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Archive for July, 2011

Kuala Lumpur: The Jungle City

Upon departure of Malaysia  I was thinking of how I would ever describe the past few days there. The city of  Kuala Lumpur is undoubtedly something I’ve never seen before. This urbanized city is filled with skyscrapers that tower over you. It is now home to the tallest set of twin towers in the world. The Petronas Towers are filled with businesses, amazing retail shops, and a variety of restaurants with every kind of cuisine imaginable. So as you can assume, with some of the best shopping and food, the city’s nightlife is also incredible! The streets of Kuala Lumpur are filled with local venders alongside the multitude of different hot night spots that stay open into the wee hours of the morning. This being said, sleeping gets bumped down a little lower on the priority list. 

It’s within the light of day that this fast paced urban city reveals a different side. Mixed between the concrete and growing industrialization the city also has a deeply preserved history and lush greenery. Kuala Lumpur sits in one of the worlds largest untouched jungles. It  has done an excellent job of  safeguarding the environment and using its allure to enhance the  city. We got to see this raw beauty firsthand by taking a short ride just an hour north to the Genting Highlands. After a 12 minute ride on a sky tram looking over the rolling jungle mountains you arrive at the world’s largest hotel and casino. This resort/theme park was built by  Lim Goh Tong, a man who came from nothing, but with passion and a dream created something amazing. As you can see from the photo, the view from the top is breathtaking!

 Looking back on the past few days spent in Kuala Lumpur, I have concluded that it’s really a city that never sleeps, yet lies in the most natural, tranquil jungle imaginable. Like any jungle ecosystem, it’s made up of all kinds of species of plants and animals. Kuala Lumpur is no different with its wide variety of history, culture and ranging ethnic groups. It is truly something special with this mix of growing urban industrialization and mother nature acting as a strong root system grounding it’s growth.

Malaysia is a place that embodies both the nature and the urban vibe, so I was temporarily baffled by an accurate description. After some thought, I’ve determined that it’s nothing short of The Jungle City.
– Madison Dooley

Experience of a Lifetime

I have been given the wonderful opportunity to participate in the 2011 Study Abroad Trip to Asia with Professor Robert Harris and 8 other students. Although we are only a little more than half way through this trip, I have enjoyed the overall experience and new adventures we have daily, whether it’s touring factories, learning about the different cultures, or exploring on our own.

Our first stop was Thailand, where we got to have a look at many things such as: temples, Hellfire’s Pass, the grand palace, and the Jim Thompson house. We got to hear about a couple of businesses such as a rubber plantation, Danakin (air conditioning factory), TKT (Toyota manufacturing plant), and the Mahanakorn project (my favorite by far). In Thailand, their food is a bit spicier than some of the other places we visited and a lot spicier than anything I’ve ever had in America.

Next we headed over to Malaysia, where we only spent two nights and three days, but I enjoyed every bit of it. Our hotel was located in the downtown area, so we were surrounded by so much to do. We learned about Islamic banking one day at the local university and took a tour of Genting Highlands the next day.

Now we are in Vietnam where we have visited Ho Chi Minh (South Vietnam) and Hanoi (North Vietnam). I thought it was very interesting how different the north and south are from one another. In the south it seemed much more diverse, where the north seemed to be mainly locals but more developed overall. The highlight of Vietnam for me would have to be a tie between the Cu Chi Tunnels in South Vietnam or the cyclo tour we took around town in North Vietnam.

The remainder of the trip will consist of stops in China, to see the Great Wall, and Hawaii, where we will visit Pearl Harbor. I am so excited and I can’t wait!!!

-Iesha Renee
top picture: statues of chinese warriors
bottom picture: sky tram to Genting Highlands

INTI and MSU in Malaysia

After visiting a Hindu Temple (see photo) and Northwood University’s offices at the INTI affiliate in Kuala Lumpur for a remarkable lecture on Islamic Banking by Ms. Subithabhanu Bt Mohd Hussan, we had the additional opportunity of visiting MSU-Management & Science University. It is a school of business with heavy Islamic influence including practices relating to Islamic Banking. We had a lecture from Prof. Dr. Mohd Zainul Fithri Bin Dato’ Othman. We also had a Q & A session and Dr. Othman was very knowledgeable and generous in answering all of our questions. My questions in particular were geared toward business opportunities, terrorist threats, economic stability in Malaysia, government incentives, and anything and everything I would need to know and research to do business in the country. For anyone who wants a good education abroad, I recommend INTI and MSU.

