Friday, November 03, 2017

5 Biruni 2017

After arranging the tables & chairs for SPM, I gathered my 5BR kids in order to return their files and graduation pictures. I took the opportunity to say a few words to them.

Being their class teacher for the past 10 months hasn't been easy.
I reminded them of all the things they did that caused me so much heartache (I even had a list ready hahaha). The list reads:
  1. Masalah ketidakhadiran
  2. Ponteng
  3. Lewat ke sekolah / kelas
  4. Tak nak belajar
  5. Tidur dalam kelas
  6. Main phone dalam kelas
  7. Liat nak bayar yuran PIBG & majalah
  8. Hantar kertas kosong waktu peperiksaan
  9. Palsukan surat dari penjaga
  10. Ditangkap merokok
  11. Tak jaga kebersihan kelas
  12. Meniru waktu peperiksaan

As I rattled off  things from the list, Firdaus tried to apologise, "Teacher, bagi pihak kelas ini, saya nak..."

"Eh jap," I cut him off. "Banyak lagi ni. Biar saya habis luahkan perasan dulu ye" 😆

So the kids listened obediently. I also told them despite all that, I still loved them and want what's best for them.

I told them that there's no shortcut to success. There are no magic pills or magic kismis/raisins. They reap what they sow and they should work hard to realise their dreams. Intelligence is not a fixed trait. If they work hard, they will become smarter.

I know that some of them have complicated family problems but they shouldn't let those problems consume their lives and sabotage their future.

I had also wanted to say: "Go into the world and do well. But more importantly, go into the world and do good." (Minor Myers)

To end this post on a lighter note, I scrolled through my facebook and instagram accounts for funny stories about my 5 Biruni kids. Here they are:

Thank you Azahar for making the video below 💗

Friday, October 06, 2017

ASEAN Para Games Kuala Lumpur 2017

I was thirteen when Malaysia hosted the 1998 Commonwealth Games. It was such a big deal then and I was swept away by the excitement. I so wanted to be one of the volunteers but was underage then.

When Malaysia hosted the 29th SEA Games, I thought that it was the perfect opportunity to finally realise my childhood dream. Unfortunately, I didn't receive a callback but for the 9th ASEAN Para Games ―held two weeks after the SEA Games― the stars finally aligned. I was accepted to be one of the liaison officers, in charged of assisting one of the chief classifiers.

What's a chief classifier?

Since Para Games encompass multiple categories that denote different disabilities, classifiers are technical officers tasked with assessing and assigning the athletes to the correct categories (i.e. visual / intellectual / physical impairment). 

My principal (the person I was assigned to) was the chief classifier (CC) for Para Archery. The classification process was conducted prior to the Games, so I was granted two weeks of unrecorded leave. (For more info on the classification process, read this.)

What does a Liaison Officer (LO) do?

Unlike the Wau volunteers with their orange shirts, the LO team wore white. We were supposed to shadow our principals and assist them in any way we can. This assistance can vary from arranging their transport, to clarifying matters with the secretariat, to suggesting good places to get local food, and to becoming impromptu tour guides.

It goes without saying that having good communication skills and a competent command of English is very important. And when certain requests cannot be fulfilled, LOs must know how to say so diplomatically. Most importantly, LOs must be unfailingly polite, even though they're tired or sleepy or  hungry or bored or a combination of these things. (Thus I highly recommend my students to try this in the future, as to develop their soft skills and broaden their experiences.)

Jalan-jalan cari makan

An essential element of showcasing Malaysian Hospitality is feeding your guests with delectable local cuisine. Thus, throughout the Games, we ate out everyday and feasted on Nasi Beryani, Ikan Bakar, Cempedak Goreng, Satay Kajang, Cendol, Nasi Ayam, Naan Cheese, Ayam Tandoori, Ais Krim Durian, etc.

We also went sightseeing to Genting Highlands, Putrajaya and The Royal Museum and did the usual touristy stuff like riding the cable car, shopping, and taking lots of photos. 

What did I make of the experience?

By the end of the first week, I had missed school already *gasp*. I was lucky to have had very nice people to work for and with but I missed my students. I missed driving my car while listening to podcasts. I missed driving, period. It was tiring to ride the LRT/MRT during peak hours when the coaches were packed to the brim.  

We were driven around in this sweet ride, but I missed driving my own car.

But most of all, I missed school because this job, interesting as it was due to its novelty, lacked meaning. In 'Outliers', Malcolm Gladwell had this to say about meaningful work:

"...three things―autonomy, complexity, and a connection between effort and reward―are the three qualities that work has to have if it is to be satisfying. It is not how much money we make that ultimately make us happy... It's whether our work fulfills us. If I offered you a choice between being an architect for $75,000 a year and working in a tollbooth every day for the rest of your life for $100,000 a year, which one would you take? I'm guessing the former because there is complexity, autonomy and a relationship between effort and reward in doing creative work, and that's worth more to us than money."

