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.


  1. Love the blog. Seems like you are putting a lot into the experience and getting a lot out because of that. Love the pictures even if I have to tilt my head. Frosty mornings here.

  2. Wonderful, Peggy! You certainly have been busy lately! I'm delighted you're having such a rich experience now! - Mom

  3. Another wonderful write up of your adventures! Not sure what the S-C-H-O-O-L and B-E-C-A-U-S-E tricks were... will ask your mom about that. Don't try to SKYPE us, our laptop is broken, as well (CPU failure, really not good). What was the matter with yours? -chuck

  4. do love the blogs--but have so many questions--what an amazing journey on so many levels!

  5. More blogs...more blogs...more blogs