This gallery contains 9 photos.
As of yesterday, June 5, I am no longer teaching online with Live-English. There is one student, in particular, who I will be sorry to lose, Du Yang in Shenzhen. Unfortunately I have no way to contact him other than through Live-English. His English improved greatly in the short time that I worked with him on almost a daily basis. We were beginning to enjoy great conversations as he gained in confidence and fluency in speaking English. I believe that online English instruction one-on-one with a teacher is the best way for a student to improve their English quickly, especially for those who haven’t had much practice with speaking.
I was unable to teach my online students yesterday because of interference with our Skype connection. The calls kept being dropped, the sound was being pulsed so that I could not understand what students were saying even though I could hear them. The video came through clearly at first, but then soon broke up and then turned into a static screen with a bilious green color.
The first time it happened, I tried to call the student from the Live-English website instead, but I couldn’t find his name. When I tried to access the student pull-down list of names, it only gave me names ending A-L. The list had been cut in half. I wasn’t able to access the full list… and my student’s name ended in S. So I called Stephanie at Live-English, who was not at all supportive. When I told her that there was a problem with the website, she didn’t believe me, and thought it was incompetence on my part.
Finally, she berated me for not doing what I should to overcome these technical problems. I said that I didn’t think that I was tech-savvy enough to do this. I did not care for her way of dealing with these problems, which was the same M/O she’d used previous times when I needed support, so I quit. I was too frustrated with problems with Skype, but also problems with her service and her attitude.
But I am sorry to lose Du Yang as a student.
I like teaching online and I’m going to start my own consulting service as an ESL teacher. If you know of anyone who would like to study English with me online, I am charging $20 an hour. I can be reached at my email address: email@example.com
I’ve been back in Kuala Lumpur for 13 days now, and it’s been eventful. At first, I was slightly overwhelmed by the faster pace of the city and dazzled by all the people. I realized that I’d been suffering from sensory underload at the beach; I hadn’t even realized that I was feeling deprived of all the sensual stimuli of living among a density of people. I am learning that despite my love of nature, I am truly a city person. All I knew was that I was too lonely, and that my life lacked zest.
Although I had a job interview at a language school a couple days after I arrived, the woman I’d scheduled the interview with had apparently forgotten all about it as she wasn’t there and the staff were not expecting me. I think she was giving me the interview as a favor to a friend, and didn’t want to hire me for just a couple of months, as I’d told her about my job at UCSI starting in August.
I’d already arranged to volunteer at Hostel Cosmopolitan doing housekeeping in exchange for a place to stay, so that’s what I fell back to. I could look for other work that pays, but as I already have a little income with my online students, this should see me through until I start teaching at UCSI.
I walked into a trying situation at the hostel, though. There was a guy from Sri Lanka, a big, handsome man, who had apparently swindled three Philippine guests out of a couple thousand ringgit, promising them jobs at his sister’s new restaurant in Germany. It was all under the table, of course, so when he cancelled their airline tickets ten minutes after going with them to the ticket agency to buy them, and pocketed the money that got refunded, the police were not very helpful when the matter was reported.
The Philippine woman cried and the other guests took her side. They decided to carry out a citizen’s arrest of the fellow. Loud voices in the kitchen woke me up that first morning at the hostel. I went out on one of the computers in the lounge, but the altercation between a highly aggressive, verbally violent young Dutch man and the Sri Lankan moved within a couple feet of where I was sitting.
Thief and con man or not, the Sri Lankan fellow handled himself well, and stayed in control of himself despite taunts and threats from the Dutch fellow. I was displeased and taken aback at the prospect of a scuffle when the Dutch guy threatened to slap the Sri Lankan, and intervened to calm things down (without really knowing what was going on). The Dutch guy backed off then, and sat at another computer, saying that he didn’t want a fellow like that continuing to stay at the hostel.
I told him that I wasn’t sure that I wanted someone like himself staying at the hostel, that his manner and speech was violent. He told me the story of the swindle, and I asked him if he’d witnessed it or was the woman crying the only proof he had of what had happened. Apparently it was, but it wasn’t sufficient evidence to me. It had convinced all the other guests, though. And maybe the Philippines were swindled; I’ll never know they cleared out at the same time the Sri Lankan did.
