Sunday, May 22, 2011

Final Thoughts

The South Lllano River flows throught the TTU Field Station in Junction, Texas.

I started writing my first post for this blog while I was proctoring the Final Exam for the Field Ecology class that I was teaching at our field station in Junction, TX last year. It seems only fitting and symmetric for me to write my final post while this year's students are taking their exam. (Still love the nervous sweat!)

For those of you used to tropical rainforests, this is what it looks like during one of the most severe droughts in Texas in recorded history.

I have never attempted to write a blog before and I had no idea it would become such a major part of my time in Malaysia. I was surprised to learn that people were actually looking at it and were eagerly awaiting the next post (OK, "eagerly awaiting" is probably a bit strong). Once people started looking at the blog, I realized that I had to continue to post regularly and ocassionally, I had to have something interesting to tell you. Luckily, there were lots of things happening to me that I thought would be good to share with the folks back home. After a while, people from Malaysia started reading the blog as well so they could see an American's perspective of things going on in Malaysia. I am surprised to see that I have made almost 300 blog posts in the last year and that the blog received over 19,000 hits.

I was hoping that I would have lots of words of wisdom for my final post, but I think that I will leave that for another time. I know that I still need to process a lot of the information. I look forward to writing and talking about my experiences in the future. If anyone has any questions then please let me know. I am sure that I will be ready to hit the lecture circuit soon.


There are so many people that I want to thank for making this whole thing possible. First, of all I would like to thank the Fulbright Commission for supporting me during my time in Malaysia and Texas Tech University for allowing me a Devlopmental Leave (it appears that Tech was able to muddle through in my absence).

In Malaysia I would like to thank the faculty, staff and students at University of Malaya for being such wonderful hosts. I just read that UM has moved up three spots to #39 in the Asian University rankings during the past year (there is no need to thank me- I was happy to help out).

I also want to thank everyone at MACEE and the US Embassy for all of the help and support that they provided throughout my stay. I also enjoyed meeting all of the Malaysians who were alumni of exchange programs in the US and I thank them for sharing their experiences with me and trying to make my transition to Malaysia as simple as possible. I also want to thank all of the people who helped me to live, eat, shop, move around, and generally survive in a foreign land; I appreciate how generous everyone was with their efforts to make me feel at home. Thanks, and good bye, to all of the great people I met during my travels around Malaysia. Hopefully, our paths will cross again sometime in the future.

Thanks to my fellow Fulbrighters. It was great to have others around who were sharing this experience. We never had enough time together, but the times we had were memorable. Who is in charge of planning the reunion party? I could host it in Lubbock, but somehow I doubt if anyone would show up.

All of the Malaysian Fulbrighters except for Veer and Meg.

Special thanks to the student Fulbrighters who were stationed in the Penisula (Michael, Jaki, and Meg). I appreciate it that you made me an honorary member of Team Fulbright!

I love this photo of Michael and Jaki in their "Malaysian Gothic" pose. 1Malaysia

I would also like to send my appreciation out to all of you that have ever checked out the blog. It was fun sharing my adventures with you. I hope that you gained some appreciation of what a wonderful country Malaysia is and maybe even learned a thing or two.

If anyone has any questions or comments please don't hesitate to contact me.

Signing off,


:) LSF

Is There A Fulbright In Your Future?

My time as a Fulbright Scholar has been a great experience. I urge anyone interested in spending some time abroad and learning about a new culture to consider applying for a Fulbright. This not only applies to US citizens interested in spending time in another country, but also to foreign citizens interested in sititing the US.

Fulbright offers programs for professionals, scholars, and students so almost anyone can give it a try. Most of the applicants for the Fulbright Scholar program that I was funded by are university professors, but professionals are also encouraged to apply. You can check these websites for mor information.

The Fulbright Program in general

The Fulbright Scholars Program

Fulbright US Student Program

Fulbright English Teaching Assistant Program (ETA)

Saturday, May 21, 2011

All of the News That's Fit to Print

One of the main purposes of the Fulbright Program is to allow scholars/students to learn more about their host country (and then share it with the folks back home). It seemed to me that one of the best ways to learn about what was going on in Malaysia was to pay attention to what was going on in the news. I was only able to understand the 30 minute newscast broadcast in English each day so most of my news came from reading newspapers and the internet.

I think I have probably said this before, but I find it interesting/strange/concerning that the major newspapers are actually owned by the different political parties. For example, the main English daily in KL was owned by the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) which is part of the ruling BN coalition. The editor of the main Malay newspaper owned by the United Malay National Organization (UMNO), the main component of the BN government, actually said that his main job was to support the party (silly me, I though that a newspaper's job was to accurately report the news. You know, "we report, you decide".) Thus, you had to be aware of the inherent bias of each of the news sources while reading them. Information on the web received less governmental control, so most of the information criticizing the government was published on on-line news site and blogs.

