Saturday, January 8, 2011

Schools Assigned!

Dear Mom,

I don't know if you've managed to get your computer to display my blog yet, so I don't know if you're reading this.  But, I wanted to let you know - we finally got our school assignments!  Jim Coffman, the program director, was holding on to them until they were confirmed, but he just seemed to love holding back something we all wanted to know so badly.

There are six of us in the main city, Kuala Terengganu, and the rest are spread out mostly in pairs and mostly along the coast.  Two people have inland assignments; they're still not exactly sure where the schools they got assigned to are on the map.

The school I got is named SMK Lembah Bidong, and it's in the Setiu district of the province of Terengganu.  I'm actually the only person assigned to a district all by myself; it seems like pretty much everyone is living within shouting distance of at least one other person.  However, KT and Besut, where some others will be assigned, are apparently both within an hour of me, thank god.  Plus, this probably means I'll be even more deeply immersed in the language and the culture!

Well, aside from this exciting news, we've mostly been spending time learning the language (Bahasa Malaysia) and English teaching techniques, actually both from the same lady.  It turns out that our Bahasa teacher can speak English after all, she just wanted us to be in an immersive environment from the start.  So now she's both teaching us a language and teaching us how to teach a language, if that's not too confusing.

During TESL (Teaching English Second Language) classes, we mostly play language games and activities that she brings in, directed by a volunteer who acts as the teacher for that round.  That way, we get to experience the game itself, as well as how leading the game feels, and we can learn from how each other leads the class.

Today, we played a competitive telephone game, a sort of imaginative survival-adventure game, and a fill-in-the-blanks in the song lyrics activity (to the very infectious "My Love," by Westlife).  Yesterday, we did a "Speed Dating" icebreaker and something like "Guesstures," which got everyone up and acting crazy.  Prizes were cute little candies, including things sort of like tiny, non-alcoholic jello shots.

The food here has been so different - the main thing for me to get used to is that here in Malaysia, if I'm tired of eating out Asian food, I can't just go and choose Italian instead.  It's pretty much all Chinese, Thai, Indian, etc.  Which doesn't mean it's not tasty - I've had some incredibly good dinners here.

I've tried roti with sauces, very spicy fried rice, grilled fish on a banana leaf, some sort of spring roll type thing, grilled manta ray on a banana leaf (it was very soft and kind of mild), and a traditional Malay dish that they'll eat for breakfast or lunch - nasi lemak.  This consists of rice, a spicy sauce, peanuts, cucumber slices, hard-boiled egg, and little dried fish, if I'm not forgetting anything. That's what I'm eating off the banana leaf in the picture there.

I've been eating with pretty much everything - chopstick, fingers, forks, little plastic ladles.  I've also had some awesome fruits, like jackfruit, which looks kind of like a pepper but tastes more like a banana.  I also like guava, papaya, and dragon fruit, and my roommate Olivia just handed me a dried kiwi!

It's funny, but after I eat a meal here, it's like an automatic 180 in my mood.  I can practically feel my "happiness and endurance" lifebar refilling. 

Also, something funny I've noticed about walking on the street here: people not only drive on the left side of the road, they also walk on the left side of the sidewalk.  You know that little dance you do when you're trying to negotiate around someone walking toward you on the sidewalk?  You know how in America it's pretty automatic to just slide to the right?  Here, people just slide to the left, and then if I'm not paying attention, it gets awkward when we almost slap into each other.

Anyway, that's it for today, except that I really miss you and you should email me.  That goes for everyone else reading this too, not just my mom.  The schedule is still pretty irregular for the next two weeks, but I'm definitely up for breaking out the skype.

I love you, mom!
Over and out.

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