March 5, 2013, by Ben Hunte
Cameron Highlands, Emceeing Events, LGBT Awareness, & Food at UNMC!
Where Am I Now?
Right now, I’m on a rather loud bus, on the way back from my favourite place in Malaysia – PENANG! There’s quite a bit of drama on this bus, because a whole group of old Chinese ladies were miss-sold their tickets and told we were heading to another destination, but we’re not, and now they want the bus driver to turn around and take them back to Penang so that they can get another bus, when we’re only an hour away from KL.. Things are getting quite heated, and as I don’t speak Malay or any Chinese dialect, I’m just sat here catching the odd English word, trying to piece the madness together.
[UPDATE: Just after I typed that, please believe the bus driver pulled over to the side of the motorway, and kicked every single person off the bus.. What kind of madness! A few minutes later another bus heading to KL took pity on us and picked us up though, so it’s fine.]
Anyway, Penang has been amazing, as always. This has been a really packed week, and I was out of my house from morning until midnight every single day, helping out all sorts of societies with their events, covering stories for Ignite, bringing myself pain at the gym, sitting in the library for hours doing uni work (see me lie), so I needed a little sun, sea, and sand in my weekend to reboot my body.
It really is insane how just jumping into the sea changed my outlook on life, and lying on a beach for a few hours gave me a clear mind to sort out all of my problems. To be fair, staying in a 5* hotel and utilising all of the luxury amenities that came with it probably helped too..
Either way, I’ll be telling you all about this beautiful weekend next week, and there have been some truly hilarious moments, so I can’t wait to write it up.
The Cameron Highlands
In my opening last week, I mentioned the journey through the mountains which Em and I have refused to ever do again, because we genuinely stared death in the face.
If you think I’m being a drama queen, I encourage you to take this journey, in the same storm we did, in a big coach, through those tiny mountains roads – which have no barriers, and then try to tell me you don’t get the urge to send an “I love you” text to your nearest and dearest. It was horrible, and dare I say I didn’t think visiting the Cameron Highlands was even worth going through that journey.. If you’re in Malaysia already, go and visit it for experience sake, but don’t take a bus.
The madness began when we stepped off of the bus in the Cameron Highlands, and I got hit in the face by a breeze sponsored by winter in Nottingham, UK. That’s obviously an exaggeration, but I swear 17 degrees has never felt so disgusting. I don’t know why nobody told us to wrap up warm for the Highland fun and games, but it’s fine; Em and I literally couldn’t stop laughing as we walked down the high street in our vests and shorts, passing people wrapped in jumpers, coats, trousers and even earmuffs. We looked like the ultimate unprepared tourists.
The next ridiculous thing was our hotel. There’s a certain level of luxury that we like to hit on our weekend breaks, because we save up our money throughout the week to be able to afford a nice getaway, so when a hotel that claims to be 5* luxury actually turns out to be a 5* liar, things can get emotional. In short, we arrived in the Cameron Highlands in the early afternoon, checked into this run down hotel with none of the facilities that we were promised, and went directly to bed; do not pass go, do not collect anything. The level of depression was that bad. BUT once we woke up in the late evening, we started laughing again, and promised each other to make the most of this bad situation.
In order to do this, we booked a 5 hour tour for the next morning, to take us around all the best places in CH, and as it only cost RM25 (£5) we felt quite good about life. Shout-out to the guy who sold us the tour, he’s hilarious! He has an over-friendly cat which he keeps in his little shop, who keeps him company whilst his boyfriend’s away in Australia. So cute.
So, the tour. I can’t lie, we absolutely loved it! It was so ghetto-fabulous, that you really couldn’t hate it. We went strawberry picking, visited a butterfly farm and a bee farm (yes, a bee farm), and had a tour of the Boh tea plantation and factory – which involved having ‘afternoon tea’ complete with homemade scones.
Now let me tell you about the bee farm. It was literally a broken building, housing 3 floors, and on the ground floor there was an ENCLOSED BEE FARM.. Those are three words I never expected to see together. As I walked down the stairs to the ground floor, alone – Em refused to join me, the buzzing got increasingly loud and violent. With a few more steps there were a load of bees suddenly circling my body.. and then they were joined by a few more.. and then a few more.. and then way too many. It was at that point that I sprinted back up the stairs, screaming as I passed the local tourists who I could’ve sworn were recording me on their phones. I may soon be a Youtube star.
