Saturday, July 30, 2011

DON'T think about Durian! Don't THINK about DURIAN!

Is it possible for a fruit to be addictive??

We had tasted durian before, of course.

But then there was this fruit festival at the Institute where we work.

There were baskets and baskets of durian ... and when I say 'basket', I don't mean a little shopping basket!

It was Thursday afternoon, just before the weekend, and next week Ramadan (fasting month) will start when there will be no eating or drinking during the day.

The students put on some little song and dance shows ... and then everyone attacked the fruit with gusto.

The fruit can get pretty viscious, and it needs a firm grip and a sharp knife.

The ladies sat around and played, waiting for the men to open the durian. (And, yes, these three are actually our 'young lecturers', a special group of shining stars!)

And then there were mangosteens, and rambutans, and lots of cold cordial to wash it all down.

We consumed a considerable amount of durian, surprised to find that we were really really enjoying it.

Some people warned us that it could make us feel "heaty" (?), and it causes some people to faint. We were also told not to drink fizzy drinks. And then there were stories about raising blood sugar and increasing colesterol ... and yet everyone was getting stuck into the fruit with enthusiasm.

Well, we had the best sleep that night, and awoke feeling thoroughly refreshed. My blood sugar was the best it had been for a while.

The only thing was ... we couldn't stop thinking about durian, and wanting more!

Our Island Home - again!

So then we went down to Marang jetty to board the boat for another weekend on Kapas Island!

And at the jetty there is ... a market ... where they were selling - durian! So we bought a couple and took them across with us.

This time we had booked ahead to stay in one of the little A-frame huts at "Pak Ya" (Uncle Ya's) right on the beach under some tropical almond trees to remind us of Murray Island. That's Peter's Aussie flag beach towel hanging out front!

We only had one swim because the weather was a bit wild, the sea got rougher and rougher while we were there. But the fish were excited about the hard-boiled egg we offered them.

We relaxed with a good book on our verandah, and then at the cafe table, and chatted with Zah, one of the locals running the 'resort' for Uncle Ya.

It got a bit muggy in the afternoon, and I asked for a ...

.... well, I asked for an iced coffee, but didn't expect a black one! It was actually very nice, made with one of those coffee bags they like to use here. The coffee made from them is just slightly sweet.

We are planning to return to 'our' little shack in a couple of weeks. The whole deal - ferry, room, food, iced coffees - cost us about $50 (AUD)!

Sssshhh! Don't think about Durian!

Arriving back on the mainland, back in Kuala Terengganu, we found ourselves wondering whether the weekend markets would still be open, and whether they would have any ... durian.

Ummm, yes! and yes!

We no longer find the smell of them offensive, it's almost attractive. So we took them home to devour them.

I confess ... we devoured them both at one sitting. We should sleep well tonight!!

Oh, by the way - why is it addictive? Well, as far as we can tell from reading about it on the 'Net, besides having a bunch of wonderful vitamins and all sorts of good things, it has seratonin. Something we intend to investigate further ...

While we were in the market, we noticed another of our local favourites! These funny little green things, bits of leaves, are called 'dodol'.

Inside, they have a little glob of brown sticky stuff. It's make from palm sugar and sago, and takes hours and hours to cook, apparently. When it comes wrapped in these leaves, it also has an amazing smokey flavour.

So we are actually finding some Malaysian foods that we rather like.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Making Little Books

Years ago, in another life, when I was a Primary School teacher in Western Australia, I acquired a book about "Making Books", and, although I had the best of intentions, I was generally too busy to sit down and attempt the projects it demonstrated - let alone try to teach it to children.

Later, teaching IELTS students in China, we needed a way to focus their planning to practice their 3-minute talks, and also conquer their nervousness ... and we discovered that teaching them to make a little origami book (one of the projects in the book) was just the trick.

Since then I have employed the services of the "Little Books" on many occasions, to great effect.

Making Little Books Workshop

Just yesterday I ran a Workshop at our Teacher Training Institute here in Malaysia, to give the trainee teachers the skills to use this fun activity in the furtherance of English literacy in Malaysian Primary Schools.

The trainee teachers, and their lecturers, were very enthusiastic, and eagerly set to work.

We started with the basic 'origami book' / 'hotdog book', and as soon as they had mastered that, we moved on to work with some pop-up books.

Soon their creative juices were flowing and they were all producing amazing little books.

These young people will all soon be released into the Malaysian primary school system, where their task will be to teach English in all its forms to very young Malaysian children. With English language books in poor supply (especially in rural areas) they now have the tools to create some interesting materials.

And besides - it's fun!!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Escaping the 'Net

Or - Stretching the Weekend!

We have noticed how a weekend can quickly vanish if we just sit down at the computer (or TV), a few blinks and it's gone!

We woke up Friday morning, and said "Let's go to Kapas Island - oh, why not!" It's much closer than Redang Island - the ferry is only a 20 min drive away and the ferry ride is only 15 mins or so. We went there once before when we were leading a workshop with some of our colleagues from the IPG.

So we packed a few things in a back pack, left the computers (and iPad!) behind and drove down to the jetty at Marang. The boat man phoned a few of the resorts on the island, but said no, everything is full. Oh well, we thought we would just take a day trip anyway.

