May 24, 2011
Thank you, mother nature, for making my outing particularly... wet. That's right - about 15 minutes into my drive, it started POURING and of course I was sans raincoat in a T-shirt and black leggings. For approximately 30 seconds I had the bold idea to "tough it out" and just drive through the rain, but when the drops started to feel like bullets and zooming over puddles started to feel like fording small rivers, I decided to wait it out under a covered carport on the side of the road.
I should have anticipated this, but the rain turned into a downpour and then thunder and lightening got involved... turns out I didn't need to drive all the way to Sekayu to experience a waterfall after all. Suddenly I was really wishing I had decided to curl up with a book back at school rather than venture out on my scooter.
That's the risk you take every day in Malaysia though - monsoon season is apparently supposed to end in January, but it has rained nearly every day since I've been here (even if the rain shower is only for a few minutes). My students naturally attribute this unusual weather to the earthquake in Japan (?), the ever-impending Doomsday, or "maybe" global warming... all I know is that rain here is generally a mixed bag: on one hand, it really does cool things down, but on the other, you can find yourself stranded with your scooter in the middle of a thunderstorm, the duration of which could be minutes or days.
a) never leave your raincoat at home
b) ...but life might be a little more fun if you do.
April 5, 2011
March 7, 2011
March 2, 2011
February 21, 2011
Life in Kuala Berang isn’t flashy, it isn’t cosmopolitan, and doesn’t really have a “scene” – but it’s home. The nightlife is pretty raging – between 9:15 and 11:30 I can always find a game of chess to join down by the academic building, or relax in the library with a book, or help students with homework and essay corrections either outside at a picnic table, in the library, or in the Rest Room. And if I get hungry, I can hop on down to the night café for a burger, or hold out til 11pm for a steamed dumpling, tomato sandwich, or roti canai in the dining hall.
I know I haven’t posted in a while, so here are some highlights of the past week (2 weeks? Who knows):
English movie night:
After much cajoling by the students (and after quite a few confusing English-to-Bahasa conversations with the office staff regarding projectors and speaker equipment), we had our first English movie night of the year on the eve of Prophet Muhammad’s birthday. After deliberating among a very select group of DVDs (acquired through borrowing from other ETAs – thank you Blair and Andrea!), I decided on Matilda for the first viewing. The students really liked it, thanks to its perfect ratio of overweight villains falling on their faces to kids using magic in everyday life (2 staples of highly successful movies, in my opinion). The speakers I used ended up being pretty lousy, so thank goodness for English subtitles!
Blair (the other ETA in Kuala Berang) and I are attempting to start a softball team here at Imtiaz. Ranjan, last year’s ETA, played informally with some of the Form 1 boys, using a baseball bat and tennis balls in the field behind the school. Luckily (for me!), Blair’s school has actual softball equipment that he is using with his students, but also has graciously offered up for the students at Imtiaz to use as well. SMK Tai has the equipment and Imtiaz has a slightly better field, so the arrangement is ideal for everyone. Plus we found a secret gate linking our two schools, so transporting the equipment or students back and forth won’t be as big of a problem as we had anticipated. Honestly, I couldn’t really dream of softball practice actually happening if it weren’t for Blair, because he actually knows a bit about the sport (although I’m fairly confident I could just make stuff up about the game and everything would be fine… but may as well get it right, I suppose). He’s been able to have a few practices already at his school, and we’re hoping to have the first practice here at Imtiaz next Monday. We talked to my principal last week about the idea, and he seemed pretty supportive. In fact, after confirming that holding weekly practice would be suitable, he suggested that the school might invite the media and newspapers to the softball game between the two schools to show how talented these students are – learning a western sport like softball! I put a signup sheet outside my door to gauge student interest in playing, and by now I have a fairly long list of names, so I’m excited! The only thing that makes me slightly concerned is that right after one of the students signed the Baseball Team Interest Form on my door, they walked up to me and asked, “Miss Mere, what’s baseball?”
Another very exciting development on the sports front is my discovery of the archery club! Every Wednesday after school, an archery instructor comes to Imtiaz to coach the students, and last week was the first meeting. Students learned about the parts of the bow, and about the basic movements, stance, arm position, etc. Some of the older students who participated last year also shot some, and I gave it a try as well. Back in the day during summer camp, I was OBSESSED with archery (I used to sign up for entire days of it… who needs crafts or swimming when you can mercilessly impale straw-stuffed targets?). Needless to say, the proudest accomplishment of my life was winning the Most Outstanding Archer award at Camp Merri-Mac at the tender age of 12. How serendipitous that I’ll be able to relive the summers of my childhood EVERY WEDNESDAY here at Imtiaz?! I can’t wait.
