Monday, December 19, 2011

Twas The Week Before Christmas

And all through the house, not a creature was caring except for yours truly. There's a certain bittersweetness to this (it's a familiar taste, here) that makes me sad that there's no tree but happy there's none of that Charlie Brown sadness that sometimes just happens. I've been perpetually happy at this beautiful mix of emotions- basically because it means I can distract myself from what I'm missing.

That sounds pathetic. Let me rephrase: So the only time I miss home is when I'm bored and I have time to wallow in the passing thoughts like "Wow, I forgot how hard it was to wrap irregular objects, I did a lot more of that in the States" so those thoughts become "People here have no concept of the meaning of Christmas and giving them gifts isn't going to bring any Holiday Cheer to their lives". Again, pathetic sounding, but not incorrect. There is a split between the concept of Christmas as I know it and Christmas as (here I go generalizing it again) Malays know it. Since Islam is such a foundation of their culture and such a huge part of their lives, it makes sense to have all the holidays they celebrate be specific to their religion. Things like Hari Raya Haji wouldn't make sense should a Buddhist celebrate them, seeing as how it's a celebration of the Mecca-returning-season. There are a few national holidays that have nothing to do with any of the 3 races in particular, things like Merdeka day celebrate partiotism. There's no concept of a semi-religious holiday, something that everyone celebrates in their own way but is based on religion. Since many holidays in the States are roughly based on religion (think Saint Valentine's Day) but no longer contain obligatory church-visits, this concept occurs naturally to me.

Here, there is no separation of Church and State, also, but that's because Islamic Law mandates it be the Law of the Land. Go figure. Islamic law doesn't apply to non-Muslims, though (thankfully, I don't want anyone oppressed more than their religion dictates). What we've got here is this devoutness to religion, this encompassing hand of Islam that encourages further devotion to the ideas and practices of Muslim Life. There's a certain waivering from religion, but this is looked upon with such scorn that it is rare. This is in stark contrast to Western Countries, where the concepts of Spirituality and Religiousness are separate. We realize that non-religious people can be very spiritual (look at the Pagans!) and that non-spiritual people can be very religious (consider the people that attend services for the community, not the religion). We also have developed our culture to assimilate so many foreigners (in the United States) that many lines between culture and religion are blurred. Take for instance, Saint Patrick's Day. You've got the story of the boy who was kidnapped by pirates to return to Ireland to banish the Pagans, and you've got the family gatherings over lamb with mint sauce and other springtime feasts, and you've got the excuse to get really, really, drunk.

My point here is that the Western Idea of Christmas is so very different than the Eastern Idea of Christmas (As a Religious Holiday), and that is causing some miscommunication between East and West. Christmas might be the only time of year Christians attend church- there, I said it. These people who don't pray or worship or know much about their religion can be exceptionally spiritual, these folks can be just as if not more enlightened than those who get themselves up Sunday morning and shuffle through the line to get the wafer. Christmas and its ideas are so much larger than the event of religion, the concepts are woven throughout history, from the open-house-like sharing of bread with the poor to the cease-fires in World Wars I and II, to the cartoon Christmas specials attempting to capture the True Meaning of Christmas in a half-hour special. What we've got on our hands as westerners is an entire season dedicated to a quite possibly Pagan-originated festival. Historically, everyone and their cultural opposites has a Winter celebration- weather it be dedicated to the birth of a savior or the longest night before the world turns its face back to the sun or the gathering of those too cold to sleep in their own homes coming to a communal fire. This is another reason why there is no real concept of the true meaning of Christmas as I know it: It's just not cold enough.

This is meant physically and psychologically. Look at how happy everyone from Southern California is. It's because they get maybe 30 days of rain all year. Now, glance at the New Englander who's been pummelled by hurricanes and floods all of his life. It's suffering through bitter winters that causes communities to come together, it's everyone complaining about oil bills that makes all the adults in the room groan in one chorused voice. In older times, it must have been the people drawn to a large bonfire for warmth that sparked this flame of communal spirit. I think the sense of Community Appreciation and the Love for All Humans are the ideas that count as "What Christmas is Really About". And I come from arguably the most commercialized country on the planet, a place where that idea is often forgotten for the shiny new toys and the bustle or Wall Street or worry at just how you're going to cover those heating bills and rising food prices.

So, Peggy, I hear you say, what does that MEAN, like for ME? Or YOU over there in this Christmas-forsaken country? Well, it means that I can forget, something I do very well. The lack of the warm, happy feeling soiled by the cold metallic feeling is making me numb, the best feeling when you know you're precariously balanced on the edge of possible emotional breakdown. Why am I so dramatic about this? Because I know that if I take one little step towards the group of Americans this 25th I will cry and not stop. I've held this beautiful balance of missing home for so long and that got really close to falling apart when I went to the US Embassy Christmas Party. For You, this means that I need you to do me a few small favors-

1. Don't remind me of home in little ways. Tell me big things that are happening, not how you put up an extra candy cane for me on your tree. Tell me you're praying for me, don't tell me you worry for my safety.
2. Complain about your first-world problems. LOUDLY. Relish the feeling of dissapointment when your DVR recorded the newest season of Housewives of Orange County. Get absorbed in the breaking of the Cheese knife right before everyone is supposed to come over.
3. Have a Very Merry Christmas, everyone!

Okay, so let's get down to business (to defeat the huns). In the next few days I am preparing with Ibu for a party to wish the 6-monthers and the January-January kids bon voyage, packing for a trip to Perak then Penang, and waiting anxiously for my package to arrive. Anxiously is the key word, there, I've got some seriously awesome stuff waiting for me. Thank you, Grandma Kathy for the Lovely Box! Thank you Grandma Jean for the Beautiful Card!

One more thing- The Orientation. It was amazing. I was feeling down, I'll be honest. Then all you students took me in your collective arms and hugged all the hurt right out of me. I am now, again, a beautiful beloved person. I lied, there is another thing. The Embassy Christmas party that revived my respect for Humans and my disgust at Meatheads. There's a kid going to the states on the flip side of my program here and I answer every question with, "well. it's a really big country" and I think he appreciates it.

Peace on Earth, Good Will Towards Men,
Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, Celebrated Kwanza, and Beautiful Solstice,

Friday, December 9, 2011

Hecticity and the Meaning of Excitement

Good Morning!
Wait, wait, wait, wait. Selamat Pagi (literally, blessed morning) is from 2am to 11am. Selamat Tinggi (literally, blessed middle) is from 11am to 3pm-ish.Selamat Malam is only for goodbyes, not for greetings, and that happens between 5pm and 12pm. Malaysia refers to the morning as the time before dawn to noon, after noon is the time from noon until 3-ish and evening is until 6-ish, when night begins. This is in minor contrast to American standards, where night begins after dark has really fallen. This is in major contrast to European standards, where those party animals don't start their night until 9 or 10. This time warp discussion was not unprompted, yesterday I heard a Malaysian refer to the next hour as Nine in the Afternoon and it got me thinking- not just about the Panic! at the Disco song, but also about timliness and the cultural differences between punctuality and being way-the-heck-too-late-for-stuff.

