Archives - ‘Malaysia’

‘Truly Asia’

November 26, 2012 | Elizabeth, DVM, AFS, Malaysia, Science of Life Studies 24/7

When they say that Malaysia is ‘Truly Asia’, it is not a lie. One of the many personal quests I have embarked upon here is to find out what it means to be Malaysian. It may seem odd to ask this, but in a world where globalization has taken over, understanding the true heart of a culture is not point blank. My experiences here in Kuala Lumpur have nevertheless taught me many things, and as they are quickly becoming numbered I can honestly say that like Canada this beautiful country is just as diverse and ethnically rich. I suppose with this conclusion, asking what is Malaysian is like asking what is Canadian?

In my first few weeks here at the SOLS 24/7 headquarters in Kuala Lumpur, I was continually asked the same string of standard questions by every single volunteer I met “What was my name? Where was I from? and Wow! Isn’t it cold in Canada?!?” These I could answer as easily as I any proud Canadian, but when those question evolved into “What is Canadian food like? What’s the main ethnicity? What are the people like?” I started understanding how vague my answer must have sounded. “We have lots of different kinds of food from all over…. (and poutine)! We don’t have a main ethnicity really, we are multicultural….. and they’re really friendly, kind and open-hearted”. Although the answer made sense in my mind, the blank stares I got in return kept hinting that I was not clear at all. Although back then I could not understand why this was, the more I asked those same questions to my local colleagues, it began to dawn on me; they’re answers were just like mine.

Malaysia in particular is especially tricky as there are a three major ethnic groups each with their own cultural influences; Chinese, Indian, and Muslim. If you ask who is Malay most people will assume you are referring to the Orang Asli population who are in fact considered the indigenous people of Malaya. At first I was frustrated with the fact that I wasn’t getting any Malaysian cultural experiences. My colleagues were primarily from Europe and Westernized countries, my local restaurants were Chinese and Indian and trying to find ‘Malaysian’ cuisine was practically impossible. I was even confused when it came to the few holidays I got to experience as they are equally divided by ethnicities including Hari Raya (Muslim) and Deepavali (Indian) but nothing claiming to be a ‘Malay’ tradition…

Then I got asked another question, “How do you like Malaysia?” and I, surprising myself, answered with ease, “I love Malaysia, the people are friendly, kind and open-hearted, the food is diverse and there are so many different ethnicities!”.

When I reflected upon this answer I realized that as you look around at the teachers in the public schools, the grocer at the corner store, the lawyers, bankers, tradesman, or even the Prime Minister you will see an array of diversity. All of them are in fact Malay whether it be Indian-Malay, Chinese-Malay or Malay-Muslim their traditions, norms, and values are influenced by living alongside one another. They have been blended to a certain degree to make one Country strong and proud of it’s multiculturalism. Even though they might not always intermingle as the Chinese live primarily with other Chinese and Muslims generally live in Muslim communities, they share the same land, government and language indicating that indeed every local citizen I’ve had the pleasure of interacting with are active participants in Malaysian culture.

Discovering this, I can better understand my own native land. There is no one Canadian cultural stereotype. There are many different aspects of the Canadian culture that make us proud to call this country our home. That and probably the 6 months of winter we have to endure… Nevertheless, this trip abroad has not only allowed me to understand and appreciate the diversity of Malaysian culture, it has taught me how to reflect upon my own identity as a Canadian and value the differences that make us proud. I can now see through my neighbours, colleagues and new found friends how beautiful coexistence can be, and even though my blogs are getting sappy, it’s been the most rewarding experience of my life.

“Goodbye my Second Home!”

November 20, 2012 | Natasha, DVM, AFS, Malaisie, Science of Life Studies

>“Oh I’m glad to be home!” I uttered those words as I dropped myself onto my bed in my dorm room after being away for a few days during Malaysia’s Deepa Valley holiday weekend. I looked at my roomy, laughed and said “did I just say home?” Yup I said “home” because after being here for over two months and a half, coming back to my NGO house became home to me. My room, my new friends, my work all became a place where I finally really adapted and felt comfortable. Sometimes I wonder why our brains and our minds can be so cruel on us. I mean I finally feel at home here but I’m leaving in two weeks to go back to the life I once knew. It’s quite the bitter sweet feeling as I’m sad to leave my new home Malaysia but simultaneously happy to go back to my real home in freezing old Canada. I find it quite interesting how being in one place for a period of time creates an illusion of home only because it becomes more familiar with time. Does it really become your home? And will it miss me when I’m gone?
After being here for the past months I can honestly say that I’m heading back feeling truly content with my internship overall. I learned so much in such a small period of time and I was given trust and flexibility to do my work while still following my key role as a communications intern. I was given the go ahead with my newsletter proposal for the organization and was appointed to help manage and assist in three important NGO exhibitions and galas at Malaysia’s Chamber of Commerce and at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Center in the famous Petronas Towers. These great opportunities gave me a glimpse into the real world of managing an NGO and all the hard work that goes into it. These non-profit organizations do so much work in order to serve others while reaping in little monetary value but gaining a lifetime of bliss for their societal altruism. Being part of the SOLS team and learning the intricate ins and outs of marketing and communications, I feel that I have grown a lot as a person. I’m not trying to sound corny and predictable by saying all the stuff that people want to hear after an adventurous international internship, I’m just speaking my true feelings from my heart.

