A Travellerspoint blog


Week 5

Here is week 5 (only a little late)

Monday was exciting because new people had arrived! I got a new roommate. Her name was Kirsten and she was from Australia. There were also two girls from Minnesota (they lived in New Hope which is the suburb next to ours). It was really fun to talk to them because we had the same accents and they understood what I was talking about when I said things about Costco, target, and Sebastian joes. We were up super late Sunday night/Monday morning to watch the football (yes, I mean soccer) game. It was the World Cup. In case you missed who was playing it was France and Croatia. I watched with two French girls and they were decked out in French colors. They were so excited when France won. Everyone else, who was not from France, wanted Croatia to win. Croatia was very much the underdog. I definitely learned a lot about fooball. After work on Monday I went to the Burmese pools with another new group. They were a Dutch family with 4 kids. 3 girls ages 19, 17, and 12. And one boy who was 15. They reminded me a lot of Ethan and Abby. Two other volunteers also came with us. After dinner I went to the mall with Kirsten, the girls from MN, and another new Volunteer. It was funny because I was showing them around (where to get ice cream, the good atms).

A bit of a boring day. We ran into problems getting materials to complete our work so we couldn’t do anything for the day. I saw ant man 2 which was really good. The ending left me quite in suspense. (???)

No work to do at the school Wednesday either. I ended up walking to the zoo and joining the Spanish group for the afternoon. They went to Kuala Sepetang which I’d gone to in orientation week. We did different things though. We went to the charcoal factory again but then we went on a boat ride and to a fishing factory. We also had some free time to walk around but there wasn’t much to see. I only have some videos from there, no pictures so I can’t post anything. Also, to get from the charcoal factory to the center of the city, we got to ride in a little sidecar in a motorcycle which was cool. I say sidecar but it was really more of a platform connected to a motorcycle. It was fun. We also saw some really cool fish at the factory. They showed us one fish that would shoot water at prongs if you held them above the surface of the water. The fish were super accurate and that’s how they get their food. We also saw some pufferfish and weird crabs.

I spend Thursday at the zoo helping feed the animals. It was fun but there wasn’t much work to be done there either. I went with another Volunteer Amber from the Netherlands. I’ll post some pictures.

Not much to report about Friday either. One weird thing happened. I went to the mall and two Malaysian guys wearing some yellow soccer jerseys passed me and said “hi Ilana” to me which was really weird. I’m not sure where I knew them from or how I’d met them. Really weird though.

Posted by Ilana'sGapYear 04:22 Archived in Malaysia Comments (1)

Week 4 Brief Highlights

Yes this is incredibly late but here we go! (Trying to catch up)

Week 4 was Helena’s last week so instead of starting a larger project we focused on a few smaller ones. We made sensory blocks for the kids to play with and turned some extra wood into a small road (like a train set with separate pieces, sorry if that doesn’t quite explain it). It was a pretty uneventful week. Here’s some pictures of a sensory block I made.

The weekend was a lot of fun though. I went with the group from Spain to Ipoh on Saturday. Here’s some pictures of the trip to Ipoh.

After Ipoh we went to a Buddhist temple built inside a cave. It was huge and so beautiful. Really fun to explore. I’ll add a picture of the sign in front of the entrance. There were several swastikas throughout the cave which was a cool reminder that they were never meant to be a symbol of hate.

On Sunday I went with the Spanish group again to a water park. That was also really fun but I don’t have pictures from that.

Posted by Ilana'sGapYear 00:09 Archived in Malaysia Comments (1)

Week 3

Wow it’s been a while since I last posted. I’m going to do my best to remember what happened last week.

Monday was a bit of a rough day for me. After the hike on Sunday I was feeling pretty sick but had been feeling better by dinner. Apparently I wasn’t feeling so much better because I ended up throwing up Monday morning at breakfast. I spent most of the day resting and felt a lot better by dinner Monday night.
My new roommate Helena got back from Kuala Lumpur. She had gone for the weekend with two other volunteers who left that weekend. A quick bio about Helena. She is from Germany. She is 18 years old and is traveling a bit before she goes to University. She plans to study biomedical engineering. She’s super nice!
I also got to meet a lot of the new volunteers that had arrived that weekend. There was a massive French invasion. A group of 4 guys arrived from France. They are here for 3 months doing construction as well. Their English is pretty bad which will be a bit of a challenge. There were another 2 girls from France. They’re both really nice and speak better English than the guys. Another girl named Pam, from Switzerland, arrived as well and her first language is also French. Sabrina and Joanie (2 girls from Canada who arrived the same week we did) are also native French speakers so everyone was talking in French and it was really overwhelming. We all went to Anna’s room (Anna is finishing up her gap year, she is 18 and from England) and played cards.