– Javon Martin

Life Lessons From Business in Thailand

While in Thailand, we went to Burapha University. We spoke with their dean and a couple of professors there. After hearing a lecture and practicing a traditional Thai dance and song, (so much fun!) they accompanied us to a global air conditioner manufacturing business – Daikin Industries (Thailand) Ltd. With worldwide locations in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, China, Asia/Oceania, North America, Central & South America, and Japan, let’s just say they knew a little something about international business.

We toured their training facilities, assembly line factory, and got a personal presentation on the company and international business from upper management. There were several things that I found interesting about Daikin Industries. First, there were a LOT of women that worked in the factory. When I think of assembly lines and factories, I automatically think of them as being men’s jobs. But there were actually more women working there than men – crazy! One of the speakers actually admitted that women had a better skill for some of the technical work than men did and that they “took great care”. Watching them in the factories, I was awestruck. They prided themselves on being able to spit out 20 units an hour. I watched a man that moved so quickly and seamlessly in his department on the line that you would have swore he was a robot. If there’s one thing I’ve noticed about the Asian culture, they’re perfectionists. They practice until they’re the best. And they are the best – at a lot of things.

The next day, we went to a rubber factory. We got to see the process of making rubber from beginning to end. We saw the trees they came from, the process of mixing the sap from trees with acid and other ingredients to make the actual rubber mix, the pouring of it into individual slots, the removal, flattening, smoking, and hanging of it to dry before it was finally loaded into trucks.
I had no idea that there was such a long list of things to do to make rubber. The place we visited was family owned. The man who showed us around was the owner’s son, and it was his grandfather who had founded the company. He wasn’t afraid to get down and idrty as he explained each step to us. I figure he probably worked there as a child and young adult, like many other children of business owners.

The atmosphere at the rubber company was completely different from that of Daikin. This one was more laid back, easy-going, and the workers seemed happier. The funny part is, the working condiditons weren’t nearly as nice as those at Daikin. So it makes you wonder if there’s some value in keeping things small and family-centered. I’d say yes, definitely.

Applying this principle to everyday life is good too. Small, simple, easy-going, and happy. Sounds like a life plan to me.

-Paige Eldridge

(Top Photo: Northwood University students along with Daikin management outside of their factory. Bottom Photo: Our guide showing us how the rubber is removed from the trees at the very beginning of the process.)

Religion in Malaysia

The variety of religions found in Malaysia is a direct reflection of the diversity of races living there. Although Islam is the state religion of Malaysia, you have the freedom to practice any religion you choose. The Malaysian people are almost all Muslims. While there, we got to visit a mosque, which serves as a place where Muslims can come together for prayer. Before entering the mosque, there was a place where worshipers could leave their shoes and put on a robe that we are all wearing as seen in the picture above. Most of us were not familiar with the religion, so it was nice to learn from this experience. One interesting fact that I learned was: Women can attend mosques, but when they do, they must sit separately from the men.

-Lisa Nguyen

The Twins

The Petronas Twin Towers are claimed to be the tallest twin buildings of the world! Located in Kuala Lumpur, the Twin Towers undoubtedly are the pride of Malaysia. It is one destination many tourists would love to visit whether its for the shopping or to see Malaysia from stories high. Unfortunately, we did not come early enough to get a ticket to see the city from up high, but we definitely got to shop. There is a sky-bridge which lies between the two towers on 41st and 42nd floors, making it the world’s highest two-story bridge. We were all amazed by the architecture and beauty of the Twin Towers.

-Lisa Nguyen

Elephant Show

Thailand is famous for its beautiful elephants. We had an amazing opportunity to ride on some. Afterwards, we watched some baby elephants perform for us. We were able to feed them bananas and milk. These creatures are extremely smart and you would be amazed at what they can do, like play the harmonica. In the picture above Northwood Student Christopher Kincaid receives some TLC from one of our elephantastic friends.