The Dutch guy felt thwarted by my intervention and blamed me for letting the Sri Lankan guy get away. He continued to assault me verbally when I encountered him a couple times afterwards. He was friends with Zara, the young Malaysian woman who worked the front desk, and Zara was friends with Noemi, my roommate in the dorm. Zara was coming in and out of the dorm at night, continually waking me up by turning the light on every time she came in. Mostly she just wanted to use the mirror in the room to comb her hair. I asked her politely not to come into the room at night when I was sleeping. She didn’t see any reason to stop because she was friends with Noemi, who was also in the dorm.
One thing led to another and these three people were playing tricks on me, stealing my locker key, shampoo and conditioner, etc., until I felt so harrassed that I felt that I must leave the hostel, although with what money and where I would go, I didn’t know. I spoke to Mr. Naim, the manager and owner of the hostel about what was happening. He said that he’d investigate, but he doubted that these people were conspiring against me. Later, after he talked to them, he said that I was right and there was a conspiracy against me. He asked Noemi and the Dutch guy to leave and find another place to stay, and had a talk with Zara, who chose to leave his employ after that.
So things have settled down somewhat since then. Zara had been doing the housekeeping as well as the front desk before I arrived, but she had very little interest in doing it, and the place was actually pretty dirty. I’ve enjoyed the challenge of bringing up the standard of housekeeping here, and I’ve enjoyed the social life that the hostel offers, now that the Zara clique has left.
I ran into Noemi on the street the other day. She no longer looked so powerful or content. She looked more like a hardened member of the criminal underclass and when she saw me, the flat hate in her eyes was disconcerting. I’ll be glad when she returns to Borneo, which should be any day now. I guess her new situation is not so favorable as what she enjoyed here.
Mr. Naim brought in a couple workmen to clean the air conditioners on the third floor. Then he hired a work crew to lay down a new floor on the fourth floor. Every day when I finish changing bedsheets and sweeping and mopping the third floor, doing laundry, and cleaning the toilets, sinks and showers, I have a great sense of accomplishment that I’m leaving that floor really clean. It’s the most physical labor I’ve done in many years during my five-hour shift from 11 a.m.-4 p.m., but it’s satisfying work.
This morning I went to the new egg place around the corner, and brought the plastic carton to hold 10 eggs that the owner had given me the last time I bought eggs there, urging me to recycle and reuse it. The eggs only cost RM 2.40 (about 75 cents). Then I bought a kilo of potatoes for RM 3.00. As usual when I go out on the street, I have to wend my way through the moving cars and bikers who dominate the space and claim first rights.
I haven’t had much luck with roommates here. There was a pregnant woman with a young child who Nor caught going through my things, about to steal my cell phone. She got turned out, too. Then there was an American woman who spent a couple of nights in my room before changing to another one. I asked her to turn off her cell phone at night because it was disturbing my sleep, but she wanted to use it for an alarm clock. Now there’s a young woman from Japan who coughs a lot and is an insomniac. I suspect she has radiation sickness from Fukushima. She wears a face mask most of the time, but in the room much of the time all she wears is bikini underwear.
Overall, I much prefer the male guests who stay here. I enjoy talking to them and sharing meals.
Ariel Ky May 15, 2012
This morning I was listening to music on Youtube, trying to find songs that are good for learning English that I thought my Russian student would like. I listened to the 10 top singers for 2012, but decided that their songs required too great a voice range or that they were not complex enough. Finally I chose Time After Time by Javier Colon, Imagine by John Lennon, and What a Wonderful World by Louis Armstrong. I was singing along to the songs, and at one point, I started singing a melody that just came to me, improvising as I went along, surprised at what was coming out of me. It sounded so lovely, and a bird chorus outside started singing with me, trilling and joyously singing along. I don’t know where that all came from, but it was quite magical.
I’ve been getting more students since I signed up with another agency based in Europe. Lately I’ve had as many as five online students a day. Unfortunately, I have to work the entire month of May before I can get paid.
