Monday, September 30, 2013

Not Fellows, Just Folks - for now

So our 2yrs 9mths project has come to an end. We are no longer fellows, just regular folks.

Time to pack!

Yeah ... we've done this once or twice before!

We have been feted and fare-welled, gifted, fed and hugged ...

This one was from my phonology class - they even put 'thank you' in phonetic script!

And we still DON'T KNOW what happens next. We have received word-of-mouth confirmation that the project will start again in January.

Time for a holiday. Bali ... Sydney ... Perth ... and then hopefully back here to our apartment, and then stay or move to a new location.

Let the adventures roll on.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Saying our goodbyes

It has gradually been dawning on us and our colleagues that we are (probably) leaving Terengganu. This particular Fellows' project is finishing, and although there will (most probably) be another project starting in the new year, we have no idea where we might be within Malaysia.

 This amazing group of people have become our Malaysian family, and our very good friends.

Malaysian hospitality is legendary, and there is nothing like a good gathering with lots of ceremony to say goodbye to colleagues and friends. It was decided that a Forum would be a good way to close off our time here, make us feel really appreciated, and give people a chance to ask questions.

So, after all the times I have sat in the audience in this hall and stared at those big, soft thrones on the stage ... finally it was our turn to sit on the thrones!

And then there were lots of gifts from the various groups of students and lecturers - all given with the usual decorum and ceremony.

Everyone stood respectfully as we exited the main hall and went to the holding room. Here there was food - of course - and a chance to chat and give the newspaper-man some quotes.

Back in our office, we had streams of students coming in to say good-bye, and expressing their regrets that we didn't have more time with them.

Then there was another assembly in the English Department hall. This was the monthly assembly, this time run by the English Department. We don't always attend these sessions, but it was obviously a bit special with at least some of it being in English.

Linda and I sat on the women's side, behind all the colourful headscarves!

We stood with them as they recited a pledge, which they then all signed to on paper.
Some of the presentations then were in English, and some in BM, but that's OK because I had my iPad with me!

One last photo opportunity with our department, and the director and deputy director as well.

So many happy memories!

Memories of Work: What a great job this is where I get to do fun stuff like this!
This was my last workshop - a Phonology workshop, believe it or not.

 And yet everyone is laughing, students and lecturers alike.

Memories of lots of talking and laughing.

And, of course, lots of eating events.

This project has been so much fun. Looking forward to starting the new project in 2014!

You can take the kid out of the jungle ...

The Orang Asli (original people) in Malaysia commonly live deep in the jungle, and providing traditional education for them is tricky at best. About an hour away from here in the jungle area around the huge lake - Tasik Kenyir - there is an Orang Asli school. A little village has been built by the school, uniforms are provided, and every arrangement has been made to make it possible for these little tikes to come in and have some education.

Our Teacher Mentor colleagues (working in the the schools where we work in the Teacher Training Institute) have been running "English is Fun Fairs" in various local schools, employing some of our trainee teachers as helpers - and giving the trainees some extra school experience. An "English is Fun Fair" was arranged for the Orang Asli children, and we were invited to be a part of it.

So first of all there was a bit of a ceremony - a little assembly.

 We had to sit up the front - which was quite pleasant because there was a ceiling fan above us, and it was such a hot day!

There were more adults and foreigners than there were kids - only 25 of them.

They behaved quite well, considering how little they understood of what was going on. The speeches were mostly in Bahasa Malaysia, sometimes in English - but they have their own language. So at this age they are struggling to learn two new languages, as well as learning to read and write ...

The little boy in the front row soon lost interest and turned around where there was much more to see. Soon he and the boy behind him started to tussle, and the chairs were nearly upturned ...

Suddenly the guy up front spoke a few words in the local dialect, and they turned around in surprise.

Now they were mostly little angels again.

Then it was time for the "Fun Fair" part. This was also very new to these kids!

The idea was to get them to read English words or phonemes. In this game, for example, there was a little ball under one of the three cups, so of course they had to guess where it was ... and say the word.

The Teacher Mentors had designed and created (and laminated!) the games. The trainee teachers we brought along very gently explained everything to them.

These young trainees are still in the 'Foundation' phase of their training, so it was great fun for them to actually experience getting among the little kids for the first time.

In this game they had to throw little rings over those sticks - and then say the word - harder than it looks!

And, of course, there was a fishing game which the little boys were right into.

They loved the face painting, too, and soon got over their shyness.

 This little kid does not know what to make of this new experience with a foreigner!

And THEN they finally realised that if they made the right sounds when they played the games they were given little tokens.

