30 Jun 2008

On the home front

I finally got the cheque for the pre-employment class - after a month's delay. However my friends Alby and Barbara didn't get their cheques and had to collect it the next day. I think the university is really inefficient. SKET is worse than inefficient. Imagine we received our letters of appointment today - after we had finished teaching and what is more, we didnt even get that for the pre-employment programme. We were asked to come and teach and we all went happily, without even a letter to appoint us. And now after its all over, they still haven't prepared our payment vouchers. I had to wait from 12.00 till 1.pm then the clerk told us to come back at 3.00pm. When we returned it was still not ready, though lucky for me, mine was. When will they pay us for the last programme I wonder. Next month perhaps?
Today's news is full of Anwar's melodrama - his so called death threats and running to the Turkish embassy for safety. He said or his wife said that the Turkish embassy invited him but the spokesperson at the embassy said he went there himself, not at anybody's invitation. As to the reports of his sodomy act with an aide, well I really don't know. Of course he and Azizah both claimed that it was a frame up, as before. But my mind can't accept this logically - who would frame him? The BN? Najib? But why? Political assasination? I think its Anwar himself trying to get some political mileage.The strange thing is that I know many of my friends are on his side. They believe him and say that he has been sadly maligned and that he is the only leader Malaysia can hope for. Maybe... I would have voted for him once. But ater the Gore affair and finding out that he supported Al Gore's campaign for presidency and gave money to his cause, well... now I think he's just a greedy man who wants power.
Malaysia's political future really seems to be in a shambles. Today's parliament sitting looked like another farce - a comedy of errors, with the DAP and PAS making accusations and the speaker trying to maintain order. I think its becoming more and more farcical - the whole parliamentary session. As long as these people are only interested in promoting their own agenda, things will never improve. Why can't they ALL be more mature in their thinking and work only for the good of the country and not themselves. But this I think is naive thinking. Most men are greedy anyway - for money, for power. Whether it is one political party or the other,the end result is the same. Its just they way they do it that's different. Some spout religion and wear the ulamak's robes to swear that their aims are pure and altruistic. Some try to gain the people's sympathy, giving a picture of a down-trodden political opponent who is subjected to all kinds of malicious rumours...
I think I'd rather trust Lim Kit Siang with his verbal attacks on parliament than hypocrites who show a smile to the world, hiding malice behind their words. As Shakespeare quoted in Julius Caesar -" Yon Cassius has a lean and hungry look... such men are dangerous." I agree with him wholeheartedly. At least Kit Siang does not hide behind a mask of religiousness or goodness.

29 Jun 2008

Visiting Sophia Meiyin

Water baby and Daddy Water baby
We set out for Singapore on Friday. Our vehicle of choice is once again the Odyssey. I think I must be really tired because I slept practically the whole way. I wasn't even aware when we reached Johor but woke up at the Pagoh rest area. What can I say except that the bus was comfortable?
We arrived in Vistaya View, Rizal's apartment somewhere past midnight but he was waiting for us with some pizza for supper. In spite of the late hour, I gobbled down two slices. Slept around two I think.

Was woken up by Sophie's chatter so went out to see her. She hasn't really changed that much but is getting taller and cleverer too. She'll be one year old in two weeks time and yet even now she can communicate with her parents in her own way, for example if she wants a bath, she'll crawl to the bathroom, sit in front of the door and say "ba" in a way that says in very clear terms that she thinks she ought to have a bath now. THis little one sure knows her own mind.

