February 27- March 5
Monday I didn’t have to go to school! I had just finished two weeks straight of nearly daily school sports, and the following three days I had a track meet.
I somehow woke up at 7 am so I spent a few hours attempting to fall back asleep (eager to make the most out of the first day in a long time that I didn’t have to wake up early) and then spent the rest of the day relaxing and watching movies and writing an essay.
Tuesday was the first day of the Majlis Sukan Sekolah Pertandingan Balapan Dan Padang Daerah Batang Padang (Batang Padang district track meet), which was held right next to the pool where we had had the swim meet. I saw lots of people I knew from the cross country meet, so it was nice to say hi to all of them. Almost everywhere I go, people stare at me and yell ‘hello,’ so it was nice to have people saying ‘hello’ that I actually knew. I had been really excited for this track meet partly because of the fun events I was signed up for but also because I was so excited to see my cross country friends again (after one day of not seeing them, I missed them!). Ibe came for support; since she’s considered a 19 year old measuring age the Malaysian way, she wasn’t allowed to enter any events.
All the runners from our school split up in teachers’ cars and drove to the track. I didn’t have time to warm up or stretch before my first event, the 800m. After a good but challenging race, I won first place! The 800m is my favorite event and even though it was hard, I enjoyed it. (And got a fancy gold medal!)
Later I was in the 4x100m relay with other girls from school. We got 5th place out of 7 teams, but it was fun!
The next day I had the 400m race. I won first place in my heat, and then third place overall in finals, so I got a bronze medal!
I made a point of not signing up for any events longer than 800m, a very nice treat. But I must say, having been a distance runner, I’ve always underestimated sprinters, but now I realize how exhausting short races can be!
My host brother’s birthday was March 1! We went out to dinner with Amma and Muthu Periamma.
On the third day of the track meet, I was in the 4x400m relay. I was the fourth leg of the relay, and after a tough race, our school team got fifth place. Because of our time, we advanced to finals. (I didn’t expect this and was playing on a playground and attempting to do cartwheels with Ibe, relieved that my final race was over, about to go get ice cream, when boys from school came and told me we had to run again.)
We ended up with 7th place out of 8 in the final round.
The track meet was really fun, a great combination of several of my favorite things: running, speaking Malay, seeing friends, and being in awe of the incredible mountain view.
Later our teacher drove me home along with 6 boys. Another cultural note: I had to sit in the front seat because they were all Malays, and in Malay culture male-female physical contact is very much frowned upon, and among Malays it is technically illegal (but I still felt bad they all had to cram in the back of the car).
Friday, I went to school, but our classmates had an exam for their Islam or Morals class, so I worked on an essay for a scholarship. After school, Ibe and I walked to her house and then to Tapah Road town. Later, we went to Secret Recipe in Tapah and got cheesecake and salad (in that order). We met a very nice woman, a friend of Amma, who bought us each a piece of cake!
Saturday evening, Ibe, Freya, and I took the train to Ipoh. First I went for a run part of the way to Tapah Road, which was nice. I haven’t been able to do much road running with a set start and end point or lots of new places to explore (my favorite way of running) because running just isn’t very common here (and especially unusual for women or teenagers) and even when I do, I don’t like the constant staring and shouting I receive when I run past. Lots of people run in small tamans/ parks with windy tracks usually about 200m, but I find this tedious, so I don’t do it often. Generally, people only exercise before 10am or after 5pm, since it is just too hot during the rest of the day (and, unlike most of us orang putih in America, people here do not want to get tan).
The three of us took the train and were picked up by the host father for a Japanese student who recently arrived in the January—December batch of students. He took us to their home, where we joined in celebrating their son’s birthday. The family was so nice and hospitable, and they took us to dinner at a place with lots of food stalls. Later we walked around the Bandaraya and then went to a night market! We had a very nice time with the family and their host daughter, Shizuka. This was an especially nice happy summer-vibe night wandering around town and enjoying time with fun people.
The next morning, I went for a run in the gorgeous Gunong Long park. Our two-day host dad drove us to the park, where we saw a gorgeous lake and surrounding cliffs that I described as “so Southeast Asia!” Then Ibe and I took a short boat ride to the actual recreation park, with a path that was probably about 1 kilometer circling a lake, a pond, gardens, sitting areas, and a small zoo with goats and ostriches. I jogged around and periodically stopped to peek into caves, chase giant lizards, climb up big towers to see the gorgeous view, and look at the huge fish in the lake.
Later, we all walked around the Old Town part of Ipoh, where we visited very hipster-esque shops and a market.
After walking around Ipoh, we went to a huge Chinese temple. We walked around the gorgeous colorful temple and then went inside where we climbed up a gazillion steps through dark caves. At the top there was a nice view, and on the way down we saw monkeys in the trees! We explored the temple a bit more and then moved on since it was going to close.
We tried to go to a couple of other Chinese temples but they were already closed. We eventually found another temple that was very beautiful and had a huge lake and park in the back.
Eventually, we returned to the train station where Ibe, Freya, and I said our goodbyes and heartfelt thank yous to the family and then headed back to Tapah.