Budaya Beat January-February 2017

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Glam And Glitter At VC Dinner


ilk, taffeta, lace and velvet figured prominently at the Volunteer Congress 2016 Gala Dinner when congress participants and invited guests dressed to the theme of the evening, “The Oscars“. Guests had a taste of Hollywood glamour when paparazzi swarmed them upon arrival at the ballroom and a

TV crew with host on hand interviewed them on the spot about what their expectations were for the evening and the obligatory who are they wearing questions.

The venue’s décor also reflected the evening’s theme, with a majestic archway, red carpet and glitter and stars on the floor and tables. The

Right: AFS Returnees performing a medley of Spanish songs Below left: Five ‘anonymous’ performers in Gordon Ramsay masks in an opening gimmick Below right: Dikir Barat from Terengganu Chapter


evening began with Oscar-type hosts Amalen Sathananthar and Cherilyn Liew, both YES returnees, welcoming everyone to the gala dinner and the evening’s entertainment began with five anonymous performers in Gordon Ramsay masks, aprons and chef’s hats dancing to the cheeky and saucy number, “You Can Leave Your Hats On.”

Above left: A kiss from husband for Madam Lucy Liew, Galatti Award Winner 2016 Above right: Bahtiar, receiving his award as the Best Dressed Male Left: Emcees for the night, Amalen Sathananthar and Cherilyn Liew

More entertainment followed as the evening progressed, including duets and group performances by AFS alumni and chapters. Receiving honours for the night were former board members Divan Vasudevan, Zamrah Ismail and Zu Mian who received appreciation awards for their contribution to the board and AFS Malaysia. However, only Divan was able to attend and personally receive his award. 2016 Gallatti award winner

Madam Lim Ting Keat (Lucy) also officially received her award from AFS Malaysia Chair Khalilah Talha. In her acceptance speech, Madam Lucy thanked her family, the National Office and her mentor for guiding and supporting her through all her work for AFS Malaysia. She also promised to “keep on volunteering for AFS as I believe in the vision of the ambulance drivers who believe that intercultural understanding is the key to

achieving world peace.� The evening also saw volunteers being honoured for their outstanding achievements (see next story). Organising committee chair for VC2016, Sylvia Chan, and her team received a standing ovation from everyone present at the end of the evening for the memorable event and its smooth execution. 5


2016 T Volunteer Award Winners

he State numbers nine districts but it emerged as number one in the Best Chapter category of the annual Volunteer Awards 2016. Negri Sembilan edged out other chapters in all key criteria, namely achievement of its Chapter KPI, submission of monthly accounts and activity reports, maintaining a good balance in hosting and sending numbers, maintaining a healthy bank balance, providing the right support and nurturing each hosted participant, the number of members recruited as well as participant evaluation of the Chapter.

Proud smiles of Negri Sembilan Chapter Commitees and volunteers after being pronouce as the Best Chapter of 2016


The State also scored another first when Chapter President Carmen Chong was announced as Most Inspirational Volunteer (senior category) for 2016. Expressing surprise, excitement and gratefulness at being selected for the award, Carmen dedicated her win to her team of volunteers. “Whenever there was a need, all I had to do was call on them and they will step forward without hesitation,” she said. “Repeat volunteers like Joyce, Ginny, Jega and Danial have never let me down and there are other equally dedicated volunteers – both young and the more matured

Perak Chapter awarded as the 2nd Runner Up

- who give their time, effort and energy to AFS.” Her advice to volunteers everywhere is to continue engaging with schools, the community, the students and the National Office in order to provide the best experience for the hosted participants and being efficient with chapter work and administration. “We must always be creative in coming up with activities for participants to get involved in and volunteers to get inspired with. I will continue to drive my team and ensure they are full of fire in everything they do,” Carmen added.

Most Inspirational Volunteer (Junior Category) Award winner, Amirah Sukurdin

The winner for Most Inspirational Volunteer (junior category) was Amirah Sukurdin while Joyce Choong was declared Volunteer with the Most Potential. All three winners will be sponsored to the forthcoming ICL Forum in New Delhi, India. Selection of winners was made by an Awards Committee and based on testimonials submitted by the nominator, the volume and quality of contribution by the nominee, the number of years served as well as notable achievements as an AFS volunteer. Most Inspirational Volunteer (Senior Category) Award winner, Carmen Chong with Volunteer with the Most Potential Award Winner, Joyce Choong



Creating Global KLANG Citizens, Empowering CHAPTER Changemakers By: Ong Bee Bee


was introduced to AFS Malaysia by one of the volunteers Steven Lee who was a host family as well as volunteer with Klang Chapter. He asked me to host a student in 2012 but I hesitated to do so as accepting a foreigner into our house wasn’t our culture. But he asked me again in 2013 and this time, he told me about sending my child abroad on an exchange experience which up to that point of time, had not even crossed my mind. After a long discussion with my husband, we decided to host a student in the hope that the experience will stand in good stead when it was time for my child to be eligible to go on the programme. After a year of hosting, we decided my son should go abroad for his own intercultural experience. Upon his return, I began volunteering with the Klang Chapter in family support. My interest in AFS grew which was why I got involved in conferences, seminars, camps and even made my own way to an EFIL-organized event, the Volunteer Summer Summit in Venice. Since then, I have been actively volunteering in Chapter activities which include cultural experiences like a Malay wedding, and assisting with transits and short stays for both students and volunteers.