Later that day we went out to Sentosa Island for an outing. Just the journey is interesting enough. We took a train to the harbour at Telok Blangah, then a monorail crossing to the island. Stopped at the beach station and walked along the beach path to the Underwater World. I find the whole island pretty fascinating. Lovely beaches, and yet cool dense woods. A tram to take you around the island as well as a cable car ride up the hill for a stupendous view of the island. Unfortunately it rained, though it by no means spoiled my day. We took shelter at one of the numerous tram stops and waited for the shower to stop. I watched the people around me - mostly foreign tourists having fun. Its funny - we have so many islands in Malaysia. Beautiful unspoiled islands with soft white sand, and yet we could not create an island with one main purpose - entertainment. Of course we have Langkawi and Tioman and Pangkor but I think Singapore has achieved something wonderful here - a family entertainment centre with all the trimmings. And as the taxi man told me later, once the Gentings World Resort is completed in 2010, it'll be The Entertainment centre of the area. We have most things that Singapore has, but its like we are the poor relation - everything is paler compared to Singapore, which shines like a polished jewel. This is only my opinion anyway. Others may not think as I do, but we do need proper maintenance of our beautiful beaches, and we need to improve everything, our transport system especially.

25 Jun 2008

Urban poor

Today's Malay Mail highlighted the plight of those living in cities such as KL. It's true that with rising costs a lot of people are living too close to the poverty line for comfort. According to the paper even those earning RM3000 a month find it hard to live in the city, especially if they are married with kids in school. School bus fares have gone up, the price of food has gone up and petrol has gone up. Rent too has gone up (to keep up with the J0nes) - so how can a lot of people working as clerks or shop assistants survive, living in KL? I know that my two children who are both young graduates working in KL would not be able to live comfortably if we don't help them. Will petty thefts and burglary raise its head again as predicted by some people? I sincerely hope not.
Yesterday as the hubby and I were going to the bank we saw an accident. Poor kid was lying on the road, presumably unconscious and everyone was just standing there, looking. There was blood all over the road . The crowd was just standing, looking on as if they were watching a gruesome scene from a movie. If somebody had called for an ambulance I doubt it would arrive in time to save the boy (he looked like only a boy or at least a young man). I don't know what it is with these young people who race through traffic daily, weaving in and out, causing other motorists a heart attack. I flinch every time one of these "mat rempit" motor cyclists zoom in and out between the cars. Traffic is always bad down where we live and in the morning it is worse. Then along comes our motor cycle daredevils who speed through the centre between the cars as if there was a special lane just for them. There have been so many accidents I wonder aren't they just a teeny weeny bit afraid for their own lives? But it seems not because every day we'll see them - anywhere in KL. At night, when you think at last you can get peace and quiet, the silence will be broken by the shrieking of their motor cycles- piercing the night air with the roar of their exhaust pipe.

24 Jun 2008

Increasing cost of living

Here are some pictures of my little cutie pie. Isn't she adorable?
My UM class will be ending this Friday after which the hubby and I are going to Singapore to visit our grand daughter. Its been two weeks since we last saw her and I just hope she hasn't forgotten us and cries when she sees us. The last time she saw Repin she cried so much he could not even look at her. Poor hubby was very disappointed.

On CNN this evening it was reported that there are some 500,000 children in Indonesian orphanages but they were not orphans. Thier parents are still alive but are too poor to feed them. Hence the poor kids are sent off to state orphanages so that they are ensured of survival. Times are really desperate for the poor in Indonesia and I suppose elsewhere. Even here in Malaysia I"m sure there are a lot of people who are just barely surviving. Since the oil price increase, a lot of essential goods have also risen in price and I know that in my case, the grocery bill has gone up by at least 20%. You have to fork out so much more now to get so much less. I guess inflation is coming to stay. Even our roti canai costs more and two pieces of chicken costs me RM9.00 just now. (Cut chicken). The ordinary ikan kembong also costs RM 8.90 per kilo. Will the price of food go down? I'm not sure it will. I guess as some people said the other day we have to learn to like our vegies - after all its cheaper and its healthy. So why not? Its ok for me but the hubby is not a vegie fan - he'll only eat beans which are not really veggies. He says leafy veggies are for goats!

