So about a month and a half after my initial visit to Johor Bahru, I have made my return to the southern metropolis of Malaysia. On Friday morning, I traveled from Ipoh to JB via a comfortable and capacious bus. I arrived in JB exhausted after my taxing 7 hour bus ride, but my inner wanderlust kept me excited and eager to meet my temporary host family and visit landmarks across the city during the course of my Short-term Exchange (STE).
My temporary host family members are great; my host parents are very hospitable, and my two host sisters are extremely helpful and friendly. In addition, another student on my program is staying with the same host family. I have yet to meet my temporary host brother, but I am excited to do so later today. I have spent in the last few days helping my host family around the house with chores and preparations and have truly gotten to know more about them and integrate into the household.
So far in my stay, I haven't done much travelling, but I have been able to experience important parts of my host family's lifestyle. My family is Buddhist, and my host mom often helps to cook vegetarian food for charity purposes at a Buddhist temple in the vicinity. Last night, I assisted my host mother in preparing fresh vegetables and curries for the nuns, monks, and elderly who pray at the temple. My host mother taught me how to prepare many dishes, and the entire family got to try some of the food for dinner before we sent it off to the temple the next morning. Being able to help the hard-working people at the temple was definitely a new and enjoyable form of community service, and getting to try the palatable options at the table was pretty nice as well. When we brought the food to the temple in the morning, we were able to see just how appreciative and happy the nuns were, and the smiles on their faces were a great start to my day!
Shredding potato skins is a lot harder than it looks!
The collection of rice, vegetables, soya, and mushroom that went into preparing this vegetarian meal
Carmen and me with the nun at the temple
Before deciding to host us for the next two weeks, my host family was already hosting an AFS student who went to a local school. As this student is elsewhere in Malaysia for her STE, the principal of her school wanted us to attend school for the week. After dropping the food off at the temple, my host mother took Carmen and me to school, where we were introduced to the principal and at the assembly. Because the students had exams throughout the day, we spent most of our time exploring the school or reading. The students were very welcoming and enjoyed our presence at the school. It was very intriguing to interact with a new student body at a school very different from the one in Ipoh.
The kids at school were really excited to see us!
Carmen and me waiting to meet the principal
Over the last couple of days, I've gotten to know my temporary host family members pretty well and have been involved in a couple of new activities in JB. These last few days were fun and eye-opening, and I know that there will be more new experiences throughout the course of my stay here in JB. I'm looking forward to the next few days, and I am very excited for whatever travels and sightseeing opportunities I receive.
A group of Johor state flags