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!)