Thursday, November 29, 2007

School holidays: time to rileks habis?

The end of year school holiday season has started. Apart from my eldest, Sakinah, who is preparing for her semester exams at the polytechnic, all my children are back at home.

So, a couple of weeks before the holiday started I'd started scratching my head thinking: “what would they do during this one-and-a-half month’s break at home?” Left to their own device, the scenario would most likely be as follows:

Subuh: wake up for solat (but not after a few rounds of shouting to wake them up)

After subuh: back to sleep

9.30 or 10.00am: wake up for breakfast

10.00 – 1.00pm: switch on computer, open internet (mySpace, Friendsters, Footy tube, BBC Sport, Liverpool FC TV etc.), watch TV, read newspaper or magazine (sometimes only)

2.00 to 5.00pm: more of the above

6.00pm: play football

After Maghrib: watch news on TV

After news: more internet or play games on Play Station

After 10.30 (after Abah and Umi have gone to bed): watch sports on TV-ESPN, Astro Sports etc.

1.00am: go to bed (finally...)

3.00am: wake up - watch live EPL or Champions League football on TV

5.00am: back to bed again.

Yes. School holidays are akin to a honeymoon period for all of them. All play and no work, and not a worry in the world. Really makes me jealous sometimes.

That’s why this time around I am quite determined not to let them go scot-free.

I signed Syafiq and Anas up for a summer camp in Hulu Langat towards the end of December.

In addition, a few chores are lined up: paint the kitchen, paint the bedroom, buat kebun at the back of our house (kacang panjang, kacang buncis and kailan), go for tuition (for Syafiq who’s taking SPM next year), help out in the front garden, and so on. On top of that, Anas, who is waiting for his PMR result (and is in a real ‘honeymoon mode’), is to finish reading at least two books. Even Nadiah has her own small stack of books to read.

They still go to bed late. And they still wake up at 9.00 or 10.00am. But at least they get to do something worth over the holidays.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Oh! What a mighty tough presentation

Had a big presentation at work place today. It was for the procurement of the services of consultants.

To be sure, I was not expecting everything to go plain sailing. The grilling and bullying by tender board members are legendary. A feeling of tension and nervousness is bound to afflict even the not so faint-hearted ones amongst us.

But was I in for a shocker.

Yup. A shocker it was. Debates and arguments ensued. Fortunately, everything went right, towards the end. Well, almost!

Sure, I came out of the meeting room slightly bruised and battered. But, what’s more important is that I achieved my objective.

Back in my room I said my syukur. To unwind, I played music on my PC: Stairway to Heaven, by Led Zeppelin.

Ahh…what a life :-)

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Malaysian teachers: there's still hope yet

Today is the last day of the school term for 2007. Parents all over the country with children in boarding schools were out in force making their way to these schools to fetch back their children.

With Anas, in Batu Kikir, being taken care of by a friend, I made my way to Kuala Kubu Bharu MRSM to collect Syafiq.

Before leaving the college, I stopped by at the administrative block to meet up with the college principal. She is the new principal, having just been transferred here since early of this month. So, my visit was partly a ‘courtesy call’ to get to know the new head. But it was also to discuss Syafiq’s running into trouble with the school authority – like any normal teenagers would.

As I approached the door to her room, I must admit that I was half expecting to be greeted by a matron-like, stern-looking grumpy old lady. You know, like the mean, cane-wielding teacher from the Lat cartoon character.

To my surprise, what I found was this mild-mannered lady who nevertheless exudes confidence as she speaks. She was a good listener, and it showed. For every time after I had finished my piece, she would give her views and comments, which just seem to hit the right notes.

Even on the issue of disallowing students to use hand phones in college – always a sore point for me, what with two of Syafiq’s hand phone already being confiscated – she managed to not irritate me with some feebleminded reasons I have heard before such as “hand phones encourages students to show of…bla, bla, bla”.

But what really impressed me was that she came across as being sincere. She also displayed something of a rarity among the current crop of teachers, which is a passion for teaching. Even though she is the principal, she told me that “saya tak suka dipanggil puan”. Saya lebih suka dengan panggilan cikgu, sahaja, sebab saya seorang pendidik. Teaching is my passion”.

When I asked for her phone number, she volunteered it without a moment’s hesitation. She even requested for my number. Later on, whilst driving back home, I received a phone call. It was the principal “just checking” to see if the number I had given her was correct. Now, how’s that for sincerity?

I know I have always had doubts with the ability of our teachers to truly “teach” our children in every sense of the word. Unlike those in the 1960s or even 70s, the current breed are merely salary earners. They lack passion, competency and, as a result, respect from students and the community at large. But my meeting with this madam principal has proven that there is still hope yet for the teaching profession – and more importantly, our children.

