Sunday, March 24, 2013

Cultural differences

Helllllo again.  :D

The last two weeks weren’t as eventful as those in the last post, but there were some cool moments.

A friend here at UPSI took Meredith and I to play golf one day, and this was fun for the first and only hole we got to play until it started to DOWNPOUR.  And when I say downpour, I mean downpour.   The thunder booms (I used that word especially for my ole’ high-school friends) were also the loudest I had ever heard.  We definitely were right smack in the middle of that storm!  After it passed, it was too late to go back on the course, so we just had some chipping and putting contests until the sun went completely down. 

A couple days later, our friend took us to a driving range.  Practice was quite needed, as my golf swing was a little rusty on the course.  After hitting who knows how many balls and getting blisters all over my hands, my night was suddenly made.  Our friend invited his friend to come meet us.  And his friend wasn’t just any guy. He was the number ONE golfer in Malaysia named Shaaban Hussein!  After taking us to dinner, I was so in awe, I didn’t even think to get a picture or autograph.  I joked later about bringing him home instead of a Malaysian doctor. ;) He also invited us to come watch him play in the Malaysian Open. Unfortunately, he missed the cut after the first two days and didn’t make it to the final round, which was the only day Meredith and I could go to.  Even though we didn’t have anyone to personally cheer on, we still enjoyed it. 

Since it was also a European Tour, I didn’t recognize many names except for Padraig Harrington, but I did do some research before we went.  One guy I just happened to read about was named Tommy Fleetwood who was from England, my age, and quite cute I must add (hehe).  I decided we could cheer him on once we got there.  Just as we arrived to the golf course, the horn went off for rain delay.  Perfect timing huh?  It was ok though as we killed the time by watching someone show off in their helicopter.  The helicopter flew around zooming up and down and over fairways.  It was a little nerve-racking.

After that excitement, there was a chipping contest that if you chipped three balls in a bucket, you won a car.  I tried it, and didn’t win.  But if I had rung the bucket, I was told I couldn’t win anyways because I wasn’t Malaysian.  Don’t I look Malaysian though?? ;) 

We also checked out the automatic driving range, which could bring the balls right back up to your mat. Coooolioooo.

After a little while, a couple of the golfers started warming up on the putting green and who would have thunk it??  My new man Tommy came walking out right beside me.  I immediately asked if I could have a picture with him, and he said yes.  Once play resumed, we watched a couple groups until the final group came in with the champion who was from Thailand.  

Taipang Zoo
With my Animal Physiology class, we went to Taipang Zoo.  It was a beautiful bus ride up through the mountains (at least the little bit I was awake for) to a zoo that had so many cool animals.  I got to feed the deer some plants a worker had just cut down from the trees.  I hope that was ok for them to eat… I also got to see hippos!! Whenever I have gone to my zoo back at home, I NEVER get to see the hippos because they are always underwater.  Some people may not get excited about that, but I sure was.  There were also monkeys everywhere again, which was funny because I couldn’t tell if they were escapees at first or just wild monkeys living at the zoo by choice (which they were). However, there was a different kind of monkey called a Gibbon monkey (part of the zoo) that made the coolest noises/hollers.   I thought about having a “hollering” contest, but I figured I didn’t need any more stares.