Originally, I was interested in going into the details of a number of stories, but now I have decided that these may not be off too much interest to outsiders and that anyone in Malaysia would have heard more about these stories than they ever wanted to. Instead I will focus on the major ongoing story in the Malaysian news.

Anwar Ibrahim

By far the most interesting (and bizzare) stories in Malaysia involve Anwar Ibrahim. For the secoind time Anwar, the leader of political coalition that is in opposition to the current Malaysian government and former Deputy Prime Minister, is on trial for sodomy (a sexual act "against the order of nature"). Anwar was convicted at the end of his first trial and was imprisoned for several year before the conviction was overturned. In 2008 he was accused of sodomizing an male aide so he is currently on trial for this offense. Anwar claimed that he was innocent of all charges and there are many people who believe that the charges have been orchestrated by government officials to remove Anwar as a threat for political power.

Sodomy II

The best concise descrition of the whole episode that I can find is in the article linked below. Please do not read this if you are a kid or easily offended because the details are quite graphic.

Some highlights of the case.

The accuser, a 20-something guy named Saiful, claims that he did not go to the bathroom or change his underwear until he went to the police two days after the alleged event so the evidence was still in place

Some of the police work related to the collection, storage, and analaysis of DNA evidence reminds me of the Keystone Cops (it is clear that the Malaysian police have never watched CSI).

At the beginning of the trial, Saiful was allegedly having a romantic relationship with a female lawyer who was part of the prosecution team. She eventually was removed from the team.

Key evidence that was originally excluded because it was apparently collected illegally has now been allowed to be introduced.

The way the Malaysian legal system works is that the prosecution presents their case and if the judge is convinced that the evidence is good enough to support the charge, then he will order the accused to present their defense. Last week the judge ordered Anwar's legal team to present their defense starting in June. I will have to follow the trial via long distance.

Anwar Sex Tape

But wait, this story is going to get even better. A few months back someone, known only as "Datuk T", invited a select group of journalist to meet at one of the most exclusive and expensive hotels in KL to view a video allegedly showing a leading member of the political opposition having sex with a female Chinese prostitute (I am not sure how anyone knows that she is Chinese and not Malaysian-Chinese, but she is always claimed to be Chinese. I guess that means that there must be no Malaysian prostitutes).

According to reports in the Malaysian Insider- Datuk T said the person who found the video, only identified in a statement as “The Insider,” was instructed to head back to the hotel to look for the watch after the politician had left the hotel. “Upon close inspection, I found four well-hidden CCTV cameras”.

During the screening this morning, Datuk T said he wanted the media to watch the footage showing the politician before sending the copy to him and his wife “to identify the person in the video” a week from now. If he and his wife do not resign, then we will call for an independent panel of NGOs to conduct a forensic investigation into the video,” he said after the video was screened.

Not surprisingly, the person allegedly shown in the video was claimed to be Anwar (whose wife and daughter are both invovled in politics) so he in involved in yet another scandal.

Datuk T turned out to be a trio of men who either had past ties to the UMNO political party, were involved in pro-Malay NGOs, or otherwise have interesting pasts. They claimed that they had turned over the only copy of the video to the police for further investigation.

(But wait, the story gets better).

Soon a short edited version of the tape (excluding all of the naughty parts) appeared on You Tube. The video showed the man and women dressed in towels and showed that their was a third man in the room with them. This video had a strip across the bottom with word written in Thai saying "Phaholyothin Road Bangkok, Thailand 10400, Copyright 2011"). Was the video shot in Malaysia as claimed by Datuk T or was it filmed in Thailand? Were Datuk T lying when they said that they had returned the only copy of the video to the police or were the police somehow involved in leaking the video (plot thickens).

As this was going on members of the opposition party started to claim that it was not the people photographed in the video who should be in trouble, but instead that Datuk T should be prosecuted for showing pornographic material. So far the police have not prosecuted Datuk T.

Of course it didn't take too long for the full, unedited version of the video to be released including all of the "naked details" (still noone knows who is responsible for leaking the video). Now everyone can decide for themselves- is it, or isn't it Anwar. Not surpringly, Anwar supporters are convinced that it is not him while many people sympathetic to the government have claimed that it is Anwar in the video. The man in the video celarly has man-boobs and a fat belly so Anwar claims it can not be him because he is thin and trim. It has been very sad to have to watch Anwar's wife and daughter have to address questions about whether or not they think that it is their husband/father in the video.

In order to prove that they are not lying, a couple of the Datuk T guys went to the mosque and swore an oath on the Koran. They challenged Anwar to do the same; he has declined. Apparently, there were worried that they might be at risk from Anwar's supporters they wore bullet-proof vests under their clothes when they went to the mosque. Now some Muslim religious leaders want them to be prosecutd because it was improper to wear a bullet-proof vest in a mosque.

