Wednesday, October 29, 2008

the lowest ebb

i'm at my lowest ebb now. there are too many things happening, and at times i just cant help myself but cry.

some may find this a shock, but to those who are close to me, they know the reason why.

i'm trying not to be a drama queen here, but this is just a series of unfortunate events for me - well let's just say i cut it short and start from the moment my mother was diagnosed with cancer until now. in the span of more than a year, i've felt pain of all kinds. my mother is sick, siblings bickering, my house was broken in twice and i was humiliated by a man. and on top of it all, i'm staying alone, while my family is in KL.

i like him the first time i met him, we were talking about our school days. he came in an old lorry, i dont know whether this was a deliberate test for me. and he brought his son. it was drizzling and he covered his son's head with his own tshirt since there was no umbrella in his lorry. i found it very endearing. anyway, he just went through a bitter divorce and his cousin pushed me to go for him. she meant well, but i felt embarrassed. i'm not a well looking for a timba. and so i met almost everybody in his family.his mother even consulted me for the right recipe for making fruit cake.i even had breakfast with his grandma. his youngest son was quite attached to me. probably because i reminded him of his mother.

but i didnt get the right vibe from the boy's father. this i told to my friend. but she kept pushing me. until one day when i went to his house but he totally ignored me...

that was the most humiliating experience for me. and yet, despite all this, i still like him.

and a few days ago i learnt that he has remarried.

watching my favourite kungfu hustle didnt help, and my eyes and nose became puffy red. the alarm techies came, and were wondering why the red puffiness.

i know that God gives tests to all his servants, and i try very hard to be patient, and i recall the story of Nabi Ayub and how he had to suffer for years. i just hope that i'll find happiness soon.

Mandolin Rain by Bruce Hornby

A cool evening dance listening to the bluegrass band
takes the chill from the air till they play the last song
i'll do my time, oh keeping you off my mind
but there're moments that i find, i'm not feeling so strong.

listen to the mandolin rain, listen to the music on the lake
listen to my heart break, everytime she runs away
listen to the banjo wind, sad song drifting low
listen to my tears roll down my face as she turns to go.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

the little graduation

today, i was involved in the graduation ceremony for the form 5 and 6 students. in the first year they started the event, which was in 2006, i was amused, partly because i thought it was just a mimicry of the real thing, when the real graduation was so much more - more grandeur and more formal and the piece of paper we receive is the ticket that qualifies us to work. blame it on my cynical self.

well, i was informed late on thursday that i was supposed to replace the head of panel of music, who wanted to keep a close eye on her gamelan musicians as they serenaded the whole ceremony (yes, my school has a gamelan group) while all the head of panels were supposed to form the "faculty deans". the ketua bidang, who already drew up the chart for the procession, didnt want to redo the whole thing, and wanted me to replace the teacher. me??? as the head of panel of music? that was hilarious.

there was no cap at all when i went to get the robe. plus, i didnt really bother how the robe looked on me - until this morning, when to my horror i found that the robe dwarfed me, and the length was enough to sweep the floors of the convention centre at taman tamaddun islam. the teachers asked me why i didnt shorten it, but i gave a noncommital answer. the last time i wore a robe was in 2006, when i attended my MA convocation in UM, and god knows how many safety pins i had to use, even when we the postgraduates were seated in DTC.

despite my cynicism, there was one thing that remained innocent and hopeful in me - as i watched the happy faces of my students, i was reminded of my 3 convocations (well, one was a commencement ceremony when we the whole tesl batch passed the matriculation). the TESL 4 matriculation commencement, 1993
the first two events were joyous occasions shared with friends, with such exuberant enthusiasm and the passionate idealism of 20something year olds. the last convocation marked my personal success in passing one of the most difficult MA programmes; it is a celebration of a more mature and confident me, and a wiser person.

yes, despite my cynicism, i saw the graduation today as a beacon of hope to my students to further succeed in their lives, to really feel the sweetness of success, as i tasted it years ago.

i have a confession to make. as i watched my students walk on the stage, i nearly teared up. i saw khairina, the best student who scored 13 A1 and 1A2, mariam, who received the special principal award (she deserved it), my other literature students - maryam and umi, my LCDS president Jim and vice president Suveen, my other students whom i taught in form 3, and i nearly teared up.