As a host mother and volunteer, I am passionate about wanting my hosted students and my own children to be engaged in community work and activities. This includes events organized by my school which gives them more opportunities to make friends and learn new things. In July, we involved the students in a Malaysia International Children Choral Festival where they were appointed to be committee members. The purpose of this activity was to train them to be a leader in an event other than just being a student in school. Throughout the programme, the students got to learn how an event was organised by a Cluster primary school. They also made new friends from Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam and India. In addition, they also learned cultures from these countries too. In December, we involved the students in a Chinese wedding and visited the 55 Rice Mills in Alor Setar. The purpose of this activity was to give them an opportunity to witness Chinese culture up close including attending a wedding, tasting superb and unique Chinese foods, wearing traditional costumes such as cheongsam, attending a Chinese tea ceremony and many others. The students were brought to 55 Rice Mills in Kangar where they toured the rice mill, and saw how rice is processed in Malaysia. The visit to a rice mill was an eye-opener

for the students as they had never been to a rice mill before. In January of the new year, they were invited to the 5th International Friendship and Cultural Camp at SK Seksyen 13. Here, they were taught how to play ‘angklung’ by Mr Sam Mat Kous from Wariseni Budaya, Shah Alam. After the angklung workshop, they learned a traditional dance ‘zapin’. What was amazing was that they only attended two hours of intensive workshop for each activity but could perform it flawlessly on stage

the very next day. The process of learning was very valuable to them and they not only made new friends from interacting with other students in this programme but also learned about Malaysia culture through experiencing it instead of just reading about it in textbooks. At the same time, they also get to know primary school students from Songhwa Elementary School, Korea who was in Malaysia for an annual short-term student exchange with the SK Seksyen 13 school.

Hosted students spending their time at Terengganu during Short Term Exchange

Organizing a family day picnic at FRIM Reserved Forest

From the Chapter President... By: Colin Pooballan


Chapter President has great responsibilities but challenges can be overcome with teamwork and having open discussions with my team. I feel blessed to have good volunteers that I can count upon. It is also gratifying to see intercultural learning in action and the AFS values being embraced. Any issue can be managed and resolved with commitment and discipline which is what I try to instill in my Chapter. Our annual Thaipusam event is always a main attraction. Hosted students in Klang Chapter can also look forward to experiencing every major festival that is celebrated in Malaysia as we will place them with a family that celebrates that particular festival e.g Hari Raya, Deepavali , Lunar New Year and Christmas, even if for a short time. We hope to have an experienced team within 5 years to handle 50 + school based exchanges and 18+ exchanges. The more volunteers we have the better it will be. The experience they go through in supporting these exchanges and handling the issues that go with them will help them grow and be better organizers, leaders and change makers. 9


Exploring a planet full of possibilities


am Maria Pangalos and I’m 16 years old and currently on an exchange year for my junior year of high school through the YES Abroad program. I’m from America, I love adventure and all things international, which led me to choose Malaysia as my destination for a year abroad. Malaysia is an Asian melting pot of cultures, cuisines, and lifestyles that captured my interest from the beginning. Moreover, the ethnic and religious diversity situated within Malaysia’s borders also piqued my interest. I


chose Malaysia to learn from an abundance of cultures, immerse myself in the natural wonders, and live like a local. The experience thus far has been rich, humbling, and eye opening. I’ve lived here for a bit over 6 months and this city already feels like home. I’ve come to love nearly every food stall, sidewalk, mall, and person I’ve had the honor of encountering. After being given a week to adjust to Malaysia, we began school - and it was surreal. I

didn’t have any expectations simply because I wasn’t sure what to expect. This is my first time in Asia and prior to this exchange, I knew nothing about the teenage culture here, so needless to say, I was incredibly nervous. The first few weeks were honestly a meshed together blur, and this is speaking on behalf of all exchange students. Picture, after selfie, after DM, after whatsapp message, after all means of communication ever thought of, it became exhausting. I got 1,000 new Instagram followers in 3

days. It felt like hundreds of people were reaching out to me. I couldn’t keep track of anything and felt so guilty for not being able to remember anyone’s name. However, after the initial hype subsided, I was able to develop friendships with my classmates on a more personal level. I got very lucky to be placed in such a compassionate and nurturing class, 5D, at SMK Taman Setiawangsa. Like every exchange student, I was horrified with the thought of not making any real friends. That fear, thankfully, was put to rest after I jumped in head first with all the same homework and classes as my school mates. I did everything and anything possible, translating everything into English when I got home, to not only understand the subject we were learning in school, but to grasp the language so I could more effectively communicate with my peers and community. Now that I’ve lived here for half a year and formed a bond with my class, I feel more at home, less worried about my reputation, and thinking about leaving them in June breaks Learning the traditional way to make Kelantanese Akok my heart. The new school year started in early

