29 May 2008

English Class

English class yesterday was really fun. I gave my students an assignment on conducting meetings and also gave them a controversial topic - traditional vs modern. They were all members of the town planning committee and had to decide whether they wanted to bring down all the old buildings in the town, add a motorway, get rid of the forest and trees around the town to make way for supermarkets and large shopping centres or retain the traditional structures with minor renovations. The students really got into it and they had a fierce debate. Both sides were clear and put forward their arguments forcefully. Imagine my boys who were quite shy and withdrawn on the first day, Afzan and Azman, fighting to change their city. It was satisfying and really heartwarming to see them get into the project with gusto. They enjoyed themselves so much that I found it difficult to stop them and end the meeting. I think Ali was great as chairman as was Nasiha earlier. In the earlier exercise I told them to choose their own agenda and Group 1 chose to organise a concert. She had the meeting well in hand and I can see that she had the makings of a great CEO one day. Nasiha at first glance would never have struck you as a go getter but she has shown that she can talk, even if her English is not that good. She is confident and talks in a no nonsense way. I think she handled that meeting better than many bosses I know.
Swee Lian on the other hand is rather timid and shy, hardly talk unless talked to and seldom even smiles. I like most of them, in fact all of them in different ways. There is Afzan the shy boy who first entered my class. He would only speak in Malay, and Kelantanese Malay at that! Nowadays he can speak with anyone, in or out of class. I'm glad to say that he volunteers information, participates actively in class and even speaks English outside class. You see these boys have the potential, they just need to be persuaded to open their wings and fly.
Ainol is a born leader, quickly managing her group and is also creative. Shairah is shy but will talk in group activities. Even Sabariah is active in groupwork and I can see her participating in most of the activities. However Atiqah is still very shy and only talks if asked. I hope by the end of this course she will be more confident.

26 May 2008


Yesterday being one of the few Sundays we were in KL, my other half and I decided to spend some time at the book store. I told myself I'll buy only one book - after all I still have two and a half books unread. As often happens when we arrive at the book store I always end up buying more.Where books are concerned we as a family can never be disciplined. I ended up with four books and Repin three. I also asked Shasha to keep another book for me - One hundred years of solitude. I'll get that next month hopefully. Anyway I got Sidney Poitier's The Measure of a Man and Barrack Obama's The Audacity of Hope.
I'm reading the first chapter of The Measure of a man now and find it hard to put down. The language is simple enough but it flows like poetry. The words are powerful but very down to earth. I'll finish it soon I think.
There are also a few other books - of the romance variety that I'm reading at the same time. NOra Roberts latest - High Noon and The Hollow. I finished The Hollow last night and found it slightly more scary than any of her other books. It has a lot of suspense though and is about the perpetual war of good against evil. The Hollow is a trilogy, this being the second in the trilogy series. I think that Nora Roberts is better at family stories like the Ireland trilogy - Born in Fire, Born in ice and Born in Shame. In these books her characters are more realistic, more alive. There is depth and they are more mature. I think too she does more research for those books than any of her series.

23 May 2008

Teaching at UM

Its been two weeks now since I started teaching at UM. This time around its better coordinated and better organised, but somehow my feelings for this group are slightly different. I don't feel attached to them as I was with the other group. They are okay - quite likeable but quieter, maybe not as naughty, but not as much fun as the previous group. I can still see Azhar, the class "punk" and his cheeky grin, and hear his sometimes flirtatious innuedoes. But in spite of that I liked him as well as the other boys in the class. Last year at hari Raya quite a number of them sent me sms messages and even as late as last month I got an email from Veronica, one of the girls from last year's class. It gives you a nice feeling to know that these young people enjoy your lessons, still think of you and want to keep in touch. As was Siew Fong from my BBGS days and Caroline from SMJ days. I guess that's why people like me still remain in teaching. We really enjoy our work and when we get students who still write to us or keep in touch with us its a great feeling. I've always loved teaching and if I hadn't gone into the ministry to work in admin I wonder what would have happened. As Frost said in his poem -
The road not Taken :"Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference".
On Friday we had a speaker from CIMB - a Puan Hamidah Naziaddin. When I heard the name I expected someone oldish (in her forties perhaps) wearing a tudong and so on. I guess one must never make assumptions about people - or presumptions as the case maybe. Puan hamidah happened to be a sweet young thing, very elegantly attired in professional black jacket with white ruffled cuffs and pants. She had a lovely accent, standard with a touch of Malaysian and really pretty. I noticed a number of the boys sat up and took notice and everyone in the hall actually paid attention. It really matters I think whether the speaker is a pretty young lady or a middle aged one. But what she said also made a lot of sense and very practical and down to earth. I'm sure the students listened to her and took notes.

