29 Jan 2010

home sweet home

At last, after two weeks absence, I'm back home for a few days. Nothing beats coming home to your own roost! I know... KL is also home but I'm there almost every day of the week and to be able to come back to Malacca is just bliss. We arrived to day at about 1.46pm, quite early because there wasn't that much traffic on the highway. I think the weather here has been just hot and windy - my ferns all look wilted and some are very dry. My mother-in-law suggested putting them under the waterfall which is a good idea - maybe I'll try that.But won't too much water also kill the plants? I'm not sure but ferns do love water, that much I know. At least none of my roses have died - and one is even blooming well. I gave them all some much needed plant food, cleared out the weeds and cut off some of the bamboo branches, as well as the heloconia. I notice that the impatiens too are wilting - maybe its time to re plant them. Looks like this week end I'll be quite busy repairing and feeding the plants. Weather not helping - too hot and windy this whole week. A bit of rain might be a blessing. The roses I transplanted two weeks ago are doing fairly well, in fact one of them is already budding now. I think roses do better on the ground than in pots and the soil was already infected with the white worms in my pots so after taking them out of the pots they are doing so much better.

27 Jan 2010

Visiting the little one

Sophia, now 2 and a half years old is very vocal and has a wide range of vocabulary. She speaks in perfect sentences - "Are we not taking this train mummy?" is just one example of her sentences. Sometimes she breaks into song as she did when we were on our way to Fidgets, a children's amusement gym cum playground. She was singing loudly in the taxi - in Japanese no less, and the Totoro theme song from the Japanese anime - Totoro. I know I sound like the doting grandma who thinks her grand child is perfect but actually I'm being very subjective! Ha ha! I love listening to her conversations - she talks to her toys as well as Totoro, the soft toy and imaginary Totoro always lurking outside. She calls him on the phone and asks him questions. This is a typical conversation: 
 "Hello Totoro, what are you doing?" 
She listens, as if listening to his answer and then says,"Really... ? Are you buying groceries?"
Then she looks at us and in a matter of fact way tells us," Totoro is going to the shop. He's buying groceries."
I ask,"What is Totoro buying?"
"Pasta and noodles," she answers promptly. Pasta and noodles are her favourite foods.
Sometimes Totoro will go to the library, which is also her favourite place. When you ask her what Totoro is doing there, her answer will be," Borrowing books!"
Whenever we go out  she sees Totoro everywhere. Sometimes he's on the tree tops, sometimes in the bus, sometimes walking with his umbrella. She is so imaginative and creative.  She used to love doing  jigsaw puzzles but right now she's off jigsaw puzzles and in love with Charlie and Lola - a British television series about a 4-year-old girl and her big brother Charlie. She would sit through the cartoon quietly. I notice that much of her speech patterns is imitated from this show - very British indeed. 

26 Jan 2010

by train to Singapore

Since it had been some time we hadn't seen Sophie, Repin and I decided to go over to Singapore to spend the weekend with Rizal and Poh Ling. To save time we decided to take the night train - we journey late in the evening and arrive early in the morning of the next day - Friday. So at least we'd have two whole days with them before going back to KL on Sunday.

I hadn't taken the train for ages - the last time was somewhere in the mid 90s when Sarah was just 5 years old. The compartment we were in was L5 and Repin had taken two sleeping berths, opposite each other. Surprisingly it was fairly comfortable. There was a narrow bed with a pillow and a blanket even! The coach was air conditioned so it was a very comfortable ride for only half the amount we normally paid for the bus fare - RM133 for two people, return. Is that cheap or what!

By the time the train moved out of the station I was already lulled by the slow undulating movements. Since this was the night train there was no buffet car and both Repin and I had stocked ourselves with drinks and snacks as well as books if we could not sleep. It was a long and slow journey, but if you have plenty of time it's a good one. The movement of the train and the sound of the engines had a kind of soporific effect and Repin said by the time we arrived in Seremban, I was already snoring away in dreamland!

Early the next day we arrived at the causeway and the Immigration checkpoint in Singapore. Before that the Malaysian Immigration officers had boarded the train in Johore and had checked our passports, so we only had to get our passports stamped by the Singapore Immigration. By 8 am we were already at the Tanjong Pagar Railway Station. I went to the toilets there to have a quick wash and comb my hair, then we had breakfast at the mamak stall inside the station. The food was quite delicious - capati with kheema and a mug of hot milk tea - teh tarik! Replenished and fresh we then walked out through the main hall and was pleasantly surprised to see that the main hall is really great. A high roof with large murals decorating the walls, it reminded me of the big station at Paddington. Indeed it was built during Queen Victoria's reign so the architecture is rather Victorian. What was even more surprising is the large sign on the front entrance - FMSR - Federated Malay States Railway - one of the few signs of British occupancy that had not been obliterated by our Malaysian government. This is a bit of history that should be preserved I think.

