Saturday, January 29, 2011

Rainy Holidays

The Monsoon is still blowing (whistling and howling through the gaps in our closed windows) bringing with it a fair bit of patchy rain.

The islands (the only places where you can swim here) are closed, and so is the big spidery-shaped lake up in the hills nearby.

So we drove up to the lake anyway for a bit of a look-see.

Pleasant - at least there weren't any crowds! (except mosquitoes ...) At least we know where it is now, it wasn't hard to follow the signs there.

Some signs are easy to read, others are wordy and confusing to us:

I can guess what the 'jeti' is, but the warnings will go unheeded.

We will wait until the monsoon passes and the weather improves ...

... and then - we'll be back!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Making a point

or at least pointing the finger.

It's just not done, unless you use your thumb like this ... or you can use your chin or lips. :)

Friday Morning Out and About

We returned to the wet markets - where the man with the gun was last week - and bought a bunch of fresh veges. Then Peter took the bags to the car so we could wander a bit more, and I wandered alone for a few minutes. I saw an interesting little stall / cafe-de-wheels.

Well who wouldn't be curious? I don't know any of the words, and although the things on the left look like pieces of fruit (Google Translator tells me it's 'mixed fruit') I couldn't see anyone consuming it. I noticed that people were queueing for the stuff on the right.

I saw a businesslike Chinese man and I asked if he spoke English. He was pleased to explain to me that on the right was some sort of coconut milk (with ice), the next one (with what looks like green worms) he simply explained as 'powder' and I still don't know. The third from the right is something else with coconut - that would be the long white strands ...

So then he bought me one.

It's a coconut-milky iced drink, with green worms (they tasted like jelly as they slid through the wide straw!) and brown stuff in the bottom which tasted like the (sweet) brown beans the Chinese like to use. It was actually quite pleasant!! :D

Oh yes, and 'air' means water - 'air batu' is ice, but Mr Google was unwilling to tell me what 'cendol' is. And 'pulut kacang' is glutinous beans - what a tempting treat! It's a learning curve.

Back to the Supermarket - Problems with the White Powders

I wanted some rice - there it is in sacks piled against the wall ... not the sort of quantities I'm used to, and there didn't seem to be any small packs (after all, why would anyone want that?).

I thought I would buy some flour ... this one is tapioca starch ...

... and this is glutinous rice flour ...

... but I just couldn't work out this one.

In then end I found a packet with a picture of a corn cob, figured I was probably buying cornflour.

Most other things are recognisable.

Like those are obviously chickens - and at least they are already dead and plucked (not like buying in Chinese market.) Yes, I am still vegetarian.

Home Sweet Home

We really like our apartment here in Kuala Terengganu. It is furnished, but we found we needed to add a few things like a new (bigger) fridge (to hold all my veges), and some desks for us to work at when we are not at work.

We purchased a water filter that delivers hot, tap-temp, and cold filtered water (no more need for a kettle) and the little men delivered and installed it at 10.30pm the other night.

We were also seriously lacking in bench space - the gas stove (with bottle hidden in the right-hand cubby space) has a drop-down lid which we had mostly been using as a work surface, but, obviously, there are times when that is no use.

So ... sitting comfortably now with this new bench that we bought, complete with a tiled top.

Life's Little Complications!

This week is FINALLY OVER! And that's good because we now have a week off for Chinese New Year. I can finally get some sleep.

Getting a Bank Account

It was important to open a bank account before the end of the week because tomorrow is pay day! We filled in lots of forms when we were in Kuala Lumpur in the first week, but then they told us to go to a local bank here to finish opening an account.


We work longish hours - getting up at 5.30am to drive to work (and beat the heavy traffic) in time for 7.45am - it's about a 20km drive. And we finish at 4.45pm - so we miss the banks altogether.

The weekend is Friday (religious day, everything closed) and Saturday - so we went to the bank on Saturday ... closed.

So we asked to get off work early on Sunday (first day of the week) to go to the bank. But Kuala Lumpur has a different weekend (Saturday and Sunday) and opening the account required talking to them on the phone ... so no joy. We would have to come back the next day.

Getting our accounts

So we came back the next morning - "it will only take a few minutes" we were told, but it was an hour and a half, and we came out to find that we had scored a parking ticket (!) Still, at least we had our accounts.

