Melaka and more presentations

Today I (jm) went to Melaka for the day with my boss. Actually, we had a presentation to do at a high school which was about 30 minutes away from town, but we used it as an excuse to have a whirlwind tour of Melaka and have some yummy food for lunch.  Melaka is about 2 hours from KL, on the western coast, and on a clear day you can see Indonesia from the harbor (the island of Sumatra).  Unfortunately, today was not a clear day and it was pouring by the time we got there.  So my first view of the city was the inside of yet another giant mall with American brand stores.  Not too exciting.  But eventually it cleared up a little and we got to walk around and look at some of the old historical buildings in town.

I was really eager to have a look around at all of the Portuguese and Dutch forts and churches.  I’m reading a book about South Africa right now called The Covenant, by James Michener, and the whole beginning part of it took place in Melaka and Java.  The only reason any Europeans ever stopped in South Africa was to set up an in-between stop for their ships on the way to all their colonies.  So it was neat to see what I’d been reading about.  We also wandered around some of the old Chinese shop houses which are absolutely gorgeous.  TP and I are going back soon together, and we will take lots of pictures and really explore.  For lunch, we had some really yummy food, including "debil curry chicken".  That’s what they call it,  but it really means "devil curry"- as you can guess, it’s  pretty spicy (but yummy).

Oh yeah, we also did another presentation.  This high school is private and was set up and funded by one of the sultan’s sons 9 years ago.  It provides a free education and free room and board to great students from all over the country who have a very low family income.  It’s a really really neat idea, and the kids were just lovely.  There were 60 10th graders, and they paid attention and asked some thoughtful questions.  When we walked in, the kids were already assembled, and they all stood up like we were important visitors or something, which was funny. Another funny thing was that the boys sat together at tables and the girls sat together at other tables.  No mixing.  I don’t know if this is just preference or a rule, but I do know that the boys and girls dorms are as far away as physically possible on the campus.  After our talk, we had to have "tea".  This turned out to be another whole meal.  Since we are American, they prepared an American feast of fried chicken, mashed potatoes, and french toast for us.  I don’t know where the french toast fits in.  We also had our third or fouth teh tarik of the day- this is very tasty tea with lots of sugar and condensed milk in it.  It’s really good, but I think I consumed about 2000 calories of condensed milk alone today.  At one point I commented that something was really sweet, and the Malay who heard me disagreed heartily and said that it didn’t taste sweet to him at all.  I guess everything is relative.