This past weekend I went to Cherating, which is a sleepy little beach town about 3 hours south of Kuala Berang. The town is known for surfing – little did we know that our surfer friends from KT would be in Cherating the same weekend! Another beach bonfire commenced, complete with acoustic serenades of Coldplay, Radiohead, and The Cure... does it get any better? Having not had the opportunity to cook (although I have been QUITE experimental with my microwave), my curiosity/culinary withdrawl got the best of me and I attempted to roast several oranges over the open fire, with little success.
I also spent one afternoon in Cherating making my own batik! I LOVE MALAYSIAN BATIK FABRIC! I’ve already bought 6 or 8 cotton batiks here in Malaysia… they are perfect for wall coverings, using as sarongs, or curtains. Obviously, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to make my own. I outlined my design on white fabric with pencil, and then drew over the outline with a thin pen that has a small well for hot wax in the top. The first step is to dip the pen in a bowl of hot wax, and slowly “paint” with the wax pen onto the fabric (you can check out pictures of the whole process on my facebook). After drawing the entire design with wax, you use water-based dyes to paint in your colors. I used my fingertips to blend colors together which ended up creating an amazing watercolor effect. I really, really enjoyed the whole thing. I had forgotten how therapeutic and mind-clearing art can be. This past year I took an abstract oil painting class with a few friends at school which was challenging (I am not an artist by nature or by practice), but also renewing and curative, in a sense. The afternoon spent batik-making in Cherating made me really miss taking a few hours each week to do art. Maybe I’ll pick up a sketchbook in town (do they exist in Malaysia?) and try to draw a few times a week. Who knows, maybe I’ll even get some of the kids to join me. Another project!
The other night, one of my favorite students in Form 2, Zuhdi, brought me a pot of delicious Bubur Lambuk that his mother had made. It was absolutely fantastic. I know rice porridge doesn’t sound particularly enticing, but if this stuff caught on the states, it’d be trendier than macaroons or taco trucks. Later that evening, I helped Zuhdi edit an English essay he wrote about the proper way to make Mee Goreng (fried noodles) – another of his mother’s recipes. Maybe I can somehow get Zuhdi’s mother to be my cooking guru…
Zuhdi also invited me to his uncle’s wedding in March! It actually isn’t particularly uncommon here to be invited to and subsequently attend wedding celebrations of people you barely know, or have never met. All I know is that I’m going to need to go Baju Kurung shopping!
That’s pretty much all that’s been goin’ down ‘round here. Tomorrow I’m going to Kuala Terengganu with some students to participate in “Pony Club”. If I knew at all what this involved, I would tell you, but like so many things in this country, for now it is a mystery. For me, Pony Club will likely involve more watching than riding considering all of the horses I’ve seen in Malaysia so far have been approximately as tall as my belly button. Do you remember that sad moment in life when you realize that crossing the monkey bars on a jungle gym is MORE difficult now that your feet touch the ground than it was when you’re feet didn’t? I’ll keep you posted whether it’s the same when riding a miniature pony…
February 7, 2011
Some yummy noodles being served at the early morning Chinese market... I would like to note that RM1 (one Ringgit) is equal to about 33 US cents. It has come to the point where if a meal is over 1 US dollar (RM3), I start to think: is this really worth it?
The fried sesame dough ball man caught me snapping a photo!
Action shot of the crispy pancake making lady.
Gado-Gado: a taste of Indonesia in Penang.
Mee Goreng... this dish is usually available at every Malaysian restaurant, but this version was one of my favorites. This exact dish from this exact stall was actually featured on Eating Asia, my favorite Malaysian food blog, on this post: http://eatingasia.typepad.com/eatingasia/2009/01/mee-first.html check it out!
Delightful breakfast of carrot cake (otherwise known as Chai Tow Kway), and wanton mee.
A stall in Little India selling various fried delights, including the universe's best samosas.
A vendor preparing Teh Tarik.
So yea, Penang was... amazing. Good food, good friends, good times. It somehow seemed fitting to usher in the "new year" with the Chinese considering this is the beginning of a VERY new year for me, and being in Penang was the perfect way to celebrate. Gong Xi Fa Cai!