Trying to Pay the Fine

We left work early that afternoon to come in and pay the fine ... only 5 RM ($1.70) if paid within 3 days!! (Going up in stages to 40 RM over a couple of weeks.) We parked (legally this time), but I stayed in the car just in case. While I was waiting, I decided to freshen my mouth with some 'Extra' chewing gum ... and lost a filling (one the dentist in Brisbane had just put in a few weeks ago).

We were too late, and the office was closed, so we would have to come back the next day, leaving work even earlier this time.

A bad day all round

Getting home with a sensitive tooth and feeling quite annoyed, I tried to turn on my computer, but had problems with my power cord ... and Peter went out to the shops to buy a replacement.

While he was out, I did a load of washing and, as it was about to rain, hung it on the indoors line which Peter had tied up in the laundry. Then the line broke, and it all splonked onto the floor. So I went and hung it all outside (on the scary line over the abyss) and it promptly rained ...

Ggggrrrrhh! One of those days.

Going to the Dentist

We had noticed little clinics around the city (labelled 'klinik'), and hospitals ... but hadn't noticed any 'dental' clinics.

Then we realised that some of them were 'pergigian' clinics - someone explained that this word means dentist. So I just showed up at one of those. The sweet little receptionist didn't know any English, but I guess it was pretty clear what I wanted. The dentist, another sweet little lady in the local style dress and headscarf asked me "you want numb?" (yes, please!) and then quietly and gently fixed my tooth. I was in and out within a few minutes, and she charged me 70 RM (about $23!) and now all is well in that department.

And we managed to get to the fine paying office in time (parking illegally - but I stayed in the car!) and paid our 5 RM.

Our Students

These are not actually our students - they are some of the student teachers at the Institute. We will be teaching them sometimes, and doing demonstration lessons for their lecturers. These girls are in their sports uniform. Can you tell which one is Catholic (not Muslim)?

Our fellow Fellow, Lloyd, had a chat with the boys in the same class.

Speakers Corner

The students from four classes were having a "Speakers Corner" - the speaker is standing on the stairs landing on the right.

As soon as the session started, the rain poured down. The listeners (including us) had to shelter on the verandahs.

On Thursdays they all wear bright clothes - 'batik' patterns - as a sign of National pride, but they do dress beautifully every day.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Integrating into the Culture

Finding a home

We have been shown a few places to rent ... but the gap between our expectations and theirs was too great!

Not that we expect to find somewhere totally "Western", but just closer than what we had been shown. Especially a kitchen that I can work out what to do with ...

From our hotel window we noticed a big white building near the city centre, and thought that might be a good location if we had a choice.

We were finally put in touch with a Chinese agent, who said she had a furnished apartment available - and it turned out to be within the big white building!

From our (3) windows on the fourth floor we can look out over the sea, and there is our old hotel.

Inside the Apartment

It's bright and spacious!

Looking back the other way from the sitting area:

Lots of wide open space ... lots of tiles to clean (but at least no carpets, some places we looked at had grotty old carpets.)

Big bedroom, with an ensuite. There are 3 bedrooms, and two bathrooms. The bathroom, though, is the local style. The toilet and shower share almost the same space, everything gets wet (like we had in China) - but at least this bathroom is bigger than some of the ones we looked at.

So, all in all we quite like it.

People Good and Bad

One thing about the apartment block - it's owned and inhabited by Chinese, who are generally not Muslim ... and whose ways we are familiar with.

We went shopping - although the apartment is "furnished", we needed a lot of stuff from sheets and towels, to kitchen appliances and utensils, and then food as well. We returned to the apartment with a carload of stuff, and the unenviable task of getting it all into (and out of) the lift up to our fourth floor apartment.

The lift is nerve-wracking at the best of times with a fast-closing door that slides shut onto any unwary visitor.

As we stood by the lift with our goods heaped on the floor, other people turned up also wanting to use the lift. When the lift arrived I jumped in and jammed my finger on the "door open" button, and to our surprise all these people started loading stuff in for us. And at our floor again they helped us unpack.

Nice people!

Then this morning (Friday, religious day, most things are closed) we found a fresh foods market (in the Chinese quarter) and were wandering through.

Suddenly we heard a man shouting - and it wasn't "fifty percent off" or one of those market shouts. We couldn't understand, but he was obviously angry.

All the women in the area where we were started ducking down behind counters, so I joined them.

Shouting man marched by with a pistol in his hand, ready near his right ear.

Bad man!

He passed by, and the women giggled and reappeared. My knees were a little shaky though!

Everyday Chores

Chinese buildings usually have washing hanging all over the outside. Our building has an internal air/light well, and everyone has a place to hang their washing.