what do you expect from someone who cried when watching Disney's Beauty and the Beast?

note: i do not have a scan of my bachelor's degree convocation pic

Saturday, October 25, 2008

au revoir, my pretty heels

Months ago before I went umrah, I received a stern instruction from my fren Dr As to stop wearing heels. which I followed religiously, of course, until the day I shopped for my raya shoes. they're perfect, as if waiting for me - one, because they're pink, and all my raya ensembles are in pink this year, and two, they have pretty bows.

after my return from umrah months ago, I also bought green polka dot wedges and they look oh so cute! I just had to get them, never mind that they're 2.5 inches high. I wore them to the 70s themed dinner last weekend.

and so, after being on "high heels fasting" for quite some time, I happily strutted in my heels, forgetting my fren's warning until on thursday I felt pain in my nerves starting from my back, down to my calf and to my left foot. the pain was so excruciating that I had to move slowly, and had to pray sitting down. I blamed everything on the rain, and the jellies I took, until a talk to my other fren and also her hubby revealed that this happened because of my heavy weight and also the heels. oh bummer! after they prescribed me some medicine, I sat down, looking at my heels.

why is it the best things are not good for you?

like cheesecakes and tiramisu - they are fattening.
beautiful heels - they kill your back!

I mourn for the more than 20 heels that I own but I can't wear.

Monday, October 20, 2008

back to the grooving days of the 70s

the night scene overlooking the Kuala Terengganu from Heritage Bay Club, Pulau Duyung

me in my 70s maxi

with ex vice president, Danica

with Mr President, Jim and Mr Vice President, Suveen

with colleague, Asmah and LCDS member Khairina

my lcds members protested when they heard that the theme for the annual dinner this year was Friday Night Fever (remember Travolta's Saturday Night Fever?). their reason? it's difficult to find the retro ensemble. on the contrary, i think that with some research and imagination, they could have come up with some interesting 70s style attire. i was actually disappointed to find that the students didnt bother to dress in the 70s period. some was in a different era and dressed in the 80s style, some just wore jeans...well, except for a few who did adhere to the theme...and that is hardly 10% of the students. when i related this to my sister in-law, she said "well, they're not good sports and didnt go all out for it". my sentiment exactly.

i remember the time during our uni days when our last annual dinner was themed "Down the Memory Lane". some dug their parents closet and came up with 60s kebaya, some dressed and even styled their hair just like in "Hairspray" and there's one guy who dressed as Tunku Abdul Rahman and he won the best dressed award.

i wanted the students to get to know the 70s which i think has a lot of character, as this was the time when disco songs like the Bee Gees' and Boney M's songs made their marks, and also the famous trademarks of the 70s which is the platform shoes, the bell bottom pants, the maxis, sideburns, Cher's flat straight hair, the big glasses, Fat Albert cartoons and etc. quite disappointing really to think that the students didnt bother at all to know the past.

to say that the 70s is just passe' is not true at all, because in Will Smith's Hitched, Boney M's Sunny is used in a remix. Madonna also uses Abba's song in her song. and, the new movie Mamma Mia features
all Abba's songs. so, the 70s is hip.

oh well.

however, all's not lost. i went to a kopitiam, belonging to one of the members' father. i was entertained with BeeGees songs and some other 70s hits. not bad at all.

Monday, October 13, 2008

the battle of the bulges

i have a love-hate relationship with my body for years. however, i have a very good relationship with food. so can you see my dilemma here?

when i was small, my mother fed me with nestum and raw egg yolk. trust me, if somebody offers me a million if i can swallow nestum and raw eggs, i will definitely turn down the offer. my siblings gave me candies and chocolates, resulting in a chubby me. i remember my pilot brother who brought back a nice blue black lined velvet top, and on me it looked like sarung nangka. i was 5. my elder sis-in law gave me a scottish kilt inspired skirt, made of tweed i think, and you guess it, it never fit me either. i still have the skirt in my closet. or the pink satin blouse my bro in law bought for me in japan. couldnt wear it either *sigh*.

