Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Malaysia in a Video

Hey, sorry I haven't written in awhile.  I've been really busy and don't have time to use the computer, like at all!  I am currently with a temporary family, and they are the best!  Because I can't use the computer a lot I have decided to post a video.  This video literally is like Malaysia in a video, it shows the different languages, the use of 'lah' (I will write about this later), the mannerisms, the temples, the different races, the scenery, everything.  I know it's not the best, but it is the best I can do.  And I honestly couldn't describe/show Malaysia better than this video does.  I will explain more about the 'problems that don't need talking about' later.  Enjoy, and dance a little :)


Thursday, September 8, 2011

When one door closes, another opens...

"Life's challenges aren't supposed to paralyze you,
they're supposed to help you discover who you are."

This quote explains my current situation perfectly.  I have been experiencing some obstacles since my second week in Malaysia, and I have felt uncomfortable writing about them until now.  I have to admit, I, along with every other exchange student I am sure, never thought I would have to get a new host family.  I have had fabulous past experiences in Paraguay and with hosting Jenny, so I thought it would all be that easy.  However the past two months have taught me different, and while they have been hard, they have taught me a lot and they have been worth it. :)

Right after I got here my host mom told me that it wasn't fun to be a teenage girl in her household, or and Muslim household, for that matter.  I have to admit that at first it caught me off gaurd, and I really didn't know what to think after basically being told me that my entire year in Malaysia wasn't going to be fun.  But my host mom convinced me that it was my duty to 'suffer' through it (because it was, after all, only a year) and that it was my duty as an exchange student.  As time went on I learned that my family was very serious, and extremely close knit.  They didn't like me to hang out with friends or talk to other exchange students because she didn't want me to compare the different households, and they didn't think I would be safe leaving the house without them.  Basically, this meant that I would have to spend almost all my time at home and not be allowed to see my friends (without my host parents being there, at least).  This really got to be after awhile, not just the rules, the the overall lack of connection with my family, but my host parents continued to convince me that it was my duty, and that I wasn't here as a tourist.  My host parents frequently asked me if I was going to be able to adjust to their rules, asked me if I was strong enough (also the last exchange student they hosted left before the year was over), and I was determined to prove to them that I could do it.  But after seventh week and I still wasn't happy I convinced myself that there was something wrong with me and that YES made a mistake in selecting me for the program.  But when I sat down and thought about one day not too long ago, it I realized I was wrong, and that I was meant for this, how happy I had been when I found out I got this scholarship, and that I had been looking forward to this program all year long.  I didn't want to spend the year counting down the days until I went home.

So after a good talk with some friends and family, I realized that it wasn't all my fault the I wasn't connecting to my family, and I had to do the thing I least wanted, and change families.  However, that worst part was telling them that I wanted a new family.  So after three hours of yelling, crying, and misery....it was over!  My family had never been bad to me, and had give me my own room, laptop, tons of food, technically everything the program said I needed, so I felt awful for telling them; but I didn't want to spend the rest of the year in my house watching NCIS and Law & Order.  They were, ARE, a good family, just not right for me, not right now at least.  It reminded me once again that this really isn't a vacation, and it's not all easy and fun.  It reminded me that on your year abroad you don't just learn about culture, but also a lot about yourself and handling situations you would do anything to run away from.  It's not like home where you can call your mom or dad and have them handle your problems for you (even though I have to admit I tried....haha).  It also reminded me that sometimes you have to step back and realize what is best for you, and do what it takes so that you can go to sleep with a smile on your face.

So in a nutshell...I am getting a new host family!!  I'm not sure the exact day, or what they will be like, but I DO know that I am really excited to begin the new part of my journey.  :)

Malaysian (Muslim) Fashion - With pictures!

The Muslims in Malaysia dress much differently than we do in the United States.  Because Islam is a more conservative religion, it's followers much dress accordingly.  (This is written from a more traditional and conservative standpoint, please note that not all Muslims in Malaysia dress exactly as follows.)


Daily:  Almost all Muslim women in Malaysia wear a tudung, or hijab (headscarf) on a daily basis.  The exceptions are when they are at home, only with family.  The reason that women wear a tudung is because the hair is considered the 'sexiest' feature.  All shirts must have high necklines and most are long sleeved.  Most women wear pants, or floor length skirts/dresses.  If one wants to wear shorts or shorter skirts, they must wear leggings that go below their knees.  However not all Muslim women around the world dress like this...for example, women in Saudi Arabia are required to wear all black and cover their hair and faces.

