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Citrawarna, Bollywood, and Wesak: A Month in the Eyes of a YES Abroad Scholar in Malaysia
By Angelina, YES Abroad 2011-2012, Malaysia
Each year towards the end of May, Malaysia unites as they celebrate their diversity, culture, heritage, and nature. Last Saturday, thousands of people made their way to the bleachers lining Dataran Merdeka, Kuala Lumpur’s main street. There, a gigantic white tarp stretched down the street to usher in all the hundreds of parade members and performers. Citrawarna is one of Malaysia’s greatest tourist attractions and is also celebrated in Sabah and Sarawak where it is known as the Harvest festival. This year’s Citrawarna celebration theme was to highlight Malaysia’s great success as a popular tourist destination and the various floats and performances depicted everything from Malaysia’s breathtaking nature to its delicious cuisine. Dato Dale M. Lokman, an active member of the AFS and YES communities in Malaysia, hosted the event and also welcomed YB. Dato’ Sri Dr Ng Yen Yen, Malaysia’s Prime Minister of Tourism. The turnout was incredible and over 30 exchange students were able to make it. The night ended with some popular Malay/Hari Raya music and a brilliant display of fireworks.
My YES Abroad batch will have their End of Stay orientation this month and my chapter and I choreographed a Bollywood routine to perform during the dinner for the host families. We’ve been practicing for quite a while now and just recently, my host mom and sisters and I went out shopping for formal Indian attire for this event. This picture shows me in my first ever lengha! A lengha is formal type of clothing that most girls in India (or Malaysia) will wear to weddings or fancy parties. I just hope I get the opportunity to wear it again after I leave Malaysia.
On May 5, I was able to experience the Buddhist holiday of Wesak. My close friend and AFS mentor, Cherlyn, invited me to join her as she participated in the various activities being held by the temple she regularly attends. Wesak is an important day in the Buddhist religion because it marks the day of Buddha’s birth. On the eve of Wesak, many people will attend prayer and chanting services at the temple and then light oil lanterns as they recite prayers in front of a Buddha statue. At the temple near my house, Cherlyn and I, along with other exchange students, helped the temple members to set up hundreds of oil lamps. We then helped to light them all as people took them upon praying. The next morning, the temple set up several stations such as a blood donation station, a book sale, and a free medical clinic. Being that I have my mind set on becoming a doctor, I chose to volunteer in the medical clinic. It was a simple clinic with services such as blood pressure monitoring, blood/glucose level checking, BMI assessing and one certified doctor to further evaluate people. I was put in charge of the blood/glucose level checking. I must admit, I was a bit nervous at first but I am definitely very thankful to have had that opportunity.