Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Tiga Bulan di Ipoh! Three Months in Ipoh!

Yesterday was a pretty significant day as far as anniversaries go. Three months ago yesterday, I arrived in Ipoh for the first time, full of excitement and amazement. Truthfully, I was also a little nervous beginning my year here and starting school. But those feelings quickly disappeared when I got used to the environment here. The people here are extremely friendly and accommodating, and Ipoh has quickly become a town I love.

Three months is a pretty long time. It's basically a quarter of a year. And over the last three months/quarter of a year, I've done a lot of interesting, edifying, and downright awe-inspiring things! I've toured KL and Ipoh, made many friends, celebrated Hari Raya, explored a cave system millions of years in age, traveled to colorful Chinese temples, visited beautiful Hindu temples, met the Menteri Besar and Raja Muda of Perak, celebrated Malaysia's independence on Merdeka Day, visited Pulau Pangkor, seen Malaysia play in the Asian Hockey Cup, been to the U.S. Embassy in KL, celebrated the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival, and taken place in the festivities for Hari Malaysia!

This all leads me to say that I've learned a lot during my stay here. The events listed above have been really fun and have allowed me to learn things as well, but a lot of what I learn about Malaysia comes in between these events and during the normal day-to-day activities of my time here. School, time spent at home, and regular interactions with my host family and friends help me learn a lot about the culture and language here. I'm still learning more every day, and I know that what I learn each day helps me understand about Malaysian culture and religions. I cannot wait until Deepavali celebrations begin, as I'm sure I will learn so much about Malaysian Hindus and their culture.

I'm really happy to have been here for three months, and I'm going to post some pictures (If I were to post all of them, I don't know when I would end!) from some of the amazing experiences I've had during the last three months here. It's been a great time so far, Malaysia, and I'm looking ahead to the rest of the year here!

First step onto Malaysian soil!
July 18, 2013, around 12:45 PM

First Kampung House Sighting

First time to Tesco

 During Hari Raya

A brilliant Hindu cave temple

Malaysia vs. Pakistan

Salaaming the Raja Muda (Son of the Sultan of Perak)

With the Menteri Besar of Perak (similar to a governor of a state in the U.S.)

With my host family in front of a huge Chinese cave temple 

Inside that temple

A really colorful cave temple! 

In front of Malaysia's most famous landmark-the Petronas Twin Towers!

At a fort in Pangkor

There's a lot of pictures of Chinese temples, but this one in Pangkor was the grandest and most colorful of all!

My view of the mountains from the house

Friday, October 18, 2013

Preparations for and Some of the History of Deepavali/Diwali

Hi everyone!

First of all, I'm really sorry for not posting recently. It's just that I feel like I've really gotten used to life here. Also, this time of year is really busy for my friends, host family, etc. But I know that I'll be more active (both in activities and posting on the blog) soon!

Anyways, over the last week or so, I've felt as if the whole city is getting ready for November 3, when the Hindu festival of Deepavali (also known as Diwali) takes place. I've seen banners in malls and on the street, the shopping rushes at Indian sari and henna stores, and decorations everywhere in preparation for the big day. My host family has already rearranged about half the house in order to accommodate the multitude of visitors who will visit the house as part of the celebration. Deepavali is one of the biggest festivals in Hinduism, and here in Malaysia, it's celebrated in grand fashion.

A little history about Deepavali: It's also called the festival of lights, and it commemorates one or more of several different events according to the type of Hinduism a person follows. Some Hindus believe that Deepavali celebrates the return of Rama, a human incarnation of Vishnu, to the city of Ayodhya after 14 years of exile; others believe that the festival is associated with the slaying of the demon Narakasura by Krishna, another human incarnation of Vishnu, and his wife Satyabhama. A smaller fraction of Hindus believe that the festival honors the return of the Pandavas, five brothers who ruled over a kingdom in modern India and spread peace and prosperity throughout the region, after 13 years of exile.

Deepavali is celebrated by doing many things: visiting temples, making and sharing sweets, performing prayers, meeting with family members and friends, lighting candles and lights, using firecrackers, making sparks, and much more. In different parts of the world, Deepavali is celebrated in very different ways. Like most of the Hindus around the world, Malaysian Hindus observe Deepavali by following practices common to all Hindus during Deepavali, such as doing basic prayers or rituals and lighting candles or firecrackers. However, unlike Hindus in many other parts of the world, Hindus in Malaysia hold open houses during Deepavali and let others into their houses to makan, or eat. Also, not only do Hindus here invite their friends and family during Deepavali; they also welcome strangers and people of any ethnicity or religion. To me, this fact makes the open houses truly open. I've seen so many cases of the amazing mix of cultures and religions here (Hari Raya, Merdeka, Hari Malaysia, and school, just to name a few); you can see this openness among and blending of peoples of many different cultures, and that's what makes Malaysia so different from so many other countries. I've loved seeing this diversity and mixing, and I'm hoping to see more of it during the celebration of Deepavali.

Anyways, like I said previously, things have been pretty normal the last few weeks. However, that's not an indication of things to come; the next two weeks are definitely going to get more exciting as the day of Deepavali approaches and the preparations become more intense. Please subscribe to my blog to find out more about the exciting things I will be doing in the next few weeks!

A couple of signs and banners wishing people for Deepavali

You can probably read the caption under the stacks of gum if you zoom in by clicking the image. If you are not able to, the words are: Wrigley's Chewing Gum, No. 1 in America!

Thanks for reading!