Saturday, September 11, 2010

Hari Raya Part 2

Yesterday I attended three Hari Raya parties. The first was at the home of the owner Dato (his title not name) of my school and his wife Datin (her title not name- she is also a secretary at the school). I went about 10:45a.m. There were lots of people there, and Datin was waiting for me to come before eating. Even the bus driver was there with his niece. Both of the daughters where there and four of the grandchildren. The youngest daughter is not married, and she lives in Malaysia doing her PH.D. The older daughter lives in Dubai. Later the son came with his four children and wife. I don't remember where he is living currently. I know that Dato and Datin have eight grandchildren and only two are granddaughters. Dato lived for a time in the US while he got his Masters and PH.D, so his children attended high school and college there. I tried lots of different food and visited with the different people. I took pictures of the food after asking permission but not the people. They were dressed very fancy, but I still felt odd taking their pictures, so I didn't. I was invited to stay the whole day. Most people only go for about 1/2 hour before they move on and more people come. It kind of reminds me of graduation open houses back in my hometown where people come to eat and visit for awhile and then move on to the next open house.
There was a couple hour break before the next party which was good since I needed some time for my food to digest. This was at a Aunt's house of a lady that used to work with my Uncle. There were several relatives there, but only really visited with the lady. The lady is my age. She turns 30 in a couple months. She is Malay and was teaching English at a college here in Kuantan. She went to Japan for two years and taught English at a small language school. She said their were only 3 teachers, and they taught people English from 3 years old to 65 years old. I don't remember how many students there were but not many. She actually lived in a small village on an island of Japan. She did not go to any of the big cities while she was there. She liked it, and she said they have less crime there than in Malaysia. The crimes they do have are domestic crimes like men abusing their wives. There are no bars on the windows there or gates on the doors or at the end of driveways like here. Muslims eat food that is Halal, which is like the Jewish have kosher food. It has to be prepared a certain way and washed a certain way, and I believe certain prayers said over the food. They do not use alcohol in anything, not even like vanilla extract or cough syrup. So while there she had to be careful what she ate since many foods in Japan use the saki (rice wine). She did eat lots of strawberries and persimmons. Most of her students lived on farms and brought her produce to eat.
After the two years she worked at a company I believe Ben West for a couple of months until it went under. Now she is working as a PR person for a high up person. I think a wife of some one in the government. She is living in Kuala Lumpur.
The third party was at a neighbor's house. I did not go over there until 8:30 at night because they have afternoon prayers, and so had to wait for that to finish. To get there I actually had to walk through this field, and it had rained all day, so the ground was very wet. The gutter system is different here in that it is more like a trench around buildings. I had to cross this trench on a little cement slab that connected one side to the other at a certain spot. I am not afraid of heights, but I am of falling, so crossing over that made me nervous, but I survived. At the last house there is usually lots of family too, but they had all left to go to go run an errand together because they like to spend as much time together as possible when they are home. I am not sure how many children, there are. I got kind of confused. I think maybe 4 children, two boys and two girls. I do know they have 19 grandchildren. I got to visit with the man of the house and his wife and eat more food. It was ok not having everyone there, I was getting tired, and it was not so noisy.
I am still working on getting the names attached to many of the dishes that I am trying. They do lots of rendang with chicken, beef, and buffalo. They use lots of different peanut sauces and curries. It is a good thing I like spicy food. They also prepare rice several different ways. I like plain, white rice. Who knew that there is so many different ways to cook rice and things to cook it in, and so far I really like each one. Nasi means rice.
At Hari Raya parties they make the desserts very small so that people can try many different types of dessert. At the first party there were at least 13 different types of dessert all home made.
When one goes to Hari Raya parties the people hold out their hands and clasp the guest's hand. Not like a shake, but just clasp it. Then they both say "Selamat Hari Raya"- which means Safe day of Celebration. I noticed with the women after that is done they take their hands and place them on their collarbone. Almost like they are drawing the best wishes into them. Also, when a child greets a person they clasp the person's hand drawing the hand up and place their forehead on the back on the person's hand in a sign of respect.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Hari Raya

So for the last month it has been Ramadan, the fasting month for Muslims. They cannot eat or drink during the day, from sun up to sun down. They must get up early and go to bed late if they want food. Towards evening the food stalls will open up. They people go and get their little snacks called buka puasa . Then they go an wait on the front lawn in front of the Mosque and wait for the call of fast to break and call to prayer. After that they can have some liquid and their snack. Then they will go to the Mosque to pray before they go have a nice leisure dinner. It has been an incredible sight to see the thousands of people in the food stall and on the lawn. I was going to try to get pictures, but it seems every time I can go it rains and the people don't wait on the lawn. The traffic is crazy down by the Mosque. The people park wherever on the street. They will park 3 and 4 deep from the curb and just any old place they can find a spot. It make it very crowded if a person forgets and tries to drive down those streets. It causes traffic jams. But after people are praying or enjoying their leisure dinner then there is no traffic at all. On the weekends they don't go to the beach or do normal outside things to conserve their energy. At school we have had McDonald's for lunch several of the days, then Chinese one day, and KFC ( I never eat KFC in the US, so it was something I normally don't have)another. The Malay ( Muslim) food places have been closed during the day. Last week the Chinese were also having a holiday, I believe, the Hungry Ghosts, so their restaurants were also closed. This is the week that Hari Raya- Day of Celebration is starting. To them this is kind of like their Christmas.

