A Malasyian Journal:

Jackie / Merlihat Malaysia

(29 June 98)

Date: Mon, 29 Jun 1998 08:36:46 +0700

To: Merlihat<snell_j@cob.sjsu.edu>

From: Jackie Snell <snell_j@cob.sjsu.edu> Subject: Merlihat Malaysia

Some of you have asked some questions, I'll answer next time. Thought my early notes were more interesting. - j Merlihat Malaysia (Observing Malaysia)

June 2, 1998

Things have worked out better than I ever hoped for. Nik has got us an apartment in the Ford Foundation Guest House on campus. It is not at all isolated, I am walking distance to my office - though the Malays are worse than us driving evreywhere - they say it is too hot to walk (too true, it was 96 F most of the day and 100% humidity - it cools down to high 80's at nite). The apartment is quite comfortable, though a little the worse for wear, as in some cracked and discolored tiles. The best part is that I can stay here until Dave arrives, and then we can decide together whether to remain in this apartment or move off campus. This is the best of all possible worlds, as Dave is the fussier of the two of us, and it is very imprtant that we make this adventure comfortable for him (so I can do it again sometime!)

Now for the odd bits one can never expect. Each electrical outlet has its own switch. Our apartment is furnished, even with a tv, so first I had to search for where I wanted to plug it in and turn on the switch for the outlet. The kitchen has many switches, a separate one for the frig outlet, one for the hot water heater outlet, another for the heater itself, and one for the "cooker" - I don't know why because the cooker is gas. There are 5 switches in the bedroom, outside the bathroomroom door, 2 for bathroom lights, and 2 with inidicator lights, I assume 1 is for the water heater in the bath, but no idea what the other one is, plus a switch and a speed control for the bedroom fan. The switch for the bedroom light is on another wall. I didn't even try to heat up water for my first shower at home, the water is just tepid anyway, and feels good in the heat.

We have room airconditioners in the 2 bedrooms. The other rooms have large ceiling fans and lots of windows. The living room has huge sliding glass doors, that open up one whole wall. There are no screens on any windows or doors. I guess I just have to not worry about mosquitos or birds coming in.

We have 2 geckos (lizards) in the kitchen. Luckily I knew to expect that, and not get too freaked out, since my parents lived in Hawaii for many years. They are good to have because they eat bugs (including mosquitos), but I still shuddered when I turned on the kitchen light and there were 2 forms scurrying across the ceiling. Better the ceiling than the floor, at least I don't have to worry about stepping on them.

They grow coffee right here on campus, among other things. There is a mango tree and a rambutan tree just outside my apartment. Rambutan fruits taste like a lychee, but look a lot more interesting, red skin w/ soft green spikes sticking out all over.

June 3, 1998

The 2nd day here, had breakfast (coffee break?) with the Vice Chancellor, Dato' Syed. He is equivalent to Pres. Caret, but w/ a lot more titles.

He's very charming, makes lots of jokes. He asked if I could teach short course in how to be hard-nosed like Americans. Tell the students there will be a nose test (as he pressed on his nose) every class, they have to starch their noses, no flat noses around here. I asked if I could quote him in class.

A staff member's brother is getting married for the next 2 weekends.

Malays have the official wedding at the bride's family house the first weekend, then party at the groom's family house the following weekend. I think the bride & groom stay at each family house for the week, then they will have their own place. I think traditionally they stayed w/ the bride's family longer, then lived w/ the groom's family permamently (read that somewhere).

I spent a noticeable chunk of today wrapping and giving gifts, with help from a local who studied in the states for 9 years. In dividing up the gifts, people w/more status get the more valuable gifts, but the main consideration is what the person can do for you. Everyone always says "It's the thought that counts" but the 2 people that have been really helpful to me about gift giving, and are used to being frank w/ Americans, say "who can do the most for you?" and "give the gift as soon as you meet, so they will be more helpful to you." For people who are my equals or higher, and for those staff on whom I am especially dependent, gifts are wrapped. But I also brought many small things like SJSU key chains, mugs, pens, magnets. With these Zuraina took me around with those things in our hands (not wrapped), she introduced me, and if the reciever was comfortable w/ English I asked them which thing they would like, otherwise Zuraina asked them in Bahasa. I gave out about 15 of them in about half an hour.

Other things Kala recommended to bring, for female staff were lipsticks, nail polish, and nail polish remover that has a sponge in a jar, so you just stick your fingers in to take off the polish. I didn't even know about those, I needed someone in Malaysia to tell me I could buy it in the states.

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