Lions, the MOE, and the Prime Minister of Malaysia, Oh My!

At this point in my story, orientation in Kuala Lumpur was almost over, and on the final day in the MACEE building (18 January), we were treated to a loud and startling surprise.

Someone had alerted us that we should grab our cameras for whatever was happening next, so I headed back to the room to get mine.  Before I made it out to the hallway, I was greeted by drumming in the distance and what seemed to be the heavy footfalls of an invading army.

Thankfully, it wasn’t an army, but the first of many Lion Dances we would see and hear over the next few days.  A Lion Dance is a staple of the Chinese New Year, in which dancers dress up in traditional outfits, carve fruit, and spit out oranges for good luck.  I managed to catch my first orange!

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Probably the most interesting thing to happen over those few days (and the thing I was least able to photo-document) was the Fulbright English Teaching Assistants meeting with the Prime Minister of Malaysia.  Prime Minister Najib is very interested and supportive of the Fulbright ETA program, and invited all fifty of us to tea in Putrajaya.  We were unfortunately unable to bring our own cameras into the event, but there was an official photo taken. I’m in pink, three from the left in the third row.

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Finally, our last official meeting (19 January) before being dispersed to our states was with the Malaysian Ministry of Education.  A slide show was presented, various things were discussed, and Owen delivered his now legendary “Satu Omelet” speech.  One of the most famous slogans Malaysia is “Satu Malaysia,” which means “One Malaysia,” and refers to unity among the races in the country.  “Satu Omelet” was an American spin on the idea, and Norma later coined a hand gesture to go with the idea (similar to the American Sign Language symbol for the letter “b,” but with a pinky in the air).  This gesture has been featured in many group photos of ETAs, and I’m sure it will appear on this blog at a later date.

Some people took this meeting more seriously than others.

Then, it was time for goodbyes as the three groups boarded different buses to our state-level orientation.  I joined my Pahang comrades, and we headed off to Cherating, a beach town on the east coast of Malaysia.

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