Thursday, February 24, 2011

A visit to the Big Smoke

It was decided that all of us Fellows needed to meet and talk about how our project is progressing. So arrangements were made to bring us all into "the Big Smoke" (Kuala Lumpur) from our various outlying posts (two teams are on the other island part of Malaysia in Sabah and Sarawak) and put us up in a (fairly) swank hotel for a couple of days.

Minor Hassles

Our little bags were all packed ready for our two days away (cheap airline only allows carry-on baggage), and it was already dark when we rode down the lift to the the car park in our building.

We stared at our (rental) car for a moment, parked in our allocated space at the very end of the parking area.

At first we thought it was the wrong car, then we thought we might have gone over a bump and lost our number plate ... um both number plates! Someone had stolen our number plates! Nothing we could do about it, we were on our way to the airport.

Fun at the Airport!

Our fellow Fellow, Lloyd, has been having trouble with a sore leg, so the whole airport thing (miles of walking, especially in regional airports where you walk out to the plane and climb the stairs) was promising to be a bit of a pain.

To Lloyd's amusement, and amid a great deal of hilarity, we found a wheelchair for him in the local airport, and then booked him one to get through the (huge) airport in Kuala Lumpur at the other end. It certainly added some fun to the whole trip.

The Twin Towers

Kuala Lumpur's "Twin Towers" are well known - they used to be the tallest in the world.

We came in from Kuala Terengganu late at night, and there were the towers outside our hotel window.

The next day (and the next!) was full of meetings ...

... very worthwhile and useful meetings, in fact. At the end of the day we headed out for a walk down the road and went shopping in the Twin Towers shopping centre.

Heading back in time for our Fellows dinner at the hotel, we found that the daily afternoon thunderstorm had arrived, and our short walk had to be replaced with a taxi-ride. There was, of course, a big crowd of people trying to catch taxis. A lady was selling tickets for 2 ringgits (about 60c) to get a taxi, and we noticed that anyone that didn't buy one was just pushed aside as taxis arrived ... so yes,we bought a ticket to get into the taxi queue.

Back Home

Sometimes in our lifestyle it's hard to know just what/where "home" is. The trip was worthwhile and interesting, but little old Kuala Terengganu certainly felt like home as we fell into bed back in our sea-view apartment here.

Friday, February 18, 2011

A Glimpse of the Past

Everyone raves about the State Museum - they are very proud of it here of course. It's big, covers four blocks I think.

So we went to take a look. Of course, right now is off season still for pretty much everything touristy - although museums shouldn't be affected by things like the monsoon, there are very few foreigners other than us in town, and we have no idea how many there might be "normally".

Well it is pretty impressive and beautiful on the outside, and of course we were very impressed.

The map indicated that there were lots of different things to see, and it is right down near the river.

Of course they took our camera off us when we went inside, and our phone cameras have no flash and make an embarrassing pretend camera noise when you try to surreptitiously take photos...

On the other hand, we only visited buildings 1 and 3 (and paid 15 ringgits each - the foreigners fee - for the privelege) and didn't really see anything we were inclined to photograph, and then a hoard of screaming, running school kids invaded the pitch (seemed odd on a weekend) ... so we decided we had had enough.

We did learn a little about the history of this place.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Miles of beach but nowhere to swim

We thought the prophet's birthday might be a good beach day. Obviously nobody else thought so.

Peter looks like he's so cold that he's holding his breath. But it's not cold. It is very windy, and the sea is very rough.

We didn't swim. I don't know what it would be like on calmer days.

Our Patch

Walking the streets of Kuala Terengganu in not a pleasant experience. For one thing, it's quite hot (this is the tropics, pretty much on the equator) and for another thing, it's a bit of an obstacle course.

That is the pavement/footpath, and a relatively good section of it. This man is not (necessarily) crossing the road, he is walking in the safest place. There are open drains/sewers all over the place (sometimes, but not always, covered with a grill) and all kinds steps and stairs.

The other day (on a weekend) we wandered out the back of our place, along the winding tracks of the little village there. Looking back, there is our building again ...

... and the horrible yellow stain (which is not really there) is our little piece, the three windows of our apartment. You'll notice there are a lot of floors above us.

Inside the building, when we come out of our (front and only) door, we can see right through the front of the building, and there are little sitting areas as well as the light/air well where people hang their washing (over the abyss).

At the front of our building is a street with lovely shady trees ...

That's one of the little rickshaw men from China Town riding through (there are only a handful of them - tourist option.)

Looking around the side of our building, you can see that the higher floors have a different format to ours ... and possibly some interesting views, we realised, so we hopped back inside and up the lift to the tenth.

Now we can see right down our street, over the top of the little shops, and out to the river mouth (that's the 'Kuala' in 'Kuala Terengganu'.)

What we had thought was a boat harbour when we were in the hotel, is obviously the river mouth, and it's about time we went down to have a closer look.

So we wandered out along the groin on the south side of the river. Hidden among those rocks on the left are quite a lot of fishermen. Some of them have constructed little temporary shelters with sticks jammed between the rocks, and they usuallyhave their motorbikes parked nearby.

We can see this thing sticking out over the top of the groin even from our window, and had always presumed it was a beacon, or maybe some sort of winch. Then we thought it might be a sunken ship, or maybe the thing they used to build the groin with.

And looking back at the city from the end of the groin - that's our square white building in the middle.

The Realities of Life

We don't get a lot of time to wander on the groin or beach, or even through the village backstreets, because we are working! Yes, really! Five days a week we get up at 5.30am, and leave home in the pitch dark (before 7am) when the streets are full of poor little school kids off to school for a 7.30am start. The little girls all wear white head scarves and look like little penguins. We don't finish until 5-ish, and then drive the 20km back to our apartment.

The other day they had a staff meeting - well you expect that - of all the faculty, not just English Department.

So ... of course it was all in Bahasa Malaysia. We had to be there because we were going to be formally introduced (to everyone, again)... not that we understood anything they said about us, other than our names (they called me Dr Ruth :D)

The men all sat on the left - that's Lloyd, our third fellow, by the way. They all prayed, and signed a pledge, and sang their national anthem (quite nicely).

The rest of the two hours - we have no idea. Yes, I had my iPad, so I was playing a game.

And that's Nazeri sitting behind us, finding it all very amusing.

A Holiday Already

I have had a very long day today, and I'm ready to fall into bed ... with the windows open, the fan on '1', and the mozzie thing plugged into the wall. The man in the mosque seems to have finally finished for tonight so I should be able to sleep.

Tomorrow is the prophet's birthday. I don't know what that 'means', except we get a day off, I get to sleep in past 5.3oam, and I'm guessing the shops will be mostly closed and the man in the mosque will once again get on his microphone and burble on for hours as he does sometimes. (I can't actually understand what he's saying and so I don't need to listen.)