19 Jun 2008

UM English class

I finally saw the video that Wan did of my pre -employment class - the last class assignment when they had to simulate an interview and a meeting. It was quite good - imagine that this was the group which was shy and would not open their mouth at first.

This present group is naughtier and more active in a way but the other was more reliable. I like them all however. On Saturday they're going to sing "All my love" by Westlife and its a pleasure watching them practising - so enthusiastically. Like most teenagers they enjoy singing and jazz chants. But you can't be singing all the time can you? So lessons on verbs and tenses and prepositions have to be injected, interspersed by more singing!

Today SKET showed a CD of Pride and Prejudice - the one in which Kiera Knightley acted. However I didn't get to watch it coz I had a toothache. Went to see Jijah instead.

17 Jun 2008

Oil price hike

Just some thoughts on the oil price hike and how the opposition is using it to get some political mileage. There was some kind of protest during the weekend it seems. They held a rally in front of SOGO and also Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman. I think whoever thinks they are doing it out of concern for the citizens must really be blind. They're only using the oil price hike for their own political gains. It just goes to show how much they really care for the country.The oil price hike is a global problem. WE cant change the price here in Malaysia. Even a large oil producer like Brunei has increased its oil price and oil prices has gone up double the amount every else in the world. If Abdullah Badawi wanted to be popular among the citizens he could have reduced the oil price but he knew that it wasn't possible and that for the good of the nation, no matter what, he had to reduce the oil subsidies. In fact we have been cushioned from the harsh realities of life throughout our life - right from the 80s.
On another matter...
I find it really irritating that Lim Guan Eng keeps on harping about Petronas. Imagine what could happen if he were the PM! Will he abuse his priviledges as PM and would Petronas end up subsidising most of the govt's expenses? God knows! Its true that Petronas is a govt company but its also a company in its own right and should be independent of and from the govt. Otherwise how can it be run as a successful company? If they didn't have the freedom to run the company as a company, Petronas wouldn't be where it is today. And I know how hard they work, with both my son and the hubby working there at one time.
The Penang minister should stop looking out for all the things the previous govt did or did not do and just work on improving the state. I think he should just shut up and run the state - in his own way - whatever that is. Its 100 days and what has he achieved so far - besides complaining?

15 Jun 2008

Port Dickson

Picture on left - quaint little shop in PD, selling all kinds of hardware. Bought an iron mould for baking "kueh bakar".

An island just off the coast. Its actually within walking distance, it's so near. Some boys went across for a swim.
Two guys were fishing but I didnt see them carrying any fish so they cant have caught any.
The sand here is so soft and fine and white, its a pleasure to walk on it. On the horizon we can see the sun , looking like a fiery ball, about to set. At the water's edge, a family is relaxing. The father seems to lie down happily in the sand and just let the waves lull him to sleep.

A bit of rest today

Mangrove trees

After a hectic week of teaching and preparing lessons, the family and I went to PD for a short break. Actually it was a Leisure Holiday thing, and knowing how badly managed Leisure Holiday places are, I almost didn't want to go. I agreed mainly because I didnt want to hurt the hubby's feelings. Also I guess I hoped that it would be better than we expected. Well... it was worse than we expected. The place was difficult to find - lost among some bushes and very well hidden amidst the brush and lallang. Wehad to stop at a petrol station to find out exactly where it was. There are no clear signposts and even once we arrived the lane was so narrow and dark it was a wonder we missed.

PD sunset

The condo itself is on the third floor - no elevators of course. So up we walked the four flights of stairs, with all our things. Inside. the hall light wasn't working, the tv wasn't working and the toilet was a disgrace. Shasha refused to go in unless it was urgent. Anyway I was so tired I just prayed and went to bed.

The next day, early in the morning we went out for breakfast at one of the stalls near the beach. Not a bad place after all - its next to the Petronas station. The roti canai was good though they could have improved the gravy. Anyway we were entertained by this old man who just came and sat at our table and started talking. He lived nearby he said and had 10 children and 5 grandchildren. Quite a story teller - he told us all kinds of stories about his past - how he was from the army and later came back to PD to work for Shell. Really an interesting man.

