Midyear Poem

I wrote and performed this poem for the other 98 teachers during our midyear meeting in Melaka, Malaysia. I understand that some of it is in Malay, or may be confusing because of inside jokes or situations that could only be understood by experience. Regardless, I hope you enjoy!


I’m a kampung boy that’s way out there in Hulu,
I chill in the palm trees and eat none of the budu.
Who are you? Oh I’m Mr. Matthew,
I’m also known as sir but better known as Cikgu.
Anywhere I walk the people they all stare,
They’ve never seen a white person before to be fair.
I eat more rice than any one person can bear,
And inhale my fair share of trash burning air.

I live with ants, mosquitos, lizards, and bees,
You won’t catch me with shorts above the knees.
Any food I eat it’s probably been fried,
and if I said I liked keropok lekor, I lied.
All the drinks here are loaded with gula,
My students say ‘treat me’ because they don’t have mula,
that kampung lifestyle, heed this warning,
you’ll end up eating ice cream at 10 in the morning.

Every Tuesday and Friday we have pasar malam,
Boyfriends and girlfriends that stuff’s haram,
When Mr. Matt speaks English students tak faham,
and when Air Asia delays your flight try to remain calm.
Red lights don’t matter, road kill I splatter,
admittedly I do feel bad about the latter,
Wechat and WhatApp full of nonstop chatter,
and thanks to all the food here I’m feeling that much fatter.

In six months I’ve changed, I’ve learned, I’ve grown,
I never bite food with force I now anticipate the bone.
I look both ways to avoid a motorcycle swipe,
and I never go anywhere without a bathroom wipe.
How to eat with my right hand, how a mango properly peels,
How to duck my head for every door I can’t imagine how Ben feels.
How to air high-five with female students, and a Malaysian photo pose,
I’m grateful for this opportunity every day, more than anyone knows.

Kampung: village
Hulu: district in Terengganu, Malaysia
Budu : fish sauce
Cikgu: teacher
Keropok lekor: fish sausage
Gula: sugar
Pasar malam: night market
Tak faham: don’t understand

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