Kampung (village) Boy

The questions come pouring in like milk into an unsuspecting cereal bowl. I could have never anticipated the amount of feedback and inquisitions that I have received from folks back home. It is humbling that so many people are following my quest. I am doing by best to write blog posts regularly, but the allure of further exploring Malaysia constantly trumps any desire to write in my sporadic free time. For the most part I am busy with lesson planning, teaching, and after school extracurricular activities. The majority of the extracurriculars at this point and time consist of sports, but I’m working on getting an English club up and running. I play a lot of football (soccer) with the students, but in the intense heat we resort to playing in short spurts. I’ve learned a couple new Malaysian sports like tacro, which resembles juggling a soccer ball only using a small, plastic sphere that is-kind-of-but-not-really a ball. They also have their version of bocce ball, which is almost identical to the game found in America, with a few minor rule differences. My favorite, and most successful lesson to this point is ‘Dear Mr. Matt’. An issue in some classes is that the students lacking confidence in their speaking skills will speak to me through other students, using them as translators. To combat this, each student must write me a letter weekly. Some of the topics thus far have been: what do you want to learn this year? What do you know about America? Tell me anything about yourself. The responses have been genuine and surprisingly coherent. I’ve learned the English writing level is higher than the speaking level. I hope to continue this for the entire school year as it allows me to speak one-on-one with everyone and it forces them to be individualistic and at times, creative.

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Outside of the classroom I continue to traverse this scenic country. I was speaking with a few ETA friends the other night and we were reminiscing about the first month in our respective placements. I acknowledged that in my opinion, each weekend has been spectacular and yet the next one has never failed to supersede it. Last weekend we had a 5 day break for Chinese New Year, which I was thrilled about, but at the same time baffled by since my community is about 95% Muslim-Malay. But hey, no complaints on my end about days off. I stayed local for holiday, spent some time with a couple teachers and, with their help, saw some of the real Malaysia that I hadn’t been exposed to yet. I went to a batik factory, which makes those tribal-patterned shirts that I am obsessed with. I read about history and religion in the state museum, which also boasts that it is the largest in Malaysia. I attended a dual wedding where 2 sisters were celebrating their marriage on the same day; I’m obliged to say I was the guest of honor. I supported the local football team, the Terengganu Turtles as they battled Slime Darby to an epic 2-1 victory. It felt great to be a part of the cheering and camaraderie of live sports again, although it was interesting to bear witness to that same level of passion and enthusiasm sans alcohol. Finally, I put on my touristy bucket hat, wore my camera strap around my neck, and visited the elephant village near my house. I spent the day riding, feeding, and playing with three elephants. Cross off the number one item on my Malaysia bucket-list. I sat for a few minutes thinking of how I would convey the emotions from that day and I realized it is what it is; indescribable.

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This past weekend five other ETAs and I ventured out into open waters headed for the Perhentian Islands off of the eastern coast of Malaysia. The boat ride was only about 30 minutes, and we were all speechless when we arrived. This was the national geographic, dictionary definition of paradise that you see in the magazines. Pristine white beaches, a plethora of flora and animal species, and a laid back, untouched vibe graced the island. I met people from all over the world who had traveled there for the renowned scuba diving. Since none of us were certified, we spent the day snorkeling instead, witnessing everything from sharks and eels to two giant, graceful turtles. We spent our evening eating a respectable imitation of pizza, enjoying some drinks, and dancing at a small beachfront bar and restaurant with an eclectic crew of characters. I actually had to convince myself to leave the next day. As much as I’ve enjoyed these last two weekends, it’s time to plan the next adventure: Thailand in 2 weeks.

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That’s all for now, enjoy the photos and know that you are all missed by yours truly!

MBT


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