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.

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