Gong Xi Fa Cai!

12:27 PM

February was basically a month of travelling Malaysia and the little corner of the world that is Southeast Asia, so bear with me as I recap this month's adventures!

I first travelled to Johor Bahru, to stay with Teresa's host family for Chinese New Year. It was a 12 hour train ride filled with cockroaches, non-functioning air conditioning, and overpriced meehoon goreng, but eventually I reached JB Sentral where Teresa greeted me with some kuih, Starbucks and a hug. Good friend alert or what?! I was welcomed warmly with a comment (completely friendly of course) from Teresa's host mom about how much weight I've gained and an exceptional dinner of Chinese noodles. Somehow those two things seem connected... Anyways.
The eve and eve-eve of CNY were a flurry of activity. Last minute cheongsam shopping, eating lots of Chinese food, drinking coffee to no end. I suppose the festivities statrted with the reunion dinner. Teresa, me, Timo and Ihsan (two of Teresa's mom's interns) and the various other members of Teresa's  host family traveled to a restaurant for a dinner. The point of this dinner is to, well, reunite the family before the real celebration begins. Hands down the best part was the yee san. This is a dish that consists of rainbow crunchy things, raw salmon, vegetables and some sort of sauce. The whole mess of ingredients is put on a plate and then tossed in the air using chopsticks. Suposedly, the higher the tosses, the higher your prosperity is. Chinese New Year is a lot about ensuring prosperity for the following year. In a slightly bizarre plot twist, the foreigners were the only ones to use chopsticks for the entire meal.
Due to a communication error, we ended up with 15 foreign interns at the house for the eve celebrations. Lots of fireworks, wish lanterns, and at midnight, 2 oranges to each person, we headed to the temple. The temple was crowded and filled with the cloy scent of incense. We received our fortunes for the year and very sleepily returned home.
The next morning we attended services at Teresa's host mom's Japanese Buddhist center. There was chanting, which was a really amazing thing to witness. The whole room was full of energy as they all repeated the Chinese phrases. Really powerful. After chanting, there were lion dances and drum performances, the first of many we'd witness during the holiday. We also had a barbecue dinner that night for all the interns and some neighbors. We played some bonding games and enjoyed each other's company.
The second day we went to Batu Pahat, a small village also located in the state of Johor. After visiting some relatives, we received ang pau from the prosperity god at a local temple and explored the area. There was a pig farm, a sketchy looking jetty, and some really beautiful cave temples. The village had a community feeling, everyone knew everyone. For such a small area, it was packed full of things to do. After exploring the village we went for a delicious lunch of chicken feet! This probably sounds so gross to any Americans reading this, but chicken feet are one of my favorite Chinese foods. You just put the toes in your mouth and suck off the meat. It's super juicy, and 100% clean.
Third day of Chinese New Year: more open houses, more orange exchange, more ang pau. Pretty routine eh? Of course, at every open house we went to there was tons of food. Some of the typical Chinese New Year goodies are Love Letters, pineapple tarts, and this amazing thing that I can only describe as pork jerky. It's ridiculously expensive, and definitely a delicacy, but so satisfying (and probably full of cholesterol...)
After the third day, we went sightseeing around Johor a bit. Teresa, her host family and I went to the southernmost tip of mainland Asia, a water village, and some places in Johor Bahru. I know Ipoh is supposed to be one of the largest cities in Malaysia, but it doesn't have the skyscraper pedestrian feeling of KL and JB. Something I appreciate about Ipoh, definitely.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Teresas's host family and I'm so grateful they hosted me for CNY!

Wish Lanterns

Sparkler Art: CNY

Candles at the temple

The temple

At the Japanese Buddhist centre: international interns, Teresa, me, Teresas's host mom

The pig farm at Batu Pahat

Po$ing in front of the giant money

With our friend the prosperity god


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