when i was doing my first degree, a visit to a panel doctor introduced me to the world of slimming pills. yes, i lost 10kgs, and i was popping 2 pills a day. because of the pills, i was over-active, i had moodswings (which led me to an emotional debate regarding the grammaticality of "it" in my essay title with my writing lecturer) but i was eating right and exercising. but i finally stopped taking the pills after i couldnt sleep. yep, i regained the weight that i lost.

then when i started working, my then boyfriend told me to lose weight. i knew he felt ashamed of me, and he wanted a trophy girlfriend that he wanted to show off. often than not, i cried because i realised that if i wanted to lose weight, i wanted to lose weight because of me and for myself, and not for someone else. i ditched the guy. the best decision i made.

when i was doing my masters, a visit to the doctor was an eye opener. i had gained weight due to stress of reading theories and countless novels and doing assignments, but suddenly i had the will power to stay on a low-fat diet, and to go briskwalking at the hill near kelab darul ehsan, and suddenly i lost a whooping 17kgs! having studied about women empowerment and feminist theories in my literary theory class, my self-esteem skyrocketed. i ate healthy, and i was healthy.

this went on for awhile until i finished my study leave and was reposted to my current school. at first, it was easier to avoid the school canteen. but after awhile, i discovered that my staffroom loves holding makan-makan. oh no!!! i sit near to the place where the jamuan is held. how can i resist the tantalising smell of nasi minyak?? to make it worse, now that i'm back home, that means i can practise my culinary skills. which means, more cakes, more breads, more desserts to be tested and tasted.

for a few years, i maintained my weight, and i often went briskwalking. but i guess sheer laziness slackened me, and the next thing i knew, when i came back from my umrah, i gained 5kgs. when i told my siblings that something was wrong with the scale, they laughed at me. my favourite brother even weighed himself just to make sure the scale worked. the scale told no lies *sigh*. come ramadhan, i couldnt resist practising my culinary skills again. laksa terengganu, bubur lambuk, spaghetti bolognaise, the curries and the list goes on. the worst was during raya when visits to siblings houses meant eating heavy stuff.

yesterday the male teachers staffroom held a raya feast. i remember the bowl of laksa, ketupat, nasi impit and the 2 satays. and i remember finishing my nasi lemak too. so yesterday evening, in an effort to jumpstart my diet, i began walking again. was out of breath after 2 rounds.

today i ate better. for lunch i only had spicy soup. and because i had that only, my tummy rumbled when i was invigilating. suddenly i remembered the taste of goreng pisang and KFC chicken. oh no!!! determined not to screw up, i went to a fruit shop and bought bananas and oranges, the fruits that i ate when i was dieting. and tired as i was, i went walking again, this time 3 rounds without feeling out of breath. well, that's an improvement!

i hope that i can do better tomorrow, and although i dare not expect miracles, i do hope i can shed a modest 1kg in a month.

Friday, October 10, 2008

in response to those who wrote against the malaysian education system

some readers were upset with the news that none of the malaysian universities made it to the top 200 world universities for this year.

as usual, the blame is put to the politicians, certain races and teachers. in fact, i'm disgusted with all the readers' responses - all they know is to blame and blame and blame.

yes it is sooo easy to just sit on that comfy chair and type sentences to let other people all around the world read about it. but i would like to pose this question to those readers who like to blame other people "have you done anything constructive about it other than just yapping around?"

i do not like the idea of blaming the teachers for churning out graduates who can't think critically. some will say this is because i'm a teacher myself. but it's precisely because i'm a teacher i think i have the right to answer to those yappers.

look, we teachers carry a huge burden in school. we are the official babysitters of others, who expect us not to only teach their children, but also to educate them. on top of that, we have to comply to the ministry's directives and policies, which can be as unpredictable as the weather sometimes. the policy makers do not teach, and so sometimes they do not know the hardships that the teachers have to endure to make their policies work.

in my opinion too the students are too lulled and comfortable with the convenience of the millenium. back in my school days, we did not have streamyx or PS2 nor did we have handphones. but it was because of the lack of convenience and luxury that we were forced to think of other activities to fill up our days. for me, it was reading books. i periodically ask my students if they have read books this year. not many have. what is even sadder, is that they gave me blank stares when i rattled off a few classics like Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice or Dumas' Three Musketeers or Enid Blyton's. they do, however, recognise JK Rowling. instead, they're more into bluetoothing songs, or creating facebook, friendster or myspace. money is spent on sending text messages to friends (the language of the text messages itself have corrupted the students essays, especially when "you" becomes "u"). the students have no sense of urgency or purposefulness in life. there are students who are aware of all this and are making plans for their future, but the majority continue to be lulled. and although the yappers say that this "majority" come from a certain race, i can assure you, all the races will have such students and not from a particular race; and it is not correct to blame a certain race either. remember hitler and his aryan fanaticism.