Malaysian time means, essentially, arrive anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours late than you first intended. Of course, this is a generalization that doesn't account for those more westernized individuals, but that's the main idea- 'we're late'. We we re forewarned about this at our orientations, but it's still annoying enough to cause some cross-cultural frustrations. Things like 'I arrive at the train station at nine' can mean 'I'm telling you nine because it's actually 10:30 and I don't want you to be late' and 'the train will arrive at 8:30 but I'd like to talk with my friends until 10'. If I am in charge of when I leave because I'm using public transportation, then I try to arrive at my destination 15 minutes early as to orient myself with the surroundings and allow for things like traffic time and stopping off for a bite to eat.

So, this timing confusion will become more important than usual in the next month because I am incredibly busy, hence the creation of the word 'hecticity' meaning the measurement of hectic conditions or how stressed I'm feeling about getting places at a particular time. Today, there were two trips to train stations, one to send a volunteer to Singapore on a last-minute visa emergency courtesy of AFS Malaysia, the second was to send two Italian students and a Spanish student back to Terranganu, a state on the East Coast of Malaysia. Those students were here for the midyear orientation part one, where about half of the students in my group were in attendance. I will have my orientation in the second batch next week with the other Americans and assorted other students I will be admittedly less excited to see. Sorry, Europeans! Note to the Europeans: I don't dislike you, you are just so unattainably cool it messes with my head and I feel intellectually insignificant in your presence that it makes it hard for me to communicate with you as much as I'd like. Also, stop quoting my blog. It gives me chills.

Actually, I was supposed to be in the first batch, but instead I had a meeting with the American Embassy to be security briefed. That's the past tense of brief, right? Anyway, they told us a combination of what we already know and what we've figured out in our first five months, and then we invited ourselves to the Holiday Party, where I will bask in the glory of the American Accents. Listen to the solid 'r's and the 'th' sound, unsimplified to the 'd' sound, rejoice at the use of phrases like 'stressed out' and the beautiful overuse of the word 'like'. So because I went to the Embassy, I had to miss the first orientation, so they bumped me to the second one. Because I was bumped to the second orientation I had to miss the ComiCon KL, where I was so excited to go (in costume, of course) with my equally dorky Icelandic friend. Now she has to take the train dressed as a Tech Priest all alone. I was planning on going to that and having a great time, but now I've got so many other things where I'll have a great time!

There's a farewell party for the people in this area on the 6-month and January-January program happening soon where I'll finally get to meet the Japanese students (all of them) and that's going to be a blast! There's probably going to be another chapter event soon, and in the meantime I get to cook with this volunteer that's staying in Ibu's house for a few weeks. She's French Belgian and we're teaching eachother more of our respective languages. I'm so happy my French hasn't disintigrated as much as I expected!! Yesterday morning, I asked her if she had taken her breakfast in a jumbling of words as I realized it wasn't the verb 'diner' but the verb 'prendre' and then I had to put that in the past tense to ask her the question which is so universal in Malay, have you eaten? Suda Makan? (SOO-duh mah-KHAN). Yesterday night as we made Shepherd's Pie a la Belgium I remembered the words for all the ingredients and the word for stove! In the process of taking down the ingredients from a website, I had to change the recipe for Lasangna slightly as it called for wine. I then had to explain why wine was used in cooking, using both previous knowledge and a little bit of chemistry to basically say "too bad you're Muslim, because it really helps the taste and you don't get drunk at all". Whew, and I thought that would be far more awkward than it was.

Back to December's plans! I'm going to Perak then Penang for Christmas with my Deepavali family! I am so very very excited to see them again, this time I get to experience a real tour of the historic island and appreciate the architecture that reminds me so much of New England it hurts a little bit. See, the British got a few things right with their various colonies; mostly about town structure and architecture. I'll also be on the lookout for a Catholic church to go to a vigil mass at. That would make me really happy. Speaking of things that make me happy, I've played so much ukulele the calluses on my fingers are coming back. A Belgian said I was playing too much Ukulele, and I spat back there was not such thing as too much ukulele. He agreed, I assume under the hypnotic power of the ukulele's cuteness. Also keeping me busy are the plastic bag plastic bags that I'm crocheting for charity. Ibu adores them and I think they look just perfect with the Malaysian colored plastic bags.

At the back of my mind I am planning a few other things, like my transition to the new house in January. I'm trying my best to catch up with Bahasa Melayu (the spoken language) and Bahasa Malaysia (the written language). I'm also studying up on traveling through India, which would make the best January event ever! Right now we're only on the hostels and flights stage of planning but we can move to the asking of the AFS office pretty soon. I've found places to print my hundreds of pictures and places to buy scrapbook things, and there are sheets of wrapping paper sold almost everywhere here that will make for fantastic backgrounds. Malaysia seems to love stickers, so adorning these pages is going to be heaps of fun. Even though I don't have all those fancy special tools for cutting perfect circles and giving beautiful edges, I have a feelings I'll have enough time on my hands with school beginning in January that scrapbooking will become a beautifully time-consuming task. I can't let the craftiness consume me, though, and there's no chance of that with how involved my new family is in the community and family life. It's so nice that I get to meet them more an more intimately before I stay with them for the remainder of my time. It seems more natural to move this way, building up a relationship, learning the family culture, everything prior to moving in before you actually live in parallel.

Well, I'm off to have some lunch, don't expect pictures of the Embassy or Orientation because cameras were not allowed in the Embassy and other people can handle taking photos of all us students together. I must remember to steal all the beautifully taken photographs from an American who has a lovely camera and enjoys taking pictures far more than I do. And I like taking pictures :)

Before I leave you to microwave some leftovers, I'd like to do a quick run-down of the books I'm enjoying. Seventh Son by Orson Scott Card, The Hitchikers Guide to the Galaxy, The Beach, On the Road, Agatha Cristie's assorted Mysteries, Evening is the Whole Day, and soon to be stolen from an unsuspecting European: Star Wars. Hope everyone's Holiday preparations are going marvelously! I've decked out my room with a paper chain and a few intricate snowflakes.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Help! I've stopped Blogging and I can't start again!

