Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The Standard of English of Young Malaysians

back in the 70s, my late bro, who came back fr. the UK after getting his MRCP, was offered as a lecturer in the faculty of medicine of UKM. my brother, like me, was concerned with the quality of students produced. we both want our students to come out to the outside world with knowledge that befits them - in this case, for my brother, to produce quality doctors. unfortunately though, he was pressured to pass the students eventhough they're not up to the mark. finally, my brother left, and became a specialist in the govt. hospital. he was offered a lot of money to join the private hospitals, but he declined the offer - because he wanted to train young doctors doing their housemanship and to ensure they're of quality.

now, i raise the same question of quality, and although i'm not a medical doctor like my late brother, i question the standard of english among the young malaysians nowadays. to be sure, there are good english speakers, good english writers - those who are exposed to the language at such an early age or use it at home as their 1st language rather than their mother tongue. then there are those who are motivated because of their keen interest in the language.

one of the reasons why students dont perform well is that they're not interested in the language. yes it's the same excuse, but it is the reality. they dont see the point of learning the language, or worse, they would rather read other subjects such as Physics, Chemistry, Biology. some brilliant graduates are jobless because they cannot communicate in english. which is a big shame, really. my niece, who went for the interview to become a PTD (diplomatic and admin officer) was appalled to see how graduates who could speak eloquently in bahasa during a presentation, struggled to speak in english during an oral english presentation.

parents should play the key role in motivating the students by speaking in english at home. yes, everybody is embarrassed to speak in english at first (for those who are not used to it) but it gets better with practice. which is more important, pride or the benefit of the children? they should also motivate the students to read in english. as i often told my students, even the most brilliant professor in english cant teach them everything there is to know in english, and they should help themselves.

unfortunately though, some students live in communities that still see english as a colonial language " bahasa penjajah", and some extremists view english as the language of the infidels "bahasa kafir". english is just a tool for communication, it has no religious nor political connotations. if the extremists are so worried for the souls of their children, they should bear in mind that their mother tongue is not the language of the Quran either (read this in a very dry note).

another main reason: some organisations which i cannot mention here, are instrumental in presenting malaysians with a facade. the teachers have a certain standard for their students, but after the results of public exams are out, students often get better results. some deserve the good grades, but some are questionable. sometimes we are told to accept answers that do not really answer the question. which makes this brain wonder again.... what has become to the standard of english? thus, we present malaysians with another reality. a constructed reality. my fren, who is working at one of the organisations, said that there are some who question why students who performed well in 1119 cannot perform in muet. i'm not going to provide the answer here. it is up to the readers to think. as descartes said, cogito ergo sum - i think, therefore i am.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Getting a Maid:A Manual

i'm maidless right now, which is equivalent to a greek tragedy. i've been so used (and spoiled) to having small luxuries, that now i miss all those days. like having all my clothes including nightgowns and caftans ironed.

i'm waiting for the new maid to arrive now, and you'll never believe how expensive a maid can be. last 2 years, we paid RM5k to get a maid in and paid her RM370 a month. now we've to pay RM6.7 to get a maid in, and her salary will be RM500. if you get one through licensed agencies, that is.

so basically, what do you have to do if you want to get a maid? first of all, survey. you ll have to know
1. how much the agency's service charge is
2. how much the indon agency's service charge is

however, it is my advice that you do not opt for unlicensed agencies, as the qualities of the maids might differ. of course, they offer much cheaper price usually half of the price set by licensed agencies, but if you want a peace of mind in your house, it's going to be difficult.

then, after you've chosen the agency, browse through the profiles the agent shows you. my agent uses her Chinese study of judging people from their physical appearances in helping us to decide on a maid. i found it amusing at first, but her judgment tend to be accurate. after you've chosen the the profile, the agent will start on the legal documents. some agencies do all hassle of going to the imigration, some dont. mine dont, but it's okay, because she prepared everything and i just went to the imigration, and they approved my application in a jiffy. to those of you who have to do the paperwork on your own, you'll get a few sets of forms frm your agents. you have to prepare copies of IC, borang EC, 3 months of your payslip, and if you have children under 18 years old, then make copies of their birth certs, if you're getting the maid for your sick parents, then you'll have to make a copy of your birth cert to prove your relationship to the parents. also, get a medical report from a doctor to prove the parents need assistance in doing their daily activities if your parents are below 70 years old. after preparing the copies, get duty stamps worth RM50 stamped on the application forms. when everything's in order, go to the imigration and bring along with you RM430 for the levy. the officer will approve your application, though i cant promise you that the application can be approved in a short time.

when you get the maid, you're responsible in getting her a medical check up. this is done through fomema and they will give you a list of panel clinics. you also have to pay RM190 for this.

before i forget. make sure you get an insurance to cover the maid frm the agency. if, let's say, the maid meets an untimely demise, you'll have to bear the cost of RM8k to transfer her body back to the country. if you apply for the insurance, however, you dont have to pay much, just a couple of hundreds.

so, what do you do when you get your maid? you've to train the maid according to your taste. what i mean is, how do you want your house to be run - how many times does she have to mop the floor in a week, what time is she supposed to set the table and so on. this is the biggest headache, because it's not easy to train a maid. if you get a garang maid, you'll be in trouble if you're soft because she'll bully you. if you get a slow maid, you feel like screaming your head off. you have to use your discretion, dont be too strict. dont be too friendly or else they'll be on your head. be firm but reasonable.

so that's just a few tips that i can offer you, based on my experience. bonne chance!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Judge Dread (not Dredd)

it's that time of the year again - when migraine attacks and gastric pains occur. when you rack your brain, thinking of things linguistically. when you ask yourself - to give or not to give?

yup. judging students' exam scripts. it's not an easy feat to read and to award marks to students. it is, after all, about deciding one's fate. of course, the fact that we dont know the candidates make it easier for us to evaluate the scripts fairly. though the hardest part is trying to decipher what the candidates are trying to convey in their essays. it's like driving a car. sometimes you get to drive a BMW - a smooth ride; sometimes you get to drive cabuk cars so it's a bumpy ride. there are candidates who wrote impressive pieces, so impressive that i thought that this cant be written by a 17 year old...what a diction! such precision, such sophistication!

i'm not going to talk much about this, since i'm bound by the Confidentiality Act. may God give me a clear mind to mark for the rest of the month until 2nd Jan.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Mundane Life

well, was in kl for a week, and all the dutiful children came to pay homage to the matriarch, including our ever-so-busy brother. back to mundane life after spending god knows how much in kl (and getting lost on the way back from putrajaya, thanx to my niece Asha). have to seriously start saving for the next trip with Gina.

besides going here and there trying to complete the application for the new maid, i'm currently reading The Postmodern by Simon Malpas. no, it's not a fiction. it's a required reading, to equip myself before i embark on my next migraine-inducing mad project in the quest of enlightenment and self-betterment. well, it's not as dense as Homi Bhabha's. i keep myself sane by searching for soundtracks, the familiar tunes as well as out of print ones. i found a slow romantic rap song by Squeeze entitled Heaven Knows, which is featured in Hackers, starring Angelina Jolie (she was still young at that time, it's where she met her ex-hubby Johnny Miller). then, there's another obscure song, which i remember from my teenage years when i watched the 80s teenage flick Just One of the Guys by Ronnie Spector called "Tonight You're Mine". my current fave is Michael Buble's Home, featured in The Wedding Date.


Another summer day
Is come and gone away
In Paris and Rome
But I wanna go home

Maybe surrounded by
A million people I
Still feel all alone
I just wanna go home
Oh I miss you, you know

And I've been keeping all the letters that I wrote to you
Each one a line or two
I'm fine baby, how are you?
Well I would send them but I know that it's just not enough
My words were cold and flat
And you deserve more than that

Another aerorplane
Another sunny place
I'm lucky I know
But I wanna go home
Mmmm, I've got to go home

Let me go home
I'm just too far from where you are
I wanna come home

And I feel just like I'm living someone elses life
It's like I just stepped outside
When everything was going right
And I know just why you could not
Come along with me
But this was not your dream
But you always believed in me

Another winter day has come
And gone away
And even Paris and Rome
And I wanna go home
Let me go home

And I'm surrounded by
A million people I
Still feel alone
Oh, let go home
Oh, I miss you, you know

Let me go home
I've had my run
Baby, I'm done
I gotta go home
Let me go home
It will be all right
I'll be home tonight
I'm coming back home

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

to the 80s kids

most of you read the fwd email on what it means to be an 80s kid. this is my rendition of what it means to be an 80s kid.