some of the readers argue that we only do question drills with the students in class. well, may be if our society isnt that exam oriented, we can slow down on the speed, smell the flowers, listen to the birds and teach the students how to become critical thinkers. it is a vicious cycle actually. i'm guessing the yappers do not have schooling age children, or dont even have children, so they do not feel the heat. it is a vicious cycle in the sense that the parents have this overwhelming expectations on their children. hence, the children are sent to the tuition classes. at every state ed. dept, there exists a competition. the race is on to be the state that produces the most excellent results for all the major public exams. the need to be the best is impressed onto the principals, who in turn pressured the teachers to churn more A students so that when the results come out the school will be known to all. the students are pressured because at such an early age they are expect to perform well, so that their parents can brag about their achievements to the family and friends. the vicious cycle will not stop if everybody keeps focusing on As instead of creating wholesome individuals.

the CDC and the LPM try very hard to implement this idea of teaching the human aspects to the students, and literature is one of the ways to reach the students. some equates literature with the daunting works of shakespeare, but literature doesnt necessarily need to be daunting. my literature lecturers used to tell us that "literature is a slice of life", and it is. at that time i marvelled at the wisdom of my lecturers words, but it is true, which is, literature is a slice of life. through literature, students will be exposed to issues pertaining to humanity - social interactions, history, politics, discovering one's identity and so on. last year, during the literature convention in melaka, the director of the LPM said that "we don't want to only produce doctors and lawyers, but we want to produce morally sound doctors and lawyers". having said that, i must admit that we need teachers who are passionate in the subject to be able to bring out the students' interest. although it is the ministry's wish to change the education system, it is hard to change, as i said, it is a vicious cycle.

this is the burden that the teachers have to bear. it's a well-known fact that fingers will point at the teachers if the students' achievements are poor, but when students pass with flying colours, they will attribute the success to the students' sheer intelligence and hardwork.

i have, at least, done my part.

to the yappers, stop blaming other people. if you want to, then you might as well blame everybody, including yourself.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Merry-making and Feasting

This year's raya fared better than last year's, the reason being my mother is at home. last year we had a sombre raya because my mother was hospitalised for cancer. in retrospective, this year's merry-making was a quiet affair, if compared to the previous years, as some of the nephews and nieces arent around as they have gone back to the spouses'kampung.

having said that, however, it was still a raya. my sister cooked lontong which is my favourite, and then my fav brother arrived with his family. one thing about my brother is the whole family will be decked in one theme colour. they had black, maroon, green, blue... and this year the theme colour is cream.
we agreed to head to my other sister's house, in kelana jaya. while driving, my other bro the datuk kept calling, saying nobody's at my sister's house. when we arrived there we attacked the food on the table straight away. my sister cooked nasi dagang and there was her sate (actually it's hj samuri's sate, which she orders every year). it's a good thing too, as my bro in law's really big family soon came and we had no choice but to eat and leave, without the usual lingering over and exchanging stories and gossips as well as banter. then we headed to my eldest sister's house, the sister who has dementia, and sadly, is almost a zombie now. it is sad because my sister used to have that aura of a datin, and controlled the house like a kingdom. she's thin and frail now, and can't recognise anybody.

after my eldest sister's house, we went to shah alam to my fav brother's house, who served nasi minyak, and not the usual spaghetti bolognaise. there we had time to talk and banter around. the last stop was at the datuk's house, who loves kampung life and went to the fruit orchard behind his house to retrieve a giant sized jackfruit, which is Mother's delight and unfortunately, a bane. durians are still on trees and rambutans are still green. i 'm envious of my siblings now, because when the durians fall and the rambutans turn red, i won't be around to enjoy them as i'll be in KT.

the visiting ended at night, when i drove back to ampang, on a quite crowded Federal Highway. too stuffed with all the goodies.