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Showing posts from 2010

Aku, Bini dan Ginger Beer

Aku haus...

Tekakku yang kering ini menginginkan rasanya yang menenangkan jiwa itu...

Perasaannya apabila ku menggenggam botol kacanya yang sejuk dan berwap-wap dan mengangkatnya keluar peti ais kecilku, perasaannya seperti seorang kanak-kanak Taman Keramat memegang aiskrim Malaysia 10sen pada hari yang panas membara...

Riang... Nikmat... Penantian yang menyiksakan, tetapi penantian yang lazat...

Dengan pergerakan yang perlahan seperti 'slow-motion' dalam sinetron Indonesia kegemaran surirumah-surirumah di Malaysia, muncung botol Ginger Beer kegemaranku mampir bibirku yang terketar-ketar sedikit, sehinggalah aku dapat rasa cecair yang sejuk membasahi tekakku...


Sedap tidak terperi...

Aku menghulurkan kepada biniku, dan dia juga meneguk kenikmatan...

Aku menadah tangan meminta kembali Ginger Beer kesayanganku yang berjenama Bundaberg buatan New Zealand.

Saat itu tidak tiba-tiba...

Aku tertanya-tanya... Mata terkebil-kebil...

"Ni saya punya ya Bang..." ujar …

Adel and his ball

If you ask me now, I wouldn't really be able to tell what life was like back in Malaysia.

It's like it was another life altogether. To tell you the truth, the only bits and pieces that I do remember were going to work at uni, and then going to work tutoring the Koreans, and then going home, and then going to sleep... Oh of course there were the occasional nights out, movies, dinner and so on, but they seemed to pale in comparison to the crushing weight of work and responsibility.

And if you were to ask me what I remembered of my son back home, I would say I remember him sleeping when I went to work, and sleeping when I got back from work... but of course there would be the weekends that we would enjoy together, where I would take him to the lake gardens and we would go jogging together with his mother, and we would end the morning with a trip to the local Mamak restaurant, where he would order his favourite items on the menu without fail - roti telur with dhal, and iced Milo.…

Reflections of Ramadhan and Eid Mubarak from quake-stricken Christchurch

Image credit here
It is the last day of Ramadhan.
I pause to reflect on the events that have transpired this past month.
So many questions come to mind - Did I make full use of the Ramadhan? Did I manage to get closer to God? Was there anything that I could have done differently?
And the answer always seems to fall short of what I want.
It is not the not eating and drinking part that I have found difficult the past month. The challenge for me was more of the other aspects of Ramadhan: having to avert my eyes at impure sights ( a big challenge here), avoiding impure thoughts, and most of all, sustaining my supplementary prayers and du'a throughout the entire month.
But Alhamdulillah, I am glad to report that I did manage the latter - I almost always managed to pray and additional solat taubah and solat hajat after my tarawih, and an additional solat taubah and hajat after Subuh prayers. Of this I am infinitely grateful that Allah gave me the strength and will-power to accomplish this - s…

Day 5 - from building to body

As I am writing this I feel weak, not able to concentrate properly. Only my strong desire to chronicle my experience here has given me the push to type out this entry on my iPhone.

It's still relatively under control, this thing my body is experiencing. Yesterday night, it started with burning and spasming in my stomach. I just couldn't sit upright. Lying down made the pain bearable.

It was now 1130pm, a time when I would usually pray my supplementary Tarawih prayers for Ramadhan, but I just didn't have the strength for it.

And so I slept.

Or try to sleep. The dreams I have just keep on referring to the burning in my stomach. I can't remember the last time it hurt this bad. An aftershock rocks the house slightly.

I wake up at 3.30 in the morning to a dream that was very unnerving - I dreamt that my stomach acids had burnt away my stomach and mouth. I shake off the dream, and drag myself to make ablutions and pray my Tarawih.

As I pray, every movement seems like swimming in …

Update - Day 3

It is now the third day into the Canterbury Earthquake crisis.

Only now are we beginning to grasp the full extent of the damage and trauma Cantabrians face.

So far there have been 15,000 insurance claims on damages, and a full 50% of the homes in Canterbury have been damaged in some way.

