Sunday, June 29, 2008


From June 23-September 26 2008, I'll be undergoing my teaching practicum at a secondary school in Gombak.

1 week down, 11 weeks to go!

Whew! I never knew that teaching is so tough, so stressful, such a roller coaster ride!

I'm teaching in the afternoon session so I usually arrive at the school at 12.30pm (except on Fridays) and leave at 7pm.

But that six and a half hours is so exhausting. I can readily attest to the "overworked but underpaid" complaints.

Concerning the roller coaster ride:
Sometimes, when lessons went well, you feel so exhilarated.

But when they don't, you feel so demoralized.

The students can make you smile, laugh and even melt your heart.

But most of the time, they test your patience to the limits.

It's true when teachers say that they remember the naughty ones' names first. I've memorised several already.

But despite its ups and downs, practicum beats Sem 1 anytime.

I now have my own list of "students say the darndest things":

1) I wrote on the board that I came from Institut Perguruan Bahasa-bahasa Antarabangsa.

One student then quipped: "Jadi Cikgu tahu Bahasa Iban la?"

2) I told them that I studied in Sydney, Australia for 2 years.

The next day, another student asked: "Cikgu kat Sweden diaorang main baseball tak?"

Me: "Kenapa Sweden ye?"

Student: "Kan Cikgu belajar kat sana"

Me: "Oh, saya belajar kat Australia - Sydney. Bukan Sweden"

Student: "Ha.. kat situ la!"

3) Yet another student wrote in her biodata: Favourite actor: Ronaldo DiCaprio.

Oh anak muridku!


I've been meaning to finish my Umrah journal but I couldn't find the time...
InshaAllah, I'll update later.


To my fellow comrades, all the best surviving the next 11 weeks! We can do this!!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Makkah & Madinah Part 2

June 3, 08

I woke up to the sound of azan but it was not Subuh yet. Turned out that they make the call of prayer twice; once as an early wake up call and the other to indicate Subuh. The former does not have the "assolatu khairum-minannaum" part in order to differentiate it from the latter. There is a 1-hour gap between the two.

After breakfast, I explored Masjid Nabawi's outer complex for the first time. The masjid is huge so circling it was quite an exercise. But it was a beautiful morning so the morning stroll was pleasurable. It was some time before I caught sight of the Green Dome - It was quite a sight which evoked strong emotions.

Dawn in Madinah

Everything in Madinah looks so foreign: the men in their aba and kaffiya, the women in their all-enveloping black veil, car plates with Arabic alphabets and numerical symbols, and beautifully carved wooden windows. Even the restroom signs are different! Pictures of a veiled woman and a man in kaffiya replaced the conventional stick figures. It's like I've been transported into a different world altogether.

Therefore I was very, very surprised to find the shop below 10 metres away from one of Masjid Nabawi's gate. It looks so out of place despite its Arabic scripts. One of those "clash of the civilisations" scenes.

Starbucks outlet

I tried to practise my Arabic there but it wasn't met with much success. I kept on forgetting the names of things. Further, most shopkeepers there know Malay. So, transactions were often done in Malay rather than Arabic.

One of these attempts at Arabic ended quite hilariously.
When asked by a shopkeeper how are we related, my Nenek incorrectly answered in Arabic "jaddati" (my grandmother) instead of "hafidati" (my granddaughter).
To this, the shopkeeper exclaimed in surprise: "MashaAllah, MashaAllah!"

*to be continued*

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Makkah & Madinah Part 1

Alhamdulillah, I'm safely back home.The trip was quite an eventful one. When relatives asked, "Seronok tak?". I didn't know how to respond. Somehow 'seronok' is not the right word to use. But to say 'tak seronok' is misleading too.

The trip to Madinah and Makkah was unlike other trips to anywhere else in the world. In fact, 'journey' is a better word than 'trip', as the latter connotes a vacation. The journey to Makkah & Madinah is for an entirely different purpose: to fulfill one's religious obligation. But instead of being a burdensome obligation, performing the umrah or the hajj is what most Muslims yearn to accomplish.