When we got to the island, we found one "resort" that still had a spare room.

Definitely nothing flash, and way over-priced (the woman recognised that we were maybe desperate) ... but there was a bed, and a toilet and shower, and even a washing line outside. The windows had no glass - who needs it, there was shade cloth which kept some of the large mozzies at bay. There was a curtain stapled over the window, and a second curtain on a stretchy line that fell down if we touched it.

So we dropped our bags, changed into our bathers, and set off down the beach. At the end of the island there is part of the marine park with lots of coral and stuff, so we set off in that direction.

The little bays are separated by rocky outcrops, and each one has a walkway and stairs built into it for simple access. This particular one had very steep stairs - for one section we turned and climbed down backwards - and by the time we reached this lovely little bay we were hot and sweaty and more than ready for a bit of a dip. So we donned our snorkels and masks and waded out ...

Stinging Water??

Moments later we both came charging back in going "Ow! Ow! Ow!" with pin-pricks of pain all over our arms and legs. Asking around over the next few hours we heard various theories about miniscule sea lice or the invisible discarded ends of jellyfish tentacles - nobody seemed to really know, because whatever it is you can't see it. Anyway, they seemed to be only near the water's edge, and mostly on the high tide ... and the pain stops as soon as you get out, so no lasting damage.

And the local girls with their full covering had no problems at all.

We relaxed at a beach-front cafe for some lunch, and then settled into the tree-house at our resort for the hottest part of the early afternoon.

Everything on the island moves sooooo slowly, and you have no choice but to relax.

Snorkels back on, we investigated the coral on our little beach several times in the course of our stay.

As soon as you get into the water, you are surrounded by these little stripey chaps. But there always seems to be one in particular who stations himself in front of your face, and you can see his eyes watching you carefully.

Then there are all sorts of other brightly coloured fish, rummaging around for food. (We didn't have bread to feed them.)

A lot of them seem to be in pairs. And these black ones with a white spot were most agitated, coming right up into my face every time I came near to them - I guess they had a bunch of eggs or babies somewhere.

Here and there we found special delights tucked in among the coral - these clams were a delicious treat back in Murray Island days!

So it was only one night, but it made it seem like a week. The weekend has been well and truly stretched.

And we have actually booked a night (in a different resort!) for next weekend.

This is going to be our Island Home, for weekends and relaxing times! Every few weeks at least we intend to get back out there and relax. Might bring at least the iPad though!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Getting Together Again

Another conference...

This diminutive lady, Dr Choong, is/was director of the main institute which the Fellows project is working with, so she is/was kind of our big boss (or seemed to think so). Her institute, ELTC (English Language Training Centre), in KL hosted this conference to coincide with her retirement (one compulsorily retires at 58 here). So there was a fair bit of pomp and ceremony surrounding her.

So we were wondering about the glass ball thing on the plinth next to her ...

So this was impressive! The important people were invited onto the stage, and then the most important one put his hands on the globe and it went green and flashy, and ended up with glowing writing inside it.

Lloyd no longer works with us in KT, he has transferred to Dr Choong's institute in KL, but of course he was also at the conference, along with one of our IPG lecturers who was presenting with him.

Bea came along for the last few days of her Malaysian trip. She had some serious "research" to complete about Malaysian culture (i.e. food).

I had two sessions to present, and Peter had one.

Unfortunately Peter's brilliant session on using movies (specifially Shrek) in English teaching was cut from 1 hour to 25 minutes - very hard to present in so short a time!

I then had 25 minutes to present the classroom game "Typhoon".

Not a particularly exciting time, living in a nice hotel in the big city.

This sign made it look like it could be intrepid and exciting ...

... not that one hopes for such an incident.

There was a little bit of "culture" around, though probably less than in Kuala Terengganu.

Bea got to go to a lot of shops, and things (clothes, shoes, belts, makeup etc) are very cheap here, so she has some memories to cherish and wear!

Friday, July 1, 2011

A world full of smells

"Eau de Terengganu", if available for purchase, would whiff of open drains and raw fish. Not that the whole place smells like it ... some people throw a piece of lino or pile of newspaper over the open drain next to their al fresco restaurant to make the food seem more appealing.

And then there is the wet market. We have been there a few times on the weekends - I had an interesting drink there one week, hid from a gunman behind the stalls on another occasion.

But with Bea here, it was compusory to visit again.

Over-riding the delightful aroma of various spices, and the odour of fish at various stages of freshness, there was another ... durian!

If you stay in a hotel here, there is a warning outside the lift that durian is forbidden!

In fact, I think the local durian season has finished, and these specimens have been brought in from Thailand.

But at least the chap was opening them and packaging them in a little container for RM5 ($1.80) a shot.

So we grabbed one and found a spot in the shade to sit and eat.

When we first sat down, the place was quite crowded. But it cleared almost instantly! The durian was quite nice - although a local chap who lingered despite the smell pointed out that we were eating the not-so-nice Thai version of the fruit.

And talking of lingering ... first there is the sticky smell on your fingers, and then there is the repeating taste ... we are wondering how long the memory will linger!