Penang Festiv(als)(ities)

Due to its religious diversity, Malaysia has a plethora of nationally recognized holidays. Lucky for me, this means I have many vacation days! I’ve only been teaching here for 4 weeks, and I’ve already had 4 days off school. Amazing.

I wanna tell you all about Thaipusam and Chinese New Year. I got to experience both in George Town, Penang (one of my new favorite cities). A city on an island about 1 and a half hours from Sungai Petani, George Town is a mix of Asian and European cultures (thanks, colonialism), and is known for its FOOD. When my friend Niki asked her mentor what sort of clothes were appropriate to wear in Penang, his reply was, “Nobody is going to be worried about how you dress because they’ll be focused on eating.” Therefore, my knees and shoulders saw the light of day for the first time in weeks!

I’ll start with Thaipusam. This is a Hindu (particularly Tamil) festival dedicated to Lord Murugan, specifically celebrating when Parvati gave Murugan a Vel, or “spear,” so he could vanquish the evil demon Soorapadman.

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Chillin’ with Lord Murugan at Batu Caves near KL

Thaipusam is often practiced through the offering of kavadis, or burdens. This can come in several forms, including bringing containers of milk to the temple. However, many people carry their burdens by piercing the skin of their backs, chest, or face with hooks or skewers and either hanging the jars of milk from these piercings or carrying elaborately decorated altars on their shoulders.

The best way I can describe my Thaipusam experience was sensory overload. The colors of the clothing and kavadis and street vendors, the constant drumming that mimicked heartbeats, the smells of incense, the heat in the air… I was awestruck. Despite the idea of suffering we might associate with the piercings and skewers, the atmosphere in the parade was incredibly joyous. People were dancing with their buddies and goofing around. I really wish I could post a video here (but I have to pay for the upgrade and I gotta save that ringgit). Words don’t do it justice.

As the heat and sweat and overstimulation got to us, part of the group left mid-afternoon. Veronica, Mike, and I pushed onward and climbed the 513 steps to the Balathandayuthapani (or Waterfall) Temple, where participants in Thaipusam bring their burdens and offer them to Murugan. The atmosphere during the climb and at the top was serene and somber. Partway up, we realized that we didn’t see many foreigners anymore. I contemplated turning back, as I didn’t want my presence to disturb the worshippers, but a Hindu man saw our hesitiation and urged us onward, telling us it was OK as long as we didn’t take pictures inside the temple. We had already removed our shoes at the bottom of the stairs. Being a tourist is weird.

Speaking of tourists, George Town during Chinese New Year was teeming with them. I hadn’t seen that many white people in one place in a while! It also marked the first major ETA reunion for me–there were about 30 of us total staying in various hostels and AirBNB in George Town that weekend. It was a bit overwhelming trying to coordinate with everyone, but it felt good to see some friends from orientation again. We gave Holy Guacamole some darn good business, found actual bagels with cream cheese, and I spent two days on the beach! It was a very vacationy vacation. But I can return to Penang and see the sights any time.

As far as CNY stuff, Kek Lo Si Buddhist temples were gorgeous. Like, beyond words exceeded expectations. It reminded me of something from Spirited Away (yes, I know that’s Japanese, but still). It was an extensive labyrinth of lights, colors, incense, greenery, and offerings. Each time I thought I’d seen every temple, I’d turn around and there’d be another entrance.

Our last night in Penang, we went to a street fair for CNY. There was a ton of free Malay and Chinese food (I got ais kacang), performers in the street and on stage, and my favorite part, the lion dances! Young men all over Malaysia trained in martial arts perform these elaborate routines that require gymnastics and teamwork. Again, a video would be better. Sorry I’m cheap, everyone.

I’ve been working on this blog post for weeks now… Things at school have been busy busy! I started a speaking workshop, held drama auditions, played lots of ping-pong and Slapzi, and spent several hours sitting in the bilik guru thinking, “I don’t know what the heck I’m doing.” It’s a work in progress, and I can’t say I’m enjoying every second of it, but I sure am enjoying a lot. 🙂 Until next time, selamat malam!

