Where do I even begin!! I haven't written in a few days and so much has happened-- I think the last day I blogged about was Sunday the 30th of September. So what has happened since then... well Monday was a lecture day. The first topic was on Muslims in Malaysia-- this was really interesting. The professor shared with us how even though the people in Malaysia are mostly Muslim it does not mean that it is an Islamic country. Many Muslims may not come from an Arabic heritage, they adopt Islam while still having a Hindu or Buddhist culture-- Religion has been affected b globalization. An prime example of this is how you might see some of the Muslim women dress in Malaysia compared to how they may dress in Arabic countries. Globalization does not only affect one's religion or culture but also one's worldview. The second lecture was a focus on "Malay Society, Family and Culture--" the professor was a bit hard to understand so I didn't get as much out of it as the first lecture. That afternoon we went to the National Museum touching on a wide variety of topics such as; burials, early trade, agriculture, and the Dutch influence. 
Tuesday was a pretty big day, we took a day trip to Putra Jaya and visited the "Taman Warison Pertanian (Agriculture Park)." We walked around learning of all the different types of fruit trees, plants, and got to see how rubber is taken from a rubber tree-- pretty amazing process and hard work. I was amazed how the tree just naturally produces it! A really lovely was-- hot. Our next stop was to a Mosque. When we arrived all the women had to but on a pink robe that had a hood (A Mosque is where Muslims go to pray). When we went into the main area we also had to remove our shoes, men as well. The architecture of Islamic buildings will cause anyones mouth to drop-- they are truly stunning and amazing works of art from design to colors. There is something about them that seem to represent a sort of holy presence. Our final stop was to the Batu Caves which are used as a holy temple for Hinduism. As you walk up the 272 steps into the cave you are greeted by a large golden statue which is a representation of one of the Hindu Gods. You also have to be very careful of the monkeys that seem to have invaded the area-- they are known to grab things out of our hands. I once again noted all the rubbish in the caves however, the monkeys may have had an important role in littering it there (haha). Even though it makes me a bit angry how people can be so disrespectful-- which also goes for all the writing on the wall (people leaving their mark). 
Wednesday was another day of lectures-- the first one was given by a professor who had so much passion in what he was sharing with us. It was on the topic of government in Malaysia throughout history and to present day. The second lecture was by far my favorite-- "Issues & Challenges facing Indigenous Communities." Their loss of: "recognition over land rights, access to natural resources, and cultural identity. The lack of: official recognition of cultural identity, space for cultural expression. Traditional knowledge eroding, exploitation, vulnerable communities and they are no longer autonomous" (lecture slideshow). I found this all really interested because one of the documentaries he showed us was based on the deforestation of an area where Indigenous people were living all to plant and grow palm oil. We talk about the idea of sustainable palm oil however, how is it sustainable when we are destroying indigenous communities? Plantations, modernization, globalization, mass cultivation and corporations are ruining these traditional cultures. Green sustainability seems to focus on the idea of going back to farming, and growing/ eating local food... yet it seems hypercritical to me that we destroy cultures who are already doing this. How is palm oil sustainable when it destroys rainforests? When it causes the extinction of culture-- sustainability is not only about the environment, it is about sustaining our cultures, our people, languages... sustaining everything that brings us life and meaning. When we impose our modern ideas to these people do we not sometimes create more poverty? I believe that we sometimes do. Many of these cultures are being left with very few raw materials because of the destruction of   these areas... it not only affects the particular culture but everyone around them whom they once traded with. The government, companies and various NGOs need to consider the long term effects their decisions will have on these traditional cultures-- Sustainability anyone? In the evening we watched a documentary which i really enjoyed because it explained a bit about the issues of the Indians in Malaysia. There is a large Indian population in Malaysia because they were brought in by the British for labour therefore, not to exploit the local peoples. This short documentary shared a bit of their story which I think is an important part in understanding the multi-culture of Malaysia. A few os us finished of the day with a couple glasses of wine.
Thursday was another day trip to Melaka which was an pretty cool place to visit considering the history of the area. There is a large population of Portuguese and a Dutch influence in the architecture. It is one of the main shipping routes in the world known as "The Melaka Straight." This route played an important role in Malaysia's early trade and even still today. We spent the morning visiting museums and visiting some historical sites and the rest of the day was spent walking around-- soooo many shops!!! Had some amazing Indian food in Lil' India and then it was a early night for most of us. 
Friday we were up at 4:30am to hop on the bus which was taking us to the airport-- it was such a looooong day. I am a bit sick with a head cold so it made for a really extra long day. However, arriving in the Philippines was quite an interesting experience!!! I must say that I am very excited to be here and can not wait to meet the family I will be staying with (we meet them tomorrow, presently we are just staying in a hotel). Anyways, we arrived in Manilla, the capital of the Philippines. We were meeting someone from the university, after we found her we were told we had to hurry as we were late for our plane-- so the adventure began. We all climbed on a bus and began our journey down the high way. Traffic everywhere, scooters and these cars called: Jeepney's. This will be hard to explain so I will have to take a picture at some point. Anyways, it is like a long jeep looking thing, no windows or anything, some people hang of the back... it sits 20 or more people-- a great car pooling system. Like a taxi but bigger. Maybe google one online. They LOVE music here. The bus had the music pumping and when we all started singing they just looked at us and laughed... We had to catch another flight to Laoag which was the most fun part-- we literally had to run the whole way from the bus up to cases of stairs and to the desk then all the way to the gate. I am exhausted... I was up at 4:30am and it was not almost 7pm. When we got to Laoag they again had a  DJ with the music just blasting. They love music here. After we checked into our hotel we went to this place for food-- everyone, I mean everyone was staring... Unlike Malaysia where it is so mulit-cultural the Philippines is not so much. We really stand out here. The men love to look at you-- I mean they stare, Hahaha. They are a beautiful people. There is quite a bit of an American influence here which I have observed so far, especially in the food and some of the buildings I see-- the Diner we ate at this morning especially, the whole 50's theme. Anyways, we will have a walk around later on in the day with one of our professors from the University. Pretty tired today and still not feeling so well. However, I am in the Philippines!!!!! Life is pretty great. Till next time. -Nikki xox

Nicole Leger

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