Truly, though, I do have a few good excuses as to my cyber absence. The easy answer is, it's just been a really busy few weeks. The harder answer is, I've been incredibly preoccupied with things that I do to preoccupy myself getting out of hand.
For those of you who know me, you are familiar with the plastic-bag to plastic-bag thing I do. Well, my host mother has her heart set on selling these little things off, and who am I to discourage Ibu? I am the student who insisted that we not cheat people with the price and not use the "I'm a student and I don't get a monthly allowance from my parents" story I use at open markets. Honestly, I say (translated) "Older brother/sister, expensive! Not cheap! I student, have no money!" Then, I do a little head math and offer half the price of what he/she has told me the item costs. That's usually about what it's worth to them and to me. So I've been convinced into making these bags, and now they're being taken to the AFS Volunteer Congress meeting for all the Chapter Presidents and Volunteers and people-who-they-like. There, Ibu will attempt to sell them to poor, innocent volunteers. Haha, I kid.
In an attempt to get myself talking again, I have started singing. In an attempt to get myself singing again, I have started playing my ukulele fairly often. I'm getting much better at the Ukulele, now mastering things like "American Pie" (which I sang to myself on Thanksgiving, more on that later), and all the Cat Stevens songs I can get my hands on. Also,  I bought myself a book of sheet music to various songs by Fleetwood Mac, which I am both proud and ashamed of. My range has really gone down since coming to Malaysia because I didn't see it as appropriate to belt out in song when washing dishes or in the shower like I would in the States. It was just uncomfortable. But now, in controlled amounts, I am venting emotions and distracting myself from homesickness with music, made by me :)

So, a combination of learning the language (which takes up a lot of time and frustration), making "art" and "music", and eating my way through the wheat bread I just discovered they actually have (but nobody born in Malaysia eats), there has been little time to blog. Which I am discontent about. Let me promise something, as much to myself as to anyone who vaguely follows this, even if just for the pictures. Once I move into the new house in January, I will being blogging on a regular basis. Whew. Now that it's out for the internet to see, I am forced to actually do it. This will be further enabled my the fact that I'm receiving a small netbook, courtesy of my favourite father. Thank you, Dad.

So, now that I feel I have sufficiently apologised for the absence of blog, let's address the problem directly.

Last week I attended a wedding that was different than the ones I have seen so far. This featured the joining of two older hands in marriage- one widower and one divorcee. I helped to pass out the little gifts and took some of the really delicious meal and yummy tarts. I also attended a wedding themed in green, which looked really beautiful even as the weather changed to hurricane-grade rain as it does every other day. Don't worry though, laundry still gets dry because it's about 90 farenheight for the hours between 8 and 2, when the clouds come out and it gets very wet very fast.

I went with my host mother to visit her sister, who would also like me to make as many plastic bags as my heart desires, and swam in her condo's pool, which was really fun! It was about 9 at night and we stayed in the water, myself and a Japanese student (who is ADORABLE) until around 10:30. Very enjoyable, and we slept on really comfortable beds. But I suppose beds seem really comfortable when you've just swam laps for an hour and a half. Being at Umi's house (translates to rumah Umi, say that and feel how nice it is to say) reminds me that although many people live in poverty in this developing country, there are also many who live in condos with pools and water you can drink from the tap. Not very many, but enough to make the roads seem funny, with the juxtaposition of BMWs and filthy 20-year-old motor scooters with an entire family sitting on them. The average family here has around 4 kids and a grandmother.

This brings me to Thanksgiving! I began the day by wishing the surrounding people a pleasant Thanksgiving Day and telling them that I am thankful for them. The sentiment was lost in simplification. Coming home, I would have liked to do as I had originally planned and make a nice dinner, but with a large Volunteer meeting the next day so students arriving intermittently threw it off. I had a bowl of Easy Mac instead and thanked God (formally, in prayer) for things like fake cheese sauce and foreign friends and microwaves. The loving support of my family and friends was implied. I got a little emotional, and played it out with all of the verses of American Pie (it's Pumpkin, dig in!) in my room, only messing up twice through all the 10 choruses. I did not, however, do the solo, because that is difficult to transcribe to the Ukulele.

So, I've been doing a dangerous amount of thinking lately. That's all I have to say about that.

Perhaps pictures to come later, but don't count on it- the thunderstorms mean that we can't use unessential electrical devices like laptops, and there are an abundance of thunderstorms. More later? For sure.

Things I'm Thankful For: The List in My Journal
My Family and Friends (like I said, implied)
Microwaves, Refrigerators, Washers and Washing Machines (all of which are scarce and scetchy, here)
Ketchup, not Catsup or Kicap
Cream Crackers- don't worry, I'll send a box back :)
Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader (they play it here and it makes our kids look smart so I can say, look, see how we are improving our education and look at how intelligent our youngsters are)
Public Transportation
Tourists (everybody needs somebody to scoff at)
The similarity of the relationships between Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia and The US, Canada and Mexico. It's eerily similar, and comfortingly similar, all in the same nutshell.
Puns and other Word Humor (because I feel like such a hipster when nobody else understands)
Belts (Peggy's pants are falling down, falling down, falling down...)
Cats (including street cats)

That's all for now, have a Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Come For the Picures, Stay for the Captions: October Road

Little India in Ipoh! That's the capitol of Perak, the state we were sent to for Deepavali!The lights, the magic, the culture, THE SWEETS!!!

Some of us students got Henna tattoos (that washed off in 3 days) but were amazing nonetheless! True art doesn't come with a big price tag, it comes with sitting under a tent in the rain,  carefullt but effortlessly painting someone's hand with the beautiful shapes of your anscestors.

Little India has a sign. It's nto a very big sign, but it's a very nice sign. LOOKIT THE TAMIL! So pretty...
The handing-over ceremony- very touching even though we didn't understand a word...

Visited the school my Deepavvali host mom teaches at! So, of course, I take pictures of the library. (And other things, but you wouldn't be interested in my perfect shot of the stairs against the trees. Really, the light was perfect)

Charity activities with a Dato (he was pretty cool, but the people we were helping were more fun and they were impovershed).

Me in a Sari the first night (when host mommy insisted I blow-dry my hair. Didn't make that mistake again)!

The table set up for prayer, on Deepavali Eve where the pictures of the departed are lined up and offered food. There is a prayer that I took photos of, but I have a better consience than to post them.

One of the glorious, beautiful temples, decorated for Deepavali. More pictures upon request. Just breathtaking.
Fabulous Buddhist temple on a mountain, dedicated to the Godess of Mercy (she's the one in the gazebo).

Woo! Year of the Pig! That's my Chinese Horoscope, and it means that I'm well liked and social through my own means and I tend not to care what others think of me.

Learning to play some awesome drums. Alas, but it is not the same without the Sitar. Also, nice shot of the little temple house in the background ;)
A most beautiful waterfall, it looks like I took a picture of a painting, it's so spectacular. The way the sunlight makes the water gleam, oh it was amazing.

So, it takes be approx. ten minutes to upload a single photograph, and the time I spend online is limited, so I will leave the pictures here and start into the actual Bloggin' with my noggin' part.

