(Written in March and posted later due to limited wifi and procrastination)
Kangpung life has reached a point where nothing is new anymore and I’ve settled into a nice routine which is great because now I feel like I’ve achieved some sort of normalcy. Classes have been going great. Lesson planning isn’t has stressful as I thought it would be. I think once I’ve let go of the high expectations I’ve had for myself and what I’d achieve in the classroom, I’ve shifted my emphasis in making sure my students enjoyed the classes and interact with me in English. Teaching classes of levels A & B are always a breeze because they are attentive, willing to learn, and well behaved. While levels C & D are the more frustrating because basic communication is limited and half the time the students don’t care about the lesson. But I’ve started to roll with the punches and enjoy their crazy antics in exchange for their willingness to listen to me, sometimes.
Having the long weekend and a week long holiday in March (check out my picture from my holiday in Vietnam) was a blessing in disguise. I didn’t realize how uptight and hyper aware I was until I went to Kuala Lumpur. I visited my Malaysian friend who lives in KL during the long weekend, just thinking it would be great to see a friend, eat pork, and wear shorts. But those 3 days were more than feeling like a rebel. It was a like a culture shock. I’ve become accustomed to no cross gender touching, watching my dress and language, being on high alert. Funny story, when I met my friend’s brother for the first time and he offered his hand for a handshake I hesitated for a second and mentally freaked out. My mind was telling me “No! You can’t do that. Wait, yes you can he’s non-malay./This is the outside world, not my kampung bubble.” I had to laugh at myself and realize, “Wow, Esther you really are living in a strange world.” The weekend was spent eating good food, going to the mall, and watching a movie. Really quite mundane activities that aren’t spectacular, but I noticed I let my guard down. I was more my old self, the Esther I thought I was in Kemaman, but really wasn’t. See I’ve been Miss Esther, the polite and upbeat teacher. I didn’t realize that these 2 identities were different and Miss Esther was a mask I wore in school and in town to interact with my students, teachers, and neighbors. I was so self conscious of trying not to offend anyone, I became good at shutting myself down and taking up a new persona. Not having to worry about what I wore, ate, and did, although not difficult, really felt liberating. I don’t think I would have recognized I was living with 2 personas if I hadn’t visited KL. It reminded me to not lose myself, that living this kampung life can sneak up on me and affect me in ways I never imagined. We talked about self care and identity crisis in orientation, but I expected those struggles to be “Aha! moments or the devastating lows.” For me, they were subtle, silent, and unannounced.