Wednesday, July 31, 2013

More Info about My Host Family and the Upcoming Hari Raya

Selemat Petang!-Good evening!

I promised earlier that I would get back to describing my host family, so I'm going to do that now. I have a host mother, host father, and a host grandfather staying here. The host grandfather is my host father's dad, and I have met my host mother's parents, who live in Batu Gajah, a nearby suburb of Ipoh. Also, I have 4 host siblings: two host sisters aged 14 and 7 (the younger one is turning 8 tomorrow) and two host brothers aged 12 and 11. Hanging out and practicing Malay and Tamil with my host siblings is really fun and informative. My host family also has a cook who stays with the family. She is originally from India and is really funny.
Usually for fun, my host family goes out to eat, plays tennis, watches movies, or travels. I can't wait to do more of this during the Hari Raya holidays the next two weeks. Hari Ray ("Celebration Day") a is a Muslim holiday also known as Eid al-Fitr and celebrates the end of the month of Ramadan and the Muslims' fasting. Here in Malaysia, Hari Raya is a public holiday, and schools are let out for one to two weeks. During the actual day of Hari Raya, people in the cities return to their rural kampungs ("villages") to celebrate the festival. This is known as "balik kampung." During Hari Raya, Muslims wear traditional clothing, such as the Baju Melayu and Baju Kurung (pictures below). I can't wait to get a Baju Melayu and experience Hari Raya in person!

Selemat Jalan!


Typical Baju Melayu-worn by men

Typical Baju Kurung-worn by women

Thursday, July 25, 2013

First Day of School!

Selemat Petang!-Good evening!

Tuesday was my first day of school in Malaysia! I was put in Science Stream, which basically means I am in class with kids who are studying Math, General Studies (a class about Malaysian laws, rules, and customs), English (known as MUET here), and two Science classes. These Science classes include Biologi (Biology), Kimia (Chemistry), Fizik (Physics), and IT. My school is St. Michael's Institution. Tuesday, I was put into Science 4, which was a class that had Biology and Chemistry as its two Science classes. The kids were very welcoming, and the classes were interesting, but I decided to switch to Science 1 on Wednesday because I wanted to experience taking Physics, which I have not learned in detail before. The kids in Science 1 are also really nice, and I am really enjoying learning new subjects in Chemistry and Physics.

The class structure in Malaysia is really different from that of the U.S. Unlike in the U.S., in Malaysia, the students all stay in one classroom, and the teachers come to those classrooms to teach the students. Also, some students have school in the morning while others have school in the afternoon/evening. Usually, higher forms (kids in the higher grades) have school in the morning from 7:30 to about 1:05. Lower forms (kids in the lower grades) have school in the afternoon between 12:30 and 6:30. This arrangement allows for all of the kids to fit into the school and have the same space while they are learning.

Also, I fasted during the daylight hours of Tuesday to get a feel for the traditional Ramadan fasting experience. I felt hungry and thirsty at times of the day, but I was able to control myself enough to not eat until about 7:05 PM. Although I am not Muslim, I really enjoyed going through the fasting experience to see how Muslims live their lives one month of every year. I now understand the significance of the fast, and I am hoping to fast at least 2 more times during Ramadan!

I've just gotten through my first week of school, and I feel great about my class! I'm hoping to post a little later this week or sometime next week. Selemat jalan!


Me in the national uniform for Malaysia with my school badge and tie

Monday, July 22, 2013

My Time in KL and my Host Family

Thinking about arriving in Malaysia was really exciting. Actually getting to Malaysia was even more exciting. But actually meeting my host family and going to Ipoh was so amazing! Yesterday, I arrived in Ipoh and got to see the city, as well as the suburb of Chemor where I will be staying. My host family is very nice and encouraging, and I'm having a fun time with them. Although I know I will miss my natural family back in the U.S., I'm sure that spending time with my host family will help mitigate the natural feeling of home-sickness that exchange students feel while abroad.
I'm making this a short post, but there are a few pictures that I hope you will enjoy. Until next time! Selemat jalan!


My friend Stuart and I at Hong Kong Airport taking pictures with the boards where you put your faces in. I'm finally taller than him!

