Melaka, or “In Which Nicole Experiences a Pirate Ship”

On January 16, all of the ETAs journeyed to Melaka City.  Upon arrival, we were treated to colonial-style architecture and delightfully gaudy tuk-tuks that blasted American pop music.

"They see me rollin', they hatin'..."

I’m not familiar at all with the history of Melaka, so most of the historical sites were lost on me.  The boys had fun reenacting battles, though.

Aye, matey!

After walking for a while (it was even hotter in Melaka than it was in Kuala Lumpur), we enjoyed a relaxing river cruise that showed us the architecture across the city.


My absolute favorite part of Melaka was the life-sized replica of the Flor De La Mar, a Portugese ship that sank off the coast of the city in 1511.  Climbing around on a sixteenth century pirate ship was a bucket list item that I never realized I had until I stepped aboard.  (Note: Kingdom Heart’s Peter Pan level is frighteningly accurate to the specs of a real pirate ship.)


After (reluctantly) leaving the ship, we ate lunch in Chinatown and visited a Buddhist temple where I got one of the most depressing and procrastination-inspired fortunes ever.  According to my broken kau cim sticks, everything must wait until spring time; I shouldn’t travel until next year, I could possibly die of old age soon (???), and now is not a good time for marriage (…duh).

"Stay inside. For a while."

STAY TUNED FOR NEXT TIME: Meeting the Prime Minister of Malaysia, watching enough Dragon Dances to last a lifetime, climbing surprise mountains in Cherating, and transitioning to orientation in Kuantan.



ALSO: It seems that just about everyone in my family has birthdays during this time of year. Happy Birthday, Dad (17 April) and Mom (14 April)! I love you both very much. My favorite Skype conversations are Sunday morning chats where the computer sits in my place at the breakfast table. It’s just like being at home, without actually being able to smell the pancakes. Or eat the pancakes. Well, it’s close to the real thing, anyway.


Apologies and Excuses.


It’s been more than two months since my last update. After a few more whirlwind days in Kuala Lumpur, we moved on to Cherating for an eventful (and strenuous — surprise mountain climbing, anyone?) Chinese New Year, and then started our Pahang state orientation in Kuantan.  I sang a lot of karaoke.  I met my mentor, Kak Zaida.  I moved to Raub.  I started school.  I traveled to Cambodia and Thailand.  I took thousands of pictures, and I will tell those stories.  Eventually.

Right now, I’m busy with planning an English camp (which somehow wound up incorporating Capture the Flag with English elements), planning lessons, teaching, “teaching,” volunteering, learning how to cook Malaysian-style, and writing. It’s a good life and one I could get used to.

Blogging will come soon. I haven’t forgotten about it; it’s just on hold for the time being.

Happy Birthday.


ALSO: A shout out to the lovely Annie, who is 23 today. May you enjoy this birthday immensely, even though I’m across several ponds and can’t hide Olivia in the closet with your birthday present this year.

“Malaysia, It’s Truly Asia.”

(To see what my title references, click here.)

So, it turns out that keeping up with a blog while going through Fulbright Orientation is actually very difficult.  We’re doing work-related things business hours, and then the ETAs spend the evenings getting food and exploring the city.

But anyway! I’m finally updating. These are just some highlights of my life in KL — with the infrequency of my blogging, it’s impossible to cover everything that’s happened over the last two weeks.

Sunday before last, we ventured out to the Lake Gardens just outside the city.  There, we walked through the Hibiscus Garden, Orchid Garden, and Butterfly Garden.  We saved the Aviary for another day (which I’ll talk about later).

My favorite part of the day was visiting the Butterfly Park.  I amused myself by trying to figure out macro settings on my camera and enjoying the scenery.

As we were leaving, I saw a case of spiders and happened to notice that a few of them are native to Malaysia. Hopefully I won’t have any of them as house guests this year!

Click to enlarge (at your own risk).

Before we left, we stopped at the National Monument.  We also saw the monument to the glorious dead, but my camera battery was dead after all my butterfly-capturing, so I didn’t take pictures.

National Monument

On Tuesday, half of our group went on an excursion to the Batu Caves.  The caves are a Hindu temple and (unrelated) are full of monkeys. We climbed up 272 steps to get to the top. I took about fifty pictures of monkeys; if you really need a monkey fix (or want to see any of my pictures that aren’t on this blog, check out my flickr).

Lord Muruga is 140 feet tall.

Votives outside the temple.


Above the entrance to the Batu Caves.

The view inside the main cavern.

On Wednesday, we ventured to the National Mosque.

Outside the Mosque.

Worship space.

We then headed over to the Islamic Arts History Museum.

A kiswah, or cloth, that covered the Kaaba in Mecca.