The week before last (it's been so long!) I went to the capital of the state of Perak here in Malaysia to spend a week with an Indian family who would be celebrating Deepavali, the Hindi festival of light. I was extremly excited about this because I had not yet had the opportunity of educating myself about Indian culture. We were handed over after a rest, a bite to eat, and a trip to the "Little India" of Ipoh, all making for an exhausting day (we DID spend 3 1/2 hours on a bus, after all). There was a cultural presentation about India at the ceremony, and I caught some crappy pictures of that because most of it was fast, dramatic dancing. Once with our families us students broke apart and went to our respective houses, mine was in the little town of Tapah.
An adorable place, Tapah has about as many people as the village of Hope in RI, and there's one school where my temporary host mother teaches English and Tamil (One of the languages of India). She's a great teacher with an excellent reputation among the students as someone who gets things done but in a fun way. She asked me how I learned things in the states and what I thought was the best way to teach children to learn, and I said Song. I sang a few verses of School House Rock to her about Nouns (a noun is a person place or thinnng), Verbs, (VERB- that's what's happenin'!) and the multiplication of the number 3 (three-six-nine, twelve-fifteen-eighteen, twenty-one twenty-four twenty-seven, THIRTY!). In addition, I managed to explain to her the concept of pneumonic devices and rhymes for spelling (s-c-h-o-o-l, I hear the ocean in my shell) (b-e-c-a-u-s-e, Stop it dad, you're embarrasing me!). We visited the school on the first morning I was there, and I gave a short speach on what it's like to be an exchange student, showing off the little Malay I know. I gave out the name of my program to many teachers, all who seemed vaguely interested and some very enthusiastic.
We went visiting to people's houses and met many active volunteers at a charity event in which the cheif Dato of something-or-other was heavily involved. That was lots more fun than I anticipated! The family was kind enough to include me in everything they did, from visiting the family's restaurant to taking me to temple after temple, all of which were immaculately beautiful. I'm grateful that Roman Catholicism appreciates art in the churches almost to the point of Idoltry, and seeing such Idols so gracefully and colorfully displayed was fantastic. Everythign about Indian culture is so colorful and so appreciative of the planet. The family went to Penang, than Pualu Penang (the island) to visit some relatives, and we stayed overnight at a cozy flat where I met the Malaysian equivalents of 5 of my friends in the assorted teenagers. The family we stayed with was equally marvelous in taking me places they hadn't been in a while, including a Chinese Temple dedicated to the Godess of Mercy and a Malaysian Chocolate Factory. We visited more people, and took more pictures than I can count. Wait, yes I can, I took about 500 pictues of the environment, the people, and the places we went. And many plants. Sometimes I would just take shots of a water lilly, and that would take a few minutes getting it just right.
We got around the island with a serious education about its proud history from an uncle who's english was splendid. Almost everyone spoke fluently and those who couldn't weren't stopped by that, pantamiming such complex ideas as 'blessing from the gods' referring to my hair. Everywhere I went, I tried to go in traditional clothing unless my family were going in jeans. That got a lot of looks from people and since everyone looks fantastic in a sari, I was constantly told how beautiful I was. That week did a number for my self confidence. Many people commented on my white-ness, but it was never unflattering. These people seemed genuinely kind and so generous. I got so many gifts, getting back on the bus was as hard physically as it was emotionally. The last day my host mom took me to a funeral, which was incredibly sticky but fantastically beautiful. It was a time of sorrow, a time of reverence, a time to recognize the fragility of life and the mortality of human beings, but it was all done with flowers and insense, calling to the Gods of death and life to help the dead and the living. There was a kind of closure in the procession of people walking to the deceased, dipping their hand in oil and combing it through the hair, in motion of the oil bath that so many perform to keep their skin free from infection and cool in the sunlight. Although I was foreign, they accepted me into this closure, and I felt as though it were time for me to go, although I must return to this magical place.
And I will- around Christmas time. It will be great to see everyone again, and this time I'm bringing them all gifts like I couldn't pack when I went for Deepavali.
I promise I'll come back!

In later news, I spent the last week at school (!) and had a really good time (!?). Honestly, it was nice being able to start new at the school, this time with no expectations or people over my shoulder. It was just me, Peggy or Fatimah, with no expectations set up for me, although I was not the first or only student in that school. They've had one of two for the past 5 years or so, and everyone was comfortable with "orang putih"s in the classroom. I'm still getting looks of disbelief, and my name is called in crowded places, but the girls crowded together, looking at me at the same time, then turning back and giggling has really subsided. I've found a group of friends that branches off from my class, and there's always somebody to be with unless I take out a book, which peope actually understand means I want to read. I even felt comfortable enough to take my crochetting to class (because exams are over so we don't learn) where I wasn't ridiculed or laughed at, but my art was considered amazing and beautiful. It is the arts class, but they treat my doodles like the Mona Lisa herself.

Great. Fantastic. So what about this weekend? It's an extended 4-day weekend for me, because Friday I went back to the National Serivice Center to pick up my Host mother's daughter who's now back in the house. The rest of the day I sewed and cleaned and visited, then on Saturday there was as BM class and a trip to a wet market.So much fun and so busy! Made plans with some other students to go out tomorrow to KLCC to buy some ingredients and then to a fabric store, where another student will buy fabric for me to make her a costume out of for an upcoming Comicon. I'm going to be Steampunky, Yippee! Then on Tuesday, I'll probably go back to school and return my copy of A Contemporary Jewish Religious Thought that I borrowed from the library. Very insightful, that one. Oh yes, and there was a mass cow-slaughtering today to commemorate the almost-sacrifice of Isaac by Abraham as understood by Muslims and as taught by Islam. That made me nauseus and I'm not big on eating dark meat right now. I shouldn't have made eye contact with the dying animal, that really pushed me over the edge. I weep for the loss of life, but I understand the teachings of Islam withoug having to devote myself spiritually.

In conclusion, too impatient to put more photos, but I will make albums with the thousands of moments I've captured once I retun to the states. I'm considering beginning said album here with the (relatively cheap) printing and planning of picture placement. Truly, though, I don't know weather I'll have time! I'm so active here. I know this activity will decline as I stay in KL, but I'll put off that decline by exploring the city and country around me.

Reflections: I am broken and beautiful. You are broken and beautiful. Malaysia is broken and beautiful. My laptop is just broken, so don't expect frequent blogs.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Long Time No See: Updates and Observations

It's been a while! At first, I wanted to blog every few days, then once a week, then nothing for a few weeks and a bunch at once, depending on my mood. Brace yourself, it's going to get a lot more sporadic! That means less planned, for my English-second-language friends.

It all comes with this segment appropriately named updates;
Without getting into icky details (because I know you don't care) my living situation, name, and outlook on life have changed simultaneously. After another orientation, I moved from the house I was living in to a different area. Although it's a relatively short distance, it's incredibly different location-wise. There's a demographic change, as in a higher racial mix, which is more like I'm used to in the states. It's definitely the city area in this respect. I even see many more 'orang putih's (white people)! Actually, I'm trying to look at this like a sociologist, and I'm trying very hard to observe everything I can since cities are the petri dishes to people like me! In moving to this new place that already feels like home, I had to leave some things behind, like my classes and school. That part was disappointing, but teachers gotta teach, and I'll find an outlet somewhere. I am now living in a simple house that's very close to, well, everything! There's a train station and shops, all within walking distance or a quick drive, even by Malaysian (and Rhode Island) standards. Fortunately, it's been easy to assimilate myself into this culture in that aspect; both Rhode Islanders and Malaysians don't like to drive for more than 15 minutes if they can help it, measure distance by minutes instead of kilometers (miles, whatever), and give directions by landmarks instead of street names. It's easy, but not fun. Also, the driving is reckless and horrifying, as well as remarkable and exhilaration, which I've come to appreciate now that I'm here. Much of Malaysia seems to be opening up to me now that I'm in an environment condusive to education and travel and exploration, all within an urban setting (one that's always been close to my heart and head, urban environments give me a certain confidence).