1. you know what nkotb stands for. and you still remember "Hanging Tough".

2. you used to wear baggy blouses, tights and leg warmers. not to mention the unimaginable amount of gel on your hair. and big shoulder pads. thick makeup. "punk" hairdo was in.

3. the silver screen males who ruled the day were tom cruise (remember top gun?), kirk cameron, michael j fox, ralph macchio, scott baio, tony danza, rob lowe. not to forget, johnny made his debut in 21 jump street that made all the girls swoon. the queen of teenage movies was molly ringwald who acted in "pretty in pink" and "sixteen candles". remember madonna as a marilyn monroe wannabe in her platinum blonde hairdo. not to mention her infamous bustier. and you sang to "material girl" and "papa dont preach".

5.favourite hangout would be the mcdonalds. tea dances were famous back then.

6.atari was a famous form of entertainment. vcr made its appearance. remember datuk shah rezza not as a wedding planner but as a young actor. as with ziela jalil who wore a very revealing ensemble in "tarzan rimba". you know ogy in ali setan and suara kekasih.

8.the late sudirman was malaysia's top entertainer. the late seha was a healthy young woman who sang "mulanya di sini"with her band. zainal was with headwind, amy with search and acis with gersang. know the tune of "true" by spandau ballet. you love a-ha's take on me. glory of love was the most romantic song, with the girls wishing that ralph macchio would fight for their honour.

10. you remember michael jackson when he was "natural".

11.sitcoms of the day were family ties, growing pains, the cosby show and facts of life. the tv shows not to be missed - dynasty, the colbys and 21 jump street.

12. you know freddy kruger. you know mahoney in police academy. you love the goonies and the soundtrack cyndi lauper sang for the film.

13. breakdance was introduced and became the craze.

Friday, November 17, 2006

bigotry versus wisdom

in Midnight's Children, Saleem Sinai claims that he is the sum of all the people around him and the people before him. simply put, he means that a person's personality is constructed based on experience gained from being in a community. as for me, what i'm going to write is based on what i've learned in my literature classes, my extensive readings in cultural theories and obviously, my experience in life.

what induces me to write this piece is the film shown on HBO today, entitled "Higher Learning" with the cast that include tyra banks, the guy in Barber Shop and Dr foreman in House. the setting is, as the film suggests, an institution of higher learning, and the main issue brought to centrestage is racism - between the white supremacy and the blacks.

no, i'm not going to write about racial divide. i just want to talk about bigotry. in the dictionary, bigotry refers to the state of the mind of a bigot, one who holds his opinions and prejudices steadfastly. in the movie, a white boy believes in his supremacy over the blacks, just because of his skin colour, never mind that he is not doing well in in studies compared to the black boy.

the question of supremacy has everything to do with binary opposites of Self and Other, the oppressor and the oppressed, and the coloniser and the colonised. when there is a self, there is always an other, that is, when there is one who controls, there is always one who is controlled.

traditionally, we hear the story frm the perspective of the Self, but recently with the advent of postcolonial and feminist theories, we hear the voices from the Other, the oppressed who fights for the change of position of power in the social group.

well then, if we have such theories which write back to the oppressor and try to change the status quo, what's the point of writing about bigotry? because bigotry is alive and kicking. it is not only about racial divide, it's also about beliefs. bigotry can cause many mischiefs, some even go as far as catastrophic level that banishes good will. a bigot is convinced that his actions are correct, eventhough they are not. and to make it worse, we've been taught to stand up for ourselves and so we're in the age where everybody is heard, and one who believes will stamp his foot down. this makes a bigot dangerous, for a bigot is always led to rash actions , more often than not these actions are accompanied with abusive words. unfortunately though, nobody is perfect, and it is not up to us to judge someone. certainly not by a bigot.

which brings us to wisdom, the Other of bigotry. wisdom cant be learned, it is earned. it is through experience, observation and learning that we acquire wisdom. wisdom is usually associated with maturity, hence the portrayal of wise old men with long beards in fantasy fictions such as Gandalf, Belgarath and Dumbledore. however, i've met younger people who are wise beyond their years, which proves that wisdom does not come with age. wisdom leads not only to acceptance, openness and tolerance, but also a moment of pause for reflection before making any actions.

at the end of the movie, an uneasy peace is shown between the black boy and a white girl, a symbol of tolerance and acceptance. the movie ends with 1 word "unlearn".

Sunday, November 12, 2006

The Annual Hi Tea

we had our annual hi tea at primula was a success, if i may say so, what with us the committee members working very hard to get sponsors, so that all the teachers would bring back not one gift, but 3, and those who are really lucky would get 4. the grand prize was a 3 day 2 nite stay at aryani resort, which was won by mr phang, whom i think is appropriate, given his retirement and all.

it all started early in the morning, when while trodding the rain sodden road, i nearly spoiled my carlo rino pumps. the male comm members were already loading the bags and the 134 gifts into cikgu zaki's mpv, while phiza and i made our way to top of the world. there, the staff was just starting to arrange the tables and chairs, while the rest of us had to sweat (the airconditioning unit had just been switched on) arranging all the 134 prizes according to chronological order.

at 1.30, the comm were all there, and it all began when the teachers started arriving, the men in their baju melayu n sampin n songkok (the works) and the women in their glittering ensemble. the main event was, of course, the makan part, and because the teachers were told in whispers that there's a grand prize, and the fact that everybody would be lucky, the lucky draw was also the main attraction. it's no joke, having to find all the prizes and pooled them at the stage, but that's what we did. anyway, yours truly won a china casserole dish, something that i truly like, considering that i like to buy anything to do with cooking or dining. anyway, it's been a tiring day.

tomorrow we'll have 2 makan2.... the 1st is the breakfast in my staffroom - nasi lemak, lontong and laksa penang. i've already baked chocolate chip apple cake and now my marble cheesecake is in the oven. and... in the afternoon, the koperasi will hold a luncheon. *sigh*... ah abundance, abundance!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

A Reflection

it's funny how our perceptions change as we grow older. as kids we think of life differently, we see certain things as something majestic or grand. i used to remember a relative's house being big when i was 6, but during last raya, i saw that it was just like any other ordinary house.

and so our perceptions in life are constantly changed, by people around us, by what we read, by what we think. i must say that i've come a long way from that little girl of 6.

i was born the youngest, and has always looked to others for approval. this has become a part of my identity, being the pleaser, until lately, when i've come into the full circle of myself. my identity. i went through one of the most difficult times in my life, and i was forced to make some tough decisions.

some may think that i've changed, some even called me not-so-nice names, but they failed to see that i've evolved. i dont follow the herd anymore, i m done with being a pleaser. i've a brain to think, and i think what's best for me. sometimes God lets us learn the most valuable lessons through hardships. although i'm now 33, i only found out that there are those who think that they're in the right therefore they can judge, but then, they forget that they themselves are no saints, and therefore are in no position to condemn someone. i also learnt that the length of years doesnt make someone know you better, sometimes a person who has only known you for months knows you better than your long time friends. i also found that true and good friends dont judge you, they are there for you. they dont call you names either. i learnt that sometimes it is best to keep quiet, because a word might set off a fire.

i believe that this happens to everyone at some point of his or her life. the dawn of recognition. the coming of age. the end of the innocence, the beginning of wisdom.

it s just that i grew up.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

raya pics

Thursday, October 26, 2006

dated 25th oct: Of Visiting Relatives and Gathering

it's a custom for us to visit our relatives at kampung. a visit to my late father's village in setiu is a must. we convoyed to setiu in 3 cars, and went to 3 houses, which we always visit every year. wat i like about visiting the relatives is we're bonding with them, and at the same time making sure that the next generation know their roots. kak sham was explaining to me about a relative that we visited yesterday and i was lost halfway through her explanation because it's too complicated. yes, difficult to comprehend abt who's who when you even have trouble remembering all your 33 nephews and nieces. on the way back, we stopped to eat deepfried fresh fish and squid, which all my siblings look forward to when they return to KT.

and we had our annual cousins gathering, with me as the only aunty. this has become a neo-tradition in our family, started in the year 1998 when we first raya here after a few years rayaing in KL. as usual, it's a boisterous affair, and it was fun bonding with everybody.

tomorrow they'll be going back. *sigh* party's over.

