AFS Malaysia Arrival Camp11:05 PM
WE MADE IT
|I'm secretly in love with this fish|
The drive to the hotel was crazy. Not only do they drive on the other side of the road, but Malaysian highways are insane. People weave in and out of lanes and there are always people on motorbikes threading in and out of moving traffic. The best part of the drive was seeing the outline of KLCC on the horizon, hinting at a city that was there for us to explore.
We made it to the hotel all in one piece. I grabbed a quick shower before we went down to lunch. I’m pretty sure we all ordered tame food. Lots of sandwiches and salads, nothing really Malaysian. Our first introduction to the language barrier came when ordering drinks. We all wanted water. Say water. You probably pronounce it wadder, right? So did we. The waiter just looked at us confusedly before Ben ordered waTTer for us. In Malaysia the T’s are very distinct, rather than the d sound we often say them with.
After lunch, we napped by the rooftop pool. The roof offered a spectacular view of the city along with lounges that we promptly passed out on.
That night we ate our first real Malaysian dinner, buffet style, and walked to an internet café. We let our parents know we were okay and dragged ourselves back to the hotel. Despite our various naps, jet lag caught up with us and I for one fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow.
Breakfast was this amazing buffet. There was rice and chicken which I thought was so weird at the time, but now think is completely normal. It was at this buffet that I tried roti canai for the first time and fell in love. Roti canai is this out of this world doughy flatbread served with chicken curry or dhal, a yellow sauce with carrots and potatoes. Since I’ve been here I’ve heard mythical tales of roti with banana in it. I will order this as soon as I find out its Malaysian name…
After breakfast, we headed into the city! Ben and Naz, two AFS volunteers escorted us. The Malaysian equivalent of a subway took us into the more commercial part of Kuala Lumpur. We went to a fish spa. Basically, you stick your feet in a basin of water and fish nibble the dead skin off your feet. It was one of the strangest and most tickly sensations I’ve ever experienced. Ben, Naz, Jimmy and Teresa chickened out but the rest of us gave it a go.
With our freshly bitten feet, we headed off to The Pavilion. This is a huge shopping mall with about 6 floors. Teresa and I, YES shopaholics made quick work of it and made it onto every floor within our 1 hour allotted free time. There was this really interesting Japanese section, Tokyo Street, on the 5th floor where they sold manga, Hello Kitty, and the best (and only) passion fruit macaroon I’ve ever had. With heavy shopping bags and lightened wallets, we took the train back to the hotel where we spent the next 4 or so hours lounging on the roof. The two other Americans, Cydney and Victor, on the BP scholarship arrived, but they were exhausted and headed almost straight to bed. We ate dinner that night with our hands. I’ll talk about exactly how this is done is in a later post, but let’s just say our first time wasn’t pretty.
That night we headed to KLCC, known also as the Petronas Towers. They were so beautiful, lighting up the sky at night, we all took ridiculous amounts of pictures. At the base of the towers, there was this amazing fountain that had lights and there was a fountain light show to music. Although there weren’t fireworks, it helped to make up for our missed 4th of July celebrations.
|Some of our batch|
The next day, other people started arriving! We met other AFS volunteers, a lot of YES returnees. Students arrived from literally all over the world: Venezuela, France, China, Iceland, Germany, Italy, and Colombia were just some of the countries. Our batch has about 55 people in it. Over the next few days, mostly spent in workshops with students and volunteers; I got to know a lot of the other exchangers. They are some of the most unique and likeable people I’ve ever met and it’s indescribable knowing that despite different backgrounds, we’ll all be experiencing similar things this year. One of my favorite parts of the camp was the city tour. After days spent learning about chain of communication, what to do in case of harassment (if someone flashes you, you say “oh my… so small! Like my little brother!”), it was great being back in KL. We were assigned 10 RM (about $3) and had to buy a toiletry, a postcard and a souvenir. We went to Central Market, which sold all of this and more. Surprisingly, this task was very easily done. I managed to get a scarf, postcard and toothpaste for about 9 RM. That’s less than $3, I don’t think you can get just toothpaste for that price back in the US. After Central Market, we went to the mall in KLCC, another huge 6 story affair. I didn’t really buy anything; I spent most of the time wandering the mall with a French student and another American.
Saturday night was this amazing event, Magic of the Night which gets its own post.
Sunday morning, we ate breakfast. There was an air of nervousness, and tiredness in the room. (I stayed up until 4 am that night with Kaila. It’s a long story.) After one last q&a/ feedback session, we gathered our luggage and went to the handing over ceremony. We were first introduced by country, and then chapter by chapter, each student took a picture with their family and the AFS Malaysia president Dato Dale, on the stage. My and some other peoples’ families couldn’t attend so I got to watch everyone join their host family. It was sweet to see the little Malay children salaam their new older brothers or sisters, and some families brought flowers or teddy bears for their new arrival.
After joining the families, we all got up on the stage to sing Di Mana Dia, a horrifically catchy children’s song we spent all of the camp learning. I still have it stuck in my head now, and I’m sure it will haunt me for years.
We went into the banquet room for a lunch with our families. I sat with a table of volunteers, so at least I wasn’t alone. After eating, we all said our goodbyes; hugs were given, numbers exchanged and promises to visit were made. Families started leaving and soon we were all on our separate ways, headed all over the country to our new homes.