Monday, May 16, 2011

Real Magic

I visited Izani's class one day and observed how his teacher managed to lure a group of 5-year-olds to sit on a mat around her in a calm and orderly manner by engaging them in a song about goldilocks and the 3 bears. It was really amazing.
So I listened really closely and managed to learn the song by heart.
At home I tried to sing the song to Izani, hoping for the same results.
It didn't work.
I suspect that teachers either have really good skills or have magic powers.
I believe that if there's a real Hogwarts, it's a teacher's college.

Happy Teacher's Day to all the teachers I know!
You are amazing!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Lost in The Focault's Pendulum

For several weeks now I have been reading The Focault's Pendulum by Umberto Eco. It's a diabolical book. I would describe it as The Davinci Code written by/for nerds on crack.
The beginning shows promise, drawing you in, then the middle part just throws at you all sorts of stuff about the Templars, the occult, obscure references to secret societies. There is a murder, which led the protagonists (3 editors at a publishing firm that had been looking at works from scholars writing about the Templars, whom they call the Diabolicals. I agree.) to believe there is a secret plan involved and there are people who are making sure the plan remains a secret. So they embark on uncovering The Plan. They researched and consulted and hypothesised, and concluded that The Plan was to control the world (what else) by controlling telluric currents, which controls how the earth behaves. To control the current, the 'King of The World' needs to find out where the Umbilicus Telluris, the command centre of the earth. The Plan, is elaborate, it spans 600 hundred years involving 36 'invisible' agents every 120 years which they suspect is disguised as the Templars quest to find the Holy Grail, which is actually to finally locate the Umbilicus. But how do they locate it, and how do they keep it a secret from everyone else? They must use some kind of secret map and secret way to identify the location. That's where it get's interesting.

From Chapter 82:
"A map? But a map would be marked with an X at the point of the Umbilicus. Whoever held the peace with the X would know everything and not need the other pieces. No; it had to be more involved. We racked our brains for several days, until Blbo decided to resort to Abulafia [their computer]. And the reply was:

Guillaume Postel dies in 1581. Bacon is Viscount St. Albans. In the Conservatoire is Focault's Pendulum.

The time had come to find a function for the Pendulum.

[they read texts about Templars and the church and Galileo etc]

"All right, let's assume the Templars used the Pendulum to indicate the Umbilicus. Instead of the labyrinth, which is after all, an absttract scheme, on the floor you put the map of the world. The point marked by the tip of the pendulum at a given hour is the point that marks the Umbilicus. But which Pendulum?"
"The place is beyond discussion: Saint-Martin-des-Champs, the Refuge"
"Yes," Belbo replied, " but let's supposed that at the stroke of midnight the Pendulum swings from Copenhagen to Capetown. Where is the Umbilicus? In Denmark or in South Africa?"
"A good observation," I said. "But our Diabolical tells us also that in Chartres there is a fissure in a stained-glass window of the choir, and at a given hour of the day a sunbeam enters through the crack and always hits the same place, always the same stone on the floor. I don't remember the conclusion he draws fro this, but in any event it's a great secret. So here's the mechanism: in the choir of Saint-Martin there is a window that has an uncolored spot near the juncture of two lead cames. It was carefully calculated, and probably for 600 years someone has always taken care to keep it as is. At sunrise on a given day of the year ..."
"... which can only be the dawn of June 24, Saint John's day, feast of the summer solstice ..."
"... yes, on that day and at that hour, the first pure ray of sun that comes through the windows strikes the floor beneath the Pendulum, and the pendulum's intersection of the ray at that instant is the precise point on the map where the Umbilicus is to be found!"

When I read this part, the first image that came into my mind was this one:

The pendulum at The Dharma Lampost station in Lost.

I googled and discovered that apparently, I wasn't the only one who thought so too.
Who would wanna bet that the writers in Lost had read The Focault's Pendulum?
No wonder the show was so good. They are DIABOLICAL!!

So diabolical that I had to categorize this post under both Literary and Transmission Jam.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Meeting Eoin

Of all the times I have said 'tee hee', meeting Eoin Colfer (pronounced as 'Owen', by the way) would probably be the most 'tee hee'-ing time of all :)

Eoin was in Dubai for the Emirates Literary Festival and on March 11th, he gave a talk on Celebrating 10 years of Artemis Fowl. Describing the event as a 'talk' would be a gross understatement. It was more like a stand-up comedy set. Eoin is as witty and funny in person as he is in his books, or even more so. (Now I wonder if Terry Pratchett is the same way).

He started by explaining that he got the idea for Artemis Fowl from his 3 younger brothers, especially Donald (?) which is like a diminutive James Bond and could get his way out of anything. His other brothers were more like goblins, which he gladly killed off in awful ways in his book (like getting their heads blown off by an exploding fart in The Lost Colony). And one in particular (Neil?) was actually the inspiration for Mulch, due to his expertise in farting.