entry dated 24th oct: eid mubarrak

we celebrated raya with joy, as laughter could be heard everywhere . there were voices, and voices and more voices. early in the morning, we served our raya dishes and then went off to take shower and wore our brand new baju raya, and the women were bedecked with all the bling bling while the menfolk went to pray in their baju melayu and sampin songket. the aunties and the uncles gave out ang pows (including yours truly), and at the same time we salamed and asked for forgiveness. and then, after more serious eating of nasi dagang, nasi tomato, ketupat nasi and kuah kacang and lemang and rendang; we took family pics and this took quite some time, if you notice the number of pics i took in the photo album. only after the family pic session did we start to visit our relatives. by the time we returned home, we were already like ular sawa, well-fed and sleepy. ayi wasnt around this time to check our blood pressure. he did that when we rayaed in KL a few years ago.

my eldest sister arrived this afternoon, so the family is almost complete, with the exception to my late eldest bro's family, who are celebrating raya at their maternal grandparents house. in the evening, we visited my late father's grave. couldnt help it, but tears just rolled down my face.

anyway, we plan to visit our other relatives tomorrow in wat we've dubbed as "jejak kasih". in this, i respect my brother abg zaki because he goes at great lengths to find long lost relatives and to trace our roots.

selamat hari raya everyone. maaf zahir batin

entry dtaed 23rd oct: Family Affair

i was having a peaceful time in the morning when suddenly there were incessant knocks on my door. it happened to be my eldest nephew, who arrived at 8.30 after leaving KL at 3am. then, i waited impatiently for my fav bro to arrive, because i was supposed to bring my sis in law and the womenfolk jewellery lady to see bling bling. my bro was the only man there, and while we were dazzled by the diamonds, he sat behind, and later received a call from my other pilot bro who jokingly wished him good luck. after spending nearly 2 hours there, my bro had to part with his cash as my sis in law got her bling bling.

we came back, and it was a busy time as the rest were busy preparing nasi tomato for dinner and intan was teaching me how to prepare puff pastry and later made the scrumptious mille feuille, of puff with a filling of pastry cream and strawberry jam. cant understand how a chef can be so energetic. i was already zonked out after an hour.

by 6.30, we were all crowding the buffet table and took our nasi tomato and drinks, and began to find places. there were 20 adults and 10 children, and we were scattered - from the dining table to the living room to the hall, and also outside the house near the porch. the main thing was to wait for the cannon shot. and so it was heard, for the last time today, with the accompaniment of everybody's joyous shouts. of course, my work and intan's work hadnt finished. the mille feuille never quite made it to the plate, as everybody came to sample them as soon as we filled in the jam and the cream. and then i realised, how a work of art (it is a work of art, considering the laborious work involved of folding the pastry and putting pastry margarine and rolling it and resting it in the fridge for 20 mins for 4 times) can just vanish in a split second.

the boys were having a fun time with the fireworks... competing with the neighbours actually. i think they scared fluffy off, who was gallivanting.

tomorrow is raya. more food to eat *groan*

selamat hari raya maaf zahir batin

entry dated 22nd oct:Countdown to Raya

every year, the little town of KT is transformed into a mini KL -because there's massive traffic jam everywhere. why? the out of towners are back. of course that creates a lot of problems, because this is the time when people do their last minute shopping. we had to resort to KL style of driving i.e. to be kiasu drivers and i was one of them today (look what 2 years stint in KL did to my driving).

anyway, today, the agenda was to shop for shoes, which gina, asha and i did today, and when we got to park the car it was like a victory because the day before we were minutes late and there wasnt any available parking space to be seen. then i fetched intan because, now that we have a pastry chef in the family, it's only fair that we have an elegant and sophisticated centrepiece for the dining table on raya day : a mille fouille, an oreo cheesecake and a tiramisu. i was the one who's so excited because i got to make puff pastry myself (from scratch, not the frozen one sold in supermarkets). we had an assortment of food for berbuka - laksa terengganu kuah putih and mee hoon soup. seating arrangement is free, so everyone can sit and eat wherever they like. my regular space is in front of the tv. along with kak sham, gina and asha... mother's sitting at the table with her sons and apit who entertains her.

we're waiting for my fav bro, the other pilot, who's due to arrive at any moment now, and tomorrow all the womenfolk will visit the jewellery lady and stare at bling bling which will make the hubbies sigh and worry.

entry dated 21st oct:Malay Classical Prose with a Twist

arakian tersebutlah alkisah sebuah istana yang tersergam di negeri teratak iman yang didiami oleh seorang maharani Zainon dan seorang puteri bernama Galoh Cendera Nora Kirana. ada pun puteri ini mempunyai 6 kekanda yang menetap di ibu kota. kerna hari lebaran makin tiba, maka kekanda-kekanda tersebut pulang untuk bersama dengan maharani serta adinda mereka. maka giranglah hati maharani itu akan kepulangan anakanda-anakanda tercinta. akan tetapi, istana mereka tidak cukup untuk menampung mereka semua, maka kekanda-kekanda terpaksa mendiami di istana yang lebih besar yang dinamakan hotel. ketika berbuka puasa, suasana di istana amat gamat sekali, dengan tawa hilai sambil menjamah hidangan. di malam hari pula, pelita dipasang menghiasi taman istana bak berlian bergemerlapan di malam hari oleh anak saudara puteri tersebut.

maka gamat lah istana tersebut sehingga hari lebaran. dan bergumbiralah para puteri serta putera yang pulang beraya.

note: at least i still remember the malay classical prose i studied for SPM. had a lot of influence from Hikayat Panji Semirang, which i read when i was 12.

entry dated 20th oct:When Roosters Come Back to Roost

it is that time of the year when my house is officially crowded with people. when there is not one car, but 4 cars in the driveway, and by raya it will grow to 9 cars. travelling anywhere will be difficult then, especially when your car happens to be in the garage and 8 other cars are blocking.

it's also the time when the dining table has become the buffet table and everyone sits everywhere...but usually the older ones will sit at the table. and of course, my mother the matriarch of the family, rules the table.

it all started with the arrival of my nephew ayi and his wife rafi, whom i havent seen for a few months. despite their hectic schedule, they look well and healthy. then i was told that abg zaki was coming home yesterday. called him, and sure enough, right after his flight, he decided to return and was driving the way he always does because he wanted to beat the jam. my mother was already grumbling saying there wouldnt be enough food to feed a lot of people, since we're expecting kak sham's entourage for sahur. they arrived at 4.30, and it was a noisy affair at such an ungodly hour. i could tell my mother was happy though, happy to see her children at home. because kak sham couldnt "check in" to the vacant room yet, gina and asha slept in my room. the rest were sprawling outside at the living room. today, kak dah will be arriving in the afternoon, bringing with her a lot of kerepek and a lot of other goodies and probably we'll start sewing the beads on the baju raya together.

it'll be a blast!

p.s. to syazwani, wish that u're here. tuk made kerutup daging last night. intan's here too.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

The French Connection

i used to take french when i was in 1st year degree. at that time tesl students were required to learn a foreign language, and i decided to take up french. there were 24 of us. our lecturer was from itm main campus, she holds a masters degree in french literature.

anyway, french was fun, we had french names and mine was natasha (ok, it's not so french, but i didnt choose the name) and because we got to learn many interesting sounding words and to actually articulate it. our first words were "non" and "oui" and later we grew cheeky and started asking people "voulez vous couchez avec moi, ce soir?" long before mya, christina, pink and lil kim made it popular. we would ask the meaning of certain obscene words and the lecturer would look at us disapprovingly and said "that's not a good word". the classes were in the afternoon, and sometimes some of us decided to make a disappearing act. and our lecturer would ask "ou est natalie?" and because we didnt know much french, we just answered "elle est malade" (she's sick...when she's not!). but miraculously, during tests, it was a full house and we would sit so close together so that we could see our neighbours answers. and dear miss pillay would ask "why are you sitting so close to each other?" to which i replied "because we're good frens so we've to sit close together". we had to listen to french conversation on tapes and also french songs and i remember our fren duckie would come to me with a bored look on her face and say "please, nora i know u've some cassettes with you. lend me some" (it's well known at that time that i always carried R&B cassettes).

the part that we liked best was watching french movies. of course, we couldnt make out what they were saying, but there were subtitles. it was then that i watched the most romantic movie - of all time.