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School Daze

I’M ALIVE!

It’s been what, three weeks since my last post? I’m slacking. But cut me some slack. I’ve been a little busy.

I don’t even know where to start with this post. I have many strange and wonderful things I could write about here. Firstly, general updates: I left Kuala Lumpur two weeks ago (already?!/it’s only been two weeks?! time moves in odd ways here). I spent a week of regional orientation in Alor Setar with many other ETAs and our mentor teachers. I will be writing about mine, Yati, a lot over the next several months. She is an absolute gem. After orientation, I moved in to my new house in Sungai Petani, Kedah with my gal Veronica. She is also a gem.

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My lifelines ❤

Also, I have officially been a part of the SMK Seri Badong “family” for one week now! The welcome I received on my first day of school was out-of-this-world. Students greeted me with a bouquet of flowers and a drum line as the acting principal guided me into the assembly hall. Speeches were made, mine a bumbling mess of “I’m so happy, y’all are amazing” (although the students were blown away by the two sentences I spoke in Bahasa Malaysia). Oh, also, this happened:

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I can safely say I will never again be welcomed to a workplace with a banner of my face.

I haven’t gotten into a routine yet at school as far as which classes I’ll be teaching, and I don’t think I ever exactly will. Schedules here are much more lenient than in the US. I’ve led a few classes on my own, some of them with zero notice, and I’ve assisted other teachers with their lessons. Simon Says and hangman are lifesavers.

Main takeaway from my school experience is how kind and welcoming the students and staff are. Other teachers have made efforts to chat with me, even if speaking English for them is a struggle. I have stopped bringing food to school because I am constantly being offered snacks (I think my blood is 97% pure sugar at this point), and Yati makes me a veggie breakfast every day. She’s the real MVP.

The students are adorable. Every time I walk down the hall, there is a chorus of “Good morning, teacher!” and then when I reply they giggle and hide their faces. I’ve been solicited for many a selfie. I made a teacher Facebook and woke up one morning to the call to prayer from the neighborhood mosque and 334 friend requests. I’ve never experienced being in the spotlight like this. Many of the students are intimidated by me because of their level of English and this weird aura of celebrity-ness I’ve acquired here. Slowly but surely, I’ll break down this language/culture barrier.

Malaysian-moment story time! During class today, I convinced some students to show me the school’s ping-pong table after school so I could show off my skillz. After school, they open a door to reveal three dust-covered, disassembled ping-pong tables in various states of disrepair. Before I can say, “Oh, never mind, I can clean up in here and we can try again some other time,” several students are lugging table pieces out into the courtyard right in front of choir rehearsal (I’m so sorry…). Despite my protests, they’re crawling under the table missing two wheels and several screws and telling me, “Be careful, teacher!” Then the acting principal shows up.

He observes the chaos for a few moments, and then says, “go get the bricks.” Students return with blocks to place under the legs of the table, string and clamps for the net, and in less than 5 minutes we have a functional ping-pong table. Ingenuity at its finest. I’m floored.

Naturally, 2 minutes later the acting principal emerges from the storage room with a better ping-pong table that doesn’t require blocks. I played (and won) some close matches and enjoyed the surprised “wows!” every time I scored a point. Mostly though, I enjoyed connecting with the students in a way where language wasn’t necessary. It gave the guys I played a chance to relax and have fun without the pressure of speaking English, yet they still gained exposure as I kept score and complimented their shots.

School has been overwhelmingly positive so far. Yes, programming/lesson-planning might be an uphill battle in the future, but I am so thankful for the kindness and patience I’ve been shown.

