Tag Archives: blogging 101

Photo Challenge

Here’s your sign…

Today’s Blogging 101 task is to participate in a blogging “event.”  These are things like a writing prompt or a flash fiction challenge designed to build community by having bloggers respond to a shared topic:

blogger-hosted events are fun, free, spirited ways to get even more feedback on your work, build your audience, and make friends

I chose a photography challenge called Signs:

For this challenge, share an image of a sign: it can be a sign near your home — a comforting sight after a long journey — a sign that doubles as art, or other types of signs that hold meaning for you.

This challenge spoke to me because we saw a fantastic sign on our jungle trek this weekend.  We couldn’t understand most of the words on the sign, but its meaning was clear nonetheless.

The consequences for rule breaking are quite dire, apparently.

The consequences for rule breaking are quite dire, apparently.

Without knowing any Bahasa Malaysia, you still get the idea that there is something you should not do.  And if you do it, you might get shot.  A combination of the unmistakeable image and not knowing the text makes this very frightening.

Let’s break it down.  We know dilarang masuk, that’s a phrase we’ve seen in various places, and dilarang is even more common.  Dilarang means Do Not . . . do not park, do not smoke . . . we’ve seen that word a lot.  Dilarang Masuk means Do Not Enter.  So now we know that we aren’t supposed to enter the park and/or the hiking trail (or we’ll get shot.)  A little closer examination of the sign shows us some numbers at the bottom: 8.00 pg – 6.00 ptg.  If you hadn’t seen the blue sign behind that shows you that pg is equivalent to am, you might still be able to deduce that this is something about time.  So now we think we know that we aren’t supposed to enter the trail between 8:00am – 6:00pm.  OK, that’s pretty standard, aside from the threat of being held at gun point and/or shot if I enter at the wrong time of course.

But what about the rest of it?  The day we saw this sign, it was totally opaque to me.  Other than the “Do not enter” phrase that I knew, and the clear consequences if I break the rules that I can’t read, I had no idea what this sign said.  We were with a trekking guide, so I felt confident that we wouldn’t break any firing squad-worthy rules. . . that day.  Because we were with a guide, the sign seemed kind of funny at the time.  I mean, really, would a trespasser really get shot on the spot?  When I decided to do the photo challenge and use this sign, I started thinking about it a little more.  I have no idea what that sign says, other than do not enter.  With the obviously dire consequences, the sign is no longer funny – it’s terrifying.

We haven’t had a lot of language barrier challenges within KL, at least nothing huge, but we really are at a disadvantage for official communication.  What if the rest of that sign tells me not to bring something in to the park?  What if it tells me not to do something once I’m in?  What if, what if, what if?  This sign reinforced the need to thoroughly research what we are doing, where we are going, and what we are allowed to do once we are there.  It also reinforced the need to take the phrase book with us when we go outside of the city.

Beyond the language barrier, the imagery on this sign is very different from standard “do not enter” signs in the U.S.  I have never seen an official sign that clearly threatens violence like this.  I can picture a sign that says “Violators will be prosecuted” or something similar where there might be an implied threat of unpleasant circumstances.  I’ve also seen, or maybe just heard of, “Trespassers will be shot,” but only on private property.  I would never expect a sign like that in a public park.

This sign served as a reminder of how far away from home we really are and how different life can be in Malaysia.

(Oh, so what does the rest of the sign say?  “Do not enter except during the allowed days.  Operating hours, Friday-Sunday 8:00am – 6:00pm”  Not so scary after all.  Except for the picture.)

Things I Miss

We’ve been here for a month now.  I’m very happy to be in KL, but there are things I miss.  In no particular order:

  • Diet Coke
  • Pancakes
  • Craft beer, particularly IPA
  • Fast internet
  • Sports in my time zone
  • Having more than 2 of any given utensil, plate, or cup
  • Cooking on the grill


Book Buyers

Image Credit: Book Buyers by Thomas Hawk (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Butterflies in the sky…

Today’s assignment for the Blogging 101 workshop is to respond to a writing prompt, which happens to be about books and reading:

When reading for fun, do you usually choose fiction or non-fiction? Do you have an idea why you prefer one over the other?

