HEY... SO: Kuala Lumpur is 14 hours ahead of Chicago time, 13 hours ahead of East Coast time. This means that I will most likely be waking up the next morning while you're still cooking dinner. As awesome as this is in theory, it means I'll probably be available during the most inconvenient times for communicating with you. We will try anyway. P.S. I have a phone now, and it might make relatively cheap international calls.
So, my first full day in Malaysia consisted largely of orientation. By now, almost all of the other Fulbrighters have arrived, even the two who missed their overnight flight because of snow delays, and so far everyone seems really interesting and really nice.
We went to the MACEE office early in the morning (quick note: MACEE is the organization in Malaysia that partners with the Terengganu State Department to run the Fulbright program in this country). We heard talks from MACEE's director and from a well-traveled political advisor, both attempting to prepare us for everything we could possibly face during the next ten months. We ate cute little Southeast Asian snacks - "curry puffs", "layer cakes", and really pretty fruit tarts.
We then had a language class from a sweet Malaysian lady who refused to speak English with us, throwing the whole group into enthusiastic confusion. We had to work to figure out each word she said to us and what it could possibly mean. The closest analogue I can think is one of those scenes in NCIS or House, where the team is in some analysis room pooling their mysterious data and shooting off rapid-fire suggestions and arguments at each other.
In the evening, a few of us went to the slightly less ritzy (but no less shiny) mall a little further away from the hotel. It was crowded to bursting with stalls and merchandise and delicious-smelling pastry counters, and somewhere in there I managed to find a less decrepit purse to use here. We then ate at a nearby Portuguese Botswanan restaurant, bought some notebooks for further Malay lessons, and went to bed.
Yeah, it was only 9:00. Yeah, still jet lagged. I woke up at 5:30 and couldn't get to sleep again.
Today was another series of orienting talks, some at the American Embassy and some at the MACEE office. I don't know how many times I heard "I don't want to scare you, but…" Except for the Foreign Medical Officer at the embassy - he was more honest: "My job is to scare you. I have dengue fever." A list of his painful and impressive symptoms followed.
We were introduced to pretty much the whole structure of the American embassy, and given a huge amount of information about US-Malaysia relations and the status of the country. I obviously can't post pictures of the embassy - the security there was extremely tight, and nothing from cameras to nail clippers was allowed in. (The conference room in the picture is in the MACEE office.)
They also gave each of us one big cardboard crate of ESL teaching materials. I can't believe I was ever afraid of being under-prepared.
Lunch was Indian food at the MACEE office, and we had this awesome sweet drink that was basically the Indian or Malaysian version of root beer - it's called something like "sassi" because it's made of the sasafrass root. I also ate shrimp with the shells still on - apparently it's a great source of calcium!
Language lessons today were much the same as yesterday, except we were able to form an even greater variety of broken sentences! I love how excited everyone gets when they're trying to figure out what she's teaching us.
Dinner was negotiated in broken English at a very local cafe-type place. We had roti, spicy fried rice, juice, and teh tarik (sort of like chai).
Now I'm sitting in this huge two-story McDonald's, using up their free internet! Soon to bed though; mornings are early here.
So hey, I miss all of you! Also, I was too tired to decide who this post should be addressed to, sorry. Hey, people should start actually commenting on this blog, or I'm gonna think nobody's reading it.