And school is only one part of my experience! To avoid a gratuitously long blog entry, I’ll write about these in detail later. But my 11 days in Sungai Petani have also included: a trip to visit Yati’s family, one AC-less Zumba class, two foot massages, one drive down the wrong way on a one-way street, two Thaipusam celebrations (this one deserves its own post), two mushrooms growing in our kitchen, copious sweating, two family Scrabble nights with Mike and Nate, several phone calls to the US and new friends in Malaysia, one Pepsi shared with our neighbor, one lunar eclipse shared with our other neighbors, one visit from friends Niki and Erika, one Domino’s delivery, one flying roti canai show, and omnipresent rice. All is well.

Thanks for reading. Jumpa lagi!

 

 

 

trekking and monkeys and selfies, oh my

The past two weeks have been the busiest of my life. My days are packed with speakers, workshops, meetings, dinners, walking, eating, dancing, and socializing. I keep channeling David Byrne and asking myself, “How did I get here?!”

While orientation follows a schedule, each day is full of surprises (often in the form of surprise fish). I’ll write about a few of those today.

Friday. Picture this: a tropical rain forest in the mountains. Drizzling rain. Mud, everywhere. Water buffalo and macaques on the side of the road. Cats, everywhere. Leeches. 100 Americans slathered with bug spray and sunscreen trekking slipping along in a single file line to find a waterfall. Sounds like an episode of what should be a reality show called “Fulbright Malaysia: Fresh off the plane.” I enjoyed every second of it. Humor and flexibility are key to survival (or at least peace) here.

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I didn’t want to risk bringing my camera on the hike, so here’s a pic of our home base for the day in Janda Baik.

Saturday. Our first English camps! We finally got to do what we’re here for–spend time with Malaysian students. The 100 ETAs were split into groups of ten and each sent to different schools in the Kuala Lumpur area for a single day English camp. I was nervous on the way to SMK Sungai Kertas, but I was surprised and moved by how enthusiastic, smart, giggly, and respectful the kids were. We bonded over hangman, Simon Says, making snowflakes, and relay races during our four hours together. Not only was I surprised by the kids, but also by myself. One of my insecurities about this year in Malaysia is my introverted nature. I worry about not being peppy or exciting enough to fill the role of an ETA sometimes. But somehow, the kids brought out my goofy, exuberant side. I felt completely at ease with dancing and shouting and chatting with everyone. The day restored my confidence.

An interesting bit of Malaysian culture is their love for SELFIES and photo opps. I was asked to take at least 50 pics that day with various kids and administrators, always one smiling followed by “Freestyle!” which just means throwing up peace signs and “tiny love.” Teacher-student relationships also have different standards in Malaysia. Here, it isn’t considered strange to exchange phone numbers with students and meet up outside of school. We made a WhatsApp group so students can practice their English with me over text, even though I probably won’t see any of these kids again.

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“hash tag Malaysia”

One last thought before I go, and a preview of what I might write about in the future. During orientation last week, we had lots of discussions about identity (race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, etc.) and how our own identities could inform our experiences in Malaysia. To many Malaysians, particularly those living in more rural areas, to be American means to be white, blond, rich, and beautiful, which is unsurprising due to media representation. This was demonstrated in the closing ceremony of our English camp. As the principal thanked us profusely, she added, “We are so grateful for these beautiful, blue-eyed people.” Of course, not all of us had blue eyes. It will be interesting and challenging to navigate these sorts of perceptions, although my experience will be much more smooth than the many ETAs of color who do not fit this constructed viewpoint of “American.”

P.S. I’ll be living in the city of Sungai Petani with my new roommate Veronica and teaching in the town of Merbok, about 30 minutes away. I can’t wait to start this next part of my adventure in a couple of weeks!

 

 

 

 

So it begins! (kind of)

Yo. I’M IN MALAYSIA.

The past six days were a whirlwind. I traveled for 40+ hours through four airports and three countries, and since then have spent days in orientation and nights eating my way through Kuala Lumpur or sleeping off jet lag in the swanky hotel room.

And it is AWESOME. I’m not even homesick yet! I’m sure that will come later.