Also, I've been given a Malay name! It's Fatimah (not fat-EE-mah, or FAT-ee-mah, but a name curiously without syllable stress). It means 'polite' and comes from Arabic (hence the f-sound and ending of 'mah'). I think it is the most beautiful name I've heard in a long time. It's way up there on my list with 'Violet' and 'Demetrius'. Now, I introduce myself this way, although the other exchange students and friends in the states will call me Peggy.

Through a series of events, I've come to learn about myself, about interactions with people, and about other people in general. There's so much knowledge 'coming of age' entitles a teenager to, and usually in the novels the kids are blessed with a mentor, someone to guide them through what is often an awkward, painful process. Had I been faced with this adult responsibility in the US, I'm sure I would've turned to my parents, who have always filled that role beautifully. But now that I'm here and communication from one end of the planet to the other is much more limited than I first imagined, but more constant than I envisioned, I was at loss for people that could understand me in context of what happens around and within me. Now, though, that's changed to a much more optimistic position. I've found a wise sage-like mentor in the amazing person I'm living with until January, and a great community of people that are the other students in this area. Not only are they fantastic at what they're doing here, but as individuals, they are easily the most interesting, marvelous, awesome people on the planet! I mean, you've got to be great to be willing to leave your home to somewhere where you've got a higher mortality rate, and that courage, among other characteristics, makes for a great person. Speaking of courage, and then of confidence, I'd like to share with you some of the tidbits that kept my head above water when Malaysia wasn't so nice to me. If you know me, you know I love musicals. Brace yourself.

Oh I must stop all these doubts
All these worries
If I don't i just know i'll turn back
I must dream of the things I am seeking
I am seeking the courage I lack

The courage to serve them with reliance
Face my mistakes without defiance
Show them I'm worthy
And while I show them
I'll show me! So!

Let them bring on all their problems
I'll do better than my best
I have confidence
They'll put me to the test
But I'll make them see
I have confidence in me

Somehow I will impress them
I will be firm but kind
And all those children
Heaven bless them
They will look up to me
And mind me

With each step I am more certain
Everything will turn out fine
I have confidence the world can all be mine
They'll have to agree I have confidence in me

I have confidence in sunshine
I have confidence in rain
I have confidence that spring will come again
Besides what you see I have confidence in me!

Strength doesn't lie in numbers
Strength doesn't lie in wealth
Strength lies in nights of peaceful slumber
When you wake up
Wake up! It's healthy!

All I trust
I give my heart to
All I trust becomes my own
I have confidence
In confidence alone

And this one, which may be more or less familiar;

Dorothy: Your Majesty, If you were King, you wouldn't be afraid of anything?
Lion: Not nobody, not nohow!
Tin Man: Not even a rhinocerous?
Lion: Imposserous!
Dorothy: How about a hippopotamus?
Lion: Why, I'd trash him from top to bottomamus!
Dorothy: Supposin' you met an elephant?
Lion: I'd wrap him up in cellophant!
Scarecrow: What if it were a brontosaurus?
Lion: I'd show him who was King of the Forest!
All Four: How?
Lion: How?
Courage! What makes a King out of a slave?
Courage! What makes the flag on the mast to wave?
Courage! What makes the elephant charge his tusk, in the misty mist or the dusky dusk?
What makes the muskrat guard his musk?
Courage! What makes the sphinx the seventh wonder?
Courage! What makes the dawn come up like thunder?
Courage! What makes the Hottentot so hot? What puts the "ape" in apricot?
What have they got that I ain't got?
All Four: Courage!
Lion: Then you can say that again!

I would think of these and chuckle, which tells you how immature/mature I can be. On one hand, I could be childish, resorting to such fancies as Broadway musicals, on the other hand, what is an adult but someone who can call upon knowledge of herself and her surroundings to fix internal problems? 

So, with these tools, I made it to a better, happier, more Peggy-friendly place. One of the best pieces of advice I have received is to realize where that Peggy-friendly place is, who the people are that surround a happy Peggy, and what I need to do to make a better Peggy, and put myself in that place, nurture those relationships, and improve myself without losing who I truly am. Thankfully, this piece of advice came from someone whom I trust to the ends of the Earth, one of those relationships I have to nurture. 

Well, moving on from the self-reflective, mushy-gushy, make-the-world-a-better-place stuff.

We've got some 'splainin' to do. Sorry, no pictures yet, but I've got news! In the past few weeks while adapting to my new surroundings, I've been out with my new area group (called a chapter) students who were super helpful and fantastically fun. Also, I went out to Putra Jaya, the planned city (think DC area...) where the governmental buildings are, with the other YES Americans in Malaysia. We visited the Prime Minister's residence (architecturally beautiful, but hilariously tacky) and the mosque in the area (equally stunning but there was no furniture to clash with the walls), and the experience overall was fantastic. 
For a weekend, I stayed with a family that was so fantastic it was hard to come down from that high, but I came down into somewhere soft and supportive with the great person I'm living with now, the one I mentioned is acting as my mentor. With that family, I say Johnny English and remembered why I don't like Mr. Bean. Monty Python, I love. That guy from the Daily Show who's British I can handle and understand. All that dark, delicious humor is fabulous, but the physical comedy goes right over my head. Sometimes the actual Mr. Bean show is funny, but that's when they're making fun of British people or British society. Like the judge said in A Fish Called Wanda- it's so terrible being so British all the time, so stuffy, so restrained...

Then I spent a while in the daily life of the lady that's hosting me, visiting and watching adorable Asian dramas that I can't understand. A bit about that- it's broadcast in Cantonese, it's about Taiwan, there are Cantonese and Malay subtitles, and I know vaguely what's going on not from these dialogues, but from the expressions on their over-acted faces. Fun-fun-fun! Visiting, shopping, napping, learning to cook, we have a good time!

Well, it's 11:15 and I've still got so much I'd like to share, but if I stay on for one more minute I'll fall asleep. I'll risk a waffle-face (from keyboard sleeping) and post this to my Facebook wall.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Compass Concept, Pictures, and Titles

Firstly, I rather like these titles I make up for the blog posts. They make me feel like I'm not just writing this- that I'm actually thinking about it. I had a dream the other night that I turned this into a book and got it published by a place called Blogs to Books. It was fun. Also in that dream was me getting old, marrying, and having 4 European babies. Talk about dreaming... At least I got a book!

Let me disperse the photos throughout this entry. Randomly! I hope this doesn't annoy anyone.

Look How Pretty! This is a scene from AnywhereInMalaysia, because it's all in a Tropical Climate!