Someone asked him whether there's ever going to be an Artemis Fowl - The Movie, and he said that 'they' have been discussing it for years, so excuse him if he's a bit bitter about it. He said it'll probably come out in 3 weeks. After he's dead.

He really kept the audience in stitches. I had to fish out tissue paper from my purse because I was laughing so hard that all manner of bodily fluids were threatening to gush out.

After the talk, almost everyone lined up for a book signing. He smiled welcomingly at Anis and Anis gave him a blank look, so I had to own up that I was really the fan, not my daughter. He laughed at that. Anis took a picture of Eoin and I together, and if he's reading this, I would like to apologize for smelling like curry, coz we just came from lunch at an Indian restaurant. (It was really good lunch, if it makes a difference)

I think he looks a bit like Mike Myers, don't you?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


Photo from 5X1 Pearl Jam through the eye of Lance Mercer.

Dedicated to Didi, the sister who's too cool to facebook.

Friday, February 11, 2011

One hundred and twenty seven

127 hours

-Contains spoilers-

I haven't read the book "Between A Rock and A Hard Place" by Aron Ralston, so I am basing my conclusions solely based on watching the movie.

From what I gathered, Aron Ralston started out as someone who thinks that he is self-sufficient and almost omnipotent. He lives alone, doesn't return his mom's phone calls, he doesn't tell his colleagues where he's going, he just takes a drive off into the canyons of Utah for a hike and climb to Big John canyon, with just a pack filled with a climbing kit, a made in china multi-purpose tool (pliers, short knife and a shorter knife), a bottle of water, some munchies, a still camera and a video recorder. In fact he was so confident of himself that he even brags a bit about making it to the canyon with a shorter time than anyone else.

God had other plans for him though.

While climbing down one crevice (don't ask me why, maybe he was trying to get across it? Maybe he just wanted to challenge himself? *shrug*), he slipped, knocked over a boulder while he was going down and that boulder pinned his right hand to the canyon wall. Unable to move, Aron spent 127 hours trying out several ways to set himself free. Unable to move, Aron also spent 127 hours reflecting upon his life and how he had spent it. The realization that he is literally all alone, that no one knows where he is and no one would come looking for him anytime soon and that by the time they did he would probably be dead, made him almost ready to give up on his life.

Dehydration getting the better of him after a few days without food and resorting to him drinking his own pee made him see visions, and in one, he saw himself playing with a little boy, which he concluded to be his son. That vision gave him the courage to do the inevitable - cut off his own right hand to set himself free.

That scene is excruciating to watch, to say the least. It only lasted for perhaps 10 minutes, but in my opinion, it must be one of the most powerful moments in the movie. To see Aron so determined to live, almost giving up at one point but finally motivated to continue with what he started was an epiphany to me. It's like a metaphor to life, really. Sometimes you have to sacrifice a bit of yourself, to do or experience something that you might not really like, just to set the rest of yourself free and come out a better person.

I think this was the lesson that God was trying to teach Aron. He didn't get the lesson when his girlfriend left him for being selfish or something (I don't really get why, but that's what I figured). So God had to teach it to him the hard way.
So Aron came out of that crack on the earth surface, a better man. Less a hand, but more of a person. More humble, more appreciative of the human connection.

I think if Aron believed in Allah and had seen the blessing Allah had given him, just as I had seen it, it would have made him a really good muslim :)

"Allah is Al-Jabbar, the compeller. He compels you to His will and you cannot resist Him. His will is, however, decreed with great wisdom, knowledge, justice and compassion, so you can be assured that it is for your own good, to make you a better person in this life and the next" - the gist of a lecture on Names of Allah - Al-Jabbar


Thursday, January 27, 2011

Parental Engagement Week 2011

This past week, all GEMS schools around Dubai had their Parental Engagement Week.
'GEMS' is a corporate body that runs and owns several private and international schools in Dubai. 'Parental Engagement' is their effort in encouraging parents to be more involved and engaged in their children's development.
It was a hectic week, but boy, was it all worth it.

I had the opportunity to sit in Izani's class to see how he's learning to read and write using the Phonics method. Watching how attentive Izani was in class raised my confidence that he is going to do okay in school :) Watching how creative his teacher was in engaging her young students was really inspiring. It was also a little intimidating, because when it came to when it was my turn to sit with Izani and engage in some learning games, he totally ignored me! I tried using the sing-song voice, the freddy fingers, the exaggerated expressions, but no go. I finally threatened to leave, and that worked in making Izani sit down and play with me. *shame*. I definitely am not teacher material :( I don't know how I got through all the readaloud sessions I had been doing before, without pulling out my hair. Perhaps I was more patient before?
Anyway, back to Izani's learning, I really love the learning environment. They truly truly believe in learning through play over here. (Now here it comes ... ) I hope that Malaysia has something similar to this, in Alor Star.

