Monday, October 24, 2005

10/15: lost in translation

The homesickness hit today. Right now drinking a pumpkin spice latte and reading a BHQ submission sounds really nice. I miss feeling competent and grown up. I miss knowing I could drive for hours in any direction and not get lost. I feel sort of silly feeling homesick after being gone only a week (with my girlfriend, no less), but that’s me.

We’re in Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia now. Sarawak is a state on the island of Borneo. Borneo sounds so exotic. I recall hearing something about “The Wild Man of Borneo,” but B and Ryan have no idea what I’m talking about. I think maybe he was one of PT Barnum’s side show attractions, probably just a local guy with a tan and a lot of facial hair. (Not that Malays actually have a lot of facial hair, I’m just saying that side show attractions frequently did.)

We’ve cashed in B’s Hilton points—here’s to putting your grad school tuition on your credit card!—and gotten a ridiculously nice room overlooking the Sarawak River and all the brightly colored waterfront shops. “Kuching” means “cat” in Malay, and there are a couple of giant cat statues in the city. But they’re not classy bronze statues or modern art-style statues. They’re more like giant Precious Moments figurines, something you would give away if your grandma gave it to you.

Some other Malay words I’ve learned (my spelling is dubious):
  • Bukit = hill
  • Bahru = new
  • Ayam = chicken
  • Ais kirm = ice cream
  • Air = water (just to be confusing)
  • Surau = the place Muslims go to pray. This one was tricky. Ryan and I kept seeing signs saying “surau” at various places—the airport, the campground—and we thought it meant “staff” or “office,” but finally Ryan asked someone, another cab driver, I think.
  • Terima kasih = thank you. But if you say it to a Chinese Malaysian, she will laugh at your dorky attempt to speak the language she only speaks because she has to. Learned that the hard way.

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