16 May 2008

The queen of Jordan

Today Rania, Queen of Jordan came to UM and a convocation was held just for her. She was conferred an honorary degree - Doctorate in International Relations. She is really gorgeous - tall and slim, graceful and gracious. She looks simple yet I know a lot of hard work went into that simplicity, not to say a lot of dollars too. But she spoke well - if only half of our princesses spoke like that! Talked about the place of Muslim women to dispel the myth of the violent Muslim, also talked of how Malaysia has so much and is the quintessence of the modern Muslim country and how the other Muslim countries and Jordan in particular would like to be like us - the way we can live together sp peacefully and how we happen to be one of the few Muslim nations that is stable economically. Well, I like pretty much most of her speech and she looks like a million dollars and a model all in one makes it all the better.

14 May 2008

this and that

I miss Sophia. I miss her big lopsided eyes, her cheeky grin even her shouts or screams? of anger and frustration when she can't get her way. I know - I saw her only last week but I guess its like that with a grandchild. When we were at the restaurant the other day and she made a bit of fuss, and Poh ling scolded her, I felt terrible. As if my heart was aching. I can't bear to see her look sad and she did look sad and hurt and she cried pitiously. It was as if she understood that her mother was angry with her. I guess she does understand.
Is this how my mum in law felt last time when I scolded Rizal or Wan? It must be. I remember once I beat Wan in front of my father in law and he looked very hurt and he quickly carried Wan away from me. I was angry because I felt he was interfering with my style of raising children. I think that must be what Pohling feels too. I really don't like to see her scolding Sophia - after all she is only a baby. But I suppose these young people must be thinking the same thing that I thought when I was their age! And since Rizal is away so much she must feel that it is up to her to discipline the child. But then again she is only a baby - not even 10 months yet.
Today is my third day at UM. This time around I got a smaller class and there are only two boys. I get the feeling that this class is very immature and very young. I know its only the third day and its early days yet but they do look like they have just finished SPM! Their spoken English is ok but their written work is really atrocious. My work is cut out for me. Looks like I may have to start from the basics.
You know, I was just lying down and resting my feet after work today when I happen to glance outside. Its quite simply beautiful, the view from my bedroom. The wide expanse of green that meets the eye is such a welcome sight after being in town driving. This is one of the reasons why my husband and I prefer to live in this part of town, in spite of friends saying we live at the back of beyond. I just love these hills, the green forest that seems to go on forever and in the background, the lofty cliffs of Melawati. Yes, nowadays instead of an infinity of green we can see patches of raw red earth, at times even bald patches that can be a real eyesore, but luckily the green is still there. When we first moved to the area more than 20 years ago this place was a naturalist's idea of heaven. Once at night we even saw a kancil - a mousedeer, not the perennial little devil you see on the roads. And there are lots of "burong ayam ayam" -on the hill slopes. On rainy days it can be as cool as in the highlands. Sometimes you'd even need a sweater at night. Of course, that was twenty years ago. Progress has changed all that.

12 May 2008

Ugly Malaysians

While on the way to the university today I saw the most disgusting thing ever - the driver beside me spitted on the road, not once or twice but almost every three or four seconds! He must have a lot of saliva in his disgusting mouth to do that and doing it on the roadside at a traffic light junction is really the pits. Malaysians are so so horribly unhygienic where this is concerned and he was a young man. Don't they give lessons in hygiene anymore at school?
Thinking of this reminds me of schooldays when I was in Malacca. During ramadan many of the Malay girls would spit into the drains to avoid swallowing their saliva, out of the false idea that we can't even swallow our own saliva. When Mrs Rajendran the Principal saw one girl doing it with her own eyes, she called the girl in question in such an icy voice, we all quaked in our shoes. The next morning a special assembly was called and she gave all of us a lambasting about hygiene and cleanliness being next to Godliness. That was one assembly I would not forget in a hurry. She was so incisive and derisive I felt raw afterwards but what I noticed was that many of the Malay girls did not feel the same way. They felt that she was being insensitive and cruel and anti malay. I just could not understand their attitude. Even these days I find that many malays still have this 'frog under the coconut shell' mentality - a closed mind that does not want to see the other side of the argument.
Anyway back to the saliva spitting road fiend - he wasn't malay. But what he was or was not is not important here. I just wish we as malaysians would be more considerate of others, more conscientious in keeping our environment clean and more honest.