January and I was lucky enough to stay with my same classmates, however now I focus on my own (American) studies to prepare for some exams and courses I have later this year. All the same, the stress of classwork and exams can bond teenagers together like no other, regardless of background. Another good fortune at SMKTS is Noemi, an

Italian exchange student who happens to be attending school with me. We are in separate classes, but having two exchange students in the same school as opposed to one, greatly helps lift the burden of being the odd duck out. Personally, this question is very easy to 11

MALAYSIA MOMENTS answer: Veganism. You’re probably thinking, what’s that? And that’s exactly my point, no one I’ve met here so far seems to have a clue what a vegan is - which makes it difficult, nigh impossible, to maintain a vegan lifestyle. Which, by the way, consists of abstaining from all and any consumption of animal derivatives. Yes that’s right, no dairy, no eggs, no fish, no meat, no crustaceans, and no anything from an animal. Why in the world would I live like this? How can I live without nasi ayam?! That, my friends, is another article in itself. All of that being said, veganism isn’t culturally ubiquitous, it is (sadly) virtually unheard of. While living in Malaysia, I’ve had to settle for lenient vegetarian which (no offence), I despise. The moral value associated with veganism is a massive part of who I am, and without it... I’m not me. It’s a massive chunk of my character, it encompasses

my beliefs, health, world view, perception of animal rights, climate change outlook, energy and resource conservation ideologies, selflessness, the list is endless. It feels as though I’m being untrue to myself everytime I eat something non-vegan (remember I live with a host family so our dietary habits are not entirely up to me). Not being able to practice one of the things I love the most is really challenging. Imagine if you couldn’t practice your religion for a year because it wasn’t culturally understood? Because you would rather sacrifice your character than inconvenience others, such as a host family? It. Is. Hard. But, it was something I knowingly traded for the experience of living in Malaysia. There are so many! How do I pick just one? I think one of the most memorable experiences I’ve had in Malaysia so far was actually

A visit to Putrajaya Mosque with friends and family


in Port Dickson for our MidStay camp. Oddly enough, it doesn’t have to do with anyone else. It was the second day of the camp and I was the first student out to eat breakfast so I ate with the volunteers. Upon finishing, I had some time to kill before the first workshop so I wandered up to the roof top deck. I grabbed a plastic chair and situated it near the edge so I could pop a squat and rest my legs up on the railing. I did so, and it was so relaxing, just soaking up the sun, reveling in the disbelief we were already at mid-stay, and that’s when I had this eternal epiphany: oh man, I’m out here, I’m really doing this, I really live in Malaysia, and this adventure is nearly half-way done. It was a shock. It didn’t feel real. It was just this wild and indescribable feeling. I still get it sometimes, while sitting in class or eating dinner with my host family, sometimes the realization just hits me;

Water Rafting challenge at Mid Stay Camp

I have a life here. I live in Asia. How wild! I know all the other students have endured the same emotion time and time again. Sometimes the small realization moments are the things you remember the most. Yes - absolutely. I would encourage AFS/YES participants to select Malaysia as their country of preference because it offers so much insight to cultural and religious habits that can’t be seen or even understood as a tourist. Malaysia isn’t an easy country, but it is worthwhile. If you like challenge, you’ll like Malaysia. The race of your host family significantly attributes to the

Dining out with family

types of experiences one will have while in Malaysia. For example, I live with a Muslim Malay family, so I have learned awe inspiring things about Islam and Malay culture. If placed with an Indian family, one will discover things related to Hinduism, Indian culture, and Tamil. Likewise with Chinese, one will learn about Buddhism, Chinese culture, and if you’re talented and driven, maybe even some Mandarin. Another aspect of Malaysia that is worth coming here for is the nature. The jungle is unlike anything you’ve ever seen, and the monkeys, oh the monkeys, they are otherworldly. The waterfalls and the treks and the

camping all feed into making life in Malaysia all the more amazing. Yet another notable aspect of the culture is, of course, the food. Many people have described Malaysia as a “food heaven”. Personally I’m not a large fan of the food here, but if you aren’t vegan/vegetarian, you love greasy fried stuff, and a ton of rice, this diet is for you! Overall, Malaysia is unlike any other due to its vast diversity on a multitude of platforms. It’s like living in multiple different countries at once and you’ll learn more than you ever thought possible.