14 Jan 2010

On church burning and faith

There's been a lot of talk recently on the use of the word "Allah" by non Muslims. In fact the talk even led to the burning or part burning of  a church in Taman Melawati last week. How can this happen in Malaysia I ask myself. What have we become that we cannot even think of an act that could harm not just the peace that we have had all these years but also made fools of our ownselves? I had always thought that at least here in Malaysia we were more tolerant of other religions, we lived harmoniously and in peace with each other. All Places of worship should  be places of reverence, no matter what the religion. Are we becoming more  and more intolerant, more like the extremists we say we are not? By burning churches, we are acting just like the Taliban who destroyed the huge statues of Buddha in Afghanistan,

I remember a time, when I was growing up when I could visit my friends in the Portuguese Settlement in Malacca, eat and sometimes even sleep with Patricia or Joan, daughters of my father's best friend Uncle Donald. Auntie Jeanne would make me dresses for Hari Raya, not just one but sometimes 3 or 4. Come Christmas Day we would all visit them and have a delicious lunch with them - complete with Rendang,  Roast Turkey (which is a must) and  Devil curry. There would be crackers to pull and presents to get under the Christmas tree.

Other times I remember going with Joan to the small chapel there - the Chapel of our Lady Fatima and sitting with her as she prayed for the fishermen. Both her uncles - Joseph Sta Maria and Phillip were fishermen and she said that we had to pray for them because going to sea was dangerous. So I would pray too - in my own way.

Both my parents were stauch Muslims, yet my dad didn't bat an eyelid when I told him I wanted to read the Children's bible that I had borrowed from Joan. To me they were just stories, full of colourful pictures, like any story book I enjoyed reading. My father sat with me and explained that our beliefs about the infant Jesus were basically the same but that we think of Jesus as Isa and that like our own beloved Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) he was a messenger of God. I read about Moses and about Cain and Abel, about Jonah who went into the stomach of the whale and also about Noah who built the ark - all from the bible. The stories were similar to the ones I had heard told to me by my grand mother.
 Like so many other children of my time I learnt  to sing Jingle Bells, Silent Night, I saw Santa Claus kissing Mummy and many others. After all, if our own faith and beliefs were strong, what can singing these songs do? They were just songs. And if our own faith and beliefs were true and deep, what harm does it do to hear other people, Non Muslims, say Allah? Why should there be any confusion? To me confusion only arise if we do not understand our religion or our belief in it is only skin deep. I think those people who protested against this were themselves unclear of what they understand. It is true that the word came from the Arabic. Its been used for thousands of years not just by Muslims but also by CHristians before Christianity became Anglicised. Like Islam, Christianity began in the Middle East. So what is all the fuss about?

13 Jan 2010

Introducing drama

I gave my students the choice of either doing "The Lion and the Jewel" or "An Inspector Calls". They chose both! And I didnt have the heart to say "no" so we are doing both texts. They seem to enjoy Literature very much and listened interestedly when I introduced them to "The Lion and the Jewel". Gave them a cliff hanger and told them to go read the book! Interestingly enough when I asked them who will Siddi marry - they all say she would choose Lakunle, not Baroka. Is that youth talking or what? When I described Baroka to them they all said "EEUW.." looking disgusted. But I had to impress them on the culture of the African tribe, that youth and good looks mean nothing if you don't have power and charm and Baroka had loads. Well we'll see what they say when they find out that Siddi will marry Baroka in the end.. Or that the Lion will get his Jewel.

I really enjoy this group - its fun teaching them and sometimes the hours just pass effortlessly. It doesn't really feel like work. Wish I could teach real Literature, instead of Methodology of teaching Lit.though.

12 Jan 2010

UM classes

Discussing in groups

Its now into my second week of teaching at UM. But this semester the class I'm teaching is Simulated Teaching in Literature Education - I've got 2 groups from Monday to Wednesday. This is very different from the last year's class where I was teaching Literature or Lit. Methodology. This is mostly practical work - teaching the students to prepare lesson plans and teaching. They seem okay - except that they haven't read any of the texts they are supposed to teach. I gave them my copy of "Holes" to read so that at least they can have some context.

Group dynamics

For now I'm teaching them how to write lesson plans. It seems the most difficult part for them is getting the General Objectives and the Specific Objectives. They are a bit confused about Learning outcomes and Behavioral Objectives and I told them its all in the way we write it.  Yesterday we had some micro teaching and they all enjoyed heckling their friends, pretending to be naughty students!

