Where did March go? It’s a serious question I have.

How has another month flown by already? As I sat down to start this blog post, I realized that almost a full month has passed since my last update, which is, quite frankly, unfathomable to me. Not that I’m apologizing or anything; things have been really busy over here in Malaysia land and, in all honesty, I knew that the whole “two posts a month” thing was maybe not the most sustainable precedent for me to set. All in all, though, what really matters is that I’m back with more updates, photos, and a few random thoughts that I’d like to share.

Let’s start with a few school-related tidbits, shall we?

I had my first English camp!! In case this hasn’t been explained somewhere in this blog of mine, one of my “jobs” as an ETA is to plan and facilitate English language programming in the form of fun, interactive activities that usually take place outside of regular school hours. These programs, known more affectionately as “camps,” can take a variety of forms and are a way for ETAs to bring their own passions and strengths to the teaching of English in non-traditional (and hopefully really fun) ways.

English Camps are also an excellent occasion for further development of one's selfie skills.

English Camps are also an excellent occasion for further development of one’s selfie skills.

My first camp took place at the end of February, and it was a blast. The theme was, like many things here in Malaysia, a bit vague, but the goal was to help train a group of about 40 students in a variety of communications-based skills: conducting interviews, using effective team-building strategies, researching current events (aka media literacy), and taking awesome photos. The idea originated as a way to encourage participation in a new English-based communications program at my school–which is basically a fancy way of saying that we built a mini news studio and bought an expensive camera and now the students need to know how to use it all without breaking anything, all while looking semi-professional. I am forever grateful to my fellow Pahang ETAs, so many of whom showed up with their biggest smiles on to help run the camp for the few hours that it lasted. My students still ask me about “my teacher friends” and when they’re coming back–which is obviously just an excuse to plan another awesome camp, right? Right.


Miss Catherine helps a group of students untangle the mysteries of the “human knot” challenge.


One of my favorite pictures from camp.

I’ve also been tasked with teaching literature to students in my Form 3 and Form 4 classes, an undertaking that, while daunting at times, has proven to be one of the more rewarding aspects of my teaching life here. As soon as my fellow English teachers discovered that I studied literature as a university student, they pounced; the textbooks are new this year, leaving many of them feeling unprepared and unsure of how to proceed, and I am therefore the perfect candidate to take over this part of the curriculum–right? I think so, at least for now. Most of my teaching so far has been playing catch-up so that the students can get back on track with the national curriculum’s schedule, a goal which seems pretty unattainable at this point but nevertheless something to work toward.

Having a clearly-defined goal and a taste of autonomy in the classroom has been refreshing, as I spent most of February observing quietly in the back of many classrooms, as unsure of how to step in as my co-teachers were of how to best make use of me in their class. Now that we have some clear goals and a sense of direction, I’m sensing a definite shift in my role at school, and I’m eager to see how it develops in the coming months.

Some Form 4 students of mine working diligently on a poetry assignment. Also note the girl hiding behind her book, a common Malay way to say, "Please sir, no photo!"

Some Form 4 students of mine working diligently on a poetry assignment. Also note the girl hiding behind her book, a common Malay way to say, “Please sir, no photo!”

In other news: I went to Cambodia. I had the chance to travel with three other ETAs during a week-long holiday earlier this month, and I have to say: for my first time exploring South East Asia (outside of good ol’ Malaysia, obviously), this trip was a doozy.

It started off well enough: We flew into Phnom Penh for the first leg of our journey and checked into our hostel early that evening. My friend Greg managed to book an awesome place for us (check out Eighty8’s website, which doesn’t even begin to do the place justice), and we settled in for a few days in the capital city. I could ramble on for a few hours about how different Cambodia felt instantly upon arrival, how the people, the culture, and even the heat seemed radically unlike what I’ve experienced so far in Malaysia…but that’s not the fun part of the story, so we’ll leave it at this: Cambodia is really different from Malaysia. I sound super smart, don’t I?

The fun part, you ask? I managed to get typhoid at some point in my travels and spent the last few days in Cambodia pretty sick and having a not-so-great time. Thankfully, I have awesome friends who were there with me and basically took care of me, helping me struggle my way through some of the beautiful temples in Siem Reap before strongly encouraging me to go get a blood test at a local clinic; the results came back positive for typhoid, at which point I went on some pretty heavy antibiotics and bed rest. Thankfully, I got to the doctor early and was able to start treatment before any of the more serious effects of the disease even had a chance to think about setting in. While the whole experience was a bit unpleasant and definitely on the list of things I’d rather not repeat given the chance, I can certainly look back on my week in Cambodia as one that was full of adventure and a variety of new experiences, both good and bad.

[Stay tuned for a post in which I delve more deeply into this idea of “new experiences” and why I’m so addicted to them…it’s in the works, y’all.]

A super old temple in Siem Reap, Cambodia. I don't know anything about it, I just know that it's really old, y'all.

A super old temple in Siem Reap, Cambodia. I don’t know anything about it, I just know that it’s really old.

Alright, I’m not going to keep rambling. To risk sounding more cliche than even I find acceptable, there is so much more to say: about Malaysia, about teaching, about my trip to Cambodia…heck, I could probably write a novella about the hazelnut latte I’m currently drinking and just how deliciously expensive it is, that’s how wordy and expressive I’m feeling at the moment.

[Stay tuned for a post about said latte. Am I kidding? We’ll see…]

I am continually amazed and honored at the small yet genuinely enthusiastic reception that these posts get, both from people I know and a few others who happen to just stumble their way here. To both parties: thank you for your continued support and encouragement. It’s much easier (and way more fun) to keep a blog updated when you know that people actually read the thing. Terima kasih, y’all!

Until next time,


P.S. “Terima kasih” means “thank you” in Bahasa Melayu, so now you know something and are basically fluent. Come see me in Malaysia and use those new language skills? Cool.