One of the best things about this experience so far has been meeting and bonding with the rest of my cohort. So many unique, thoughtful, intelligent, and fun people! I have been especially lucky to have been placed with a wonderful roommate, Rachel, for the next two weeks in KL. Nothing brings you closer than being thrown into strange new situations together. Some highlights:

  • Splitting a durian with seven friends. Smells like garbage, tastes like creamy, garlicky bananas. Kind of.
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  • Finding a western-style bar with live music and an outdoor patio (and not-so-delicious beer).
  • Sprinting and sweating down the street to be the first team to finish the scavenger hunt (we lost) and being greeted with Indian food at MACEE headquarters.
  • Watching Marcy (a coordinator) expertly haggle the price of our cell phones down from RM 325 to RM 200 (which is about $50).
  • Ordering black pepper yakisoba from a restaurant called “Vegetarian” only to find chicken among the tofu and veggies. Ate it anyway.
  • Going to a lovely Lebanese restaurant on the 7th floor of a GIGANTIC mall and drinking lemon nana.
  • Riding the monorail through KL and seeing ornate mosques and green trees and ugly construction sites.
  • Seeing two cats so far!
  • Ordering the spicy soup option and enjoying it immensely.
  • Watching rap music videos and Star Wars skits that former ETAs made with their students.
  • ALL THE FRUITS (yes, I know half of these are about food).
  • Finally learning which state I’ll be living in!

The last one was huge news for me! Until yesterday I have no idea where the heck I’ll be living for the remainder of my grant. Now, I know that I, along with 11 other ETAs will be living in the state of Kedah!

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Kedah is on the west coast of peninsular Malaysia and borders Thailand. It’s mostly flat, with lots of rice paddies, beaches, and rain forests. The Langkawi islands are the main tourist attractions, and will be make a nice weekend getaway for swimming and sunbathing (in an actual bikini! the conservative standards are relaxed here because of all the European tourists). People in Kedah are primarily Muslim, with smaller Buddhist and Hindu populations.

I still don’t know which town I’ll be placed in, but Monday is the big reveal! Orientation has been surprisingly useful and engaging as far as orientations usually go. The MACEE coordinators are mostly former ETAs with big personalities who are so willing to help us and tell it like it is. I feel much more at ease now than I did before I left.

That’s all I’ll write for now. Looking forward to experiencing more KL nightlife later and visiting the national mosque and Islamic art museum tomorrow!

 

Q&A with sixth graders

My fabulous mom is a middle school “gifted” teacher. She’s planning to keep her kids updated on my Asian adventures through pictures and this blog (hooray for multicultural exposure). We might even collaborate with my future students and have them connect as pen pals! To get them started, Mom had her sixth graders send me some of their more pressing questions. Even if you don’t care about the answers, at least give the questions a look. Sixth graders are awesome.

KH: “Wil you go to china and buy an antique from one of their shops?”
I will likely travel to China at some point, but my travel plans are still a bit nebulous. I might meet a friend in Hong Kong. If so, I will now plan to buy an (inexpensive) antique. Great idea!

AL: “When did you decide to go to Malaysia?”
I decided to go to Malaysia around June of 2016. I was working at the Honors Program office at UD. When I mentioned that I wanted to go abroad after I graduated, the fellowship adviser there suggested I apply for a Fulbright grant. After considering many choices of country, I finally decided on Malaysia! I submitted my application that October, and then I had to wait until March 2017 to find out I was accepted.

AL: “Why would you rather teach in Malaysia, instead of America?”
I love traveling and experiencing new cultures, and since I just graduated and don’t have family or career obligations yet, now is a good time for me to live somewhere else. Malaysia is so different from the United States, and teaching there is a way for me to become closely involved with a community and immerse myself in their way of life.