the title of the movie is Cyrano de Bergerac, starring the french legend gerard depardieu as cyrano himself. it's a movie set in the 17th century when musketeers were a legend. cyrano was a poet, an articulate speaker who always angered politicians and the rich with his quick tongue and was also the captain of the musketeers.he's in love with his beautiful cousin, roxanne, unfortunately, roxanne didnt notice his feelings for her - probably because he had a big portruding nose. then 1 day roxanne met a handsome man named christian, who was everything that a woman wanted, except that he was very inarticulate. christian, knowing that cyrano was her cousin, coaxed cyrano to write love letters to her. and so, the heartache began. cyrano loved roxanne but couldnt tell her. he wrote to her love letters under the instruction of christian, and the latter pretended that the letter was from him, but really, the words were cyrano's, and it was his declaration of love to his cousin. there was a romantic scene when cyrano stood under her window and declared his love for her (and yet the idiot thought it was christian). the 2 got married, and cyrano was broken hearted. at that time france was at war with a certain country (probably england) and roxanne made cyrano promise not to let christian out of his sight since christian was serving under cyrano's company of musketeers. during the war, cyrano missed roxanne and kept writing to her eventhough christian never told him to do so. and christian knew back then, that his wife wasnt in love with him, but was in love with the actual writer of the letter. so the poor man just let himself be killed by the enemy. for 14 years, roxanne mourned for his death, still keeping the last letter (which was found incidentally in christian's pocket). every saturday, cyrano would visit his beloved cousin at the monastery, always at 4pm. until that 1 particular day, when a certain politician decided to get rid of cyrano and dropped bricks frm above a building. they hit cyrano and he was bleeding. still, he kept on walking saying that roxanne would be mad if he was late. he arrived, and they had a conversation...roxanne didnt notice he was dying. then roxanne asked cyrano to read the then yellowed letter, the last letter. and when he started reading it, roxanne then thought "the voice...where have i heard it before?". she finally realised that it was cyrano who declared his love to her that night, and it was cyrano who wrote the letters. and wat was even tragic was that cyrano died in her lap.

yes, i cried buckets. it was really a good movie, and it caught the essence of love and sacrifice very well. so wat did i learn in french class? love.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

A Dream Place

Then sing, ye Birds, sing, sing a joyous song!
And let the young Lambs bound
As to the tabor’s sounds!
We in thought will join your throng,
Ye that pipe and ye that play,
Ye that through your hearts to-day,
Feel the gladness of the May!
(Ode:Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early
Childhood by William Wordsworth)

Come, I’ll take you to a place
Where love sings melodiously,
And smiles dance in the sun
While laughter decorates the trees, the clouds, the lake.

The steps are lighter,
The heart sings that happy tune
You and me,
Come, I’ll take you to a place.

Where sadness has no meaning.
But only epicurean delights
To be savoured.
Come, I’ll take you to a place.

Come, I’ll take you to a place
Where hopes live strong to become reality,
And faith is solid as the tree roots
And love as steadfast as a rock.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

When Raya Beckons

A long, long time ago, perhaps 20 years ago, when my siblings returned from KL for raya, everybody stayed under one roof. so there were families sleeping in the hall, at the living room....everywhere that they could find space. their children were still small then, so it didnt matter.

in the 90s, we spent raya in KL, and it was ok because we spent the 1st day alone visiting all the siblings' houses. i remember my filipino sis inlaw forgot to tell her mother not to eat a lot at each house, so her mother was really se'eh by the time we went to the 3rd house. but then, spending raya in KL wasnt that nice. it just wasnt right, somehow.

in 1998, after i was posted to KT, the whole family came back in high spirits, all 7 families, since this was was the 1st raya in KT after a few years in KL. but there was 1 teeny weeny problem - no space to accomodate all 7 families, since the children were either around my age or younger. so the most sensible thing to do was to stay in a hotel. i think that raya was the most fun raya, as all gathered here and was excited to go and visit all the relatives in kampung that we hadnt seen in years.

in the subsequent years, when my brother the director was transferred to KL, there was 1 vacant room, and this became the most sought after room every raya. however, my brother always returned early and claimed the room. last year, when my nephew Ayi was working in the hospital here, my sister and the family could stay in the room, as Ayi said it "i'm booking the room for my family" while the rest sighed and stayed in hotels. this year, hopefully, the room is reserved for them as i told my brother jokingly that he should make way for my sister, after all, he's a VIP now and can stay in hotels. the rest of the siblings already made bookings, and 2 days ago, my eldest nephew called to say he's planning to raya here and could i please book a room for him? *sigh*. my favourite brother called and called to tell me to order nasi dagang from our cousin who sells nasi dagang at Batu Buruk. and could i please go and buy keropok for him? and can i bring my sis in law to the jewellery shop before raya? *sigh again*.

yes, this happens only once a year. but it doesnt matter, because it's raya.

in raya mood now. can hear saloma's song in my head.

Friday, October 13, 2006

The Fraternity of Literature Scholars

when i first enrolled to do my postgrad in 2001, i didnt know wat i got myself into. i understood that i took the road less travelled by, as Frost writes it, but i never knew the impact it was to have on my life.

unlike the other majors which attract a lot of students such as medicine, education, business admin, economics, law and computer science; english literature attracts only a small group of people probably because only bookworms can stand reading 4 novels a week, and those who are poets and writers at heart can understand the aesthetic values of the literary texts.

in the 1st semester, i met Kak Non and Kak Fazi, who, like me, received scholarship, but theirs was from BPG and mine was under federal scholarship. we bonded immediately, and had dinners and lunches together in bangsar with another coursemate, Jayasree, also a teacher who had to dash here and there as she's in a sports school. there was Elison, a very witty lawyer, (but then again, which lawyer isnt witty? i know a lot of lawyers...they always have something to say about something) who thought that literature would be a breeze, just like the paper she sat for STPM. hmm...she would always arrive late for our Friday afternoon classes, in her lawyer ensemble of black and white, and Assoc. Prof Dr Su would frown at her and remind her to not be tardy again. it was also Elison who was barred from entering the library for 2 weeks because she was caught talking to her client on the phone in the library *grin*. then there was the fresh Literature graduates - david, christine, emily and puphinder. the first few months were hard since we didnt understand wat the lecturers wanted, but they were the ones who eased the tension in the class. they were the ones in charge of photocopying handouts or novels or literary criticisms. then there was Kasi, a quiet man from Sg Petani. a thinker, but doesnt say much. and Tik Shaiza who like Jayasree, had to dash from her school to class and was always tired.

it was harder for us, because this was not a lecture style class. this was a seminar style class and each of us was responsible in covering a certain writer or, for literary theory, a certain theory or theorist or philosopher. and wat i meant by covering a certain writer was that we had to read at least 2 novels of that writer (for the paper presenter) and to discuss an issue, say, the impact of colonialism in Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness or the feminist perspective in Margaret Atwood's novels. the lecturer would be throwing questions, and then we would discuss. i remember that we were once told to stay put during our 20th century literature because we didnt finish reading Virginina Woolf. we would come early to class and sat down to finish reading th novels. nearby, the M.Ed. students were noisily discussing their assignment. we were quiet. those were the days.

the class that i enjoyed the most was The Rennaissance, simply because the one who taught it was Prof Lim, the most noted Literature lecturer in Malaysia. we would gawk at him when he started reciting Shakespeare or Donne or Milton out of nowhere in that deep resonant voice of his. he was later my internal examiner for the grading of my dissertation. the subject which was really mindboggling was Literary Theory, because we had to read up a lot of theories and who said wat that it was all a blur. the only theorists i can remember now is Genette (who wrote abt narratology), Barthes (the death of the author), Foucault (i hope to god he's the one who wrote abt deconstruction and abt knowledge being the power), Freud (yes, the perverted man who thinks everything is governed by desire, and that baby girls have sexual desire for the father and baby boys have sexual desire for the mother), Lacan (who wrote abt our alter ego), the feminists Simone de Beauvoir, Helene Cixous and postcolonial theorists such as Stuart Hall and Homi Bhabha. yes it was mindboggling...not to say the least, and the only one who excelled in this (in fact, excelled in every class) is my fren Nash. we told him not to ask us questions if we're presenting...and if it's not our turn, we told him to talk a lot so that the lecturer wouldnt ask us questions. nash impressed the lecturers, naturally... we would spend saturday lunches together, talking nothing else but literature. yes, to some of you it's boring, but it's actually mind stimulating. then there was iris madonna de cruz, but who is a muslim actually. a typical motherly type who was there to give me advice but was clueless about computers.

all of us are in this battle together, and wat my supervisor told wasnt nice to hear "not everyone who take this course can graduate". it's true wat she said though, because so many of our frens have given up. but it was during this time, when understanding, patience, perseverance were needed, that we would give our shoulders to cry on to each other. it wasnt easy to write a 7000 word essay for the final exam. it was difficult to write up a dissertation of about 30 000 words and then to meet the high standards that the English Dept has set. there were tears of frustration, and of dejection, of self-esteem going down the drain. Dr Carol was so sweet to enquire abt the progress of my dissertation and to give suggestions. i would say that Kak Non was there for me when i was frustrated. Nash was there to help me with the arguments, and David gave me pointers on the steps i had to take. some had left, like Elison, who is too busy with work that she doesnt have the time to sit n read (except for court cases). now that i've graduated it s my turn to help the others. i had a discussion with shaiza who is starting her dissertation, and sent her a book that i thought might help her. i pestered kak non to complete her edgar allen poe analysis. and nash... i told him to sit down and finish the dissertation..once and for all, instead of flying everywhere around the world presenting papers at lit conferences.
only through struggle do we triumph. going through this course, i realised that i'm a better writer, better thinker, able to present ideas critically and a better speaker. it also helps me to understand life better because literature is, after all, a slice of life. to the fraternity of literature scholars, hang on in there.