Chow time during a field trip



Reminisces and Comparisons

By: Merete Looft


ecember: it is getting colder. Hot chocolate and Christmas cookies are taking up a bigger portion in my diet and it is that special time of year where you can actually see and feel Christmas in the air. Well, at least that’s how it used to be. But this year it is different: it’s 30°C outside, my hot chocolate is now “Milo Ais” and instead of snow, the overload of tinsel decor everywhere is a sure sign that Christmas is coming. In fact, everything is different this year. It takes this festive season to make me realize just how different my new life is and


just how much I have already adapted and become part of it. But first things first: I’m Merete, an 18 year-old from Germany but currently living in Penang as part of AFS’ 18+ volunteer program. Since August I have been working and living at CPS (Children’s Protection Society), a shelter home for neglected and abandoned children. The first thing people ask me when they hear that I chose to spend one year in Malaysia is: Why Malaysia? And I must say that I don’t really have a good answer to this question.

Maybe it was because of the mixture of so many cultures and religions. Or maybe the better weather (Minus 10°C can really be a downer sometimes). Or simply because I didn’t really know much about Malaysia at the time. But what I can definitely say now is that it was the best decision I could have ever made. I never imagined a little tick I made in my application form one year ago in Germany, confirming that I would like to be placed in Malaysia, could change my life dramatically.

That little tick got me out of my small village in Germany to wonderful, vibrant Penang Island… and straight to this shelter home, which is already more a home to me than a work place. I really love working with all the children here. And even if they can be really naughty sometimes, I have already taken them all into my heart. It is still challenging for me to handle the children on my own, but I already notice how much more I grow with every new challenge I face. I’m also thankful for the trust being placed in me every day. I have not worked with children before this, so interacting with kids from a difficult family background, in a different culture and with a different language was an uphill climb in the beginning. But I persevered and it is reward enough now when I see understanding dawn in their eyes and they are finally able to solve difficult math tasks that I give them. It is heartwarming to see how much fun they have when we play games together or when everyone is begging for a bedtime story. I can safely say that I am now comfortable with my tasks and

First time experience of holding a coconut

understand my own role in the shelter home. Despite the early hiccups, especially not knowing how things are run at the shelter, I am happy that I was given a lot of freedom to handle my own project, so much so that I was able to find my own way and implement my ideas with the kids.

Ready to party in my new saree

Learning to dance with my family

As the year draws to a close, one always tends to look back, to reflect over what has happened over the last twelve months. And I can look back at many amazing moments, especially in the second half of the year since my arrival in Malaysia. I was also able to see quite a bit of the country and visits to our host families for Deepavali and Hari Raya Haji were definitely some of my highlights. I had good moments with great friends exploring Penang and meeting a lot of new people with interesting stories to tell. And that’s why, even if my Christmas and New Year’s Eve was really different this year, I wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else in the world then here. I would encourage everyone to come to Malaysia and find out for yourself what’s so special about this country. 15


It can’t be described, it has to be experienced By: Dr. Ishan Ismail


t was truly a challenge hosting two foreign students in our home but the experience has been worthwhile. Cultural differences were a huge factor in their adaptation process. To some extent, our family too had to learn to adapt to their cultural behavior. For example, the students were direct, punctual, specific and inquisitive. As such, we too had to change our schedules and way of doing things to meet them halfway. It was good that they wanted to learn about our food and were willing to try both moderate and very spicy cuisine, demonstrating a willingness to widen their experience. As for my own daughter, her acceptance and

Singing in the rain - a wet experience at Legoland

cultural learning journey with her host sister has led her to become more curious, independent, willing to learn more which I find are good values to have as most youths do not want to learn or know more about other countries.

A family pose


I was influenced by a friend who told about her AFS hosting experience in Facebook. I thought I should try it myself as I have a daughter at home who is an only child and might benefit from this experience. However, having to share everything and losing some family privacy was quite a struggle in the first three months

of having a new family member. But we managed to overcome the initial difficulties and began to accept her as part of the family and after that, everything just fell into place. Sharing is a huge learning curve in this respect. Our cultures differ and so too our points of view but we learned to accept and respect the differing opinions and the values that shape them. Hosting a foreign student is as much a culture shock for the student as it is for us but we all learn as a result of the interaction. Previously I had also hosted a student from the United States. I find both my host daughters to be very intelligent for 16 year olds. They are aware of political developments and have a better understanding of civil rights than many adults in Malaysia. Both have helped us change our perception of their country. At the end of the day they teach us more than we can teach them. We are indeed proud to have AFS students in our family.