KH: “Do you know how to speak Malaysia’s offical language?”
No, I do not know how to speak Bahasa Malaysia. I will receive two weeks of training in the language when I arrive. I know a few words and phrases though to get me by until then! Here are a few examples:
Terima kasih = Thank you
Nama saya = My name is
Selamat pagi = Good morning
Selamat tengah hari = Good afternoon
Selamat petang = Good evening
Selamat tinggal = Goodbye

SA: “How you are going to understand people?”
Luckily, many Malaysians speak English fluently or at least conversationally, so with the very basic knowledge of Bahasa Malaysia I’ll get during training, I shouldn’t have too much trouble communicating. My students will all know at least a basic level of English, so I’ll be able to conduct lessons solely in English.

KB: ” What is the currency, and what does it convert to?”
The currency in Malaysia is called ringgit. Currently 1 Malaysian ringgit is equivalent to 25 cents in the US. In other words, there are 4 Malaysian ringgit to a dollar.

FR, MF, KB: “HoW ArE YoU GoInG To GeT MoNeY???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????😀😂☺🛫😶😙😚📲😀😂☺🛫😶😙😚😍📲😀😂☺🛫😶😙😚😍📲😀😂☺🛫😶😙😚😍📲😀😂☺🛫😶☺🛫☺🛫☺🛫☺🛫☺🛫☺🛫☺🛫☺🛫☺🛫☺🛫☺🛫☺🛫☺🛫☺😁😁😁😁😁😁😁😁😁😁😁😁😁😁😁😁😁😁😁😁😁😁😁😁😁😁😁😁😁😁😁😁😁😁😎😎😎😎😎😎😎😎😎😎😎😎😎😎🤔🤔🤔🤔🤔🤔🤔🤔🤔🤔🤔🤔🤔🤔🤔🤔🤔🤔🤔🤔🤔🤔🤔🤔🤔🤔🤔🤔🤔🤔🤔🤔🤔🤔🤔🤔🤔🤔🤔🤔🤔🤔🤔🤔🤔🤔🤔🤔🤔🤔🤔🤔🤔🤔🤔🤔🤔🤔🤔🤔🤔🤔🤔🤔🤔🤔🤔🤔🤔”
The Malaysian-American Commission On Educational Exchange (MACEE) will set up a bank account for me in Malaysia, and every month they will put money in my account. It will be enough to cover living expenses, like food and gas. I should have a bit left over each month to to cover some travel costs, too. 🛫😀

MF: “What will you use for transportation?”
Fulbright is giving us cars! I’ll share mine with my roommate. For longer trips and vacations, I’ll still likely travel by train or plane for convenience and to lower my chance of breaking the car and paying for repairs…

JC: “i lieks moooneys🏧🏧🏧🏧🏧🏧🏧🏧🏧🏧🏧🏧🏧🏧🏧🏧🏧🏧🏧🏧🏧🏧🏧🏧🏧🏧🏧🏧🏧🏧Dooooo yyooouoo🏧🏧🏧🏧🏧🏧🏧🏧🏧🏧🏧🏧🏧🏧🏧🏧”
Yaaaaas I lieks moooneys, but not enough to keep me from spending all of mine on Malaysian food!

NR: “How do you plan on keeping in touch with family over these ten months?”
The 12 or 13 hour time difference will make communication a bit of a challenge, but I plan on Skyping my friends and family (and even your class!) when I can. WhatsApp is a useful texting/calling app that I can use when I have WiFi, and I want to send old-fashioned letters and postcards, too.

KB: “H O W A R E Y O U T H I S F I N E A F T E R N O O N A N D / O R M O R N I N G ?
I A M N O T A R O B O T W H A T W O U L D B R I N G Y O U T O S U C H C O N C L U S I O N S ?”

└[∵┌]└[ ∵ ]┘[┐∵]┘

KB: “What area (if you know) are you going to be staying in? Is it a certain village or city, or out in the middle of nowhere?”
I don’t know where I will be staying yet. They’ll let me know a few days after I arrive in the country. Most placements are in small, rural communities though. Maybe even smaller than New Lebanon!