I do feel that I got the most out of my internship with the time I had and I don’t regret anything other than finding my deeper inspiration later in the game. A month into my internship, I did question myself a lot. I couldn’t help but wonder if I was doing all that I could to truly get everything out of this internship experience. Reading other students’ blogs detailing their experiences with their host families, I felt a little sad that perhaps I was missing out on closer cultural connections with Malaysians. Except if I hadn’t been in this NGO housing next to the SOLS 24/7 school where the students also reside, I would have missed out on all the fun that we had! So as soon as I stopped comparing my experiences and realized that each internship in any country will be different based on a number of factors, I began to appreciate my time here even more. One just has to do everything one is comfortable with to maximize ones journey into the spiralling world of international development. There is no more dwelling on the ‘should haves, could haves and would haves’, but instead lingers a proud feeling within myself that I have emerged from my amazing time in Segambut, Kuala Lumpur a more experienced international development student and practitioner! Thank you to


<p everyone at SOLS 24/7 who has helped me develop my potential and thank you for every kind person I met along the way that has left a wonderful feeling in my heart. Goodbye my second-home!

“The Tell Tales of Inner KL Travels”

November 15, 2012 | Natasha, DVM, AFS, Malaisie, Science of Life Studies

Transportation in Kuala Lumpur has been quite interesting and equally an adventure! From taking the bus to taxis to monorails, I have a story at every corner that is either sad or will have you have laughing your socks off! I feel that with every mode of transportation in KL there is code that one must follow in order to survive the journey successfully…..one can say that it becomes an art that one must master! Now where do I begin? Ok how about having you laugh your socks off!

It was a beautiful Friday holiday morning and my roomies and I thought it would be fun to soak up the Malaysian culture by visiting another state called Penang in Malaysia’s north end. So with our bus tickets in hand, we headed over to the bus terminal around 8h45 am to catch our bus scheduled for 9 am. This is where the sketchy voyage began. Now we were given a platform number to go to and so we waited there patiently for a while (of course it was late) until we saw a man in a uniform calling the passengers over to follow him to our new pick-up spot for that bus. We literally walked out the terminal and down the street to catch what appeared to be our bus; one broken-down looking bus on the bustling side of the road. I kept thinking to myself, what a shame it was for that one person who decided to take a bathroom break simultaneously during our relocation process and how he/she will now stand at that platform waiting and waiting until never for that bus! Anyway, once on the bus, my roomies and I were taunted by an annoying sound of an alarm! Yes an alarm! The bus driver took off knowing full well that there was an alarm going off hinting at him that something was wrong and that the bus may be breaking down! And so it did! FIVE TIMES along the way to our destination that was suppose to only be four hours but ended up taking 13 hours! What made me laugh the most was watching the bus driver pour water over a gigantic over-heated engine from small water bottles over and over to give the bus a little juice to drive 20 KMs/hr until the next stop! At one point, it didn’t even reach the next stop and we literally stopped on the highway under the scorching sun and needed a police escort! It was getting ridiculous as we kept asking ourselves why the driver used this bus knowing full well that it had problems! Anyway after about 7 hours of this, the bus driver dropped us off at some terminal in the middle of nowhere where I honestly felt he left us to die! Ok Ok that’s an exaggeration but at that point I was giving up that we would ever make it! Needless to say, we did make it to our destination very late at night, losing our hotel reservation and were stuck roaming the streets for another hotel…….but that’s another story!

Meter please!…….Those are two proverbial words that every traveller must say when entering a cab in Kuala Lumpur! It’s quite funny actually, because when arriving here over two months ago, this was one of the first things I was told to not FORGET because otherwise I would get ripped off! And so I began using this phrase with perfection, holding my ground when my meter ideology was rejected and learned to haggle to get the prices in my favor. The funny thing about the taxi experience as well was the fact that taxi drivers did not know my requested destination 40% of the time. They would look at me with huge question marks on their faces which made me question if I said it correctly, but no they truly do not know their districts. This made it even more frustrating when they still had the nerve to give out a random price anyway! So as you see, taking a taxi in Kuala Lumpur requires conscious haggling techniques by always keeping a firm hand in the bargain game!