Dining out together for more bonding

A day out with the family - shopping for batik



Ready to change the world


y name is Muhammad Khalid and I have been on two AFS programmes namely a very short programme called KIZUNA to Japan in 2012 for 2 weeks and an intensive programme to Italy in 2014 for 2 months. The biggest challenge that I faced during both stays in Japan and Italy would be the language barrier because I went on a programme to nonEnglish speaking countries so it was difficult for me to communicate with them. But that didn’t stop me from getting close to my family and making new friends. During my


exchange in Japan, I had a host brother who was 1 year old and a host sister who was 7 years old. Since my host brother couldn’t talk and my host sister hadn’t learned English, I had a hard time talking to them but I learned that getting close to them did not have to involve talking with them. So throughout my stay, I spent my time with my host siblings even though we did not speak a word in English or Japanese. At the end of my stay, my host siblings had grown fond of me and it was hard for me to leave them. As for my exchange to Italy, I had host siblings who were in high school already but I could not speak English for

two whole months and learning Italian in a short period of time was a real struggle for me. However, I overcame this problem by constantly hanging out with them. My host siblings were active scouts so they went on a lot of activities. I wasn’t really into such outdoor activity but I felt this was an opportunity to really get close to my host siblings and so, it went rather well. My favourite moment was spending time with the people around me. When I was in Japan I spent a lot of time with my host family since I only stayed with them for 2 weeks. Travelling around town and

visiting the shire and an aquarium may not be that grand or fancy but I always appreciated their effort, their company and the time spent with me. Same goes with my experience in Italy. Language was a major challenge for me throughout my stay in Italy but being able to hang out with my friends in school was a great reward. No matter if it was just grabbing a caffe (coffee) or a panino (sandwich), having a gelato (ice cream), eating a pizza or just walking in the piazza (square) I cherished those moments where they kept me company and had conversations with me no matter how limited my Italian was. The memories I made with the people I met during my exchange are still vivid in my head and I will continue to cherish them. Being on an AFS exchange really had an impact on my life and I get to see everything around me in a different way. In AFS I got to learn more about myself, what I am capable of and also learn what no classroom or teacher can show or teach in school. When I was on an exchange I started to learn about the values that other people have in their country and began to appreciate the values I have learnt from my own country. Upon my return, I felt like a changed man who had experienced a lot at such a young age.



Street Party for the Homeless


ain did not damper the spirit and enthusiasm of YES Alumni volunteers as they took part in a “My Street Christmas” event to spread cheer to homeless folks recently. Together with Giving It Forward Today (GIFT)’s Malaysian Chapter and Kembara Events Management Sdn Bhd, YES Alumni helped with cooking


and decorating chores and even went caroling in the evening despite the persistent light rain throughout the day. The event took place at Jalan Hang Lekiu on the pavements of SEGI College KL and preparations began as early as 6 am in Kembara Kitchen to cook food which included rice, ayam masak merah, spaghetti Bolognese, satay, french fries,

sausages, grilled chicken and roast lamb. Cendol was served as dessert. Satay and chicken were grilled on the spot, thus providing a warm meal to those attending. While the food was being prepared, volunteers decorated a Christmas tree as well as the surrounding area with streamers and “snow”. No one was given a specific task but everybody knew what to do, lending a helping hand wherever it was needed.

“I was beyond blessed to see the smiles on their faces. It made me realize that simple things can mean so much to others. It would be great if more AFS-ers can join this event in future,” said Josh, a YES ’13 returnee. A host student Jamain, from Germany, agreed. “It makes me so happy to give the people food and to give them a smile and a kind word. I hope that we made their lives a little bit better even if only for a short while.” As the night went on, carollers started to sing songs such as Here Comes Santa Claus and Jingle Bells even though it was drizzling. Santa also made an appearance to give out cookies to everyone present.

The food was distributed right up until closing time at 11 pm. “Being one of the servers for the day made me feel useful as I was able to interact with other volunteers and the homeless people. It was truly fulfilling to see their happy smiles upon receiving a warm meal and being assured they were not forgotten on this festive holiday, “ said Swee Lyn, a YES’13 returnee.



Multiple Benefits of Intercultural Learning Tools to trace how both integrative complexity and divergent thinking are present. For example, an AFS student from Costa Rica on exchange in the Netherlands describes her experience in the following way: “The year away taught me that I can be independent and take care of myself. I also learned to make the right decisions and open up my worldview; I learned to accept cultural differences and understand that maybe what seems strange to me is just normal to others.” By: Danny Recio


esearch has shown that intercultural learning provides multiple benefits, which are structured in the educational goals that guide the AFS programs for high-school students: intercultural learning helps young people develop competences on a personal, interpersonal, cultural and global levels. How far reaching are these benefits of intercultural learning? Those of us who have participated in an exchange program with AFS and have seen others participate, know that many, if not all, AFSers enjoy the interpersonal benefits, like communication skills and leadership, as well as cognitive benefits, such as integrative complexity and divergent thinking. What do these two complex terms mean?