I love reading, I always have.  I stay up late reading.  I read all day when I can get away with it.  My favorite weekend or vacation thing to do is stay in bed reading after I wake up.  In fact, life as an expat is ideal for fueling my reading addiction.  Already completed your work for the day?  Great!  Take your book to the pool or the park.  Want to relax for a few minutes before/after the day’s excursion?  Time to read!  Because I set my own schedule, I make a lot of time to read.

Another thing that has helped feed my reading addiction is my Kindle.  The advent of the Kindle is fantastic for people who like to read, who are secretly a little lazy, and who like to spend less money on books.  I download library books all the time.  I can get a library book any time of the day or night and there are no late fees when I inevitably forget to return it on time!  There are plenty of books online that you can get right now for less than you would buy the paperback version.  I can have a new book any time I want.  My Kindle has not 100% replaced actual books in my life, but it’s hard to argue with the easy access to any book you want any time you want.  (One big downside is that relying on your Kindle makes it difficult to support local bookstores.  Supporting local bookstores is really important, and I do that too whenever I can.)

The Blogging 101 daily assignments are posted around 8am my time.  I usually read them after breakfast with my second cup of coffee, ponder for a while, and then write (or do whatever the assignment asks) in the afternoon when I’m done with my day’s tasks.  As it so happens, this morning, before I even looked at the assignment and writing prompt, I downloaded four new books to my Kindle.  The stars could not have aligned better for me today.

Before I tell you about my new books, I’m going to tell you about a book I recently read: Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline.  I first heard of Orphan Train on my library’s ebook page.  Just like Amazon, my old library had a “suggestions for you” section based on your history.  I thought it looked mildly interesting and put it on my wish list without reserving it.  When I was browsing books on Amazon when we first got to KL, it came up again.  I put it on my wish list again without buying it.  (This is what I do.  I find books that look interesting and put them on my wish list.  Eventually I get around to reading them.  It’s comforting to have a list of books ready for me when I’m ready for a new book.  It’s like a security blanket.)  Last week I decided I was ready to read it…it also may or may not have been on Amazon’s daily special.  I have a fondness for books at a discount:  “But it’s only $2!  Even if it’s terrible, I only spent a couple of bucks on it.  And maybe I’ll like it.”

Orphan Train is fiction based on an actual event in American History:  orphans from New York were put on a train to the Midwest and an aid society tried to place them with families.  Sometimes it was a family who wanted to legitimately adopt a child, sometimes it was a family who wanted extra labor.  I’ll skip a long summary of the book; if you’re interested, you can find one here.  In the notes at the end, the author makes several recommendations for further reading which I bookmarked for the next time I needed a book.

Back to today.  I was ready for a non-fiction book, so I looked for one of those recommended books and chose Orphan Train Rider: One Boy’s True Story.  Then something made me remember a book I had seen on the Daily Show a while back, so I looked for it:  The Girls of Atomic City.  If I remember correctly, it’s about a town that was involved in building atomic bombs in WW2, but no one working there knew that’s what they were doing.  Then I browsed the Daily Deals and found that Don Quixote was available for $1.99 (USD) today, so I picked that one up.  Again, any time I can get a book for two bucks, I’ll do it.  Especially if it’s a great work like this.  I also picked up a book that I’ve heard a lot of good things about, Americanah.  To be honest, I have no idea what it’s about.  But people I know and respect have liked it, so I’m in.

To loop back to the original prompt, I think I am pretty balanced between fiction and non-fiction in general.  The books I chose today demonstrate that- two of each.  The fiction books I picked up were mostly “on a whim” decisions.  I don’t think I have a complex methodology for choosing fiction books in general.  I’ve been reading a lot of historical fiction lately, but I really read anything.  If it looks good, I’ll give it a shot.  I really like non-fiction books, too, because I love learning things.  There are so many things to know about the world, and there are so many great books about those things.  It’s fun to learn about something you don’t know anything about.  Reading a great non-fiction book is a fantastic way to learn something or gain a new perspective!  If a book makes me consider the world in a new or different way, I’m really happy.  Non-fiction books I have recently enjoyed: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, about a specific woman who made medical history and the ethical considerations around it, and The Warmth of Other Suns, about several people who left the Jim Crow South for better opportunities.  Both are really excellent books that tell great stories.

Audience participation time:  What books have you read and loved?  What should I put on my security blanket wish list?