Ok now for the sad story….You hear about it, you read about it and people warn you about it but you never really think that it will HAPPEN to you….but it did for me! I got pick pocketed! Yes! On a monorail! In an overcrowded monorail where no one including myself could even breathe to save my life, some thief saw his opportunity to unzip my purse and steal my wallet (with credit card, bank card and cash). I always followed the whole pick pocketing protocol by holding my purse close to me, making sure the zippers are facing inwards and so on, but that crook caught me at a vulnerable moment. As the train jerked and I was about to fall flat on another passenger, my reflex released my firm grip holding down my purse (the only somewhat free hand I had while squished) to hold on to the side of the train…….for about ten seconds. In that time, I became a thief’s dream as he robbed me blind, got off the next station incognito and walked away with my goods. I realized later what had happened and wanted to kick myself for letting go. At the end of the day, it can all be replaced and my life was not jeopardized in the process, making me grateful that the situation had not been more severe.

Anyway I hope this was a good insight into my inner travels in Kuala Lumpur! Never rely on the bus schedule or the bus itself, never give in to taxi drivers’ opportunities to scam you and lastly, be extra cautious in overcrowded areas anywhere you are. I am proud to now be able to share these valuable travel tips with you as I’ve feel more integrated than ever in Malaysia’s travel hustle and bustle.

It is what it is!

November 2, 2012 | Elizabeth, DVM, AFS, Malaysia, Science of Life Studies 24/7

The saying ‘Time flies when having fun’ has never rung more true than as of lately. I have already been here for two month. Where has the time gone??? I look back at my first blog and think wow, who was that?!! It’s a strange feeling, like being lost in a time continuum where I’m being pulled along at speeds I can’t control, but equally enjoying every moment of every second like it will never be enough. I look around me and see so much that I still need to explore, understand and experience. But then I also realize that my body temperature has finally adjusted, my knowledge of the city’s layout is well developed and my overall sense of ease as a resident in Kuala Lumpur is complete. Even my new found grasp of understanding and speaking Bahasa Malay and Malay-English has progressed. I guess this means I should really be asking who am I now?

Looking back to my first few weeks in Malaysia I distinctly remember those feelings of apprehension, excitement and naiveté. My journey here was to be my first outside of Canada, one I have been preparing for the last four years. I had expectations, I had hopes and I had a determination that kept me going even during the hard times. Today, while writing my thoughts down for the online population to read, I can say that I’m not the least bit disappointed. I’m not saying that I haven’t had frustrations with my internship position, moreover that I can now look at those issues with an understanding beyond anything I could have anticipated. I am constantly evaluating my own decisions and choices, ensuring that I make the most of them and reassuring myself that all will work out in the end. As my roommate and I like to say ‘It is what it is’; you just have to make the most of whatever you get.

It’s strange but I found it very easy to adjust to life in Kuala Lumpur. Maybe because I believed myself well prepared, there were few things that surprised me. That, and probably because KL is a major metropolitan; a big city with many western influences. The skyscrapers are immense, the traffic is horrible and there is a McDonald in almost every shopping complex. Even the people I work and live with come from various industrialized societies from around the world. All this to say that the idea of living a ‘Malaysian lifestyle’ is not that different from living a ‘Canadian’ one. I can’t therefore be disappointed with my immersion in cultural experiences because the style of living would not have changed anymore than how I’m currently living. If anything I’m getting more because I have Malaysian neighbours as well as international ones.

My work as an intern is another story however. Having completed a few internships within Canada I thought by coming to SOLS 24/7 I would be treated in a similar way; a temporary paper pusher. This has been an interesting alternative. I still maintain that temporary status because I’m only here for a short term but I definitely feel like I’m more than a paper pusher. Having spent my first two weeks doing almost nothing, I have since broadened my array of tasks by involving myself in different projects. I came here being used to taking direct orders and assignments from a supervisor, but soon found out this was not how SOLS 24/7 operates. It was more a close your eyes and jump kind of leap, landing in different projects that needed help. Rather than working solely in Research and Development I have since joined the Communications team, the Educational team as well as maintained occasional Research development assignments. Each new change is always subtle as the teams interact with one another, having one action affecting others in several ways but always promoting a sense of accomplishment. I don’t technically get to work directly with the students, but I do get to interact with them. I don’t do the field work I hoped to taste abroad, but I set up and prepare others for achieving those details. Although there are many aspects of my internship I had hoped for, nothing yet has led me to feel disappointed.

Salamat Pegi!