Align Center

Our apartment comes equipped with a twin-tub - haven't used one of those little beauties for a few years! The modern front loaders do a load in an hour and a half or more, but with a twin tub you stay in control and can do it as quickly as you like.

So I did a load of washing - it had become fairly urgent after a week and a half in hotels.

I found the stick with our number on it, and dangled our stuff out over the abyss!


The weekends are a bit back-to front (although Terengganu is not the same as the rest of Malaysia, being more Muslim). Friday is the first day of the weekend, with everything closed. Saturday is the other weekend day - and we are hoping that (tomorrow) everything will be open, because we have a lot to do.

On Sunday we have to work, first day of the working week.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Time for WORK!

It's taken a few days, but we have finally located the Institute where we work!

And, no, we haven't learnt how to say that yet.

We are now registered, so we can clock on and clock off every day with our thumb prints. :(

In the main building, there is a delightful courtyard garden with huge Koi moseying around a pond.

And the work??!!

Well, so far all we have done is "meet and greet" - because there seem to be a lot of people to meet. (Not that we can remember any names at this stage.)

And when you first meet people, you should spend some quality time with them. So this is just one of the departmental staff rooms where we spent some time.

We walked into a few classes to greet the students. Every time we were introduced, and then someone would say "and Peter and Ruth are husband and wife" and the class would chorus "aaaawwww!"

Of course we will actually be working in the English department, but all of the student teachers and all of the lecturers are keen to have us coming around to practise their English.

The English Department

Our department, the English Department, has a brand new, barely completed, set of buildings, all very pleasant (pictures of that later).

But here are two of our colleagues, lecturers in the English Department ... truly delightful ladies.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Fellowship

Flying to Kuala Lumpur was not terribly adventurous ... Malaysian Airlines are very particular about weight allowance, at least on the surface, they even weigh everyone's carry-on baggage.

it was a case of

"go over there, take some things out, come back and have it weighed again."

And then? Well, you go back over there and put it all back in I suppose ... well, that's what I understood, and it seemed to work just fine.

So the trip was "pleasantly uneventful" - except that there was just enough turbulence for them to cancel all hot drinks, just when I could have really done with a coffee after eight hours of semi-sleep.

Kuala Lumpur International Airport

We had received an email telling us we would be picked up at the airport ... we were quite excited about that because in all our travels it never seems to happen, at least not when it is supposed to. Of course, this time turned out to be no exception.

After an hour and a half waiting we managed to ring someone in our new organisation, and find that another email had been sent (after we left!) telling us we would not be picked up and giving instructions about catching a taxi.

Catching a taxi at the airport involves buying a ticket at a booth first, and handing this to a taxi driver - takes all the hassle (and the fun!) out of the usual haggling!

So, we would be staying at the Klana resort, quite a ways south of Kuala Lumpur.

Lovely spot, beautiful pool etc - but we spent most of our time locked away in meetings.

Onward and Upward

We noticed the carpark was full of identical cars - for us 'fellows' and the 'mentors' with the organisation.

We were offered a car each, but decided to accept just the one. So with our other fellow team member, a convoy of two cars, we set off across Malaysia to our new location.

The first bit, north through KL was the main problem. Despite purchasing a local 3G SIM for my iPad so that I could use it as a GPS, we missed the vital turn ... and the GPS promptly went on the blink leaving us floundering around in heavy city traffic.

Several tolls later we found where we were on the west side of the city and retraced our steps (paying all the tolls all over again) and finally, thankfully, escaped onto the East-West road.

We stopped and negotiated the intricasies of buying petrol - it's not quite the same as we are used to, you have to talk to the man in the booth and tell him what you want first. Here are Peter and Lloyd filling both cars.

Reaching the East coast, we again missed a vital turn (it just wasn't there!) and ended up taking the scenic route along the coast through dozens of tiny villages with slow traffic lights. Interesting, though.

Kuala Terengganu

So here we are in the city where we will work.

The view from our hotel window ... interesting for so many reasons when we are sitting here watching.

And yesterday we took a bit of a drive around to some of the other beaches.

Looks like it's our kind of place!!



We are about to visit our first workplace for the first time. So ... more later.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

A week to go

Ok ok we are not actually there yet. Still in Brisbane, sorting and packing.

Last Sunday (a week ago) we applied, and on Monday we had phone interviews. On Thursday we received confirmation from the Malaysian Ministry of Education.

We have to be there at orientation in Kuala Lumpur one week from today.

Time to leave all this behind!!