Sunday, January 04, 2009

Kolej Alamanda

I live in a four-story apartment-style dormitory building, one of ten which comprise Kolej Alamanda. Each of the colleges (dorms) is made up of multiple buildings, and none of the buildings – excepting mine, the one for international students – is co-ed. My sense is that dorms like Whitworth's Baldwin-Jenkins, which has women a floor above men, or Duvall, with men's and women's rooms on the same floor, are unheard of in Malaysian public universities. Imagine the reaction to those U.S. universities which allow co-ed rooms! All of the colleges are named after a flower found in Sarawak. Below are the alamanda flower and a typical dorm building here.
My apartment is on the second floor. Out the kitchenette window is a view of one of two landmark water towers on UNIMAS' new campus. Visible in front of the tower is the man-made lake at the center of campus where rowing competitions take place. When I took the picture below, the daily rain was falling. It regularly comes in the afternoon and lasts only an hour or two.

I feel very pleased with my living situation here. The apartment comes with a fridge, microwave, kettle, washing machine, and TV. The kettle is crucial for making tea and coffee (both newly acquired pleasures) and for boiling tap water which I then cool in the fridge and consider safe for drinking. The TV has four channels, only one of which sometimes has programs in English. My room is great. It's got a fan, air conditioning, a bed, desk, and two large cabinets. I am most thankful for the AC unit; I'd take it over the bed. My understanding is that only apartments in my individual building have fridges, washing machines, and AC. The Malaysian students get along with just a fan and use coins in the dorm's laundry room to wash their clothes, but they also pay about $1 per day. I pay $4.
- My apartment has five single rooms, but only two are occupied. It's just me and a Korean guy who's way sweet. His name is Jang Kyu Seon, but I just call him "sun," which kind of captures his demeanor. He is very cheerful, generous, and easy to get along with. We enjoy each other's company. The only other undergraduate international student this semester is another Korean, a girl named Min Seon who stays in the apartment to our left. To our right lives an Iraqi PhD student named Raqee. He is very eager to improve his English and occasionally asks me what things are called and for pronunciation tips. He's given me a mandate to constantly correct his speaking which I won't be using since he speaks English just fine. The second picture below is of the expressions he's currently memorizing.

Unlike Whitworth, UNIMAS has a curfew. All students who live on campus must return by midnight, and I've been told that the security guards come starting at 11 to herd students into their dorms. I went to Kuching Saturday evening for dinner and a movie (at Kuching's only cinema) with a few guys who were certain that I could return to campus past curfew fifty times before they'd actually punish me. Another friend of mine who's actually on staff here advises students to just stay at his house for the night if they think they'll be coming back later than midnight.

Exploring around the campus last Tuesday I couldn't help but notice that I was the only person I saw the entire day wearing shorts. Yikes! I've been told that it's fine for me to wear shorts though, so I won't worry about it, but to class I'll wear slacks. The campus officially opened in 2006, and many projects are still under construction, including, sadly, the sports complex. Below is a panoramic view of the university square bordered by some administrative buildings and the library (center-right).