They go home to their families (kampung) for the holiday, for them it is an obligation. Some rotate between families and years. Others try to go to both families during this time. The schools have different amounts of time off. For my school we have from Wednesday the 8th to Monday the 13th. Some schools have both full weeks off. They give them so much time off so they can travel back to their families. They have more than one day of Hari Raya. The first day is based on the sighting of the moon. They go like 29 days which will take us to this Thursday night. Then based on if they sight the moon, they will either start their celebration Friday or Saturday. The celebration is an all day affair. They have lots of food. People bring gifts of money for the children. They like it when the guests wear their traditional celebration clothing the baju kurung. I think they dress very fancy. I have not found any that fit me, so I will probably just wear dress slacks and a blouse. I have been invited to the Hari Raya party at my owner and his wife's house. All of their children and grandchildren will be there. Normally people just go for like an hour or so, but I have been invited for the day, so they are treating me more like family. I don't know if I will stay the whole day. I am sure that I will visit with people but I don't know if they do games or anything else. I am interested to see what things I will learn about them and their culture and their Hari Raya.

The Little Things

I don't feel so far that it has been hard to transition here. Sometimes it is the little things though that are harder to get used to being different. Like the time on digital clocks is 24 hours. I am still trying to figure out how to tell time past 12:00. Plus it is weird that when it is 12 a.m. the clock shows 0 for the hour. So like 12:25 a.m. is 0:25. It is crazy. They use the metric system. So far distances, temperature, and cooking it is hard sometimes to calculate and convert. Food has been easy. I like to try new things and so far have liked everything. I have not been here long enough to miss anything yet, but I know at the same time I will come to really love some things here that I will miss when I go back. Plus, they have my two can't live without essentials, chocolate and popcorn. Showers- I still haven't gotten used to cold showers. I don't know that I will ever grow to like them. I may eventually get the thing that can be hooked up so I can heat my water at least to lukewarm (I don't think they do hot). I am getting more used to the wet bathroom and having to wipe the toilet seat off before I use it after I shower. I still don't like have the wet floor yet, especially when I have my dress pants on. It is hard to keep the bottoms dry and at school clean since mud gets tracked in and then with the wet floor it gets worse. I haven't really missed my jewelry yet, because as the day goes on I get sticky and then the watch, rings, and necklaces sometimes bug me. I don't miss blow drying my hair. Make up use is about the same some days I wear it; some days I don't. It is really hard to not have a car that I can just hop in and go wherever I need to go. I feel like I am young again when I used to have to wait for my parents to come get me and take me places. Only now I think it might be a little worse since I have driven for years and know what it is like to have that freedom and not rely on others. I am grateful to know though that it won't last forever. I still am capable of driving and someday when I return to the US I will drive again. I can't imagine what it was like for my paternal grandmother because she never drove. Although, when I was growing up after my grandpa had died there was a bus system in her town that we used to take to the mall or to get her hair done. We were walking distance from the grocery store. Then when I got old enough I used to take her around. It is kind of hard for me to explore my new town though since it is so large and things are spread out and I have not car, and there is no bus other than the school buses. I am appreciating riding the bus now with the students to get to school because I get to see so more of the town than I would otherwise. I don't know how I will travel to other places to visit on breaks. I don't know if they have buses that go from towns or to other countries or if I will fly. I know here they fly from the Capital Kuala Lumpur and back. It is like 40 minutes with 20 of those actually spent in the air. It is crazy, but so easy for them to do. Much easier than driving since there is so much traffic. Although, there is only like one flight a day. I miss having a kitchen I can cook in. I have a fridge I can put things in, and I am going to get a microwave, if they ever get in the one I want. But even simple dishes I think of making usually require the stove. They don't have things here like instant rice, so I don't know if I can do it just in the microwave or if it will turn out bad. I don't know how I will cook things like noodles either. I think I might get very tired of salads by the time I leave unless I can learn other easy only microwave recipes here. I missed having the Internet and being able to connect with family and friends, but I have that again and so that is better. I miss having friends to do things with like over for dinner or out for dinner or movies. I will get to know people here more as time goes on, but I don't really know if I will have friends like I did back home. I can't really cook a meal and have people over or even have people over to watch a movie. It is very noisy here. I am close to a main road. There are lots of dogs in this neighborhood because Chinese like dogs and Malays like cats. I am close to the Mosque so I can hear the men praying. Also, I think people go out several times a night to check to make sure their cars are locked because I hear the clickers all the time. They also race cars here on the main road at like 3:30 in the morning. They don't have windows like we do. They are more like levelor blinds and are not well insulated. They don't even really shut all the way. So I miss the quite and a good nights sleep. I do have a teddy bear I sleep with, so I don't really miss sleeping with my kittens. I don't know that I would say I am homesick, but I do miss sometimes how things are back in the US like trying to tell time. Even though I am missing some of the conveniences of home tonight I am still very glad to be here and all the wonderful, eye opening things I am learning.