11 May 2008

Mothers' Day

I know its only a commercial thing and as mothers' days go, more and more Malaysians are getting sucked into it. Shops advertised all kinds of goods for mothers - even supermarkets are doing their thing - advertising health products, beauty products and all kinds of packages for mothers. Well my children got together yesterday and took me out for dinner, albeit without two members of the family. It was supposed to be lunch at first because of Sophia but since I couldn't make lunch we had to do an early dinner. It was at the Curve, a really interesting concept in shopping at Sunway Damansara. This is only the second time I was here, the last time being two years ago, also at Rizal's invitation. Dinner was at this place called Itallianies - obviously a pasta joint. It was not bad though if hubby were here I'm sure he wouldn't have liked it. Still we had a good time, leaving after Sophia pulled her crank act - it was 7.30 pm anyway -and almost bedtime for our little princess. Must try to come here again - this time with Repin and hopefully Sarah.

9 May 2008


I'm looking after Sophia today since her mum has a director's board meeting. She's really growing up fast, becoming quite cheeky and also naughty. Now almost 10 months old, she can stand for a whole minute without support and will walk all around the sofa with support. She crawls pretty fast too and if I had to look after her alone as I did the other day I think I'd be exhausted by end of day. Today my maid came along, to take care of her for a while when I go to the university to collect some materials that Wendy asked me to collect.
When we arrived at Parkville she'd just had her bath and mom was dressing her with difficulty. This little one can squiggle like the proverbial eel. Its almost impossible to put on the cloth diaper on her so I normally use the disposables to be quick. She's a good eater too, not fussy like Rizal at that age. Pohling unlike many modern mums, cooks the food herself, for example rice porridge cooked with fish and vegetables or mashed potatoes. Sometimes our girl eats porridge cooked with bits of salmon, or little bits of chicken in them. Its really enjoyable just watching her eat and she is often quite impatient if you are slow. First she'll give a little Ehmm.. to show that she's waiting and if that doesn't work she'll give a very loud reminder that you are late. She enjoys finger foods and will bite (or suck) on it until it disappears - to keep her quiet her mum often gives her biscuits to hold as in pic.

Even though she's still so young I can see that she loves books and will spend a long time looking at pictures in her picture books. She also loves to listen to music, listening intently when you play her any song, sometimes rocking herself in time to the beat. She's quite easily entertained and is a happy child. I think Pohling is doing a good job of bringing up a healthy, happy baby. From what I can see Sophia is going to be as articulate and as intelligent as her parents.

6 May 2008

Lit Tuition

I spent the whole of yesterday researching some poets for Adila and Hannah's Lit tuition but today Adila called to say that they can't make it. Not that I'm not happy - who cares to drive 48 km there and another 48km back! If not for the fact that I feel I owe Yah for all the years she spent helping me raise my kids when I was in LA, I wouldn't take up the job. Adila is not the best of students - she can be quite irritating with her"couldn't care less" attitude. Her English is ok, and she can get an A if she takes herself more seriously. She didn't even pass up the assignment I gave her three weeks ago and neither did Hannah I guess, since they both had excuses when I asked for the work. How do I get it into their heads that English Lit is not a breeze? To get at least a B they have to read the texts and I know that they haven't read the whole of An Inspector calls. I don't have the time to sit and read it with them - all I can do is go through certain acts and point out the significant scenes and quotes.
Anyway I was quite happy surfing the net looking for notes on An Inspector Calls as well as the poets. Found an interesting blog by Robert Raymer the writer of the short story "Neighbors". Also found another SPM blog by someone named Bahiyah -bastion.blog or something like that. She has a blog on SPM Lit and I thought of taking a peek but its an 'invited guests only' blog. So can't access it. Actually I was also looking for the text of the poems we are doing because the photocopy that Hannah got from her teacher was very badly done and a lot of pages were blur. But I only managed to get the ones who are older. Its more difficult to get present days poets I think, as Hugo Williams is. Very interesting poet - he does have a sense of humour. I should get his travel book - All the time in the World. My other half would surely like that. He's been buying travel books lately - first How to write travel books, then a second one more recently - The Best travel Writing of 2007. He really into travel writing I notice.

