August 25: You know it’s home when you start singing in the shower.
The past two weeks caught me by surprise as I became suddenly homesick. After talking about some things with my incredible host family, though, I feel much better and back in the game.
So to start, I realized I didn’t even write about Hari Raya. Hari Raya is one of the biggest Muslim holidays. I see it as very similar to Christmas for most Americans. Hari Raya is a time to wear the traditional Malay clothing, which consists of baju Melayu for men and baju kurung and tudung for women. It is also a time to eat.
And when I say eat, I mean eat.
Hari Raya is celebrated for about one month, in coordination with the one month of fasting preceding the holiday. During that month, families host open houses, where you come, visit, eat and collect Duit Raya, which is a monetary gift from family and friends to the younger people. Hari Raya is a very busy time for families to travel to their home villages and visit with loved ones. It is common to visit many open houses in one day and to end the day so full, you feel pregnant.
Also recently I went to my first professional soccer/football game.
It. Was. So. Cool.
It was Pahang (my state) versus Kelantan (a neighbor state), and the amount of unity in the crowd was just something I had never seen before.
During half time, everyone was able to get the entire crowd to get a wave going around the arena, and it went around three times. Super awesome.
And last but not least, my school celebrated Merdeka, which is their Independence Day. On a Saturday, we attended school at the normal time like we would on weekdays, but instead of classes we enjoyed a day of activities including a drama, musical performances, choral competitions and a visit from a warrior.
It was so awesome to see everyone celebrating the Independence Day in school in unity, because in America, it seems as if only the younger generations care to celebrate any type of patriotic activities in school.
Sept. 10: Simple
Lately, things have been very simple. Not too busy, not too boring, just simple. I think that may partially be due to the fact that adjustment is taking place and I’m slowly marking my spot in the family. Like any exchange student and host family, there have been small disagreements, but so far we have been able to solve them. I’m so appreciative for having such a helpful family.
Basically, my week goes as follows.
I wake up between 5:30 and 6 a.m., which is about the time my American friends and family will be winding down from work and school, and begin my day. I will shower and sometimes take a small breakfast.
My Ibu cooks the breakfast. Sometimes it is fried rice, plain rice or other types of rice, with fish, or chicken or eggs. After breakfast, I put on my school uniform, and sometimes I wear the tudung, or hijab. About 7 a.m., I salam my Ibu goodbye and head to school with my siblings.
At school, we begin with what is called assembly. All of the students line up in their classes and attendance is taken.
Instead of announcements in the morning via intercom or video, like in America, they are done with the whole school sitting outside in the school courtyard. Sometimes punishments to students who are late will happen during assembly.
After assembly, we go to our classes. The classes are much different than American classes. Instead of moving from room to room, the students stay in one room together, and the teachers move from room to room. Sometimes, if the teacher, or cikgu, has other things to do, or many papers to grade, they won’t come to class, and the students are expected to study and behave without a “babysitter.”
All of my classes are taught in Bahasa Melayu, which makes school a sometimes frustrating task for me. However, I am making friends with some great people, and I think that is what matters most.
At 11 a.m., my class has recess, which is 30 minutes to relax, go to the cantina and get food, or just stay in the class and finish work. Classes resume again until 2:40, except on Wednesdays, when they last until 5 p.m., and Fridays when they last until noon.
My weekends most often are spent with my family. Sometimes we will go to the malls in town in Kuantan and shop and eat, and sometimes we will just go visit family members’ homes.
Thankfully, my Bahasa Melayu is getting better, and I can understand more when people speak slowly in conversation. This makes communication between my friends and family members fun and sometimes extremely humorous.
I hope soon I am able to carry on a conversation in Malay.
Courtlyn Heaberlin is a 16-year-old Whiteland Community High School student who traveled in July to Malaysia for a 10-month cultural immersion program. Her occasional column is excerpted from her blog. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.