Saturday, April 30, 2011

Blogging for Malaysia

I'd like to review my purposes for blogging, and make it pretty clear as to when and how I'll make this work. Lately there hasn't been much to say, so I skipped a week. It's not like there's nothing going on, just nothing pertaining to the Malaysia Situation. Except that I'm getting my braces off in 11 days, so I won't have to take exquisite orthodontic care, although I will have a specialized retainer with extra teeth that I will treasure more than my life (not really).

Anyway, I think I'll be a little busy those first few weeks to really write anything down, but once things get going I'll have more time for this. Not only is this blog an opportunity for me to record my progress in immersion and cultural understanding, but it will also be a reflective sort of thing. I'll be able to track how I'm feeling at certain points and maybe see some trends in my behavior. What better way to look at yourself than in a rose-tinted mirror when you've never seen yourself in any shade but green? My blogs will be full of rhetorical questions like that, imagine me talking to you in that pregnant-pause sort of way. I'll be paying special attention to my behavior and my responses to this cultural experience in these blogs, because I'll be too busy living life when it's happening. Also, when I get bored my mind wanders and sometimes I get sad about nothing at all, so I better keep myself busy.

Additionally, this blog will be used, as I have mentioned before, in my Capstone (sort of like a Senior Project). This will fulfill my journal portion and really prompt me to reflect on my progress and experiences, helping me get it done already. But I think this could be really good- recently it was suggested that I do this very well and have it published, really milk this cash cow for all she's got. But will that spoil the milk? I'll make that decision as it comes up.

This blog will probably become more regular as the experience progresses, I've got a laptop now, and I'm constantly researching. I'm learning so much, and I'm not even there yet! Speaking of learning, I hope some of my teachers and academic peers will take advantage of this stream of information, later, because I know I've been spreading the good news about Foreign Exchange and Study Abroad programs. If my culture doesn't learn about Malaysian culture, I have failed as an ambassador. So please, if you could share this blog or one of the many others that my fellow exchange students have prepared, that would be so fantastic! I've subscribed to as any other foreign exchange blogs as I could get my hands on in the recent weeks, beginning with those who are participating in my program; the YES Kennedy-Lugar AFS Foreign Exchange Program.
Thanks You Guys,
~Peggy

Monday, April 25, 2011

Malaysia Geografi

Malaysia's Geography! Here's a lesson on something we don't generally teach in American High School (sadly).

Have a map or two,
This is Malaysia and some of it's bordering countries. Still can't place it? I'll give you a hint, it's in Asia.


Is this any better? Alright, if you still don't know where it is, I beg you, Google Map it.

So Malaysia is a country in two parts, the peninsula part and the island part. I'll be staying on the peninsula part where the main city, Kuala Lumpur, is located. I'm really excited to be going there, and amazed at the program's timing; I'm getting there right at the end of the monsoon season! I hope this quick tutorial on the location of Malaysia has been helpful to those of you who were still lost, it's pretty foreign to most Americans.
Thanks!
~Peggy

Friday, April 22, 2011

Sejara (History)

One of my favorite things to do when I look at a culture is research how it got the way it is today. Malaysia is perhaps one of the most historically and culturally interesting countries I have ever looked into, and one of the most potentially exciting places to go! Here's what Wikipedia has to say about it:

In summary, sea trade has really shaped Malaysian culture into what it is today. First came the Hindu and Buddhist influence from India, then the Muslim influence took hold in the 15th century, although it had been in the area for about 5 centuries prior. Islam quickly spread through Malaysia, but it was just as influenced by Malaysia as Malaysia was influenced by Islam. Then came the Portuguese, who were followed by the Dutch and English for colonization around the 1500s. The English really shaped the government system Malaysia would come to have when it gained it's distinction from Indonesia (then 'Indies') with the Anglo-Dutch Treaty. Then came the Chinese and Indian influence with the workers hired by the British to work for the growing economy. Then, Japanese invasion in WWII caused Britain to lose Malaysia, and the occupation that lasted until 1945 led to this giant surge of nationalism on the part of the Malaysians, and the Malayan Communist Party fought off the British and gained independence for the North Borneo and Singapore British settlements, which became Malaysia on 16 September 1963. Then Singapore left/was expelled. There was a confrontation with Indonesia in the 1960s, and the race riots of 1969 led the government to lay down some serious law, that's never really been reversed. Since 1970, the UMNO (United Malays National Organization) that heads the National Front Coalition has governed Malaysia in its entirety. Things are really looking up, since the 1990s economic growth has put Malaysia in a political and socially happy place.

That was alot of fact for one blog, I'll leave you with that.
Senang Belajar! (Learn Happily!)
~Peggy

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Kuala Lumpur, Here I Come!

As if Malaysia wasn't exciting enough, I will be living in the main city; Kuala Lumpur. Here are some facts and cool pictures!


Here's a professional photograph of the city at night, isn't that absolutely gorgeous?


This is a hotel in the city, amazing architecture is a major plus for exchange students like me!


Look at all that fantastic food! It's really a reflection on the culture mixes that happen that the meals are designed this way.