5 May 2008

Family reunions

It seems like yesterday was family reunions day. We met Zaimah, my hubby's long lost adopted sister. She was marrying off her eldest daughter and wanted to get in touch with us. Her daughter googled Repin's name and found out about his blog. From there she sent a message to sarah's facebook and Sarah told us about it. The wonders of modern communication will never cease to astound me. So there we were finally meeting her after something like 10 years. There was so much to catch up on - her two older girls are now married and she has one more in Form 4. They all look like her, especially the eldest, who is also the prettiest. WE had a good chat with her mother, who couldn't remember me but did remember Repin.
After that we went to Puan Sri Hashimah's house coz Adik Is wanted to talk to his uncle. I had not seen her for almost a year I think. The last time was when I took her out for lunch at PJ Hilton sometime in may last year. That was a really long time. Rizal came over for lunch with his family and Sophia was very reluctant to be carried! Not surprising seeing that we hadn't seen her for at least 3 weeks. Babies do have very short memory spans I think. She can now walk with aid - holding on to the sides of the tables and pushing chairs around the house.

3 May 2008

Just thinking...

The weather these past few days has been unbelievably hot. I know - we're in Malaysia so what else is new, right? But its been unusually warm these last few days, and humid too. So much so I really wish we have air conditioning in Melati. So is that global warming or what! And talking of global warming, I don't think Malaysians in general care or are worried about it. People talk of food shortages everywhere in the world, increase in petrol prices and even increase in the prices of all food items - but here in Malaysia, in spite of the increase, people are still quite complacent about it. It's as if the food shortage does not touch us at all. The food crisis is really bad. Phillippines, India and Indonesia Egypt have it pretty bad but I know that many other countries are also suffering. Maybe we are being cushioned by our government - all those subsidies - so that's why many people are unaware or not really worried. Yes, the price of most food items have gone up, but basically we are still okay, in that we can still afford to buy food. Our staple rice is still available. So what do we care that other people are suffering? I blame the US of course - or they are mostly to be blamed. Of course we should also blame ourselves for not being self sufficient where food is concerned but when the US cut back its food export and used most of its grain to manufacture ethanol because of the oil crisis - this is the consequence.
Is the world headed for a food crisis? India, Mexico and Yemen have seen food riots this year. Argentines boycotted tomatoes during the country's recent presidential elections when the vegetable became more expensive than meat; and in Italy, shoppers organized a one-day boycott of pasta to protest rising prices. In Egypt too it was shown on BBC that even bread is in short supply. What more the poor Palestinians and Iraqis.
Food prices have gone up, not just here in Malaysia but globally and I think its going to stay up. What with the uncertain climatic changes everywhere, the oil price hike and war, I very much doubt that the price of food will change for the better anytime soon. In fact if we're not careful and plan ahead, we too might suffer a food shortage in the future.
Maybe we should start worrying - and agriculture should come back. We should encourage people to plant their own vegetables at least, like we used to do a long time ago.
In my own small way I am doing something - I'm planting some vegetables now - brinjals, chillies and pak choy. Well, every little helps, doesn't it?
Whether its global warming or the food crisis, its all the same to us Malaysians with our tidak apa attitude. Here in Melawati, huge trees are still being cut - and for what - just to build some houses up in the hills for some people who want to live higher up! Now the beautiful green Melawati Hill has become a real eye sore. Its bleeding red and bald to boot - thanks to some greedy developer who has no conscience! And along Jalan Genting Kelang they have cut down all the trees! When I first drove along that road two weeks ago I had a shock - it looked so bald without the big trees lining the road. I think we really should take a leaf out of Singapore's book- see how they maintain their lovely old trees and preserve it rather than get rid of it. And people everywhere in the world are talking about preserving the environment. Here we do just the opposite. And the irony of it is that they cut the trees during Earth Week. Sometimes I'm ashamed to be called Malaysian.