To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield - Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Song of the Sea: Solitude

The sea is calm
The gentle rhythm of the waves
Serenades her
With the song of deep longing
That aches and echoes her heart.

The breeze blows strongly
As if to drown her anguish.
She sinks her feet into the sand
It tries to soothe her pain
With its welcoming embrace.
The palm leaves rustle in the wind
Making light of her subtle tears
Which are frozen in time
By the coldness of the memory.

Despite the outward smile
She bleeds in silence.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

When Puasa Is Near

it is well-known within the teachers community at my school that makan2 is always held in the major staffroom (aka the female teachers) at my school. not once, not twice, but probably close to 10 makan2 events annually. the other staffrooms (we have 4 staffrooms - the female teachers, the male teachers, the form 6 teachers, and the staffroom for the blok bestari, which is almost another school, the media teachers room, the teachers in charge of exams in unit peperiksaan room, the library where teachers in charge of library are and the counsellors at the counselling unit) at my school only hold one major makan2 once a year. the thing is, once my staffroom holds a makan2, the whole community will come - that's 129 teachers, not including the supporting staff. and it's makan2 time from morning till the end of school.

there's this one teacher who simply loves to have makan2... she can cook for almost 100 people easily. and some of us in the staffroom also like to cook. not to mention that we love to plan makan2 events when there are certain cravings for certain dishes. sometimes there are potlucks, sometimes it's just calling the caterer...we just had a potluck last week. then last monday we had nasi kerabu. tomorrow we're going to have western style dishes, and yours truly volunteered to make spaghetti bolognaise for at least 40 people. thought of baking a cake, but i'm too tired to move at the moment. there's going to be baked macaroni, some pies, sandwiches... and on thursday, those who received cemerlang in their annual appraisal are going to organise another makan2! and the menu is nasi bukhari. *sigh*

yup...this phenomenon only appears when puasa is near...every single year. which is why dieting when working in this school is almost unthinkable.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Bad Experiences but Still Surviving

i read my gina's blog just now, and i can definitely relate to her. i guess that the species of good men are considered as endangered species, as the cliche' of good men are either taken by God, women or men are definitely true now.

in my quest of finding my soulmate (and i really mean a soulmate), i realised that malaysians in general like to make sweeping and most of the time very annoying statements. "you ni memilih sangat kot" is their favourite comment when i said i'm not married yet. oh really? then i should just accept any tom, dick or harry? like married men, drug addicts, psychos, liars and god knows what else? another irritating question "so kenapa tak kawin lagi?" DUH!!!! i would reply "i've no idea. why dont you ask God?". to those who know me well, they know that i'm not the type of a person who can mask her true emotions with a smile and honeyed words.

anyway, from my experience, men are simply, men. they lied, and then made no big deal of it. may be they think that due to their patriarchal rights in a patriarchal society, it's okay to lie to women, so long as they (the men) can gain something from it. this is male ego, alive and kicking, which breaks women's hearts.
i'm tired. really tired of this games. there's no faith in men anymore, although after prayers i still pray that god will send me a good man. probably, with the passing of time, i'll be convinced once again...

so to all those women who had had bad relationships and bad men before, this song is for you. it's my favourite.

Had A Bad Day - Daniel Powter

Where is the moment when we need it the most
You kick up the leaves and the magic is lost
They tell me your blue sky’s faded to grey
They tell me your passion’s gone away
And I don’t need no carrying on

Stand in the line just ahead of the law
You’re faking a smile with the coffee you go
You tell me your life’s been way off line
You’re falling to pieces everytime
And I don’t need no carrying on

Cause you had a bad day
You’re taking one down
You sing a sad song just to turn it around
You say you don’t know
You tell me don’t lie
You work at a smile and you go for a ride
You had a bad day
The camera don’t lie
You’re coming back down and you really don’t mind
You had a bad day
You had a bad day

Well you need a blue sky holiday
The point is they laugh at what you say
And I don’t need no carrying on

You had a bad day
You’re taking one down
You sing a sad song just to turn it around
You say you don’t know
You tell me don’t lie
You work at a smile and you go for a ride
You had a bad day
The camera don’t lie
You’re coming back down and you really don’t mind
You had a bad day
You had a bad day

Sometimes the system goes on the blink and the whole thing it turns out
You might not make it back and you know that you could be well oh that
Well I’m not wrong
So where is the passion when you need it the most
Oh you and I
You kick up the leaves and the magic is lost

Cause you had a bad day
You’re taking one down
You sing a sad song just to turn it around
You say you don’t know
You tell me don’t lie
You work at a smile and you go for a ride
You had a bad day
The camera don’t lie
You’re coming back down and you really don’t mind
You had a bad day
You had a bad day
You had a bad day

Friday, September 15, 2006

On My Own

last weekend my bro abg zaki and sis in-law kak ah came. surprise of all surprise, they came by car. (my dear bro is a pilot, so for him it's way far cheaper to travel by air than by land) they told me the reason why. to whisk my mother away to KL (and leave me alone?!!!). naturally, the maid had to accompany my mother.

so here i am, with Fluffy. abg mi called to say that he's having a family gathering on saturday night...and i sighed...all those glorious food...they'll probably have some lamb chops and steaks... yum yum....abg mi teasingly asked "so are you enjoying your freedom?". not really. i'm scared. what with the recent burglaries in the area, i'll be insane not to be scared. i spent the 1st night alone, alone...woke up in the middle of the night, and then i realised i'd better take the teachers' advice i.e. to ask some hostel girls to stay with me. so after talking to their parents on the phone and asking for the warden's permission, i took 2 girls home, who met Fluffy, and agreed that he's the most mengada cat in the world. (very spoiled too). speaking of being spoiled, i admit that i've been spoiled, what with having a maid around. so without the maid around, naturally i've to do the housechores.*sigh*cant complain anyway, since the house is mine. it's nice to be able to cook for someone (since usually mother cooks) - i made spaghetti bolognaise (bellisimo! not too sour, the herbs are delicately seasoned and not too strong), very thick and rich roti canai, and penang char kuey teow.

the only problem is, i'm sleep deprived. so today, after the doing the laundry,mopping the floor, throwing a part of the old junk that mother refused to throw away, and baking my usual white bread, i just fell asleep. only to be woken up by Fluffy...asking to be fed...again.

Monday, September 04, 2006

a day in miss nora's teaching life

clocked in. greeted and smiled at teachers. talked to some. then time for daily assembly. walked back to the staff room. wrote daily lesson plan, got ready the materials for the next to class.

walked up the stairs, met some boys hanging by the corridor.

"tuck in your shirt!".

walked straight to class. idzuan was absent again. revised on an excerpt taken from Macbeth and Yeats' poem. told them to write down the poems. started walking around the class. the boys were talking softly to each other, looking at my shoes. a loud whisper,
"tengok kasut teacher tu"

"stop looking at my shoes!"

wore a pair of brown Carlo Rino ballet slippers with ribbons. more were looking at my shoes. started teaching them. was in my element as i was teaching them literature. real, pure literature. finished class.

12noon. 2nd class. revised on The Prisoner of Zenda. they read the book. went around the class. more looked at my shoes.

"stop looking at my shoes!"

one boy looked as if he's so into reading as he rested his head on his arm, which rested on the table. the book was in his lap. hmm...something's not right. knocked on his table. didnt look up. 2nd knock. red eyes looked up, startled.

