The rain begins to fight the heat of the day, casting raindrops onto the scorched earth in the evening hours. Eager to explore the newfound moisture, insects both familiar and unfamiliar worm their way through the well-aged cracks in the walls of our house, delighted by the dregs of our cooking not yet cleaned up. All of the relative peace in our house that my roommate knew in the early Malaysian months has since come under attack by a consistent and consistently annoying ants of all sizes, fruit flies, and, as of yesterday, roaches. According to my mentor, they’ll soon be joined by scorpions. And this is not to say that we do not clean our house, for we do, the best we can, but the relentless appearance of these animals within the past month has been shocking and a great frustration to deal with.
Within my mind, too, there are plenty of miniature yet far more pressing rebellions occurring. As we round out September, the looming final day at SMK Panglima Garang Abdul Samad on October 27th threatens my equilibrium with melancholy and nostalgia for this experience that has been so incredibly perspective changing and unique. When I go back to America in November, my way of life is going to change once more, and now I’m starting to process or consider aspects of this experience in new ways. Suddenly I wonder if that laughter shared with a student after school will be my last, or entering the delicious nasi lemak stall on a Sunday morning with the mindset that I’ll never go there again. Then there’s the worry, the fear that I didn’t experience everything that I should have, or, worst yet, that I haven’t imparted the right knowledge or what I wanted to teach to my students.
Immediately after writing that sentence, I forced myself to stop and ask myself what attitude that kind of mindset will induce. The idea of “right” versus “wrong”, as though there is a handbook to how I should exactly experience Malaysia and that the wrong way means that I’ve had a terrible time here. Why stress out about that? There could be several right ways to handle this experience, but I should really abandon the word “right” altogether if I want to stop worrying about it. I can thankfully claim much happiness and success here in Malaysia, so I suppose “failing” this year hasn’t—and won’t—happen.
But I suppose that I do have a good point in wondering about the impression I’ve left on my students. Have I been able to help them? Did I teach them what I thought they should know about English? That is the one thing that I have consistently thought about, even before coming to Malaysia, whether or not I will make some sort of impact on them. And I know that, of course, there is something that my presence accomplishes, but when there are few results to look at, then I don’t know exactly how to judge my performance here.
And thus rebellion occurs. These panicky thoughts begin to crowd out the good ones. Unlike the bug spray we use to kill the invading insects, though, there’s no one-step fix to the insurgents in my mind. Staying focused on the awesome interactions I have with my students, I think, is a good start, and then learning how to honor and cherish them when I’m gone. But I won’t be yet; Malaysia can’t get rid of me for another month or so. Time to start sending in reinforcements.
My name is Erin D’Amelio and I’m going to Malaysia for ten months as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant. Over the next 10 months I will be submitting regular journal entries of this incredible adventure, documenting my thoughts and experiences. The views and beliefs I will present in these articles are my own; they do not reflect those of the Fulbright Program or the U.S. Department of State. Below are the articles, in order of publication. Just click on any link and continue the journey with me.
An Unforgettable Journey
How Does One Get a Fulbright, Exactly?
And Then We Wait
(Almost) Hitting the Ground Running
Language and Tennis
Land of the Wholehearted People
A Mighty and Powerful Mango Tree
The Beauty in Spontaneity
The Eternal Battle: Communication Versus Grammar
My Family is Awesome, But Destructive
The Beauty of English