So long…

After our day with Jelly, Jess and I visited Taman Tamadun – the Islamic Cultural park, which involved a monument park that featured replicas of famous mosques all around the world. These were good fun to go around, and a little bit of proper touristy sightseeing did our little white girl souls good, though my self esteem was irreparably damaged from the bicycle Jess insisted I ride.

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Look at those bastards.

For those out of the know, I don’t cycle. Like, I really, really don’t. It perhaps even deserves capitals. I Don’t Cycle. I mean, I can, for a given amount (or so I thought) – my parents of course taught me to ride a bike as a youngster, but as the road directly adjacent to where I lived was a dual carriageway and not exactly conjunctive to eight old me who could not see a bollard without ploughing straight into it, I just… never really did it again.

After the initial moments where I couldn’t get on, was absolutely mortified by the people staring and behaved – admittedly – like a giant baby, I was outfitted with a smaller bike in the style of those ridden by 12 year old boys, and we were off!

(For a short while, before I tried to use the brakes and apparently ‘broke’ the bike. I didn’t, it was clearly already not working when I got on, okay, alright? Some people like to say I broke it. I didn’t.)

In between my driving into every conceivable tree and/or hedge; getting the flares of my linen trousers caught in the chain and requiring two groundskeepers to come over and help free me; crashing whenever forced to corner; driving across the landscaped grass in an effort to avoid cornering; and falling into the shallows of a fountain, we had a great time and saw some cool stuff.

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First one! The Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque, in Brunei. I hadn’t driven into anything yet.

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My favourite was the Dome of the Rock, in the distance.

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It had a miniature Rock and everything!

After this, we had only two more days left at work! They went smoothly, us finishing up as best we could, and gathering together all of our thoughts that we’ve assimilated from people we’ve talked to here and the work we’ve done. But the best bits of these last few days were the contast well wishes, the goodbyes, the presents from people who weren’t sure if they’d see us before we left – the extraordinary kindess and generosity of everyone just kept hitting us. And as we collaborated to write an incredibly sweet, tear inducing and really kind of good (if we do say so ourselves) article about our time here for the university newsletter In Focus, it really, really hit us that those were things we’d miss most. Here’s an excerpt –

Malaysia was a dream that became a plan and then was followed by more than we could imagine. Challenges have of course had to be faced in our journey across the world, however at no point have we ever felt alone. This is down to the people here, and the unwavering kindness and generosity they have shown. INOS as an institute is amazing, however in combination with the people here it is truly unique. We could not have imagined we would be so lucky to not just be interning somewhere and taking part in this research but to be interning here, and taking part in research with these people. We were so happy to be able to give a little back in whatever ways we could, telling our own stories from home and sharing a traditional British roast dinner and pudding. Kuala Terengganu has had so much for us to discover, from the beach to Pasar Payang, from China Town’s decorated alleys to hot noodle soup right beside where the fishermen bring in their catches. However the greatest of all these discoveries has been here at UMT in the laughter and friendships we have made. It is with great sadness that we leave, however the blow is slightly softened by the knowledge that these people will remain our friends for many years to come.

On the day before our last, as we departed the office we were presented with some of our favourite gifts. Lionel, a student from the office, was leaving his studies for a job interview for his absolute dream job – a steward with Malaysian Airlines! We shared a cake, dedicated to both ‘Turtle Uncle’, as Lionel was called, and ‘Jelly’. Our cake. We got teary.

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As well, after trying more special foods Acaq brought back from a trip home, we were gifted beautifully beaded pencil covers – a popular thing here – and the most absolutely adorable hand stitched little seahorse, before all the girls in the office cooed over us, and fixing us to try on the hijab!

That night we went out for coffee and cake with Yanti and Nisa, and had an absolutely brilliant time, but not before Jess took charge of baking three lemon drizzle cakes, a Victoria Sandwich and an apple crumble, of which I made the filling for as well as finishing sewing up three lots of little British bunting.

(We also burnt a large white mark into the varnish of the wooden TV shelf with the crumble dish, which made Jess nearly have an embolism and prompted me to call my mother. We ended up leaving a note for Lucy as it was too late at night, and despite all of our panicking, Sideboardgate resulted in a pricey £6 for sanding and revarnishing the mark).

Our last day, we proudly carried in our cakes and crumble, which were met and eaten with great gusto by most everyone in the office, largely including ‘the lads’ Acaq and Bu, who missed dinner at Yanti’s the previous week (and apparently cannot use a microwave, like, genuinely, could not even hazard a guess as to the purpose of the dial and the button that opens the door). We handed out our presents – Awin and Kirat loved their bunting, though the reaction was possibly the best from the lovely girl who’d made us our seahorses. She pretty much started crying there and then. Yanti and Nisa whisked us out for lunch at the noodle soup place with the palm trees and the purple drinks, and we had a teary goodbye as we handed her the fudge we had made. Our day ended by a final meeting and thankful hand shaking with Dr Saifullah, before we were taken out to dinner by Dr Jarina – the head of International students at UMT – and her student of Biodiveristy & Conservation, who over dinner we discovered is the daughter of one of the Lucys who manage the lodge! Small world!

Sadly, Dr Wan was ill – she was not there to receive her present, which we’d ended up having to leave on Acaq’s desk along with a lemon drizzle cake for her. From our car rides, we’d discovered our great shared weakness for love songs. Really, really emotional love songs. So we made her a mixtape. A mixtape composed of 15 of Jess’s and 15 of mine favourite love songs. Jess made adorable cover art, and we were definitely proud – a proud feeling that only increased when we received a text from her, saying she would treasure it forever.

We received this text from Kuala Lumpur International Airport in the afternoon – the afternoon after the morning we left. Bright and early we’d awoken and left William’s Lodge much to, I imagine, the relief of the Lucys. Regardless, they’d given us a leaving present of beautiful little compact mirrors, and when we got into Ina’s car to drop us at the airport, she too gave us a present – little turtle shaped magnets, with handwritten messages on the back wishing us all the best.

Ina stayed with us at the airport, and we had breakfast as we were joined, much to our joy, by Yana, Acaq, and Dr Wan – they’d all come out to send us off! It was really, really lovely, though it felt a little strange that my last meal in Malaysia consisted of a Vietnamese beef soup. With minutes to spare as we finished our food, we ran through the startlingly brief security to board our plane.

Where did we go?

Penang. We went to Penang. And, when I am safely nestled at back home, I shall tell you all about it. But, for now, our Terengganu adventure is over. We will miss the place, the food, the heat; the cool blast of the air conditioning we sit directly under at the office. But what we will miss most from KT, and will remember clearest from our time here, will always be the friends we’ve made.

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