In Denver

Jul. 30th, 2005 08:38 pm
tiaramerchgirl: (Default)
The adventure has started! I'm rather sleepy at the moment, so this will be kept short. Apologies in advance for any incoherencies.

The flight to Denver from LA was chaotic. EasyCheckIn wasn't that easy (thank goodness I had a credit card, otherwise I would have been in a bigger bind. As it is, I was to juggle between papers and bags, and my luggage had a mind of its own. United Airlines also suddenly decided that they would downsize the plane, which meant that much of the people were shoved off to another flight later in the day. No way was I giving up my seat now just so I could fly first-class later.

The staff at United were very friendly though. And their biscoff was nice.

I was one of the first to arrive that day...I helped hang around the airport looking for people. The staff are cheery and friendly; nice people. And for you Malaysian Idol fans - one of them is a CARBON COPY of Vick the 3rd Place guy. Seriously.

Most of the WorldSmart crew are here already. We've pretty much made our friends - Katie the documentarian with a digital video camera with her at all times (Victor, you have nothing on her), Brianne the energetic friendly redhead, Noelle from NY, and Chris the UBER COOL MEXICAN CHICA WHO IS NOW MY BEST FRIEND. Well, maybe. We've got two uber-tall people (Andrea and Parker), quite a number of shy ones, a few boisterous ones like myself...mixed bag. There's more coming in the next few days, so yeah, more remains to be seen.

They had an interesting way of linking us to the host families. They gave the host familes and us a passcode ("hostcode") and they'll need to intepret the hostcode in some way they know how. My hostcode was "table tennis"; my host dad took a flat ping pong racquet and taped golf balls to one side. Heh.

I am staying for the next 2-3 weeks in Denver with a Scottish/English family who have been here 22 years. They have two kids in their 20s; one's married, the other's a musician. Their house is GORGEOUS. They also have 2 large dogs (Sam the golden retriever, Simon the boxer mix) which scare me somewhat because they're so big and boisterous.

The host mum is in London due to a family emergency; she'll be back on Monday. The host dad is really sweet. I may meet their host son, Andrew, soon.

I'm feeling sleepy, and it's hard to type on an ergonomic keyboard, so I'll write more later, Feel free to ask questions.
tiaramerchgirl: (Default)
It's 11:17 PM, I'm at my uncle's house in Los Angeles, and my body thinks I'm still on the plane because everything is bobbing up and down around me.

Where do I start...

I'll do this in chunks, because there's just a LOT to tell you. First chunk:

Before The Flight To Los Angeles

It was a bit chaotic just before we (me and Mum) left the house to go to the Senai Airport in Johor. Mum kept coming up with random things to add (I had to stop her at the nailcutter), I was trying to transfer some files over to my PDA for reading on the plane, and the zips on one of my bags broke. Thank goodness we had another one that was identical (it's the Hitz.FM bag if anyone is curious) but it took a while for me to convince Mum that the Hitz bag was just fine, no need to push other bags on me. And just before we really had to go, my computer decided to hang. Bah.

We made it to the airport (way ahead of time - there's not a lot to do in Senai) and we made it on the flight, albeit with a gate change in the middle. Nothing major here. (I do remember nattering to my mum about something; I forgot what though.)

My last meal in KL (that sounds drastic) was mee rebus and teh tarik. Noodles cooked in a certain type of sauce ("rebus" means "boil", as in "boil an egg" not "boil water") with milk tea that has been pulled between two mugs to ensure frothiness. I asked for less chillies and they gave me extra chillies instead. Oh well; the teh tarik made up for it.

Dad found a travel bag store and wanted to buy me more bags. Uh, no.

So many emotions were going through my, sadness, excitement, many things. I was alternately laughing, screaming, and crying. It was intense. I started to wonder if I had gone mad. I have absolutely no frame of reference for this; I couldn't compare it to anything. This is maddening.

Immigration went without a hitch (tip: if you hold a Malaysian IC, even though you have a foreign passport, you can go to the Malaysian Passport counter). There were free Internet kiosks at the departure lounge, though one computer had some sort of log in problem (and it was a bit on the slow side). There was quite a line to board, but it was pretty painless overall.

This is a codesharing flight between Malaysian Airlines and Air India. It's going to Los Angeles from Kuala Lumpur via Taipei (and perhaps Hyderabad, since there were quite a number of people that started there). Fear the multiculturalness.

I did receive a bunch of phonecalls from those who have been in my life for a while. Even talked to my best friend via SMS for a while. It all seems like I'm going off forever, never to return.

Well, I am returning...but I don't think I'm return the same. Even as I walked through the immigration counter, I had already changed.

[Stay tuned for more chunks coming up...I need to sleep sometime...]
tiaramerchgirl: (Default)
In about two to three days, I will be flying off to LA, recuperating from jetlag at a relative's place before going to Denver and starting this.

I always imagined this point in time to be rather chaotic; excited squeals, appeals for last-minute advice, impatience and nervousness peppered with hilarity and good cheer. Good chaos.

Well, it has been chaotic; not in a good way though.