– Jennifer Kincaid

Moving Moments

One of the first day trips we took was to Kanchanaburi, which has some of my most memorable experiences: The Bridge over the River Kwai and Hellfire Pass. We first went to the bridge and walked across it. It is a steel bridge with giant frames and seems unimaginable that most of the work to create the bridge was done by pure manpower. Many POWs – Prisoners of War – to include Americans alongside some Thai people were forced to construct the Bridge over the River Kwai. After the Bridge we went to a war memorial that is the resting place of many of the fallen POWs, excect Americans who were sent home. It was very moving walking past the numerous gravestones and noticing that the majority of these fallen comrades we not much older than I am. The following day we went to Hellfire Pass. The first stop was that museum, which was almost too hard to read the conditions these soldiers endured. They had minimal protective clothing, medicine, and if it weren’t for locals trading some of their vegetables for the POWs rice they probably would have died from malnutrition. After the museum, we walked part of Hellfire Pass, which is the railroad the Japanese built to improve communications. The locals gave it this name because of the massive flames that were lit at night so that construction could continue 24 hours a day. These POWs had to construct a railway by turning steep inclines into flat terrain and carving holes out of solid rock mountainsides. When walking down the tracks, we were able to see pieces of the railroad and the path that was made, however on the way back we decided to take the steeper direction. This made most of us realize how hard it must have been for these men to construct this railroad, because most of us struggled just get back to the top. The men probably did that climb multiple times a day with minimal food and water and other forms of labor in between.

I Salute To Thee, Our Fallen Comrades

-Kincaid, Christopher L.

(Top: Hellfire Pass railroad through rock mountainside; Bottom: Bridge over the River Kwai)

The Asian Melting Pot

When we got to stay in Malaysia for a few days, I thought I knew what to expect. We had been in Thailand for a while, so I figured Malaysia would have a few subtle differences, just nothing major. Boy was I mistaken. Malaysia is a place all its own. Described as a melting pot, it has several different ethnicities, religions, foods, and customs. In fact, when we asked our tour guide what dish was famous to Malaysia that we should try while we were there, he laughed and said there wasn’t one. He explained that the food was so diverse that there really wasn’t a type of food specific to Malaysia. Therefore, we had fun trying EVERYTHING. We ate everything from Chinese, to Vietnamese, to Thai, to semi-American.

We attended a lecture on Islamic banking while there and got to learn how religion plays a huge role in the way they bank. While there, we got to mingle with other Northwood University students. A few of them are planning on attending the Northwood University – Michigan campus in the fall, so we talked with them about America and Northwood University and tried to offer helpful advice. We spoke about the different organizations we were all a part of and just our differences and similarities in general. It was eye-opening to see the unique cultural perspectives that we all had.

One other thing that I found note-worthy was the street atmosphere around us. New York City has always been described as the city that never sleeps, but Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia definitely takes the cake on that one. The night before we had to depart Malaysia to return to Thailand, the majority of us stayed up all night simply because we had to leave for the airport at 5 and we saw no point in sleeping! We walked the streets with crowds of others, ate food from bustling vendors, and just enjoyed the night life until time to return and pack up for our flight.

Overall, I would say that Malaysia was probably my favorite country so far. I would definitely go back because there was so much to see and do there. There was no way on earth that we could fit it all in, so I already have plans to see more things some day!

-Paige Eldridge

I Can’t Believe It!

“I can’t believe it, we’re going to Asia!” It wasn’t but a couple of weeks ago that I said that. Now just a short ways into the trip, I still find myself thinking the same thing… “Wow, I can’t believe it!” This summer, a small group of Northwood students and I have traveled across the globe, to a different continent, and experienced two very different countries within it: Thailand and Malaysia.

Each day is filled with something different and new. Looking at our events throughout the trip so far, I find it hard to pick just one thing to share with you. Discovering Thailand’s history and culture by submerging yourself in it has proved to be the best way to learn. Visiting Buddha Mountain and temples with practicing monks has shown me so much more about a faith of which I had little knowlege. One day that sticks out in particular is the one where we spent the morning on the floating market surrounded by local Thai people and the afternoon trekking through the river on the back of an elephant. The terrified look on my friend Paige’s face was so funny that words cannot explain.

Something not on the schedule was stopping by a local spring-fed waterfall and seeing local children and families enjoying a hot afternoon in the water. That to me was so special because it’s a sight into everyday culture that not everyone gets to experience. On the other side of this watering hole were pieces of the railroad tracks from Hellfire’s Pass. Hellfire’s Pass was a piece of history that I knew nothing about. It was a railway project constructed in the early 1940’s to improve communication between Thailand and Burma. It cost many American and Dutch POW’s their lives along with Thai and other Asia natives. Standing on this railway looking over the hills of Burma where such history took place brings me new knowledge and an experience I will never forget.

In just the past couple of weeks, Asia has shown me so much… I still can’t believe it!

-Madison Dooley

(First pictured is our group in front of Buddha Mountain. Second is a vendor selling fruit on the floating market.)