Tuesday was an awesome day. I was super tired but Helena and I finished assembling the bookshelf! Here’s a picture of us with the bookshelf. We were pretty proud of ourselves.
After dinner me, Helena, Joanie, Sabrina, Anna, and Pam went to the Taiping lake gardens and played frisbee. It was really fun. Then we sat by the lakes and talked for a while. It was really nice.

Wednesday we continued work on the bookshelf. We cut a piece of wood to put on the back of the bookshelf. Then we added a coat of white paint. Because we used a wood filler we needed to paint over the wood so it would all be one color. Here’s an action shot of us painting.
After work we went to the Burmese pools. If I haven’t written about these yet, they’re natural pools created by a river. They’re really refreshing after a hot day at work. I went with Helena, Sabrina, Joanie, and Anna. Wednesday was Anna’s last night so we went out to dinner at a place called STG Cafe. It was a really nice dinner. I split a tea with Pam. They’re known for their tea. It apparently was grown in Borneo and they don’t have to use any pesticides on it because the bugs are more attracted to the surrounding rainforest so they leave the tea alone. It was good but we couldn’t really taste a difference between their tea and an English breakfast tea. After dinner we went to Baskin-Robins for dessert. Because it was Anna’s last night we went to the bar. We kind of celebrated her birthday which was a week later. It was a late night but really fun. Here’s a picture of the place we ate dinner (photo creds to google).

On Thursday we put another coat of paint on the bookshelf. Then we went out to buy tools to fasten it to the wall in the classroom. The teacher we made it for wanted it on the wall, not resting on the floor, which presented a bit of a challenge. We ended up getting the right materials so that was good. We met another group that had arrived earlier that week. They were 12 kids (16-17 years old) from Spain. It’s a Spanish program but most of them speak English pretty well. We ended up going to the bar again Thursday night because it was Sabrina and Joanie’s last karaoke night. Here’s a picture of us with Mona.

Friday was the day we finally were absolutely completely finished with the bookshelf! We put it on the wall with the help of the leader of the Spanish group. Here’s some pictures of it on the wall. Both Helena and I were so proud that it held up and was sturdy on the wall.
Friday night was much more relaxing. It was Sabrina and Joanie’s last night so Helena and I sat with them while they packed. Their trip wasn’t over though and they headed to Thailand the next morning.

Helena and I decided to stay in Taiping for the weekend. It was her last weekend and she hadn’t been to the zoo yet so that was where we headed on Saturday. When we walked by the hippos it was feeding time and one of the hippos came right up to the side of the enclosure and had its mouth wide open right in front of us. Here’s a picture of the crazy hippo.
After the zoo, Helena and I got McDonald’s and then went shopping at the mall. All the clothes here are so much cheaper than in the US which meant I could afford to get something. I got another dress for about 36 ringgits which is $9. Helena and I also went into the music store. They let me play the violin they had there which felt so good after not having played for a month! It was crazy though because they didn’t know how to properly care for the instruments. The instruments aren’t great quality but it doesn’t help that they aren’t cared for properly. After dinner we went bowling with the Spanish group. The bowling alley was exactly like a western bowling alley. It was a lot of fun but I lost pretty badly. Most of my balls ended up in the gutter.

On Sunday Helena and I tagged along with the Spanish group as they headed to Penang (Georgetown) for the day. They were going to do what we had done during orientation week so Helena and I decided to go off on our own. We went to Penang Hill which is the highest peak in Georgetown and had amazing views. Unfortunately, we didn’t have so much time and spent an hour and a half waiting in line to get a train up the mountain.
The view from the top was amazing though! We didn’t have a ton of time so we just grabbed a bite to eat at the top. Here’s some pictures of us on Penang Hill.
Then we went to bed early because we were exhausted. And that’s it for week 3!

Posted by Ilana'sGapYear 04:47 Archived in Malaysia Comments (2)

Week 2

Time for another blog! Also, one of my blogs has 366 views!! That’s so crazy! If anyone has any questions please comment. I changed the settings so you don’t need an account now to comment.

