I started off this week at the beach with my AFS Tapah friends Freya and Ibe. By the time the week finished, I was another year older.
While Amma was attending a course, Ibe, Freya, and I entertained ourselves in Lumut, walking around the town and to the riverfront/ beach, and swimming around in the pool.
For lunch, we had PIZZA! Genuine, authentic, non-frozen, not-Pizza Hut, delicious Italian pizza. We were extremely excited, since none of us had had good pizza in four months. (Pizza Hut here is worse than American Pizza Hut)
On our first night, we went to the top floor of the condo in which we stayed, and then down to the beach to see the sunset. The so-called sea was actually a river, and we couldn’t swim in the water, but the sunset on the water was beautiful nonetheless!
The next day, when it wasn’t raining, we walked around the town, sat on the beach, and swam in the pool. I was so excited to be able to swim sort-of laps, even though swimming on a curve in the jelly-bean shaped pool was a bit of a challenge.
The next day, after Amma’s course, she took us to the beautiful beach Teluk Batik. We found a ton of clear jellyfish-like blobs in the water and wet sand (two unidentifed species of cnidarian: clear gooey blobs and lots of small dime sized half-spherical discs buried in the sand). We looked for shells, played on swings, and sprinted down the beach, with many onlookers cheering as we raced past.
Soon after we arrived, spurred by a possible approching storm, there appeared to be a massive monkey migration in which countless monkeys— that apparently frequent the beach in order to exact tribute from tourists— ran down from all the trees and fled in one direction to who knows where.
That evening, we went to a huge Chinese temple known as a tourist attraction for its large dragon tunnel.
Our final day was my seventeenth birthday!
My friends and I spent time at the pool and in the town. We went to Domino’s pizza (we took advantage of the availability of pizza in Lumut) after buying fresh coconuts to drink coconut water and brought them into the pizza chain. It was delicious and so much fun! (Sorry for the commercialism, but this was way better than Pizza Hut)
Later, some friends of Amma (the people who so generously let us stay in their empty condo for the few says) took us to a mangrove forest (which was mostly closed, unfortunately, but the part we saw was cool and had a lot of monkeys!) After that, we visited Amma in the school where she had been working for these three days.
We stopped by Marina Island, a manmade island with a jetty to Pangkor Island, which is famous for beautiful beaches and snorkeling (We had really hoped to visit at least one day while we were in Lumut but weren’t able to).
That evening, we stopped by Amma’s friend’s sister’s house “for tea.” Much to my surprise and delight, they had a birthday cake for me! This was such an incredibly sweet gesture, and I really really appreciated it. I had been missing my US friends and family, and it meant a lot that these people I had never met before would be willing to put on a mini birthday party for me! Once I lit a candle on the cake*, the elders performed blessings by feeding me small pieces of cake as I did in return. I discovered that if I thought feeding myself with my hands was hard, this is a whole new ballgame.
*Indian tradition dictates that the person having the birthday lights a candle, as opposed to blowing it out, since they feel that blowing out the light would be symbolic in a negative way. (I did not know this when we made Amma’s birthday cake and had her blow out the candles.) This was interesting to think about, and I agree that it makes sense not to extinguish a light when celebrating the coming of a new year, hoping for it to be followed by a continued life full of light.
Later, while Amma attended another function in Ipoh, Freya, Ibe, and I walked around the mall and then went to dinner with a volunteer/ friend of our AFS chapter.
Even though this day had pretty much everything I could ask for— great friends, kind people singing the Happy Birthday song for me, good pizza, cake, summer weather, swimming, the beach!, being in Malaysia, getting blessings from the elders at my mini party, travelling, and going to the mall— I still felt sad at times. I was disappointed we hadn’t gone to Pangkor, but I did a pretty good job of not letting that overshadow the gratitude for all the things I did get to do. Still, I missed my family and friends back home and all the camaraderie that comes with birthdays over there.
Thursday, post-birthday, was a bit of a sad day. In the evening I went to my aerobics class, which always helps to cheer me up. This class has gotten me through a lot of tough times, and I’m so thankful for the kind, welcoming people in the class.
This weekend Amma and Ibe’s host mom went to Kuala Lumpur for an AFS Volunteer congress. Friday, I went to Ibe’s house to go to the Tapah Road night market, and then spent the night. That weekend, we babysat her host sisters (but all we really had to do was cook). Saturday we cooked pancakes for lunch, which were delicious, and chili for dinner, which was also delicious.
Later, Amma picked me up, and that night, we went to the Murugan temple to help clean it.
And that’s the end of this week!