After years of training in the woods and in the towns, in houses and in the city, I feel safe saying that I’ve got a moderate to very good sense of direction. This might be some inner peace I have with surroundings, it might be genetic or even a biological sense that I’ve honed over the 16 years I’ve had on this planet.
Look! Another Wedding! Almost every weekend, now that Ramadan is Over!

This kind of skill helps out very often. In the city, I remember the ways I take and the look and feel of certain train stations and marketplaces, and often I can figure out how to get where I was before. Trains are easy, though, they usually run logically and according to some kind of pattern, and different lines are implemented to compliment that pattern. Perhaps the entire idea of having a good sense of direction boils down to that, just an eye for patterns. For music majors, that’s what’s often found in their brain chemistry. They just like patterns! I think that is why musicians are so often fantastic in advanced classes where patterns are implemented at a higher level- a level where musicians recognize their favorite past time; making up music. I could be going too far into this; pattern recognition as a psychology and sociology concept is an idea I’ve been toying with for quite some time.
Walking around Times Square Mall in KL, stumbled upon this Boutique and Couldn't Help Myself!

Whatever the reason, I’ve been good at finding my way around and I do not disorient easily unless I am under a great deal of pressure, like at school. I didn’t know my way around the Coventry Middle School until about halfway through 8th grade, my final year attending. I also didn’t know my way around the High School for the first half of freshman year. Now that I’ve had time to explore the High School, I could easily place myself in most hallways and classrooms because of the pattern it follows. Once I got to look at the school’s architecture and study it logically, I figured out the patterns.
Mullet Boy!!! Apparently, it's a style here. This is a little boy. WITH A MULLET! 

Now, after 1/6 of my year here is finished, I know my way around the school, the neighborhood within a few kilometers, and how to get to the other schools in the area, as well as the closest gas station (there’s an ATM) and the pharmacy that’s on the way. I can see that the place I live in here was set up logically as a suburban area catering to the needs of a middle class population. There are schools, mosques, and various corner stores that break up the houses in a nice, easy pattern, and with all the driving around and trips I get to experience here, while often terrifying, are giving me exposure to the commonly traveled paths.
At an Open House where the hosts were exceptionally well-off, this was the desert plate they forced into my hands. Clockwise from 12, that's Fruit in an Orange Sponge Cake, A Small Tart with Kiwi and Strawberry, Bread Pudding with Cream, Corn Pudding, and Moist Chocolate Cake. Mmmmmmmmm

 I’ve developed somewhat of an inner compass about this place that is further aided and oriented by the position of the sun, which is regular and reliable because I am a single longitude degree from the equator. The sun doesn’t sway from North to South like it does in the higher reaches of the Northern Hemisphere, or the lower parts of the Southern Hemisphere. I may have had to change how I look at the night sky, but the daytime orientations are a piece of cake when you’ve done orienteering for years.
At Another Open House, this was the set up. Again, very Sedap (Delicious)

I said I’ve developed a compass- let’s go into that a little more. In addition to a directional compass, I think my moral compass has improved, and my personal compass has been altered. I haven’t lost sight of my original intentions upon coming here, but I’ve had to prioritize and look at my real goals, as well as the validity of the idea of goals as an accurate marker of success. Also, I’ve looked at success in a new perspective. In this process, I’ve had to have my foundations shaken a little. I now know that those values that are supposed to unite all humanity are shallow values, the ones that we seek but never expect to find. True honesty and absolute justice are things we can only rely on from deities, because these perfect values are setting a bar that we as humans cannot achieve. This is my sociological perspective. Once man (speaking in the masculine generalization, not indicating masculinity represents all of humanity) is separated from his peers and accessible authorities, he seems to make far more moral choices, decisions that represent what he is as an individual, in often stark contrast to the decisions he would make in a group. This is true for America and Malaysia, as I have seen from knowing people like my family by their outer, or group, behavior and then their isolated or singular behavior.
An Open House put on by the primary school one of my siblings attends. The little girls in the Baju Kurungs are ADORABLE!!! And the food was especially good here, in this class. I hope they win the class contest!

I tend to do this sort of analysis without realizing it, but often I’ll alter my behaviors in an attempt to conduct small experiments on society. I’ll face ‘backwards’ on a train and people will glare at me because I’m doing something, well, wrong. But unexplainably wrong, something to do with strange customs that nobody’s noticed and nobody’s questioned, like the pattern of standing facing the front of the train when riding, as if that will improve the ride or something, when it is often both more comfortable and more convenient to stand facing the rear. Sometimes I’ll stand a little closer when I speak to friends, or adopt a random accent and watch the collective reactions or people. I’ve even made this blog into a sort of experiment. I’ve tricked you all into reading something vaguely enjoyable but; and here’s the catch- you’re learning! MWAHAHAHAHAHAHAAA!!!!

A Cultural Performance put on by the school where the boys dance around and beat drums in their best traditional clothes. I met the nicest little girl, here. The first thing she said to me was that she could speak English because her father was Chinese. She actually told me she was "Mixed" because her mom was Malay. Talk about racially conscious, this girl wasn't older than 10! I didn't know there was racism until I was that age!

Also, I’ve conveniently positioned some nice pictures in between the paragraphs of this entry. I would like your feedback, those of you who have read to this, the end of the entry. If you wouldn’t mind, could you comment and tell me how I’m doing with this? If you don’t, I’ll still get an accurate count of the people who stopped by this page and I’ll compare that to the people who commented because they read it through and felt obliged to comment. If you don’t feel like giving a brief review, could you give a blank comment or one with a jumble of letters and numbers, just let me know you’ve read until the end? Thanks. Here’s one more picture to keep the attention of some people who might be otherwise too distracted to continue to read.
One more thing, although this is partially educational, I’d like to make it clear I write this for nobody’s benefit but my own. Even if it seems like I’m doing this explaining for you, it’s really just a selfish effort on my part. Admitting that is important to me. If you’d like to delude yourself into thinking that I care about my audience as individual members of a society, that’s fine by me. Honestly, you’re just data, sometimes lab rats, and usually a way for me to bounce ideas off a blank, white wall and watch the ideas come back to me organized and properly recorded. Sorry. You, the readers, do mean a lot to me, and of course I love all of you at home, but while you read the blog, you’re fulfilling my human need for companionship and reflection, orderly and as regularly as I please, as well as fulfilling my intellectual need for both expression and feedback. I think I went over this a few months ago when this was just beginning, but it’s important enough to say it again.

Again, please take the time to comment. Although this is an experiment, it’s an experiment I’ve invested a lot of emotion and sentimentality into. Sorry this post didn’t include much in the way of news. That’s later.

