It has been two weeks since I first arrived in Bachok, a small fishing village on the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia. My time here has been anything but routine or ordinary. In the past week I have…
- Moved out of one house and into another only to move back into first just two days later,
- Removed scorpions from my housemate’s bathroom,
- Become aware of the refreshing taste of hot water in a tropical climate,
- Learned to drive on the right hand side of the car but the left hand side of the road,
- Further developed my night vision in order to spot Malaysians driving motorbikes on the wrong side of the road, without functional headlights,
- Experienced firsthand the treachery that is the Malaysian highway system: one moment you’re flying down a perfectly paved two-lane road, the next you’re slamming into an unpaved dirt path,
- And confirmed that the sun is quite intense close to the equator. My current sunburn serves as a lasting reminder of that fact.
Overall, I’ve begun to better understand that life in Malaysia can be a challenge.
As someone famous once said: “You never know what you’ve got until it’s gone.”
However, this is not to say that the past two weeks have not be fulfilling. This would be a complete lie. My time in Bachok, albeit unusual at times, has been the highlight of my time in Malaysia thus far. As you know from my previous post, the state of Kelantan is recovering from the worst flood in close to sixty years. The state is, understandably, still shaken from the event. It is a very interesting time to be trying to integrate yourself into a local community.
The people here are extremely proud to be Kelantanese and it shows. The red and white state flag adorns nearly every home and storefront and the local professional football club’s logo is splattered onto every blank wall surface: “Gomo Kelate Gomo!” My housemate and I have taken every opportunity to stretch ourselves outside of our comfort zones. It takes a special type person to do this time and time again in an unfamiliar environment so I am thankful that Matt, my housemate, relishes these opportunities. But if there is one thing that brings Malaysians together more than anything else, it is food. This is especially true in Kelantan.
Members of my school community eagerly point out the distinct traditional regional foods in the canteen. Their faces beam with pride when I finish my plate of nasi berkauk (traditional Kelantanese-style breakfast) and budu (a fermented anchovy sauce). “How did you like it, Mr. Max?” they will ask me. “Oh it was so sedap!” (Malay for delicious or yummy) I will respond.
As someone famous once said: “Nothing brings people together like food.”
If there is one thing I have learned from my short time in Bachok it is this: flexibility is essential to your happiness. This has been true with my housing situation, my acclimation to the tropical climate, my tastebud normalizing to the spicy food, and my time at SMK Badak. Flexibility is essential to your happiness. These are the words I will live by for the next nine months.