I was instantly struck with jealousy. I've always had a travel bug, and being a student in a foreign country somewhere was my ultimate dream. How cool would that be, to be able to live with a regular family and go to a regular school, in an altogether non-regular place?
So I started looking into exchange programs. As a sophomore, I first applied for the Rotary program, which I didn't get. Bah. And then I applied to a program called AFS. AFS stands for something like 'Ambulance Field Service', 'cause they were an ambulance service during WWII. But after said war, the founder decided he'd had enough of young people killing one another for stupid reasons, and so a study abroad program was created.
|yeah, how much do you know about it? that's what I thought.|
|though to be fair, it does border Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Georgia. which aren't exactly peaceful places these days. maybe they had a point...|
And then the three of us (me, an obnoxiously hipster douche named Nate, and a bouncy blonde girl named Jeana) got on a plane to ride for 13 hours to Taipei. Once in Taipei, we wandered around for a bit, then flew another 4 hours to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Next time you're in a bookstore, go to the language section, and look for a Malay-English dictionary or phrasebook. If you can find one that has more than 50 pages, I'll give you a dollar.
|this kind of dollar!|
Now for those of you who are unaware, Malaysia is a predominately Muslim country. Their main governmental religion is actually Islam, and many of their laws and customs are based around this fact. The population of Malaysia is in fact quite divided, with around 50 or more percent of people being ethnically Malay. 25 percent or so are Chinese, and 15 percent are East Indian or Sri Lankan. By law, if you are ethnically Malay, you must also be Muslim. Likewise, if you marry a Malay, you must convert to Islam. I can't remember how much of your ancestry has to be something other than Malay before you don't have to be Muslim anymore, but it is a pretty high percent.
Most Muslim women in Malaysia do not completely cover their faces, and those who do tend to opt for colorful clothes and head coverings (known in Malaysia as a tudung). I would estimate around half the girls I went to school with covered their heads, and none covered their entire faces.
|one of my pictures from a Hari Raya celebration, at a friend's house. I totally blend, right? the colorful clothes are called baju korong, and again the headcovering is called a tudung.|
|good lord it must get sweaty inside that thing.|
And so forth and so on. I managed to calm myself down when I noticed one of the women on the shuttle was reading Janet Evanovich and wearing a leopard print dress underneath her burqa. And then several of my cultural stereotypes were shattered right then and there, and I started to breathe again.
|oh the horror! wait, no...|
|you're welcome. sorry if you don't like snakes.|