Indian “Festival”
After the zoo, we came back to our dorm and got ready for an Indian “festival” we had planned to go to.  A friend from our class invited us, and said the informal part started at 9:30.  She also said there was going to be food, and dancing, and that we could wear our sarees we had bought.  I was SO excited to wear mine.  Since we were back by 7:30, we weren’t rushing by any means until our friend texted us at 7:45, saying we should meet her at the bus stop at 8:00. (What happened to Malay time?!?)  After a lot of communication errors to say the least, we finally found our friend.  I asked her if she could help me put my saree on, and she said her roommate would once we found a bathroom.   Now, when I bought the saree, the lady wrapped it all nicely around my clothes and tucked it here and there, and tied it here and there, and I looked like a real Indian women! (besides my eye and hair color)  Butttt, I guess that’s not the way you wear them in real life.  First reason why….we were almost to the bathroom and our friend said, “Do you have pins?”  I, knowing the lady didn’t use any pins when I tried it on, said no.  She just smiled and said, “That may be difficult, but we can try.”  Then we got in the bathroom, and she said, “Do you have the shirt to wear under it?”  I, wearing only a cami under my normal shirt, asked if that would just be ok.  She laughed again and said, “We can try it.”  Then as I am pulling the probably 6-yard long piece of silk cloth out of my bag, she says, “Where are the pants?”  At this point, I’m thinking how can a saree be one of the words that seems to have two meanings here?  Well, it doesn’t because my friend laughed AGAIN and said you get the piece of “cloth” I had bought tailored into an entire outfit.  Hahhh. Feeling so embarrassed and sad I couldn’t wear it, we all just laughed and headed to the “festival” anyways.  Late of course, we made it and it was NOT what I expected.  I felt like I was at convocation.  My fellow Queen’s friends know what that is….eeeekkk. Haha. Kidding.  But not really.  There were awards being given to professors, a bunch of speaking in Malay, clapping, photos, door prizes, etc. in an auditorium.  You can’t Indian dance in an auditorium!  I waited patiently however, and it got better.  There was a play with some Indian dancing and then some other students that sang and danced.  The audience didn’t get to participate, but maybe that was a good thing.  Y’all know my dancin’!  The voices and music and dancing was beautiful though, and even though I didn’t get to wear my saree, I enjoyed it in the end. 

Batik Class
Now, this class is supposed to be relaxing and easy…but it ain’t!  Haha.  Our first assignment was to “tie and dye”, which was fun.  Here’s a picture of my finished artwork. 

The next assignment is doing different Batik techniques.  Communication barriers have definitely stood strong in this class, as our teacher tells the Malay students the assignment in Malay and the Americans (3 of us) the assignment in English.  However, the Malays and Americans are being told two different things.  And that makes it even more difficult when a biology major is trying to get some help with her art…For example, I am stapling my cloth to a piece of wood and ask a classmate, “Is this enough fabric left hanging off the edge?”  It probably doesn’t make it any easier on myself either when I’m a perfectionist. (I get it from my Aunt Beth.)  My classmate takes it from me, and staples it all.  It was nice of her to try and help, but then it was too lose for me to draw out my lines with wax.  Sooo…I start to take every little staple out, and then the same girl comes again and takes it and re-staples it for me. In the middle, I say, “Very tight, very tight.”  But, once again, it’s too lose.  I hide from her the rest of the class. Hah.  I get some other students to help me staple it tightly, but then the staples start coming out of the wood.  Sooo… I have to get a new wooden frame and staple it AGAIN.  I was getting a weeee bit frustrated.  Luckily, two realllly sweet girls helped me and got me back on track.   Thank the LAWD for them!
Malay “Carnival”
With our two new friends from Batik class and some of their friends, we went to the Malay “carnival” that was going on on campus.  Now, when I hear carnival, I think ferris wheel, dunking booth, greasy food, and whatnot.  This carnival still had booths, but with clothes and food.  There was also a “cinema” going on, which our new friends invited us to go to with them.  This “cinema” ended up being a traditional Malay play.  Even though it was all in Malay (except for the plot written in English on a big screen), I couldn’t understand anything but still managed to laugh at the acting as it was definitely a comedy.  There were what we would call drag queens/men dressed as women, a princess, a prince, tribal people, and some guards.  I forgot my camera, but I stole this pic from someone else. Heh.  Rachel, another American who came last semester is in the middle, and our friend Sue from Turkey is all the way to the right.

It was a really fun night, and I was so happy to have made some new Malaysian friends.  Side note/story:  One of our new friends was so cute when she first met us.  You would have thought she was meeting Matthew McConaughey with his shirt off or something, as she couldn’t stop giggling and covering her face because she had never met an international student before.  Here’s a pic we got of all of us.    

Friday, March 15, 2013

Love-hate relationship

Well, I have officially been in Malaysia for a month now!   It’s weird…the time has gone by really fast, but I feel like I have been here for 3 months already.  The “honeymoon” stage is gone, and the last two weeks had it’s up and downs, but I’m still so happy to be here. 