Then I got the chance to sit in Anis's class and see how she's learning to write better. They call the session 'Big Write' and the children were taught how to expand their writing using the principles of V - vocabulary (using different, descriptive and 'exciting' words), O - openers (using great and appropriate openers to start a sentence and engage the reader), C - connectors (using relevant and appropriate connecting words to relate to sentences or ideas together), and P - punctuation (using the correct punctuation and speech marks to control the flow of ideas). Masya-Allah, I really don't remember when I learnt how to write like that, but I don't think it was when I was only 8 years old. I remember learning words, I remember learning writing sentences and paragraphs, but I don't think anyone ever taught me writing this explicitly. I really hope Anis remembers all of this when we leave this school.

I also got to sit in Ihsan's Math class where he showed to me the different methods he was taught on how to do addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. He showed me which were his favourite methods and why he liked them and I shared with him mine. We then had a race in solving a few SATs questions. No guessing to who won. (me. tee hee) I really liked it that the teacher said there are no wrong or right method, just use one that you are most comfortable with, because our brain works differently. As long as you show you understand the problem, show that you know how to solve it, you get points, even if you get the final answer wrong. The final answer costs only one point. What an epiphany.

Aside from classroom sessions, they also organized talks with renowned speakers and authors.
Dr. Ron Clavier, a neuropsychologist, talked to parents how a child's brain develop from being childish to adolescence to adulthood. He explained the limits of a child's ability to process information, and how to handle it. He revealed what to expect in the future years of our children turning into teenagers, how their 'changing' mind would affect their perspective of the world and their behaviour towards it, and how we could reason with them. He also explained how to tell when your teen is ready to be an adult, and ready to accept adult privileges and responsibilities.
Another speaker was Mr. Bill Lucas, an expert educator, who tackled the topic "How to help your child to succeed in school and in life". He said that though schools may teach a child the curriculum of the 3 Rs (Reading, wRiting and aRithmetic), both schools and parents need to also teach them a curriculum of these 6 new Rs - Resourcefulness, Remembering, Reciprocity, Resilience, Responsiveness and Reflectiveness. In short, we should teach our children not just WHAT to learn, but more importantly, HOW to learn, so that they continue learning throughout their lives. It's really just like the old adage, "Give a man a fish, then he'll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, then he'll eat for a lifetime".
Masya-Allah, so enlightening and enriching.

It wasn't all academic and boring, they also had fun sessions like the Art Carousel, where school staff offered parents and students a chance to try 3 different 20 minute sessions of activities ranging from Indian Paper Folding, ballroom dancing and beginner guitar. We did Mask Designing (which is basically gluing sequins, plastic jewels, glitter and feathers on paper masks), Bookmaking (where we learn how to make an 8-page and 16-page book just by folding and cutting paper - no glue involved at all!) and we joined Rock Challenge (dancing in groups! Izani had a blast!).
The highlight of the week had to be the drumming session with Dubai Drums. They brought in 200 african drums and had 3 half an hour sessions of teaching parents and children how to play them! This was the only time I had thought to bring the camera, so this was the only activity I had pictures of:

We enjoyed the drumming session very much! I am seriously thinking of getting an african drum the next time I go to Global Village! :D

Overall, it has been a tiring and enlightening week for me. I am so inspired and motivated at the moment. I have learnt so much about my children and how to handle them. I just hope I remember it all and can put it into practice.
This also makes me wonder if schools in Malaysia have something similar to this. The week had really made me feel like the teachers and I are a team, and we have one goal, that is to groom our children to become not just information guzzlers and spewers, but to become learners, do-ers, investigators, creators ... adults who can survive in any situation and have healthy and fulfilled lives.
Please God, give me the strength to keep at it!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


Izani got this Ben10 Colouring book in a party goodie bag one day.
He opened the first page of the book and went, "Eyeewwww... love hearts!!"
His siblings started crowding around him to see and I heard them all expressing disgust one after another.
"What??? Ben&Gwen???"
"Why are they hugging??"
"and what's up with her tummy??"
"eyeeewwwww... are they married??"
Ilham finally took a look at it, and being the eldest, tried to tone it all down by offering an explanation, "I think Ben just gave Gwen a piece of cake and she's so full that's why her tummy is like that. And she's happy and is hugging Ben to say thanx"
They were quiet for a bit until someone said
"You know if Ben married Gwen, it's like abang marrying aliya"
"eyeeeewwwww!!!!" they all went.

No offence to Aliya, coz she's a gorgeous girl, but marrying your cousin is. just. eyew.

