So there have been commercials’ on Star world (my English channel) for Malaysia all year. It is a good thing that I was going here because those commercials’ would have driven me crazy otherwise. The tourism company promoting Malaysia really did its job well!
None of this of course tells you anything about Kota Kinabalu. Borneo. Just saying the name makes me happy. I have all of these images in my head of what Borneo should be like: thick jungle teeming with wildlife; orang-utans swinging through forest canopy; mountains, warm weather and enough flowers to overwhelm. A bit idealistic yes and yet somehow it is living up to my internal hype. Kota Kinabalu is the state capital of the Malaysian state Sabah, one of the two states of East Malaysia. The location of the city is absolutely amazing. We got in at midnight and because we are here for a conference the hotel sent people to come and pick us up at the airport. They had those little signs with our names on them. I have never been met like that before and I have to admit that it made me feel very important which immediately went to my head. Thankfully for all of you my ego was deflated when I was banished to the back of the van with the luggage.
The next morning I watched the sun rise over a waterfall flowing out of a rock and into a pool. In front of the swimming pool were tall green palm trees and red umbrellas where and old man in blue swim trunks was sleeping. And the flowers! It was my first glimpse of a plant since sometime in August and I couldn’t believe how fascinating I found them. Fifty feel from the pool was the calm sea that became more and more blue as the sun rose. Eventually the color was so intense that it felt almost unreal. As if a child with a box of crayons had decided the colors around me. There were cruise ships and speed boats as well a couple on a jet ski trying to (and eventually succeeding) getting a huge inflatable kite to fly behind them. The airs feels wet when you breathe it in and smells of flowers and all manner of green things. I can almost feel the plants growingas I am watching them. While eating breakfast (18 kinds of fresh fruit!) tiny brown birds hopped from table to table picking at the crumbs. They were pretty brazen too and I think that if I had stayed still enough and they would have tried to steal the food right off of my plate!
Needless to say this place needs no embellishment. It is beautiful and because Malaysia was a British colony for so long it seemed as if almost everyone we met spoke English. That is a big plus for someone who still has to have the girls at the food shop punch out my total on a calculator before I can pay them! If you really want to hate me check out the commercial for the resort that I am staying at here.
There are cultural performances in the lobby every night. Sort of hokey and touristy but entertaining none the less. There is something about watching people with rhythm and talent dance that just reinforces all my personal goals having to do with never dancing in public. Then there is the fact that is 90% and these guys are putting effort into dancing while I am having a drink. Why is watching other people exercise so satisfying.
By the way I thought I would stop and explain quickly to everyone exactly how I find myself to be in Malaysia. My school is part of the East Asian Council of Overseas Schools (EARCOS for short). Basically a huge organization that fosters collaboration and professional development for tons of the schools in Asia. They give several huge conferences around Asia throughoutthe year. What does this have to do with me? Not knowing what a big deal this was I made a proposal and auditioned a presentation to the administrators in my school. I thought that it would be good practice for me. They decided to let me recommend to EARCOS that I be a presenter at this conference. EARCOS agreed and so here I am in Malaysia surrounded by beauty but with a rather sinking feeling in my stomach that I have bitten off way more that I can chew. People here know things, have lived abroad for twenty years and taught for thirty. Yes, I am feeling intimidated!
I probably should try not to worry about that too much… Perhaps I should change the subject to distract myself…
The best thing about attending these conferences is the fact that you get to meet so many interesting people from all over teaching at schools all over Asia. It is amazing how close such a community is an how everyone knows everyone else even though we work in many many different countries. And yet with all that there are still reminders of where you have been. One of the sponsors of this conference was Buff State. Yes, that Buff State. I find it fascinating that today I was in Malaysia talking to a man from Amherst and discussing the fact that he and I went to rival high schools. The schoolteacher in my wants to find some sort of lesson in that but the realist in me just chalks it up to the fact that I have a very odd life.