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.