This was our last week of school for the year! Since Malaysian schools operate on a calendar year, the month of November is for exams, and then December is a holiday!
I was in Ipoh again the next day, this time with Ibe.
The next day, we attended two Tamil primary school graduation ceremonies which featured performances by the children.
On Thursday, Ibe and I left school early to begin preparations for Thanksgiving dinner!
We made delicious pumpkin cheesecake, stuffing, mashed potatoes (featuring mashed sweet potatoes and normal potatoes, totalling 6 kg / about 12 pounds), and green beans.
The meal was delicious! About 15 family members/ friends were present, and we had a very nice time! Some family friends bought a birthday cake for me since my birthday was coming up.
Because this is Malaysia, some asked “where’s the rice?” and joked about going to get rice for dinner afterwards; but by the time the dinner was finished, everyone was very full. But people still made room for the delicious cheesecake.
This was a great experience because I could have felt homesick and sorry for myself missing Thanksgiving dinner with my American family, but instead I chose to create a memory I will never forget. This is also my family, and everyone appreciated our efforts so much. I was the only person who had ever experienced Thanksgiving before, so it was great sharing this positive part of American culture.
The next day was the last day of school!
Form 5 students were finished after this day, so the mood was kind of somber since we knew we probably would not see them again. Even though I may not have gotten to know them very well, I will miss them!
On Sunday, five of us AFSers in Perak (us three students from Tapah and two age 18+ volunteers) went on a tour with my Amma and our AFS chapter vice president to the northernmost part of our state, Royal Belum Forest, and the border of THAILAND!
We first stopped at a market in Lenggong, where we bought a breakfast of fruits and fried things.
After the market, we drove to Girik and Royal Belum Forest, which was a beautiful drive up a windy mountain road surrounded by the jungle (and a lot of monkeys!). We didn’t get to explore much of the forest, which is inhabited by elephants, tigers, orangutans, and thousands of other exciting plants and animals. We went on a boat ride around a large lake for which the park is known.
Then we moved on to a market which mostly sold clothing, where I practiced a lot of Malay and bargained for t-shirts for my friends and I.
We were told that we had crossed the border into Thailand! I was extremely excited, since I have felt a sort of calling to go to Thailand and have really really really wanted to go the whole time I’ve been here (and may have been mildly obsessed with getting to go there)
We passed several markers which led us to think we had actually crossed the border this time, but then there were more markers ahead and other clues that this wasn’t actually Thailand. We think this area was actually a sort of neutral no-man’s-land between the two countries, so then Amma asked the border patrol police if we could cross through to Actual Thailand to take pictures, and they said yes! Our impressive entry was aided by the Malaysian police officers being impressed that I spoke Malay.
The photos below are in chronological order of the series of borders we thought marked Thailand.
Elated by our recent entry into my #1 bucket list country, we drove home very happy, lounging in our very comfortable seats at the back of the bus, eating delicious chocolate-covered raisins/hazelnuts/almonds purchased at the Duty Free shop, driving alongside gorgeous jungles and palm plantations, frequently whisper-screaming to each other that WE JUST WENT TO FREAKING THAILAND!
For days afterward, I would occasionally remember our recent adventure and yell it out to Freya and Ibe, hopefully not so often that it was too annoying. I don’t think anyone understood how exciting our 30 minutes in Thailand had been for me, as going there has been basically the only thing I’ve wanted (since my life here is a gift of pretty much everything else) for months!
Late that night, we arrived back in Ipoh and stayed the night since we would be driving to Lumut (the beach!) early the next morning.