"dont sleep again, isamuddin, or else i'm going to tell your father" (his father is the discipline teacher)

the monitor, aki, was being himself again. he whined today. hareez was making a lot of comments. didnt stop commenting and said something obscene.

"hareez, i'm going to chilli your mouth and chlorox your mind".
asyram laughed "how are you going to pour the chlorox in, teacher?".

told them to summarise each chapter. they were stunned, response was slow. that meant they didnt revise. made them write on the board. well, finally they did it. work done. sighed. walked out of the class.

Monday, August 28, 2006

sensationalism in mass media

well well well...a tv station wore a smug smile because it bought the rights to televise the so-called "wedding of the decade". then, two other stations felt that they should get a piece of the cake too. so they decided to televise an interview of a certain rising star and his ex fiancee'. talk about sensationalism. talk about manipulation. and malaysians seem to fall for it. hmmph.

i flipped the channel to astro ria. ok, there was mawi and ina... 9pm. flip. ok, i saw siti walking towards the dais with datuk k. they sat down on a love seat. the tv commentators said that the theme was supposed to be a garden wedding while maintaining the malay tradition. didnt see any of it except for the newlyweds' ensemble and the bunga telur. the bridesmaids were slowly fanning the newlyweds, the fans resembled more like what Cleopatra used a long time ago.... siti was radiant. a bride's radiance. but datuk K's face was troubled. i wonder why. then they shot the front view. datuk k's face was hidden by strands of jasmine...or is that stepnotis? well, after that it got boring. flip. ah! the confessions of mawi and ina....the oprah style. but that got boring too... mawi didnt want to talk about his personal life. he doesnt look like the sort who tells the whole world. i dont blame him. i blame the media.

so what can we conclude here? that it's all hyped up and these people are just like us. in the end they go through the same mundane life as we do. that there are always manipulators.
flip. channel 17. ah! they're showing House. at least i had a good laugh listening to Dr House's cynical and witty remarks.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

bills, bills, bills

it is also universally accepted that at the end of the month (depending on when one gets one's salary, whether on the 1st, 15th or the 25th), one will be suffer a dry spell... as in one's pocket will no longer jingle, there is no fat wad of notes in the purse/wallet, and instead of splurging at chilli's sinking one's teeth into succulent steak, one eats a RM1.50 nasi lemak.

my situation got worse this month since i had to travel to KL for 3 weekends in a row for my convo (1st trip to get my robe and attend the rehearsal.had to go bcoz there's a demo on how to wear the robe and the hood. 2nd trip was my convo.3rd trip was to return the robe and claim the certificate fr. the inst. of postgrad studies.) i wonder if UM ever considered that they have postgrad graduands who are working outside KL. what a dry spell... really musim kemarau. kering. felt like trudging the Sahara desert. trudging...drooping...drooping...salivating at the sight of pretty Nine West heels..nice gold bracelet at Habib *sigh*...drooping...falling...falling...

anyway, my spirits are revived when we the ever so loyal govt officers got our salary...hallelujah!! helloooo world!!! it was hell on the road that seemed like i wasnt the one affected by the dry spell... it's raining money, and everyone's out to play. the roads were congested. parking was hard to find. there were long queues at the ATMs.

but of course, the joy didnt last long. bills just kept pouring in at the letterbox. *sigh*. i went to buy a new pair of walking sandals just now... and i was shocked to learn that in the course of 2 years, the price of the sandals had gone up by RM15. geez. and of course, nowadays, in KL, a decent nasi lemak (with all the works) will cost around RM3.50 to RM5. when i was studying at PPP, i remember eating that amount of nasi lemak (half of a hardboiled egg, a fried chicken) that cost around RM1.50. those were the good ole days...

and back to the present time. still stuck in the vicious cycle. replenished and sunny day. then later as dried up as a raisin in the desert....

Monday, August 21, 2006

Humility:back to the basics

it is universally accepted that when one has achieved a certain station in life i.e. to achieve financial stability (or precariously hanging to it with credit card debts), one decides that he should be rewarded in terms of materials - a nice car ('nice' is very subjective - ranging from myvi to a BMW), a house (ranging from an apartment that looks like a small box to a bungalow that costs RM1million), an expensive handphone (usually with features that one is clueless about but buys it anyway because it looks 'cool').

it is not wrong to spend money, and it's not my point for writing this. however, when one is used to comfort and wealth, one grows soft,and actions that we did a few years ago would deem as beneath us now. i'm not criticising anybody, because i'm guilty of this too.

i'm about to go to UM to return my robe and to get my MA certificate. i'm not going by car, and at this time i sorely miss my wira. i remember those times during my sabbatical leave when i could just jump into my car and go anywhere i like in KL. ah, the comfort! but i take this as a challenge. because there's nothing better to educate yourself than to return to the basics. it teaches us humility, and along the ride with fellow commuters, one can learn a new thing or two.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Perception and Reality

our society simply loves to label people, and sometimes the labelling goes to the extreme until we've become too biased and hold on to our perceptions and beliefs steadfastly, like clutching tightly to a drawtring purse full of coins.

i was talking to a friend in KL recently, and she told me of a mother's opinion in the website ummikusayang - who claims that teachers are lazy and work half a day. my initial reaction to this is indignation, but now i feel sad for this mother, it seems that she's been living in the world of the past. in defence of the teachers, i would like to say this :

1. that without teachers, nobody is willing to babysit the students 6 hours a day, 5 days a week.

2. also, a teacher's job is not simple, we dont only teach, we TRY educate the students. this means we try to inculcate moral values to them. but if they're still rude and hopeless, dont blame it on us, because we've tried. they have your genes.

3. again, we dont only teach, we are also in various committees for all the events held at school. this includes sports, extra classes, academic camps, annual camps at remote areas that even YOU dare not go. and all these events are for the benefit of YOUR children.

4. again, we dont work half a day. we have extra classes during weekdays. we have extra classes on saturdays. we have books to mark. and, for those teachers who only teach exam classes like me, we have to mark exam papers 4 times a year. i have 150 students. so, 150 scripts x 4 =600 scripts a year. we dont only mark exam papers during school hours, but also after our school hours, school hols....talking about school hols., some of us are sent for courses or seminars or workshops, as ordered by lembaga peperiksaan, or kementerian pelajaran, or jabatan pelajaran negeri, or pejabat pelajaran daerah.

5. i would like to ask that particular mother, what would she be like if she had no teachers? she can insult us, but we get the pahala for teaching the kids.

however, not only the teachers are attacked. i overheard a few friends talking, and they were condemning the doctors at public hospitals. my late brother was a medical specialist. a damn good one. one of the best in the country. he was offered to work in private hospitals, but he declined because his sole purpose was to educate young doctors in public hospitals. my nephews are doctors. and i've another niece who's still studying medicine. 3 of my seri puteri classmates are doctors, with one of them holding an MRCP, and another one is a dentist. in defence of the doctors at public hospitals i'll just say:

do not belittle the new doctors. they have to start somewhere. give them a chance. after all, you were like them when you started working. so dont be vicious. anyway, they know more than you do about your health. they have the licence. you dont.

the moral of the story? do not be too quick to judge people and be humble. it will get you somewhere.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Continuing the Pursuit of Knowledge

i'm a lover of books. given the choice between spending RM200 on books or cosmetics, i'd prefer to spend my money on the former. cosmetics doesnt last forever, besides it only boosts one's vanity, but books open a whole new world to us - in the way we perceive life and people, as well as expanding our vocabulary (which i always preach to my students, but they never listen)

yesterday i bought another 3 books from kinokuniya - one is about the islamic way of life, one is war and peace by tolstoy and another is a seminal work The Prince by the philosopher Macchiaveli (whom i've quoted in my thesis). because i believe that having a masters degree doesnt make me a person who knows more, in fact it makes me realise that there is more to be learnt.

right now i'm reading The Life of Pi by Yann Martel, who won the man booker prize in 2002 for this novel. martel employs the post-modern style in the structure of his novel, however, having said that, i find the earlier part of the novel too laborious to read because of the explanation about zoology and the animal behaviorism. martel should have captured the readers interest from the start, with some interesting lines. he switches point of view during the early part, but seems to abandon it when his character Pi is shipwrecked and alone in a lifeboat with a tiger,a hyena and a zebra. havent finished reading the book, but i cant say that it impresses me at all.

perhaps war and peace will fare better.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