As I watch the news, my heart goes out to those whose homes have been totally demolished, or condemned. Homes, old and new, some worth a million dollars or more per house, all gone in the blink of an eye. Some have no electricity, no toilet facilities, no running water.

Stories have cropped up today of so many close calls, of bricks falling down exactly where there people's heads had been just moments before, some of people suddenly falling into silt and quicksand, but managing to to escape.

Many were in tears as the news crews interviewed them, voices shaking, still reeling from the shock at the events that had transpired over the past three days.

Even my fellow Malaysians here were not spared…


Picture: Manchester Street, just off where I work. Very thankful the language centre is OK

It is now a full day since the monumentous earthquake rocked Canterbury, and Cantabrians find themselves changed forever. The safety and sanctity of their idyllic little world came crashing down the very instant the first brick dislodged and disintigrated onto the ground.
The city centre is now in lockdown. There is a police curfew in effect from 7pm to 7am, relegating Christchurch to become a ghost town after dark. Businesses are expected to be closed for at least a week. My language centre is closed for a few days at least. The University of Canterbury declared a closure until Monday the 13th.
And yet, be that as it may, I see Cantabrians still getting on with life. The streets are a lot quiter, and there aren't as many people jogging, but the mail is still sent, flyers from supermarkets about their latest price promotions still litter the lawn, dogs are still being walked.
Life seems to have …

The end of the world - what a 7.1 magnitude earthquake feels like at 4.35am

Never have I felt totally powerless against the awe of Nature, before the might of God.
I awake up with a jolt. Pitch black. A roaring sound in my ears and the house shaking on its very foundations.
I do not comprehend what is happening.
My heart thumps like a hammer on an anvil.
I draw the curtain, and what I see stops my heart. Darkness...and a sudden flash of light... like something exploding in the distance... And then the heater suddenly switches off. And the street lights blink and die. My mind still does not know what forces are assaulting it.
Earthquake? But what was that explosion?
Was it a plane crash?
Is is the end of the world?...
Total pitch darkness.
And the roaring continues, filling my ears with cacophony and my heart with dread.
The house continues to shake in waves.
With no electricity and the outside temperature being 1 degree Celcius, my mind starts to panic. No electricity in Malaysia means a pitch black night of sweltering heat, sweat, and no TV. No electricity in NZ in lat…


Click... First slide comes on and I'm in the zone.

As I open my mouth and greet the audience all the apprehension that I faced the night before seemed unfounded.

I was in the zone. Each point was explained in just enough detail to get the audience interested, and keep them interested. All the points that needed to be highlighted were emphasised with clarity and precision. And best of all, I reached the end of my presentation at exactly the same time as the timekeeper's bell.

Toastmasters trained me well.

And at the end of it all, it was just so rewarding to get the audience asking questions, and telling me afterwards that they were amazed at how much passion I had for my topic.

The thing is, I was getting bored of the topic and wanted to modify it, but they didn't need to know that...

I finish my slot, and head out of the door, ready to go to work... Satisfied and happy with my first conference presentation outside Malaysian soil.

Of chins and Ramadhan

It is now past the 10 day mark of the fasting month.

I take stock of what Ramadhan has meant to me so far.

So far, I am on my 5th Juz of the Quran, which makes my progress slow compared to what my parents are doing, which I'm sure is more than 1 juz a day. Note to self - need to spend time to read more Quran.

Alhamdulillah, I think I am lucky to be able to pray 2 raka'ats of tahajjud before Subuh, and 2 raka'ats of Taubah after Subuh almost every day. I know it isn't much compared to what so many of my brothers and sisters in Islam are doing to show their devotion to God, but I am doing what is manageable to me, and InshaAllah, God willing, I will be able to step up my 'amal more and more as we progress further. A very wise person once told me that the best way to achieve overall spirituality is not a heaped dose of 'amal, which fades as time goes by simply because it is difficult to maintain. The best way is to do what you can, and making sure you are comfortabl…

Once a teacher always a teacher - Part 2

I step into the classroom.

I see four students looking up at me, a little puzzled, and perhaps a little apprehensive. I wouldn't blame them of course because that was the first time they saw me, and they would have had no idea what to expect.

But I took it all in stride, as an experienced teacher should. I smiled and greeted everyone. It was nice to see them smiling back. I knew that I was going to like them immediately.