I had good news on the certification test that I’d taken again on write.com after failing it the first time. My studying with their tutorials on their website had paid off. I got 20/20 on the writing exam, and a compliment on my writing about black cupboard knobs. I’d passed! Unfortunately, when I tried to register to get paid, I found out that I couldn’t work for write.com as an American living overseas, for tax reasons, I was informed.
So my days have been fuller with teaching more students online. There have been rainstorms almost every day. The other day, there were two storms in the evening and going into the night. It rained for hours, which was unusual. The storms move in quickly here, unleash torrential rains, but then quickly move on.
Antares, my Malaysian friend at Magick River, had been working to put me in touch with his Australian friend, Ben, who lives a couple hours north of me. Ben finally called this morning; it was nice to have my phone ring. He told me about a New Zealander friend of his who was married to a Sudanese guy who’d lived in Canada for a long time. (I’m not sure that I got that all straight.) Anyways, he told me that she had a language school in KL that had been doing quite well, and was always looking for teachers. He got her number for me and called me back with it. I called her and got hold of her right off.
We set up an interview Friday; I hope that my money for teaching online comes through by then so that I can make it to KL in time. Ben’s friend really wants to find a permanent teacher, and as much as I’d like to wait for the job at UCSI, I might take this one instead, even if it pays less, just to be working again.
I was planning on moving back to Kuala Lumpur from the beach anyways. I’d heard from Mohammed at Hostel Cosmopolitan that I could stay in a bed in a dorm in exchange for making beds and cleaning toilets four or five hours a day. I’ve been getting too lonely here, and I’ve got friends at the hostel. I fit in there with all the other travelers. It’d help me get by until I am able to start my teaching position at UCSI later this summer. Or if I start teaching at the language school, I can maybe stay there until my first paycheck.
The bugs, mosquitoes, fleas and bees are getting to me here at the beach. I’m running out of everything and only have a couple of potatoes left. The online agency is taking the full four days to process my pay (last time they paid me as soon as I submitted my hours), leaving me in dire straits again. I’m really on the edge of survival here.
After GalaU pays me, the money has to go through Paypal and my bank in the U.S. before it’s available to me. This is a precarious existence. I know it sounds adventurous and exotic to be living at the beach in Malaysia, and it is, but it’s definitely got its down side.
A Tiny Visitor
Yesterday I had a headache all day long off and on (probably from caffeine withdrawal as I’d run out of coffee). I‘ve been depressed, but my life at the beach here without much money has not been all bleak. The most enchanting thing happened to me yesterday in the late afternoon.
I had my door open to catch any breezes that might waft in, and was lying on the bed doing something on my computer. I looked up and there was a baby bird on my doorsill, about three inches tall, just a little brown bird with a tawny round tummy, a darker dun colored top, a tiny yellow beak, and little reddish-orange stick legs. I greeted my tiny visitor and spoke to it for about five minutes as it stood in the doorway. That encouraged it to walk into the room and start flying about.
Obviously it was just learning to fly as these were short bumbling flights under the table, banging into the legs, knocking into things and falling to the floor. Finally, it flew to the top of the door to the bathroom, perching precariously on the narrow door frame, and looking afraid of the height it had achieved.
Eventually it made its way back to the door. I extended my finger for it to perch there, but it flew up to my shoulder instead and walked across the top of my back. I didn’t like the way that felt. Those little feet were sharp. Before it left my room, it stood again on the doorsill, chirping away at me. For such a tiny little bird, it had rather loud chirps.
As I started writing about the bird just now, I felt something brush against me, and the wee bird had returned and perched next to me on a fold on the curtain, chirping away. I didn’t see it leave. It was flying by the wall behind me. I heard it hit something again and fall to the floor. It’s probably regrouping.
The bird is still in my room, chirping away. It had tried to fly out of my room earlier, but I’d put up strips of tape at the top of my door, hoping to stop flies from coming in. It got caught momentarily on one of the pieces of tape, but then it freed itself and flew to the porch next door. So then I took down the pieces of tape, distressed that the bird had gotten caught on one; they had never stopped any flies.