Things are going absolutely haywire. Never mind the events that happened before; now we have bodily injuries (thankfully not mine, but still really unfortunate - send some healing vibes for my best friend please, she broke her toe) and some drama with my college with regards to supplementary work. That's already very suspicious as it is; it looks like the beginnings of a conspiracy. Once I may have been more involved in, had I not been flying off. As it is, they want me (and many others) to rewrite an essay that by all accounts was already fine, and they want it now. Sorry, but I don't have time.

This fiasco with college is making me wonder if I even want to return. The main reason I even entered college to begin with was so I could get people to shut up and stop bugging me about it. I've never believed in grades, in the idea that a piece of paper can determine everything about you. I find the notion of college as a "necessity" to be highly overrated.

Sure, talk about the experience. Tell me that I'll get experiences and knowledge that I won't get anywhere else. Thing is, a lot of the most worthwhile experiences have nothing to do with college. About the only thing I could credit college for at this point was to bring me to some of my closet friends, one of whom is definitely a soul brother (if not a soul mate)...but he's gone away now, to another part of the globe. Anyone else I've been close to are either gone, or graduated. Even my newsletter is defunct. There really isn't a point in me staying.

This fiasco with college has me really disillusioned about the whole thing. Not that I had any illusions about it; but this was really the last straw. Look at this WorldSmart trip! College had nothing to do with this! They wouldn't even support me! I'm doing this on my own! Heck, I didn't need college to land me an interview with the Prime Minister. I didn't need college to get me a webmistressing gig with the coolest person on the planet (as far as I'm concerned). I didn't need college to get me the best times of my life.

I fail to see how all my experience could possibly fade to a random scrap of with really suspect information, considering what has happened to get those grades in the first place. These grades are not a reflection of anything true.

But enough of college.

I'm honestly rather drained. I haven't the energy to be all excited about it. Everything that has happened in the past couple of weeks have zapped me of any energy. I'm trying hard to stay excited and upbeat about WorldSmart, but it's getting hard to even write anything in my paper journal about it. Let alone anything else.

It doesn't help that I have just received a message from some anonymous person (or annoying moose, as I like to call them) saying Up With People (the people behind WorldSmart and also its predecessor) is a Christian cult. Now I'm aware of its Christian background - for one thing, the US Embassy has told me that. And hey, not everyone gets to sing in front of the Pope. They did have some sort of history with a very conservative group, but no longer.

Thing is though, there has been no major mention of morality or religion or whatever in the 9 months of so that I've been interacting with WorldSmart. The only mentions (besides the US Embassy's note) were an optional section in the form for our religion (I suppose to gauge dietary and habitual restrictions), and the assignment results handed in from people that were open to discuss faith. (I know I'm not the only non-Christian on board.) They did visit a synagogue in a previous semester, but no propaganda or anything. They've been pretty open about it. If they wanted to convert us, they'd have done so by now.

I am still feeling a little bit apprehensive. It doesn't even have anything to do with the religion, but there may just be a clash of opionions, a clash of morals and values. It's inevitable, of course. Everyone is different. But hopefully they won't villify me just out of my very liberal views. Let us be who we are.

A few people on the list have come up with some pet projects for WorldSmart. One of them, Katie, is planning on doing a documentary. I suggested her a Six-Degrees style, following people rather than places...while she's never seen Six Degrees before, she quite likes the idea; it fits in with another idea she has. There's someone else, I think her name is Huning, from China who is also intrigued with the documentary. Perhaps we three can team up and create our own Six Degrees show...though I doubt Lonely Planet would want to buy it. Then never know sometimes...

At least the documentary makes for an excellent independent project. Anyone who wants to gain college credit can claim 3 credits (out of 12) for an independent project. I'm thinking of using the documentary as such a project - I've suggested it to Katie but she hasn't responded yet - but even if that doesn't pan out, I have ideas for my own project: research on traditions.

I am a big fan of traditions, superstitions and folklore. Always have been since I could remember. (Imagine my utter surprise when I found a GIANT book of folklore in our secondary school library. Of all places. It definitely brought my interest back.) With all the places we're visiting, I hope I find a family that still retains tradition, but not in the "conservative fundamentalist" sense; rather, a family that still has its own superstitions of days to sweep the house or charms for good luck or faeries running around the backyard. They don't even need to be completely Pagan (though that would be nice); just a little hint of what their families believed in.

It would be utterly fascinating, finding out such beliefs. And perhaps incorporating them into my own life.

Speaking of families and projects and assignments - the third assignment has come and gone; all about host families. Expectiations, plans, so on. I think whoever is hosting me will be somewhat shocked - hello loud and hyper crazy witchy woman! Then again, I become really, really awkward in people's houses. It doesn't matter how long I've known them for; I still feel awkward. It feels almost intrusive, like stepping into private property (even if they invite you in). Very strange.

It feels like you're walking in on something private and magical and mystical that has been part of their lives for as long as they have lived. Deep bonds that cannot be broached by outsiders and intruders. They could accept me into their family, even if only for a week; but there are some bonds and things that we sometimes can't break into, even if for a while.

Hopefully I'll get rid of this house block soon. I do have to figure out how to do the laundry while I'm there.


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