For me, the first lesson is always the most important to build unit cohesion. Simply put, this is the ideal time to make them like you and trust you with their learning. And it is also the best time you get to know them as individuals.

There were four in the class.

Bronwyn mentioned that winter was a hard season for the centre, because the enrolment numbers usually dropped.

The first student was a Japanese man in his late 30s or early 40s. His name was Norifumi, and he was a full-time guardian to his daughter in NZ. I wasn't quite sure what he was trying to sa…

Once a teacher always a teacher?

I don't know whether it was meant to be, or if it was fate, or divine intervention.

Initially, I thought that I could focus a hundred percent on my PhD and not having to do anything anything else, but it soon became clearer and clearer that I was running out of options. My bank account was bleeding to death, and I knew I would soon follow if the situation were not remedied.

I tried a few things - tried to get marking jobs for lecturers, or to teach part-time in any university subjects.. any job at the university would have done.. but it just wasn't meant to be.
I was like a fish out of water. They didn't have TESL-related disciplines here, otherwise I could have done well.. In the College of Education they had art-related disciplines, of which I barely have any experience. Even the Drama in Education that I taught in UTM were language-based, and not arts-based. I couldn't teach English.. well.. because it's an English speaking-country! Or so I thought...

Answer to …

To Sir with love


That's what my students would call me.

A strange title in an English speaking country as it would mean I would be nobility, but in Malaysia, it is a title usually reserved for male English teachers.

I recently saw something which put a lump in my throat a few days ago - it was a song from Glee. Yes, I watch Glee, and no, it is not pathetic. Those of you who don't or better yet haven't, I suggest giving it a try and see what happens.

Anyway, the song was a remake of an old song sung by Lulu - 'To Sir with Love'. I saw that movie when I was a small kid, and I even though I could understand what the movie was about, I could not fully appreciate it.

Add twenty years and a teaching career down the line, and try revisit the movie.. Or just happen to watch the song on Glee... and you remember what teaching is all about.

It's not about you.

It's about the students.

Because in the end, they make you.

As I watched the video, a huge lump started to form in my t…

Kia ora from Aotearoa

Aotearoa... Land of the long white cloud...

The first sight that greeted me as I stepped off the plane in Auckland was beautiful vista of clear blue sky. It was cool, but much warmer than what I had expected winter to be. In fact, it was almost like a cool, sunny spring morning in my memories of my time in the UK.

I had spent 11 hours on the plane and crossed God knows how many time zones, but it was all sinking in... All the waiting, all the pain and frustration in the previous months... seemed to dissipate as it finally dawned on me that I was finally here.

One of the very first things that I noticed was the consistent reminder to 'Declare it' in the airport. Apparently, you have to declare anything that may be food, or originally organic, and chances are you would be expected to throw everything away before you get to cross the Customs and Immigration.

A bit harsh I thought.

My travel companion told me the story of how the Indian national cricket team were fined for having…

Going (written on a Boeing 747 at 16000 feet)

It all seems surreal.

I am now 16000 feet up in the air traveling at 535km per hour.

Just an hour ago I was joking around with my family, posing for photos that Dad always takes wih his ever handy DSLR, receiving pats on the back that usually accompany well- wishes of good luck and success...

Just an hour ago that I embraced my loving wife and two beautiful boys.

Adam of course didn't have an inkling to what was going on. I was just so happy to get to kiss him without him being asleep, or squrming and screaming for the comfort of his mother's bosom.

And Adel.. Adel almost broke my heart.. He followed me everywhere I went. He wouldn't even let go of my hand, and even came up with so many polite excuses to follow Daddy.

The loving faces of my parents.. And my siblings..

All locked away, etched into the very deepest recesses of my mind..

The memory that I will hold on to for the next three years.

I didn't know that leaving would be this hard..

(Backdated entry)

Long wait over

The clock is ticking.

I am counting the precious hours I have left with my family before I start the next chapter of my life in the land of the Kiwis.

It's all been crazy after the euphoria of getting the news that my Student visa was finally approved, though only for two years.. this would mean that for my third year there I would have to get the whole circus running again, taking the medical exams etc.

But, for the moment, I am as good as there.

Plane ticket... check.

Temporary accommodations... check.

Sell my car... check.

The list goes on and on.