Who came up with this picture anyway?? sicko.
I can never watch Ben10 the same way again.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Long Way Home

If you've been reading me before (or if you just browse through my archives), you'll notice that I have been talking about going back home for good for a long time. When I mentioned our intention 2 years ago, our time in Saudi was extended by PokCik Smith. Then we were told we were moving to Oman. While preparing to move to Oman, PokCik Smith then told us we were moving to Dubai instead. Here we still are, one year later.
Suffice to say that I've been telling people I am going home so many times, but never get around to it, that it's getting kinda embarrassing. I have almost come to the point of not telling people about my 'schedule' anymore. So you are forgiven if you think, "Yeah , right... she's never going home" when I tell you this time that I will be going home this July.
This time we are sure, because this time, we are in control. Come July, Taufik will quit PokCik Smith (Insya-Allah), and we will be able to go wherever we want to go, and it will definitely back home to Malaysia (again, Insya-Allah).

The prospect of retiring at the age of 40 can be quite scary, especially with 4 school-going children, but we've been planning this for almost 20 years, I think we'll be okay, Insya-Allah. We have been saving up ever since we started working, and Alhamdulillah, we now think we have enough for the children's education, for emergencies (Na'udzubillah) and for living out a simple lifestyle for the rest of our lives.
The life that we are looking to live for the rest of our lives is not the life of luxury. I am not eyeing fancy cars, designer clothes and to be draped in jewelery. We plan to live in Kedah, where the low cost of living there would probably stretch out our savings further compared to if we were to live in a big city place like KL or PJ.
To sustain ourselves financially, we have a small fruit orchard and Taufik had also acquired some palm oil land. We will do our best to maintain these two small pieces of land and pray to Allah to bless our land so that we can reap what we sow ourself into the earth.
I'm gonna be a farmer, y'all.
Perhaps you would see me at my stall by the PLUS highway one day, selling my durians and rambutans and manggis :) (While facebook-ing, of course).

Am I looking forward to this change in lifestyle? I have been asking myself the same question, and you know what, I actually am.
I wasn't really looking forward going back to KL, because compared to Al-Khobar and Dubai, our capital is actually quite a scary place to live and raise a family in. I get stressed out just thinking about the traffic, the potential of being road-bullied, or the possibility of my house getting broken into. I am sure it's not really *that* bad, since I've lived most of my life in PJ and Alhamdulillah nothing untoward has ever happened to me, but I still find it kinda tiring to always be on-guard, after 6 years of not worrying about it.
So moving to the less metropolitan and more laidback state of Kedah is definitely more appealing to me.
I long for those days when an afternoon walk does not involve dodging traffic or dogs and you'd encounter a huge patch of nature in five minute's time. Taufik longs to be able to just go fishing whenever he wishes. He also longs to teach the children how to live a simple life, be self-sufficient, not be too dependent or distracted by technology. We long to teach our children to appreciate whatever they have, no matter how little and we found that to be very difficult in the current environment where so much is available.
I know we would probably get a few (a lot) of protests from the kids at first, but I am sure after a while they'd get used to it. Well, they better get use to it, coz they would have no choice.

The one thing that worries me the most is the children's education.
After being exposed to such an independent style of learning, would they be able to cope with the regimented Malaysian school environment? Will they lose out in the future because of the drastic school change?
My worries, however, are alleviated by looking at the children of other friends who have moved back to Malaysia. Alhamdulillah, they seem to be doing well. I think it all boils down to parent's attitude. We have to know when to push our children and how much. We are the ones who have to make sure that they turn out to be a well-rounded person who are comfortable and confident with their own selves, and not always comparing them with other children.
Insya-Allah I will try to do that. I will try to stay calm and not freak out too much when it comes to exams. ;)

Well, that is our plan. Only Allah is the disposer, so we will pray that our plan comes to fruition, and be accepting of whatever He decides is best for us.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Makcik Blogger Gathering, Dubai 2011

Well, the inspiration to re-start blogging came from the makcik blogger gathering we had on New Year's Day.
Lollies was on her way back from Iran (she had driven from Qatar, left her car at my house while she flew to Iran from Dubai) and had arrived that morning, so we decided to gather up all the makcik bloggers that we know are in Dubai for a New Year's Day picnic in Safa Park.
As you can see from the picture above, there were only Lollies, Makcik Melopong, MakNenek and me. Unfortunately Theta and Blabarella couldn't make it :P
We had Nasi Kerabu, assorted baklavas and sweets from Iran, sambal belacan kow-kow, roti beowan (spelling?), puding buih and drinks, all pot luck. The agenda was just to eat, chit chat and have fun :)
Towards the end of the gathering, we makcik-makcik turned into model-model lah pulak, thanks to the coaxing of my husband. *LOL*

I think it was a great and happy start for the New Year :) and hopefully is a reflection of things to come :)

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Welcome 2011

I don't usually make new year resolutions, but I think this year I'll try to make and keep at least one.
Guess what it is.