True to my word, I’m now writing an update for what I did not this past week, but the one before that.
22 Ogos to 28 Ogos (August 22 to 28)
This week I got to visit a very well-recognized doctor from India who specializes in varma kalai, (translates to “art of special points”) a type of medicine utilizing massage and acupressure. The doctor is from India but comes to Malaysia to do clinics; his patients show immediate improvement after his treatment; people who were previously unable to walk have left his room able to walk again. We went to the doctor before school (at 6:30 am!) each morning this week since he is only here for a short period before returning to India. He treated the foot injury I’ve had for over two years, and the best part: he said I can run again! (“Slowly!”)
I haven’t been able to run even ten meters in more than eight months, but last week I started running again! I ran for three minutes the first day (the most appreciated three minute jog that the world has ever seen), and then ten minutes two days later. (This time, I’m taking care of myself and I’m not taking any chances. I’ll be very careful and return to running gradually.) I have to do an oil foot massage treatment and do some exercises each morning and night. [Update a week later: Successfully ran 20 minutes without any pain! Update again: Ran for 35 minutes!]
We visited the home of a family of three women who are unable to work due to injury, mental disability, and old age, and Amma brought food for them. The mother (pictured) doesn’t speak English but tried to talk to us in Tamil. Even though we weren’t sure what she was saying, we could tell she was incredibly grateful. Seeing how differently this family lives– and how challenging it is for them to do so– was a very enlightening experience. It made me really recognize and appreciate all the privileges I live with in the U.S. and here as well. (I know that sounds cliche, but I really mean it.)
It was also fascinating to hear that the aunties’ home was paid for by a local government official (Dato’) who brings food each month, and that neighbors help provide for them as well. This seems to be a trend in Malaysia– people take care of each other. They look out for one another much more than we seem to do in the U.S. (Though this could just be a characteristic most pronounced in small towns like mine)
After my fourth treatment with the Indian doctor, my host brother and aunt took me to KFC! This was very exciting for me since I’d never been to KFC in the U.S., and this symbolized my full embrace of not being vegetarian this year.* Apparently the local Tapah KFC is not very good, so we drove twenty minutes to the next town for better chicken burgers and fried chicken.
In Malaysia, most foods are eaten without a fork or spoon. If cutlery is used, the spoon is the main utensil, with the fork only meant to shovel food onto the spoon. When eating, touching people, or handing things to other people, we can only use our right hand, since the left hand is considered unclean.
I hadn’t eaten fried chicken in over five years, so politely taking small pieces off and eating them using only my right hand was quite challenging.
* I still plan on being vegetarian when I get back to the U.S., but here, things are so fish- and chicken- based that it’s easier to embrace the concept of trying every new thing I can if I just allow myself to eat fish, chicken, and whatever else is handed to me. The meat here feels cleaner; chickens are scrawnier, but that’s because they aren’t as chemical- and hormone-infused as American chickens. Since my family is Hindu, we don’t eat beef or pork.
Appa got a new car!
Our family went to the Hindu temple for blessings of the new car, something I found really intriguing. For any big purchase (even a new bicycle), Hindus will go to prayers at the temple and bring offerings for the gods.
Wednesday mornings I get to take a cooking class at school! We made a traditional Malaysian dessert known as abuk-abuk, a sort of glutinous rice with brown sugar, steamed in a neatly-folded banana leaf.
(I’m going to do a post all about food later)
I spent much of this school week reading books during classes I can’t understand (which I LOVE, since I rarely had time to read for fun in the US!). In classes like chemistry and biology, I read and take notes on a bilingual textbook, reviewing topics I learned in the US and teaching myself the ones I haven’t. In physics, math, and additional math, I can generally follow along with what is being taught, so I complete problems along with my classmates. We AFS students don’t have to go to certain classes (religion, morals, Bahasa Malaysia 2, history), so we have been working on a newsletter bulletin for the English Language Society, and I’ve been teaching myself calculus.
After school, I’ve been going to an aerobics/ zumba class or exercising at the gym or at home, eating a lot of rice and capati and thosai, doing watercolor painting, and writing.
We went to the island of Penang for the weekend and stayed with the family of Amma’s sister since Amma was giving a speech at a feminism convention. My awesome host cousin took me to Penang Hill on Saturday, and Fort Cornwallis the next day.
The next day, my cousin took me to Fort Cornwallis, a small Dutch fort from the late 1700s.
For me, the most exciting part was seeing the ocean up close!! (Even though it was unreachable from sidewalk, elevated about ten feet up.)
We drove home later that day after visiting Appa’s father in Penang.
On the way, we stopped (100% legally!) along the first Penang Bridge (formerly the longest bridge in Asia) to take pictures.
I’ll try to post the next week’s update soon! 🙂