KB: “What foods do you plan to try? We saw that you’d probably adopt a pescatarian diet, so… do you think you will?”
I’m going to try everything I can! I’ll eat roti canai, which is flatbread similar to Indian naan, and nasi lemak, rice cooked in coconut milk and pandan leaf with various sides like egg, peanuts, and cucumber. I don’t know exactly how my vegetarian/pescatarian diet will work while I’m there. It depends a lot on the habits of the community in which I’m placed. Vegetarianism isn’t as widespread/understood in Malaysia as it is in the US, and combined with language barriers, it could be difficult to explain my diet in a way that wouldn’t offend anyone. Probably, I will avoid meat and fish when I’m eating on my own, but if I am someone’s guest and there aren’t any vegetarian options, I might be more flexible.

AL, MF, NR, SA: “When going to Malaysia, are there certain sickness you should be afraid of?” “Are you worried about any diseases that might be in the country?” “Is there any sort of treatment you need to go through to protect yourself from a rare Malaysian disease?”
The CDC recommends that most travelers to Malaysia get vaccines for hepatitis A and typhoid, and that some travelers (depending on which area they’re traveling to or their lifestyle) get vaccines or treatment to prevent cholera, hepatitis B, Japanese encephalitis, malaria, and rabies. I’ll have vaccines for the first two, but according to previous Fulbrighters in Malaysia, the rest of the diseases are low risk, and most people did not get those vaccines. I am not very worried about getting strange diseases–I’ll make sure to boil and filter water before drinking and wash produce before eating.

MF: “What if a war breaks out in the area?”
It is not likely that war will break out in Malaysia, but if it does, I would probably catch the quickest flight home.

MF: “What about earthquakes and tsunamis?”
Earthquakes and tsunamis do occur in Malaysia sometimes, just like tornadoes sometimes affect Ohioans. I’ll have other things to worry about–like the lack of cheese-based foods–so I’ll try not to waste energy fretting over the possibility of a natural disaster.

FR: “What kind of terrorism is there?🔨”
There has been very little terrorist activity in Malaysia in recent years. Once incident occurred in 2015, where 17 suspected terrorists were arrested in Kuala Lumpur, the capital city. Two of them had alleged ties to ISIS.

RL: “How different are the laws/ rules in Malaysia?”
Malaysia and the United States share many similar laws, but there are several differences. Drug laws are more strict in Malaysia–possession of certain amounts of drugs like marijuana can be punishable by death. There are also many laws that are derived from Sharia law, which pertain only to Muslims, such as the prohibition of sex before marriage, drinking alcohol, and preaching against Islam in order to convert others.

RL: “How diverse is Malaysia actually?”
In terms of ethnicity, very diverse! The country is made up of indigenous groups and Malays who traveled there from mainland Asia thousands of years ago. Today, the population includes Chinese and Indian groups, and the country has been influenced by British, Persian, and Arabic culture. Also, Malaysia is ranked the 12th most biodiverse country in the world, meaning it has a crazy amount of different plants and animals!

I hope these answers were useful! Thanks for asking such thoughtful questions, Horizons class. I’m excited to keep in touch with you all over the next ten months. Terima kasih! 🙂

FAQ

Answering a few questions for those who are curious!

What is a Fulbright anyway?
It’s a grant that offers research and teaching opportunities to recent graduates or grad students in over 140 different countries. Funding is primarily from the U.S. government but is supplemented by private donors and the host-country’s government. Cultural exchange is a main goal of this program.

Why Malaysia?
I knew next to nothing about Malaysia when I first thought about applying for a Fulbright. There are 140 countries to choose from, but you can only apply to one each year. For me, queen of decision-making (not), this was a daunting task. But, after minimal discussion with my wonderful adviser, I knew Malaysia was the right pick for me because 1) It’s culturally, geographically, and linguistically diverse, both from the United States and within itself, 2) I’ll be placed with another ETA as my housemate, and 3) Malaysia accepts 100 applicants each year, so my chances were higher than in most other countries.

Where the heck even is Malaysia?
Southeast Asia!


