I feel like it’s been ages since I’ve last written and it’s only been a couple of weeks. Well one thing is for certain, a lot has changed since my last post. I am in a new place, and have finally begun teaching and molding the minds of the Malaysian youth. The Terengganu and Pahang ETAs spent a few days in Kuala Terengganu for our second orientation before we were all dispersed to our permanent locations. I am living in the town of Kuala Berang, which is in the district Hulu Terengganu, in the state of Terengganu. Not only is that a mouthful, but it gets very confusing with directions. ‘Hulu’, we’ve learned, literally translates to ‘out there’. From my roommate Brendan and my experience thus far, it could not be more accurate. Fortunately we are located very close to the one strip in Kuala Berang that has shops, restaurants, and a supermarket. If you drive outside of this range it gets rural in a hurry. But not rundown, decaying, pitiful rural. It’s a raw, simple, beautiful rural with only the landscape to be observed.
The day after arriving in Kuala Berang with my mentor Ruzudi, I visited SMK Bukit Diman (my school) for the first time. I met the principal, teachers, staff and the students. All of them couldn’t have been nicer or more welcoming, only their English is nonexistent. My anticipation was to be improving English and I’ve had to reconsider that proposal to a more appropriate one: English 101. Now, don’t allow that to be read with any sort of negative connotation. I love my school and the people in it. Their lack of English doesn’t diminish their friendliness, enthusiasm, and potential. As a side benefit, I have to fluctuate between English and Malay in the classroom, and therefore have been picking up their language quicker than expected. I relish the opportunity to talk to store owners, and restaurant employees in their native tongue.
Even in two weeks I have seen progress. At first when I greeted students they would smile, cover their mouth, and literally run away with no response. Then it was ‘I am fine’ when I asked how they were. Now I have explained to them the variety of answers to that question and students will now say ‘I am tired. I am hungry. I am happy.’ It’s the little things. Another funny tidbit (love using that word) so far is that my mentor has an obsession with American TV shows, or as he calls them, ‘American Dramas’. He constantly pesters me with questions about how much normal Americans relate to the characters in Glee, America’s Next Top Model, and Malcolm in the Middle, just to name a few. I got very lucky with my mentor, he couldn’t be a nicer guy and we get along quite well. The last bit of humor I’d like to share with you all pertains to the fact that I am a 23 year old single American in Malaysia. Students and teachers alike are baffled by the fact that I don’t have a girlfriend, and have made it their mission to change that. I am made aware any time there is a single female in the building and when I tell students I am single I’ve heard comments from teachers like ‘not for long’ and ‘we’ll see’, which crack me up. It’s all in good fun. Some other things to note: we’ve basically been adopted by our neighbors who have six kids (see photos), I’m the girls handball coach at school, and I’ve also joined a futsol league (indoor soccer) with some teachers.
Below are a few photos from the first couple weeks. I am already working on the next post which will be dedicated entirely to food.
Enjoy and stay warm back in the States!