Love, Peggy

Thursday, September 22, 2011

SMS-ing on My Handphone with My Spectacles On (And Other British Things)

Malaysia was, at one point, a British Colony. They, too, faced the exploitations at the hands of Mother England and reaped the benefits of her temporary leadership. As a result of this occupation, Malaysian culture incorporates British culture in a few ways.
Firstly, Malay is a written language because of the British. That's why we've got the same alphabet and it's easy enough for Americans to learn Bahasa Melayu (There aren't any British exchange students that I know of, there's no AFS UK; I'll go into that later). If not for the British exploration, Malay might have been written in Thai characters or in its own, special alphabet, or it may have remained a spoken language until mass communication was developed. Never underestimate the power of language, especially the written word- without it, you wouldn't be reading all my fabulous rants. Haha, like anyone is reading this...
Anyway, along with helping Malaysia record her language, the British made a few impacts on it- filling in holes where there were no words, in the process introducing ideas like Western Civilization and the fork and knife and punctuality. Many words like taxi and card have been Malaysified into "teksi" and "kad" to follow the rest of the language's phonetic pronunciation. Some English words are completely phonetic, but some are not- weather due to French influence or the dialects of the spoken language, or sheer convenience. It's just easier to say (phonetically) "d'j'eet j'et?" in Rhode Island, than saying "Dear Friend, have you yet taken your meal?". That's one of my favorites to make fun of. Love you, Rhode Island!
New terms like "SMS" (texting in American English), "Handphone" (cell phone in American English), and "Spectacles" (glasses in American English) confuse me, but the Europeans get it. I still giggle when people call my glasses "Specs", it's just hilarious to actually hear that.

Besides language, Great Britain managed to impress their education system on the poor, unwitting Malaysians. Fortunately, the idea that teachers were the absolute authority and had the power to physically harm students and embarrass them as part of a cruel teaching scheme fit right in with the way Islam had integrated itself into the curriculum. Think Pink Floyd's The Wall, as I've mentioned briefly before, to get a good picture of the emotional havoc a system like this can wreak on students that become adults. Regardless of the potential for evil this system has, it seems to work for Malaysia, or, at least, they are unwilling to accept anything different so they'll have to be okay with it.

Honestly, I expected there to be a few differences because the students learn British English, but I was not anticipating the unique combination of British and Malaysian culture offered by this individual experience.

Let's go back to my speculations about why there's no AFS UK. Think about the multitudes of countries that were 'conquered' by the Mistress of the Sea. Although the sun never sets on the British Empire, you can imagine the deep-seeded distrust harbored by nations all over the world. Take the US, for example. We're taught in school about the British oppression that led us to our fantastic little Revolution, and about the socio-political wrongs that were committed against us pre-1776. In Malaysia, they're still bitter because this is also the subject of many a Sejara (History) class. It's one of the only times I don't hear the constant references to Islam. Think of India, Africa as a continent, and the countless other British exploits. Now think of having that picture of pre-modern image of the British in your head and meeting a student who has come to your country, almost mocking you- perhaps you feel that the students presence says "you may have declared your independence, but you can't keep me from studying here,". Maybe the image of the British is effected by more than actual history, though. Maybe it's also polluted with the stereotypes we've all come to know and love. These ideas of Mr. Bean and Harry Potter, the vision of poor dental hygiene and the most recent royal wedding are really not doing them much good.

If these are the reasons there's no AFS UK yet, I want to extend a personal invitation to Britain, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales, saying, quite simply, "suck it up". You've had this coming for a while. Get over it. If you think pop culture has ruined your image, take a peek at American culture and it's terrible influence, making people believe that the entirety of the United States is an orgy of wealthy, fat, beautiful people getting together to gossip and shop and play Baseball and American Football and being ignorant of the rest of the world. Think of those brave Americans who venture to places where all the locals know about us are reruns of Friends. Consider, for a moment, those Americans that went to Vietnam this year. Yeah, you Brits could not have screwed anything up like we did for the Vietnamese. So please, enlighten us with your adorable accents, help out the American and European exchange students and be a bridge of knowledge for the rest of the world. UK, get yourself an AFS Office.

Speaking of Programs...
YES Abroad is starting it's applications for next year's batch! Come along, have an Adventure! Blog about it!
Here's what I posted on Facebook to advertise my favorite little Government-sponsored Exchange Student Agency;

Are you ready to begin the most incredible journey of your life? Maybe not? Just want to have something to put on your college resume that says, "Look at me, I'm amazing" ? Okay, whatever your situation, I'm through asking these silly questions claiming to simplify the complexity of your life to a few words. But honestly, don't you think the complexity that is your life needs something else? I wanted something else, too. Perhaps a year abroad would be an excellent choice. So whatever your motivations, I strongly urge you to check out this amazing program. Link in the Doobly-Doo

Speaking of things Nerdfighters say, I would like to thank John Green for doing his Book Club on the Great Gatsby- it's making it far easier to teach the book to two of the English Classes. They said they wanted challenging vocabulary and a bridge between British English and American English. Also, it's just a good book.

That's all for now, Check out YES Abroad!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Kampung Catch-Up, School, and FOOD!