It’s been a busy week for us. I really wanted to write first about something I experienced this week that gave me a bit of culture shock. At around 8pm, Clara (my roommate) and I were in our room and we thought we heard a marching band. After 20 minutes it was still going so I decided to go and investigate. I went down to the lobby of the hotel and outside right on our street was a massive parade! I walked up to a group of several other volunteers and immediately people from the parade ran up to me and started giving us candy and treats. Some of my friends already had their hands and pockets filled. Here is a video of an amazing float in the parade.

A lot of the floats had insence burning on top. We learned later that it was a Chinese festival. We learned from our coordinator Mona that it was for a holiday where they cleanse themselves of their sins. We were so lucky that we were in the right time and place to be able to see the parade.

Wednesday Night
We went to see the new Jurassic World movie. I went with Amy, Tom, Clara, and Helena.

Thursday Afternoon
After work on Thursday we were all sweating so much that we went to a natural pool nearby. It was beautiful and relaxing. There were so many butterflies and they were so pretty. I didn’t get a picture of them but here is a picture of the pool. It was in a river with small waterfalls on either side.
I also saw a wild monkey up close which was so exciting!

Thursday Night
I went to karaoke night at the bar nearby with everyone. We had a lot of fun. The drinking age here is 18 so I was able to order a drink. A lot of the people here have been drinking for years because the drinking age in most European countries is 18. There is only one other 18 year old and she is from Germany where they can start drinking at 16 so everyone here has been drinking for a while. It’s a lot of fun seeing people all at once. We don’t have a common room or lobby so we don’t really have somewhere we can all sit together.

It ended up raining all of Friday so we couldn’t finish the bookshelf. We got rained in at our breakfast place for an hour and a half. It was really more flash flood conditions. Here is a picture at the school. The water had to be at least a foot deep.
Since we weren’t able to do work we went to the preschool room to help with the kids. There happened to be one kid there on Friday. His name is Ezikiel but everyone calls him Zikri. He is pretty hyperactive and can’t talk but really sweet. Me, Joanie, Sabrina, Mona, Helena, and Tom ended up playing Uno and talking for a while. Mona also taught us a Malaysian game played with 7 rocks. It was really fun but really difficult.
Friday night after dinner I went to get coffee with Shane and Tom at the mall. Shane also loves coffee but we both found most of the coffee here too sweet. We both don’t usually add sugar to our coffee but everyone in Asia adds sugar to their tea and coffee. The place we went in the mall was the least sugary coffee we’ve found so that was exciting. On our way back to the hotel we ran into Joanie and Sabrina who were our walking. We stood in the street for half an hour talking and then decided to go to the bar to keep talking. I never thought I would end up at the bar two nights in a row but I did. We had a really fun night talking. It was Shane and Tom’s last night at the program so it was nice spending time with them before they left. Clara and Amy also left this weekend.

We ate breakfast as a group at 9:30 and then said goodbye to Tom, Amy, and Clara. Helena went with them to KL for the weekend. Joanie, Sabrina and I went to the zoo for the day. It was so different from American zoos. There are wild monkeys all over and some large wild birds that kind of looked like the bird, Kevin, from Up. It was also strange how close we could get to the animals. They were all in enclosures but many of the enclosures were open. One of the orangutans escaped from the enclosure earlier that week. Here’s some pictures from the zoo. A lot are on my camera and I’m still working on figuring out how to upload those.
The view on the walk to the zoo was absolutely amazing. Here’s a picture of that.
After the zoo we were so exhausted and hadn’t had lunch so we went to McDonald’s and got sandwiches. The ice cream machine there was broken so we went to the mall to grab a treat. We went to a place called The Grass. They serve grass jelly desserts. I’m not quite sure what it is but it has grass jelly, crushed ice, and some tapioca pearls. It was so good and refreshing.
Saturday night I went to Anna’s room. I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned her before but she is from England. She took a gap year and has been in Asia for the past 3 months. Mona came as well and gave us henna tattoos. Here is a picture of mine.