Here's my journal of the 11Day, 9Night-Journey.

June 2, 08

At KLIA, before leaving, Kakak gave me her amanat: look after and assist Mama & Nenek during the pilgrimage. Kak Yom, however, gave me a contradictory advice: be adventurous! explore your surroundings. Kalau ikut Mama & Nenek je, "sini tak pergi, situ tak pergi"... I nodded my head to both advisors, wondering whose advice should I heed.

We took off for Madinah at 1500 in a Saudi Airline. It took 8 hours to reach Riyadh. We transited there for an hour before proceeding to Madinah (which took another 1 hour). I couldn't sleep throughout the 10-hour flight. So, I spent the time reading and eating. The air hostesses were quite garang. I was particularly terrified of the one who patrolled my aisle. Malaysian Airline's stewardesses are way nicer in comparison. No wonder they won the Best Cabin Crew award.

I also browsed through the in-flight magazines (all in Arabic). Something felt a bit off... Then I recognised what it was: all the advertisement featured male models! It was a unusual sight I tell you. Instead of pouty, sexy women filling in the pages, male models were employed - all looking dashing and distinguished in their jubah and serban.

Anyway, we finally arrived in Madinah at around 8pm local time. Although it was already night, the air was still warm. The air smelt and felt so different too! It's the desert's air, I suppose...

The Madinah airport is quite small. The garang air stewardesses were replaced by garang airport officials. Our visa and passport were checked before we were allowed to collect our bags and enter the city.

We traveled under Andalusia Travel & Tours. Their people already awaited us outside of the airport to take us to our hotel. Our whole party consisted of 42 people.

Our hotel is called Al-Fayroz Shatta Hotel. And it is just about 50 metres from one of the entrance gate of Masjid Nabawi. Each room is to be shared amongst 4 people. I was grouped with my mom, Nenek and Mac Cik Halimah.

*to be continued*
-Pictures will also be uploaded later, InshaAllah-

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Performing Umrah

InshaAllah, I'll be performing the Umrah from June 2-11. I'll be going with with my mum, grandmother, uncle, aunt, and their son.

This will be my first trip to the Masjidil Haram.

I'm in the midst of packing for the trip. I should have started long ago but I simply didn't know what to bring. Now that the trip is barely 3 days' away, I just stuffed things in my bag.

Jaime called a few days ago to bid me farewell. She asked whether I've memorised all the du'as. I regrettably answered in the negative.

It's not that I'm not excited at going... I'm just overwhelmed by the whole thing.
At the back of my mind I kept thinking: Am I really going to set foot in Makkah? Despite receiving the itinerary from the travel agent, despite passing my exams (so I don't have to stay back to resit them), despite the looming flight date, I still couldn't believe I'm heading there. And until I actually set my foot in Makkah, I will still have doubts.

[That's one of the reason why this entry will only be published after June 3]

While NOT memorising and packing my stuffs, I was reading "One Thousand Roads to Mecca - Ten Centuries of Travelers Writing about the Muslim Pilgrimage". The book is edited by Michael Wolfe.

The title is self-explanatory. It contains 23 travelers writing about the Hajj dating from the Islamic Middle Ages (during the Abbasiyyah Rule) to this present "Jet Age".

It contains writing by illustrious figures such as: Ibn Jubayr (1183-84), Ibn Battuta (1326), John Lewis Burckhardt (1814), Sir Richard Burton (1853), Muhammad Asad (1927), and Malcolm X (1964).

The writings show that although Hajj has been performed for 1400 years, the perennial rites remains unchanged. Although camels and vessels have been replaced with modern transportations, performing Hajj still means the same thing. As the editor notes: "...even today's very modern pilgrims, with their ritual choreography and ancient-looking robes, seem to have stepped out of the pages of the Scripture."

Please pray for me that I will perform the Umrah dengan baik - to arrive and come back safely, to manfaatkan the chance that I have as well as I can, to receive Allah's blessings and guidance.