My decided (finally) classes are Animal Physiology, Animal Morphology and Histology, Batik, Metal Craft, Rafting, and Rock Climbing.  One thing I have learned… Americans are such under achievers compared to Malays.  But it’s ok, we’re learning! 

When I’m not in class, I like to do many activities including throwing the frisbee in our “backyard”, swim with the swim class, practice soccer with the UPSI soccer team (all men), and celebrate birthdays!! The cake the Korean’s got for Opa for his birthday was the BEST cake I have ever had.  I ate it with chopsticks…or attempted to at least.


I also got a new roomie!!  His name is Lasak.  Thanks to our Aceh friends, we named him that as it means playful and outgoing.  However, he is the clingiest cat I have ever met…I wonder what that word is in Aceh.  I also let him sleep with me one night.  Bad decision…I am a little allergic and my eyes were SO swollen when I woke up.  A few people were lucky enough to see that. HAH. 

One Friday night, we went to a traditional Malay dance performance.  It was at a dance school in KL, and it was so cool.  The outfits were beautiful, the Malay girls were beautiful, and it was just all around beautiful.  Did I tell you it was beautiful? ;)


The other weekend, we went to the Batu Caves.  This was one of the first attractions I learned about in Malaysia.  After the thousand something stairs, there was a Hindu temple at the top in the actual cave.  Meredith and I got “blessed”.   There were also monkeys EVERYWHERE.  One stole Erin’s mango, and we were warned many times that they would snatch our cameras and throw them.  Don’t worry Daddy, I would have fought that monkey with my life if he took my camera.   I also got to feed one!  I considered trading the mama monkey some food for her baby…


I found my sister...(on the left below) 


On the other side of the Batu Caves were climbing spots.  I climbed on a REAL rock wall!  It was probably one of the most strenuous things I have ever done, and my heart was pounding a hundred beats a minute.  I’m excited to go back and go even higher. Heeeheee!

Last weekend, we went to SINGAPORE!  Overall, I would say we developed a love-hate relationship with the country.  I took a trip on a real train for the first time!  It was such a pretty and scenic ride on the way there. 

Once we arrived in Singapore, it was time for border crossing.  This was when I was thankful to be an American, as we didn’t need a visa to cross.  However, our friend Nazy, from Kazakhstan, had to be sent back home.  Then we went to a hostel for the night!  For those of you who don’t know much about those, it’s kinda like staying at a summer camp.  You are all in the same room, sleep on bunk beds, have other travelers in the room, get cereal/toast for breakfast, and use hall bathrooms.  Now, I know some of you just thought to yourself, “Eww.”  But it really is a cool experience.  You meet so many new people, hear cool stories, sleep cleanly, have hot water, a bed, wifi, and food!  What else do you need?! 

The next day, we toured Little India of Singapore.  There were such cool artsy things, flowers, buildings, food…

Then we headed to a Singapore island called Pulau Ubin.  Now, this was an interesting rest of the weekend.  First off, we were told multiple times that the island was haunted and to watch out for scorpions and copperheads.  Poor Erin got stung by this lil’ fella...

Except for the burning sensation and numbness of her entire arm, she was fine the next morning.   Hank, however, was not fine the next morning as her fanny pack with her passport, camera, and money had been lost/stolen.  After a visit to the scary police station (look closer at the sign), she ended up having to stay an extra night in Singapore. 

We didn’t let that ruin the rest of our time in Singpore though.  We went on a beautiful bike ride around the island, looked for seashells on the seashore, Susie (sorry, had to add that name), saw some beautiful flowers, and ate Chili crab!


I got my dog fix too. ;)

Then it was time to head home.  A miserable trip home that was.  First, we had to catch the ferry, then two buses, the metro, and then the train.  We thought it would be great idea to take the train through the night and just sleep on it to save some time and money (college student problems AGAIN).  However, it’s pretty impossible to sleep on a fully lit, bumpy, freezer-like train while sitting straight up.  That was a long 10 hours to say the least.  Even though we left with 9 people and came back with 6, (Carson stayed with Hank so she wasn’t by herself and Nazy was sent home early), we all are back safe and sound now, and I can add Singapore to my list of countries visited!