by Matthew Raley The school where I'm teaching in Penang is on a ridge overlooking the ocean, with the mountains of peninsular Malaysia in the distance.
When I say it's on a ridge, I don't mean on top. I should say it's built into the ridge. The campus is almost vertical. The dean gave me a tour last week, which involved endless stairs from terrace to terrace -- all of which had to be blasted out of the rock.
The students park at the bottom and hike up to the classrooms, a climb that keeps them hearty. Driving up puts a strain on all the engines. One of my students, Chloe, picks me up in the mornings, the outside of her car windows dripping condensation because of the air-conditioning, and flies along the coast road. When she reaches the campus driveway, her fellow student Heng switches the air-conditioner off, and Chloe guns it to reach the top without have to stop.
Another of my students, Teri, took me home yesterday. To reach her car, I followed her down a seemingly ancient trail of steps, worn and fantastically steep.