Ayam: (noun) 1. chicken
When I was 4 my father took a company assignment to Terengganu. In Terengganu, we lived in a small house but our backyard was a jungle. Not the jungle desperate housewives moan about over here when they need to do some weeding or call the yard workers to trim the hedges or mow the lawns, but an actual jungle. Occasionally, we would see monkeys calling to each other swinging from the trees making a big racket. When that happened, mom would call to us and my sister and I would come running as swiftly as our little legs could carry us to watch the monkeys scream from the safety of our kitchen back door.We lived minutes from the ocean and what an ocean it was. White powder sand and water clear enough that you could see the ocean floor as you tried to swim out as far as you could go. I went to school there. When I wasn’t at school I rode the new red bike my parents got me around with my friends until it got too dark to see anymore and we ran back inside for supper. I had a friend named Ten which I thought very funny back then because he was 10-years old. I wondered if his name became Eleven when he turned 11 and how cool that was. Ten gave me my first pet: a fighting fish in a plastic bag.Like all good things it had to come to an end. We moved back to Kuala Lumpur. I was now in first grade. I sat in the old wooden rickety public school chairs which I noticed were vastly different from the new chairs we had back at the private school I went to in Terengganu. I was a smart girl back in Terengganu. I was third in my whole grade. Everyone knew because the teacher called out our names so everyone would know. I wondered if I was still smart here in this new-old school. I turned to the girl next to me. I was to later learn her name: Sharon. Without preamble I asked her, “Do you know what ‘ayam’ means?” and just at that moment, the teacher walked in and we all stood up to greet her. I didn’t know why we were standing up to greet the teacher. We didn’t do it back at my old school but I stood up anyway. I didn’t look at my new teacher, I looked expectedly at Sharon. I needed to know if I knew more than these kids here. She didn’t say anything she just shook her head and held her hand up. “Hah!” I thought while heaving a sigh of relief. Good to know I might not have much competition here after all.“It means chicken,” I said smugly.“I knew that,” Sharon said, “I was telling you to hold on, we had to greet the teacher.”I looked at her skeptically thinking, “Uh-huh, likely excuse”. I then shot at her a bunch more Malay words to see if she could keep up. Much to my dismay, not only could she keep up but she had Malay words of her own. This girl had spunk talking back to me. I looked at her and smiled, “I am Jesselyn”.“I am Sharon,” she said smiling. I had a new friend. I wasn’t sure if she was smarter than me but I figured if she was then I sure did want to be her friend. I have since made lots of other friends. In fact, I have come to find out that friends are what I do best. I collect people the way some people collect stamps. “Ayam” reminds me to not be a chicken; to strike out on your own and to not be afraid of new situations and new people. And that it is probably best if I didn’t start out every friendship with a challenge. So, do you know how to calculate the true value market price of a bond?Hah. I didn’t think so.