The Graduation

the alarm went off at 5.30. i woke up groggily, and looked at the bed so longingly, but i knew i had to wake up. for it was my graduation day (yeee haaaa!!). had to wake up early to put on the robe and the hood (which reminds me of the olden days when scholars were monks in cassocks and hoods). the assistant registrar already advised us to come early as to avoid the jam near the main entrances of UM. so kak dah and i made our way from ampang to UM at 6.30am.

as we reached there, i saw fellow graduands all in their robes, with long tails at the side (which differentiates us from the 1st degree graduands) with colourful hoods which also differentiate us from the other faculties. incidentally, the arts faculty's hood colour is pink. glorious pink :o). we were supposed to assemble at bangunan peperiksaan, and all the while, all were either pinning their hoods or readjusting their mortar board caps before we were called to queue according to our numbers. i met some seri puteri juniors there too. one is fr my fac, and the other is from law. the procession then began, and the traffic in UM was standstill near the DTC as the guards let us cross the road. this is our day.

near to 9, the academic staff entered and i saw the english head of dept, dr agnes yeow. then raja nazrin arrived. we only saw him through the big screen. never mind, he was going to present us the scrolls.

waiting for your turn is a suffering. the arts fac was half down the list. i was very restless and started shaking my legs until my fellow english lit graduand told me that according to chinese superstition, shaking one's leg is sure to drive away the money. soon it was our turn. there was supposed to be 4 english literature graduands, but only 2 of us turned up. then my name was announced, and there i was, walking nervously (knowing that the camera was on me) towards raja nazrin, bowing to him, receiving the scroll, saying "terima kasih tuanku"... then...hmmm i cant remember whether i bowed to him again or not. well, never mind. i didnt stumble or trip on my shoes.

at noon, the ceremony was over. it's lunch time. my last meal was at 6.30 am and i was famished. so b4 taking pics, kak dah and i had lunch. after that it's action time, as we queued (and some jumped queue) to take pics at strategic spots (anywhere that has UNIVERSITI MALAYA in big letters and the logo). i was sweating profusely at this time, god only knows how thick the robe was. and in this hot weather. we went back at 2pm, still sweating after the long walk to the car.

today i'm proud of myself, because english literature IS difficult, and i've made it. MA English Literature, specialising in post-colonial literature, specialising in cultural hybridity and salman rushdie.

boundless gratitude to Dr Carol Leon and Dr Sharmani Gabriel, my supervisors cum Post-Colonial Literature lecturers; Prof Lim Chee Seng who taught me Rennaissance Literature and can quote Shakespeare at anytime and anywhere, Assoc Prof Dr Su Soon Peng who taught me the fundamentals of Literary Theory and Stylistics, Dr Sharifah Aishah Osman and Miss Alice Pillay who taught 19th Century Literature, Miss Wong Ming Yook who taught 20th Century Literature, and to Nasirin Abdillah, the genius in our class who helped me with the almost impossible to write dissertation.

next target: to obtain PhD and wear that nice beret with gold or silver tassle that PhD holders wear during convo and to shake hands with the handsome sultan azlan shah. though it will probably fry my brain to do PhD in Literature.

a million little pieces : a book review

this book, as usual, is featured in oprah show. oprah's staff all say that the book is a page-turner. so i decided to read the book.

what is different is that this is a memoir of james frey, when he was a heavy-duty alchoholic and drug addict. the story starts when he passes out and cant remember where he is, and then his parents send him to a rehab centre.

the story is about how he comes to term with his life. self-hatred consumes him, he also has the habit of pushing people away from his life.his doctor tells him that his addiction damages his liver, kidney and god knows where else, and says that another drink or dose of drug and he'll die. he is thinking of doing just that, but he is stopped by a rehab mate, who happens to be a mobster. this is the start of his recovery, his gradual faith in himself, his conviction that he'll stay sober, and his newfound love for family and friends.

this is a good read because it is a real story, by someone who has no pretensions and who has risen from being the misfit of the society to a real person.

i like the style of his writing. it's modern, conforming to the contemporary use of stylistics. he uses words with precision. short words that give impact,and also repetitions that sound poetic.

thumbs up.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Pre-Graduation Preparation

i cant believe it. i am finally going to walk on the stage and receive the scroll fr raja nazrin this wednesday. i went down to KL to take my graduation gown, the hood (guess the colour of the fac of arts' sash) and the mortar board. the gown looks a cross between a monk's cowl and a shapeless maternity dress. the next day, which was on saturday, we had the rehearsal at 11am for the postgrads. the undergrads had theirs before us. yup, you can definitely identify the postgrads - they look more dignified and matured. the assistant registrar briefed us on how the event would take place, and where we're supposed to assemble. then they gave a demonstration on how to wear the gown. the PhD graduates' gowns look nicer, it has more colour and they get to wear the beret. well, ours are similar like degree holders, with a slight difference in the sleeves. they told us to be careful when bowing to the chancellor/pro-chancellor and where we place our feet. it seems that last year, some tripped over their heels, some forgot where they're supposed to go, and there was a tall gentlemen who dropped his mortar board. they even wrote this on the lcd screen "the success of the convocation depends on you". pretty scary. so i cancelled my plan to wear my 2 inch heels and headed to midv and bought low-heeled pumps.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Real Women have Curves

the first time i saw the movie was featured in oprah show, i vowed to myself to watch the movie. last night, i got the chance to watch on hbo. it's a movie of an overweight latino girl (hmmm the adjective reminds me of myself). anyway, i'm not going to talk abt the movie.

i gained 3kgs and according to my niece asha the medic student, it's caused by depression. i guess she's right...what with the endless camps and papers to be marked, and the aftermath of the breakup, i turned to comfort food. i vowed to lose some weight for my convo on the 9th aug, but i lost only a kg. it doesnt help when i happen to love baking and baked chocolate mud cake, durian mousse cake, chocolate banana cake and god knows what else in the course of 2 weeks. it doesnt help either when nasi lemak is more appealing than a banana and an orange (which is supposed to be my mid-morning snack). i was off-course for awhile when my sister came back, since i've the tendency to eat more when family members are around. but i resumed my walk yesterday and this morning despite my sleepiness i dragged myself to walk again...*sigh*. wonder if i can lose another kg b4 the convo....

i've to go and take my convo robe fr the ips on the 4th. geez...they even have a special counter that we have to go thru' - the debt clearance counter...we're going to have a rehearsal on saturday...

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Getting there

my ex missed call me twice yesterday. i dont know why he's doing this, but it's really @#@$%ing me off. anyway, he succeeded in communicating with me. and told me why he called. he was looking for a redemption and hoping that i would forgive him. hmmph...i said i cant. after what he did to me, i just cant.

nina told me that i've to learn how to forgive. yes i know, to forgive is divine, but at the moment i dont feel charitable. what i feel right now is wrath towards him. that's the surface of my sea of emotions, the mask that i wear. but i know that underneath it, some twenty thousand leagues under the sea is just deep deep anguish that i do not wish to feel and hope to ignore. this is the hardest part of the process - to endure. it's even harder when all my frens r in kl while i'm here. but then i still survive.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Entertaining Myself with Pulp Fiction

my seri puteri fren, anne, sent me 3 books for me to read. this is very kind of her, in a way this is her way of helping me to deal with my post-breakup phase. when we were at school, we were voracious readers. we read a lot of romances there were a lot of jude deverauxs, julie garwoods and judith mcnaughts.

anyway, back to the present time. she knows that i detest pulp fiction and only extol the virtues of reading pure literary text. so she sent me this note"hi nora, the books are meant for mindless entertainment (memandangkan kau ni lit major...silly chick lit stuff like these may not be your cup of tea)". there's confessions of a shopaholic - i finished the book yesterday. yes, at first i was gritting my teeth. trying to control myself from lashing against the book. or worse, toss it away. but i told myself that this is, like anne said, "mindless entertainment", so i kept on reading...all the while thinking of rebecca as a compulsive shopper (hence, a shopaholic) and a liar too (i thot of my ex). well, the novel is ok lah... (ok anne, i'm trying not to give any negative comments). am reading the 2nd novel....

