Saturday, May 30, 2015

My Host Family And Campus Life At Texas Tech University, Lubbock, Texas, USA (Part 1)

Lubbock, Texas, Here I Come

Location Of Lubbock

Lubbock is situated at the Northwestern part of Texas with a population of about two hundred and forty thousand back then, It was the 11th largest city in the Lone Star state. Out of the total population, about 10% were Tech students.

Map of Texas

Texas is also know as the Lone Star state.
Texas is also know as the Lone Star state.

Texas Tech University

The masked rider, being the most popular and oldest mascot,  still exists today.
The masked rider, being the most popular and oldest mascot, still exists today.

Gordon Hall

The dorm where I stayed during the first semester.
The dorm where I stayed during the first semester.

The First Semester

As a freshman, I stayed in a male dorm called Gordon Hall; initially sharing the room with an American student called John.

The accommodation, which was pretty basic, included 2 single beds, a table, 2 chairs, a wall-mounted phone, window insect screen, window blinds, 2 built-in wardrobes, a wash basin with a wall-mounted mirror and heater. A huge shower room and restrooms outside shared by all the residents. I could make use of the many laundry machines, dryers, soda vending machines in the dorm as well.

There were visiting hours (from 6 am to 10 pm) for non-residents and the rules were strictly enforced.
There was something I was not used to initially. The shower area had no partitions let alone doors or what I call open-concept. As a matter of fact, I feel more at ease being naked in front of women rather than men.

The American roommate, who majored in music, moved out about a month later after he got an off-campus apartment to stay with his girlfriend. He liked to sleep in his birthday suit. I was fine with that but since I ain't a gay, I wasn't thrilled at looking at his naked body.

As part of the package I paid for my accommodation, I could take 3 meals a day on weekdays in the cafeteria inside the dorm.

My Host Family

 I signed up a host family program for international students at the beginning of the semester which started off with an orientation program.

Soon after I had signed up the host family program, a woman by the name of Ava Berry called me and invited me to their home for dinner the following Sunday. I was thrilled and eager to meet them.

The couple, Ava and Bob, had 2 children, Robbie and Beth. Ava was a part-time student at T.T.U . while Bob was a Chartered Public Accountant. They lived in a upper-middle-class sub-urban area
They came to pick me up at my dorm. We took dinner at their home and had an enjoyable evening.

Ava cooked some typical American food. Initially besides myself, there were 3 other international students in this host family namely Tony, Eustace from Malaysia and Ingrid from Taiwan and later one more student from Taiwan, Rosanna, joined us.

From left to right: Robbie, Ava, Ingrid (from Taiwan), Beth, Tony (from Malaysia), and Bob. This pic was taken when I first met them during the beginning of my 1st sememter.
From left to right: Robbie, Ava, Ingrid (from Taiwan), Beth, Tony (from Malaysia), and Bob. This pic was taken when I first met them during the beginning of my 1st semester.

They sent me this pic taken 6 years later after I graduated. From left: Beth, Ava, and Bob Berry.
They sent me this pic taken 6 years later after I graduated. From left: Beth, Ava, and Bob Berry.

6 years later upon my graduation.
Bob, a Chartered Public Accountant, was working in his office.

One Of The Trips With My Host Family

Corpus Cristy, Texas
Corpus Cristy, Texas 

My Relationship With Them

On the average, we met once or twice a month in their home for dinner throughout my stay in Lubbock. In between, I called them quite frequently. There were a couple of times Ava tried her best to cook some exotic oriental food for us. Although they tasted differently from those I ate back in Malaysia, I appreciated her time and effort to please us.

Right from the beginning, I have been getting along well with my host family although our culture are very much different. Aside from our gathering, they went for vacations a couple of times with me in Texas.

I wasn't a Christian but on one or two occasions they invited me to go to a church. I didn't turn them down because in the first place, I didn't hate the religion, and secondly I wanted to experience myself to see how I felt to be in a holy environment. In fact I did go to another church once with my American girlfriend

Ava gave me a TV when I moved to an off-campus apartment at the end of the first semester. However the TV and my stereo system were stolen when a burglar broke into my apartment room.

I got my Texas driving license with the help of Ava who took her time out of her busy schedule to accompanied me to the Public Safety Department and and lent me her Datsun (it's called Nissan nowadays) to sit for the driving test. Unlike in Malaysia, the driving test was conducted by a cop.

To make a long story short, I appreciate whatever they had done for me and they remain my friends.
Bob helped me to ship all the books I wanted to take back to Malaysia a few days before I left the States. I took an early domestic flight to Seattle to catch a connecting international flight to Hong Kong and he was the one who gave me a ride to Lubbock Airport.

Ana, My American School Mate/Friend

Ana was playing with a snow ball. I liked her.
Ana was playing with a snow ball. I liked her. She was my kind of girl.

My Friends At Texas Tech University

I tried to make friends outside my circle of Malaysian students. Lots of time I took the initiative to get to know them. I had friends from Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Macau, Mainland China, Indonesia. I also befriended Vietnamese Americans, white Americans, Mexican Americans. I learned some words and phrases (including adult language) from my Hispanic American friends.