I know this all sounds really negative, especially the fact that I don’t ever want to go back to the Cameron Highlands, but being in Asia is all about experiencing new things, and at least I can now say that I’ve lived through all of the above madness. Oh, one more highlight of the weekend was being ‘customer of the day’ at Starbucks! Apparently my loud laugh and teethy grin are infectious enough for me to be given free food and drinks, how awesome.
Being established as one of the most ‘out there’ people on campus does have its advantages, and one of them is being in high demand for emceeing events and helping to organise events. As much as I love being an emcee, because it brings me closer to my not-so-secret dream of being an actor/presenter, it can be quite a stressful experience having to keep audiences entertained (especially when the events are badly organised, and the audience is made up of students who just can’t be bothered to participate).
However, this time of the year is unlike any other at UNMC, because now is when all of the huge annual shows come back to campus, and there’s literally a different event to go to every single day. I’ve already said ‘yes’ to emceeing 6 events this month, including the 2 biggest annual events “Music Talent Quest 2013” which is essentially UNMC X Factor, and Mr & Miss Nottingham 2013, so everyone will be really sick of my face by the time April rolls around..
This week saw me host the quarter-finals of the solo round of MTQ13, which was held in the main food area of UNMC, and drew a huge crowd of supporters for the 19 acts. When I first came to this university, I was really worried that I wouldn’t have an opportunity to perform over the duration of my degree; okay no, there aren’t as many opportunities to be on stage here as there are at the UK campus (which hosts a student theatre), but when you get an opportunity to shine here – you really can shine!
It’d be so cheesy of me to say that the different events over the next few weeks will see many new ‘campus stars’ coming into the spotlight, but I’m going to say it anyway, and I can’t wait to see more students jumping out of their shells, and releasing their inner divas.
My First LGBT Event in Msia
I’m not one of those people who feels a need to celebrate my sexuality, and constantly flaunt it in people’s faces.. It just is what it is! I have a boyfriend, I love him, he loves me, and our families are supportive – in my eyes that’s all that matters. HOWEVER, this week a ‘drag show’ came to KL, and you know I grabbed my LGBT flag and postponed my weekend break to Singapore in order to be there.
In a country where homosexuality is supposedly illegal, it was so nice to be completely surrounded by like-minded individuals for the first time since arriving here. Being able to openly talk to people about how similar we are yet completely different, because of where they were raised, and the attitudes of their families, and the crazy struggles they’ve faced, was inspiring to say the least.
As for the show, it was absolutely hilarious, and I’ll definitely be going back to future events put on by that organisation.
What’s The Food @ UNMC Like?
No word of a lie, this question is asked by every single person who contacts me asking about student life at UNMC, and so it should be, because food is a big deal!
In all honesty, it doesn’t really matter what I say right now, because in just a few months a new building will be opening on campus, which is basically a huge extension of our current Food & Beverage building.. I’ve heard rumours of Starbucks and KFC trying to obtain spaces in the new building, but as yet nothing is certain (when it is, I’ve been told that a story will be released via Ignite to spread the good news! Watch this space for that).
At present, food on campus is fine, and anybody that complains has probably been around here too long to appreciate it anymore. There’s a huge variety of different foods to choose from, from Asian to Western to vegetarian to 7/11’s finest; though I have to admit, I find myself eating pretty much the same thing every day because trying new things has been a bit ‘hit or miss’ for me.. The only advice I’ll give is to never blindly trust other people’s food recommendations unless you’re sure you share the same taste buds. I’m not sure what else I can say about the on campus food really, because aside from it being very cheap (averaging RM5-RM10 / £1-£2 a meal), available from morning until night, and soon to be revamped, I’m sure it’s just like any other university canteen..
If you really don’t want to eat on campus, then there are a crazy number of alternative solutions to ease your hunger pains. We have a Tesco Extra just a few minutes away from campus, which you can take a taxi to, or just jump on the UNMC shuttle bus; but if you’re like me and can’t cook to save your life, then Semenyih, Kajang and KL are close enough to bounce to for lunch/dinner.
What’s available to eat in these places? What isn’t! In Semenyih there’s a load of cafe style restaurants, a KFC, a McDonald’s, a Pizza Hut and a Secret Recipe; in Kajang there’s all of that plus a Starbucks, Burger King, and lots of satay places; and in KL, well, anything your heart desires to munch will be available somewhere within those streets. If you’re really interested in knowing what’s available, check out the mall directories online (Mid Valley, Pavilion, KLCC) for restaurant listings.
Aaaaand that’s all for this week! Join me next week to hear about this weekend’s trip to Penang, Mr & Miss Nottingham 2013’s first full rehearsals, and any other jungle moments I may come across.
Ben Henry Hunte.