Would I ever do it again? Maybe. When I signed up I wanted to: 1. broaden my experiences, 2. make new acquaintances, and 3. be of service to my country. I think I've achieved all three and repeating them doesn't sound so bad. However, I've scratched that 1998 itch so even if I don't get to do something similar in the future, I'm okay with that too.

Saturday, September 02, 2017

3D2N Trip to Sungai Lembing

“I have found out that there ain’t no surer way to find out whether you like people or hate them than to travel with them.”
— Mark Twain

Kak Safrina & I have been colleagues since 2009. But she's more than my favourite co-worker; She's practically my surrogate sister. So, it's quite surprising that it took us nearly 9 years to go on a trip together.

Work has been challenging unrelentingly stressful this year. So much so that our (hitherto effective) coping mechanism of having lunch together every Friday no longer does the trick. So we started planning a short getaway to get our mojo back. 

Kak Saf came across The Time Capsule Retreat in one of those listecles that name top glamping spots in Malaysia. Besides the attractive pictures of the hobbit hole-like capsules, we were also sold on going when we looked at the activities suggested on the website. 

So off we went to Sungai Lembing!

Day 1 (Aug 29, 2017) 

We checked into our rooms after a 3-hour drive. We decided to go for the white cottage rooms, instead of the made-to-be-instagrammed but rather impractical capsules. For one, the white cottage rooms have en suite bathrooms while the capsules rely on a communal one. Secondly, the capsules are really tiny which makes moving about a challenge. So yeah, in the end, we chose function over form. 

Our first activity there was to visit Lombong Bijih Timah Bawah Tanah Sg. Lembing. The disused tin mine had underground tunnels that diverged into myriad directions. The combined length of the network of tunnels is a mind-boggling 322km (which is more than the distance between KL and Kuantan)!

It was fun riding the old train into the mining shaft and exploring the tunnels while reading interesting nuggets of information displayed intermittently on the side of the tunnels. One particularly interesting story is titled The Legend of the Million Dollar Chamber. I won't spoil the surprise for you. Do visit the so-called El Dorado of the East to find out more. 

We spent that night in front of the TV, cheering the Harimau Muda in their gold-medal match against Thailand.

Day 2 (Aug 30, 2017)

The Rainbow Waterfall tour operator picked us up from our hotel at 6.00 a.m. We had breakfast at Kedai Kopi Salmah before starting our journey proper. We rode the 4x4 for nearly 45 minutes before reaching the trailhead. There's a public toilet there (RM0.30 per entry) as well as Adidas Kampung hiking shoes and walking sticks for rent (RM3.00 and RM0.50 respectively).

Once geared up and ready, we finally began hiking. It took us around 40 minutes to reach the waterfall. The trail is really easy with hardly any steep incline. Once we arrived, we looked for a spot to settle down. There's a big group from Johor that day so it was quite a tight squeeze. But we managed to find a suitable spot to place our belongings before diving into the waters.

At around 9.00 a.m. the rainbow finally made an appearance. It was beautiful. The waterfall certainly lived up to its name. The tour we signed up for cost RM60/pax. It includes a guide, transport & permit. Plus a cup of instant noodles and hot milo served at the waterfall which were devoured ravenously by famished picknickers. Genius.

For all its nascent tourism industry, Sg. Lembing is still a sleepy little town. So by 5.00 p.m., we had nowhere to go and nothing to do. So we drove 40km to Kuantan to have dinner at the famous Ana Ikan Bakar Petai. The food was good and was definitely worth the 45-minute drive. 

Day 3 (Aug 31, 2017)

Our last day was reserved for hiking the nearby Panorama Hill. It's quite a punishing 40-minute trek. But the view (as befits the hill's name) didn't disappoint. After the trek, we rewarded ourselves with ice cream and proceeded to Kedai Kopi Salmah again for breakfast.

Before packing our stuff and checking out of Time Capsule, we made a stop to one of the hanging bridges found in the vicinity. The bridges are used by the locals for everyday purposes and they seem perplexed when tourists get excited and start striking poses and taking pictures.

We left Sg. Lembing at 12.00 p.m. and reached KL 2.5 hours later. Traffic was clear on our side but it was a very slow crawl for kilometres for those heading to the East Coast for the Raya Haji holidays. 

Now that Kak Saf and I are rejuvenated & refreshed by our short getaway, we are ready to face school again excitedly planning our next escapade! 

For a more detailed account, read this.