Then I looked to the porch on the hut next door where it had flown and was chirping away, and to my dismay, I saw the black cat avidly watching the little bird. I’ve been careful not to touch the bird because I know that the mother probably won’t go near it if a human has touched it. But that black cat was advancing, its tail twitching back and forth, every nerve alert, those green eyes entirely focused on that little bird.
So I went over to the bird and offered my finger for it to perch on, but that scared it, too, and it just moved a little more under the railing. The cat was getting nearer and started to settle its body for the killing move, so I decided to rescue my little bird. I scooped it into my hand and walked back to my porch. The poor little bird was quivering in my hand. The black cat was bewildered. It was looking everywhere, under the porch, on the ground, under the railing. What had happened to the bird that was just there?
Then the black cat saw me standing there, watching him, and you could see that it had just occurred to him that perhaps that little bird was with me. I retreated with the bird into my hut, but the bird decided then to fly up to the roof of the porch. The black cat was watching its every move, and the bird decided that it felt safer with me, and flew back down to nestle in my dress.
I scooped it into my hand again and walked into the hut, closing the front door as I went, shutting out the predatory black cat. I sat on the bed for five minutes with the little bird in my hand. It quickly calmed down, and was very still. I felt tranquil. I couldn’t help but marvel at how light it was, yet it had weight and I could feel its solid presence in my hand. I tried to generate a feeling of love to send to it, but I’m such a dried-up husk of myself right now, that I couldn’t. The best that I could offer was to just be there with it in friendship.
On closer examination, I could see that it had a sprinkling of green feathers across its back. Eventually it started flying again and found its way out the window.
I am teaching English online, and it’s probably enough money to keep me going until my teaching position starts later this summer. I need to go get my passport, which I renewed recently, from the U.S. Embassy in Kuala Lumpur and take it to the HR office of UCSI. I’ll do that the next time I get paid, but in order to wait until I have enough hours to make enough money to go to KL, I will probably have to make the food last another week. It won’t be easy.
I’ve become such a recluse. I don’t want to see people much – they haven’t been very friendly here beyond the initial goodwill when I was still seen as a tourist.
.I’m sitting by the floor fan. It feels nice. The morning sun is casting strong shadows and it’s quite beautiful here. I’m feeling so peaceful that I could disappear in a plume of smoke and it would be as though I were never here. All the anger is gone
I’m sad. It seems as though whenever I get a break and things are starting to move forward, that something always happens, and the opportunity disappears or it moves way into the future where it can’t do me any good now. Everything is so much effort, so much work, and then nothing comes of it. It’s as though I’m on a deserted island and a boat comes along, and I think I’m rescued, but then there’s no wind, and I’m still stranded. May 9, 2012
The weather’s been quite changeable in the last few days, and I’ve come down with a runny nose. Blast it! I saw a monkey slap his hands and kill a fly that was pestering him. I just did the same for a mosquito. He did it in such a casual way; it was really cool. All right, I know, it’s time to go. I’m hanging out too much with the monkeys.
I‘ve been up early with the monkeys. I was feeding the little spider monkeys some pieces of orange. They didn’t want to come near me, so I put the pieces down for them, and they scurried to get them as soon as I moved away.
The biggest monkey, the gent with the big balls, had gotten comfortable with coming near me, and he sauntered right up to me, but I didn’t have any more orange pieces then. So I went back and got another orange, which we shared. He bared his teeth at me as he was reaching for the orange, which frightened me a bit, but then he looked at me after taking the section, and I could tell that he was thanking me.
I shared a couple slices of bread with him then as I was making myself toast. He wrapped one slice of bread and ate it rolled up. After that, he picked up the other slice as two smaller monkeys were watching from the overhang of the roof above, and took a couple of bites out of that. Then he threw it carelessly down on the ground and wandered off, as if to say he’d had enough.
The smaller monkeys were not willing to advance, not as long as I was standing in the door, although I could tell that they wanted that slice of bread very badly. So I retreated and turned around just in time to see one of them come forward and pick it up. He was watching me carefully, though, and saw that I’d turned around and watched him.