Hey, this one looks familiar...

On Friday night, we visited the home of the US Ambassador to Malaysia and met 40 Malaysian students getting ready to leave to study in the USA. Unfortunately, none of them were heading to Kentucky — I had a great time getting to know them and both giving and receiving advice concerning the differences between American and Malaysian classrooms.

On Saturday, we got up (bright and early, especially for a Saturday morning) and visited the wet market.  A wet market is a place where locals buy fruits, vegetables, and meat from vendors.

Our intrepid guide, Raymond.

Fresh vegetables.

Extremely fresh chicken.

Saturday night, the Chews family hosted the Fulbright ETAs for a cookout. If any of you are reading this now, thank you so much for your hospitality!

And yesterday, Sunday, we ventured back to the Aviary.

Bird Park Rules.

A peacock (one of many).

Peacock, macro'd.

There were other, rarer birds in the park, flamingoes are always my favorite.

After a couple hours in the bird park, we took a cab back to downtown KL and ate lunch in Little India.  The walk back to the monorail station was long, but it was great to see a section of the city I hadn’t ventured to before.

Salamat datang!

Our next expedition is tomorrow, a day trip to Malacca. Stay tuned!

An Addendum.

Per widespread confusion on the part of those back home, I’ve decided to write a post clarifying a few things from yesterday.  Somehow, when you spend a little time in a culture, you forget how strange things sound out of context!

1. United Buddy Bears

No, that was not a typo — I really did mean bears! They are bear statues that are decorated by an artist from each of the countrry in the United Nations.  I took pictures of some of my favorites:




UK and USA

2. Fish Spas/Massages

Fish spas are places where you place your feet in a tub of tiny fish that nibble on the callouses and blisters on your soles.  Once you get used to the ticklish sensation, you move into a tub of larger fish and they finish eating away your dead skin.


We went to the fish spa.  After several minutes of Googling, we found the Cute Fish Spa in Kuala Lumpur and headed down to Central Market.

My feet were very ticklish at first, but after about twenty seconds I get used to the sensation.  After ten minutes, my feet felt smooth and clean! Given the opportunity, I would definitely do it again.

Hannah was reluctant at first to put her feet in the water. After much coaxing and threatening, she finally joined Chelsea and me.

3. Patronus vs. Petronas

Thanks to Timothy Chew for pointing out that the Towers are not used to fight off Dementors! That was a silly typo.

Malaysia: “You met me at a very strange time in my life.”

It’s been six days since leaving home and starting my journey to Malaysia.

My first flight was on at noon Monday from Cincinnati to JFK.  After an extremely long layover in JFK, we headed to Hong Kong, where we were treated to the familiar taste of a McDonald’s breakfast menu.  After a few hours, we finally arrived Wednesday, January 4, in Kuala Lumpur, skipping ahead thirteen hours into the future.

Kuala Lumpur

Kuala Lumpur is a big, bustling city with heavy traffic, fearless motorcyclists, and hapless pedestrians.  Stop lights are considered optional, which adds a level of difficulty when navigating through the city.  I was surprised to see how green the city is; palm trees are everywhere, along with yucca and tropical trees. The city is preparing for the Chinese New Year with lantern decorations and lights.

In an effort to stay up as late as possible on Wednesday, Kate and I ventured out into the city and discovered an artists’ colony not far from our hotel.  The painters and sculptors were very friendly and didn’t mind us looking at their work and speaking to them in English.  Everyone that’s spoken to us so far seems very excited that we’re here to teach the language.

On Thursday, we started our first day of Fulbright Orientation at the MACEE office. We spent the evening exploring the city; we found the Petronas Towers, but at 6:01, we were a minute too late to go up to the Sky Bridge.

Later that night, Hannah, Kate, Morgan and I wandered until we left the touristy section and found an authentic street market, complete with ripe durian (a smelly, smelly fruit that defies description) and chicken, ranging from clucking to dead to fried to dyed yellow.

After Orientation on Friday (and our first Bahasa Malaysia lesson), we headed to China Town and I used the monorail for the first time. On the way back, we checked out the international bears by the Pavilion, each decorated by a representative of every country in the United Nations.

On Saturday, we had a scavenger hunt that included finding a stranger to sing an American song with us, one of the boys in our group trying on the full Baju Melayu outfit, hunting for mosques, Hindu temples, Buddhist temples, and churches, trying out a fish massage, and finding the best money-changing rates in the city.  The winning group will be announced on Monday.

In conclusion and to everyone back home: Everything is going well so far, and I look forward to the opportunity to continue exploring Kuala Lumpur, the upcoming Chinese New Year, and eventually moving on to my school in Pahang!