More food! Oh, my mouth is watering just looking up these pictures. Thanks to Google Images :)

These pictures are pretty cool, but I'm sure I'll be taking so many pictures there that these will be almost forgotten. Here are some stats about Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia:

  • City Population1,453,975
  • Country Population28,306,700
  • Country World Rank43

  • It is the fastest growing metropolitan region in the country, in terms of population and economy.
  • Since the 1990s, the city has played host to many international sporting, political and cultural events including the 1988 Commonwealth Games and the Formula One World Championship. In addition, Kuala Lumpur is home to the tallest twin buildings in the world, the Petronas Twin Towers, which have become an iconic symbol of Malaysia's futuristic developments.

The yearly average temperatures have a high of 32.4 C (90.3 F) and a low of 23.2 C (73.8 F), and it doesn't really get below 70 F at all. This is in serious contrast to the area of New England where I live, where it can get pretty darned cold. I'm really looking forward to the balmy weather, then I say that they get about 100 inches of rain every year.

I hope this provided a general overview of the city I'll be experiencing firsthand in just a few short months. I've got my hands on a Malay phrasebook and I await a Tourist's Malay Book and CD set in the mail, so I'm preparing myself with the language and educating myself about the culture.

Selamat tinggal untuk sekarang! (Goodbye for now!)
~Peggy

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Selamat tengahari!

Good Afternoon! [in Malay]
This is the first of what I plan to be many posts cataloging the adventure that's started, my opportunity to study abroad in Malaysia! There's so much to say, here!

Here's some background;
My name is Peggy Desjarlais. I attend Coventry Public High School in Coventry, Rhode Island. Although I'm not a native of the Ocean State, after seven years [about half my life] I've come to call this place my home. All my friends and family are here. My family has hosted two exchange students from two different countries. A year ago we had a Senior boy from Germany, and this year we have staying with us a Junior girl from Spain. These experiences were so much fun, I just had to try it for myself! One day, I got a pamphlet sent to our house through the mail saying 'Now It's Your Turn!' and inside it outlined the broad idea of an opportunity through the State Department's Youth Exchange and Study Program [YES Abroad], and AFS. The main thing this program is trying to do is establish positive relations between the United States of America and the Middle East. My options for country preference were ten countries, characterized by a significant Muslim population. My first choice was Egypt [which was ultimately taken off the list due to the unrest in the government], then Morocco [french-speaking was major plus], then India [because who doesn't want to visit India?], then Malaysia [again, absolutely beautiful with incredibly rich culture], then the other six countries. I was so excited when I was notified that I was a semi-finalist and going to Denver, Colorado over a weekend to be evaluated in things like my leadership skills and how well I play with others. I would like to take this oppertunity to say thank you so much to my fabulous French Teacher, Mme. Teixera, and my camp counselor Chocolate Chip. Apparently, I did pretty well, because I was notified that I was a finalist, that I had made it to the program with Malaysia as a country placement! At this point I was jumping out of my seat, so excited and happy that I couldn't think of anything else. My friends and family congratulated me and expressed their concern for me in the same breath. I am constantly reassuring others of my safety.

[GASP] for breath after explaining that all.

Now here's a little more; mostly speculations and planning. Let's call it my FAQ [Frequently Asked Questions]

1. Aren't you Scared?/Aren't you going to miss your family/Aren't people worried about you?
I am a little anxious, but not for my safety. I just want to absorb this culture like a sponge, really taking everything in and while I do that I need to successfully represent myself, my culture, and my whole country in a positive way. I feel like this is a pretty big burden, but I have very little doubt that I can tackle it with only a few big flaws. Among these is my love of art, which may or may not accurately reflect my culture. I am scared that I won't make the best impression on people, yes. I am not scared that they will hurt me. I will miss my family, but I don't get homesick, which sounds cold-hearted and cruel, buts its really true. I go away to camp for up to 2 weeks at a time and watch my new friends crumble about 5 days in a cry on my lap about how much they miss how their mommy makes crutons. I'm not like that. People certainly are worried about me, and I hope to dispel this anxiety with such blog posts as these.

2. Where will you live? What will you do?
I will live with a family which will help me understand the culture and fully immerse myself. I will attend school, become active in community activities [I hope] and try to find some friends.

3. Why are you leaving us?
Because I've got to get out. Haha, no. Actually, that's pretty accurate, but I should phrase it better. More like, I want to be able to appreciate various cultures intelligently, and to do that I need to begin to understand how they work and what it's actually like being there, something I can only accomplish by immersing myself in the culture almost entirely. Because I don't want to experience 'culture shock' which can end in death, I will bring along a laptop computer my nice parents are purchasing specifically for this purpose, and I will be blogging almost obsessively because if this is anything like camp [in being away from people] then I've got to keep a record of what I do. I also hope I can turn this into my Capstone project, but this in on a totally different level. If this experience were a sundae, the culture would be the ice cream, the education would be the various syrups, the family and friends I would meet there would be the whipped cream [that would ultimately help me to fully enjoy, or understand, the sundae] and what I would bring back to my community would be the fruit in the sundae, the banana or strawberry that would bring all the flavors together and give me something to snack on if i choose not to eat that until the last part. Now, Capstone would be the sprinkles, or jimmies, depending on what part of the country you some from. Honestly, I could do without them, they just get stuck in my teeth and cause me aggravation.

Well, that's all for today. If you have any further questions or comments, please feel free to leave your interesting or creative responses in the comment section below [thanks RWJ for that fantastic outro]

Also, next blog post, I will be linking my fellow finalist's blogs, letting you, the reader, know what's up with them! How exciting! It's like a little bit of culture in every bite-sized blog!

Dengan Kashih (With Love/Regards),
Peggy :)