Sunday, February 20, 2011

Highlights of First Few Weeks

Sorry I haven't posted in a while, guys!  At least it feels like a long time to me, what with how busy I've been.  I've been putting in a lot of time getting settled here at my school.  My bug bites have subsided, and I've made friends with the cool geckos that scurry around my apartment in the evenings.  I like to imagine that they're specifically targeting all the mosquitoes for me because I talk to them so nicely.

Here's another cool bug-catcher guy I found in my apartment the other day.

I forgot to mention in my last blog post that the Sunday after I got to my school, my school had a farewell party for the vice principal.  She was being promoted to principal of another school, so my school had this huge send-off ceremony with speeches and gifts galore.  There had been a few requests that I sing her a song, so I went and sang her "Time of Your Life," by Greenday.  (I know that's not the actual title of the song, but I really hope the actual title is not relevant here.)  It was nerve-wracking, singing on short notice in front of the massed ranks of the school, but it went off great!  You can never be too cheesy here.

Anyway, most of my time so far has been spent spastically running around trying to get everything taken care of at once: class planning, actual classes, extracurriculars planning, trip planning, relating to the students, making friends with the teachers, and oh yeah keeping myself healthy.  That last one occasionally takes a hit.

Every week or few days or so, I've had a random trip to KT or the islands to hang out with the other ETAs.  First it was Chinese New Year, then we got together for a river cruise/culture exposition in KT on the next weekend, and then we had a fun trip to the beach resort town of Cherating this last weekend.  I think we visited Kapas island for a day somewhere in there.  It has all been extremely beautiful, extremely hot, and pretty darn random.

The culture expo was especially awesome!  Apparently it was specifically made for us, the ETAs: we were taken on a flat-bottomed river cruise boat up the river a ways, then stopped off at a little village place where there were people waiting to greet us with big glittery fan-things on sticks. 

We followed them up to a tent, where they showed us a table full of traditional food displays: apparently there was a contest underway for traditional Malay cooking!  We tried all sorts of treats, and even got to help hand over the prizes when they were announced. 

The next stop was a display of the Malay martial art, silat.  This band of uniformed kids with drums joined the women with glittery fans, and they all led us down to a flat place with mats on it.  There, the kids put down their drums and proceeded to astonish us with increasing amounts of badassery.  They did a few individual forms, then a few partnered forms with knives and throws, then two boys faced off in a long, very agile and impressive fight sequence.  They even used those wavy traditional knives, keris!

After the silat show, we were treated to a variety of other displays, like the traditional practices of kite-flying, competitive tops (and believe me, you would not want to mess with these tops), and putting monkeys up palm trees to get the coconuts.  The monkeys made me a little sad, personally, but I really enjoyed getting to see two of our guy ETAs attempting the top-throwing game.  You have to whip your hand back and snap the rope like a bullwhip to get the top spinning fast enough, and then it should keep going for up to two hours!

Well, trips aside, I've also been doing a lot of hanging out closer to home.  It turns out that I'm not totally alone in Setiu - there is another Fulbrighter here, just a researcher instead of an ETA.  Her name is Meg, she researches turtles, and she lives only 20 minutes or so north of me.  We've hung out several times now, and I've even gotten to visit her host family!  They're really awesome, and the little 3-year-old daughter is adorable and blazingly outgoing.

There's a ton more that I'd like to write about, but this post is long enough already, so I'll just call it a day and stop at the main highlights of the past few weeks.  A couple of things I'll mention out of context, though:

    - I really want a hermit crab as a pet.  They are freaking adorable.

    - It turns out that Malay village people don't like pasta with marinara sauce, and they think salad is really strange.

    - Wedding dresses in Malaysia come in all sorts of colors, and you can actually chose between a more traditional, beaded-tunic-y look or the more modern Western white-and-gauzy look.  (Here: a rack of men's wedding headdresses.)

    - Pirates vs. Ninjas: due to technical issues, pirates win.

    - It seems that teaching while sick is not fun.  Teaching while well is incredibly rewarding.  But I guess we'll find out for real when I start teaching actual lessons instead of just games and stuff.

    - Don't pretend to growl at a dog, even to make it go away.  You may end up getting stuck with needles a few days later.

    - I now know about 5 or 10 more knots than I did before!

Each of these things has a story attached, but like I said, I can't expand upon all of them now.  Tell me if you're curious!

Love you all, and miss you to pieces.

PS:  This guy is holding one of those mega-tops on a plate!

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