Played a game of BOGGLEs with the family. Repin refused to join at first but after watching us for some time, decided to join us. Shasha and Wan are really good at it and fast too. They won 6 out of 10 times that we played. Its a great game for boring afternoons. I won only twice. But its very addictive and challenging to create as many words as we can within 3 minutes. Reminds me of the spelling game I gave my kids.

In the evening we went for a walk on the beach. Rizal had said he wanted to join us for the day but when I called Pohling said they were still sleeping (at 11 am) so I told her not to come because it would be a waste of Rizal's time, and hers too. Anyway we had a good walk - watched the sunset and some people fishing near a man-made stone walkway on the beach. Got some lovely views of the beach too.

12 Jun 2008

English class

This is almost the end of the first week of my second class. This batch are the first years that we had previously. They're now going on to their second year. I've got a mixed group - some from Engineering faculty, and some from Econs and Social Science. I think the girls from social science have really poor English. The other day two girls from Barbara's class asked me the meaning of ' during" and "while." How do you explain such words except by translation?

The Engineering students are slightly better. Am at my wit's end trying to think of entertaining activities for every morning. Tomorrow, thank god they're watching a movie so we're not required to think of an activity. Today gave them a board game which is quite interesting. Maaybe next week I'll teach them I have a dream by ABBA. These kids are weaker in English and a few, not all have poor attitudes too. Especially the girls from Kelantan or am I prejudiced? Perhaps. But I find them very quiet and shy and they won't even mix with the others in games. They don't participate, instead they watch the others. Next activity I must make them all do something.
Had a bit of a misunderstanding about the computer labs. Wrongly labelled so I assumed I would get my previous lab but Datin and Barbara too said they were using the same lab. Finally asked SKET to settle it and they told me that I have to go to another lab in Econs Fac. This one is not accessible by car - right on topp of a hill and lots of steps so its lucky that its me and not barbara coz I think she wouldn't able to climb the numerous steep steps. I was lost for a few minutes too - my students had gone in and I couldn't find them. After much walking and ending up in all the wrong places I finally tracked them down.

11 Jun 2008

Just another ordinary day

Had session until late night yesterday. Very very tired but I think the students were happy. But I really think the Orientation committee kids were great. If not for them, I think, Renu and I would have had a hard time. The kids organised everything for us. All we had to do in the end was sit and watch. We played a short game - something about walking across the hall creatively. I did it in class the first day and my class enjoyed it but with bigger groups we could ask thme to do in groups so it was more fun and we got to observe their teamwork and creativity at work.

Late yesterday evening I went to Rizal's place. They're here for a while or at least Pohling and Sophie are. My grand daughter has grown in the past month. She's smarter and know what she wants and asks for it. Recognises a few words for example "No" and Mamam which means eat. So if she wants food she'll just say mamam in a loud no nonsense voice and everyone knows she's hungry. Clever girl. Can also climb stairs but cant come down by herself. Pohling says she loves water - cries if she's taken out of her bath and recently when they took her to Bali, enjoyed playing on the beach so much, she refused to be taken in.