People with high levels of integrative complexity can take in many perspectives on a situation, collect information from all those perspectives, and come up with efficient solutions to life problems. Divergent thinking can be equated to creativity, as it refers to the capacity to think outside the box, and problem solve in a creative way. People who possess these two skills are believed to be better at teamwork, less susceptible to prejudice, more tolerant of ambiguity, intrinsically motivated and flexible. They usually also have a clearer sense of self and orientation toward the future, higher self-efficacy, resiliency and perspective taking. When we analyze personal accounts from people who participated in intercultural learning experiences, it is possible

This participant is not only portraying an increased sense of self-confidence and self-efficacy, but is also explaining in her own words that she has learned to integrate different perspectives, which probably plays a big part in her perceived ability to make better decisions and expand her worldview. Another AFS student who went on a program from Costa Rica to Germany said: “Learning to relate to people in complex contexts, surpassing cultural barriers to reach consensus was and still is the most important skill I have learned.” He is alerting us to how interacting with people from other cultures challenged his way of thinking, and taught him the skill of integration.

Knowing about these benefits from my personal experience as an intercultural learner, and combining that with my training in psychology, led me to consider if intercultural learning can be used as a therapeutic tool for struggling young adults. I have been working on this technique since 2012 at my practice called The Bridge. Cultural immersion can be daunting in many ways: it puts you out of your comfort zone, makes you question your beliefs, and demands lots of flexibility. It can appear counterintuitive to invite someone who is already feeling uncomfortable and doubtful to go through an experience that could accentuate those feelings. At the same time, wouldn’t it be great if these same people could reap the benefits of increased self-efficacy,

“Learning to relate to people in complex contexts, surpassing cultural barriers to reach consensus was and still is the most important skill I have learned.� future orientation, resiliency and perspective-taking that are so much lacking in struggling populations?

Supportive immersion could be the answer to these questions. This is an approach to experiential learning where the participants are actively engaged, and ultimately responsible for their learning experience, while there is ample support from guides who know how to provide just the right amount of it. By stepping out from their worldview, and stepping into the cultural world of the other, people diversify and expand their perspectives, resources and skills, and with the right kind of support, they can use these intercultural experiences to heal from the darkness of their struggles. Danny Recio is an AFS Costa Rica alumnus who studied abroad in Cape Town, South Africa in 1998, and was a host brother to students from Australia, the Netherlands and United States. He is a psychologist and ecologist, and the founder and director of The Bridge.



Relive the Dark Ages at TINTAGEL CASTLE



he peninsula of Cornwall is steeped in history, never more so than in the village of Tintagel where the myth and mystery of King Arthur is all pervasive, thanks to its most famous attraction, Tintagel castle which sits on the edge of dramatic cliffs that overlook stunning, uninterrupted views of the Celtic Sea.

The castle has a long association with Arthurian legends, being first associated with King Arthur by Geoffrey of Monmouth in his account of British history, the Historia Regum Britanniae. In this book, and according to the legend, Arthur’s father, the king of all Britain, Uther Pendragon, goes to war against Gorlois, the Duke of Cornwall, to capture the wife of Gorlois, Igraine, with whom Uther has fallen

in love. While Gorlois defends himself against Uther’s armies at his fort of Dimilioc, he sends Igraine to stay safely within Tintagel Castle, which is said to be his most secure refuge. With trickery aided by the wizard Merlin, Uther’s appearance is changed to that of Gorlois, and thus disguised, he enters Tintagel, goes to Igraine, and “in that night was the most famous of men, Arthur, conceived.” 25

TRAVEL - INTERNATIONAL Tintagel Castle (Cornish: Dintagel, meaning “fort of the constriction�) is really a medieval fortification. The site was possibly occupied in the Romano-British period, as an array of artefacts dating to this period has been found on the peninsula. In the 13th century, during the Later Medieval period, after Cornwall had been subsumed into the kingdom of England, a castle was built on the site by Richard, Earl of Cornwall, which later fell into disrepair and ruin. In the 1930s, excavations revealed significant traces of a much earlier high status settlement, possibly by Dumnonian royalty and their entourage, which had trading links with the Mediterranean during the Late Roman period. Tintagel was a site where ships carrying their wares from southern Europe docked to deposit their cargo. Today, visitors may enjoy a bracing walk down from the village on a 600-metre uneven track to the visitor centre before

Platforms at intervals provide respite from the steep climb


climbing up steep steps onto the island to explore the cliff top remains of Dark Age settlements and ruins of the Great Hall. The steps allow for only one-way direction, either up or down, as space is narrow. Having to cling to the railings while waiting for groups to either ascend or descend can test your patience, especially when it is chilly and raining and those groups of people coming at you consist of brave but elderly persons and ponies disguised as dogs! However, the cliff top views are worth the wait and the strenuous climb. A small cafĂŠ at the foot of the castle is a welcome respite after your exhilarating climb. Here, hot cream tea and Cornish scones are served which you can enjoy on the cafĂŠ verandah. Be careful of swooping seagulls though as they will scoop up your scone the moment you turn your back on your food tray!