Last week, I had my first unofficial days of teaching. I was the go-to substitute for when other teachers couldn’t be in the classroom (how does the school normally handle missing teachers? I should ask…). I’ve taught a Form 1 class, and two Form 2 classes. I kept things simple, and just had the students introduce themselves to me, and ask me any questions they might have about my life or America. Mostly I just got more questions about my (nonexistent) relationship with Justin Beiber, and about my sisters. They love to ask about siblings (or is that the only question they know how to ask in English?). We also played two truths and a lie, which was almost a big mistake because my mentor walked in the classroom right as I was revealing which fact about me on the board was a lie: that I knew how to ride a motorbike. Needless to say, Wan seemed surprised and confused, given that I’ve asked for her help to buy a motorbike here. She asked me after class if it was really true that I didn’t know how to ride one. I explained to her that OF COURSE I knew how to drive a motorbike, and that I was just joking with the kids! … just something to add to my slowly growing pile of little white Malaysian lies. Others include that I go to church at home (that’s a whole other story to tell…), and that really did LOVE the chewy unidentifiable meat served for dinner last night! It was my absolute favorite!
Learning names here has been the most stressful part of this whole adjustment. I’ve had the same kids tell me their names over and over (seriously, like 12 times, or maybe 35 times) and I STILL can’t remember them. In my defense, there are several obstacles to successful name learning here:
- All of the girls wear headscarves and the same uniform to school, so the only thing to distinguish them from each other is their face and sometimes skin tone. All the boys wear the same uniform and the same hat to school too, and they all (obviously) have the same hair color, so telling them apart is difficult too (though not as much as the girls).
- Their names are words I have never heard or spoken in my life – how am I supposed to remember names like (I’m using phonetic spelling here) Wanny and Wetty and Shofo and Dini? I almost hugged a girl with joy when she told me her name was Sarah.
- My best guess is that about 75% of people’s names here start with A. One of the first name games I played with a class involved them picking an English adjective starting with the same letter as the first letter of their name, and pairing the word with their name when they introduced themselves (example: Marvelous Meredyth). Little did I know this game probably seemed supremely stupid to them considering we weren’t even halfway around the classroom, and we’d had 12 students whose names started with A (Ahmir, Ahmed, Aisha, Amira, Atika…). By the end of the game I let words sly that weren’t really even adjectives at all… I have to say I was relieved the game was over when Astrologist Akmad rounded out the class of 30.
The worst part about not being able to remember students’ names is that they are truly heartbroken when they ask me “Miss Mere, Miss Mere, What’s MY name?” and I shamefully have to ask for a hint, and usually even after the hint I get it wrong anyway. I’ll keep you posted on my progress on the name learning front, but I have to say the outlook isn’t good.
“When is movie night? When is movie night?” is all I hear from students these days, so I posted a signup sheet outside my door where they can write suggestions. I don’t even really know what genre they like, or what rating is appropriate to show, so I thought I’d get some ideas from the students. I think last year they watched The Sandlot and Toy Story 3, among others, so I wanted to get some new ideas… So far though, I’m not sure what insight I can gain from the suggestions, given that “Silent Hill” and “Another Cinderella Story” are listed side by side. I’m thinking Double Feature? Another personal favorite that made the list: “I’ll Always Know What You Did Last Summer”. I got a good chuckle out of this, thinking the student was just confused about the REAL title, until I realized that “I’ll Always Know What You Did Last Summer” is in fact the 2006 sequel to “I Still Know What You Did Last Summer” which is the 1998 sequel to “I Know What You Did Last Summer.” There’s nothing like a straight-to-DVD sequel to a sequel made 8 years later starring a D-list celebrity blonde whose career highlight was likely her single episode appearance on a 1999 episode of “Are You Afraid of The Dark?” Yes, I looked this up. Don’t judge.
Last week Imtiaz had a special ceremony celebrating last year’s Form 3 PMR scores. Imtiaz KB students received the best scores in the state! In the PMR test, students are tested in nine subjects, and receive grades in each subject (A, B, C, etc). Of the 41 Form 3 students, 36 of them got A’s in ALL NINE SUBJECTS last year. Can I just say these kids are BALLER?! All the parents came, and there were representatives from the state education department, and the Form 3 teachers were recognized and given gifts (a pen! woohoo!). It was a little bit hard to sit through a three hour ceremony conducted entirely in Bahasa, but I could more or less determine what was going on. I have to say though that the best part was being asked to sit at the “VVIP” table for lunch (a dream fulfilled!). At any event in Malaysia, there is almost always a VIP section and VVIP section… it’s pretty nifty if you’re VIP, but VVIP is the swankiest of the swank, the cream of the crop, the crème de la crème, the bomb.com - you get the drift. Never mind that the food served was the exact same, the chairs and tables were the same, and the tent was the same as everything else that wasn’t VVIP… everyone knows it’s all about the title.