I suppose taking all this into consideration I am still the same person who wrote you last, but I have changed in many ways. I have grown, I have answered my own questions, and I have a large array of experiences that I could never have dreamed about. Although most of them differ from those I had originally anticipated everyone of them has influenced me and my understanding of not just life in Malaysia, but life in general. I’m not a new person, just a different one and I look forward to seeing what kind of person I will be when I come home.

Salam dari Malaysia!

November 1, 2012 | Natasha, DVM, AFS, Malaisie, Science of Life Studies

I still cannot believe that I have been in Kuala Lumpur for over six weeks now! The time has flown by so quickly and still feel that I haven’t taken it all in yet. Over six weeks and today I feel most ready to share my experiences about my time here. This might seem peculiar to some that I waited this long for my first blog entry but its due to this simple reason; lack of real inspiration. By working in an office Monday to Friday from 9-6pm on my laptop working on everything related to social media, I felt a lack of inspiration to report about my internship experience. Although I have learned so much at SOLS 24/7 (Science of Life Studies) concerning launching projects and all the hard work behind it, which is a true asset, I had anticipated when coming here that I would be immersed in a sea of raw emotions and culture as I would connect with the very same people with whom my work focuses on.

Although my initial intentions were pure, I did not really feel true connections because I work in an office as oppose to directly in the field.

I know that I chose my internship based on the communications position, which I really like, however as I entered through the work doors every morning in my office attire with my tea cup in hand and settled into my chair, my permanent spot for eight hours, I could not help but question if my work would truly impact anyone. Perhaps it was the over twenty something volunteers/staff buried in their laptops and headphones or the stern looks on everyone’s faces as they were challenged by deadlines and pressure to prove themselves for each of their counterparts, that gave it less of an NGO feel. This is how I felt until now!

My outlook has changed since I was asked to go along on a project with one of the Malaysian volunteers to write project report and an article for their website and newsletter.


Not only was I reporting the story, I took part in picking up donated vegetables from a market and distributing them to orphanages, community centers and to underprivileged families door by door. The children’s smiles in the orphanages and the families’ gratitude as we filled up buckets and pots of veggies for them that would last their family of at least six for a week, were phenomenal experiences. It put me back into perspective reasoning with myself that even if I am working on one indirect aspect in any organization, I’m helping with keeping the wheels in motion that are driving positive impacts to those in need. So that’s the only driving force I need to continue doing my best at SOLS 24/7! It will not be long before my next blog with my new found inspiration!
Terima Kasih! (Thank you)

30 hours lah!

September 20, 2012 | Elizabeth, DVM, AFS, Malaysia, Science of Life Studies 24/7

Hello from Kuala Lumpur (K-L)!

Although I feel as though I just arrived to my internship position here in the capital of Malaysia: Kuala Lumpur, I have not been on Canadian soil for almost two weeks! I already feel however as though it’s been five. I’ll admit that I thought I was fairly prepared for Malaysia. I was warned about the weather reaching humidity levels even Southern Ontario and Quebec couldn’t imagine; and that considering this heat, everywhere you go people are wearing long sleeve shirts and jeans without a care, respecting the major cultural norms associated with the Muslim religion. I was even prepared for the sanitation system making sure to pack toilet paper so as not to get stuck without! Nevertheless, the one thing I completely overlooked was my 30-hour travel time to get here!!!
I knew that in order to travel to the other side of the planet it would take some time. But two days was something I seemed unable to comprehend. In my head I thought with the time difference, two days will really seem like one, that I’d be super tired when I arrived but that I would have to suck it up. In reality, two days is two days. I was tired and pretty terse by the time our last flight landed, but as soon as I stepped foot on that Malaysian soil, I knew it was worth it. Everything from our AFS volunteer’s shy enthusiasm to our welcome here at SOLS 24/7 have made my senses go into overdrive. The majestic beauty and humble atmosphere supported by the locals is indescribable.
As I sit around our dinner table and chat with the other volunteers here at SOLS 24/7, I can definitely say I traveled the farthest. The overwhelming intercultural respect, understanding between the staff and the enthusiastic students creates a welcoming family dynamic in a bustling community looking to become something better. I know that I am probably still blinded by my own enthusiasm to explore this diverse nation, but I figure I might as well enjoy the ride… Making sure I get a taxi with a driver who uses the meter however is one of my many challenges to conquer!
All in all, I’m greatly looking forward to the next few months here in Malaysia. I can already tell that I’m learning a great deal, not just from my internship tasks, but from the local people going about their daily lives as well. From mosques, to temples to Christian churches the range of cultures is remarkable. I just hope to be able to experience as much of it all as I can in the time I have left!