Once a fortified castle, the ruins include a lone cannon at a strategic lookout point and settlements on an adjacent cliff

Steep steps carved into the cliffs take visitors to the top of Tintagel where breathtaking views await

Hot scones with jam and curdled cream are best enjoyed after the strenuous climb



Pulau Payar Marine Park

A Sprinkling of Jade Green Islands 28


f you are only visiting islands on the west side of the peninsula or are not able to visit the islands on the east side due to the wet season (which lasts from October till March in that region), then you have an alternative in the islands of Langkawi and Penang where you can snorkel around a couple of very small islands.

The Pulau Payar Marine Park lies between both islands, a small but marvellous coral area. There are four islands within the marine park, Pulau Payar, Pulau Kaca, Pulau Lembu and Pulau Segantang. Tourists can stay for the day; however, it is an uninhabited island and there is no accommodation available on the island. There is a daily tour to Pulau Payar, which includes pickup from Penang hotels or hotels in Langkawi. A Pulau Payar snorkelling trip usually lasts a full day.

The calm and clear waters enable the visitors to enjoy the enchanting marine life


TRAVEL - DOMESTIC It is one of the only locations on the west side of the Malaysian peninsula where you can snorkel and dive. The underwater world around the island often attracts very big kinds of fish, because of the enormous number of algae in the water. When you obtain your PADI diving license on the island of Langkawi you will complete your dives within the marine park. The best snorkel location with the marine parks is near ‘Coral Garden’. Update: Coral Garden is currently closed to the public to give the coral enough time to restore.

Right: Relax on the pristine sandy beaches that surround you Below: Guests enjoying a buffet lunch onboard a catamaran in Palau

The island is a protected area as the coral must be preserved. Fishing is absolutely prohibited within the marine park. If you are not going to the east side of the Malaysian peninsula for example Perhentian, Redang, Tioman or to the beautiful islands around Borneo during your trip through Malaysia, then this is one of the few places where you can encounter the beauty of a real coral island.


How to get to Pulau Payar? On Penang and Langkawi, you can book a trip to Payar at your hotel, resort or at small travel agencies. A trip to Pulau Payar will cost around RM250 at the tour offices in Penang and Langkawi. This includes pick up or drop off at your hotel (on Penang or Langkawi), lunch and the use of snorkel equipment. From Penang, it will take the boat 2 hours to get to the island, from Langkawi about 45 minutes. You will not be able to go to Payar by yourself as private transport is not possible; the island can only be visited as part of a tour package. Above & below: Enjoy pristine landscapes, coastal views and even head under the water for a closer look at coral, tropical fish and other colorful marine life


HERE & THERE American Lunch For YES 2017 Batch


ll 45 students selected for the 2017 Year Exchange & Study (YES) programme to the United States were treated to a typical hamburger and fries lunch at the house of its Cultural Attache to Malaysia recently. Mr Edgard Kagan and his team welcomed the students and assured them that they would be well looked after by their host families and chapters during their six-month stay in the US. He expressed hope that they will enjoy family life in an American home and the school system there which encourages speaking up and building self-confidence. The elephant in the room was also addressed directly by Kagan who assured the students that despite the vitriolic rhetoric heard at the 2016 US presidential campaign, Americans are generally peaceful and rationale people so the YES participants should not be unduly worried. The 2017 YES batch left for the United States in January.

AFS Students In Malaysia-Korea Camp


three-day cultural camp between Shah Alam’s SKK Seksyen 13 primary school and South Korea’s Songhwa Elementary School also saw the involvement of four AFSers currently hosted in Klang Chapter. Italians Danilo Melis, Marharyta Blaha and Matilda Rotta and Karin Blaho Mildton from Sweden took part in dance lessons and how to play the angklung, a musical instrument made of two to four bamboo tubes attached to a bamboo frame. The tubes are carved to have a resonant pitch when struck. The base of the frame is held in one hand, whilst the other hand shakes the instrument. Together with students of the SKK Seksyen 13 school and the Korean visitors, they performed a zapin dance and two P.Ramlee numbers on the angklung at the closing ceremony of the 5th International Friendship and Cultural Camp, a joint collaboration between the two schools.


Birthday Surprise


fter the first Board meeting of the year held recently, board members surprised National Director Atty Sulaiman with a cake and breaking out into song to wish her a happy birthday. AFS Advisor Datin Yasmin Marican and volunteer Legal Advisor Nizam Mokhtar were also present at the meeting which was to finalise the Yayasan’s articles of association. This was the first time a board meeting was conducted in the new AFS Malaysia office.

