Back in 2011, after finishing my backpacking trip through Southeast Asia, I was about to get on a plane from Singapore to New Zealand. A few hours before my departure, I was informed by the airlines that a volcano in Chile erupted and it had generated a volcanic ash cloud that travelled all the way to New Zealand, so my flight got cancelled. The airlines left me with an option, either to wait for the next available flight or postpone my departure. I chose the second option and decided to visit Malaysia – a country that I missed out while doing my Southeast Asia trip. The first city I visited was Melaka – since it is one of the nearest cities to Singapore. What I didn’t know back then was that this city will become a special place for me.

It was a fairly sunny day when I reached the city, so I decided to go to a local restaurant and ordered myself a glass of Teh Ais. To my surprise, it didn’t look like the ice tea I knew when I was growing up back in France – ice lemon tea: the glass was still hot and there was milk in it! That is my first vivid impression of this multicultural country, specifically Melaka.

Two years went by and I decided to visit Malaysia again. Since then, I started the Biji-biji Initiative – a social enterprise that champions sustainable living. We often host volunteers and interns to promote sustainability back in a house that was located in Sentul. And that’s how I met my wife who happened to visit the place one day. Her name is Nora, who is originally from Melaka. We were friends for a few months and started dating. Since then, we held our wedding and started our family in Melaka – a place I call ‘kampung’.

Matthieu Mertens is very passionate about technology and sustainability. He is currently working as Senior Product Manager in BrioHR to provide the best value for our clients and ensure the team is aligned and working together towards this goal.