In Kedah it was quite fun, renting a room with three other friends I only met during the training stint. It was in a wooden , double storey house, typical utara kampung style. The bathroom was separate from the wc, which was situated outside the house. It was not blessed with any kind of lighting facility. So, imagine having to go at night time. We always went in pairs! Behind it was the vast paddy fields.
We were given a room upstairs. The roof was made of zinc; so you just have to imagine the heat we experienced, especially at midday. 'Hangat lit-lit' was the expression for the unbearable heat. The family we rented from stayed downstairs. When we first went to enquire about staying there, the elderly wife didn't want to take us in. (We later found out the reason.) But we managed to coax her into it. We stayed in a very small room, about 10' by 6', and slept on matresses. During the day, the mattresses were rolled up and arranged neatly against the furthest wall. Thinking about it, it was a frugal kind of life, but not lacking in fun.
The couple had a daughter who stayed at home and helped out with the house work, a son who worked in Alor Setar, a schoolgoing daughter and a son who had just got married and lived separately from them. It was a very jovial family and I was glad I went along with the other girls in renting out the room. We would come back from work and help out with the cooking; and after breaking fast we helped to clean up. Then after prayers, we would come down for some snacks, and after revising a little, we turned in. That was basically the routine.
After a couple of weeks (we were there for about three months) the makcik mentioned that we were far from what she expected. The previous tenants were not helpful (maleh), coming down only at mealtimes and never helping out. She also mentioned that they 'jalan dereh': they banged their feet loudly when walking. So she liked us.
One day, while I was taking a bath (Malaysian style) in the huge bathroom, in the heat of the afternoon, I heard something running, outside. Something big and heavy and in a big number. A while later I heard someone shouting 'Kawak, kawak'; and more running. I was wondering what that was all about, and thus paused from whatever I was doing. Hearing nothing else, not even from my landlady or her family members, I went on bathing.
After I was dressed, I went downstairs to find my friends and the landlady and her daughter as well as some neighbours talking animatedly outside the front door. I asked one of my friends what the matter was. It seemed a neighbour's cows had been taken away. The word 'kawak' came up several times in the conversation among the neighbours. When I found out that 'kawak' meant 'thieves', I was mortified. When I told them that I heard someone shouting 'kawak' while I was taking my bath, but not knowing what it meant and went on bathing, they started laughing. Well, perhaps it was funny, considering. But not for the guy who lost his cows to thieves!It was a splendid experience, staying with that family: they were a down-to -earth family and we felt very much part of their family. And I made friends with whom I've kept in touch to this day.