9 Jun 2008

OUM Family Day

The annual OUM family day was yesterday. They held it in Port Dickson, at a fairly new resort called Tiara Beach Resort. Its quite far from the usual group of beach resorts and fairly inland - more in Pasir Panjang than PD itself. WE had a difficult time locating it, especially at night and coming from KL. But people were waiting for us - Fendi, one of the committee members was on hand to help us and so when we arrived we went straight up to our suite.
The place was quite big - easily 10 blocks of apartments surrounding 4 or 5 giant pools. In fact the pools were so big they even resembled small lakes and they made it in such a way that some of the pools looked like a beach - with sand and sloping gently into the water. There are large palm trees around each pool, with hammocks for those who want to laze around. Some of the pools had giant slides, waterfalls and the baby pool area and a mini playground inside it, with a castle and a baby slide. I'm sure kids love it.
The family day started at 11.00 am on Saturday. Participants came from all over malaysia, including Sabah and Sarawak so this year's family day included the larger OUM family. In the afternoon, for lack of any activity, Pn Seri and I decided to go for a massage. It was quite painful let me tell you. We were pummelled and kneaded and pounded and pulled and stretched within an inch of our lives, I'll never go to a massage at a place I dont know ever again. I think parts of me ached so much I wish I hadn't gone for the massage. Anyway if you ever go to Tiara Beach Resort and think of trying the massage, then don't. Unless you love self torture.

Monday, 9 June 2008

End of one class and beginning of another. Today is the first day of the English Enhancement Programme with the 1st year students. I got a group of 25 kids, two of which could not speak nor understand English. During the interview I asked her what her hobbies were and she looked at me blankly and said "don't know". I said what are your interests and again she said dont know. So I gave up. Wonder what kind of students I have this time. I miss the pre-employment kids.

5 Jun 2008

Oil price hike and all things bad

Yesterday was a rotter of a day for me. I had to go to Shah Alam for the Lit. tuition and when it ended at 6.30 pm decided to stay back for maghrib prayers. But at 6.40 it rained so heavily - complete with thunder and lightning. By maghrib everything was dark but the rain had stopped to a drizzle. So I decided to brave it and took off. The moment I hit KESAS the jam started. It was bad and I knew it would get worse, especially before KL. So thought I'd be clever and take the NPE instead. Bad choice. It was even worse. In fact it was so bad I couldn't even see where I was going and ended up in Jalan Klang Lama. That was the real rotter. Because I had forgotten that the price of gas was going up last night, and vehicles of all shapes and sizes, even buses, were lining up at all petrol stations to buy gas before the price went up. Its really crazy, the queue was at least half a km long in some places and three or four cars wide so they were blocking traffic left and right. Luckily I had filled up the night before, not in anticipation of the price hike but because my tank was nearly empty.
And this is the highest ever that petrol price has gone up - 78 cents. So petrol now costs us RM2.78.
Even this is lower than many of our friends overseas. In the States I think gas is around RM5.00 per litre and in Thailand around RM4. Soon I'm sure the price of other goods will follow suit. And what will the poor live on?
As for other parts of the world - there was another earthquake in Szi-chuan. More after shocks and mudslides.

2 Jun 2008

English class

How fast the time flies. By the end of this week I would have finished the month with my Pre-employment group. I can see that they are more confident in presentations and simulations but are still weak where grammar is concerned. I guess for that they'd have to read more, and we'd have to have at least six months of intensive English. I hope by now the kids are more confident when speaking in English. They've been groomed and polished and given soft skills, entrepreneural skills, exposed to EQ and SQ sessions apart from the intensive English they are doing now. I know from my own class that they have improved vastly. Even Afzan speaks English confidently now and they are all good in team activities.

Anyway we're ending this class by the end of this week and next week a new class will begin. Still not sure whether I want to continue. Rohani has also asked me whether I want to teach at Genting. Hers is a group of security guards - just conversational English. Should be interesting I think.
The class gave a really great presentation today. When I arrived this morning the boys were there looking smart in dark shirts and ties. I watched them practising their interview and it was good. I feel like a mother duck looking at her little ducklings successfully swim across a river. The feeling was great. They had practised so hard to and they did everything themselves. Then came a nice surprise - they gave me a surprise party! It was so sweet of them. There was KFC and lots of other goodies. The SKET team came and caught them on video. I also called Wan who brought our videocam and took a video of the whole process - the interview as well as the meeting. Ali was a great CEO - so confident and natural. He even joked and teased the other committee members! He's a great guy I think and will become somebody important one day I think. See pictures above of students doing group work.