I was sitting at home on a Sunday night and all of a sudden I remembered that applications for the Pidato Antarabangsa Bahasa Melayu (PABM) 2013 were about to close. I had already began putting something together earlier in the week, but between work and uni, I’d let it fall through the cracks. So I turned on my laptop, found the file, finished the submission, and sent it off.

The following Tuesday I received a short email from the Australia-Indonesia Youth Association (AIYA) to congratulate and tell me that I was off to Malaysia… I am SO glad I got that submission in on time! But there was still one more hurdle – would work let me have the time off? Thankfully they were very supportive and two and a bit weeks later I arrived in Kuala Lumpur – let the good times roll!

I was one of the first to arrive at the hotel so there wasn’t anyone hanging around the lobby that night. I went up to my hotel room at about 10pm and was still a bit spun out that I was in Kuala Lumpur and was wondering who my roommate would be, where would they be from, would we get along??

Then at about midnight a girl came crashing through the door. She looked at me and in very broken English asked – Do you speak Indonesian? I said – Yeah. She asked – Thank God! Do you smoke? I said – When I’m on holidays, yeah! Then we lit a smoke and didn’t stop talking and laughing until about 4am. Turns out she is Italian and has spent a lot of time in Indo – so many stories were told that night!

Group shot in front of KLCC

The first day we just got to chill out and cruise around KL. There was about 10 of us who buddied up that day – from Romania, Sudan, Tajikistan, the Netherlands, Russia, Montenegro, Ukraine, Greece, Korea and Mongolia. It quickly turned out that it was too hard to remember everyone’s names.

There were 77 people there from 72 countries! There were ten representatives from five native speaking countries in one category – Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei, Singapore and Thailand – and then 67 second language speakers from 67 different countries. So a lot of the time we ended up just calling each other by the country.

Then the program got underway. We had a day of introduction, and then the next morning I was on a Channel V-style talk show with Germany. It was so much fun – hair and make-up, the works! It was live so we just had to jam with the presenters who were great. Then, back at the hotel, we had time to workshop our presentations with a tutor. It didn’t end there though – Italy and I were up until 2am reciting our presentations over and over.

The next four days was the competition. Four very long days – 6am until midnight every day – filled with different events like a morning tea at the Prime Minister’s residence, a dinner held by Tourism Malaysia, sight-seeing KL and a bunch of others.


During all of that though, I got through the first round, then the second round, and then got through to the semi-final with nine others – Afghanistan, Panama, Jordan, Italy, Japan, China, Korea, Ghana, and Germany.

I didn’t make it through to the final, but I was so happy with where I had got to. And, like other Australians before me had said, once I saw the 4000 person capacity arena where the final was to be held and heard it was going to be broadcasted live on TV, I was almost glad I didn’t make it through!

But in all honesty, from the moment I arrived, I already felt like I had won. Yes I was there for the competition, but no matter what happened I was still going to be in Malaysia with 77 people from 72 countries who were ALL fantastic, and not to mention the staff who were so much fun.

Group shot in the town of Malacca

After the competition finished we went to a village for a homestay. We were there for three nights – it was fantastic! Italy and I were in the same house, along with China, Greece and Montenegro. Our homestay mum, ‘Ma’, was lovely and cooked the most delicious food. Those days were filled with riding bicycles or motorbikes along the rice fields, playing soccer with the kids, making batik and singing karaoke (what’s trip to Asia without karaoke?!).

Thank you AIYA, the Malaysian Government and all the sponsors for giving me such a great opportunity. I had some of the best conversations, laughed all day every day and made some friends for life. I now know 71 people from all over the world that I communicate with by speaking Indonesian – who would have thought?