Short Term Exchange: Dua Minggu Di Terengganu!7:12 PM
AFS Malaysia offers a program called Short Term Exchange, STE from here on out, to experience a different part of Malaysia. This year the locations offered were Melaka, Perlis, Terengganu, the Orang Asli settlement, and Sabah. Originally, I was one of eight students selected to go to Sabah, but due to the conflict in Lahad Datu, our trip was cancelled last minute and the eight of us were frantically shuffled around last minute to different STE locations. And that's how I ended up on a 13 hour bus ride from Ipoh to Kuala Terengganu.
My host family in Kuala Terengganu was Chinese and fabulous in all ways known to mankind. My host dad was a swim coach, English teacher, tae kwan do instructor and golfer, my host mom worked at a bank. I had two host sisters, Joceline, 19, my best friend, student and Jacqueline who works in KL. I also had a host brother who works in KL as well, but I didn't get to meet him.
The 2 weeks were really busy. The AFS Terengganu Chapter, led by Madame Lucy, had so many activities planned for us. On Sunday, we attended the 7 million women purple walk, which let us see the city, but it was during the hottest part of the day which was not so nice.
I also attended school for 3 days in Terengganu. SMK Sultan Sulaiman hosted me, Svenja and Emannuele in Form 4, classes A, B, and C respectively. The school was extremely Malay compared to Convent, there were only 2 Chinese in my class and no Indians! Everyone was super friendly and we made so many friends so quickly. Over 3 days, I swear we must have taken at least 200 photos with the students. That's another different thing, although techinically not allowed, even the prefects brought their phones to school. Such a difference than the military style discipline of Ipoh. Schools in Terengganu (along with Kelantan and Kedah, the other two Islamic states) run from Sunday to Thursday, that is, the weekend is Friday and Saturday to observe the Muslim holy day instead of the Christian. Goodbyes were surprisingly hard to say after only 3 days, but Svenja and I did go out with friends from school a few times after we officially stopped attending school.
One of the activities AFS organized was jungle trekking. I'm not a huge fan, but the first day of jungle trekking we also learned survival skills. After an hour hike we found ourselves on a riverbed where we learned how to build a fire and cook instant noodles, chicken and bread over fire. The noodles were cooked in a bamboo shoot, the bread twisted around a stick, and the chicken speared and rotated over the fire. There's something super satisfying about eating food that you cooked yourself, especially using just nature.
The eight of us hosted in Terengganu also traveled to Pulau Redang! Redang was incredibyl beautiful, everything you'd expect from a tropical island. Crystal clear turquoise water, powder white soft sand, lazy hammocks strung along palm trees under the beach, it was heaven. An utterly relaxing 3 days were spent on the island, tanning, jumping off the jetty, snorkelling. The staff at our resort were very friendly and we all left the island relaxed, but very reluctant to go back to "city life." Although I don't know how much of a city Kuala Terengganu is considered... It doesn't have a movie theatre.
When I wasn't island hopping or trekking, I was spending time with my lovely host family. I grew extremely close with my host sister, bonding over our love of glee and John Green novels (If you don't know who he is, look it up). I went with my host dad to swimming practice, hung out with my sister;s friends, and made the most of my time there. I really miss Terengganu and saying goodbye was truly a saddening experience.
|Clowning around in school|
|Beach across the street from my host house|
|Pulau Redang sunrise|
|The Terengganu crazies aww <3|