The police, of course, have investigatged the issue fully. They now claim that they have determined the identity of the man in the video and that they will reveal his identity when it is proper to do so. And so we wait.

I look forward to the exciting conlcusion of this story.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Good Bye KL

Finally it was time for me to head to KLIA (Kuala Lumpur International Airport) to head back home.

One of the things that I will not miss about KL is the traffic. You can count on finding a "jam" virtually any time that you get on the road.

My final view of the KL skyline.

There was a beautiful sunset on the way to the airport, but it turned out to be hard to photograph it from a moving car.

I left KL at about 10:30 PM for the one hour flight to Singapore. I checked into the Transit Hotel in the airport for about 5 hours and then boarded a United Airlines Flight that left at 6:30 in the morning. I stopped at Hong Kong and Chicago before arriving in Austin. The whole trip took about 33 hours.

So Long Amcorp Mall

Becasue my apartment building was connected to to the mall the mall was my immediate neighborhood. This is what I saw everyday when I entered the mall.

"Popular" was a combo stationary store/bookstore. Whenever I needed office supplies they always came through.

The Post Office (POS). In addition to sending mail you could pay your utility bills at the post office which made things very convenient.

I will the kids that work at the Golden Arches. Because I spent so much time working at home, my major "coffe break" spot was McDonalds. Each day I would order a "Coke Light Large". Eventually, everyone got to know me so that when I walked in they would just get my coke and take my money even before I got to the front of the line.

I was able to find some very cheap books at this book store so I always had something to read.

The "Too Little Shoppe" was the signal that I had reached the hallway that would take me to my apartment.

This was the view as I rode down the escalator to the main floor of the mall.

This bakery was the only place where I could find good bread.

Secret Recipe is a chain that serves pretty good food. I went to Secret Recipe when I felt like splurging because a dinner there cost $5 rather than the $3 I usually spent for a meal.

I picked up my newspaper here every day.

When I couldn't go diving at least I could check out this small aquarium.

PJ- Last Look

View From My Apartment Window

What a beautiful morning!

On my last day I took a final walk around my old neighborhood in Petaling Jaya. I was able to conveniently walk to two different parts of PJ, New Town and what I call PJ Hilton area (I don't know if this has a real name.

PJ- New Town

Looking back at the my apartment building (the tall one in the middle) and A&W Rootbeer.

This is where I got my hair cut.

This food court was located in the bottom of a parking garage.

The tall building is MBPJ which I think houses some of the city government offices. The orange building is the headquarters of Poh Kong, a large jewelry store.

Lunch wagon.

There were lots of cobblers setting up shop on the street.

If one policeman sitting around doing nothing is good, then surely two is better.

A Malaysian cowboy?!?

Some of my favorite places to eat.

When I just needed to eat something familiar Pizza Hut hit the spot.

Towards the PJ Hilton

Premier Toilet

Pay toilets are a fact of life in KL. They typical public toilet in KL costs about 20 or 30 sens (about 7 - 10 cents). I don't think that this is a bad deal at all because most of the restrooms have an attendant that keeps things clean. Ocassionally, I would read complaints about the condition of toilets in Malaysia but I have to say that I was impressed about how clean they usually were.

Not long after I arrived in KL, I was at the Suria Mall in KLCC (where toilets are free). When the need arose I headed toward the closest facilities that I could find. I was surprise and shocked when the woman tried to charge me 2 ringgit to go to the bathroom. She explained that this was the "Premier Toilet" so it cost extra.

Obviously, there was not way that I was going to pay two ringgit to take a leak, so I quickly headed upstairs where the common folk are allowed to pee for free. Everytime that I returned to the mall I watch the people coming out of the Executive Toilet and I had to wonder what magic is happening in there to be worth so much cash. Because I thought that it was important for me to gain as many experiences as I could so that I could report back to my loyal blog readers, I decided that I should pay the price and see what a 2 ringgit toilet experience was like.

When I paid my money lady gave me a ticket (which of course has become my most treasured souvenier of my time in Malaysia) and a KLCC Suria Mall moist towlette. So far so good. Maybe this was going to be a worthwhile experience.

When I got inside I was greeted by the attendent. He seemed to be of middle eastern descent and was sharply dressed (with a bow tie). After taking care of my business I thought that I should collect some photographic evidence of my new experience. When I tried to take a picture of the bathroom, he insisted that he take my picture. He suggested that I pose with the flowers (that probably would not have been my choice, but you have to let the photographer work his magic).

As a special bonus, I got to share my Premier Toilet experience with Cedric Nome. Cedric is currently touring Malaysia with his present owner, Huey Lee. Huey is one of my scuba friends from Lubbock who had returned to Malaysia to attend her brother's wedding. Huey arrived in KL just a couple of days before I returned to Texas so I was glad that we were able to get together (it was fun to be the "tour guide" for a Malaysian). You might try to become one of Cedric's Facebook friends if you want to see other photos of his travels around the world.