There were some 300 Malaysian students there; making them the second largest international student group trailing behind those from Taiwan. Out of the 300 Malaysian students, 50% were Malays and the other 50% Chinese. All the Malay students, except one Chinese, were sponsored by the Malaysian government. This to me was very unfair. In the U.S., the affirmative action policy was to help the minorities but in Malaysia, it was just the opposite.

Out of all the Malaysian friends I made at T.T.U., the only one who still remains as one of my buddy is Tony who has been working in Singapore and opted for Singapore citizenship a couple of years ago.
I want to take this opportunity to thank Tony who had given me a helping hand in more than one occasion when I sent him a S.O.S.

My American Friends, Ana & Penny

Ana on the left and Penny on the right. They made a snow man outside their dorm.
Ana on the left and Penny on the right. They made a snow man outside their dorm.

Part 2 Coming Up Soon

I hope you enjoy reading my first part of the story and I will continue writing my second part soon.

Friday, May 29, 2015

A Hawker At A Market

All Malaysians (unless you are filthy rich) had bought some necessities at one of those so-called wet markets in Malaysia.

What made this hawker stood out among the crowds was his very old, private-registered and beat-up sub-compact, Proton Saga, that was used to carry his one-and-only type of goods he was selling - sandals.

He displayed the budget sandals on a plastic sheet right behind his car. He sold his goods illegally in a sense that he parked his car haphazardly beside the road and wasn't licensed to sell in this manner. Yes, he did an honest living; no doubt about it.

Any idea how old this iconic Malaysian "National Car" was? I  guess it was about 30 years old.

However, this hawker should take care of his car in the first place to avoid it ending up in this kind of sorry state. Just my two cents.

An Old Man In A Mini-mart

I chatted with this humble 86-year-old Chinese man in a mini-mart recently. He came to this place very often with his Indonesian house maid but I never saw his wife so far. I guess he was a widower but I didn't ask him since that was the first time I struck up a conversation with him.

Despite his age, he looked healthy and still able to drive. I noticed he loved to drink chilled Nescafe while smoking a couple of sticks of Dunhill and sat on a stool next to an icebox looking at customers coming in or pedestrians walking by,

He has got 3 children and a whole bunch of grandchildren. He lived with one of his sons but his daughter-in-law didn't allow him to smoke in the house. That was one of the reasons he patronized this mini-mart so often since the owner gave him the privilege to smoke in the shop which was non-air-conditioned.

Maybe I should continue chatting with him if I happen to meet him again to know him better.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

7-Eleven Convenience Store

7-Eleven Convenience Store

Do you remember the first time you patronize a convenience store such as 7-Eleven and what was the stuff you bought?

The very first time I entered a 7-Eleven store was way back in the early eighties in Lubbock, Texas, a town most of you haven't heard of . Do you have any idea what I bought? A carton of Marlboro.

Since then I became a regular customer of  that store, which was located within walking distance from where I lived as a Texas Tech University student. Beside cigarettes, I admit that once a while I did rent porn tapes from the store.

The interior of a typical 7-Eleven store in Malaysia looks like the one shown in this pic.

Since the mushrooming of other rivals e.g. KK Supermart and 99 Speedmart, which priced their goods more competitively, the business of  7-Eleven was greatly affected. When I took these pic in the late morning, the woman on the right was the only customer there.

One of the things 7-Eleven sell at a cut-throat  price is beer. Let's check out how much did they charge for those beer they carried.

A small can of Tiger beer and Guinness Stout cost RM10.15 and RM11.60 respectively. No one in his right mind is gonna buy unless you happen to be a hardcore alcoholic looking for some beer during the wee hours and you can't get them cheaper elsewhere within a radius of 5 km.

Talking about Tiger beer, this 7-eleven store carried something I didn't expect them to sell, i.e.Tiger balm which is a very well-know and trusted analgesic herbal ointment worldwide.

Probably the only thing I have been buying from 7-eleven in recent years is Maxis mobile phone/internet prepaid coupons.

Your Car Battery

When was the last time you inspected your car battery or wait till your car fail to start one fine day?

The battery shown below was in a 3.2L(A) diesel engine Mitsubishi Triton  belonged to a friend of mine. Those whitish, ashy deposits were the result of corrosion. When I opened the plastic cover on the right, I found more corrosion on the positive terminal than the negative one on the left.

Dirty battery

After I cleaned it, the difference was like day and night as shown below.

Opening the caps of the 6 cells revealed that the 3rd and 5th cells (from the negative terminal) needed to be topped up.

Next I checked the voltage of the battery using a multimeter like this one here:

The battery registered a voltage reading of 13V across the terminals which shows that it was still fully charged. You won't be able to start a car engine if the voltage falls below 12.6V.

The table below shows you the voltage vs. charge percentage of a car battery.

Taken from:

A new battery normally carries a one-year warranty from the manufacturer subject to terms and conditions. If you take care of your battery, it can last you for at least 2 years.

The longest life span of a car battery I owned exceeded 3 years since I took good care of it. If you don't bother to inspect your battery periodically, be prepared to buy a new one just slightly more than a year of usage.