Sunday, October 29, 2006

Not much to report, but it has been a while since I've written, so here goes.

This weekend has been pretty chilled out. On Saturday I mostly stayed at home, planned for my trip to Vietnam with Jono (62 days and counting!), played my flute and went for a swim. I met my co-worker Lu for dinner with her cousins that are visiting. Lu's family is from Brazil but these guys live in the UK now. We went for banana leaf tali and hung out in Bangsar. Never in my life have I eaten as much Indian food as I do here. Generally, I have some form of it everyday. It is pretty much the cheapest and tastiest thing going. We had a full dinner with non-alcoholic drinks for 8 Ringget a person (less than $3 CAD). If you are drinking alcohol, that brings you way up into a different price bracket. There must be a very high tax on it or price controls or something because you pay pretty much the same you would in Canada, which is totally out of step with the cost of everything else. I think it is part of the living in a Muslim country thing.
Today I went to yoga and to the Bangsar pasar malam and met Lu, Danielle and Ali again for a dinner of dosas and satay--- how Malaysian is that!

The other day in a taxi coming home from work with Michelle, the driver advised us that Malaysia is not the place to go on a diet because there is far too much good food here. After saying this he looked in the rearview at me and said "oh, you've got such chubby cheeks, you must love food". I wasn't sure whether or not to be offended by that. After looking over this post it seems that eating was the biggest part of my weekend, so it proves his point.

Friday, October 20, 2006

After being in Vietnam for several months I have become unaccustomed to seeing people who are more crafted in their look and attitude. Kind of a strange situation after living in Vancouver for the last couple of years and growing up in Victoria as well. Lip-piercings, tattoos, asymmetrical haircuts, and types of retro-rehashing are things that my life has been completely devoid of since leaving Canada.These external trappings tend to go along with seeing local bands, which is exactly what I was doing last night. A friend of a friend of an acquaintance organizes a show for local bands the third Thursday of every month at Laundry Bar in Petaling Jaya and calls this undertaking Project Bazooka. I think this is a great thing because I am sure that in a relatively conservative environment like Malaysia, not many venues are begging to have local rockers play. They have different groups play at every show, which takes place on the third Thursday of the month.
Last night there were three bands, first was called Seven and they were kind of soulful and funky with a saxophone accompanying the typical vocals and guitar set up; this one was my favorite. Best of all, the lead singer had a really impressive ‘fro, especially for an Asian guy. The next band called themselves Edge of Fire and they were more along the emo side of things, a little derivative but the leader had a great voice and technique for the style. The last group was kind of a “nu metal” a la Korn and they took themselves a little too seriously, but it was still entertaining. Going by the name Dragon Red, this group were the headliners and played two sets, the first being acoustic, which felt a little MTV-unplugged with the singers on stools their voices faltering in unfamiliar musical territory. For their second set one of the singers put on this big black leather glove covered in plates of shiny metal…. Just in case you were not sure of the tone they were trying to set with the tunes. He kept bulging out his eyes and flicking his dreadlocks around in an attempt to look a little crazy, but I felt like I was seeing something that had been practiced in the mirror a few too many times and I couldn’t help but thinking about how all these guys probably still live at home. Anyway, I had a great time and was happy to support the local scene regardless of the style of music or stage antics.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Updates, lah

Originally uploaded by Fabio Sabatini.
This week, as much as things are better than they were, I feel like I am done. I have interesting work and I am meeting people and nothing is going wrong at all (aside from housing uncertainty), but I am tired. I don't really feel like learning a new language and understanding a new culture again. I left it all on the road in Vietnam (in running parlance) and now I am carrying on with an empty tank in terms of cultural adjustment. I need to keep reminding myself that I am here for only a short time and I should relish it.
In truth, here in KL with expats a-plenty I don'’t really have to adjust that much, but it feels lame just to live in a Western enclave and not actually get to know this place or the people.
Work is a pretty good opportunity to get to know some locals and I (along with the rest of the staff) have been invited to Deepavalli dinner at the ED's place this weekend, so that is pretty great.
Being at work has helped me to start understanding the Malaysian accent better, if not Bahasa Malayu it self. People seem to like to insert the sound "lah"” into their sentences here. An example might be "You don'’t need to heat the nasi goreng, lah, it is already hot, lah."”

Also, does anyone have any good resources on participatory project evaluation?

