Sunday, March 23, 2008

Bowling for Concubines

My Malaysian friend Azlina isn't quite a concubine since she is her husband's first and only wife, but Malaysian men are allowed to have up to 4 wives. On the average, most of them have 2. I spent the first few days in malaysia in a kampung homestay on the south part of penang island. This was my one semester at sea trip, and also my sole experience as a trip leader, so with it came the responsibility of 38 students in addition to representing America.

A third of the students decided that they wanted to leave the trip early, so I made it look like they all had to head to "KL" so as not to offend the entire village. I loved these kids -- I did, but wow did I get a taste of what we've been hearing as the "entitlement" generation. They need to be entertained at all times. Three days in a village is a long time ... I get it, but I'm wondering what it is they thought they were signing up for? They don't speak English. They're MALAYSIAN, why would they? And they do things like sitting around, taking an hour to prepare a meal, and playing with rocks. 

As for me, it was quite interesting to spend so much time with a muslim. On the first day, Azlina bathed and said her prayers while I read. She explained the process to me in great detail, then suddenly zoned off into this veiled world right in front of my eyes. She and I  stayed for two nights in the chief's house, which was arguably the best possible homestay experience you can have in a village. His home was rather large -- 3 bedrooms, had blue rubber roofing, and laminate over the cement floors that looked like faux wood. I had such a great time staying with this family. They cooked for me, dressed me. The little girls even took me (and my SAS little sister Nicole) on a night on the town ... that included bowling! 

We visited an ostrich farm, goats, an herb garden, and a shop where they make batik crafts. My weekend in Langkawi was such a stark contrast to the Malaysian life I experienced in the village. John, Sue, Avi, Stephanie and I  stayed in the "gecko guesthouse" where Avi found his blessed air conditioning. An unesco site, the island of langkawi is much more chichi than penang. There was even a starbucks and a gift shoppes that sold yanni wear. We spent the evening eating chinese noodles, lounging around the gorgeous beach, and befriending a boy from seattle who had hours of ghost stories to share. What was even more frightening was this winning streak I encountered in playing uno. I had randomly been told the day before, if you might recall, that my necklace "with the black eyes" was a sign of good luck. Lo and behold, the following day, after having been schooled again on how to play it --- i couldn't lose a game of uno no matter how hard i tried. I suppose it's better than my other reputation of having had a fatality on each of my previous voyages. But why can't I win the lotto or something worth it. Who cares about uno. I mean, really.

I also need to mention, before I forget, that on TWO separate occasions, I was summonsed to the stage to make an impromptu speech in front of all of the students and the entire village. Imagine. You're half asleep after having just made yourself eat from a fish head, in the middle of a cultural show involving little children in ethnic wear, and then they suddenly say "And now speech from Mssss. Miller." One of the students bumped my shoulder, and then I had to go up to the podium. It happened again on the last day. At least that time, my father, the chief, was next to me.

1 comment:

jpe said...

wait wait wait... so the students went to KL?

and that was not offensive?