I am a happy parent for that. And just by the look on Syafiq’s face, I think this teacher has managed to convince him to be a better student. Here’s hoping to a better year in 2008, Syafiq. Together, with the support of your madam principal, let’s make sure that it culminates in an excellent result in your SPM, insyaALlah.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Genealogy, anyone?

Family Tree

The advent of the month of Zulkaedah tomorrow, sees the “official ending” of this year’s Raya festivities period.It has been a hectic one month.

It started with our trip back to kampong in Ipoh in the wee small hours of the morning, complete with on-the-road sahur. It ended with a flurry of activities – visits mainly – to close, as well as, long-lost relatives.

During my childhood days, I would glee in anticipation of Hari Raya for the new baju, mercun, bunga api and duit raya. It is now my children’s turn to enjoy such things. For I have now “advanced” to a different level, so to speak.

What I look forward to now is just being back with the big family – my brothers and sister and my parents. And instead of waiting to receive goodies, the joy for me now is also in the giving. Helping my parents to do the chores around the house – cutting the lawn grass, buying stuffs for preparing the Raya spread, or sometimes even helping to bakar lemang.

But there is another satisfaction which I get these past few years. It is something which I could never even start to comprehend during my mercun-playing days.

This is the joy of meeting relatives – especially the elders – trying to get to know them better and, in the process, strengthening our silaturrahim.

Is it a sign that I am getting old? May be. But so what? I have no qualms with that notion.

What’s for certain is that it has moved me to start collecting family stories and listing down the names of relations, their spouses and their descendents.

To be sure, I have been quite interested in our family’s history, origins and family tree since the day I got married. The idea that two souls from different families could meet and unite, thus unifying the two families, really intrigued me.

So a few years ago, I started carrying my Buku Salasilah Keluarga with me whenever I balik kampung for Hari Raya and do the rounds. As I would discover, Hari Raya is the best time to catch up with relatives and update the Buku Salasilah.

Would I call myself a genealogist? Far from it. But I sure am fascinated with it. I am sure there are many out there who share this same fascination, right?

I would love to learn from those with experience working on their own family genealogy.

In the west tracing family history and genealogy is a big thing. They even have genealogy software programs to facilitate in building and managing genealogical database.

I wonder if any of such programs are suitable for working on Malaysian-Malay families.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Leave the green open space alone!

Whilst flipping through the latest Town and Country Planning magazine recently (TCPA, June/July 2007) I came across a very short article by David Lock entitled “Playing out – a child’s right to roam”.

Lock was lamenting the sad reality facing planners in the UK in that they have had to resort to campaigning for the provision of “such an obviously necessary ingredient as family homes with gardens to be part of planned sustainable communities”.

It amazes Lock no end that they have had to “fight for this pathetic victory” whereas common sense would have told that it is a basic ingredient in good planning.

Nevertheless, Lock remains discontented. And this makes for another interesting point of view.

For he goes on to declare that this so-called “victory” should only be taken as a beginning. What’s necessary now is also to “press home the argument for space for older children to play out – to roam away from the house and garden with their friends, and thus complete their transition to adulthood”, he adds.

I must admit, we planners just love to carry out studies and, at the end of it, come out with more of our perennial “tools of trade” which is the planning standards.

As regards open space, we have a nice, orderly hierarchy (as always) of open space beginning from the metropolitan parks, urban parks and right down to pocket parks within residential areas.

The standards are fine. After all, they are there to ensure that the open space system is complete, catering to the needs of children and adults of the various age groups.

The problem, almost always, lies in the implementation.

From my observation, developers of residential schemes would gladly provide for a playground or two, if only to meet the requirements imposed upon them by the local authority.

However, what tends to be forgotten – perhaps conveniently – is space for the older children to roam, explore and to tough it out. Yes, the very type of open space which Lock is up in arms trying to secure in the UK.

Football fields, large open green fields and parkland for formal and informal activities. These are what’s lacking in most Malaysian cities – even in the newly-planned ones.

However, I believe the situation in Malaysia is much more serious. It is one which even Lock would find the UK experience pale in comparison.

For in Malaysia, the lack of provision is one thing. But unabated conversion of public open space to other (read: unplanned) uses is another.

The latter is a bane to good planning and the need to meet the recreational requirements of our children.

It is quite common to hear whatever green space allocated earlier at planning stage to be "taken up” for development of community centres, or even, local centre for political parties.

For crying out loud, why can’t they just leave the sekangkang kera open space alone?

What ever’s left of these little spaces are badly needed by OUR children, mine and yours! Mind you, these are the future generations of our nation that we are talking about. Our future leaders in the making.

Do we not want them to achieve balance as they grow into adulthood? Or do we want Malaysia to be led, and populated, by nerds and geeks come 2020?