ICL In Manila


FS Asia Pacific Initiative (AAI) hosted a Level 1 Intercultural Learning Program for international volunteers and staff of AFS Philippines in Manila recently. The objective of the training was to increase the intercultural competencies of AFS stakeholders so that they are able to interact and communicate effectively and appropriately in their line of work with people from different cultures and in different cultural context. The Level 1 training this time however, had a special focus on how intercultural learning connects with support and risk management, Participants had the opportunity to discover their own cultural perspectives and linked theory to practice through simulations and group work. They also analysed support case studies and used their intercultural skills to deal with crisis and risk management. Participants also learned how to differentiate between stereotyping and generalising, with the former usually described in inflexible,

absolute and negative language, not modified by experience and based on limited personal experience. The latter uses less specific language, tend to be flexible, is based on research, modified by specific experience and recognises differences in individuals. The Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity (DMIS) created excitement among participants who learned the framework created by Milton Bennett to explain the reactions

of people as they engage with cultural differences. The six developmental stages are denial, defense, minimization, acceptance, adaptation and integration. Groups later had to do a presentation on all they had learnt during the five-day workshop which turned out to be an engaging and entertaining session for its creativity. The Level 1 Training was conducted by International Qualified Trainers Suyin Chia, Fran Baxter and David Blythe.





REACH OUT Snippets about Malaysian returnees now living/working abroad Your name? Chee Shin Yee Your Exchange country and year? Japan 1984/1985 Where are you working/residing now? I am currently residing in the little red dot called Singapore, not too far from my actual kampong of Johor Baru. I work as Manager of the Energy Innovation Programme Office within the Office of the Deputy President (Research and Technology) in National University of Singapore, where I manage scholars and research grants pertaining to clean energy. While I am enjoying the semi-academic life here, it’s still nice that home and pisang goreng in JB is just a hop, skip and jump away. Yes, the food is still always better north of the border! Your most memorable experience during the exchange year? It was one big and significant year in my life, so to pinpoint to just one most memorable experience is a tough call. I would say that there were many experiences that made the entire year a memorable one including (i) my first taste of wasabi (I threw up) (ii) my first time in a public bath (it was either that or stay cold and dirty) (iii) AFS mid-year trip to Gotemba (iv) falling into a drain with my bicycle in my school uniform (it was a smelly drain too and my stuff stank for weeks after!). I can go on, but you get the picture. How has the AFS experience helped you in: your personal life - your professional life? The AFS experience has shaped my life and my career significantly. My Japanese language skills and understanding of the culture and community proved extremely useful when I spent many years working in the corporate headquarters of Hitachi Asia, for a start. On a personal level, I appreciate now more than ever how the experience has taught me patience, tolerance and openness, and gave me the ability to appreciate the importance of family, friends and the kindness of strangers. That year was


Then: With her Japanese grandparents

Now: Enjoying a hearthy lunch at downtown Singapore

also when I learnt what it meant to be “majime”, to have “ikigai”, and that I was both “akarui” and “shibui” at the same time. Fast forward to the present day when these words are now buzzwords, and I can appreciate even more how the experience has shaped me to be what I am today. The AFS experience is a gift that still keeps giving, and I am thankful for it. Your advice to future participants? Go into your AFS year with an open mind and heart. It will be a period of beautiful (and maybe tough) transformation for you. Motto in life? Or favourite quote? One life on this earth is all that we get, whether it is enough or not enough, and the obvious conclusion would seem to be that at the very least we are fools if we do not live it as fully and bravely and beautifully as we can. -Frederick Buechner

AFS Carnival:

Open Invitation to All


ver two and a half days, the public will be able to get to know AFS Malaysia better when it holds its first AFS Open Day at the new Glomac Centre head office in Kelana Jaya. The event will take place from 1 to 2 April and is expected to attract at least 500 visitors from Klang, Shah Alam, Subang, Kelana Jaya and Damansara areas. Booths promoting the various AFS programmes to seven continents will be manned by volunteers and returnees who will give personal accounts and testimonials to the enquiring public. Also on hand will be host families of past and present participants and current foreign exchange students to mingle with the crowd and share their own experiences. Project team leaders Sophie Ismail and Nadia Samsudin described the Open Day as part of AFS’ road show initiative. “Instead of just going out to schools, we wanted to create a one-stop

centre for the public to come and meet us and get to know the various programmes we offer and the value they bring to participants,” said Sophie. There will also be intercultural games, quizzes and lucky draws for visitors. Food trucks will be on hand to provide meals throughout the twoand-a-half-day event. “We hope to sign up new volunteers, host families and participants at this Open Day. The deadline for applications for next year’s programmes and YES scholarships will be April 30 so we hope we can meet our target of 3,000 applicants by that time,” said Nadia. She also called upon AFS returnees to support the programme by attending the Open Day. “We need to update our data base and get more members for the AFS Returnee Alumni as we have exciting developments this year and next when we celebrate our 60th anniversary, of which they will surely not want to miss,” Nadia added.





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