Currently, I am sitting at a wooden desk, littered with coffee mugs, water bottles, my two phones (1 international and 1 usa), and a toilet paper roll. My desk mate (a chatty printer without ink), watches me defend myself against the persistent mosquitoes. I am in Phrao, once again teaching at the Little Candles Nursery (ages 2-4) and Kindergarten (ages 4-6). Today we reviewed the song Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes. I had forgotten how much fun it is to talk through a pinched nose… I may have had more fun with that than the kids did…
Last week Tuesday, I hopped onto a plane and shot off to Malaysia for a day and a half. I stayed with the family of my good friend from Bethel University, Sarah. They were wonderful; we had dinners together, sang Christmas songs in the car, and watched The Importance of Being Earnest. They showed me their favorite places to eat, including a delicious Indian restaurant, where I ate roti for the first time, as well as drank my 1st young coconut (which I guess is the new fad). They were warm and gracious, and I am blessed to have spent time within their family. Another comforting thing about my trip to Malaysia was that the Malay language uses the roman lettering system. Even though I did not know what the words meant, I recognized the letters on signs and could sound out the words (they are pronounced like you pronounce Spanish). It was odly relieving.
I just noticed small red ants crawling over my toilet paper roll. Ugh, that’s mine you buggers. In case you are wondering, most Thai and Malaysian people (maybe all Asian people?) do not usually use toilet paper, but if they do, they wash themselves with the hand held bidet sprayer first, then dry themselves, then throw the toilet paper into a waste bin by the toilet – NOT into the toilet bowl. To my surprise, Thai plumbing systems are not set up to process toilet paper… I am slowly adapting to this involved process.
Anyways, back to my trip. One of the intriguing things about Penang, Malaysia, is that is it has a 60%+ Chinese population. In addition, Malaysia was colonized by Britain. There is also a large Indian population in Malaysia. This mixture of cultures and history results in a loud celebration of diversity that emanates from architecture, to food, to language; basically every nook and cranny of this culture.
Malaysia is also a Islamic country, which is noticeably different than the Buddhist country of Thailand. The people of Malaysia (Malay people) are expected to be Muslim. However, Chinese, Indians, Singaporeans, and any other nationality, are free to believe whatever they wish. However, it is illegal to actively convert and/or witness to a Malay person. Therefore, churches can exist in Thailand, but it is very difficult to spread the good news among the Malay people. Regardless, there is a huge population of Chinese Christians in Penang, and several large churches in plain view (I believe most new churches try and blend in a little bit to stay under the “radar”…but I could be wrong).
Another interesting fact is that Penang is one of the 13 states of Malaysia. Yes, the Malaysian flag has 13 stripes, just like the USA does for its 1st 13 colonies 🙂 As a result, it has its own government system, which consists mostly of persons of Chinese orientation, reflecting the population. However, much to my surprise, the authority of the Islamic religious leaders is greater than the authority of the state government.
On my day of exploration, I climbed onto a bus where it took me to George Town. George Town is a unique place of culture. For example, that afternoon I had British Tea at an Armenian restaurant, while Star Wars, Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, played in the corner… while in Asia. If you like history – this is a good place for you: Many historical museums and cultural centers are found here. There are several sites that are deemed historical, and therefore cannot be knocked down, such as old British guard posts. A prime example of such a historical time shift is one British government building that is now providing KFC to the public (and is appropriately illuminated at night).
Street art is another large attraction of George Town. Artists began to create, and now it is a tourist attraction, with guide maps and street art post cards. It was interesting to see. The people were more interesting, though. It is a “thing” to take pictures with the street art, since many of them are created so you can be a part of them. There were also wire structures attached to the wall and depicted some of the cultural norms of Malaysia in the past. Click here to see more images of the art 🙂
It was a great trip, and I am glad to have made it 🙂 As a last note, Malaysia has created its own car, known as Proton, and likes coffee known as White Coffee, which is when coffee beans are roasted with palm oil and then served with condensed milk (hence “white” coffee). I like it, but I’ll stick to the Thai Royal Project Coffee for now 🙂
Thanks for reading, until next time.