Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Things of note... of late

So we just finished the whirlwind weekend of "Hari Raya Aidilfitri" (commonly referred to here as just "Hari Raya") which basically means "Fasting Day of Celebration"-- it is a 3-day celebration that marks the end of the Ramadan month and the end of the daily fasting. (For more cool Hari Raya pics, click here).From what I can gather, it seems to be a time to celebrate the past month which has been a time of forgiveness, penitance, self-control, renewing friendships, and other forms of practiced piety. This holiday is HUGE here, a thing we were reminded when we went on a date Saturday night and it took us an HOUR to find a taxi. Either everyone was out, using the taxi services, or else all the taxi drivers had taken the night off. Thankfully we found a Hindu taxi driver who was not celebrating, although he took advantage of the situation and charged us about $10 for a ride that should have cost $4 or $5. That's OK, we got to spend a night out on the town and it was great. It actually wasn't as busy as we had expected, probably because most people were home feasting with their families. We had our first Malaysian movie theater experience watching "Bourne Ultimatum" (it was excellent) and noticed a few things about our time there.

First: no one has taught the theater owners about the ability to exploit your patrons by serving buckets of ridiculously salty foods so they are forced to buy gallon-sized drinks. Instead, we ordered popcorn and were suprised to find that not only was the largest size about a pint & a half, but they also didn't serve buttered popcorn--only caramel. It wasn't the annoying, hard-as-a-rock, can't-unglue-your-teeth kind so we actually enjoyed it.

Second: we understand that movies are extremely popular here, but shows sell out so quickly because the size of the theaters are about 2/3 the size of a regular theater in the States. It was a nice, cozy atmosphere, and what made it more so was the fact that the seats didn't go all the way to the front of the theater... the rows started a respectable 7-8 meters or so away from the base of the screen. Imagine that.

Third: you can tell what kind of crowd the theaters cater to based on the subtitles for the movies. Obviously it's an American movie, so it was in English, but then there were 2 sets of subtitles: Bahasa & Chinese (not sure if they were Mandarin or Cantonese). When the actors were speaking Russian or something, and it was translated to English, you sort of had to hunt through the THREE sets of subtitles to find your language. It was pretty amusing, actually.

So after our taxi mis-adventures of the other evening, we will probably opt to stay in for a while. Although we got season tickets for the Symphony, held at the Petronas Towers, and the first show is this Saturday, so we are excited about getting some culture. Of course, we're going with friends from church and THEY have a car, so we won't have the same transport issues... which makes the night out all the more appealing.

Before signing off, I had to write about 3 cool things from today that REALLY made us wish we'd had our camera on us.
1- While at the grocery store, we saw a sign directly above the butcher shop that said they had camel meat available. I know I learned at some point that camel's hump was a delicacy, but I'm not sure I care to find out for sure.
2- Also at the market today, I noticed that the local McDonald's vendor that is just a little booth selling only their ice cream (cones, sundaes, etc.) was advertising a new feature: they were proud to announce the "Green Bean flavored McFlurry or Sundae"... seriously. Green bean. Michael though it was a mis-translation but I don't think so. The ice cream in the picture was green with large cut-up-bean-looking chunks dotting the top. Apparently that's a delicacy, too. We did find out it's a special "limited edition" flavor, just for the celebration of Hari Raya.
(managed to find a picture online at

3- so you don't think we're suffering food-wise... we are often trying new fruits here because they're so fun-looking and exotic-sounding. This week we had starfruit and it was actually really cool. It's sort of bitter, sort of sweet, really juicy... Michael said it tastes like Pixie Stix. Sure, why not. I should have taken a picture of it, but we already ate it, so here is one I found on the net. It's even more fun because when you slice it up, the slices are in star shapes!

(one final note: one thing michael & i will be MOST thankful for in a few days is the end of the most noticeable form of celebration for hari raya: the lighting of fireworks. lots of them. ALL the time. apparently they've been banned, but people smuggle them in on the black market and don't make a pretense of hiding them because they've been going off non-stop for almost 2 weeks... sometimes during the day! we about had it last week when, at the beginning of hari raya we were awoken by 3 large rapid-fire fireworks bursts right outside our window at 4:30AM!!! apparently people REALLY love this holiday. i can handle a day or 2, maybe even a whole weekend, of fireworks, but when they come randomly and intermittently over the course of 2 weeks, and are expected to last another week at LEAST, i am ready to strangle the next kid i see with a lighter!)

1 comment:

  1. That green bean sundae looks disgusting! I was disappointed by many "American" foods when I was in Japan--like pizza with salami instead of pepperoni and a school-hosted barbecue where octopus was the meat being grilled. And the only peanut butter we could find was more of a peanut jelly. I think you're always better off sticking with what the natives are eating. My host family served me salami pizza or a bologna sandwich every morning for breakfast thinking that the American food would be easier for my palate, but I would just as soon have had a bowl of miso like everyone else!