Week Two

During the first week, I had phases of immense homesickness, particularly missing my family, friends, swimming, and salad, but I also had a lot of great experiences! This past week, I’ve settled in with my host family and I started school. I’ve still been homesick often, but less frequently than the first week. It feels like I’ve been here for months already! Here are some photos and stories of the second week.

Week Two

On the first day of school, we introduced ourselves at the weekly school assembly in front of 300 other students and then ate breakfast with teachers. We then joined our classmates, who were so welcoming! We are greeted by students whenever we walk around the school, and our classmates kindly explain any announcements made in Malay.

AFS students (Marike, me, Ibe) with school administrators


On Monday evening, I attended the Tapah Fitness Team aerobics/dance class, where forty or more Tapah residents meet up with our instructor on Mondays and Thursdays in an outdoor zumba-style class. Amma is friends with one of the organizers, and everyone was so welcoming to me! (despite my questionable dancing abilities)

I was so used to swimming/ exercising nearly every day at home in the U.S., and not doing so for the first week was really challenging for me, so I was elated to find this class along with the park/ walking trail right behind it.

Photos of my school, SMK Dato’ Panglima Perang Kiri:

The school has flowers and gardens all over, which I LOVE!










The sarau, where Muslim students pray during prayer breaks.











In preparation for school events on Friday, many of our teachers had meetings during class periods, so we spent most of the school days in our classroom getting to know our classmates. They helped Ibe (the other AFS student, from Belgium) and I with some Malay words and phrases and told us about their lives in Malaysian high school.

School starts at 7:10 am each day and ends at 2:30 most days. We have about four classes a day and a total of about eight different classes over the week, including Physics, Chemistry, Biology, math, Additional Math, English (taught by Amma!), cooking, and art. I’ll post a more detailed narrative of the school day in a few weeks, once I’m more settled into classes (and I actually understand the schedule).

Amma and us AFSers taking a nap in Amma’s classroom

On Tuesday after school, Amma took me to the grocery store to get ingredients to make salad!!! I had been severely missing my American salad, so I was thrilled. (Unfortunately, the selection of Malaysian salad dressings is a bit limited, with Mayonnaise being the dressing of choice by most, but any salad is better than no salad.)


Another image from my favorite grocery store

On Thursday, Amma took Marike (a gap year AFS volunteer from Germany who assists Amma teaching English) and I shopping in Tapah. The two of us went to the zumba class– forty minutes late, but, boleh-lah! This is Malaysia, where being late is perfectly fine, even to weddings and major events. It’s a good experience to see the difference between our tightly-scheduled American lives and the relaxed lifestyle enjoyed by Malaysians.





Friday, we had a Spirit Fair/ Business Day/ Malaysian Independence Day event at school. We got to try all sorts of Malaysian food from stalls run by student groups, saw a kowad performance by classmates, and went to the Ghost House, a haunted house event also run by students.

One of many selfies taken with us
Products of a school cooking competition









Friday night we three AFSers went to a different Hindu temple for prayers and a dance performance by Ibe’s younger host sister.

This month (which extends from July 15 to August 15 in the Hindu calendar) revolves around the mother god, so prayers focus on bringing health to the family.



The next morning, we woke up early to follow a procession between two temples.



Logs burning in preparation for the afternoon’s fire-walking ceremony
Vats of rice and curries being cooked

Later that afternoon…












After spending a month praying and following a vegetarian diet, several religious men walked across hot coals as part of the prayers. (Unfortunately, WordPress won’t allow me to upload a video without upgrading my plan.)


Sorry; slightly graphic image. This man symbolically pulled the statue of a god in a cart with ropes attached to hooks through his skin. 


Some AFSers and friends at the temple
Amma and I enjoying our meal at the temple

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