Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Muckin' About Malaysia: Part One

(For those of you who haven't been following along, this is part of a series on our trip to the EARCOS 2008 Teacher Conference in Kuala Lumpur.)

During our five plus days at the EARCOS Teacher Conference in Kuala Lumpur, we scrounged enough free time together to see much of the city and a bit of the countryside as well. Here are just a few episodes from the shenanigans.

1. Chinatown

The Chinese ethnic community in Malaysia makes up a huge minority of the population (nearly 25%, according to Wikipedia) with a long and complicated history in the region. Malaysian Chinese people run the gamut from long-settled, assimilated Malay speakers, to Anglophone colonial-era traders, to more-recent, Mandarin-speaking arrivals. (In fact, Wikipedia's got some fascinating stuff on Malaysian Chinese people--that appears to be the PC term--including the fact that they rarely intermarry with Malays because Malaysian law requires that Malaysian Muslims can only marry Muslims. Neat.)
Anyway: None of this history whatsoever is evident at Petaling Street, Kuala Lumpur's bustling Chinatown, a raucous emporium of cheap junk, knockoffs, and counterfeits interspersed with a few decent places to eat. We found one--sketchy, cheap, and delicious--walked about the market for a little bit, then promptly found another for spring rolls and some Tiger, the local beer. For the first time in my life, I felt like a real Expat (with a capital "E"), swigging lager at a plastic table after sunset under neon lights in the lazy tropical heat.
(Cool Tiger Beer factoid, fliched from Wikipedia: The advertising slogan "Time for a Tiger" gave author Anthony Burgess, probably most famous for A Clockwork Orange, the title of the first novel in his trilogy on the decline of British rule in Malaysia, The Long Day Wanes.)

2. The Hotel Shangri-LaOf course, going back to the hotel quickly disabused me of these expat delusions. There, I felt like some kind of high-powered globetrotting executive, sweating in the sauna after a long morning workout, or sipping tea over my complimentary breakfast as I looked down on the streets of Kuala Lumpur below. Only in the morning did reality set in: I was but a lowly rookie teacher, with much to learn and even more to do. But hey! At least we'd be living in luxury for the rest of the week. Swanky pad with a view of the Petronas Towers? Complimentary breakfast? Free evening munchies and cocktails? Man, Dr. Kim really knows how to treat employees right!Bonus: the room even had a Gideon Bible AND a "Gideon" Koran.

P.S. Apparently, McDonalds delivers in Malaysia. Who knew?

1 comment:

shana said...

Haven't been to your blog for a while, so I decided to hop by and say hello.

Hey, The Road! Neat.