And with these tokens, they could buy all these amazing prizes! Pretty soon they were walking away with armloads of ... stuff!

With that sort of incentive, who doesn't want to learn phonics!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

A leechy jungle trek

To discover where baby Durian fruit come from

Knowing that we are from that rare breed of foreigner that enjoys durian fruit, our good friend and colleague had been suggesting for some time that maybe we would like to join him going up the hills into the jungle to pick up durian from his own trees. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

So on Friday afternoon (on the Friday-Saturday weekend that we have here) when he rang to say he would be going up into the hills at 5pm and would be glad for us to join him, we eagerly accepted. We weren't sure if any special preparations would be needed ... so we just went as we were. We noticed that there were storms in the distance pouring heavy rain onto the hills in question, but it would have passed by the time we got there.

We arrived at our friend's house, and met the folks, and enjoyed a delightful afternoon tea with them. Our friend put his shoes on - our first hint of foreboding! - and we set off with him in his Merc. The road off the main road into the hills was winding and very narrow, with vegetation rubbing against both sides of the car, and we were glad not to have met any other vehicles.

At the foot of the mountain we climbed out and, together with two of his boys, headed off up the muddy path at a brisk pace. Our friend made some brief mention of 'be careful of the leeches', so when we came to a puddle I tried hard to avoid it.

 Clearly not what all the best-dressed jungle-trekkers are wearing ... but the two boys were also wearing thongs/slippers.

It wasn't long before I felt thoroughly defeated by the humidity and the wetness. The slippers/thongs I was wearing not only slid on the muddy path, but I found it hard to stop my feet from sliding out, and walking barefoot did not look like a good option! After a steepish section we came to a flattish section with a big rock. I announced that I would wait there for the others to return - I was fairly certain there would not be any tigers jumping out at me. I plonked down on the rock, and in a few moments was completely engulfed by the stillness of the jungle. The only creatures we had seen so far had been a couple of squirrels running up and down tree-trunks. Suddenly there were dozens of squirrels, large and small, on every tree and branch doing that squirrelly thing that they do! I watched in fascination.

Suddenly I heard a voice calling my name. Our friend was just a little further up the track calling me. He told me I shouldn't have stopped as we were almost there, and that where he was now standing was almost where the trees were. So I got up off my rock and slithered and slid my way to where he was. As I was almost there he set off again, and called to me a little further along saying it was just near there. I was amazed that he kept doing this to me until we finally were at the spot!

By now I realised that the leeches had found me. I pulled one off my foot, and it attached to my finger ... and I tried not to feel panicky! I wondered whether if I had been wearing shoes they would have been getting down inside my shoes where I couldn't reach them - at least this way I could see them.

Finally we reached the appointed spot in the forest where our friend's family owned several trees. They had visited several times recently, were very familiar with their own trees and were aware which of the durian on the ground had recently fallen from their trees.

We all stopped and feasted on some of the freshly-fallen fruit - discovering how fresh fruit is so much more delicious (and not nearly as smelly!) than what you can buy in the market.

So then they gave each fruit a good whack with the side of the bush knife to flatten the sharp bits just a little, and tied them together with string for easier carrying.

So ... what am I up to? (Not picking up durian, you might notice!) Well, when I arrived at the assigned area, I chose a spot where no plants were actually touching me, and then I stood there watching these thin twig-like creatures wiggling along the ground making a bee-line (or a leech-line!) for my feet! I couldn't think of any way to stop them, stomping wouldn't make any difference! So I sprayed my feet with insect repellent (which they paid no attention to, but it kept most of the massive biting mosquitoes at bay) and then stood there with a tissue trying to grab each leech as it climbed up onto my foot ... Then I felt something tickling up my sleeve on the inside of my elbow - how did it get up there! I opened my hand, and there was one in the palm of my hand!

Heading back down the track I was more concerned about the large holes next to the track that I could fall into, and the slippery mud, trying to keep my slippers on. I only fell (very slowly and with remarkable dignity, I thought!) twice.

Back at the car, we all helped each other remove leeches from our feet and ankles. But back at home, sluicing off the mud and blood, we both found several more had made their way further up our legs. I found one near my armpit, and several on my shin that just would not stop bleeding - I had to bandage my leg to go to bed.

Was it all worth it?

When I was standing in the jungle staring at the leeches heading for my feet ... I did comment that maybe I shouldn't have got out of bed that morning. But ... by the time I had finished my shower at the end of the day, it was a good memory.

And the durian? Yes, they really are more delicious when they are fresh from the tree!