and a half.
The thing is, when you’ve set your mind to something, the universe and people around you will help make it happen. We didn’t sit back and let fate take control. We kept on looking, if one thing failed, we were onto the next solution. We never gave up. Against all odds, we have been happily married and living in Malaysia for the past 30 years."
Story published on Humans of Kuala Lumpur