May 6, 2012
I just have to make a little more money. This website, write.com, doesn’t pay much at all for writing, but if I could just make a little more money, it’d be worth it. So I’ve been studying how to write ad copy, and I took the test again tonight. Maybe this time I will pass it.
Here’s what I wrote about black cupboard knobs. The first time around, I couldn’t imagine how to make this interesting. I think I did a better job this time.
If you’ve got the kitchen blahs, think black cupboard knobs. Switch out your old knobs for these sharp-looking black ones, and be surprised at how easy it is to achieve a new look. Getting the right knobs and pulls can also add the finishing touch to a complete makeover. Another interesting choice in hardware that can take you in a different direction is birdcage cupboard knobs, which come in various designs with a stylized mesh. If you spend a lot of time in the kitchen, you will enjoy personalizing the details that make a difference in how your kitchen looks.
I also went up and down the street today looking for work again and a place to cook my food, so that I can save money that way, and have a little more variety to eat. I’ve got a toaster and a water boiler in my room, but that’s all. I haven’t been able to find an electric hot plate. All they have in the stores are heavy gas models, which I wouldn’t know how to use.
This evening the monkey tribe came down the pole on my hut, including two mamas carrying their newborn babies. I think they wanted me to see that they’d had babies. At one time I had five monkeys on my front porch, with two in the doorway. They really are losing their fear of me.
I got a message that my passport has arrived, but I need to make a trip to Kuala Lumpur to get it, and once I get it, I need to take it to HR at UCSI so they can start processing my work visa, but I’m going to need some more money to be able to get there.
I am really clawing my way back up from having run out of food and money and being sick and all of that.
Last week was horrendous, and I didn’t send out a newsletter because I was still recovering from the horde of bikers who came to Cherating Beach like an invasion of locusts. At least a couple of hundred bikers descended on the beach here and stayed for several days. There were four or five bikers in each of the huts around me, and they’d linger out front in packs, gunning their engines for long periods of time, just talking and hanging out on their bikes, usually from 10-30 minutes at a time, fouling the air with their exhaust, and besieging me with the noise.
I’d gotten some money from my online teaching to go buy some groceries, and had gone into Kemaman shopping. I was walking back from the highway with my bags when I ran into the bikers. There were two of the bikers showing off, popping wheelies in front of me as they crossed each other right in front of me. It was quite a show, but I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. The acrid black exhaust hit me in the eyes like tear gas so that I collapsed and screamed in agony.
And then I was furious, and screamed out my frustration like a two-year-old throwing a tantrum. I lost all civility and started cursing them. One of the guys laughed evilly and popped another wheelie in front of me, sending another black cloud of exhaust in my face. There were about 20 bikers in the group, and they were enjoying themselves; nobody cared that I’d been hurt. Before the bikers had been a nuisance that had been increasingly wearing on my nerves, but this incident marked the point where I began to really hate those bikers.
So when I walked a little further and came across another group of bikers sitting out under the big mango tree at the entrance of Duyong who were all laughing, having enjoyed my distress and show of anger, I lost my temper again. I told them that I hoped that would all die slow painful deaths of cancer from their bikes’ exhaust fumes, and that they would become deaf from the noise before they turn 40. I don’t think their English was good enough to understand me, but they did get it that I was being quite unpleasant.
For the most part, bikers are known for being callously indifferent to what anyone else thinks of them, but when I told two young bikers that they weren’t welcome here and not to come back, I think that did get through to them.
They left that night, thank goodness. The next morning, I picked up several bags of trash that they’d left on the beach, beer and wine bottles, over a dozen dirty diapers, some in the water, even batteries that were starting to leach acid into the sand. Some people don’t deserve to get out in nature. (I wouldn’t blame the Earth if it decided to just rid itself of humanity.)
My eyes have been hurting for almost a week. They’re finally starting to recover. I’ve kept to myself, but today I made myself go out and talk to people. It’s not good to be so isolated and alienated. The honeymoon with Malaysia is definitely over after this.
Mother’s Day is coming up this Sunday, May 13. Two of my childhood friends, Joni and Sheila, have arranged a Skype call with me that morning.
There’s a butterfly flitting about across the way. I’m watching it, and I’m feeling this vast sadness that’s engulfing me. Maybe I can just fly above it, like the butterfly.
