Thursday, April 30, 2009

Malaysia Day 7

Someone has left me a curry pastry, so I eat that and part of a coffee flavored bun for breakfast, along with mangosteen juice.

I have a few hours’ work on class prep and write up a review of a meeting held yesterday. The internet is so slow that each message has a 10-15 minute wait. So I haven’t called home on our internet phone in a while. I hope to get a chance tonight.

Three young fellows who work at the church are assigned to take me to the Central (Craft) Market and Chinatown. I can’t believe Sam, Samuel, and Timothy are such good sports – to take a ‘mother’ on a sight-seeing trip? Wow. They're happy to have the day off work.

Anyhow, they are lots of fun. We pop into a Chinese jewelry wholesaler and a soft-toy wholesaler within the first half hour, and they explore and buy stuff and generally have a good laugh. Then it’s a quick trip down the Chinatown street. We stop for Koong Won Tong, a brown herbal jelly that is considered a Chinese tonic. We perch on wooden stools with an 8oz bowl of jelly that is customized daily with cooling herbs. We sweeten it by pouring pour honey syrup over the bitter mixture. It is eaten with a soup spoon and is delicious. Literally, the name means “jelly of the part of a turtle.” Since they’re young guys, I don’t ask which part of the turtle it refers to. Timothy, on of the guys, spots the Thai coconut bags I’ve been looking for during the past two trips to Singapore and a few other goodies. We walk down the street to the huge, Central Market, a two-floor complex of craft and food venders. There is always food.

“Look! See those fishes? You should try it!” It is sticking your feet among hundreds of 2-6” “Dr. fish” who suck away the dead skin. Sounds awful. But Samuel persists. So I tell the three guys that if they’re in, I’m in. Any of them bail, and I’m not doing it. I pay the 20RM for all of us (about $1.50 each) for 10 minutes. Two guys are squeamish and especially ticklish, but they agree. We four roll up our pant legs, take off shoes and socks, sit on the hard wood bench and dangle our feet into the water. Fish swarm around our toes, ankles, and soles. We are a noisy bunch as the toothless fish chew on us – it tickles, and when a bigger fish attacks, you can really feel the bump bump bump. Reminds me of the leaches Grandma used to cleanse her blood (old Russian tradition). Samuel takes pictures with his phone and promises to send them my way. We are all happy when it’s over – and peel the 2:03 sticker from our trouser legs, rinse and dry our feet, and happily move to the next event, more of a quick walk through the craft mall. It’s time to eat.

The guys find Nasi lemak, the traditional Malaysian meal of fragrant rice steamed with coconut milk, spicy peanut sauce, hard boiled egg and cucumbers. They leave off the anchovies for me. They eat Sizzling Yee Mee, fried noodles on a sizzling hotplate of ginger black sauce; the noodles gradually collapse into soft, smooth succulent strands while it cooks. Has a sizzle and smokey flavor.

We walk back to the car past old buildings and the gates of a Buddhist temple. We can see a young woman bowing and waving joss sticks in front of a red altar. The guys stop to treat us with water, and then a glass of Air Mata Kucing or “cat eye drink.”

“No worries. The cats’ eyes are just a kind of fruit: longons. The herbal drink is boiled with sea coconut (a jellied seaweed) and fruit. We try a donut with a legend behind it: Yao Char Kueh” is a deep-fried dough: in ancient times when China was ruled by an evil prime minister surnamed Hui, the people deep-fried the dough to symbolize deep-frying the prime minister. Sadly, it tasted so good it became famous. They snag a lollipop for me for later and some other Chinese candy (the best is How, a peanut candy baked so hard that it is smashed with a hammer and bagged). The guys drag the shopping bags for me. Their mothers would be proud.

We skip a visit to the Pewter Museum for the sake of time and launch into traffic. It’s close to 5pm by the time I get home. Pam drops by to talk about tomorrow’s class (9-6) on World Religions and the Saturday session for youth. We have over 60+ students registered for tomorrow: I am surprised because it’s a government day off. The schedule is brutal for most Malaysians. They get up early, work all day, and many students including young kids go for after-school activities or tutorials (called tuition = extra classes at night); by the time they eat supper it may be 9 or 10pm.

Carol, who works in missions and volunteers in the counseling ministry, takes me to the mall. Quick Cuts promises a 10 minute haircut for RM12 (about $3.25). “I would be too scared,” Carol says, but I sit down and have my hair chopped into a balding, wispy cut. I figure hair is a renewable resource, and this cut is cool with so little hair left. Oh well.

Supper is at a Thai restaurant: sir-fried spaghetti with hot (spicy) basil leaves, Pandang chicken (wrapped and roasted in long Pandang leaves), rice and tofu in hot basil and chili sauce… and a wonderful green soursop juice that tastes like a combination of tart melon, citrus, and pear. I have Thai iced tea, which has lots of sugar and evaporated milk.

I have met so many accomplished and interesting women. Carol dotes on her husband and 13-year old son, and recently moved her widowed dad and widow mo-in-law into a big house with them. She loves DIY, and her place overlooks a beautifully landscaped lake with paths alongside and an infinity pool (edgeless) overlooking the lake. I hope she remembers to send a photo.

It’s 10pm before I get anywhere close to bed. W's getting ready for work when I call. I hop into the shower to wash the massage oil from yesterday off. (Chinese want you not to bath for a while after a massage.) How weird to shampoo my thoroughly thinned hair. Then I start writing. I still have to do some class prep. At 11pm, it’s going to be a long night and an even longer day tomorrow. Especially with 20 more students than they were expecting. And a talk to the youth ministry workers at 9pm tomorrow night. Prayers appreciated!

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