So much to do in so little time.

Less than two days to go...

And I have yet to pack.

Midnight drive

Finally contractions started at 11pm yesterday.

12.45am this morning Dad drove me and Sal to the Hospital.

1.35am finish registration. Go up to the maternity wards and find wife fully engaged and prepped for Labour Room.

She is in so much pain.

I can only hug her and kiss her before they cart her off to the Labour Room.

I wait.

I try to rest.

I try to sleep.

My chest feels tight.

I wait.

Hours pass by, each minute seeming like an eternity, as countless worries creep into my mind.

How is she doing? Are they in danger? Were there any complications? Will I see her again in the morning?

These thoughts course through my veins like poison, filling my mind with worry and dread.

I wait...

Until finally, the nurse calls me to go through the doors.

It is 3.45am.

I get up. Each step feels surreal. Until I walk through the doors to the Labour Room.

And see my wife... and my little boy.

I embrace them, letting all the worries of the night evaporate into the cold, air-conditioned room. My tiredness…

One thing you can't beat here

Although moving in with my parents takes more than a little adjustment, there is one thing that you can't beat here.

It's the ability to take your work literally outdoors.

Right now, it's 10.30am on a Monday morning. I've attended the monthly address by the UTM Vice-Chancellor, made a few important phone calls, and had breakfast.

Only thing is I realise I made a boo-boo.

The key to my room/office is attached to the keyring that holds my car-keys.

My car-keys are used for my car.

My car is being used by my wife.

This would mean:
1.0 I have no keys to my office
  1.1 I cannot enter my office
  1.2 I cannot do the work that I have to do
  1.3 Feeling sheepish, and a little annoyed. Perfect for a palm-to-forehead moment.

2.0 I am using my bike
  2.1 I look frickin'cool wearing an all black suit, black half-cut gloves and a deep-red full-face racing helmet, racing along on what appears to be a superbike.
  2.2 I do not feel secure lugging around my laptop on my bike, a…

Midnight jogs no more

It's a big change having to adjust to living with my parents again.

Basically having to uproot and move everything back to Skudai. Of course I'm no stranger to Skudai. I work here and go to my parents' house every other day after work before I left for home in Kulai.

But living here and dropping in every other day are totally different things.

I have still to adjust.

Right now I have no fixed schedule. There is still a lot to unpack. I do not know when I get up and when and where I can go for my usual walks. There is still no rhythm, no routine.

One of the things that I realise that I have taken for granted was that my old house was in gated and guarded, in a very nice neigbourhood.

It used to be that I could do just about anything I wanted to at any time I wanted to, though that may not be a good thing to some people. What I mean is, let's say if I felt like I hadn't exercised in a particular week, and the feeling hit me at 12 midnight, all I had to do was put on …

A long walk, and a new addition

My sister Sameerah and her husband Bruce have just welcomed their daughter, Nichola Jannah Wallace into the world, after a worrying day and a half where little Nichola had to be warded in the neo-natal intensive care unit.
It just so happens that God allowed me the opportunity to be in KL for a conference at the right time, though there were some hurdles along the way that I had to face.
First off, I had to walk for about 5km from KLCC to Prince Court Medical Centre, based on terrible directions from a information receptionist who so obviously never walks anywhere. When I asked her how long it would take me to go from KLCC to Prince Court, she looked a bit perplexed, and said “Mmmmm... think about... 10 minutes?”
10 minutes my A**...
It took 45minutes.
And 5km..
On foot...
In the rain...
Wearing work clothes...
But I finally got there... in the end.
But it was worth it to get to see my sister and brother-in-law, and of course, little Nichola.
Welcome to the world my niece.
May God bless yo…

Pause to reflect

I am packing my room/office.

We are going to move out of our house tomorrow. 

This house, where we have shared so much joy and laughter, me, my son and my wife... my family.

All of a sudden, a harrowing sense of sadness threatens to overwhelm me.

We are moving out of our family home, to rent it out to complete strangers (a nice enough family but still), and I will be uprooting my wife and son from everything we've ever known as a family. 

We will be staying with my parents is Skudai. My son will transfer to the Skudai branch of his kindergarten, having to start over again with new teachers and new friends. My wife will now have to travel the arduous 30-45minute journey to her school from Skudai, heading out at 6.15am in case of the jam.