Traditional/Formal:  Traditional clothing for women basically consists of the baju kurung and the tudung.  The baju kurung is a two piece outfit, the top has long sleeves and falls below the knees.  The bottom is a long skirt that almost touches the floor.  The baju kurung comes in a variety of colors and patterns, and most are extremely vibrant.

Praying: When praying, women wear a two piece outfit similar to the baju kurung, except the top has the tudung included, and the entire ensemable is (usually) white.  Mulims must pray five times a day, so it is common for women to bring the prayer outfit with them when they go out.


Daily:  Daily cloth for men is similar to men in the USA, t-shirt, pants, and shorts.

Traditional/Formal: I admittedly do not know what the traditional clothing for men is called, but it consists of matching silk shirt and pants.  On top of the pants they wear a (for lack of a better word...) skirt that is made from patterned material.  The material worn similar to how one wears a towel.  Men also wear a songkok, which is a black hat (pictured below).

Praying: For praying men wear the same as the traditional/formal clothes.

Traditional Malaysian Muslim Family
Women Prayer Outfit
Muslim Women in Saudi Arabia

             I will be the first for admit that it was (and still is....) extremely hard for me to adjust to the clothing.  Mostly because it is so dang hot here, and I am required to wear pants and long sleeve shirts.  I am not allowed to wear hardly any of the clothes that I brought with me (except for the pants) because they are inappropriate, however I don't feel too bad because I don't think they even make teenage clothes in the US that fit my family's standards :P  I have also worn the heads scarf a few times, but have no intent in including it in my daily wear.  (Mostly because it is too hot).
              For Hari Raya and other formal situations I was required to buy a baju Kurung (four of them actually), and let me tell you, this was not an easy feat.  (Sorry in advance any to any Malays that may be reading this...but) This is because most of them are...*cough* not flattering.  To say the least.  Most of the patterns look like they came from old couch or an extremely high hippie in the 70's (nothing against hippies of course).  However, it could just be that I am shopping at all of the wrong places because I have seen beautiful baju kurung with lovely bead work, but those go for over $100, and the ones I am buying go at about $15.  Needless to say, they make shopping interesting.  For your entertainment (and my own) I have included a few pictures, followed by pictures of the four baju kurung that I settled on.  If you have any interest in any of the following (Mom, Karen...), please send your payment (cash only) and size ASAP, for supplies are limited!

( Alligator....a personal favorite^ )

My baju kurung

My other two baju kurung

Selamat Hari Raya!

It's Hari Raya time!  Hari Raya is the month long festival that follows Ramadan - the month of fasting.  The point of Hari Raya is after all the thinking the praying of Ramadan to ask forgiveness for your sins.  All during Ramadan you will see people of all ages asking everyone for forgiveness.  For all sorts of things, from the checker in the supermarket and the one time you thought badly of them for being slow to your mom from yelling at her that one time eight months ago.  To ask for forgiveness the younger person (or the person asking forgiveness) brings their forehead to the elder's right hand and asks 'ampun' (forgiveness).  It is the elders job to forgive them for whatever they may have done (even though they rarely say what it is they are asking for forgiveness for).  They say that after Hari Raya everyone feels free of sins and is open to a fresh start.

Another big part of Hari Raya is the visits.  Everyone goes to all of their friends house to visit during Raya.  And of course, food plays a big part of the visits.  It always beings with tea and (lots of) small cookies, and then the family almost always brings out food, and LOTS of it.  I mean a TON.  One house I went to brought us 6 kinds of cookies and 6 plates of food.  It was more food than I have for dinner back in the US.  And on a normal Raya day we would visit 3-5 houses on one day, so we were quite stuffed with food.  It didn't take me long to learn not to fill myself up at each house.  During the visit the house owners will give all the guests that aren't married an envelope filled with month - anywhere from 1 RM to 60 RM ($.30 to $20.00).  So far I have about 200 RM.

One special food eaten a lot during Hari Raya is the ketupat.  A ketupat is a 3D square made a bamboo that is filled with rice.  I actually learned how to weave the ketupat myself, which is more than the rest of my host family can say :P  The ketupat itself has no special taste, it is only rice that is extremely dense, but it is often eaten with peanut sauce.  It represents Hari Raya, and ketupat are found all over the streets and restaurants.

Gift basket for Hari Raya - full of food

Ketupat - Original (made by yours truly)

Ketupat - Modern (and much easier)

Little cookies

Money and the envelopes it comes it

Half of the family the first day of Raya