About Me

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Hello, Ciao,안녕하세요, Hallo, Hola, Selamat tengahari! My name is Rachael and I am a travel enthusiast. Ever since I can remember, my parents have taken my brother, sister and I on good ol' American road trips. It's safe to say that was where my interest in new places, people and experiences was ignited. As my parents always encouraged my siblings and I to explore and ask questions, I developed a sincere curiosity for new adventures. In addition to seeing much of the United States with my favorite travel companions (my family), I had the opportunity to spend a semester in Rome, Italy, as well as a semester in Seoul, South Korea during my college career. Now, I am honored to be taking part in a Fulbright ETA Scholarship to Malaysia for a year! My family's favorite motto is "Life is all about the journey, not the destination." I invite you to join along in my journey of cultural exchange and mutual understanding in Malaysia! After all, the more, the merrier.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Building Muscle and Building English.

My mom and dad helped me lace up my first pair of soccer cleats at the age of six. After eleven years of playing consistently and seventeen years later, I never thought my love for soccer, as well as running would be beneficial during my time in Malaysia.

Every Monday night at 5:30pm, my roommate and fellow English Teaching Assistant, Christina Chavez, and I, lace up our running shoes and head to the nearby track at her school, SMK Nasiruddin Shah, for weekly jogging club.

Jogging Club with honorary members, Hannah and Zach, during their visit to
Malaysia in June!

Catching a break after a run!

Christina initiated this active club with students at her school back in April. Christina’s school is about a five-minute walk from our home, and a two-minute motor scooter ride. In addition, many of Christina’s students are from our village, live very near to the school or live in hostel (dorm) accommodations at the school. So, there are always students around wanting to participate!

After participating in Jogging Club with Christina and her students, I decided to open up the club to the students at my school, although many live quite a distance away from my village as well as from the track. However, despite the obstacles for my students to attend, my students have come to participate as well!

With our gym shoes on, we stretch and get our muscles warmed up with the students on the red tar track. Believe it or not, many of our students choose to run barefoot even though they do have a pair of gym shoes. We continually ask them if it hurts, but they always say, “No, no. It’s fine. Fine.” So, with shoes on or off, we set off running laps in the hot, yet setting sun.

Some students take it quite seriously, while others just use it as a means to simply chit chat with Miss Nina (Christina) and I. After the running session, Christina has the students write down their number of laps in hope that they can improve, while I unleash the soccer ball.

With my legs a little tired and sweat running down my face, I start dribbling the ball around and attempting to juggle it. Within minutes, students come to join. 

Now, the first time I brought the soccer ball out, the boys were a bit shocked. Girls do not play football (soccer) in Malaysia, so the idea that an American, and especially a female American, could do something with a soccer ball was a bit mind-blowing to them. However, slowly and steadily, I would kick the ball to one of the boys and he would kick it back. At first, they were trying to kick lightly to be easy on me, but with the power I kicked the ball back with, they got the point. Girls can play.

Since April, we run and then play football (soccer). The boys will now play with me, and I even got some of the girl students to play as well. Remembering the days back when I wore my little blue and yellow soccer jersey when I played on the team my dad coached, I take time to show the girls how to kick the ball and what part of the foot to use. A few of them have gotten it down!

While the activity is fantastic, a natural benefit from having jogging club has been channeling an outlet for students to speak English in a more kinesthetic environment. Through jogging club, and especially through kicking a soccer ball around, I have been able to get through to students that I otherwise have a difficult time connecting with in the classroom. Running and football are two so-called “languages” the students and I both speak, which allows them to be relaxed and comfortable. So, while I use basic English conversation with them on Monday nights, they do not even realize how much they are learning.

While strengthening their legs, enhancing their football skills and getting energy out, little do they know they are building their English. 

Monday, July 9, 2012

"Terima Kasih"

“Terima kasih” means thank you in Bahasa Malaysia!

And, a big “terima kasih” to you- all my friends, family, readers and supporters

Your unwavering support has allowed me to better spread my wings and fly while here. Of course, any experience in life comes with some high peaks, as well as some low valleys. You all have allowed me to navigate the successes as well as challenges that have I encountered while here.

A package from America! Whenever I receive a package or
letter, the principal puts it on my desk! Such a nice surprise!

Your words, emails, phone calls, skype dates, Facebook wall posts, letters, cards, pictures, support, prayers and kind thoughts have made all the difference to me. They definitely do not go unnoticed. Thank you for giving me the inspiration, strength, motivation and confidence to take on every new day here, as well as reminding me consistently that I have a lovely home and wonderful community to come home to in November. In fact, every piece of mail I receive goes on my "Happy Wall" in my bedroom, where I hang up every card, every letter and every photo I receive from home. It is the first thing I look at every morning when I awake, and last thing I look at every night before I go to sleep. In addition, every email I receive goes in my special "Happy" section within my email!

At the same time, I want to comment on the fact that I realize I am two months behind in my blog posts! No excuses, other than the fact that I was in complete “heaven” when my courageous and beautiful family came to visit me in June :)  In addition, sometimes I have a very difficult time finding the exact words to convey what I do here! However, it is my personal goal to keep my blog updated weekly throughout the four months ahead! So, continue to stay tuned and thanks for your support!

Thanks for joining me during the first six months of my Malaysian adventure, and I look forward to having you right there with me during the remaining four months.

See you all soon!

I always let my students look at the envelopes of the mail I get from home! They love to look at the stamps and see English addresses! It really thrills them and gets them excited to speak English! Here are two of my students with an envelope!

Southtown Star Article #2 - The Art of Equalizing

This is my second article for my Reporting from Malaysia Guest Column with the Southtown Star!

Stay tuned for more each month!