Sponsored by Joy

Guest Article Written by Marra Clay
Whitman College

Have you ever had a day so full, so wonderful, and so exciting, that at the end of it you just flop on your bed, exhausted but happy? Most of my days in Malaysia have been this way, and for that I am incredibly grateful. Yes, some days are more challenging than others. But, the days when I collapse on my bed, completely content, make it all worth it.

Today was one of those days.

Several teachers at my school created a group chat that they titled “Fun Activities with Marra Clay.” And, it is just that. There are 18 group members, some of whom are teachers who I have never spoken with but who always smile at me in the hallways. They use the group for organizing get togethers, sharing fun photos of their kids, and asking for recipes. For the last few days, “Fun Activities with Marra Clay” was devoted to organizing several different events for today. And, indeed, they were fun activities.

Kakak Juraihan (“Kak Ju,” “Older Sister Ju”), a teacher at my school, picked me up from my house this morning at 7:30. It was pouring rain, but her three children in the backseat were nothing but smiles. I greeted them with high fives and we were on our way.
Kak Ju, Kak Imelda, and Kak Arbaina’s children resting on a hammock in the middle of the hike.
Our first stop was to pick up Kak Arbaina, another teacher from our school, and two of her children. Kak Ju and Kak Arbaina sat in the front seat, with Arbaina’s adorable son Arman sitting on his mother’s lap. I crowded into the backseat with the remaining 4 children. We listened to Bruno Mars on the drive.

At the entrance to Bearhill Nature Walk, we met two other teachers (Kak Imelda and Kak Hasanah) and their families, and started our hike. We first climbed a steep road to a beautiful overlook where we were able to see all of Melaka City. Then, our hike turned into a jungle trek. We stepped into mud puddles, were swarmed by mosquitos, hurdled logs, and got drenched in a rainstorm. If you know me well, you know that that sounds like my ideal Saturday morning.
The view of Melaka City from the overlook.
Stopping to look at a map, I noticed that the hike was “Sponsored by Joy.” Apparently Joy is a billboard company in Melaka that designed the map. But, I was so amused by how merry it sounded that I turned it into the slogan for our whole day.

Our beautiful hike? Sponsored by Joy.
Chatting with children in my butchered Bahasa Malaysia? Sponsored by Joy.
Hiding under a massive tree during the worst of the rain? Sponsored by Joy.

After hiking back down the “bukit” (“hill”), we loaded up, clown car style, and drove to Kak Arbaina’s house, where we all rested and cleaned up. Arbaina’s mother was there (who I called “nenek,” which means grandmother), and I used my extremely limited Bahasa Malaysia to talk with her about America, teaching, and ask her what her favorite food is (chicken fried rice, in case you are curious). She is the same age as my own grandmother, so I showed her photos of my Gramma. I didn’t understand her response, but she said it with a smile.
Teachers insisted on a photo “Sponsored by Joy”.
Freshly cleaned and clothed, all 8 of us scampered back into Kak Ju’s car and drove to Puan Azizah’s house. Puan Azizah is a kind, older teacher at my school. Her mother was hosting a kenduri doa selamat. A kenduri is a ritual for remembering or requesting something. Similar to Malaysian weddings, the entire town is invited to a kenduri. It’s like an open house, and people can drop in whenever they want to pray and eat food. Puan Azizah was excited to introduce me to her family.

As we pulled out of Arbaina’s driveway and moved on to the final destination of the day, I looked behind us just in time to catch Arman enthusiastically waving goodbye while his mother tried to usher him inside.
The extended family and Kak Ju with her children at Puan Azizah’s kenduri
We were all exhausted, but the day joyously continued. Next stop: a bowling tournament!

Kak Ju and I were invited to compete in a bowling tournament with a few other teachers. I’m a mediocre bowler, but I thought we would enjoy being goofy and bad at bowling together. I was wrong. Yes, we all had fun. But, it turns out that my teacher friends take bowling quite seriously.  Mazira, a physical education teacher who refers to me as her little sister, actually has her own bowling ball. She stopped polishing it just long enough to laugh at me for forgetting socks.

We played three games straight, and our individual scores determined our ranking. I came out in 21st place (out of 42 total players, so at least I was in the top half). Mazira received a special trophy for getting 3rd. She was disappointed with her ranking, but I was just excited because I got a plastic gold bowling trophy for 21st place! Who gets a trophy for 21st place??? It even says my ranking on it! Talk about a great souvenir to bring back to America.
SMK Seri Bemban teachers did well at the bowling tournament.
Kak Ju drove me home from the tournament, and that brings us to now. I’m at my dining table, eating the leftover desserts from Puan Azizah’s house.

Today was exhausting. Today was busy. Today was wonderful. And, I can say with the utmost certainty, today was sponsored by joy.

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