Bride Flies Her 'Kakak' To M'sia For Her Wedding After The Internet Helped Them Reconnect
On a weekend in January 2021, when Angeline posted on Facebook that she was looking for a woman living in Indonesia, little did she know that her search would yield results within a couple of days
The woman, Siti Halimah, was Angeline's nanny.
"She was a significant part of my childhood," Angeline wrote on her Facebook post, adding that after Siti went back to her home in Central Java, Indonesia in 2012, they stayed in touch for a few years.
However, as time passed, they lost touch with each other.
"It was something I took for granted for a long time," she confessed recently.
"But as I got older, it seemed absurd to me to have someone who played such a crucial role in my life essentially just vanish into thin air. All that changed in January 2021 when the Internet did its magic."
However, while she had found Siti, there was more to come
Angeline said that when she first "found" Siti, she didn't even have a phone.
"She was just earning enough money to get by at a local market as a cashier cum salesperson. When she was notified that I was searching for her, her friend got in touch with me and we had a video call for the first time. She was completely overcome with emotion," Angeline told this SAYS writer over emails recently.
Both of them cried the first time they spoke, given the bond they shared.
"She bawled her eyes out... I am not much of a crier but ended up crying as well," she said.
According to Angeline, Siti used to cover for her a lot when she was growing up.
"Whenever I got into trouble with my parents, she'd cry and beg my parents not to punish me. I remember when I was still in school, she even asked me whether I had enough pocket money because she wanted to give me some extra allowance," Angeline recalled, emphasising that it was such a crazy thing for Siti to offer, considering she comes from so little and doesn't have much at all.
"She was a parent/older sister hybrid for me growing up," Angeline added.
Staying in touch was still an issue as Siti didn't have a phone. They would only speak when Siti could borrow a phone from her friends. Not wanting to lose her again, Angeline bought her a smartphone.
"That made staying in touch a lot easier," she said, adding that the news of the incident about how the child she looked after in Malaysia came looking for her made Siti quite famous in her village.
Looking back, Angeline shared that she thought it was quite funny.
Fast forward to last month, Angeline brought Siti over to Malaysia to be part of her wedding attended by relatives and a few close friends
Angeline, who has been living in New Zealand since 2012, got married to her partner in New Zealand on 17 September last year. She then held a second wedding in Malaysia for those closest to her.
The reception was held at a Peranakan restaurant called Little Heritage House on 5 February 2023.
"I was fortunate enough to have my childhood nanny at my wedding in Malaysia... [Over two decades ago], she had left her life behind in Indonesia and joined my family when I was three years old," Angeline shared.
Flying Siti to Malaysia, however, turned out to be a huge challenge
According to Angeline, Siti didn't have the proper documents to fly.
"She didn't have a passport at this stage and being uneducated, she did not know how to apply for one herself," she told SAYS, adding that the Indonesian immigration department also gave her a lot of trouble.
As Siti's application hung in limbo, Angeline's mother in Malaysia had to personally visit the Indonesian embassy in Kuala Lumpur before it was finally approved and Siti was issued a passport.
The authorities, Angeline shared with this SAYS writer, were very wary and disbelieving that a former employer would go through all the bureaucratic trouble to get Siti a passport and flight tickets.
They were so wary that they only issued a month-long tourist visa to Siti.
The wariness is warranted, given how often Malaysian employers are in the news for dehumanising their Indonesian maids. In some cases, the maids have lost their lives after suffering abuse from their employers.
And Angeline is well aware of this.
"It is shocking how much lack of empathy we have for these helpers. Driven mostly by severe poverty, they leave behind their very own loved ones and travel to a foreign land to care for someone else's dependents for very little remuneration. I do think that these helpers get dehumanised a lot of times," she shared.
"During her flight to Malaysia, she was brought aside to be questioned at both the airports," Angeline said, adding that Siti was allowed to enter only when she showed them their WhatsApp texts.
Siti has now gone back to Indonesia after staying with Angeline and her family for a month. They still keep in touch via WhatsApp.
Angeline and her mother also plan to visit Siti in Indonesia in the next few years.
"We will always remain in touch," she shared.