Blog for 2010-06-14

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Ah, the glory of rest days. Having the day to ourselves in Kota Kinabalu was lovely. We (or perhaps just I) woke up late to a nice breakfast at the hotel. I am becoming increasingly obsessed with coconut jam; I am not sure how I lived my life without it in the US.

You'll have to forgive the amount of food I will mention in this post, dear reader, as eating seems to be all we did on this rest day. Dex led us to a great Chinese cafe, and we enjoyed a nice first lunch. While there are lots of places that cater to tourists and have "Western" foods on the menu, I am finding more and more that the places to eat are really the little hole in the wall restaurants run by locals. It might mean you have to decipher more Malay, but I'm beginning to find it fun as I learn more.
Thien Tam loves Persian princes!

Some helpful words:
Terimah kasih=Thank you!

After that we went to explore the local cinema and saw Prince of Persia, which was about a time-traveling dagger in the times of the Persian Empire. I was not quite convinced of its realism, to say the least, but it was interesting to see all the subtitles (Malay and Chinese) underneath the movie. We also got to see some neat previews for Thai films; Sopark says they're good.

The fabled and curious "ABC special"
The ending of the movie left us facing rain, so what to do? Eat again, and get out of the wet, of course. Roti bread is quickly becoming a favorite (or rrrrrroti, as we like to say).

We also later discovered the deliciousness that is the fish market. Cam had pointed us towards a wonderfully strange concoction known as an "ABC Special," which contains shaved ice, peanuts, sweetened condensed milk, corn, jelly, sago, macaroni, syrup, and fruit. An odd combination, for sure, but surprisingly addictive. I'm going to have to get another one when we return to KK.

We've also been taking advantage of watching the World Cup while we've been here in town. The Netherlands-Denmark game was a good one, and we had a great time watching Japan-Cameroon. Alas, all this football will be short-lived, since we're off to go to islands and mountains soon!


Twilight over the river at Niah National Park
The thought that this is school continues to enthrall me, in the sense that 1) I am delighted not to be spending my summer in a lab somewhere, pipetteing samples; and that 2) the world is my classroom. My mother used to always tell us that there are things you can't learn in a classroom when we went to the mountains. How much I am still seeing that this is true! You can see a picture of an animal over and over in books of pictures or videos but fail to appreciate it--until it decides to cross your path. I realized that I had never seen a wild monkey until our visit to Niah Cave. I had never seen leeches, live and hungry for my blood, on the forest floor. And I had never seen trees, massive and dignified, stretching to hold up the sky, propped up by their magnificent buttressed roots.

This trip is helping me to see and appreciate nature in a way that I hope continues to arc upwards in my life. We are so small and are as much a part of the planet as everything else; I think we forget this and imagine the world so often as our playground to take advantage of. It's just as much the home of the bananas and sloths and ants and slime molds and viruses (has science decided if those are alive or not? I can't remember) as it is of humans. The hustle and bustle of school and academic life contributes to this forgetfulness, I think. But how neat that these two can intersect here! I am eager for more.