After breakfast we (Sabrina, Joanie, and Anna) wanted to hike up Maxwell Hill which is the nearby mountain. When we got there we learned that all the jeeps up the were sold out until 2:30. We didn’t want to wait around all day so we decided to start hiking up the mountain. We read that there was a waterfall 6km up. The hike was steep but not bad. It was really hot so we were sweating a ton. It was a really fun challenge and it was fun hiking with friends. We hiked about 7.5km. We passed a tiny waterfall on the way up but we were so sure that it wasn’t the waterfall so we kept going. Apparently it was the waterfall. We were expecting something much bigger so we passed right by it. By that point we had been hiking for 3.5 hours and were exhausted. We had he 2:30 Jeep pick us up on the way up the mountain. They dropped us off at a small cafe about 10km up. We were able to get some lunch there and refuel. Unfortunately the storm clouds had started rolling in at about 2. We missed the view but it was cool to be inside a cloud. I’ll put a video in because it was so cool. Here’s some media from the hike.

Posted by Ilana'sGapYear 01:57 Archived in Malaysia Comments (6)

First 2 Days of Project

We finally started our volunteering project! I’m in the construction and renovation group. We have been working at a special needs school in Taiping.

Our first day was a little crazy. We were asked to clean out a shed that the school used to store some outdoor equipment, tools, and cleaning supplies. It was not something that the construction group normally does so we were just the unlucky group assigned this task.
Before we went in, our coordinator Mona told us to watch out for Mr. Long. We were all confused but she explained to us that they had found a snake in the shed several days earlier and warned us there might be more.
Here are some before pictures so you can see what we were working with.
It definitely needed a good cleaning. I was working with Tom, Sabrina, and Joanie. Tom and I were taking a box of balls down from a shelf to sort through it and something massive jumped out of it and ran into the corner. It was probably the size of a grapefruit. We were so shocked it took us a few minutes to recover. We assumed it was a rat for a while because it was about the right size and moved so fast.
The next crazy thing that happened is we found that the shed had a little pest problem. When cleaning out some bins Tom and I found a massive cockroach crawling around. We freaked out and didn’t know what to do. We ended up moving the bin as fast as we could to a grassy area and then flipping it over to let the cockroaches run out. We were terrified of the first 20 but after that we got used to them. We found some insect spray in a cabinet but it really only worked on the spiders. We ended up using shovels to smash the cockroaches when they ran past us. I never thought I would have to kill a cockroach much less hundreds. Tom and I figured that the “rat” we thought we saw was actually a massive cockroach. We also had a few run ins with massive spiders and a lizard but those were both very manageable situations. We never did see a snake so we were grateful for that.
After work we took the long way home to try and stop by a stand that supposedly has the best watermelon juice in Taiping. Unfortunately they were out of watermelon juice so we got fried bananas instead. They were really good! Then Mona poured a cup of ice down my shirt. After that I met up with Clara (my roommate) and we talked about our days. After dinner we went to go see the incredibles 2 which I thought was really funny. It was a very long day.

Today was a much more normal day. One of the teachers at the school asked us to construct a small bookshelf for her classroom. We tried to use what wood we had available. We ended up taking apart the thing that goes on the base of a forklift. I’m not sure what it’s called. We measured out all the different pieces of wood and the space for the bookshelf. I ended up taking over planning the bookshelf out. In my engineering class this past year we learned how to draw designs for things and use proper measurements and annotations so I was able to draw diagrams of what we were building. It felt like a giant math problem where you’re given certain pieces of wood and you have to decide how to use them best. I came up with two designs but upon further consideration I realized the pieces of wood we were given weren’t long enough for the second design to work. I’ll post the pictures of the designs I made.
These pictures show the essential views and measurements needed to construct this object. Tom also took a year of woodworking so he is helping us know when to use screws or nails. It was a lot of fun. Here’s some pictures of me using a hammer! (Enjoy Dad)
I also added a photo of me trying to figure out the measurements for everything. It took me probably about an hour to come up with a solid design. We took the short way back from the school (it doesn’t pass by the watermelon stand) and me, Mona, Sabrina, and Joanie went to Taiping Mall. We got rolled ice cream. Look up a video if you can. It’s really cool to watch them make it. It’s a big deal in Asia so we thought we’d try some. I’ll put in a picture of what I got. It’s Oreo and milo. (For those of you who don’t know, milo is like chocolate milk powder.)
That’s pretty much been my day today. We’re about to go have dinner and maybe figure out what to do after dinner. We don’t like to plan things here so we’ll see!

Posted by Ilana'sGapYear 01:50 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

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