Last week Owl attended Fulbright Pre-Orientation which was hosted at the kind of hotel where the foyer is glass and marble, the beds are floofy like exploded marshmallows, and people walk around in power-suits. While everyone got acquainted/slept, Owl ran around the entire hotel eeeeping. She found:
- Massage chairs in the fitness room (the receptionist stared at Owl and said, "You're here to explore aren't you?")
- A secret entrance to the metro
- A piano floating in a fountain
- A lot of Buddhist monks. Seriously. They were everywhere.
When morning came Owl somehow managed not to explode over her pastries but she couldn't help squealing about the monks. Owl has a soft spot for Buddhist monks. She took a Buddhism class in college that left her with a lingering desire to spend a year or two living in a Buddhist monastery.
The young gentleman next to her mentioned that the monks were around because the Dalai Lama was staying at the same hotel.
Owl leapt out of her chair and pocketed a few pastries. She had some idea of oh, finding the Dalai Lama and presenting him with stolen pastries/asking for his blessing. Then she remembered she had orientation and sat back down.
To cheer her up, the young gentlemen mentioned when he studied abroad in
a few years ago he ran into a few Buddhist monks who invited him back to their hotel room. They all ended up cross legged on the floor eating dinner. Then the monks started criticizing the American government for the Vietnam War. Vietnam
Young Gentleman: It was awkward. Obviously I had to speak up even though I don't agree with the Vietnam War. But I didn't know the protocol for arguing with monks.
Owl: What do you mean?
Y. Gentleman: Yeah…I get um, shall we say, aggressive when I'm angry? Loud? I start yelling.
Owl was flabbergasted. Perhaps the monks were out of line criticizing their guest's patria, but Owl can not imagine that the young gentleman improved their perception of Americans or managed to justify the Vietnam War by defending a war he didn't believe in. If he did manage to convince the monks, he ought to be sitting in Congress. They could seriously use him right now.
Owl had a lovely time at the Pre-Orientation. She met a staggering amount of people who had made it their business to live each day as if it were a wild and crazy adventure, who traveled far and wide, and read broadly. But at times she was surprised by how people spoke about how excited they were to teach their students about
America and American culture rather than how excited they were to go to and learn about Malaysian culture. Malaysia
From whatever Owl has heard, classes will be anywhere from twenty to forty students each and meet once a week. Unless she acquires some serious stand-up comedy skills, for most of these students English class is well going to be English class. An hour a week that will maybe be memorable because there's a crazy American teaching it, but maybe get drowned out by six other hours of school, not to mention homework, family life, religious life, extra curricular, friends and crushes (what teenagers don't have crushes?) and time to eat guavas. Never forget the guavas.
Owl will be happy if her students remember who she is.
If anyone is going to be learning, it's Owl, the person dumped in the middle of a new country she couldn't locate on a map a few months ago, Owl who still doesn't know much about Malaysia except that it's conservative, most of the females wear a headscarf, and if she wants to assimilate, Owl should consider wearing the baju kurung, a tunic over a long skirt, also dubbed the potato sack.
|Baju Kurung, courtesy of Google|
To be honest, Owl's pretty nervous about some of the gender dynamics. There was a lot in the orientation about wearing conservative clothing and dealing with sexual harassment. She talked to some fellow teachers who mentioned how this was an excellent opportunity to empower Muslim girls in
, which Owl got really excited about. Malaysia
"We can tell them all about what it's like here, how we don't have to wear headscarves or super conservative clothing and what it's like to be liberated," someone added.
Owl thought deeply about what she'd be giving up by going to
. The night before Owl consumed enough salad to feed an adolescent cow. When she put on her business skirt in the morning there was an unfortunate stomach bulge. The she discovered she'd forgotten to pack a hair brush. Her hair stuck up at odd angles despite vigorous finger combing. Owl stared at herself in the mirror and wilted. Malaysia
Owl was very sad. Owl wanted to hide under her comforter but instead she had to be social. She went downstairs to mingle with a crowd of well kempt females sleek in their skirts with hair as shiny as knobs of wood. Owl was wretchedly ashamed.
It is difficult to be social when you are worrying about your flub and the tangled Medusa creature that is your hair. When deserts came around at lunch Owl miserably passed them up and vowed she really would get back to the gym, shin splints or no shin splints, so she could eat again.
Owl calculated the number of hours she's spent at the gym—not because she's vested in her health, but because she really is that vain—the number of injuries she's picked up gyming and the number of hours she's wasted doing impossible calculations about calories and pounds and clothing sizes and the endless guilt. Guilt over eating too much, not exercising enough, worrying too much about her appearance when she should focus on more intellectual thoughts…
Headscarf? Potato sack?
Owl’s kind of excited.
|Owl prepares for some skirt-bustin'|