11 July 2012

Kampung Life

A couple of weeks ago, Caitie, Alex and I (sans Will, as he had gone on his month-long trip to Kenya) decided to check out the East coast of Malaysia, and so spent a couple of days at Tanjong Jara resort near Terengganu.

We had been planning to look around the nearest town while there, but Alex wasn't well and we were all tired after a couple of very busy weeks, so we just stayed put, lounged by the pool, ate, drank and slept.  

However, on our first day there we were lucky enough to experience the resort's version of kampung (village) life, put on to show guests some of the traditional pasttimes of Malaysia. 

As we approached the make-shift kampung, it was impossible to ignore the loud "thunks" of coconuts falling from the palm trees.  And equally impossible to try not to remember the old statistic about more people being killed by falling coconuts than by shark attacks.  Fortunately, it transpired that the coconuts were not falling randomly, but were being harvested by a monkey.

This is quite common in this part of the world, and there are monkey training schools which teach the monkeys how to do the job properly.

This particular monkey didn't look that happy - maybe it thought Saturday should have been its day off, though it was more likely that it wasn't keen on having a long chain around its neck.  Nevertheless, he did what he was supposed to, twisting the coconuts around until they became loose, and then dropping them to the ground, and was rewarded when he came down with some of the coconut milk. 

Then we tried out some of the traditional games.  I had a go at Congkak, a game of wit traditionally played by women.  Well, it might have been a game of wit had I known what the rules were!  

Alex headed a rattan ball in what looked like a local version of football, sepak raga ratus.  

And we all tried our hands, or rather our feet, at the tinikling dance, which apparently hails from the Phillipines.  It's a bit like skipping but with bamboo poles rather than a rope.  The poles are banged against two other poles, placed horizontally at the end, and moved together or apart with each rhythmic bang.  The rhythm gradually gets faster, and I imagine those taking part often get bruised ankles!  There are supposed to be set steps to this dance, but I only found this out in retrospect.

 All this, to the gentle accompaniment of a traditional percussion instrument, the idiofon.

And then onto the cocktail bar.....


4 July 2012

One year on....

On July 4 last year, Caitie, Will and I left the UK and flew to Malaysia to join Alex in Kuala Lumpur.  We stumbled, bleary-eyed after a long flight, into our new apartment and started the long process of settling in.

Everything seemed so new and so different, especially for the kids. 

It was hot, humid, the traffic was scary, the food was weird, the malls were huge, the poorer areas really were poor - certainly very different from life in Cheltenham.

We spent the first few weeks arranging our belongings how we wanted them.  Alex had unpacked everything before we arrived, but putting them where WE wanted them gave us the feeling of being just a little bit in control.  And we went out and about, exploring the malls and markets and trying to work out where to find everything we needed from familar food items and pharmaceuticals to new summer clothes.  We also had a week away, to a lovely tropical island resort just off the West coast - this photo was taken there, and is the first one of us all together in Malaysia.  

 Then September rolled around, and the kids started school.  Will seemed to settle in very quickly, Caitie took much longer.  I started going out and meeting people.  It felt a bit like dating - tentatively asking, or being asked, if you'd like to meet for coffee, and afterwards deciding if you'd like to see them again or if in fact you had little in common with them.  I did a Hello KL course with the Association of British Women - that was really good, a chance to see some places I might not otherwise have found, quite a few of which I still go back to regularly.

As the months whizzed by, life became more "normal" once again.  All those things that had seemed so strange when we first arrived were now part of everyday life, and hardly noticed any more.  

Now, a year on, I suppose KL has pretty much become home, or at least a second home.  Family and friends are still very much missed, and there have been some times when being so far away has been very hard.  It goes without saying that we are very much looking forward to seeing everyone in August, when we fly back to the UK for a couple of weeks.

The excitement of being here has worn off - that can only keep going for so long! And we do complain a bit more about some of the not-so-good aspects about Malaysia, such as the atrocious plumbing and the equally atrocious traffic.  

But it is still good to be here, and I don't think we have any regrets.  Coming here means we have seen and done things that we wouldn't otherwise have experienced - not all good, but mostly.  We live opposite a global icon (the Petronas Towers), in a truly multi-cultural community.  We've been on exotic holidays, made new friends, and I've also been able to enjoy making just a little bit of difference at the girls' home. I've still not got used to the almost complete lack of seasons though!  What month is it again?!