My idea for the Women’s Earth Council apparently isn’t a new one. Karla Crescenta in Colorado Springs sent out this poem recently in a newsletter. So I think I’m keeping good company here with Julia Ward Howe.
In 1870, Julia Ward Howe penned the ORIGINAL Mothers’ Day Proclamation as a poem:
“Arise, then, women of this day ! Arise all women who have hearts, whether your baptism be that of water or of tears. Say firmly:
We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies. Our husbands shall not come to us reeking of carnage, for caresses and applause.
Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience. We women of one country will be too tender of those of another country to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs. From the bosom of the devastated Earth a voice goes up with our own:
It says, Disarm, Disarm. The sword of murder is not the balance of justice.
Blood does not wipe out dishonor, nor violence indicate possession... . . . . . . .
I earnestly ask that a general congress of women without limit of nationality may be appointed . . . . with its objects to promote the alliance of the different nationalities, the amicable settlement of international questions, the great & general interests of peace.”
To my right is a hill that rises steeply above us, tropical jungle, lush green trees and vines suspended from them. There is a particularly splendid large tree bridging the earth and sky which looks like the tree of life. To my left, in front of my beach hut, is a large palm tree where I saw two monkeys playing this morning.
I went to have my lesson with my Russian student online who works in Siberia at the restaurant nearby, but the signal wasn’t strong enough for us to have video. I need to find a stronger signal for teaching on Skype. In my room, I can only get one bar (out of 5 which show how strong the signal is) – that’s enough to email, but not Skype. After our lesson when I returned to my hut, the monkeys had taken the lid off my trash can.
I’ve been studying the Malaysian language since I arrived here in January. Now I am starting to speak in sentences. It’s quite an easy language to learn, and I find that I don’t have to work very hard at remembering new words. I’ve studied ten lessons in a very good book, and worked my way through a couple children’s workbooks. I really enjoy workbooks.
I saw eight monkeys foraging for food in the trash as I went out for breakfast at one of the open cafes on the main street here. Maybe it wasn’t a whole troop, but there were enough monkeys moving about to make me a little nervous to walk past them. Macaques.
There are so many birds here that I’m not familiar with. I’ve been listening to their calls. Some have lovely songs. It’s been raining off and on. There’s a gently breeze blowing right now… a proper zephyr, it is. It cooled off quite a bit last night. I didn’t sleep too well, all these jungle sounds kept me awake, peepers, birds and frogs… and I could really have used a blanket. Also both pillows were feather, which I’m allergic to, so I’ll remedy all that today.
But the energy by the sea is very gentle and sweet. Once I get used to it, I’m sure I’ll sleep well. I have a roommate, a pale yellow lizard about 4″ long. He doesn’t take up much room on the wall, but I can hear him moving about. I also heard something chewing on something early this morning. I was careful to discipline my thoughts not to imagine too much about what that something was. I think it was surprised when it heard me moving; it’s probably been a while since someone has lived in this room. I didn’t hear it again, so I think it moved on when it realized the room was now inhabited.
I had to kill off the fire ants on the steps of the porch yesterday that kept swarming out of a hole. But I wasn’t surprised to find a hazard here. It was their cheapest room, only about $3 a day, but it has windows on both east and west walls that catch a sea breeze. It’s actually a good size and has a sizable square bathroom that you step down into. The bathroom has nice tiling, but a funky toilet with the tank mounted on the wall high above it. At first I had to pump the plastic handle to get it to flush, but now it’s flushing easily. Surprisingly, there’s a mirror on the wall, (although not above the sink) and a good, long sturdy towel bar.
So I was up early and went out by the beach. I watched two guys pull up in a car just before dawn. They were waxing their surfboards, even though it started to drizzle. The waves didn’t look large enough to surf, but I noticed later that they were considerably larger. Fabian, my new French friend, told me that surfing season is really over. The best waves are in November and December during the monsoon season. We’re entering the dry season now, but it’s still plenty wet.
It’s just about time for the leatherback sea turtles to come in and start laying their eggs. I’m looking forward to seeing that.