I’ll have easy access to Thailand, China, India, Singapore, Indonesia, Vietnam, etc. etc. No clue where I’ll go during my free time, but I’ll go somewhere!

Is Malaysia safe?
Yes, relatively! SafeTravel, a government website in New Zealand lists Malaysia as “some risk” for travelers due to “the threat of terrorism, crime and the potential for civil unrest.” BUT the same level of warning is issued for travelers to the United States. According to NationMaster, the U.S. murder rate is over twice as high as Malaysia’s, so that’s a good sign. However, crime levels are 33% higher in Malaysia than the U.S. (but I believe their laws are more restrictive than ours).

What language do they speak in Malaysia?
Bahasa Malaysia is the official language and is spoken by much of the population as a first language. Many also speak English, due to British colonization during the 18th-20th centuries. Some groups speak Mandarin or Tamil, an Indian dialect. Many also speak various indigenous languages; there are 137 living languages spoken in total. I am SO EXCITED to hear and learn some myself!

What about religion?
61.3% of the population practices Islam; 19.8% Buddhism; 9.2% Christianity; 6.3% Hinduism; and 1.3% traditional Chinese religions. Islam is the official religion, and it is illegal to convert from Islam. However, those who are not Muslim are free to practice religion however they please, though Atheism and Judaism are generally not accepted.

What about FOOD?
Malaysian cuisine is a magical amalgamation of Malay, Indian, Chinese, Indonesian, and Thai food. Lots of rice, noodles, and curries. Unfortunately, maintaining a vegetarian diet might prove difficult–shrimp paste is in many savory dishes, and vegetarianism isn’t very common in areas with a primarily Malay population. I’ll do my best, but I might adopt a more flexible (i.e. pescatarian) diet while I’m there.

That’s enough for now! If you wanna know anything else, feel free to drop me a comment.
listening to:
Tangled Up in Blue – Bob Dylan
Field of Opportunity – Neil Young
Queen Bee – Taj Mahal

24 Days

I’M GOING TO MALAYSIA, Y’ALL.

So what is 2018 going to look like for me? On January 1st (24 days from now) at 4:00 PM, I’ll catch a flight from Cincinnati. 31.5 hours later, I’ll land in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia’s capital city. From there… your guess is as good as mine!

OK, so I have some idea of what I’ll be doing. I know that until November 1st, I’ll serve as an English teaching assistant to middle-school aged Malaysian students. I received a Fulbright ETA grant, which covers my flight and housing expenses, as well as provides me with a living stipend each month. Am I excited? YES! Am I nervous? Also yes.

I have no clue with whom or where I’ll be living and working yet–that’s one of the most exciting/nerve-wracking parts. There are 100 Fulbright ETAs (English Teaching Assistants) selected for 2018, and my first two weeks will be spent with them in Kuala Lumpur for orientation–a crash course in Bahasa Malaysia (the official language), lessons in Malaysian culture and etiquette, and English teaching courses. Only after a few days in Kuala Lumpur will I receive my school placement and roommate assignment. Then, I’ll have a week-long regional orientation with other ETAs who are placed near me. Finally, I’ll move into my apartment/house/teacher dormitory in what will likely be a small, low-income, rural community and begin teaching!

I’ll use this blog as a place to post pictures and write about my adventures in the coming months. In the next few days, I’ll post a FAQ page with some of the common questions I’ve gotten from friends and relatives about what exactly I’m going to be doing. Until then, selamat tinggal!

DISCLAIMER: For those of you who know me well, you know that I start a lot of projects… and never finish them. The study abroad blog from my semester in Rome had a whopping total of four posts. I started cleaning my room 20 years ago and never finished that, either. So no promises on this whole Malaysia blog thing. In any case, enjoy it while it lasts!

written while listening to:
Breathe – Télépopmusik
The Ephemeral Bluebell – Bibio
Ghostwriter – RJD2
A Walk – Tycho
Output – Blue States