My first meal in Malaysia ironically was McDonald's...

This was a cool part of the Berjaya Times Square Mall in Kuala Lumpur. There's a video of it somewhere below. Berjaya Times Square Mall is the 14th largest shopping mall in the world and has over 1000 stores in it.

An awesome "piano staircase" in Times Square Mall

The really cool, really large capsule machine in Times Square Mall. Kinda resembles a gumball machine.

The Kuala Lumpur Tower-the tallest landmark in KL.

The famous Petronas Towers of KL.

Awesome grafiti in KL

A Chinese temple in KL Chinatown

A Hindu temple literally a 20 second-walk away from the Chinese temple! The diversity here is amazing!

Petaling Street in KL

Me in front of the Petronas Towers

A mosque in a bazaar

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Flights and my Arrival

I'm in Malaysia!

After a flight from LA to Hong Kong that was about 14 hours long, we stopped in Hong Kong for a 3 hour layover. During that time, I checked out Hong Kong airport, took silly photos, and had a little bit of a rest before we left for Kuala Lumpur on a 3 hour flight. We arrived at the KL airport tired, but two really nice AFS volunteers, Jude and Jed, took us to our hotel where we will be staying through the 20th. Today, we met kids from Switzerland, France, Belgium, Austria, Canada, and other countries, most of which are located in Europe. This was a really nice experience to meet kids from all over the globe now staying in the same area as us. Next, we went on a short tour of a KL mall. We got to use the local train system, which was really fun! In the mall, there was a keyboard staircase (which I'll post a video of in a couple of days) and a giant gumball/prize dispenser machine (which I'll post a picture of in a couple of days). Now, I am in my room getting some rest from an exhausting flight and the jet lag that accompanies any journey that crosses several time zones.

I will post some very interesting pictures and videos of Kuala Lumpur back on this post in a couple days, so check back then!


Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Departure... In about an hour

Hey guys,

In about an hour, I will leave the only place I have considered my true home to arrive at a new home, full of amazing experiences and people. I am going to fly into Hong Kong in the early morning of July 18. Then, I leave Hong Kong 3 hours later. Finally, I arrive in Kuala Lumpur at 12:30 PM. I truly am excited for this, but I can't help but feel a weird sense of awe in light of the fact that I will not come back to the U.S. for a year. So, I want to wish everyone here in America my goodbyes and good lucks. I also want to thank everyone who helped me get here: my parents, family, friends back home, teachers, YES Abroad Staff, AFS staff, and my awesome friends from AFS and YES Abroad. Finally, while I will miss my life in the U.S. at times, I am confident that my experience will be fun, informative, and possibly one of the most life changing experiences of my life. When I see you next time, I hope to be a changed person. So long America!


 The YES Abroad and British Petroleum Malaysia Program Kids in Blue Shirts with our chaperon Linda and awesome helper Alexa

Us with Allen Evans

Monday, July 15, 2013

At Gateway Orientation

Tonight, as I am struggling to fall asleep in my room in an LA hotel, I am spending my last night in the country for a year. The last 5 days, I have spent time with my dad and brother touring the city, visiting Universal Studios, and spending time with my cousins in the region. We all had a lot of fun and were able to have a great time in the U.S. before the orientation today and tomorrow. Today, our group of 9 students going to Malaysia (7 through the YES Abroad program and 2 through the British Petroleum program) met and talked about cultural resources, cultural norms, and other facets of Malaysian culture. Tomorrow, we plan to visit Hollywood and eat one last meal at an American restaurant before leaving for the airport. I'll try to do one more post tomorrow before departure, but if not, this will be the last post  make in the U.S. for this year. I've really enjoyed getting ready for this program, and the time is finally here! Thanks to everyone who has supported me: my family, friends, YES Abroad and AFS staff and volunteers, and anyone else who has played a part in my preparation for this amazing experience! I'm going to make the best of it and come back a different individual with more cultural knowledge and experience behind me! I can't wait until tomorrow night!

My brother and I in front of the Chinese theater

My brother and I in front of the Universal Globe at Universal Studios