Sunday, October 15, 2006


Originally uploaded by nineam.
As I mentioned on Flickr, Kuala Lumpur means "muddy confluence" of course referring to the two main rivers flowing through what is now KL. I have been thinking about that phrase a lot today, but less in terms of waters ways and more in terms of people.
Malaysia is a confluence of three main cultures, Malay, Chinese and Indian...although I wouldn't describe their relationship muddy. It seems there is a high level of tolerance for others but not much mixing.
The expats scene, so far feels much muddier to me. The people I have gotten to know are from South America, Australia and Europe for the most part (with a few Canadians and Africans thrown in) and one humorous aspect of this mix for me is that I never know how to greet people. It seems there has been a compromise established where people generally give a kiss on each cheek. But with people like me coming from more of a hugging culture, and others who go for three kisses, or those who are more up for a handshake, some interesting interchanges take place. I have found myself shaking hands, giving a hug and kissing someone's cheek all at the same time. I am so not smooth and cosmopolitan with all of this!

In other news, I have joined a gym here...and not just any gym but the super-duper ultra-swish Jackie Chan California Fitness gym! There are huge posters of Jackie Chan doing handstands and lifting weights, inspiring you to push your self to become a martial arts super star! There is a wall display of JC's accomplishments and accolades. It is pretty hilarious, but they gave me a good deal, it is in a good location and Michelle has a membership there as well. We ran on the treadmill on Friday and it was the first time I have run since I left Canada. Today I went to a really excellent yoga class there as well. An Indian practice taught by Chinese instructor to Malay and Chinese class (except for me, the random foreigner).

Saturday, October 07, 2006


Originally uploaded by joshi-porgy.
I have been in a bit of a haze since I arrived in Malaysia... both literally and figuratively. Being in a new place and not getting enough sleep has left me a little fuzzy, and the city has been cloaked in a smokey haze resulting from Indonesia's slashing and burning. The two countries do not just share a religion and language, but also air quality apparently.

Both hazes aside, things continue to go well for me here. I have decided to work on the Indonesia project because I know I can do it and it would be more helpful to the organization. I will be facilitating the closure of a multi-year project that has brought together 7 women's NGOs across the diverse country to build their capacity to advocate on women's health issues. Each organization has taken one issue (access to contraception, safe abortion or obstetric fistula for example) and written an article based on research from their community and they have been compiled into a book. The book is just about ready to be published so my role is to bring the groups together and coordinate an evaluation and closure/next steps planning. I think this means that I will get to go to Indonesia (Jakarta) in November. The passport is getting a lot of stamps, which is very exciting for someone who had never left North America before this year!
Today I moved into my new semi-permanent abode. I am sharing a three bedroom apartment in Michelle's building with two expat guys, one Brazilian and one Aussie. They seem like nice boys. I think they both work a lot and go out a lot so we might not see eachother much. I will be there for the next two months before the place is handed over to new owners and I have got to be on the search again. Initially I was not into this idea, but now that I am here I just want to get into work and not have to go into a full scale house hunt at the same time I am getting used to everything. I have a really huge room with my own bathroom and I am only 20 mins from work.

Last night I met a woman who is working as a child welfare officer for UNHCR and she is basically acting as a social worker, interviewing refugee/migrant kids and trying to get them the services and support they need here. It seems that this is a pretty big issue here with many people fleeing from Myanmar but the Malaysian government is not officially accepting or serving them from what I understand. This work sounds very interesting to me as it combines individual social work problem solving with a much broader global social justice issue. That is totally something I would be interested in doing at some point down the line. Maybe I could convince Jono to take some time off to do this with me in the future.
I look forward to coming home to Canada but I can see myself wanting to work abroad again-- but not by myself next time!

Monday, October 02, 2006

Bangsar KL

Night shot
Originally uploaded by hnix.
I feel like 1.5 hours on the plane has transported me to another planet. There are cars, malls, LRT, organic groceries, orderly traffic and even ikea. There is also a very nice park nearby Michelle's place where I could go running. As much as Vietnam was a broadening and unique experience, I am glad to be here. I feel like I have a better sense of how I can live my life here... I feel a little more in my element, although it is still different enough to be interesting. Now I just need to find a place to live.

Today was my first day at ARROWand it went well as far as first days go. I have the usual feeling of being overwhelmed by new information and bewilderment about my role, and everyone elses for that matter. I am going to be working on one of two projects. The first is a regional group aiming to build partnerships and increase grassroots women's NGOs capacity to conduct research and evidence-based advocacy in South Asia, the second option is doing similar work but exclusively in Indonesia. When I met with the director today she told me that she would prefer that I work on the Indonesia project, but it looks like I would really need to take the helm on that one as they are currently without a program officer. The first program has one, but she is swamped and could use some help in writing and research in particular. I basically need to choose whether I want to further my experience in program coordination (which I was doing at the Y) or step into research. I am having a hard time with that choice because if I had no other info I would choose the research and working with someone option rather than the coordination and doing it myself option. The trouble is that I can see that the organization could use my help and really I came into this second chance at an internship being open to anything. When it comes down to it I am happy to be doing working at all! I am very impressed with ARROW's organization in terms of getting me set up. I already have a workspace, a server log-in, an email address and work to do.
Things are picking up at last!