Strangers in a strange land.

And for what? A chance that we can go overseas to NZ. A guarantee? No... As much as I hate to admit it, this uncertainty is tearing away at my soul, and I can't help but wonder... What am I doing? What am I doing to my fam…

More Information Please

It has been three agonising months just doing what NZ Immigration has asked me to do, and waiting for the damn results from the medical assessors to be returned.

Call up NZ Immigration this morning.

Answer from NZ Immigration "Sorry, the medical examiner needs more information. They need a liver function test, and a hepatitis test. Sorry you're going to have to call up the university and ask them to postpone the starting date for a while".

I am crushed.

Not as bad as a full out rejection, but still bad.

This means a few more hundred/thousand ringgit on useless tests, with still no guarantee of anything by the end of it.

This means waiting another month after I do the tests to see if I need to do more tests, or if I am through, or if I am rejected.

This means another whole month of worrying.

This means another whole month of answering the onslaught of the usual friendly question - "So when are you going?".

I think I'm almost burnt out and jaded by this whole…

Make RM*** a day logging on to *******???

It's a dream come true for many people to have the ability to make money out of thin air. 
Heck it's even my dream too...
But, unlike some of my respected friends and colleagues, I believe that a money-making system has to be verifiable and sustainable. 
Reason? I've been burned before.
By whom? This ratty thieving company called IPC that market this ratty scheme called Em-Pay. How do you do it? May sound familiar to many of you. Buy in at so and so amount. Get people to buy in at so and so amount. Wait for the money to roll in. As long you keep on rolling in the suckers, you get their share of money. When you stop reeling in suckers, your money stops too.
Except with this ratty company, I didn't even get what I invested in back.
Anyhow, any of this sound familiar?
I'm sure it does.
Right now, there's a very successful one going round in a popular Social Networking Site (SNS). It sort of goes like this: Make RM*** a day logging on to *******.
At first glance it…

Wordpress depressed

I just started dabbling into the other side (the Dark Side for us Blogspotters).

Yes, I confess, I have started looking to Wordpress to advance my blogging needs. It's just that people say Wordpress is where it's at if one really wants to blog. A friend of mine in Melbourne said that Wordpress users didn't have to dabble in HTML (as seen in my previous post), and that everything was done for them, just like that.

Well, I really had to check that out.
So here I am, with two new Wordpress blogs under my belt - one a mirror of this site, and the other a professional project blog for practicing and aspiring teachers and educators for us to exchange ideas and information (click on the links I have provided - one in the picture slider, and the other a free link). And guess what - This is what I found.

1) Really cool point - Wordpress has the ability not only to host blogposts, but also pages. This means it can function like a website (though with very limited functionality). If one …

HTML masochism

HTML is painful.

Ask anyone who has ever tried to learn it.

Your coding has to be immaculate, or the script will not load. Your tags at the beginning have to have the appropriate tags at the end. Make a single small error, and you may find yourself crawling inch by inch, scrutinising every letter in the code, trying to figure out what went wrong.

While you are involved in the process, you will inevitably start doing a few other things too.
First among these other things is finding yourself without enough sleep. Your brain starts to shut down bit by bit, and things start to become a wooly haze. You see people's mouths moving, but you struggle to understand what they are saying... This is bad... This by itself should deter anyone but the most hardcore fanatics from even looking at HTML coding.

Next, you may suffer from rosy cheeks. This does not come from a glowing complexion of someone who has just spent their evenings jogging at the local lake gardens... No, this one comes from sl…

Literary nightmare, literally...

The semester has drawn to a close, and as always the students feel a need to celebrate after completing their final paper.

It is a time of joy and happiness. A time where they get to know that their sleepless nights studying and completing assignments has paid off.

Here I am, at the KFC in Jusco here in Taman Universiti, with a group of my First Year TESL students, having the time of my life talking with them about how the semester had been for them. We all joke about and tell funny stories, recollecting the good and the not so good times we had during the semester... And then to wrap things up, they ask me to make a formal speech.

Everyone pipes down and focuses their attention to me.

I look around the table, focus on each smiling face, and suddenly feel myself transported to the times when I was in class with them...

