About a week ago, we got an email from the MACEE people inviting all the Fulbrighters to some kind of event. We really had no idea what this thing was going to be, but we went last night and it turned out to be the official lauch of the Malaysian American Friendship Alumni Association. It was in a huge ballroom at a fancy hotel, and was quite an event. After an entire evening, we still really have no idea what this association is for. It seems to be an alumni association for Fulbrighters, both American and Malaysian, but then there were the other 25 tables of people there, and we have no idea who they were. Furthermore, the guest of honor was the head of the American University Alumni Association here in Malaysia, a separate organization which sounds like kind of the same thing to me.
In addition to having lots of speeches and a professionally produced video about the association (which had no information, just pictures, and probably cost an absolute fortune), there were several "cultural" performances. Now this was a nice idea, but it could not have been more poorly executed. There were 35 tables, all round, and a stage at one side of the room. This meant that at least three quarters of the audience had to turn around or crane their necks to see what was happening, not to mention the fact that the lights were in our eyes so we couldn’t actually see the stage most of the time, and that there were several tables which were around a corner and had no view of the stage at all. The real kicker though was that they insisted on serving dinner in the most intrusive way possible while the poor people were performing. At 8:45, after all the speeches, they finally got started with dinner, and we were all starving. Sadly, the Malaysian traditional dancer couldn’t compete with the food, and had to continue dancing for the backs of people’s heads. The performers were all good, and aside from the dancer there was an American modern dance troop touring Malaysia, a well know Malaysian jazz singer, and a Navy band from Hawaii that was concluding a tour of Malaysia. So it was fun, but really hard to concentrate on them. As a performer myself, it really really makes me (jm in case you hadn’t got that by now) mad when events are organized like this. I mean, really, it’s absurd. Either have a concert, or have dinner, or have background music. Putting all three together is a disaster. I can’t tell you how annoying it is to be performing to an audience who has something else going on at the same time.
The dinner was good, but poor tp wasn’t having the best night. The appetizer had shrimp in it, so he tried to explain to the waiter he needed one without shrimp, and the guy got confused. So for the next several courses he got the vegetarian dishes even though he kept trying to tell the waiter that he wanted the real chicken instead of the phony stuff. It was funny, though, when he busted out the Malaysian to talk with the waiter, and everyone else at the table did a double take and suddenly took notice of us. The complete look of shock on peoples’ faces when they hear their language coming out of a Westerner’s mouth still never ceases to amuse me. The last part of the night involved a certificate ceremony for all the current Fulbrighters. So tp went up on stage like everyone else, and they called everyone’s names, and then they got to the end and he was then only one who hadn’t been called and was standing up there without a certificate. Apparently, someone got confused because he has a Fulbright-Hays award, which is different from a regular Fulbright, and so they forgot about him. He’s been promised a certificate by Tuesday to make up for it. We’re waiting with baited breath.