We gave Maria the honor of choosing our first sightseeing expedition in Penang, and she chose the Butterfly Farm -- or as I like to call it, the Butterfly-arama. "Rama-rama" is the Malay word for "butterfly", so that would turn the nickname into the Rama-rama-arama.
Having read Fancy Nancy: Explorer Extraordinaire, Maria knew just how to dress us for the excursion. After decking ourselves out in flowery, bright clothing (who cares if it matches!) and spritzing on a little perfume, we were ready to go.
Penang is hot and steamy to begin with. So, strolling around inside the butterfly greenhouse was extra hot and extra steamy. (Good if you're referring to coffee or certain movies, not so good if you're just on a family outing.) For Maria, seeing the butterflies flitting around made it all worthwhile. She even made a friend-for-the-day when she encountered another English-speaking girl from Australia. The boys didn't shrug off the heat as well, but they were somewhat distracted by the snapping turtles, humongous scorpions,
and the foot-long millipedes.
I particularly enjoyed the small theater showing film shorts by Miniscule TV. If you're not familiar with Miniscule, they're a series of films featuring anthropomorphic insect slapstick. Very funny! That the theater was air conditioned and had seating was an extra bonus.
Something else caught my eye at the Rama-rama-arama. Several women shrouded from head to toe in black burkas provided quite a contrast to the brightly colored butterflies. Malaysia is a moderate Muslim country, so I don't normally see burkas around town. However, Penang is a popular vacation destination for the more consertive Muslim countries, so seeing burkas at tourist hotspots is to be expected, I suppose. My first thought was, "And I thought I was hot and sweaty..."
I assumed they would be meek, nonparticipatory, and silently follow their husbands everywhere. I was wrong. They were chatting while pointing out pretty flowers to their children and taking pictures just like I was. Even though their mouths were covered, I could tell when they smiled because their eyes crinkled up and looked happy. I realized those women and I had a lot in common despite our different religions and dress. I've also come to realize that I can't tell the difference between Americans and Canadians, but that's a whole different story.