After our two weeks in India, we headed to Malaysia for a 6-week stay that we assumed was going to be much of the same. Imagine our surprise when our hosts dropped us off at the Chinese Boarding School and we were informed that we were going to be teaching English for the next six weeks.
Candidly, this wasn’t a very big deal for me. I had actually taught English classes in South Korea about six years prior and I was completely comfortable with whatever God had for us. Unfortunately, some of my teammates weren’t as understanding. That’s when the drama started.
In there defense, many of my teammates were very young (19 or 20 years old) and they hadn’t ever traveled outside of the U.S. before. I, on the other hand, was 28 years old at the time and had made mistakes all over the world. As such, there wasn’t much that was going to faze me where as some of the others wouldn’t stop complaining about the food or the bathrooms or the smells or the heat. Needless to say, I quickly chose to retreat from my group.
At that point, Ted and Wes had gone home after our time in India, so there was only six of us left (myself, Ross, and the four girls). While the girls were staying in the dorms with the rest of the middle school girls, Ross and I were staying in an old Janitor’s office with a couple of cots. This, in no sense meant that the girls had it easy and we had it rough. It was quite the opposite… By dorm rooms, I mean twelve bunk beds and twelve lockers to each room with a mosquito net hung over each bed. Though Ross and I were in sharing a storage closet, at least we had our privacy. Each of the girls had to split a room with eleven middle schoolers.
Regardless of the living situation, I was determined to make the best of the experience. Candidly, it wasn’t that hard. I would get up every morning, teach a couple of English classes to seventh graders, and then head to basketball courts with the students for a couple of hours. After that, I would go for a run, get dinner at the school cafeteria and then hit the ice cold showers. Because the showers consisted only of a short pipe pouring out of the wall with no water heater attached, the only way to handle the freezing temperatures was to shower in the late afternoon after working out. At that time, it was almost refreshing. Since we were only two degrees off the equator, it was the middle of the summer with 100% humidity and there wasn’t any air conditioning, we pretty much spent every day soaked in sweat.
That was, until the administration found out I was a Computer Engineer.
Once this discovery was made, I was quickly escorted to the technology wing of the school where there was a wonderful air-conditioned lab full of computers! It turns out that the lab was home to all of the servers in the school and as such, it had to be climate controlled. So, guess where I spent all of my time after that? Working and teaching classes in the air-conditioned IT Department!
Though I only taught a couple of classes, I really did enjoy it, to the extent that I wrote in my daily blog that I could potentially see teaching web design as a possible career sometime in the future.
Aside from teaching, I occupied my time by playing basketball with the students and running. One day, as I was about to set out on my regular 5K run, one of the students started running next to me. He spoke very little English, but he asked if he could go running with me, to which I agreed. It turns out that his name was Ju and he was the track star of the school. His specialty was the hurdles, but he ran long distances as well. After a couple of times running together, Ju asked me if I wanted to go on a long run. Not knowing what that really meant, I agreed.
That day, we ran 13K.
Through our running, Ju and I became good friends. We would run all over the city of Melaka and he would show me all of the cool local attractions. Fortunately, he was only one of the friends I made while in Malaysia. The other guys I hung out with were part of the Christian Student Organization at the local college. Though much younger than me, the guys there were all about the laughs and making fun of each other; Something that I could very closely relate to.
That said, it was these folks that saved me. During my time in Malaysia, I became very quiet when I was around my teammates as they each seemed to grow more whiney and complaining every day. Each night, we would have a team meeting during which they would all vent about how dumb they thought something was or how they were homesick and didn’t like this or that. I’m not sure why I continued to go to the meetings when I never really said anything, but I did and it was torturous. I guess they felt better after venting each night, but it was a real downer for me. As such, I did my best to steer clear of them during the day and simply build relationships with the students and the our Malaysian hosts.
During those six weeks, I really, really started to miss Bonnie. After being inseparable during our six weeks of paradise on the cruise ship, this time of living in a storage closet and dealing with whiney Americans was really wearing on me.
By the end of the trip, I was super excited to go home. I had a blast with the Malaysian people and I was able to survive my time with my teammates. I was in the best physical shape of my life due to all the basketball and running with Ju, but it was time to go home.
Lucky for me, after a quick stop in Nashville for a debriefing of our trip, I was going to be heading straight to Mexico for a vacation with Bonnie and my family.