They were a mixed bunch, some very good, some good, some not so, and some quite bad in terms of language proficiency and ability to analyse literature. I remember push…

Memories of Kuwait Al-Hur

Image credit here.

Dust and sand... Dust and sand... Dust and sand... Thus the gathering 'toos' (sandstorm) swirls in the wind gathering unbridled momentum, angry and pulsing with life. It was as if the sandstorm had become a living entity, an embodiment of the life-force of the desert sands - harsh, unrelenting, and totally out of man's control... I stared unblinking as the fury of nature unleashed wave upon wave of unnerving howls, each wail seeming like a call from souls lost in the vast expanse of the unforgiving desert...

I thanked the Lord above that I was safe indoors, in the sanctuary of the room I shared with two others in the student hostel, our 'sakan'. It was a paradox of states, as if two forces were struggling to collide and merge with one another, one the peace and serenity of the sanctuary found indoors, and the other the pure untamed wilderness of Nature. I stared on, eyes wide with the fear of a man who is confronted with a new element in his worl…


How many people here have had to endure the constant barrage of friend requests of e-networkers on their personal Social Networking Sites (SNS)?

Not that I have anything against business per se, or even against MLM businesses in general because I too aspire to be a successful entreprenuer, and I have personally gone through my trial by fire for MLM businesses as well.

No, I do not harbour any grudges against businessmen or network marketers who have finesse and practice calculated restraint over their zealousness to 'bag the next client/ downline'.

But I do have a BIG grudge against 2 types of e-networkers on SNS.

Type I
This is the type of e-networker who uses a PERSONAL account on PERSONAL networking sites like Facebook for pure business networking. They can be characterised by their number of 'friends', usually amounting to thousands of total strangers with whom they have no interest to get to know personally unless they bring in money. This type of e-networker operates …

Neil Armstrong - The undying rumour of the Muslim world

Many years ago, when I was an impressionable schoolboy in a religious school, I was stunned by a startling announcement made by my Ustaz (a religious teacher).
"Do you know that Neil Armstrong is a Muslim?!!" he said emphatically.
I was flabbergasted.
"You mean THE Neil Armstrong? The first man on the Moon?" I asked.
"Of course I mean that Neil Armstrong! How many Neil Armstrongs do you know?" was the reply, "There was a big convention when he came to Malaysia... Tabligh (a religious organisation) brought him over.. there were thousands of people who went"
... Wow... I thought... But somehow, deep within my gut I was still skeptical... you know the feeling, like you want to believe something with all your heart, but you know that something just isn't right.
But it's not something to lose sleep over is it?
And so every few years, the news would surface somewhere that Armstrong was Muslim, and many Muslims just accepted it to be natural - Of co…

Time, Tide and The Grim Reaper

Image credit here
A lot of people say that before you die your whole life flashes before your eyes.
Hogwash! I used to say... How can a person's whole life fit into the split seconds before his untimely demise?
But here's the thing about time - Einstein was right on the money when he said that time was relative.
This would mean that 'time' as we know it exists in different forms for different people, at different points of their lives.
Heavy... isn't it?
Let's take on a few examples to help illuminate this theory.
First, let us have a look at a college student who is hanging out with his friends at the local sports bar, having a few drinks, watching the Premiership game on a widescreen TV, and he has an test tomorrow. You can that for him every time he looks at the clock an hour would have passed without him realising it.
Next, let us have a look at someone who is stuck indoors on a beautiful summer's day, having to read up on Calculus because he has a Calculus exa…

Open Relationship my A**!

Image credit here

I love Facebook.
I really do.
It's cool. It's got all you need to tell people about you - your photos, your likes, your dislikes, what you did for the weekend, what your grandmother had for breakfast etc.
One thing I like about Facebook is that it gives the opportunity for people to tell the truth about their relationship status, whether they were single, married, in a relationship and so on. As a social scientist who is somewhat versed in discourse analysis, allow me to analyse a few of them.
1) SINGLE - a lot of lovelorn teens and young adults post this as their relationship status. Mostly, when they say they are single on Facebook you can generally believe it. Reason - they're going to get a whacking/tongue lashing from their significant other, who is also on Facebook.
2) (Not Stated) - This equivocation is one usually used by people who are in a relationship but are not comfortable in admitting it yet, or are in a relationship but their significant other i…