Sorry I haven’t been blogging regularly; things are very busy with Hari Raya well under way. This month is the time of year where Malays (Islamic) get together for open houses, ongoing parties that are hosted by a family or group of families where food is served buffet-style, continuously, or new dishes are brought out to the guests periodically. It’s a time to catch up, a time for family, and similar to the Christian Christmas, gifts are given, although only in the form of envelopes of small amounts of money given to children and young-looking teenagers. Hari Raya is also traditionally a time to ask for forgiveness from friends and family.
                My host family let me follow them to ‘Kampung’, or the village of origin for my host father. This took about 14 hours by car because the massive traffic jam. I was in the car with my host-cousin driving, his friend in the passenger seat, and my eldest host sister and eldest host brother and myself in the back seat. It was only a little crowded, it was a two-door car. I slept for about 7 hours, and the other 7 hours were taken up by Recorded Arabic lessons and the Clive Cussler I finished. Inca Gold was fantastic! Also, instead of stopping at gas stations for bathroom breaks and to streach our legs, we stopped at mosques because they were everywhere on the way. I thought that was fun :D We arrived at the house just after breaking fast (buka puasa), so we stopped to buy some food at the bazaar Ramadan. We didn’t buy much food because we knew we’d have a huge feast when we got to the house, only a few more hours away. We arrived at night, and everyone was so excited and happy to see the family and so curious as to my presence. After a few explanations, we had a buffet of food that lasted until around 1 in the morning, then we made our way to the small cabin-like house we would sleep in for the next few days.
I was very happy at the cozy appearance of the little house, it reminded me of the cabins at Knoll at Camp Hoffman, the Girl Scout Camp I volunteer at during the summers. Except this one had showers and two levels! Luxury! In that little house and the larger family house we spent most of the week, often just being with the family, watching football (American soccer) and catching up. The family is so very nice, everyone was immediately loving of everyone and the kids were recklessly affectionate. I got my fair share of hugs (Yay! Hugs from kids!) and around the second day I felt I should check up on the situation in the US wit the hurricane, so I used the WiFi on my phone and found that you were all flooding and stuff over there! Sheesh, I leave for a month and you delay school for a week. We spent the rest of the week at countless houses, eating far too much and laughing far too loud. At these family gatherings, there’s no telling how long the visit will last. Some places we lingered for hours, others were very brief. I posted some pictures of the food, and the little omnipotent sweets in jars. That’s traditional.
We got to visit the very famous open market in Kelantan, five levels of food, fabric, and fun! I posted some pictures, but there’s no feeling like being there, and no way to understand until you’ve lived it. I love how I speak in clichés now, but I also hate it. It’s a love/hate relationship, and that, in itself, is a cliché.
After the fantastic time and many sappy goodbyes, we embarked on the journey home, which only took seven hours. We stopped at a restaurant at about midnight, and a few mosques on the way for bathroom breaks. When we all arrived home, we collapsed into bed, thankful for a cot off the floor. Only I stayed up a little later to do some laundry and stretch because my hip had come out on the ride back. I’m so old! All in all, it was an incredible cultural experience and a very pleasurable time. J
Catching up, now, school has resumed its regular schedule and an Icelandic exchange student who’s already been here seven months has joined me in the arts stream temporarily. Tomorrow, we will sort it out with the teachers so we go to the arts class together, but are otherwise in different classes. I will most likely go to the Arabic/Science stream of classes, which I hope to involve more learning on my part. I’m picking up Malay rather slowly compared to my goal- probably because of my strange way of going about the language. It’s a little unnatural because I took words from a dictionary (all the ones I thought significant) and I’m now categorizing them into various groups. If I were to absorb the language through natural osmosis, I’m sure I would be more skilled with conversation instead of recognizing the words for random nouns. I’m listening to television in Bahasa Melayu, but I’m still only speaking siket-siket (a little). Saya faham (I understand) more than I can speak, though. I sometimes catch whole phrases and them I do a little happy dance. I also aspire to learn Arabic in my year here, even if it’s just the spoken tourist Arabic that I learn from the recorded lessons.
The classes I’m teaching are going phenomenally for me, I always return home so happy and refreshed by people who are actually interested in learning! Apparently, that’s rare here because of the culture and how school runs (the British System of the 1950s, the kind of thing Pink Floyd made a concept album out of, comparing it to the Nazi rise to power and Holocaust). The English classes I’m teaching to Form 2 (age 13) are going very well, and I’m using a combination of reading aloud from a Malay Folklore book and discussion, conversational topics, a simplified English version of Shakespeare plays, and the book The Great Gatsby for vocabulary enhancement to teach. For the French classes, I’m teaching the basics- the verbs ‘to be’ and ‘to have’ and the appropriate adjectives and nouns to use with these, making simple phrases. I might be tutoring French to a girl at school, but I don’t know yet. My University English classes are more focused, less fun. We’re working on simple past and present tense, conversational topics, and later we’ll move on into some common mistakes. In that class, I’m trying to get the students (adults) to come up in front of the class and speak, but that’s failed so far. Teaching to the Malaysians I know is giving me a huge insight to the culture through education, how teaching to the test has shaped the expectations and abilities of students in a classroom setting, and how the absolute authority of the teachers has caused a temporary-learning in most students. Coming from someone who has been teaching these groups for a month, I think I can say that many students are just taking the education like a vessel takes water, to give it up later. I think education should be more like a sponge taking water- the sponge retains the water and uses it for productive things to better the world around it (in the sponge’s case, that means cleaning).
Well, that’s all for now! I’ll tell you about the weekend outing and KLCC Shopping next time, as well as the plan for the delayed orientation camp! (Don’t worry, it’s fun!)

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Pictures! The Mall, Bazaar Ramadan, Kelantan, Kampung

This time, It's just pictures and descriptions!

At KLCC, the train station in the city, Kuala Lumpur

At a shopping complex called 'The Mines' because it lies right where the mining took place. Inside the mall is a river that you can take boat rides on. It's nearly empty in this picture because it's nearly one in the morning.

AAHHHH! JIGSAW PUZZLES!!! My nerd-dom has been fulfilled

A little Japanese-themed shop in the Mall

A Kuala Lumpur Skyline!

A pretty fountain; that's the national flower and it's painted everywhere!

A dress I saw at a costume place. I wish I'd designed it!

A nice lady selling peacock feathers!

Ramadan Bazaar food piled high! These are some pastries with meat and other fillings

Busy, busy, busy at the bazaar!

The whole place was very smoky and smelled so much of food! Good thing we only had a few more minutes to breaking fast :)

Drinks are sold from large, clear buckets and poured into little baggies which are sold. You probably shouldn't drink from the baggie, but you can pour it into a cup!

Who's awesome? This guy right here. He's cutting up some branches like a boss

This was an animal, but now it's meat. Most are cooked rotissery style, here.
Most of the view from the car on the ride to Kelantan. Not the most exciting 14 hours of my life, but the scenery was nice!

Restaurant meal, white rice, chicken curry, a small salad and some soy bean pastry

An Indonesian restaurant dish, complete with fish, yellow rice, and small salad. All served on a banana leaf on a wooden bowl. Sedap!

Some pretty potted plants at the home in Kelantan

A very nice mosque we stopped at on the way to Kelantan. It's better to make bathroom stops there, especially during Ramadan. If you stopped at a Shell station, you'd have the temptation to buy food.

An equally beautiful mosque. This one had amazing architecture, the pillars and towers and domes made for a magnificent sight, all highlighted in that robins egg blue.

In Kelantan, the National Tourism House

The Entrance Sign to a Marketplace.

Food at the Marketplace. It's a very famous open market in Kelantan that's 5 levels high and REALLY BIG

Vendors sit in the middle of their wares, in this case fruits and veggies. She's on the table, there.

This was a little gruesome. If you can't tell, it's dead chickens complete with feet and head. They are sometimes used in cooking, those appendages.

An overhead view of the wet market

The many levels of the Market!!!

The upper levels sold things like cloth, clothing and toys.

Nice bicycle man took us for a ride courtesy of Pappa Roslan. That was incredibly dangerous :)

Buka Puasa (breaking fast) at the house, everything looks so delicious!!

Me and some illegal fireworks. I'm in the hitam/kuning shirt of Malaysian football players!

The omnipresent sweets of Hari Raya! Selamat Adilfitri Malaysia!

The house's open food, celebrating the option to eat with open houses where everyone eats till they're fat!

The extended family!! I'm the one in the middle, back. Everyone's so nice!

Dinner at another house, the open house feast goes on!

All of us at another open house, we travel in a caravan, a cartel of visitors :)

The process of removing the white from coconuts uses this machine and some skilled hands!

Your favorite American making Roti Jalan, an egg pastry that is wrapped up and eaten with curry and sauce.

The outside of the house, absolutely gorgeous. To the far left is a rambutan tree, to the far right is a durian tree. In the center is a koi pond and a nice little sitting area. 

Well, that's all for now. Bask in the photographs, I'm going to take some dinner. Next blog I'll tell all about Kelantan, Hari Raya, Adilfitri and Merdeka Day!