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Showing posts from January, 2008

In this life you have to work at being interesting

Today marked my first day at Imtiaz Kuala Berang. Imtiaz is the Arabic word for excellence which was one of the catch-phrases of orientation, right up there with “Selamat pagi is good morning,” “Malaysia is a Muslim country,” and “no mini-skirts.” Suffice it to say, I now know Imtiaz means deli sandwich.

Let me run you through my day:
First I wake up before 7:00 am. This has never happened before. Ever. The only way I’ve seen 6:45 before today was if I forgot to go to sleep after watching infomercials. Sarah and I have a very nice apartment actually. We're in the Warden's quarters at her school, SMK Matang. We have two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a storage room, sitting room, living room/dining room and a kitchen. It’s actually obscene how nice this place is. This is compensated by the fact that we’ve seen a roach every day we’ve been here… which is two so far. But if you take this out to its logical conclusion, we’re looking at well over 200 roaches over the course of our time in …

On the Other Side of the World

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Have you ever loved a food so much it hurt? For those of you that have seen Mike's KFC series you know what I'm talking about. We went to a resort on the beach for dinner last night and there was a pasta station. When I ate it I wanted to cry. Maybe it was because it was just so good, or because I hadn't had it for awhile, or maybe because partway through my gastronomically ecstasy, I realized how long it would be until another moment so blissful. Maybe that's the beautiful thing about food: by enjoying it you make it so there's left to enjoy. It's kind of like falling in love with canceled TV shows, which apparently is a passion of mine (Arrested Development,Firefly,Wonderfalls).

Also of note at that incredible dinner was this weird dessert thing called Sabu, Sebo, or some combination of the two. I can best describe it as chewy fish eggs dowsed in coconut milk and watery, unrefined molasses which also might be from coconuts. It was bizarre and excellent…

Of Mustaches and Men

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So through a series of coincidences, everyone thinks I'm Muslim now.

It started a few weeks ago when Sarah and I spent 15 minutes in Mydin (like Walmart but less evil) trying to explain the concept of voltage converter to its employees in the electronics department. I do think they understood that we wanted a "Amerika-Malaysia-konvertor-plug-buy," but they seemed to be fresh out, and or, doubtful that they ever existed. As a result we needed replacement products for the two things that had voltage issues: Sarah's hair straightener and my beard trimmer. No problem, since we're at Walmart's less evil cousin, we can certainly buy two hair-machine-products for cheap. Sarah's hair straightener- no problem. She gets one for 4 dollars.

Beard trimmer... slightly more problematic.

The concept of hair clipper seemed to be alive and well in Mydin electronics, and I had my pick of 5 brands, all for 5 dollars or less. But while Malay men might want shorter hair on …

Enggris

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So in Malay, English is called Bahasa Inggris, literally the language of England. I will now show you examples of Enggris, which cannot really be claimed by any one land or culture. It's a hybrid and like the Prius, the Donkey, and the Reese's Peanut Butter Cup, it is far superior than its constituent parts. I can only hope that the encounters with this wondrous creation continue throughout my stay in the Asias.

1. "If you want to see the rainbow, you have to wait for the rain?"















A couple of things to note:

- When given the fertile topics of love and friends, the creator of this t-shirt can only think about good things that are dependent on bad things, since of course we'd need cheering up if someone brought up friends and love. It would make sense if the topic was something inherently bad, like death, taxes, or unexplained rashes. But friends? What's wrong with just writing "This is a good thing that nearly everyone can get behind"?

- I believe the …

No Exit

I write this post from the prison that is my Bahasa Melayu classroom.
Today's teacher might be my favorite yet. He says a word and then repeats it until we guess it. In some cases, until we guess the British equivalent. He's also notable for being the world's most confident and least effective charades player. For the word kita ("we") as well as for nearly all words, the only gestures he'll offer is his hands moving in a circle in front of him.

From the introductions (which I have down pat, as we've learned it every single day since classes began):
"Saya Jackie," *blows her nose wetly* "I'm miserable." This effectively sums up our experience of the classroom

I also appreciate how thorough he is. For example, he'll say "now I've been told you've alread learned pronnouns," and then procede to teach us pronouns. You have to admire his genuine concern that he is the only person in the country who correctly unde…

Nicholas Cage: Ambassador to the World

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The last three months (roughly, I haven't kept track of the days since we don't have American TV) has been something of a blur, but I've finally gotten into enough of a routine to catch my breath. So what's worth mentioning?

1. We met a guy on the street a few nights ago who was super friendly. Lemme see if I can recreate the exchange:

Guy: I don't like George Bush
Us: We don't either.
Guy: I like Osama Bin Laden.
Us: (awkward silence)
Guy: And Nicholas Cage.

Some people might think this was a pretty typical conversation in a foreign country, but I'd like to point out that this is the first and ONLY time I've heard someone say they like Nicholas Cage. Clearly this man's taste was severely compromised. Sure, you can bemoan the fact that Bin Laden is more popular than America's current president, but I think it's far more important to note that we clearly have a great untapped diplomatic resource in Nicholas Cage. And clearly this guy was forgiving e…

Kuala Terengganu: Motos, roti, and babies

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Short track: (May or may not appear in the long track)

1. I learned how to ride a moto.
2. I ate a dozen roti Chennai.
3. I went to the Mosque to take pictures.
4. I learned something about my placement
5. Went to Chinatown in KL
6. I'm wearing Thai Fisherman Pants
7. I ate some crazy fruits.

Long track: (May or may not be based on the short track)

So, I'm not in Kuala Lumpur anymore. I'm now in Kuala Terengganu. Since Kuala seems to be in the names of all the major cities, I'm going to translate it roughly as: "Awesome collection of buildings and people of." So I'm now in the Awesome Collection of Buildings and People of Terengganu. I can't really remember everything I've done since the last post, so I'll just recap the food.

Roti Chennai. If you follow Sarah's blog as closely as I do, you might already know about this wonderbread. I think what made it so special is that I stumbled upon the guy making the bread at a very hungry point in the d…

Day 1: Kuala Lumpur

First off, I'm in Malaysia and it's a real place. Everything else I have to say is secondary to that fact. Sarah and I are well and we've already met up with a fellow ETA, the illustrious Ellie Cross. On the down side, we have yet to be contacted by anyone in a position of authority, so there's still a remote possibility that we've been flown halfway around the world and put us up in a nice hotel for an elaborate practical joke. Time will tell.

Food worth talking about:
For the SFO to Taipei trip, I ordered the "Asian Vegetarian" meal and convinced Sarah to get the Kosher meal. since they required 24 hours notice I figured they were more special and tastier. I was a little wrong.

Sarah was given: a cup of frozen vegetables, a cube of ice sealed in a plastic 3 ounce container (which actually turned out fine when it was combined with the inexplicably hot cup of water she was also served), a slice of gefilte fish with two olives, and for the main course…

Leaving for Malaysia!

Hey everyone!
Well, it's just about that time when I pack up and leave the country. I have only a few ideas of what to expect:
1. There will be less Americans.
2. I will be relatively taller.
3. No one will understand me.
4. Kite flying as a sport will be slightly more popular.
5. If you're reading this blog, I probably won't see you until I get back.

So yeah, check back often and I'll tell you exciting things as soon as they happen. Or, if my internet access is shoddy, within 2 months of them happening.

All the best,
Ezra