Hello. I haven’t forgotten about you, I promise.
The past two months have been strangely busy over here in Kuala Lipis. I’ve been traveling to English camps almost every weekend, hosting after school workshops, and spending a lot of time trying to prepare for what my life might look like after this grant comes to an end a little less than two months from now.
I know that using phrases like “time flies” or “in the blink of an eye” is pretty cliche and might garner some eye rolls from the creative writing types in the audience…but time is flying, eight months have come and gone in the blink of an eye, and I am so overwhelmed (and confused) by this reality that I can’t really think of anything other than cliches to express how I’m feeling. We’re here, it’s happening, and I’ll be flying back to America on November 12th. I expect hugs, tears, and cakes from all of you.
I’ve been working on a post that’s a bit broader in nature, one that attempts to capture how I’ve been processing the past few months here. Things have been on a definite upswing, and I have found myself spending much more time with my students, engaging with them and really feeling like I’m making genuine connections both in and out of the classroom. It’s been a wonderful feeling and most certainly an improvement from how I felt toward the middle of the year in the weeks following the June break and Ramadan period. After such a long time of what I perceived as lethargy and hesitancy (mostly on my part), it’s been incredible to feel a resurgence of all the great things that had me so excited to be here in my first few months.
Like I said, I’ve been trying to craft a post to explain this more fully, but it’s been slow going and, with all of the busy-ness that has taken over my life lately, it requires a bit more mental stamina than I’m able to give it right now. For now, we’ll stick with a basic recap of a few major things that have happened over here in Malaysia (with photos, of course).
First thing’s first: English camp season is back. For those of you who don’t know (or don’t remember because I’m pretty sure I’ve told you all about this before), one of the requirements of my grant period is to organize and facilitate two extracurricular English camps with my students. These come in many forms and can last as long as several days, but the point is simply to give students a chance to engage with English language learning in fun and exciting ways. Most camps have some sort of unifying theme, and while each ETA hosts and plans the camps, many of us travel to help others with the actual running of the show. Which means that I’ve spent a lot of time going to new schools, meeting new students, and having one heck of a good time.
So far, I’ve had the privilege of helping out at an American Football camp (hosted by my roommate Dan), an environmentally-themed camp at Taman Negara, the world’s oldest rainforest, and a Harry Potter camp that changed my life. Each of these was such a unique experience, and each touched on different themes, but the end goal was all the same: teach English, have fun, and make memories. I think that the camps might be one of my favorite aspects of this grant period, mostly because I get a chance to hang out with new students and experience new things together, which always makes for a good time. Check out some of these photos that I’ve managed to snag at camps over the past few weeks:
Secondly: I took a trip with my mentor and one of my closest teacher friends to Penang! One of Malaysia’s thirteen states, Penang is made up of two regions: one on the mainland, and one on an island just off the coast. I’ve been hearing incredible things about the island and have been wanting to go for a long time, but it’s a bit of a drive from where I live, and I’ve honestly been too busy for most of my weekends to make it out there. But, both my mentor and one of my teachers are from that area, and they offered to take me and show me around a few weeks ago…and it was incredible.
Penang Island is known for its food, its history, and its street art, all of which I got to enjoy fully in the company of people who knew their way around what might normally have been an intimidatingly large and touristy city. We explored state parks, took in some incredible scenic views of the city from the top of Bukit Bendera, and rode bikes around the historic center of Georgetown to check out the street art. While it all happened pretty quickly (we did all of this in one day), I was thankful for the chance to experience all of these things with my teachers, especially those with whom I feel a growing friendship and connection. While the time we spend together at school is nice, there’s something different about racing bikes down a narrow city street or sharing a cup of coffee in the middle of the jungle. These are the moments that I will cling to long after my time here is finished.
Okay, so I feel like this post has gotten a bit long; while there are a million more things I could devote space to updating you on (like presenting my thesis at an international conference or celebrating the end of Ramadan), I’ll stop the rambling here. If I keep a few things under wraps, that just gives us all more to talk about when I get back, right? Right. That’s how I’m justifying it.
What do the next two months hold? English camps will of course continue to happen, including what is sure to be an incredible Frozen-themed camp this coming weekend, as well as my own camp at the beginning of October, which will focus primarily on young men’s leadership and identity development. That’s a project that I’m really excited about bringing to fruition, and you’ll definitely get more updates once it’s underway. I’ll also be traveling to another island with some of my school’s prefect students (think Harry Potter prefects, magic and all) in a few weeks and am planning to have an end of the year event with both my school and Dan’s school, which should be awesome. I think staying busy for the next seven weeks will be key to keeping my emotions (a bit) under control, but one can never be too sure when it comes to Mr. Kyle and his tears, so. We’ll see how it all goes.
Here are some more photos (aka selfies), because you can never have too many. Also my hand is cramping from all this typing, so. A huge thank you to those of you who read this blog and who continue to support me from near and far–this journey wouldn’t be the same without you.
Until next time,