Sunday, July 09, 2006

The Birthday Girl: A Recapitulation of the Wonder Years

okay so i turned 33 today. when i woke up i received several smses from my tesl buddies fai n mozie n linda. thanx gals! went to school with my durian mousse cake and slightly cair lemon cheesecake. the durian mousse cake was a hit in the staffroom...hmmm...nobody could resist the durian smell. received more birthday wishes from students n teachers alike. but couldnt bask in the glory of the day bcoz i had to handle the 2nd phase of the pmr camp.

yes, i've come a long way. being the youngest, it didnt help at all when your siblings just spoilt u rotten with sweets n soft toys...n ur mother fed u nestum n raw egg yolk (euuwww!!! i ate that??). yes, i'm a part of the generation called the baby boomers, when comfort n abundant food began to exist in the malaysian society. when i was growing up, big plastic cassette was the trend when we wanted to listen to music. cant remember wat it was called, but i grew up listening to Boney M n the Bee Gees. when i was 5, my parents sent me to St Theresa's Kindergarten. while the rest of the girls' pinafore hung loosely to their bodies, mine was a perfect fit. i remember the breaks of tiny cookies n grape cordial drinks... then i went to SS1, i was either the top or the 2nd in the class...

then, i was offered to study in sek. seri puteri KL, where the seniors terrified me more than the teachers. yes, hostel life was tough at first, esp. when u've never been away fr home n u were told to cry a bucket full of tears to get a senior's signature. but it was fun after that, i got used to the life in a boarding school. it was fun watching scary movies under the black velvety sky on friday nites....n fun going shopping wearing our yellow baju rasmi (we used to think it looked better than tkc's green ones). at this time, the boy group to rule the day was NKOTB but i wasnt a big fan of them... but anyhow, i used to hear that the 80s has the best songs. i'm even listening to some of them now... like Heart's Alone.... or A-ha's Take on Me,... Tears for Fears' Everybody Wants to Rule the World which is the soundtrack for Real Genius, Spandau Ballet's True which i think epitomises the 80s, n Cyndi Lauper's Time After Time. the best movies in the 80s? Top Gun...the girls went crazy over tom cruise. he shot to stardom bcoz of that movie. i even wrote a story that was almost similar to top gun for my 1119 essay. the scariest movie at that time... must be the nightmare on elm street. the funniest? the police academy.

then, after spm, i got the federal scholarship to do b.ed tesl in ppp/itm n later ukm, where i got to know more than a hundred personalities. this is the time when i became a young adult, going to class n when the classes were over, it's shopping time with frens. we even negotiated with the ever so obliging n sporting lecturers so that we could have the fridays free so weekends started early. there's an eating place which is fondly called as The Junction by the ppp students bcoz it's located next to a junction...the name stuck until now...the place is crowded with students...n there're even certain stalls frequented by a levels students, tesl students, n mucia students. oh yeah i forgot...i MUST tell this story...i'm sure my tesl frens remember this clearly...the libray is known to be the place where u skodeng or cuci mata...n of all of its chairs, there's one that one must avoid or else face the consequences of being sniggered at. there's this 1 chair, when u sit on it, would emit a farting sound. yes, a farting sound... so just imagine a guy trying to act suave in front of a girl n sat on the chair...yup...very funny indeed...

life in ukm was quite hard...we had to leave our having-fun-days-in-ppp behind. it was assignments, assignments, as well as climbing the 96 stairs to our kamsis to n go to class...there were times when there's no we had to wake up at 5 in the morning to bathe in the faculty building....bad bad experience... classes were ok, we were in jeans most of the times, the most interesting lectures n tutorials for me would be literature classes, n the most hated ones - everything to do with linguistics - morphology,syntax n semantics, phonetics n phonology - so when mr imran ho (now dr imran ho) gave his most-of the-time very incomprehensible lecture, i would come out of the lecture hall with very clean n blank exam pad...couldnt get wat he was saying since i was gawking most of the time...may be bayam understood him, she was the top linguistics student. my fav lecturer who became my mentor is mr hazidi abd hamid. he s very funny, n regaled us with his funny n interesting stories when he was a student in the UK. he was also, incidentally, the only lecturer i know to fall asleep during our weekly literature lecture in the hall... i could hear him snoring gently. he denied it of course. he became my academic exercise supervisor n told me to read jostein gaarder n kazuo ishiguro (i read both) n i thank him for opening a whole new world for me - that the mind can absorb so much through reading. i guess that was when i thought of doing my masters in literature.

the 90s saw the emergence of alternative music n the cranberries. my tesl batch had a band called kojo gilo... they actually bought electric guitars for their band n performed Zombie to us - with flair i think, after hours of jamming in kajang. i'm not really interested in alternative, by this time, i'm into hip hop n R&B so i had many many albums by boyz 2 men, all 4 one, babyface, keith sweat, r kelly, blackstreet, tlc, swv, silk, color me badd...bla bla bla...

then in 97 i graduated...wearing orange coloured robes!! geez...the teslians were loud enough...but did we have to wear the orange coloured robes? then the hundred of us parted ways...most of us became teachers or lecturers while some began to work elsewhere...i was posted to tok jiring, n it did me good. it was here that i1st wore tudung. but after teaching for 3 years i realised that i needed more...i missed the learning, the life of the scholar. so i applied to further my studies in UM, n i also applied for a scholarship. i got both. yes, literature is very interesting but it's very very tough... to be able to study literature, u've to be able to open ur mind bcoz discussions can be controversial n sensitive at times. we discussed politics, religions, sexual politics, is here that i learnt to be critical minded, thanx to those scholarly discussions under the supervision of very good lecturers.

when my 2 years of sabbatical leave finished in nov 2003, i was reposted to sultan sulaiman - the school where all my siblings went (except for my eldest bro who was a true mckkian through n through). yes the students r colourful, they make me angry, they also make me laugh....

which brings me back to the present. in salman rushdie's midnight's children, saleem sinai claims that he is the sum of all the experience n the people in his life, i m also shaped by all these memories. a hotchpotch. a melange.happy birthday to myself.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

facing 33 tomorrow

it's the eve of my 33rd birthday today. i'm not really excited about hitting another year. probably bcoz i've undergone some very tough times this year. so what does the 33 bring me? i dont know. but so far, being 32 aint bad. at the end of my 32nd year, i discovered a lot of things - a lying ex-bf, and that i can survive without such a jerk, that to finish my masters is a sweet victory since it was a 5 year-struggle, that i ve friends whom i can depend on, and that i can make a difference.

i welcome the 33rd birthday, hoping that the next year ahead will make me a stronger woman, as i said, able to make a difference, and in control of her happiness.

The Journal Of MY Life

The Journal Of MY Life

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Nora's Poem: A Tale of A Wanderer

A wanderer never stops her journey,
Walking through a maze of blur shapes
I am trudging my weary feet,
To an unknown destination.
Worn till hopes are cracked to dust.

The wind howls,
Articulating the pain.
Tears course through the lifeless
Veins of earth.

The quest is too long
The treasure too elusive.
I’m bent by every failure,
Till I drop to my knees and weep bitterly.
Je suis fatiguee′.
Je suis fatiguee′.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Happily Ever After- A Contemplation... A Myth?

some people are born lucky - loving family, good schools, good friends, pierced by Cupid's bow, got hitched and start a family. they dont know how lucky they are.

we, the lesser mortals, the singles in the 30s, have a different story. sure, i'm from a good family full of high achievers, went to one of the best schools in malaysia, did my 1st and masters degrees, have a wide circle of frens and have a stable job. but it stops there. i'm not so lucky in love.

i was talking to my fren nina just now, and asked her how is it that a cad like shahul can be a nice cad? she said candidly, "because he's a bastard. he's just pretending to be nice". hmmm.... if cads and cons are nice, how do we tell the difference between the fakes and the real mccoy? it makes the search more elusive and nearly hopeless. is it?

both nina and i are undergoing tough phases in life. i am reminded of sex and the city, in one of the episodes, the 4 ladies have a discussion about the knight in shining armour. charlotte is frustrated "i've looked for him all my life. where is he?". and miranda, samantha and carrie look at her with pity and as good girlfriends, tell her what i'm going to say next. that in real life, though we are the real damsels in distress, there's no such thing as a knight who will sweep off our feet and rescue us from whatever is distressing us. WE have to be our own knights because this is our life. our own happiness is not dictated by men. we are the ones responsible for our own happiness. so girls, seize the day... carpe diem! go and get that masters degree...go and join that kickboxing has much to offer.

i also remember a scene when the 4 ladies' fren is married and throws the bouquet. it lands at the 4 ladies' feet. none of them pick it up. moral of the story? girly wishes dont often come true. to live happily ever after with a man? - is highly overrated.

and that concludes Nora's philosophical ramblings for today.