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Archive for November, 2005

Life Outside of KL

Well, it’s been an exhausting few months…

First, in late September, I went on a 3 day, 2 night trip with all 60 of our 6th graders to the Malaysian hill station called Fraser’s Hill . Just after we returned I started a graduate course in Ed Leadership at ISKL, which seems to be taking all of my time. In October our landlord took us on a trip to the nearby hill station, the Genting Highlands (home of a large casino and theme-park, not quite our cup of tea). Then, Ramadan began on the 4th of October. Finally, last week we went on an amazing trip to Redang Island on the east coast of Malaysia. The afternoon that we returned from the beach, our friends from the States (who are on a trip around the world!) arrived in KL for a visit . Alex has been subbing almost every day and his language classes with the parents in the Mont’ Kiara area are going very well. All in all, life is busy, but good.

The trip to Fraser’s Hill was quite a pleasant surprise. I have to admit, I was a little worried about spending 72 constant contact hours with our sixth graders, but we ended up having a great time. Fraser’s Hill is just at the begining of the Malaysian highlands (not as high up as other hill stations) and it was surprisingly cool. It was so refreshing to wear long pants and a sweatshirt for 3 whole days. I definitely think I have acclimated to the hot climate though… When the kids asked me what the temperature was during the day, I said I thought it was around 18 degrees Celsius. When we checked on a thermostat, it was 25. I guess it turns out that 25 now feels like 18 to me. That’s what constant summer will do to you, I guess. At any rate, the highlight of the trip was a night-time jungle trek. All 65 of us strolled down the “main” street to the jungle trail and each person walked in (for about 10 minutes) alone, at night (no flashlights allowed). The sounds and smells of the jungle at night were awesome. That would have been quite an experience at 12 years old. Even better was the daily check for leeches. The leeches here in Malaysia are tiny, tiny black worm-looking things. I had two on my shoes after our day hike. I have never moved so fast. As soon as I noticed the leeches, I jumped out of those shoes and ran away. What a good role-model for the students…

Just after I returned from the Fraser’s Hill trip, Ramadan started. Basically this means that Muslims fast for the daylight hours, which in KL last from about 7am – 7pm. First call to prayer being at 5:30am since you have to finish eating before the sun rises. Ironically Ramadan did not really affect our eating habits (since there are enough Chinese and Hindu Malaysians who do not fast, therefore almost all of the restaurants and food stalls are open all day), but did totally disrupt our sleeping and living patterns. “How?” you say… Well, it really stems from the contstant, never-ending stream of home-made fireworks blasting off from the Kampung behind our house at all hours of the evening. I can’t say they were very exciting or pretty, but they were certainly loud. And I found out the “best” news yesterday — according to one of my colleagues that has been in Malaysia for 11 years: “Ramadan fireworks are nothing. Just wait until Chinese New Year. The Malays have those little, tiny, practically home-make fireworks, the Chinese have real ‘4th of July’ style fireworks. And they don’t start sparking them up until after midnight, when the “ghosts” come out. And, they last all night.” Great. Now I have something to look forward to in January. As if the muzzein hollering like he’s just been stabbed in the back at 5:30 am every day wasn’t enough…

Aside from the small, yet powerful cultural differences that have really come to the forefront this month, all continues to go well. We are still loving the weather, food, shopping, etc. It was especially nice to take a trip to the amazing east coast . According to my students Redang is the best island to visit. According to the teachers, it’s the most expensive. No matter what you say, we loved it! Apparently rainy season starts at the end of October on the east coast (which is where Redang is) so we were nervous that it might be rainy the whole time (we were extensively warned as soon as we made the final payment on the trip, leading to a lot of “now you tell me!” comments at school). Luckily for us, we had only one short hour of rain from 6-7pm on our second day. Every other day was bright and sunny and hot. Which makes you wonder why we forgot to put on sunscreen our first day. Since we do this almost every “first day” of our vacations, neither of us were surprised to find ourselves looking like lobsters by 4 pm on day 1. It provided a lot of entertainment to the 10 other guests at the hotel that flew in with us that morning. Apart from the excruciating pain of a 3-degrees-north-of-the-equator sunburn, we had a great time. The beach was practically empty every day because the water was so “rough.” Apparently “rough” seas in Redang means waves up to my mid-calf. I wonder what it looks like in high (or non-rainy) season?

After our trip in the sun, we had two of the best guests ever for a visit around KL. Unfortuantely, since it was Hari Raya Aidalfitri (end of Ramadan) everything in town was closed and entirely empty. I had no idea. The first day of Meridith and Leslie’s visit, they went all the way out to the rainforest hike, only to find out it was closed. The second day we woke up at 7 am to head down to the Petronas towers, only to find out they were closed. Needless to say, that was the last time we all woke up early in attempts to see any major tourist attractions. Note to self: don’t encourage people to visit during the Hari Raya holiday. In the end it actually worked out well. Mer and Les were at their halfway point for their round-the-world trip, so they were ready for some “American-style” relaxation (by “American-style,” I mean watching movies and eating nachos on the couch — also known as my personal favorite style of relaxation). We got to stroll around downtown with relative ease considering almost every Malaysian in KL went home for the holidays. It was almost eerily deserted here in Mont’Kiara. I have never seen it so empty. This provided an excellent opportunity for me to take more pictures of the city since we went to quite a few areas that I hadn’t been to before.

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