Ampun Tuanku

This post recaps the Pahang ETA Royal Showcase and events leading up to it! What a wild ride. We selected ten students total to bring to the event, and two students to man our ‘booth’ and present to the King and Queen of Malaysia, the Malaysian Minister of Education, and the U.S. Ambassador to Malaysia. Our principal, as well as three teachers: Ustad Azmin, Zahri, and Syifa went as well.

The event was traditionally just going to be mentors and ETAs at Julia’s school but the U.S. Ambassador to Malaysia met with the Royal couple and invited them. The Royal couple is from Pahang.

One of the students who was chosen to attend the Royal showcase’s (Pia Sofea) mother owns a bridal shop and is a wedding planner. My mentor Syifa, Kak Lin, and I drove to her house during school to borrow plants and vines for our jungle-safari (nature) themed booth. When we got to her shop, her mother had us try on all different kinds of bridal gowns. For the event, se were instructed not to wear yellow, bright colors, or clothes that match, and to wear a seledang (scarf.) I settled on an emerald green baju kurung with traditional songkit fabric, and yes I wore my crocs because I only have crocs, sneakers, and flip flops in Malaysia. Sofea’s mother was kind enough to tailor the dress to my body, even though I was just borrowing it.
Practicing for the royal couple the Friday before we left. Friday is a holy day, so men wear Baju Melayu, a traditional Malay outfit consisting of a shirt, pants, sarong, and a songkok hat. Yes, that is a spinning wheel in the back – the students made it from scratch. Each ‘slice’ has a symbol that corresponds to a talking point about an ETA program divided up by the presenters.
Aizat, Khairul, Syifa
Our Spinning Wheel with a Rafflesia flower in the middle

The event was a huge deal, and an even bigger deal to plan for. We had dresses tailored, made props, made a working “ETA Spinning Wheel of ETA activities/Memories,” and had four “Safari” banners made to be hung in addition to our two English camp banners. Let’s just say our booth was extra. I spent the entire week leading up to the event working on the booth and practicing with students.

There was a great deal of royal etiquette we had to practice when talking to the queen, we could not say “I”, or “Me” but instead had to say “Patik” and had to put our hands in prayer to our forehead and say “Ampun Tuanku.” We were also supposed to stand tall with our feet together and hands at our side, and leave two to three feet between “yourself and His Majesty” at all times. There was specific etiquette for when the Royals passed by or behind us, while the Royals were standing, and when the Royals were sitting. Men had to wear Songkok. Women had to wear a selendang of a different color with a baju kurung that could not be white or yellow.

My students, Gabs students, and I met up at 7:30 on Sunday morning and took the bus three hours out of our way to Jerantut to pick up 20 students from Sara and Z’s school, but we made it fun.
Rusil, Lokhman, Syawal
Tired after working to set up our booth in the Grand Ballroom at the fancy hotel!
Ustad, Zahri, Khairul, Aizat, Syawal

Once we arrived we brought all the materials into the Ballroom and began to assemble the booth. Other school’s performing practiced their performance and the U.S. Ambassador practiced her speech. She then walked through the booths talking to students and ETAs and gave me a big hug! After, we went to the mall and ate Thai food.

Gabrielle’s father came and they stayed by the beach and so I gave our hotel room to a teacher at my school and stayed with my peeps in our matching pajamas. We had a major dance party the morning of the event and Alicia did my makeup and Sarah ironed her baju with a hair straightener.
First things first…gotta take an official photo with the Royal couple and the VVIPS. We waited for hours for them while they had a formal gift giving ceremony downstairs.
Official photos.
I cried several times that day. My dear friend Nicole is also from NJ and we met at the airport in Hong Kong.
Group photo with Mama Ozzie, a complicated figure but overall Mama.
Right before the event started!
Paan, Lokhman, Azam, Aizat, Khairul, Azmeera, Ain, Sofea, Rusil
Sarah and her beautiful booth!
Syifa loves to gossip! Lol
The Grand Ballroom. Those two paragraphs written up there are the full names of the King and Queen. On the bus ride home we practiced saying their names as fast as we could.
Students watching the performance. So sweet.
Listening to the Queen speak! The U.S. Ambassador also spoke. Sara’s school performed “We are the world” while a montage of videos of us with our students played. Julia’s students performed a traditional “Sewang” dance and an impressive skit. Julia also gave a powerful speech that made me weepy.

The first half of the event consisted of waiting, taking pictures, the National band playing the National Anthem “Negaraku” and the Pahang State Song, speeches, and performances.

All ready to go!
The Queen tweeted out a picture of Aizat presenting to them.

During the second half of the event the King and Queen, U.S. Ambassador, and Minister of Education walked through a line of 14 ETA booths, 7 on each side. We were lucky that they spent quite a bit of time at our booth. Syifa printed out every photo of me in a hijab and had them ready to present to the Royal Couple. The King said that I “look like a Malay girl.” I made the mistake of responding to the Queen’s English in Malay, which is not proper etiquette but oh well. She was very kind. The students were very nervous, and were not asked any of the questions we had prepared for, but did very well. The queen even tweeted out a picture of Aizat! The teachers at my school saw the photos and immediately scolded me for having my hair down during the event.

Entourage on their way to makan makan.

After the event the ETAs ate lunch with the Royals and the VIPs. I sat at a table with Olivia, Zak, and Edward next to a Ministry of Education official who had a very big job and was very kind. Edward spilled curry on her plate but she was totally chill about it. We laughed and laughed with principals and Ministry of Education officers and talked about Durian and Hurricane Sandy? Twice I had someone come up to me asking ME to keep it down…even though I was at a table with Zak!

Ain is so impressive. She is the only girl in her whole grade in the extra science and math classes. Next year she is head prefect of all girls.
Livy being a LOVE.
Syifa, my mentor and I completely exhausted.

And that’s a wrap! It was a really cool opportunity to be a part of.

Two days of school left SOS. Love you.


ClareAbouts is not an official U.S. Department of State publication, and the views and information presented in this blog are entirely my own, and do not represent the Fulbright U.S. Student Program or the U.S. Department of State or the Fulbright Commission or Malaysia.

One Comment Add yours

  1. anneyogablog says:

    Incredible! Love all the photos. You look beautiful ESPECIALLY with your hair down!

    xoxoxo Anne


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