10 Jan 2010

A tourist in her own hometown

Muara Sungai Duyong - where the grilled fish is simply marvellous

We're in Malacca today but not to stay at home. Repin had work at the OUM campus here - a preview and Tan Sri and Puan Sri are also down for the weekend. I took some time to spend with her and we went shopping at the Fabric shop, Gulatti's at Dataran Pahlawan. I was pleasantly surprised by the numerous shops here, and a fair variety too. Then in the evening Repin and I took them as well as some OUM people for dinner at the seafood place in Muara Duyong where we had delicious grilled fish - freshly caught - and prawns as well as calamari dipped in batter and fried. Truly delicious! To top off the night we had a river cruise on the Malacca river - at 10pm.

Kampong Morten looking very bright
And was I surprised by this - I was expecting a short trip down the dark river looking at old buildings. And what did I find but a fantastic cruise down the river with a very knowledgeable guide who regaled us with stories of each historic building we saw. And the buildings themselves were highlighted by colour  neon lights. Everything looked wonderfully romantic and beautiful. There were pictures on the walls of the buildings depicting different stages of Malacca's colourful history - right from the time the young Javanese prince called Parameswara landed in a small fishing village as he escaped from persecution from his own country, the growth of Malacca as a seaport,to the coming of the  Chinese armada under Admiral Cheng Ze , Portuguese, the Dutch and finally the British as they each colonised the state.

The Malcca river cruise

This river cruise is really a wonderful one. They even had a singer on board singing the dondang sayang, a traditional Malacca song. Repin joined in with great gusto. It was great being a tourist in your hometown! There's so much we didn't know about Malacca before.

2 Jan 2010

Bye bye fishies

My lovely tilapiah have now been caught and eaten - I gave permission to my neighbours to take them since they are now too big for the pond and the koi need the space. So yesterday when I arrived back in Malacca the pond looks kind of empty. My kalui are still here of course, still rather shy. They're quite big now. There's space now for the koi to grow but the smaller tilapiah are still there too. Tilapiah are quite aggressive fish - especially when its eating time and the few koi that I have just can't compete. At least 2 of my koi have died since I put the tilapiah in the same pond.

2009 hasn't really been a year for me to stay in Malacca. I think we were here for just the weekends mainly, and even then we had to miss a number of weekends due to OUM functions, going off for holidays and so on. THis year, 2010 Repin wants me to stay put in Malacca, even though he'll still be in KL. Wonder if I can do that? I'll miss being with him.

1 Jan 2010

The year in reverse

At Ha Long Bay

So its already the new year - the last one went so fast everything's just a blur! Highlights of 2009 for me were my umrah trip and going back to the UK for a short trip. But actually last year was a year of lots of trips - short ones, long ones, near and far. The worst or most disappointing was our trip to Mersing. Or maybe it was because we had too high expectations - after all it is only a little fishing town from where you can hop on the ferry to Tioman. But somehow I had this idea that it's a really fantastic place so when we all got there last July when Sarah was here, it was a letdown.

IN January we went to Hanoi - OUM's meeting with some people there and I went along. That was a great visit and we saw some really wonderful places - Ha Long Bay being one of them. Hanoi reminds me of KL in the 60s. But they're catching up real fast.

The Great Masjidil Haram with the Kaabah - at 3 am!

Then in March we went to Jakarta - just Repin and me. I was there again with the OUM people some time in May. Before that were in Mekah and Madinah, the holy cities of Islam for our umrah. That was wonderfully refreshing as an umrah will always be. I managed to read a few surahs at the Masjidil Haram every morning while I was there and I felt suitably proud of myself for being able just to recite the quran. I couldn't during my haj season and just learnt to read again recently.

Lake Toba seen from the town of Parapat

Of course there were a number of visits to Singapore to see our grand daughter. No words can describe a grand parents feelings as we watch our grand daughter's antics - love, pride, joy all combined.

 Our grand daughter Sophie with her dad, Rizal, listening to some music on the pc

In May we went to Medan and Lake Toba - a hitherto always wanted to visit place but because its so near we never went! Lake Toba is awesome in size and a natural beauty. If only the way there is easier, more comfortable, I'm sure more people would go there. We stayed one night at Brastagi, a place fairly high up the mountains. Beautifully cool, it can be a great tourist attraction but again it's not well marketed.

Horse cart at Brastagi, Indonesia

THe UK trip which had been planned since January was done in October - and we saw all the places we missed when we went there the last few times, as well as places we always loved, such as Edinburgh. I'd like to go to Ireland one of these days. Maybe next time.

Autumn in the UK, a great time to be there

Our last trip for the year was Bali - a brief re visit. As always Bali is spectacular in its natural beauty. A great place for just about anybody - honeymooners, older couples like us, students and even for business!

What a great year that was! I hope this year will be better.